FIRST-PERSON: Count the sheep
EL CAJON, Calif. (BP) -- The late-1960s TV comedy "Get Smart" featured a lovable, bumbling secret agent, Maxwell Smart, and his partner, Agent 99. Agent 99 was smart and classy, yet humble, and was always there to rescue Smart when he bumbled himself into a predicament.
Although Maxwell Smart was the comedic star of the show who always managed to blow his cover and reveal his presence to the enemy, Agent 99 was the true secret agent who got the job done in a professional way.
I want to use this image to ask you to become a different kind of agent: God's "Seekret" Agent.
The number 99 plays a notable role in one of Jesus' parable of the lost sheep (Matthew 18:12-14; Luke 15:1-7). Jesus introduces us to a shepherd who has a flock of 100 sheep. When he counts his flock, he discovers one is missing. So he leaves the 99 sheep and goes in search of the one lost sheep.
God wants each of us to be that kind of "Seekret" Agent who is continually aware of the need to seek out those lost sheep that have not yet made it into the sheepfold of God's safety and salvation.
Two important lessons can be drawn from the parable of the lost sheep. It is not just a parable about evangelism. It is also a parable about the value of every lost soul, regardless of who they are, how far they have wandered away, and what effort might be required to bring them back.
It would be wrong to apply this parable only to your middle-class neighbor who does not yet know Jesus Christ. While that neighbor represents a lost sheep who needs to be found, there are other sheep that will require a different kind of effort on our part to reach. They are the ones for whom Seekret Agents are required to do their most skillful, prayerful work so that they might be found.
Jesus told the parable of the one lost sheep because the Pharisees and scribes were criticizing Him for eating with the most despised sinners in their culture. The religious leaders of Jesus' day regarded despised sinners as having no value. They were so far from God that trying to rehabilitate them via the law of Moses was out of the question.
Yet Jesus placed Himself right in their midst. Every lost sheep has value to God. And, it appears that the farther away a lost sheep has wandered, the more rejoicing there is when it is found! That would have been complete heresy to the religious leaders to whom Jesus spoke the parable.
If you want to become one of God's Seekret Agents, you must be willing to:
1. Count the sheep. When Jesus looked out upon humanity, His heart was broken. If we have no sense of where people are spiritually, how can we have a burden for seeking the ones who are lost?
2. Value the sheep. The religious leaders of the day saw no point in reaching out to "sinners." But Jesus said, "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). If we are willing to reach out to a nice neighbor but not a hated or disrespected person, then we cannot be a Seekret Agent for God.
3. Seek the sheep. Since the religious leaders wouldn't allow sinners into their community, Jesus left "religion" and went to find the lost sheep. God's Seekret Agents have to be willing to go where the lost sheep are, often outside the boundaries of organized religion.
If we are to defeat the chaos that Satan has brought into our world, we will have to become agents of God who seek the lost. It's what Jesus did. And it's what He expects us to do as well.