WHAT IT MEANS TO BE LOST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1‑29‑78 7:30 p.m.
On KRLD, the radio of the great Southwest, and on KCBI, the radio of our Bible Institute, this is the pastor bringing the message entitled, What It Means to Be Lost. If you have a Bible, wherever you are, turn with us to the sixteenth chapter of the Third Gospel, the Gospel of Luke. And we shall begin reading at verse 19 and read to the end of the chapter. And all of us in this great auditorium will be reading out loud with you. Luke – Matthew, Mark, Luke, the third – the Third Gospel, the sixteenth chapter, and beginning at verse 19, let us all out loud read this passage from Jesus – all of us together; verse 19 of Luke chapter 16; together:
There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores.
And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom; the rich man also died, and was buried.
And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receiveth thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house:
For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
And he said: Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
Could you imagine a more solemn revelation than this from the lips of our Lord? It is one of the unusual things to be observed in the Bible. That He that spoke most solemnly and most often on eternal damnation and judgment, was the same One who – who brought to press to His heart little children and blessed them, the Lord Jesus Christ [Mark 10:16]. Because of the text that lies in this solemn and tragic story, you can entitle this sermon: "Waking up in hell and in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments." Why would one want to preach on a subject like this, What It Means to Be Lost? Waking up in hell are the most tragic words in the Bible – lost. The reason is threefold.
Number one: I do not invent the message. I am but a voice. I am but an echo. I but open the Bible and read it and expound service after service, Sunday after Sunday, what God says in His Holy Book. The message does not find its initiation in me. It is in God, and I but mediate the message of the Lord to those who will earnestly and prayerfully listen. Why would one speak of a subject like this? I can tell you truly it is a rare, rare, rare thing that in any pulpit, in any church, hell is ever preached on any more. It is a subject that is dropped out of the vocabulary and out of the interest of the preacher and of the church.
But there is a corollary that goes along with it [number two]. When we had hell in the pulpit, we did not have it so much in the streets and in the homes of the people. Now that we don’t have hell in the pulpit, you have hell in the streets and hell in the homes of the people. It is a revelation that ought to be delivered if a man faithfully preaches the revealed Word of God.
Number three: why would one address himself to a subject like this? Because if there is such a thing as judgment and perdition and damnation and facing God someday in our sins – if there is such a thing, it is a merciful revelation from God that we be told about it. What an infinite and indescribable sadness if there is a judgment and if there is a perdition, and God never told us about it, never revealed it to us, never said anything to us about it. It is like a sign on a railroad crossing and the lights turn red and flash and a signal arm waves. It is not because that the railway company hates those who cross over the track. It is rather a merciful gesture, a gracious remembrance, on the part of the corporation, seeking to save human life from driving down the road to eternity. So it is a gracious revelation from God, that if there is such a thing as judgment and perdition, that God reveals it to us.
Could I also say this corollary: it is because of the awesomeness of the depravity of human life and the judgment that inevitably falls upon it. It is because of hell and damnation. It is because we are lost that Jesus came down from heaven [Luke 19:10], was made in the fashion as a man [Philippians 2:8], offered Himself on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins [Hebrews 7:27, 9:26]. This is why the gospel. This is why the cross. This is why the atonement of our Savior. It is because we are so tragically lost.
Jesus did not come to condemn the world.
He did not come to blame.
He did not only come to seek.
It was to save that He came.
And when we call Him Iēsous, Jesus, Savior,
We call Him by His name.
There are two chapters here in the heart, in the center of the Gospel of Luke, that go together: chapter 15 and chapter 16. In chapter 15 is the story of the lost sheep [Luke 15:3-7]. In that same chapter is the story of the lost coin [Luke 15:8-10]. In that same chapter is the story of the lost boy [Luke 15:11-32]. And in chapter 16 is the fourth story – the story of the lost soul [Luke 16:19-31]. In the first story, the lost sheep is rescued [Luke 15:6], and the prodigal son comes back home [Luke 15:20]. But in the fourth story, the lost soul is lost forever and forever [Luke 16:25-26]. The saddest most tragic word in the Bible is that word l‑o‑s‑t – "lost."
Somebody said, "You can apply that word to anything and it spells tragedy." Apply it to a man’s health: here is a fine, strong, able man, working, supporting his wife, his children, his family; then, he is suddenly cut down. He has lost his health. What a sadness! Apply that word to a man’s eyes: he can see the sun, the light, the glory of the world, and then an accident overwhelms him, or a disease overtakes him, and he loses his eyesight, and he gropes for the wall like the blind. What a tragedy! Apply that word "lost" to the mind: "This man has lost his mind."
