Introduction: In a discussion about outreach, a fellow told me that
at his church “we preach the straight gospel.” I understood they just
preached church teachings with no frills and outsiders should be
attracted to an honest message. “How is that working out for you,” I
asked? He lowered his head and confessed they had one new member in
the last ten years. Luke records Jesus’ amazing strategy for
outreach. Let’s jump into our study and learn more!
- Lost Things
- Read Luke 15:1-4. If Jesus put that question to you, how
would you answer it? (I’m no shepherd, but if the ninety-nine were in “open country” I would let the one go to
protect the rest.)
- Why is my answer wrong? (Jesus asks the question as
if the answer is obvious, so His answer must have
been the automatic answer of his listeners.)
- Read Luke 15:5-7. I’m not trying to be contrary, but if
your pet makes you hunt for him, how would you react?(I
would be glad to have my pet back, but I would be annoyed
to have to chase after it.)
- Compare my reaction (and yours?) to God’s reaction.
What does this teach us about Jesus? (He loves to
pursue us. He delights when we repent and turn to
Him. We are loved.)
- Read Luke 15:8. Recall that I was annoyed with the lost
sheep. How is this story different? (The coin has no
responsibility for being lost. I am at fault for losing my
- Read Luke 15:9-10. Why not just tell the sheep story? One
dumb sheep runs off. That seems a good comparison to me
when I run off from God. Why add the story of the coin?
(The most obvious reason is that God wants us to know that
the “lost” problem involves Him. I think our next story
more clearly makes that point.)
- In the stories of the sheep and the coin, what attitudes
of God come through? (He claims an ownership interest in
us. He targets the lost. He works hard to retrieve the
lost. He rejoices in the lost coming to Him. You, the “one
sinner,” are important to God and the angels.)
- The Prodigal
- Read Luke 15:11-12. Is there anything fair about this
- Anything you think is unfair? (Normally, a son
receives his inheritance when the father dies. In the
meantime, the son helps the father. Because this was
the younger son, he would get half the inheritance of
the older son. The father loses one-third of his
assets and the benefit of the son’s labor.)
- Read Luke 15:13. Do you think the father had a good idea
about his son’s intentions for the future?
- If so, why did the father agree?
- Would you tell your son “No. This is a bad idea, it
will turn out poorly,” and then hope that by the time
you die, the son will have become more mature?
- Read Luke 15:14-17. All of the money is gone. Has any
good come out of this? (He came to his senses. It was an
expensive life lesson.)
- I hear of parents who engage in heroic efforts to
restrain their children from bad behavior. What does
this story suggest about that?
- Consider the lop-sided approach in all of these
cases. God does not seem to work very hard to keep
the sheep/coin/son from getting “lost.” But, He does
engage in serious effort to recover the lost. Why?
- Read Luke 15:18-19. The son’s desire is to be like a
“hired hand.” Previously, he was dissatisfied with being
a son. How completely has his attitude changed?
- Would his attitude have changed if the father refused
to let him go? (This makes the point about change
coming from within, not without.)
- Read Luke 15:20-24. What is the son’s opinion of his
proper status? (“I am no longer worthy to be called your
- What is the father’s opinion of the son’s status?
(“This son of mine … is alive again.”)
- What has the father gained? (He had a son who did not
want to be a son. He only wanted money. He now has a
son who wants to be with him.)
- Or, am I being too kind to the son? Did he only
come back for the food? (He did come back for
food, but the incredible love of the father
undoubtedly changed his heart.)
- Parents, consider what happened here if
you have a prodigal who wants to return
home for food (and work).
- Read Luke 15:25-28. Is this how you would react if you
were the older son? (I would be worried the younger son
was now threatening my inheritance because he made poor
- Read Luke 15:29-30. Is the older brother a true son? (He
views his service for the father as “slaving” with no
opportunity for celebration.)
- Parents, put yourself in the place of this father. The
younger son just wants your money. The older son thinks he
is slaving for you. What kind of children do you have?
- Re-read Luke 15:28 and read Luke 15:31-32. Is the father
chasing after the older son? (Yes! He “pleaded with him,”
and he tells the son he owns “everything.”)
- Have you thought it might be good to come to God just
before you die so that you can do what you want and still
- If so, what is the problem? (One is that you miss
“God with you” – Luke 15:31. You miss having the
riches of God right now. What you view as “slaving”
is actually ownership of God’s blessings.)
- Who is the most sympathetic figure here? (The father! His
sons treat him badly. He treats them wonderfully. The calf
sacrificed for the younger son belonged to the father, not
the older son. The father gave up his rights to let his
sons have “rights.”)
- Conniving Manager
- Read Luke 16:1-2. What is the problem? (The manager is
“wasting” his employer’s money.)
- Read Luke 16:3-7. What is the manager’s problem? (The
manager will have trouble making a living because he is
out of shape and proud.)
- What is the solution to the problem? (To cheat his
employer! He will benefit himself at his employer’s
- I’m a lawyer, would you like your lawyer doing this
to you – cheating you to benefit himself? (This gets
a lawyer disbarred and sent to prison.)
- Read Luke 16:8. Would you commend your lawyer (or
employee) for doing this to you?
- Read Luke 16:9. Who is speaking here? (Jesus!)
- Have you ever heard religious leaders say, “We don’t
use the methods of the world to bring new members
into the church!” What do you think about this point
of view? (It is completely at odds with this parable
and Jesus’ comment!)
- Let’s step back a moment. We have read four parables: lost
sheep, lost coin, lost son, dishonest manager. What is
Jesus trying to teach us? (He wants to reclaim the lost
because He unselfishly loves them, and He wants us to use
the most sophisticated, diligent, cunning efforts to find
- Read Luke 16:10-12. Is Jesus teaching us to be dishonest?
(No.) What is He teaching us? (We have “worldly wealth”
and He expects us to use it to advance the Kingdom of
- What is “worldly wealth?” Study Luke 16:9 very
closely. (What does the world value? Intelligence,
beauty, talent, and money. If we are entrusted with
any of these, we have an obligation to use them
“shrewdly”( Luke 16:8) to advance finding the lost. If
we don’t, we will not be entrusted with “true riches”
( Luke 16:11). That is a sobering idea.)
- Friend, how shrewd is your church in finding the lost?
Will you commit today to using your very best strategy and
talents to seek the lost?
- Next week: Jesus, the Master Teacher.