WHAT IT IS LIKE TO BE LOST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-20-89 12:00 Noon
…The theme for this year is “The Revelations of God”: tomorrow, What It Is Like To Be Saved; the next day, What It Is Like To Be In Hell; the next day, What It Is Like To Be In Heaven; and the last day, Friday, What It Is Like To Be Cleansed By The Blood Of The Lamb; and today, What It Is Like To Be Lost. In the middle of the Gospel of Luke, in chapters 15, 16, 17, 18, and 19, you have a presentation from God of What It Is Like To Be Lost. Our Lord spoke of the lost sheep [Luke 15:3-7], of the lost coin [Luke 15:8-10, of the lost boy, of the lost soul [Luke 15:11-32], and finally, in Luke 19:10: “The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost.” It was because of our tragic condition in this earth that our Lord came down from heaven to die for our sins according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:3].
Apply that word “lost” to anything, and it spells “tragedy.” Lost health: down the street from where we live just one block was one of the finest citizens in the city of Dallas. He lost his health and committed suicide. Apply that word to our sight: lost sight, to grope in darkness. One of the dearest members of this church, in these years past, went blind, a tragic condition. Lost mind: a young couple, not married very long, and he, placed in an asylum, lost his mind. That sweet, dear beautiful wife went to see him. After her time for visiting had expired, the guard came and unlocked the door. And when he did, he saw the young wife on her knees before her husband. And looking up pitifully and piteously into his face cried, saying, “Husband, don’t you know me? Don’t you know me? I’m your wife.” And no sign of recognition in his face, he’d lost his mind.
Apply that word to the soul: a lost soul. In one of my pastorates, an affluent family of another denomination, a wayward, worldly boy, killed in a tragic accident; they asked me to hold the service, and in holding it, said to me, “Don’t name his name. Don’t speak of his life. Just read from the Scriptures and say a prayer, and we’ll bury him out of our sight, a lost soul. A Christian can lose his money and live in poverty in this earth, but in heaven, all the riches of God are his. But a lost man can be affluent in this life and what is money when he lifts up his eyes in hell?
A Christian can lose his health and be broken on the wheel of illness, but when he dies, there’s no sickness and no pain in heaven. But a lost man can live in strength all the days of his pilgrimage, then when he’s cut down like a tree and dies, what is health and strength together ever and forever in damnation?
Reading one of the liberal theologians of this past generation, here is a sentence he said, “If the doctrine of hell and perdition were written on every page of every leaf of all the Bibles of the world, I would not believe it.” Fine and well; no one rejoices in the damnation of the lost, but there is no fact more pertinent, more universal than this: that humanity is lost without God [1 Corinthians 15:22]. However we may speak of it, or argue about it, or extenuate or philosophize about it, the fact everlastingly obtains: when we are separated from God, we are lost! [Ephesians 2:12].
Mankind has been in this world for thousands of years, generation after generation, and we are still afflicted with sin and disease and death. Mankind has lifted itself out of darkness and ignorance and superstition, but we are still spiritually just the same. Mankind has achieved great advancement in science, in technology, in scholasticism, but we’re still on the same plane with Adam and Eve [Romans 5:12]. We are lost. The sinner is lost in this life, in this world [John 3:36]. He shuts out God, and he shuts out the kingdom of the Lord and the church, and he lives in frustration and tragic emptiness of heart and life.
You know, one of the strangest things to me? Why do people drink all the time? I used to wonder at that. Go to their parties and they drink; go to their receptions and they drink; go anywhere with them and they drink. I used to wonder why. As I became older and more experienced, I learned why. They have to drown the world in the life in which they live, and that’s the way to get out of it. The shortest way out of Dallas is by the liquor bottle: drinking in order to drown the great issues and the realities of life; they are lost in this life.
The sinner is lost in death [Romans 6:3; Ezekiel 18:4, 20]. To him, it is an impenetrable darkness. I was visiting the Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, and there they’ve just taken out of one of those subterranean, endless caverns the mummy of a little girl. She had died in one of those caverns and was curled. And her face was buried in her hands. And as I looked upon that mummified little girl, I thought of the horror of being lost in those endless caverns and finally lying down to die, the impenetrable darkness around her. That’s what it is when the sinner dies without God, in darkness forever [Jude 1:13].