I never heard of a sadder thing than was told by a guard in an insane asylum. There was an inmate there and a young fellow, and his wife came to see him. And the guard opened the door and closed it and in the brief period of visitation, she was left alone with her young husband. After the time had passed, the guard said he unlocked the door and opened it. And when he did so, he found that young woman down on her knees looking up into the face of her young husband, and crying pitifully and sadly, "Oh, husband, don’t you know me? Don’t you know me? I am your wife. Don’t you know me?" The guard said, "No light of recognition came into his face. He had lost his mind." Apply that word to anything. It spells tragedy, but how infinitely more tragic when you apply the word to a soul, a lost soul: "This man died without God."
I was asked by an affluent family one time to come and to hold the memorial service for their son. He had been prodigal and wayward and iniquitous in the extreme, and he had died drunken in an automobile accident. And when I came to the house to hold the service – they do not belong to our church, they just – they just knew me, had heard about me. When I came to the house, they said to me, "Do not call his name. Do not read an obituary. Do not read a passage of Scripture. Do not sing a song. Just have a prayer and we will take him to the cemetery and bury him away." Oh, as I made the journey with the family to the cemetery, and buried that prodigal, wayward, iniquitous, worldly boy away, I thought, this is the saddest thing that could overtake us in human life! Apply the word to anything. Lost; it spells tragedy.
Here is the Christian, and he loses his money. He loses everything that he has, and he dies a pauper in penury. But what is poverty and penury to a Christian? He wakes up in heaven and he is a child of the King. All of the riches of glory are his. The wealth of the world is in God’s hands, and he is the inheritor and heir of it all. But here is a lost man who is rich. He has accumulated this world’s goods, stocks and bonds and lands, and he dies. But what is wealth and money when a man wakes up in hell, except to feed the fire and the flame?
Here is a Christian, and he loses his health. He is on a bed of affliction. He lies on a bed of agony and suffering. He is broken on the wheel of illness. And at last, the Christian dies. And he wakes up in heaven. And he is well. There are no blind eyes in glory. There are no crippled limbs in glory. They do not dig graves on the hillsides of heaven. It is a new life. It is a new world. It is a new body. It is a new fellowship. It is a new home. It is a new city. It is everything new [Revelation 21:1-5].
For the Christian, death is the beginning of eternal life. But here is a lost man, and he is strong, and he is well. He is healthy all the days of his life. Then he dies, but what is health and strength when one wakes up in damnation? Cut down – chopped down like a tree, and there he lies in torment. Dear God, death is the end of sickness and sorrow and blindness and maimed limbs and broken hearts and lives to the Christian. But death is not the end of the soul. And when the man dies without God and without Christ – when he dies lost, when he wakes up in perdition and torment, forever and ever; the infinite tragediness of a man going out to meet God, and no Savior to intervene.
A liberal theologian said, and I will quote you what he said. A liberal theologian said, "If the doctrine of damnation was written on every page of every leaf of every Bible in the world, I would not believe it." Well, and good, fine – no one rejoices in the misfortune that falls upon somebody else. Nor would anybody rejoice in the damnation of the lost. But this is the one stark tragic truth that I observe in human life; namely, that the world is lost, and the nation is lost, and the state is lost, and the home is lost, and the life is lost, and the soul is lost without God! I read it in every paper. I see it in every life. I observe it down every road, lost without God and without Christ. The sinner is lost in this life. He is lost now. He has no God to turn to. He has no Savior to pray to. He has no meaning or purpose in life. For him, life ends in the grave, in the night, in death!
That is why the people in the world are so wretchedly miserable; that they drink and drink and drink, anything to drown the realities of life. That is the reason they take drugs and LSD and pot and a thousand other things. Life presses upon them. The realities of life are burdensome to them, and they would do anything to escape. They need to be entertained to forget themselves, because they can’t face reality. You see; they don’t have God. And there’s not any purpose in life. There’s not any meaning in life. There’s not any goal in life. All that they face is inevitable death and the judgment. They are lost in this life. Life has no meaning to those who are without God. Again, the sinner is lost in death. To him death is but an impenetrable midnight darkness facing death without God, and without Christ; lost, lost; a darkness that can be felt!
