This study is designed to expand the understanding of the parable. Rather than follow the shepherd, we will follow the journey of the lost sheep, who is modelled on the writer, and his adventures before the shepherd finds him. Luke 15:1-7 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathered around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3 Then Jesus told this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. The sheep Jesus is talking about here are the believers whose names were written in the book of life before the world was made (see scripture below). The lost sheep, as Jesus intimated, was not in the open ground where he left the ninety-nine, but in the places where a sheep could be lost. Ephesians 1:4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will - 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the one he loves. In this study, I pray the Lord will open our eyes to how the sheep gets lost and found, and the reasons that he is lost, parental guidance being one. There are many scriptures that give advice to parents regarding the bringing up of their children e.g. Proverbs 22:6 Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. Unfortunately, many children are not brought up in the way they should go, and our lost sheep gets lost following the unwise paths that lead him away from the open ground and the path of safety, and into the murky back alleys of danger. In many cases this could be to do with parents, but then their parents had parents, and so it goes on. There are many reasons why sheep lose their way, parents being only one of them. So where does the source of their danger lie? I should say that it could be traced back to Adam and his eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It’s this knowledge that sets men against each other. As Satan said: Genesis 3:5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God knowing good and evil.” Well, Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, and the result is a world of gods, all knowing good and evil. The problem is, one man’s good is another man’s evil, and, because of this, man is pitted against his brother and we live under this curse. We argue, rage and war against one another and destroy what should be cherished. So where does this leave our lost sheep? Well, lost, and extremely confused. In this world of disagreement, people take different paths. Some embrace politics, others science and some are brought up to believe a theology. The differences inevitably cause people to move away from one another, but because of necessity, they use diplomacy to keep the peace. Many choose theology and find faith, but, because of the curse of the forbidden fruit, find they cannot even embrace those who believe the same faith, but need to find some disagreement in understanding, in order to maintain their own deity. We know that no god can bow before another god because after all, god is god. Genesis 3:5 (“For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.) Many turn away from God altogether, believing that the very concept of a God is dangerous and creates conflict. So they look to the alternative understandings, in order to explain the universe and its beginnings. Many become atheists and place their faith in the theories of science, others put their faith in politics and the law. In the west, the law is predominantly based on the Judeo Christian belief, but in the east we have Islamic law, Communist law, and so we go on. All the while, our lost sheep is beginning to understand that within all this division there is no harmony, whilst knowing that only harmony will solve the world’s ailments. Our lost sheep separates himself from all the chaotic beliefs and understandings that society offers, and follows his own path. A path that doesn’t adhere to any of the conflicting beliefs and understandings that cause such devastation, enabling him to survive outside the accepted parameters. He make friends, mainly among the lost, as they make less demands, and these people become the ‘sinners’ in society, people who don’t fit in. They don’t fit in to religion, or politics, and become cynical about anything that calls them to conform. They prefer their freedom, and live on the periphery of the law. They may break the law of the land and end up incarcerated, but even in prison, as ‘sinners’, they are able to survive on their wits and retain the freedom from society's beliefs and demands. Luke 15:1-2 Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered. “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” It’s while our lost sheep is negotiating his way through this maze of traps that capture souls, that the shepherd finds him. Then as he is debating with other lost souls, the truths relating to creation and evolution, a new testament is tossed to him and lands open at the verse where Pontius Pilate asked Jesus if he were a king. Jesus answered that his kingdom is not of this world. To our lost sheep, who fits in nowhere, and belongs nowhere, this comes as a serious revelation. Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world, and neither is he. This begs the question, does he belong in Jesus’ kingdom? He follows the multitude up the mountainside and sits with them to listen to Jesus, as he tells them what life is like in his kingdom. It’s the world our lost sheep has always dreamed of, a kingdom that is not to be found in this world. Our lost sheep has been found by the shepherd. He finds that the written Word is the shepherd and he starts to follow him. Through the Word he meets the apostles and comes to love how Jesus taught them. He finds that the apostle Paul was chosen to be the apostle to the gentiles, and in the scriptures of the new testament he wrote letters to the churches explaining the meanings of the gospels and called the gentiles to obedience. In his letter to Timothy he wrote: 2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. This, I would assume, would apply to all of the written word, proven by the fact that our Lord defeated the devil using only the written word itself. Satan didn’t question its authority, in fact he used it in the dialogue between himself and Jesus. Matthew 4:6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said “throw yourself down. For it is written: “ He will command His angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” So, here we have Jesus facing Satan with only the written word to defend himself, and Satan using the written word to give credence to his temptation. Our newly found sheep find people who profess to believe, but who give no credence to the written word at all. In fact they are willing to risk their salvation to maintain their own deity and wantonly disobey the Word to gain power. 1 Corinthians 14:34-38 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. But if anyone ignores this, they will themselves be ignored. So, here we have a situation where many women have not only ignored the law, but also the Lord’s command. The Lord, we are told, who never lies. Titus 1:2 in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, Our lost sheep is finding that the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil is affecting even the people who profess to believe. He has found where he belongs, he has been found by the shepherd, he has found life itself and feels it permeating his very being, and knows it is so valuable that he will never part with it and will do anything to retain it, but he has reached out his hand in friendship to those who profess to be his brothers and sisters, and found them wanting. What is he to do? He tries to point out the scriptures that call them to obey, but to no avail, so he draws away from those who claim to be the church, and his fellowship begins to grow as he meets people who were found and saved by the Lord as he was. During this time, he comes to realise that his new-found fellowship are in fact living stones. 1 Peter 2:5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. He also finds that when two or three of these stones come together Jesus is there with them. Matthew 18:20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them. So now our sheep has found his church of living stones, becoming a spiritual house for Jesus when two or three gather. He has found his home by being carried there on the shoulder of the shepherd, and the sheep he crossed paths with on his journey are now, as he, a royal priesthood dwelling in the spiritual house of living stones. Throughout this study the writer is making a point, and it appears that he has a problem with the people of the established churches, this is not strictly true. There are scriptures that speak of the church in the last days Matthew 24:9-14 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. I mentioned in this study, how many people disregard the authority of the written Word and obey only the parts that they agree with, even when warnings punctuate the passages. To survive these end times believers will need, above all, the power of the Holy Spirit. Without Him we will be among those who fall away. I believe, that in many of the established churches there are living stones, and they remain where they are because of the love they have for the congregation. But I believe the time will come when they will have to choose with whom they stand. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. When we look out at the world today, all these traits are there before us. Not to mention abortive murder, the denial of gender, the belittlement of marriage, and worst of all, the denial of truth. John 14:6 I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. It’s time to take stock, to seek the Lord in prayer and come out from among them. I pray that this study causes the readers to delve deeper into the Word and pray for deeper understanding. Bless you.