Passion for souls

SERMON TOPIC: Passion for souls

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 23 August 2015


Sermon synopsis: When William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, was asked by the king of England what the ruling force of his life was, he replied, “Sir, some men’s passion is for gold, other men’s passion is for fame, but my passion is for souls.”
- Download notes (3.72 MB, 1434 downloads)

- Download audio (9.21 MB, 1629 downloads)
- All sermons by Gavin Paynter

- All sermons on EVANGELISM

- All sermons on MISSIONS

- All sermons on PASSION

- All sermons in ENGLISH



When William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, was asked by the king of England what the ruling force of his life was, he replied, “Sir, some men’s passion is for gold, other men’s passion is for fame, but my passion is for souls.”


William Booth (1829-1912)

While hiding in a cave from his enemies, David cries in despair that “no man cared for my soul”.

Psalm 142:4 I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would acknowledge me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul. (King James 2000 Bible)

Today too there are millions of people in the world whose souls it seems no one cares about. They have no one to comfort and encourage them, no one who will counsel and pray with them, and none who will tell them the good news about the way of salvation through Jesus.


In contrast, Jesus was moved with compassion when he saw the helpless plight of the multitudes:

Matt 9:36-38 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”


Jesus saw the crowds as lost, harassed and helpless sheep - without a shepherd to lead, comfort and provide for them. Driven by compassion, Jesus appeals to his disciples to pray for more workers in the vast harvest fields of souls.


Jesus longed to give those who were “weary and burdened” rest for their souls:

Matt 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Are you weary and burdened?

To those who respond to his call to “Come to me”, Jesus still offers rest for the weary and burdened soul.


Ever wondered why the church is still in the world?

Fellowship? If we were just here for fellowship, we could rather go to heaven where fellowship is perfect.

Worship? If we were just here for worship, we could rather go to heaven where worship is much better.

Evangelisation? There is only one reason why Jesus left us here and that is to be instrumental in searching for lost sheep. We are his hands, feet and mouthpiece in this world. And if we’re not doing that, we have forgotten or neglected our very purpose in being here.


Jesus cared about souls. Do we?

Startling Statistics on US Protestant Christians: 1

99.5% have never led anyone to Christ.

99% have no passion for the lost. They really don’t care.

86% have never handed out a gospel tract.

68% Could not define “The Great Commission.”

The reason some folks don’t believe in evangelism or missions is that the brand of Christianity they have isn’t worth propagating. Only a nominal Christian has no passion for the lost.



Around 6 pm on Saturday 16 May 1998, 15-year-old Christopher Sercye was playing basketball on North Wolcott Avenue in Chicago. Three boys, who were members of a Latino gang, approached. They were simply looking to beat up an African- American. They shot Sercye twice in the abdomen and then fled.

His panic-stricken friends dragged Christopher about 100 yards to the ramp outside the emergency room of the nearby privately-owned Ravenswood Hospital before collapsing. 1

1 http:// wordpress/ ?p=1676


Christopher Sercye

Some reports say the injured teen was within 30 feet of the door, while others say he was 50 feet. In any case the teen was well within view of hospital staff. The first of 5 separate phone calls to emergency services came in at 6:15 pm. One friend ran inside the hospital and got two police officers to rush to Christopher’s aid. The officers and witnesses begged hospital staff to assist, but they refused citing hospital policy that forbid them to exit the building. 1

1 Ibid


The officers on scene were also bound by protocol to not move injured people and wait for paramedics. At 6:23 pm a request for an ambulance went out over police radio. 1

At one point, police said, they were rebuffed when they asked hospital personnel for a stretcher or gurney to help carry the boy into the hospital. Hospital staff members refused to leave the building or give out equipment to help save the boy, said Lt. James Maurer, the Chicago Police Department’s deputy chief of patrol. “They simply ignored us,” Maurer said. “Their people are out there having a smoke while this kid is lying there. I will be finishing my 34th year as a police officer, and I have never seen anything like this.” 2

1 Ibid 2 http:// 1998-05-19/ news/ 9805220001_1_ravenswood-hospital-medical-center-hospital-workers-christopher-sercye


Ignoring protocol one of the officers finally commandeered a wheelchair and rushed Christopher into the emergency room with a barely detectable pulse. An ambulance finally arrived on scene at 6:29 pm, but left after seeing Christopher being wheeled into the hospital. Emergency Room staff began administering treatment immediately. Two minutes later Christopher suffered cardiac arrest. Doctors discovered that the bullets punctured Christopher’s aorta, mesenteric vein, and colon. Christopher was pronounced dead at 7:33 pm. 1

Many times it seems like churches are surrounded by people who desperately need to hear the gospel, yet we seem content to share it only with those who manage to get inside the building.