One time many, many years ago – one time I was walking through Mammoth Cave. They say the largest cave in the world. After these years and years, scores of years, they still have not explored all of the labyrinthine passages in the Mammoth Cave. Do you know what? I looked upon the mummified body of a little girl. She looked to be about twelve years of age. And in the dry, coolness of Mammoth Cave, the years had dehydrated and had mummified her body. And there she was. She was – she was in a position where evidently she had buried her face in her hands and had died there, with her face buried in her hands. And as I looked at that little girl, I could sense and feel the terror and the tragedy of that child, when she found herself lost in that endless cavern, and the darkness impenetrable pressed upon her, and the little thing in her wandering, finally laid down in terror and died. And that is exactly what death means to the man without Christ. It is a darkness. It is a midnight, impenetrable darkness. The sinner is lost in death. He is lost at the judgment bar of Almighty God [Revelation 20:11-15].
The Book says that someday every man shall stand at the judgment of Almighty God; and one day, we shall stand before Christ [2 Corinthians 5:10] or we shall stand at the Great White Throne judgment [Revelation 20:11-15]. And this man who is lost, stands at the Great White Throne judgment of Almighty God, and the Lord God turns to the recording angels and says, "Open the Book of Life and see if you can find his name."
And the angel turns to the Book of Life and then reports back to great Judge of all the earth, "I cannot find his name."
And the lost man cries, "Will not the Judge of all the earth do right? Lord, let me explain. Let me explain."
And the Lord replies, "The Judge of all the earth will do right [Genesis 18:25]. You have eternity in which to make out your case."
And the man replies, "Dear God. Dear God, let me explain. You see, Lord. You see Lord, it was like this. I was too busy. I was making money. I was trying to have a good time. I was spending my life and efforts after pleasure and after money and after fame and after gain. And Lord, I didn’t have time for God, for Thee!"
And the Lord says, "But did not I say in My Book ‘It is appointed unto man once to die, and after that the judgment?’" [Hebrews 9:27].
"O, God, You don’t understand. Let me explain. Let me explain, dear God. Look at all of my good works here. See I did this and this and this that is good. And that balances this and this and this that is bad. Lord, look at my good works."
And the Lord God said, "But did I not say in My Book, ‘Thy righteousnesses in My sight are as filthy rags?’ [Isaiah 64:6]. No man is ever good enough to stand in the presence of the holiness of the Almighty."
"But dear God, You don’t understand. Lord, let me explain. Lord, all of those denominations down there in the world and those systems and all of those differences, it confused me. And I didn’t know where to go or what to do or what to choose or what to say or what to join. Lord, Lord, I didn’t know."
And the Lord God says, "Did I say anything to you about schismatics? And did I say anything to you about denominations? Didn’t I say unto you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved?" [Acts 16:31].
"But God, You don’t understand. Lord, let me explain. Lord, I was waiting for a great feeling. I was waiting for some spirit, some power, just to lift me up and to set me into the kingdom of God. O, God, don’t You see? Don’t You understand?"
And the Lord says to him, "Did I say anything to you about a great feeling, or did I mention to you anything about a great experience? Didn’t I say that simple word, ‘If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in thine heart that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved?’ [Romans 10:9]. Didn’t I say, ‘If thou shall confess Me before men, I will confess you before the Father in heaven?’" [Matthew 10:32].
"O, but God, You don’t understand. Lord, let me explain. Dear God, I did not intend to be lost. I did not intend to die without Christ. I intended to be saved, to make peace with heaven. I intended, Lord, to prepare for this inevitable hour. I just put it off."
And the Lord replies, "But did I not say, ‘Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation?’" [2 Corinthians 6:2].
And the recording angel turns and opens the book of damnation and perdition [Revelation 20:12], and writes behind that man’s name, "Lost, lost." And that means lost – not only in this life, not only in death, not only in the judgment, but lost through all eternity.
And how long is that? Somebody said, "If this planet on which we live named Earth – if this planet were a solid ball of granite; and a little bird came one time every ten thousand years to sharpen its beak against this granite ball, in the time, and in the day, when this entire solid granite ball called Earth would have been worn away by that little bird coming one time in ten thousand years to sharpen its beak – when it had worn away this granite ball, eternity yet would not have begun." O, Lord, it is beyond our imagination – the forever and the forever and the ages of the ages and the eternity of the eternities that lie before us – beyond the grave, beyond death. And we face it lost in eternity. O, Master, have pity upon us. Save us, Lord. Lord, remember us.
You know, one of the most vivid experiences of my life as a child, ten years old; I awakened in the night and ran to the bedside of my dear mother. I was weeping uncontrollably – uncontrollably. And mother said, "Son, why are you crying so?"
