THE VASTNESS OF LOSTNESS
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
August 5, 2018
1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” 3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 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. 8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? 9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
— Luke 15:1-10, ESV
As Jesus continues His journey to Jerusalem for the last time, three parables are pulled out of Him that preach the redemptive theme of lost and found. The emphasis, of course, is on the glory of being found by God. However, we cannot appreciate the victory of salvation until we comprehend the vastness of lostness.
A later verse in Luke helps put these parables into proper perspective. “For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost” (ref. Luke 19:10). Before this statement, Luke’s previous six uses of the word “lost” all appear in chapter fifteen wrapped around a sheep, a coin, and a son (or two).
The word “lost” in Luke and the entire New Testament means more than just missing. The word is used to described Herod’s motive in trying to find the newborn Jesus in Matthew 2:13. The word becomes a proper name in Revelation 9:11, “Apollyon.” To be lost, in Christian terminology, means to be on the road to or already arrived at a certain place, the place of destruction.
Lost is not a good word, lost is not a good place, and this one sermon on two parables (to be followed by two sermons on one parable) offers particular insight into the vastness of lostness.
Lost People Are Everywhere
The parables are prefaced by a parade of lost people. “The tax collectors and sinners” were lost, having sold their souls to unrighteousness, mostly money and pleasure. “The Pharisees and the scribes” were lost, having entrusted their souls to self-righteousness, mostly religion and rules. Greed and lust, pride and prejudice, and all manner of other ill will lurked in all of their hearts, as it does our own. Some call it sin, some call it depravity, for today we will just call it lost.
Lostness is vast because it covers every part of the planet and inflicts every member of the human race. We are born lost. We have to be born again to be found. This is exactly why Christ came to earth, why He loved and surrounded Himself with sinners, and why He preached these parables of lost and found.
Are you lost or found? If you are lost, please stay tuned. If you are found, it is your job to help the lost find the way to Christ. This is easier said than done, I know, but it begins with the realization that lost people are everywhere.
I cannot boast of being a great witness for Jesus, although I should be. One of the requirements of my first seminary was to turn in a report every Tuesday on witnessing to at least one lost person. This was a terrible and wonderful rule. It was terrible, because frankly with a full-time class load, plus a full-time job, plus a full-sized family, a few Tuesday mornings dawned without meeting the requirement. So, I would arrive at campus early, park my car, stand near the busy street that passed the school, and wait for someone to walk by who was willing to talk with me about Jesus. It usually took about five minutes, even early in the morning. I learned the vastness of lostness. I learned that lost people are everywhere.
Lost People Cannot Save Themselves
We also learn in these parable that lost people cannot find or save themselves. This is part and parcel of the vastness of lostness. Jesus proves it well with these two parables of the sheep and the coin.
Sheep, one of the Bible’s favorite analogies for humans, are awfully dumb animals. Their stomachs are bigger than their brains, so they follow their appetites out of the pen and get lost. When they do, they lack the mental or moral or spiritual ability to say to themselves, “Hey, I’m lost, but I can figure this out and go back to my home.” They will remain lost until the shepherd finds them.
The flipping of the coin is even more heads up. A coin is an inanimate object. It gets lost due to human error, and human error is what makes all men lost. When a coin is lost, obviously it cannot find itself. It has no free will. It has no Spirit within. A lost coin is just dead, depraved, and covered in darkness. This is the vastness of the lostness of human beings.
I do not understand why Pelagius ever imagined that a lost person can figure out or otherwise cooperate with God to save himself. Neither did Augustine, and Pelagius was rightly branded a heretic. I do not understand why the Roman Catholic church devolved into selling indulgences and regulating penances for eternal salvation. Neither did Luther, and he protested. I do not understand why Charles Finney and his followers, like Pelagians and Catholics, believe people can be saved by their own free will, if just turned on by a proper pitch, ritual, altar call, or other so-called right uses of means. Against this I have protested for years.
The point is that lost people cannot save themselves. They need guidance, not gimmicks. They need the word of God and gospel of Jesus Christ. They need the Lord, who lives within every true believer. Believers must step into the vastness of lostness for unbelievers to be saved.
Lost People Have No Value, As Long as They are Lost
Consider now the worst part about living in the vastness of lostness. You may think this idea harsh, or even untrue, but please bear with me in this brash assertion. Lost people are worthless.
Think about the parables. What good is a sheep who wanders off, gets lost, never returns, and is never found? What wool comes from a lost sheep? What food on the table is provided by a lost sheep? What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.
Can you spend a coin you do not have? Does a lost coin pad your bank account, accrue interest, or serve as a gift to someone else? What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.
Lost people are worthless, not actually but ultimately. Lost people are created in the image of God. Lost people display common grace, help other people, lead happy lives. But think about something else Jesus said: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul” (ref. Matthew 16:26)? What is it ultimately worth to be a great human being but a lost person apart from Christ? Absolutely nothing.
The saddest thing about he vastness of lostness is that lost people ultimately waste their lives. They don’t realize it, any more than the sheep or the coin realize their lostness. But their lives will end and they will stand before the true and living God. Then they will know that God is real, Jesus Christ is Lord, and the opportunity to be born again by the Spirit and the word has passed them by. They will blame themselves, they will blame you and me, they will blame God. But blame never changes anything. They will be lost, in vast darkness, forever.
Lost People are of Infinite Worth, When They are Found
Enough of the darkness, let’s turn on the light, the light of love. Lost people are loved by God, and you can see Jesus loving the lost in the Gospels. But the only way lost people can love God back is by believing the gospel.
These parables are pictures of being found, being saved, being loved by God. They major on light over darkness, joy over sadness, and victory over defeat. In both cases, the lost is found and a party in Heaven breaks out resounding with choruses from the angels and the Almighty Himself. What makes the lost found, the dead alive, and the chorus of Heaven? It is the love of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The gospel is the search vehicle that finds the lost, driven by good shepherds and wise women. We must go to the lost, for we cannot expect the lost will come to us. The church gathers for worship, she scatters for evangelism. And lost people are everywhere.
Games and gimmicks will not reach them, but the word of God and the witness of Christians will. Always have bibles ready to give away. Always invite people to your gospel-centered church services. Always be ready to share your testimony of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
And do one more thing. Remember what it was like to be lost?
I remember, in a physical sense, the first time I got lost. I was about ten, our family went to Six Flags over Georgia, my sisters were with my mother while my father and I went to an area where Hank Aaron and Willie Mays were signing autographs. There was a huge crowd, so big we could not walk side by side, so Dad told me to follow him. I guess all men must have dressed the same in those days, for the pants and shoes I steadfastly followed turned out not to be my father’s. I was lost. I felt sick. I felt small. I was not capable of looking above that crowd and finding my way back. But my father was bigger, wiser, calmer and it was he who found me.
To be found, spiritually and eternally, is the same, only infinitely greater. It is the Father’s doing (stay tuned for the next parable). But to do it, the Father has sent the Son and the Spirit, and you and me. Look now into the vastness of lostness, reach out to those who are there, and give them the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
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Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org