Seeking the Lost

Intro: There are events in the Bible that puzzle me. I find myself asking, how could that happen? One of those is recorded in Ex. 32:1-6 Moses returned to find the whole nation practicing idolatry and dishonoring God. How would you react? Does this make you angry?

What is even more surprising is Moses’ reaction to the sin of the people.

  • Ex 32:9-14 – And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people! 10 Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.” 11 Then Moses pleaded with the Lord his God, and said: “Lord, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, ‘He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.'” 14 So the Lord relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.
  • Ex 32:30-33 – Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin. So now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” 31 Then Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold! 32 Yet now, if You will forgive their sin — but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.” 33 And the Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book.
  •  Moses impresses me here. He was willing to take their place as the transgressor. He certainly desired to see them rescued from the punishment they deserved. It reminds me of Paul’s attitude in Rom 9:1-3 1 I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh – He was willing to give himself to save them. This points to a level of spiritual thinking that leaves most behind. What would you sacrifice to see others saved? How do we attain to this thinking and sacrifice?

I. Facing the reality of God’s Judgment: Both Moses and Paul were realists in their individual circumstances. They understood clearly that God would not overlook the sin. There was no place for wishful thinking – where most people are today in their approach to their sin and what the Bible teaches.

A.    At the heart of Jesus’ ministry was the knowledge that most people would be lost through unbelief. Matt 7:13-14 13        “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14   “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

1. When He considered the coming divine judgment against Jerusalem He lamented what he knew was coming. Luke 19:41-44 “Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, 44 and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.

B. Jesus faced the reality of God’s judgment against sin, but notice where that led him. Matt. 9:36-38“But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest” . Jesus was moved to be compassionate. In his discussion of “compassion,” William Barclay wrote, “He did not see man as a criminal to be condemned; he saw man as a lost wanderer to be found and brought home. He did not see men as chaff to be burned; he saw them as a harvest to be reaped for God (p. 157).

1.    Jesus’ sorrow over Jerusalem was reminiscent of the weeping prophet, Jeremiah. Jeremiah 9:1 “Oh, that my head were waters, And my eyes a fountain of tears, That I might weep day and night For the slain of the daughter of my people!” Lamentations 3:48-51 “My eyes overflow with rivers of water For the destruction of the daughter of my people. My eyes flow and do not cease, Without interruption, Till the LORD from heaven Looks down and sees. My eyes bring suffering to my soul Because of all the daughters of my city. Jeremiah and Jesus were compassionate realists. Denying the judgment of sin and the reality of God’s wrath against it is not compassion. Most people will be lost, and some of those people are our friends and relatives. Our compassion must drive us to seek to save them.

2. Do you anguish over those who are lost and stand condemned before God? Does that motivate you to talk to others about Christ? When was the last time you spoke to an unbeliever about God?

3. Do you sorrow over those who have known the truth but fallen away? This is the hardest part – empathy for those who should know better. They had their chance. It is easy to get puffed up through our knowledge, and be callous toward the rebellious. But this is the context of Paul’s statement in Rom. 9. He anguished over those who had every opportunity to see the truth, or knew it and fell away.

4. We may miss the true joy of salvation if we become cynical or uncompassionate toward those who are lost. If we stop seeking, many will remain lost…

            •  Consider the parables of Luke 15 (Lost sheep, lost coin, lost son) Jesus references rejoicing, joy, making merry, 7 times in this chapter. The result of the seeking was joy.
            •  Paul told those in Corinth to mourn over the one who had fallen away. To turn him over to his own destruction (tough love), and work towards his repentance.

II. How do we seek the lost? What is the compassionate thing to do?

A. Preach the Gospel: Consider Paul’s approach in Romans 10:

1. The problem stated: Rom 10:1-3 – Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.

2. What was essential when he considered the reality of God’s judgment? Rom 10:14-17How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” 17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

3. Paul quotes from Isaiah and declares that God’s plan to save the sinner involved the preaching of God’s good news (gospel). Although many will not (did not) heed to the word, they could not be saved without it. True compassion for the lost begins here. We must be willing to preach the gospel – the whole gospel message – at all cost.

a. Later Paul wrote… Romans 15:20-21And so I have made it my aim to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build on another man’s foundation, but as it is written: “To whom He was not announced, they shall see; and those who have not heard shall understand.” The term “aim” here means to strife as a point of honor” (Vincent). Paul was ambitious toward the goal of teaching those who had never heard the truth. This was the compassionate thing to do.

b. Paul speaks about the apostles as becoming “fools” in order to preach to others. I Cor. 4:10-13 “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now. Are you willing to embarrass yourself that others might know about Jesus?

B. Tell the truth about accountability and sin: Those who claim to be compassionate or to seek for the salvation of the lost, but fail to tell them the difficult truth about sin, are deceiving themselves. Gal 6:7-8Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.

1. Jesus spoke openly and freely about Hell and eternal condemnation because He wanted to save people. Matt 10:28 do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

2. Paul was in custody of the Romans, and was summoned to appear before the Roman official Festus. If you were Paul, what would you talk to him about? (Plead for yourself, speak against the Jewish leaders who put you there?) What Paul talked about is mentioned by Luke because it displays Paul’s mission: Acts 24:24-25And after some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. 25 Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, “Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.” The apostles preached the difficult news of guilt and sin in order to bring the lost to repentance and obedience. This was the compassionate thing to do.

III. What Will You Do About What You Know? 2 Pet. 3:10-12 “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? I f you know that this is what is going to happen, what should we be busy doing?

A. How Will We Respond to the Reality of God’s Judgment on the Sinner? There are at least three dangers we face as those who know the judgment of God:

1. We can become fatalistic – there is no need to teach because most people will be lost anyway. They will not listen. (God told Jeremiah that he was going to punish Judah, and that people would not listen.)

2. We can become sectarian, and shut others out of our exclusive group. Look down on those who do not know, and spend our time congratulating ourselves on knowing the truth.

3. Or we can become compromising in our approach, and tell ourselves, and others, that they will not really be lost. God doesn’t mean what he says. But none of those approaches will solve the problem (or pain) that the truth has brought to us. “They shall know the truth and the truth shall make them free.” There is no other way.

4. We can Seek the Lost – Moved with the love and compassion that took Jesus to the cross we can talk to others about sin and salvation. Acts 20:26-27 – 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.

Conclusion: What will you give up to see someone else saved? We can never abandon the mercy of God. In the midst of the anguish of the Lamentations of Jeremiah is a ray of hope that gives him hope. Lam. 3:22-26 “Through the LORD’S mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!” The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.” He knows that the Lord will forgive and save if people will repent. That moves him to speak. So it should us.