I once was lost. I can still remember how I felt about religious people, but I can also remember how I felt about God. Outwardly I lived like an atheist, believing there was no supreme being who would hold me morally accountable. Inwardly I longed for something more, some purpose or meaning beyond just a self-centered, self-reliant existence. While I was cynical about the church and meaningless religious rituals, I was attracted to Jesus through people of sincere faith. I moved toward Christ because of people who accepted me and who by their actions valued me as a person loved by God.
We use many terms to describe people who are outside the family of God, who are not born again. They are the lost, the unsaved, unbelievers, seekers, pre-Christians, or the unchurched. Whatever way we decide is the most comfortable, kindhearted way to describe them, the Bible says in Ephesians 2 they are dead in their trespasses and sins. In Luke 15, Jesus refers to them as the lost, but He also tells us they are tremendously valuable to God and therefore seeking after them, finding them, bringing them into the family is of highest priority.
1. The lost are attracted to Jesus.
a. Tax collectors and sinners:
- Terms that refer to people who are outcasts and not accepted by the religious leadership
- Tax collectors or publicans were considered to be traitors to their own people since they collected taxes for the Romans
- Sinners were those Jews and non-Jews who led immoral lifestyles or who didnt participate in the faith community of Judaism
b. Coming near
- They were seeking Him out
- There may have been a variety of motivations
- Jesus said, You come because I gave you bread (Jn 6:36)
c. They came to listen
- He taught with authority (Mt 7:29)
- Woman at the well / whole village (Jn 4)
- 5,000 in the wilderness (Mt 9:12)
2. The lost are the priority of God
a. Three parables in direct response to this attitude of religious people
- First, a sheep was lost and the shepherd leaves the flock to search for it; when it is found, there is a great celebration
- Second, a woman loses a coin. Probably equal to one-tenth of her retirement funds; she tears the house apart to find it; when it is found,there is a great celebration
- Third, a son is lost. The father watches and when the son returns there is great celebration
b. There are several truths common to all these parables
- That which was lost mattered a lot to somebody
- That which was lost mattered so much, it was worth an all out search
- That which was lost mattered so much that there was great celebration when it was found
3. The lost are to be the priority of Gods people.
a. Recognize the spiritual battle
- Your hesitancy is not coming from within you (Eph 6:12)
- Dont be overwhelmed (2Ti 1:6, 7)
b. Desire to attract the lost rather than to be religious
- In your heart long for mercy for others rather than justice
- Speak blessing instead of speaking a curse
- Have compassion on the lost:
- Jesus was brokenhearted over the people of Jerusalem (Lk 19:41)
- Paul was willing to trade his salvation if the Jews could be saved (Ro 9:3)
c. Learn to minister to the lost:
- Become a prayer partner and minister at the altar
- Register for the Ministry Training Class in September
a. Jesus attracted the lost; if I empty myself, and allow Him to show Himself in me, He will attract the lost through me
b. Everyone I encounter matters to God and therefore they have great value
c. Because of their great value, Gods priority is on seeking the lost; it should be my priority as well
1. Share with the group how you were a blessing to someone this week. What was their response?
2. Discuss the difference between being attracted to Jesus and being invited to church.
3. Discuss the role of the older brother in the prodigal son parable. How do religious people reflect the attitude of the older brother? How have you?
4. What are some ways that seeking the lost can become more of a priority in your life?