1 http:// wordpress/ ?p=1676


When Dwight L. Moody was in London during one of his famous evangelistic tours, several British clergymen visited him. They wanted to know how and why this poorly educated American was so effective in winning throngs of people to Christ. Moody took the 3 men to the window of his hotel room and asked each in turn what he saw. One by one, the men described the people in the park below. Then Moody looked out the window with tears rolling down his cheeks. “What do you see, Mr. Moody?” asked one of the men. “I see countless thousands of souls that will one day spend eternity in hell if they do not find the Saviour.” Obviously, D. L. Moody saw people differently than the average observer does. And because he saw eternal souls where others saw only people strolling in a park, Moody approached life with a different agenda. 1

1 Today in the Word, February 1, 1997, p. 6


Horatio Bernar, after listening to a young minister who was preaching with great gusto said to him, “You love to preach, don’t you?” “Yes indeed, sir, I do.” “But,” said Bernar, “do you love the men to whom you preach?” That is the real issue. 1

We need to cultivate a love for the lost, not a bitterness toward them. Try to sympathize with their plight. Look how Jesus treated the prostitutes and tax collectors. He didn’t despise them and he wasn’t afraid to associate with them, despite the criticism he received for doing so. Instead he ministered to them.

1 resources/ sermons/ 90-6/ a-passion-for-the-lost?Term=passion%20of%20the%20christ


Matt 9:10-13 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples.

When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples:

Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?

On hearing this, Jesus said:

It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.

feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

Luke 7:37-39 When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his

If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.

The Pharisee sees her as a despised “sinner” and criticizes Jesus, who in contrast, has compassion on her.

… I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little. (Luke 7:44-47)

It was in the context of being criticized for again fraternising with tax collectors and “sinners” that Jesus told the three related parables about:

(1) the lost sheep (2) the lost coin (3) the lost son.


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.

They objected to the fact that Jesus:

Associated with sinners (ate with them), instead of shunning them.

That he was friendly to them (welcomed them), instead of being rude to them.

Luke 15:3-7 Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?”


And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 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.”

Based on the context of his response we see that:

Jesus considered sinners as lost sheep. They belonged to him, but had lost their way. (“I have found my lost sheep”).

He goes to great effort to find his lost sheep.

He assists the sheep in getting home – places it on his shoulders and carries it.

He is joyful when he finds it. He expects others to rejoice with him – that includes us.

The joy is over “one sinner who repents” i.e. the sheep now remains with him – it doesn’t repeatedly wander off and get found. Unlike remorse (feeling sorry about your sin), repentance is a change in direction and behaviour.


The Pharisees simply couldn’t understand why Jesus was so concerned about and spending so much time with ‘sinners’. Surely as righteous men (in their eyes at least), they were more important and he ought to be spending time with them instead.

The sheep is a sinner, and the 99 represent the righteous. This is how Jesus answers those who question why he welcomes tax collectors and sinners.

Jesus illustrated in the parable that he didn’t devote all of his time with the faithful (the 99 sheep) because he wanted to search for those who were lost in sin (the one sheep).


Even though he still had 99 sheep and this was just a one percent loss, the shepherd shows that we are all important. The good shepherd knows his sheep by name (John 10:3). He is not content when even one sheep goes astray.

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord … is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.


Luke 15:8-10 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?”


“And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Based on the context of his response we see that:

Jesus compared sinners to a lost coin (i.e. something valuable). The coin belonged to the woman, but had been lost (“I have found my lost coin”).

The woman expends great effort to find the coin (lights a lamp, sweeps the house and searches carefully).

She is joyful when the coin is found. Her friends are invited to rejoice with her.

Again the joy compared to the joy over “one sinner who repents” i.e. the coin is not repeatedly lost and found every week.


Each time, when the valuable coin, lost sheep or runaway son is found – there is rejoicing. And so too, Jesus and the angels celebrate when a lost soul is restored to God.

Isn’t it amazing that God rejoices and the angels rejoice when a sinner repents? They celebrate each victory, when a lost person in jeopardy is rescued by the shepherd of our souls. Our redemption is not simply a mass salvation, but Jesus saves one-by-one, person-by-person, name-by-name.


