By Johnny Ramsey
Undoubtedly one of the saddest words in the English language is the word lost. In the temporal realm we consider it a tragedy for a small child to be lost. Those interested in earthly fortunes have killed themselves when a million dollars has been lost in their business. It deeply grieves many of us when we lose something of sentimental value. But, friend, if these illustrations convey sorrow they cannot compare with the emptiness that shall be ours in Judgment if our soul is forever lost! Our Lord once asked a penetrating question: “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:26) Yes, to be lost eternally is the most tragic dilemma of all.
Did you know that the majority of men have always been lost? There has never been a time, in God’s dealings with His creation, that sin failed to gain the ascendancy. In Noah’s day, only eight righteous souls were saved and multitudes perished (I Peter 3:20). In the time of Abraham not even ten righteous ones could be found in Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18). During the lifetime of Moses even thousands of the Israelites were destroyed because of sin (I Corinthians 10:8) . In the era of Christ the masses rejected Him and helped to crucify the Lord of Hosts! Only a handful of faithful sevants followed the Savior. And today the picture has not changed. Millions are fascinated by “the pleasures of sin” and few truly seek God’s kingdom first (Matthew 6:33).
Perhaps many excuses will be used in the Day of Judgment by those who are lost. But there are at least four of those excuses that will not sound at all convincing. If we are lost it will not be because:
A. GOD’S GRACE PROVED INEFFFECTIVE
In Titus 2:11 we learn that “the grace of God which bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men.” The word “grace” refers to the unmerited gift of salvation which God extends to man. Each of us has access to it.
B. CHRIST FAILED TO DIE FOR US
In Hebrews 2:9 we learn that Jesus “tasted of death for every man.” Paul informed the Corinthians that “One died for all.” He gave himself for our sins and for the iniquity of “the whole world” (I John 2:2).
C. THE PLAN WAS IMPERFECT
The word of God is able to save our souls and to give us an eternal inheritance (James 1:21; Acts 20:32). The law of Christ is indeed “the perfect law of liberty” (James 1:25). If we are lost it will be in spite of a system perfectly adapted to our needs by God.
D. THE WAY WAS TOO NARROW
Even though our Lord taught that “narrow is the way that leadeth unto life” (Matthew 7:14), He also tenderly invites all men to come unto Him (Matthew 11:28). In fact, in the last paragraph in the Bible we read, “whosoever will, let him come.” So, when men are lost in that final judgment scene it will not be due to a way that was too narrow to accomodate all who would surrender to Jesus!
Salvation is such a buoyant word that conveys forgiveness, peace and joy. All right-thinking people should yearn for that relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. No one, thinking properly, desires to spend an eternity with Satan. But to contemplate living forever with the Redeemer in glory is one of life’s happiest moments. A Christian is a three-time winner. He not only lives the best way on earth, but he also misses hell and then goes to heaven.
In view of these truths it is indeed sad to consider the plight of the wicked. Why are so many in a lost condition spiritually? If we can find the reasons for this problem perhaps we can help to bring lost humanity unto salvation. We wish to suggest four reasons that men are unsaved.
MEN ARE LOST BECAUSE:
I. THEY WILL NOT SURRENDER TO THE LORD
The way that leads to eternal bliss is narrow and the entrance to it is not easy. Jesus said “strait is the gate.” The word strait refers to a difficult passageway in the sea. For a ship to safely pass through the Strait of Gibralter takes great preparation, determination and skill. And, for a person to properly follow Christ one must be willing to submit his life to the Master. Notice the following passages from the new Testament.
Luke 9:23 “If any man will come after me let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”
Luke 14:33 “Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.”
Luke 9:62 “And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Paul, the inspired writer, tells us to present our bodies “a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1-2). The apostle Peter asks a thought-provoking question in I Peter 4:18: “And if the righteous scarcely be saved, Where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?”
It takes steadfast courage and complete commitment to be a Christian. Some people are just not willing to pay the price of giving their lives to Jesus. It is also difficult for many to believe that there are only two ways from which to choose. Thousands would like to think that there is some middle ground between truth and error. In this imaginary way would be placed “the good moral man” who never obeyed Jesus and those who died with noble intentions of someday becoming a Christian. In this category would be placed those who were not vile sinners but just ones who neglected their duty to God. The only thing wrong with such an idea is that it contradicts the plain teachings of the Bible! Our Lord tells us we are either for Him or against Him (Matthew 6:24; 12:30). There is no middle ground. There are only two destinies from which to choose – heaven or hell. If we are not children of God we are servants of the Devil. This decision is a difficult one for many because they do not wish to wholly submit their lives to the Master.
