I AM LOST, WHAT SHALL I DO?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-10-82 7:30 p.m.
We welcome the great multitudes of you who are listening to this hour on KCBI, the Sonshine Station of our Center of Biblical Studies, and on KRLD, the great "Voice of the Southwest." This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas bringing the evening message entitled I Am Lost, What Shall I Do? There is a series of sermons prepared for these seven o’clock Sunday evening services around the theme, "What Shall I Do?"
Next Sunday night: I Am Full of Guilt, What Shall I Do?
The following Sunday night: I Am Afraid to Die, What Shall I Do?
The next: I Do Not Know God’s Will, What Shall I Do?
The next: I Have Trouble in My Marriage, What Shall I Do?
The next: I Have Trouble with My Children, What Shall I Do?
The next: I Feel No Security, What Shall I Do?
The next: I Feel Inferior, What Shall I Do?
The next: I Am Bored, What Shall I Do?
And the last: I Am Depressed, What Shall I Do?
And these will not be psychological studies. They will be expositions of the Word of God – what God says to our troubled and sometimes mixed up lives. Tonight: I Am Lost, What Shall I Do?
We turn now, all of us – and we invite you on the radio to turn also – to Luke. Matthew, Mark, Luke, the third gospel, chapter 19; and we shall read out loud together the first ten verses, and the text is the tenth verse. Luke chapter 19, verses 1 through 10. Now, all of us reading out loud together. This is the story of Zacchaeus.
Luke 19:1-10, out loud together:
And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.
And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich.
And he sought to see Jesus, who He was, and could not for the press, because he was little of stature.
And he ran before and climbed into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was to pass that way.
And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said unto him, "Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must abide at thy house."
And he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully.
And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying that He was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.
And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord, "Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold."
And Jesus said unto him, "This day is salvation come to this house; forasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham.
For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."
I Am Lost, What Shall I Do? "For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost" [Luke 19:10].
When Luke wrote this – when all the Bible was written – there were no chapters and no verses separating the writing. This story actually begins at the thirty-fifth verse of the eighteenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke. The Lord is on the other side of Jordan, and as He crosses the river into Judea from Perea and up to Jerusalem where He was crucified, He enters Jericho; and as He does, there is a remarkable thing that happens at the outskirts of the city.
There was a blind man there by the name of Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus all his life had been without sight, and he had a regular place where they placed him to beg. Through the years of his life, many people had talked to that blind man. He was one of the institutions in the city of Jericho. Everybody knew him.
Well, upon a day there was a man who stopped and visited with blind Bartimaeus and said to him, "You know, I was in Galilee, and in that district there is a marvelous, a wonderful prophet, and I have seen Him open the eyes of the blind. I have even seen Him raise the dead. His name is Jesus of Nazareth. He’s a mighty prophet of God. Oh, I wish that He were here that He might open your eyes and that you could see."
Wonder of wonders! Marvel of marvels! There is a throng, and a noise, and a multitude on that side of the city where Bartimaeus has sat for years begging alms; and Bartimaeus raises his voice and asks, "What is the noise, and the tumult, and the shout?" [Luke 18:36]. And they answer him saying, "Jesus, the prophet of Nazareth is coming to our city" [Luke 18:37].
With unspeakable gladness and rejoicing, blind Bartimaeus raises his voice and in his blindness calls, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" [Luke 18:38] The people around said to him, "There’s no need to call. He can’t hear you. The tumult and the shout is too great" [Luke 18:39].
One of the great marvelous things about heaven is this: the Lord Jesus hushes the very angels to hear a sinner pray. Anywhere in the earth that a man who is blind calls upon the Lord, He stops all of the machinery of the government of the universe to listen to that man call. And the Lord stopped and said, "Bring him to me" [Luke 18:40], and Bartimaeus flung away his garment in his haste and came to Jesus [Luke 18:40]; and that closes the eighteenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke. The Lord healed him, restored his sight, and he could see [Luke 18:41-43].