I said, "Mother, I dreamed that the end of the world had come, and I was standing at the judgment bar of Almighty God, and, Mother, I was lost. I was lost." And it terrified me, as a little boy. And I woke up so afraid, crying, lamenting. Of course, mother put her arms around me, consoled me, asked God for me. And soon after – soon after, down an aisle at a church, our little church, in a revival meeting, I gave my heart to Jesus; found Him in many tears; loved Him in my heart and soul, gave Him the destiny of my life, and have walked in that pilgrim way ever since.
Death has no terrors for me any more. The judgment has no frightening overtones or facets for me any more. I have found rest and peace and purpose and meaning in God my Savior, and in Christ my Lord. I settled it long ago. And now, every prospect is sweeter and dearer and finer with the rising of the sun of each new day. And, as I grow older, I grow quieter in deeper assurance in the trust and faith that I place in Him – now, fifty-eight years ago. Sweeter as the days go by – richer, dearer, sweeter; the goodness and the graciousness of God in His extended blessing toward me; why would a man turn aside from such overtures of grace and mercy?
A preacher one time said, "There are two hundred sixty‑four times in the New Testament that speak about hell." Why would a man go down the road of life and read those signs – two hundred sixty‑four of them – this road leads to hell? Why would a man do that? Why doesn’t he, what the Bible calls repent, turn around? [Ezekiel 33:11; Acts 3:19]. Why doesn’t a man turn around and read those signs? This road leads to heaven. This road leads to God. This road leads to glory. This is the road of gladness and happiness. This is the road of the Christian pilgrim. Why wouldn’t a man choose rather life and immortality than to choose death and judgment? As Moses said to his people, "See, I have set before thee this day life and death. Choose life" [Deuteronomy 30:15, 19].
And that is prayerful appeal to your heart tonight. When a man stands at the forking of the road, go with God. When a man stands at the great decisive moment of his life, may God give him grace to believe and to trust in the Lord. That way is life, and happiness, and glory, and gladness for you, for your family, for every day that unfolds before you.
And it is yours for the having, for the asking. God made it simple lest we might fail in it. Come, come. "The Spirit invites you to come. The bride of Christ, the church invites you to come. Let the man who is just passing by, the sojourner repeat the glad refrain, come. Let him that is athirst come and whosever will take the water of life freely" [Revelation 22:17]. "This night I decide for God and here I am."
In a moment we stand to sing our appeal and in the balcony round, a family, a couple, or just you; on this lower floor into the aisle and down to the front, "Pastor, I have made that decision for God and I am coming. I am bringing the whole family with me. We are all coming." As the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, make the decision now. And in a moment when you stand up, stand up walking down that stairway, coming down that aisle. "Pastor, this is the decision forever and forever. I am giving my soul and my life in trust to Jesus my Lord, and here I am confessing Him openly and publicly, even unto salvation." God bless you, angels attend you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE LOST
I. L-O-S-T Apply the word to anything, spells tragedy
1. Health (a burden to yourself, family . . .)
light of world gone)
(a) Husband, don’t you know me?)
Soul ( (a) Julian Amon – no name, Scripture, word,
just a prayer)
cynic – "If doctrine of perdition
written on (every leaf) of all the Bibles . . ." Men
are lost without Christ.
But the deep undertow sounding through all Scripture
life "It is a fearful
experience $ thing to fall into history the hands . . . ."
God judges the nations, people
3. Whether we will or no, we must all stand before the judgment bar of
Almighty God. "the day of the Lord" The Great Separation
(1) Everything is moving toward the final consummation
the great rendezvous with God
the great assize
the day of the Lord: the great separation
– our universe, carried with it, buried in it
– our history, destiny, lives enmeshed, inexorably moving
– the days of this life . . .stop the seconds, hours, hands?
(2) However diversified our path, all converges at a common center . . .
– the baby in cradle – hands reaching out to the judgment
– the youth striding
– the old man, cane, tottering
– the rich, riding
– the poor, walking
– the Christian with songs
– the sinner, treading underfoot the blood of Christ
II. It was Jesus Who loved us, gave
Himself, took little children in arms . . . who spoke most solemnly.
Wheat and tares
Sheep and goats
Fish in a net
Wise, foolish man
Two in a field, mill, bed
Great gulf fixed
(a) "Mother, what you crying for?"
(b) "When the choir has sung . . ."
John 3:14, 15
There is life for a look at the Crucified One
There is life at this moment for thee.
Then look, sinner, look unto Him and be saved,
Unto Him who was nailed to the Cross.