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Joy in Heaven

“‘Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance’” (Luke 15:7).

Jesus often spoke with the Pharisees about the true meaning of righteousness. The Pharisees believed they were well off on the righteousness scale, favored by God and safe from all judgment. They were the religious leaders, after all, the experts in the law of Moses. If anyone had earned God’s approval, it was them.

Jesus, however, had a different opinion. He taught that it was the sinners who realized their brokenness who were accepted by God. Those who thought they could be righteous on their own were really telling God they didn’t need Him.

To illustrate this, Jesus told a series of three parables: one about a lost sheep, one about a lost coin, and one about a lost son. In each of them, someone loses something of value and does not rest until that thing is found. When one sheep out of a hundred wanders away, the shepherd leaves the ninety-nine who never strayed and chases down the one wayward sheep. When one coin out of ten is lost, the woman turns her whole house upside down until she finds the missing coin. And when one son spurns his father’s love and squanders his wealth, still the father waits for him to come home and rejoices when he does, even though he still has another son who has never gone against him.

In each of these stories, Jesus focused on the joy of the seeker. It is not a burden for the shepherd to chase after his wandering sheep. It is not a chore for the woman to clean up her house in search of her coin. It is certainly not painful for the father to throw a party for his returned son.

In the same way, God delights to pursue those who are far from Him. His greatest joy is when someone who has long been wandering recognizes his rebellion and returns to the Father who loves him more than he can ever understand. It is no difficulty for God to forgive us! Nothing could give Him more joy.

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