Now, I cannot even enter in word or sentence the description of the ineffable, supernal, heavenly, celestial joy and gladness of that blind man when he found his sight, when he could see; and I can just follow him as he makes his way home to tell his wife, maybe his children, all of his friends and his neighbors as he shouts the glory and praise of God who opened his eyes: "All honor and thanksgiving and gratitude to this marvelous Prophet of Galilee!"
And as Bartimaeus is going down the street shouting the glory of Jesus, he passes a fellow citizen in the city of Jericho, and they speak to each other. And this man who’s lived in Jericho all his life, he goes three or four steps and then turns around; and he walks back, and he catches up with that former blind man and says, "Bartimaeus, is that you?"
And Bartimaeus says, "Praise God, it is! I can see!"
And this man says, "You can see? Who healed your eyes?"
And Bartimaeus replied, "The prophet of Jesus is in our city."
And this man says, "Oh, I’d love to see Him too, but I’m afraid I’m too late."
And Bartimaeus says, "It’s never too late, never too late. On the other side of the city, He’ll be leaving our town to go up to Jerusalem."
And this man runs. He runs; and because he’s small of stature, he climbs up into a tree. If you’ve ever been in Jericho, they’ll point out to you that tree whether it’s that or not. It’s a great big tree on the edge of the city where the road leads out. You’ve got to have some kind of a tree there to point to, so that’s a good tree as any other kind of tree. So you stand there and look at that tree and think of Zacchaeus up there in the top of that tree on a limb that looked over the street, and Jesus is passing by.
Well, you can’t help but notice this story because nobody speaks to Zacchaeus. The Pharisees wouldn’t look at him. The scribes act as though he didn’t live, and the populus hated him. The publican was the sign of Roman slavery and Roman oppression, and he was the chief among the publicans, the tax gatherers [Luke 19:2]; and there he is up there in that tree to look at Jesus [Luke 19:3-4].
Now the amazing part of this story: the Lord comes, and He stands there; and He looks up, and He sees that hated and despised publican in the top of that tree [Luke 19:5], and He says, "Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for today I am to abide in your house" [Luke 19:5].
What? In the house of a hated and despised representative of the Roman government that the Jewish people who were oppressed by Rome wouldn’t even speak to, wouldn’t even look at?
"Make haste, come down" [Luke 19:5].
And the Bible says, "And Zacchaeus received Him joyfully" [Luke 19:6].
Did Jesus ever enter a home in any other way? Did He ever enter human life in any other way? Did He ever enter any house or any heart any other way than joyfully? Anytime Jesus comes, it’s a wonderful day. It’s a glorious hour. It’s a marvelous and triumphant moment. He received him joyfully.
And as the Lord went away with Zacchaeus to be the guest in his house, the Pharisees murmured saying, "He’s gone to be the guest of a man that is a sinner" [Luke 19:5]. I’m glad they said that. In the fifteenth chapter of this same Gospel, that’s what they said about the Lord Jesus [Luke 15:1-2]. "This is a man" – houtos, this guy, this one, houtos, this fellow – "He receives sinners; and not only that, He eats with them." And because of that, the Lord replied and told the parable [Luke 15:3], the story, of the lost sheep [Luke 15:4-6], and the lost coin [Luke 15:7-10], and the lost boy [Luke 15:11-32].
And I’m glad they said it here: "This – He’s gone to be the guest of a man that is a sinner" [Luke 19:7]. I’m glad they said it for it elicited from the heart and lips of our wonderful Savior this glorious text: "For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost" [Luke 19:10].
What did the Lord mean by that word "lost"? Well, there are many, many ways in which we can be described as having the experience of lostness. A man can lose his wealth. A man can lose his health. A man can lose his friends. He can lose his influence. He can lose his reputation. He can lose his house. He can lose his business. In fact, there’s hardly anything that we possess that we can’t lose.
But in none of those categories as the Lord addresses Himself, does He address Himself, when He says, "The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost" [Luke 19:10]. In this passage our Lord is referring to a man’s soul, the man’s inner life, the man himself. Lost.
There’s a reason why the Lord addresses Himself to that. Here is a man who is – let’s say he’s very rich, and he loses everything that he has, and he dies in poverty and in need and in want. Then he wakes up in glory, and he’s rich toward God.