II. FALSE TEACHERS MISLEAD THE PEOPLE
Christ Jesus taught that only “the truth shall make you free.” He also warned against false prophets who would be as wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15). Peter told his brethren that false teachers would, through desire for gain, teach “damnable doctrines” (II Peter 2:1-3). John said that “many false prophets are gone out into the world.” An evangelist of the Lord, Timothy, was warned that some would hearken to those teachers who would teach what they wanted to hear rather than what the audience needed to hear. It is even so today. But Emerson was correct when he stated: “‘Tis man’s perdition to be safe when for the Truth he ought to die.” False teachers proclaim messages that cannot save a single soul. The meanest man is any town is the one who fails to impart the pure gospel of the Lord. When one omits the truth or fails to rebuke error that one thereby serves the Devil. Solomon was inspired by the Holy Spirit to say: “Buy the truth and sell it not” (Proverbs 23:23).
The only way we can be sure that we are being taught heaven’s message is to follow the example of the Bereans and “search the scriptures daily whether these things be so” (Acts 17:11). A religion that discourages Bible reading or an individual who is unwilling to examine all that he believes is in a precarious position. Truth has nothing to lose from investigation.
Friend, do you have a Bible reason for all that you do in spiritual matters? Can you give a scriptural answer to questions pertaining to your own spiritual life? If not, perhaps you have been listening to false teachers. Where for instance does the Bible give authority for the following popular doctrines and practices:
1. Calling men reverend, monsignor (which means “My Lord”), Father, Vicar of Christ, etc.? The truth is that Matthew 23:1-12 forbids such terms of spiritual exaltation!
2. Religious division is also a common thing but totally against the Lord’s prayer for unity (John 17:20-21). How can we urge men to “go to the church of your choice” when Christ died to establish His own (Matthew 16:18; Acts 20:28)?
3. Sprinkling infants is another perversion of truth because the Bible teaches that baptism is immersion (Acts 8:38; Romans 6:4) and only for those who can believe, repent and then confess Christ (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 8:37).
4. Teaching that the kingdom of Jesus is yet to be established violates plain verses which affirm the kingdom was set up in the first century (Mark 9:1; Colossians 1:13; Hebrews 12:28). Christ is reigning now (I Corinthians 15:23-25).
5. Many affirm that once we are saved we can never fall from grace but Paul mentioned that even he could have become “a castaway” (I Corinthians 9:27). Peter spoke of some who had once “known the way of righteousness and then departed from it” (II Peter 2:20-22). Yes, we can fall from grace and only false teachers would deny it.
But men are lost because they listen to prophets of error who have not cultivated “a love of the truth” (II Thessalonians 2:10).
III. MANY ATTEMPT TO GUIDE THEMSELVES
Even though Jeremiah tells us that “it is not in man that walketh to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23), some still attempt to do so. The result is spiritual chaos. In Romans, Chapter ten, Paul said that the Jewish nation was in a lost condition due to rejecting God’s righteousness while following their own. The basic principle of Deuteronomy 12:8 applies to mankind today: “Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes.”
It is folly for a human being to reject divine guidance as he strives to live a spiritual life. It is so easy to be deceived – either by others or by one’s own self – that we must hearken unto the teachings of Jehovah. The classic example of Saul of Tarsus makes this point exceptionally clear. Saul was a devout Hebrew religionist who thought he was correct in opposing Jesus of Nazareth by persecuting the church. Even after his conversion to Christianity Paul stated: “I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day” (Acts 23:1). Yet, according to his own testimony, he had been “chief of sinners” (I Timothy 1:15). Evidently, then, the conscience of man is not a safe guide in religion. We cannot be guided by our feelings for they often are deceptive. We feel a certain way due to evidence we have received. If that evidence is false our feelings will be misguided also. If sincerity alone will save us, Christ need not have died. If we need only to “let our conscience be our guide” the Bible might as well be thrown away! But the Redeemer said in Luke 6:46: “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?”
Christ is “the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him” (Hebrews 5:9). It is not enough to be sincere; we must be sincerely obedient to the Lord in order to be saved. Do you remember the words of Revelation 22:14? “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have a right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” Nothing short of this will suffice. Men will be lost forever if they attempt to guide themselves. It is the duty of Christians to point sinners to “the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
IV. MANY DELAY THEIR OBEDIENCE TO THE SAVIOR
Satan’s best argument has always been tomorrow. If he can just keep lost men waiting for “a more convenient season” to call on Christ he has the battle won. Thousands have heard the gospel preached but will not obey it. Oh, yes, these people fully intend to become Christians some dayl. But, if the Devil has his way they will die still contemplating the most important decision of life. Solomon wisely wrote: “Boast not thyself of tomorrow for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth” (Proverbs 27:1). The Psalmist requested: “So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom (Psalms 90:12).
The prophet Ezekiel tells us that Israel waited to serve Jehovah and “all hope was lost” (Ezekial 19:5). There is a blessing pronounced upon those “who die in the Lord” (Revelation 14:13). There is no promise extended to those who foolishly delay and subsequently depart their earthly sojourn unprepared. The time to believe in Christ, repent of one’s sins and be baptized into the Lord is the very moment we realize our duty before God. Men are lost because they procrastinate the day of obedience. May the Lord help us to be wiser than that!