And the lost sinner is condemned in the great judgment day of Almighty God. When he stands before the Judge of all the earth, the Lord turns to the recording angel and says, “Look through the Book of Life to see if you find his name.” And the angel replies, “Dear God, I don’t find his name in the Book of Life.” And the lost sinner pleads, saying, “O God, let me plead my case.” And the Lord God says, “You have all eternity to defend yourself.” And he says, “O Lord God, You don’t understand. It was like this. I was seeking pleasure and I was seeking money and I didn’t have time for God.” And the Lord God says, “But didn’t I say, It is appointed unto men once to die and after that the judgment’?” [Hebrews 9:27].
“Oh, but Lord God,” the lost sinner says, “Listen to me, Lord. Listen to me. O God, I was waiting for a great feeling, for a great experience, and I didn’t feel it!” And the Lord God says, “But didn’t I write in My Book, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shall be saved’?” [Acts 16:30-31].
“O Lord God, listen to me. Look at my works, my good works.” And the Lord God shall say, “But did not I write in My Book, your works are as filthy rags in My sight?” [Isaiah 64:6]. “O Lord God, listen to me. Listen to me, dear God. Listen to me. I was so confused by the churches, the different denominations. And I was confused by the hypocrites in the church.” And the Lord God shall say, “But, did I not say, ‘Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else’?” [Isaiah 45:22]. And the recording angel writes in the Book of Life: lost, lost, lost, and then lost in the eternity that is yet to come. Lord, Lord, what is it the forever and the forever that the soul lives beyond this life and the grave lost for eternity? I one time had it described like this. If this earth, this planet, were of solid granite, a ball of granite, and every ten thousand years the little bird came and sharpened his beak on this planet earth, when he had worn the planet away, eternity had not yet begun. O God, what it is to be lost! Either we are saved in Christ, or we are lost in a forever darkness of perdition. O God, have mercy upon our souls.
You know, there was a beautiful Christian girl who married an unbelieving and worldly young man, something that no Christian girl ought ever to do [2 Corinthians 6:14]. She married outside the faith, outside the Lord, outside the church. And into the union was born a little baby girl. And as the little child grew up, the devout mother took the child to Sunday school and to church. But when the child was a little older, the father, wicked and unbelieving and worldly, pulled the child away. And, as the child grew older and became a young teenager, lavished money upon her, bought her a car, gave her money for the dance, all the things of the world lavished upon her.
And upon a night, upon a night with a drunken date, in a terrible automobile crash, she was taken to the emergency ward in the hospital with a few moments to live. And the father, being called, rushed to the hospital and looked down into the face of his dying child. And she said to her father, “Father, Mother taught me that I must believe in Jesus and give my heart to Jesus if I am to be saved, if I’m to go to heaven when I die. But Daddy, you have said that’s sham; there’s no need to give your heart to Christ, there’s no need for the church, and there’s no such thing as God. Daddy, I have a few moments to live. Tell me, Daddy, shall I take your way or mother’s way?” And the father fell on his knees by the side of the dying girl and said, “Oh, sweet child, take Mother’s way, take Mother’s way!” Her hand relaxed in his, he raised his face; she was gone, she was dead.
Down the aisle in a church that father came, told the tragic story of the death of his only child and added, “I would give my life, if I only knew in those last moments that she had opportunity to take Mother’s way.” It may be for the moment acceptable and fine to live outside of the will of God, denying our Lord, refusing His overtures of love and grace. But someday, but someday, facing the judgments in the inevitable presence of Almighty God, O Lord; how we need a Savior! And that Savior came into this world to die for our sins [Luke 11:32; 1 Corinthians 15:3; Hebrews 2:9, 10:5-14], was raised for our justification [Romans 4:25], and is someday coming for His own [John 14:3]. God bless that without loss of one, we’ll all be together in glory some triumphant day.