Why, my brother, he has a mansion up there in New Jerusalem [John 14:2]. He walks on streets made of solid gold [Revelation 21:21]. He enters daily a city whose gates are made out of solid pearl [Revelation 21:21, 25-27; 22:14]. All of the treasures of the riches of God in Christ Jesus are his forever though he died in poverty [Ephesians 1:18, 2:7].
Now here is a man who is rich, and he dies without Christ. He dies lost, and he lifts up his eyes in torment. What is money, and what is wealth, and what are possessions in hell – in damnation? Lost! His soul is lost! [Mark 8:36; Luke 16:19-31; James 1:10]
Well, think again. Here is a man who’s lost his health. He was strong and now he’s sick, and he lies on the wheel of hurt and pain and misfortune; and he dies, and he lifts up his eyes in glory: there aren’t any lame, or crippled, or old, or senile, or hurt, or invalid in heaven [Revelation 21:4]. He’s strong again. He has life and youth. He has a new body [1 Corinthians 15:42-55]. It is a new day! He’s saved!
Here is a man who is strong, and he’s well maybe all the days of his life. Then finally, he’s cut down like a tree is chopped down. He lifts up his eyes in torment. What is strength, or health, or vigor of life in hell and in damnation? That’s why the Lord addresses Himself to the soul – lost soul. By nature we’re all lost – all of us [Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:9, 23, 11:32; Galatians 3:22].
David said in the fifty-first Psalm, "In sin did my mother conceive me" [Psalm 51:5]. He did not mean that the conception that gave him birth is a sinful act. What he meant was, according to the teaching of the Word of God, we are born with that backdrop of depravity, and sin, and failure, and imperfection, and shortcoming in us [Romans 3:9-18, 7:24]. All of us have it, possess it. Not one of us is what he ought to be. We never quite reach the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus [Romans 3:23]. We are lost by nature. We don’t have to be taught to be sinners. We are sinners. Not only are we born that way, by nature are we lost. We are sinners by practice [Romans 7:14-25; Ephesians 2:1-3; Titus 3:3].
A thousand times a thousand times, as we review our lives, there are decisions that we made that are wrong. There are actions that we followed that are wrong. By practice, we are sinners. We’re lost. We are lost because of our inability to save ourselves [Romans 5:6, Colossians 2:13]. There’s no man able to pull himself up by his bootstraps. He can’t, and there’s no man that can wash away the stain of sin out of his soul [Psalm 51:1-19; Isaiah 64:6]. If from this moment on any one of us lived perfect lives, what do we do with the years that are past? [Romans 6:23; Galatians 3:10; James 2:10-11]
A man can’t save himself, and we face the awesome judgment at the bar of Almighty God for it is written in the Book, "The soul that sins shall die" [Ezekiel 18:20], and "The wages of sin is death" [Romans 6:23]. That’s what Jesus meant when He used the word "lost." "For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost" [Luke 19:10].
That’s we. That’s us. That’s you and I. That’s all humanity – shut out from the presence of God by our iniquities [Deuteronomy 31:17-18; Proverbs 15:29; Isaiah 59:2; Jeremiah 5:25; Ezekiel 39:23-24; Micah 3:4; Romans 3:10-18]. Now, wonder of wonders, marvel of marvels, grace of all grace: the one area where we’re able to touch Christ is in our sins.
It’s because I’m a sinner that I am loved, died for, sought after. I’m lost, and that’s the one point of contact I have with the great high God. How else could I come before Him? He is so mighty and so high and lifted up, and I am literally a worm of the dust [Isaiah 6:1-7]. I am a dying man made of the dirt of the ground [Genesis 2:7, 3:19; 2 Corinthians 4:16]. How can I have fellowship or communion with the great high and mighty God? Only because I’m a sinner, and He is a Savior [Acts 4:12; Romans 5:1-21]. That’s the only way. There’s none other.
