Seeking the Lost
“Seeking to Understand” Luke 15:11-32
In Proverbs 4:7 we find these words: “Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.”
This verse attests to the fact that wisdom is important and should be the first thing that we get. However, wisdom without understanding is pointless. This is so because understanding is a lens which brings the facts into crisp focus. What good is it to have the wisdom to solve a problem if you don’t understand the problem? What good is it to have the wisdom to lead if you don’t understand where you want to go? Yes, understanding is crucial.
In first Kings 3, the Lord appeared in a dream to Solomon in the land of Gibeon. God told Solomon to “Ask! What shall I give you?” From a human perspective many things could have come to mind such as houses, gold, silver, land, or even all the kingdoms of the world. But for Solomon there was only one thing that was of any value: understanding. Notice,
“Now, O LORD my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to be numbered or counted. Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?”
If there was ever an example of why understanding is so important, we find it right here.
Solomon knew that the road ahead would be hard. He knew and admitted that going in and coming out from among the multitude of people with different backgrounds and personalities would be very difficult. He knew it was a major task but one that had to be accomplished. So he asked for the only thing that could truly enable him to succeed: understanding.
Even when writing on the life of Jesus, Luke thought that understanding was very important.
“Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus.” (Luke 1:1-3)
You see, it wasn’t a problem with Luke knowing the information but it was making sure he understood it. I agree with the Austrian doctor Alfred Adler who said, “Man knows much more than he understands.”
The same is the case with us. We know that we have a mission. (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16: 15-16) We know that that mission is to seek and save the lost. We know the facts of the gospel. (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) And we know what people need to do in order to be saved. But do we really understand the people to whom our message is intended? In this lesson we are going to try to understand three things about the lost that will benefit our efforts.
I. Often The Lost Don’t Even Realize That They Are Lost- Luke 15:11-13
A. In verse 17, we find these words: “And when he came to himself.”
1. This implies that he wasn’t himself before.
2. As Albert Barnes stated, “In this place it denotes that the folly of the young man was a kind of derangement--that he was insane. So it is of every sinner. Madness is in their hearts (Ecc. 9:3); they are estranged from God and led by the influence of evil passions, contrary to their better judgment and the decisions of a sound mind.”
B. We often try to teach people who do not really believe or know that they are lost.
C. They are blinded either by their own self-righteousness, worldly lust, or traditional religious values.
D. Before the gospel can have any effect on them, they first must accept the fact that they are lost.
E. Until this fact is established, teaching them how to be saved is ineffective.
F. Notice that the son in our text LEFT the father.
1. Sinners must be shown their lost condition clearly.
2. Many of them will argue that God loves them and that He said that He will never forsake them.
3. They don’t realize that God has not forsaken them; the moment they sinned, which we all have (Romans 3:23), they left the fellowship with God (Isaiah 59:1-2), and are therefore in need of reconciliation.
G. First we must understand if the lost really are aware of their lost condition.
II. The Lost May Need A Wake Up Call Before They Obey The Lord- Luke 15:14-21
A. How many times have we spent countless hours trying to teach people the gospel and in the back of our mind we know it will not be long before they obey.
B. However, just the opposite occurs.
C. The study ends abruptly and you’re left wondering what in the world happened.
D. When I first started teaching people, I spent countless nights depressed because I thought the ability to get people to change was in me—I was wrong!
E. The ability to save is in the gospel (Romans 1:16; James 1:21).
F. Nonetheless, like the lost son, sometimes people need a wake up call.
G. The easiest thing for anyone to do is leave the Lord but the hardest thing to do is come back.
H. Even so, everyone has within them the ability to change.
I. I believe one of the greatest weaknesses that I had to overcome was believing that some people can't change.
J. Too many times I’ve looked at a person and determined from the way they lived that it was impossible for them to change.
K. Basically what I was doing was projecting my own worldview on them.
L. That attitude hindered my ability to be an effective teacher of the gospel.
M. I would try to determine potential candidates for the gospel based on appearance, social status, and lifestyle.
N. Well, this criterion is faulty and useless.
O. All men are candidates for the gospel because Christ died for all men (John 3:16; Romans 5:6-8)
P. I then began to realize that anyone can change but sometimes they need a wake up call.
Q. I’m reminded about what is said in Psalms 119:67, 71: “Before I was afflicted I went astray, But now I keep Your word. It is good for me that I have been afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes.”
1. Notice that going astray and affliction produced obedience.
2. This is definitely the case with the lost son.
3. He did not come to his senses until his life changed for the worse.
R. So, be encouraged and continue the quest of teaching the gospel.
S. And in the process, understand that sometimes there are obstacles beyond our control, just like the selfishness and willingness to leave were beyond the control of the father in this parable.
III. The Lost Have A Father Who Loves Them- Luke15:22-32
A. For a long time I have believed that only Christians are God’s children.
B. In one sense that is correct; but I think to fully appreciate the fact that God loves sinners, we need to understand the connection between them and God.
C. In Acts 17, the apostle Paul was having a conversation with some Gentiles (sinners) about God.
D. One of the things that Paul told them was that they, including him, were God’s offspring.
1. In this context he is talking about the physical not the spiritual.
2. That’s why in the same verse Paul says, “In Him we live and move and have our being.”
3. Every man on the face of this earth is a child of God by virtue of creation.
4. In this sense there is a connection between God and sinners because He loves His creation (John 3:16).
5. We have to understand that people know God loves them and they are right.
6. Many of them believe, no matter how they are living, that they are still a child of God.
7. We must recognize that arguing this point with them is useless.
8. However, we must show them that being an offspring of God through physical creation does not save but becoming an offspring of God through spiritual creation does (John 3:3-5; Acts 2:38, Galatians 3:26-29; 4:6; 2 Corinthians 5:17).
E. When the lost son returned home, the father did not spoil the joy of the moment with questions of the son’s experiences away from home.
F. The father was so happy to see his son all he could think about was rejoicing.
G. In his own words, “what was dead is now alive and what was lost is now found.”
H. This is how God feels about sinners.
I. He is waiting with open hands ready to rejoice in the day of deliverance for that one sinner.
J. However, that day is dependent upon us taking the gospel to them.
K. God our father loves the souls of all sinners and we should too; not only in word but also in deed.
A. I realize that I probably have not touched nearly as much as could have been said from these passages.
B. We pray however, that what has been said can help us all to understand better the position of the lost.
C. Be reminded, many people don’t know that they are lost, some need a wake up call, but all have a God in heaven who loves them.
D. If we can remember these three things, maybe we can become a little more effective in “Seeking the Lost.”
By Tony Edwards, Evangelist
Decatur Church of Christ