Luke 15:11-24 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.”


“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.”

“After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.”

As a Jew, feeding pigs (an unclean animal to them) was probably one of the worst possible occupations.

When he came to his senses, he said:

How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.

“So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.

Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.

But the father said to his servants:

This is an anecdote related by D.L. Moody:

The saddest memory of these days of childhood relates to the running away from home of his eldest brother. He has described the incident pathetically in the sermon on the Prodigal Son. “I well remember the long winter nights when we all sat around the fire, how mother would go on telling us about father and his goodness - she was never tired of talking about him. But if any of us mentioned our eldest brother, all would be hushed in a moment. She never could speak of him without tears. She said it would have eased her heart even to know he was dead.” 1

1 biography/ biomoody.html


“‘I don’t know,’ she would say, ‘but he is lying sick in some foreign land, with nobody to watch over him.’ I do believe she would have gone all round the world to find him. Some nights I used to hear that mother’s voice praying for that boy. Ah! how she used to pour out her heart in prayer to God for her wandering son; and when on winter nights a great gale would come sweeping and howling along, she would turn pale, and in a voice choked with sobs would say, ‘Perhaps my boy is at sea with the gale blowing, and in danger of going down!’ Well, on one particular day there was always a family gathering to thank God for the harvest, and on this occasion she always put a chair for him, but the chair was always empty.” 1

1 Ibid


“Many and many a time have I gone to the window in the hope that I should see him coming up the garden-walk to cheer our mother’s heart, but all was in vain - he didn’t come. And so time rolled on. The step that once was so firm became feeble, and the hair that was black as night became silvery grey. How she loved that boy! But amid all this disappointment she held fast to the hope that she would yet see him come back before she died.

One day, as she sat in her cottage, her twin children with her (for the rest of us had gone away into the world, one in one direction and another in another, to fight the battle of life), she saw a stranger coming through the gate.” 1

1 Ibid


“At first she did not recognize that boy, with his long beard and altered face. But when she saw the tears straggling down his cheeks, the truth flashed on her in an instant, and she sprang to him with the words, ‘Come in! come in!’ ‘No, mother,’ he said, ‘I will not until you forgive - never!’ Do you believe she forgave him?

Forgave him! She threw her arms round him and kissed him - the dead was alive, the lost was found! I cannot tell you the joy that welled up in my heart when I heard the news that my poor, long-lost brother had come home again. But this I know. The tears were wiped away from that mother’s eyes, and the sunshine of happiness was in her heart again.” 1

1 Ibid


We need to remember that Jesus is using these stories to answer the religious mindset of the Pharisees who objected to him hanging around with sinners.

So let’s take a look at the last part of Jesus’ parable about the lost son to examine the older son’s reaction to his brother’s return.

Luke 15:25-32 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing.”


So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’”

“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him.”

As Christians we normally try to identify with the lost son. But how many of us should actually be compared to his older brother?

Upon hearing that his lost brother had returned, what was his first reaction? Relief? Joy? No - It was anger! In fact he was so angry he wouldn’t even enter the house to greet his brother.

But his rage was directed not only at his brother, but at his father. Let’s see what he says to his father when he comes out to reason with him.


Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.

He describes his relationship with the father as a burden or slavery.

He accusingly implies that his father had never given him enough.

But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!

He doesn’t even refer to his brother as “my brother”, but as “this son of yours”.

He highlights his younger brother’s sin, which in his eyes meant that he deserved nothing - because he had not obeyed the father.

My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.

The father gently reminds him that the object of his anger is his “brother” and he should rejoice at his restoration.

The elder brother felt that only he had a right to be treated like a son because he had earned it by obeying his father. Have you ever heard someone boast that they are better than someone else because of their behaviour? Or worse, have you seen that person in the mirror?


God, I thank you that I am not like other people--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector. (Luke 18:11)

When we consider ourselves very religious, like the Pharisees we may be tempted to condemn the wayward, while at the same time commending and excusing our sins and those of the members of our exclusive club.

Why not take a “Pharisee test”, to see which brother you’re most like. Which groups below do you feel are more deserving of God’s love? _______

(a) Alcoholics (b) Millionaires (c) People with HIV (d) Pastors (e) Criminals (f) Famous sportsmen (g) Prostitutes (h) Business-men (i) Squatters (j) Tithers (k) Drug addicts (l) People with the same skin colour as us.


Now I realise that in some churches they reserve special seats for famous celebrities, because supposedly ‘success’ is one of the values Christians should aspire to (?).