The publican – one of the same stripe and kind of this Zacchaeus – was in the temple at Jerusalem; and he stood afar off from the sanctuary and wouldn’t even raise his head toward heaven but bowing his head in deepest humility and contrition beat on his breast saying, "Lord, Lord, be merciful to me a sinner" [Luke 18:13]. Jesus said the man went home justified [Luke 18:14]. He found contact with God.
There was a man in that flotsam and jetsam presented to the people this morning, and in his testimony he said, "I am a lost sinner, and I want somebody to show me how to be saved." That is immediate invitation and entrance into the presence of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ. "I’m a lost sinner. I know I’ve done wrong. I know I have failed. I know I’m not what I ought to be, what I could be; and Lord Jesus, I cast myself upon Your mercies immediately." There is contact. There is relationship. There is koinōnia. There is fellowship between you and Jesus our Lord [John 6:37].
When a man comes before Christ and says, "Lord, look at me. I’m the finest man in this earth. I’ve not murdered anybody. I’ve not embezzled. I’ve not committed ten thousand sins that I see others all about me. Lord, on my own merit, I’m walking head up into the kingdom of heaven." You know what? Even the man himself feels the emptiness and the sterility of a profession like that. Isn’t that what the rich young ruler said to Jesus? "All of these things have I kept from my youth up. Every commandment of the law have I faithfully observed" [Matthew 19:16-22; Mark 10:17-27].
Remember the question he asks, "But Lord, what lack I yet?" [Matthew 19:20]. There is an emptiness. There is a sterility. There is a vanity. There is a non-reward [Luke 18:9-14]. There is a lack when a man boasts of his own morality, his own goodness; but when he comes in the presence of the Savior, "Lord, Lord, I need Your strength and Your presence and Your help. I need forgiveness for sin, and I need Thy blessing Lord, and love and grace and mercy," there is a fullness in his soul that overflows. Like blind Bartimaeus, he sees in the flood of the glorious light of Christ [Mark 10:46-52; Luke 18:35-43] or like Zacchaeus who washes his hands in the ocean of God’s love and grace [Luke 19:8-10]. Our point of contact with Jesus is that He’s a Savior, and I am a sinner [Romans 5:1-21]. That brings us together.
"Well, how do you know that so positively and so vociferously and so vehemently, Pastor?" Well, I’m just preaching the Book. Isn’t that what I said? These were going to be expositions. So you look at it. "For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost" [Luke 19:10]. That’s the reason for His incarnation. That’s the reason for His coming down from heaven [Matthew 1:18-21]. That’s the purpose of His humanity. He came to seek us. We’re lost.
There is a lost woman in Samaria. Now, you listen to the word of the text: "And He must needs go through Samaria" [John 4:4]. There’s a lost woman there. There’s a lost man in Jericho; and He comes to the town in which a man lives, and He comes to the street on which he lives, and He comes to the exact tree where the man is up there in the foliage, and He calls him by name [Luke 19:5]. I can imagine Zacchaeus saying, "How did He know my name?" My brother, He knows all about us – each one of us [Psalm 139:1-4; John 1:45-50, 4:15-19].
And another miracle of miracles, having known us, all about us, He still loves us, and we’re in His grace [Romans 5:8]. O Lord, what a wonderful Savior You are!
"I’ve come to seek and to save that which is lost" [Luke 19:10].
Do you notice the translation here? It’s an effort to carry through the exact expression, "For the Son of Man is come." In Greek, all the tenses are kinds of action, and this is what you call a present tense. That is, it is a continuous action. The Son of Man comes again and again and again and again, and He’s always knocking at the door – always.
It says in the Revelation, the last picture you have before the rapture of the church in the third chapter of the Revelation, the last picture: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear My voice, and open the door of his heart, I will come in and sup with him, and he with Me" [Revelation 3:20].
He’s always seeking. He’s always coming. He is seeking us in mothers’ prayers. He is seeking us in a sermon that might move the heart. He is seeking us in the lesson of a godly Sunday school teacher. He is seeking us in every providence of life. He’s seeking us in death.
There are no things that ever come into your life but that God is saying something to you. Whether it’s illness, or whether it’s age, or whether it’s youth and its vigor, or whether it’s ambition, or whether it’s failure, or whether it’s age, or whether it’s death: in all of it Christ is seeking.
"For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost" [Luke 19:10]. Isn’t it a wonderful thing? What Jesus does, He does gloriously! When God set Himself to bring light out of darkness and order out of chaos, He did it [Genesis 1:2-4]. When the Lord bared His arm to deliver Israel to the Red Sea, He did it [Exodus 14:1-31]. He triumphed! When the Lord came into the world to deliver us, He does it; and He does it gloriously, marvelously, joyfully, victoriously, triumphantly, everlastingly [Matthew 1:1-2:23, 27:11-28:20; Mark 14:1-16:13; Luke 1:1-2:2:38, 22:39-24:53; John 18:1-21:25] .
He doesn’t come to ameliorate us, to make us better, to put a suit over an old, dead cadaver [Ephesians 2:1-7, 5:14; Colossians 2:13]. He has come not to give us new clothes, but to give us a new body [1 Corinthians 15:38-57], a new man, a new woman, a new heart [Psalm 51:10; Ezekiel 36:26; Jeremiah 32:39; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15], a new life [John 4:14, 5:21, 5:40, 10:10, 10:28, 17:2, 20:31; Acts 11:18; Romans 6:1-23; 1 John 2:25, 5:11-20; Revelation 21:5]. It doesn’t say, "Ye must be improved." It says, "Ye must be born again" [John 3:1-21].
And that new life is mediated to us in the love and grace of our blessed Lord [Ephesians 2:8-9]. We look in faith and confession to Him [Romans 10:9-10], and He comes into our hearts [Romans 5:5; 2 Corinthians 13:5; Colossians 1:27; Revelation 3:20], and we’re somebody new [2 Corinthians 5:17]. We’re either in the ark or out of the ark. We’re either saved or we’re lost. I have either accepted Christ as my Savior, or I haven’t [1 John 5:11-12].
Lord, grant that tonight there’ll be not one soul leave this sanctuary without opening his heart to the Lord Jesus. And you say to me, "Pastor, if Jesus calls me, I’ll come. I’ll answer with my life." He calls you. In every providence of life does He call. In the very convocation of our godly praying people this evening, He is calling. In the faithful exposition of the Word of God, He’s calling. He speaks to you.
And when you answer, "Lord, I hear. I listen. I open my heart. I answer. I’m standing, Lord, by the side of the people of God in an open confession before angels and men. I am receiving Thee as my Savior," God does it. You’re saved. You’re born again. You’re somebody new. It is a miracle of God. The same marvelous, omnipotent hands that created us when we were born [Psalm 139:13-16] is the same marvelous, infinite, omnipotent hands that recreates us in our souls when we look in confessing faith to the blessed Jesus [Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 3:4-6]. "I’m saved! I’m saved."
May we stand together? Our Lord, preaching a sermon like this, I hearken back to the day when the invitation was pressed by the pastor, and I answered with my life. And our Master, since that blessed day of my own experience have I seen thousands and thousands turn in faith to the Lord Jesus and there made anew. It’s a new day. It’s a new life. It’s a new hope. It’s a new vision. It’s a glory. And, our Lord, we pray in this hour tonight that the Holy Spirit will bear the message from God’s Book to the hearts of these who listen; and once again, may the miracle of regeneration, of new birth, of re-creation, may we see it before our very eyes as we marvel at the birth of life – something God does. Lord, may we rejoice tonight in the regeneration, the rebirth of these who open hearts in faith, in confession before Thee.
And while our people pray and while we stand in the presence of the great God and our Savior the Lord Jesus, a family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you: "Pastor, tonight, I’m answering with my life." If you’re in the balcony, down one of those stairways; in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles: "Pastor, tonight I’ve decided for Christ, and I’m coming." Make the decision in your heart. Do it now. When we sing this song, on the first note of the first stanza, be the first to come: "I’m answering, Pastor, with my life, and here I stand."
And thank Thee, Lord, for the sweet harvest, in Thy precious, saving Name, Amen. While we pray and while we wait – while we sing – come and welcome. God bless you in the way.