James 2:2-6 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? … Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonoured the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? …


Jesus’ parable of the Workers in the Vineyard in Matthew 20 tells of an employer (who represents God) who hires some workers early in the day, some later, and some an hour before quitting time, then pays each of them the same amount. The workers who worked all day complain about the latecomers getting paid the same as them.


They felt they had worked harder but the employer’s response is, “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?”

Like the wages in the parable, grace is given by God at his sole discretion.

In the parable of the Prodigal Son, the elder brother felt that he deserved his father’s favour, while his younger brother didn’t. But the Father blesses his returning son despite the objections of his other son who had stayed at home and served dutifully.

So there is a common thread in these parables of Jesus: the grace of God is something that upsets settled human notions about merit and about what is deserved from God.


Are we like Jonah who is angry when God saves sinners we think should be destroyed? And why was Jonah the only preacher to be angry when he had a revival? It was because God was saving the wrong people!

O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. (Jonah 4:2)

Are we like the Pharisees who thought tax collectors and prostitutes should not be the object of Jesus attention or mercy? Are we like the Prodigal son’s brother who is angry when his lost brother returns and is shown favour? Are we offended at God’s grace, not realising it is the same grace that saved us – underserving as we were?


As a youth Amy Carmichael thought she was a Christian, but an evangelist showed her she needed a personal commitment. She gave her heart to Christ. Service to him became the centre and passion of her life. After 3 years of boarding school, Amy returned home because her parents no longer had the money to support her education. Mrs. Carmichael took 16 year old Amy out to buy a dress. Amy found a beautiful one - royal blue - but turned away from it. 1

1 Christian History Institute


Amy Carmichael (1867-1951)

Her mother was surprised, but Amy explained that clothes were no longer as important to her as they once were now that Christ had given her new purpose in life. She would wait a year until her parents were better able to afford new clothes for her. She never got that dress, because the next year, Mr. Carmichael died unexpectedly. That was the year that Amy started classes and prayer groups for Belfast ragamuffins. She also began a Sunday work with the “shawlies.” These were factory girls so poor that they could not afford hats to wear to church and wore shawls instead. Respectable people didn’t want anything to do with them. Amy saw that they needed Christ just the same as their supposed “betters.” Eventually so many shawlies attended Amy’s classes that she had to find a building large enough to hold 300 and more. 1

1 Ibid


The three parables about the lost sheep, lost coin and lost son reveal Jesus as a searching Saviour, looking for the lost, actively seeking them, and rejoicing when they are found. An essential part of Jesus’ character is about extending mercy to the undeserving - an active program of seeking out the hurting and oppressed, the blind and the imprisoned.

Luke 4:18 The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free…

This is the gospel, the message of active love. So if you’re poor, imprisoned, blind and oppressed – that’s good news!


Disciples should imitate their Master. We ought to have the same passion that he has. If his stated mission was “to seek and to save what was lost”, it should be our mission too. If we have lost this passion, we must regain it. We should be:



Combing the hills for the lost sheep

Putting on a light and sweeping the house

Actively intent on finding the coin

Waiting and looking for the lost son’s return


And, upon finding the lost sheep, we should be breaking out in unrestrained joy:

The joy that invites friends to a party

The joy that rejoices over rescuing the helpless

The joy of a shepherd finding his lost sheep

The joy of a housewife finding her misplaced money

The joy of a parent embracing a runaway child, who has returned home.


For we also have been the object of a search-and-rescue mission. We too have been found by Jesus.

Isa 53:6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all.

We too have been the honoured guest at the homecoming party. And now we too must become the searchers and rescuers.

Jude 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear--hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.


John Wesley, 18th century evangelist:

“Give me 100 men who love only God with all their heart and hate only sin with all their heart, and we will shake the gates of hell and bring in the kingdom of God in one generation.”

John Paton, missionary to the South Sea Islands:

“I continually heard… the wail of the perishing heathen in the South Seas.”

William Burns, missionary to China:

“I am ready to burn out for God. I am ready to endure any hardship, if by any means I might save some. The longing of my heart is to make known my glorious Redeemer to those who have never heard.”


Jesus compared himself to a shepherd on a search-and-rescue mission. That was the Son of Man’s mission (“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost”) - Is it yours too?

For God so loved the world, not just a few, the wise and great, the noble and the true, or those of favoured class or rank or hue. God loved the world. Do you?





Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations are taken from the NIV:

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission. (

PDF sermon