- Pastor Tom Cunningham
“LOST” is an American serial drama television series that follows the lives of plane crash survivors on a mysterious tropical island, after a passenger jet flying between Australia and the United States crashes somewhere in the South Pacific. Because of the appearance of mythological-type creatures, the ‘others’ and the DHARMA initiative mystery, fan theories range from the theory that these people have gone through time to they are dead and in purgatory. No matter how the theories prolificate and how the truth is ultimately defined , they are definitely lost—and in real life, like that, there are lots of ways to get lost—and with each circumstance we wander, neglect or rebel against God, He responds. And how He responds to us as we are lost… might surprise you! In this post I will describe ways that we can be lost and how God responds:
LOST BY WANDERING AND STRAYING
"For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying?"
In our quest for success and contentment, we are always on this drive for greener pastures… Going to this pasture and grazing there, then spotting that new one, then moving there and then that one, because it seems different than all the rest, and then there’s that one… and there seems to be no end, so we wander.
Ladies in Zambia dye their hair and bleach their skin looking for that lighter complexion so coveted for the western look… Meanwhile western ladies are in tanning beds trying to appear darker. Nobody seems satisfied where they are. The same is true in our relationship with God. We are constantly distracted by what seems to be a greener pasture over there so we wander, just a teeny bit — we can still see the pasture we we’re in, so we fool ourselves into thinking we are safe in our straying… we just want to take a minute to check this action out over here… Then here…. Then there… straying for a minute, wandering…
Soon, we have lost site of our original pasture, where we started, our reference points. The original pasture is lost to us, as are the other sheep and we find ourselves in the mountains, wandering aimlessly—the pasture now less appealing, out of sorts—foreign. It becomes increasingly harder to find sustenance. The loneliness is deafening and the ‘greener’ pasture now no longer holds the curiosity it once did. Fear begins to set in and we would like to find our way back, but now we can’t. We can’t find our way back. Nothing looks familiar any longer. We are hopelessly lost. Lost by distraction. Our hearts had truly never intended to stray, but the distractions of life led us away—we saw warning signs, but never understood the gravity or importance of it, until we realize we are lost.
David cries out in Psalms… "I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Your servant, for I do not forget Your commandments.” Psalm 119:176
We are in a state where we truly want to come back ‘to our first love’ as Revelation puts it, but we do not know where that is. Our lives are wandering without direction through the rugged terrain of life (the mountains) and we cannot find again the fold. Revelation 2:5 says we must go back to that place in our lives where we lost our first love—do those things we did when we first got saved, find out where the love waned and re-ignite it.
The problem is, we wandered into areas we don’t know and we can’t find our way back by ourselves.
What is God’s response?
He leaves the 99 (the flock) and goes into the mountains to find the wandering one. He goes after those whose hearts stray and perhaps were distracted from purpose, but whose heart is to be reunited with the flock. He finds the wandering sheep wherever they ended up and brings them back to where they belong.
Tradition relates the story of a shepherd who, in searching after a wandering lamb, finds the lost member of the flock far away from where it should be. If the lamb insists on straying, the shepherd then breaks the lamb’s leg. He mends the broken leg, bandages it up, hoists the lamb on his shoulders where day after day it sits, staying with the shepherd everywhere he goes until the leg is healed. In time, the lamb learns to be totally dependent on the shepherd. Even after the leg is healed, the lamb will naturally stay close to the shepherd for the rest of his life.
What is the heart of God?
"And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish."
"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. ”
"for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
LOST BY NEGLECT AND CARELESSNESS
Luke 15:8-10 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’ Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
This scripture depicts a person that holds something of value, something they need and desire to have and keep and even seek to hold in their lives.
This is also demonstrable of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the miracle working power of His spirit in our lives. This represents the changes and valuable things God does in our lives — the inherent value of the redeemed soul.
How do we lose something of this great value? Neglect. We take it for granted, set it down; cast it aside and out of our minds. We have it, but don’t really understand its value until we need it again, and then, when we realize that we have neglected it, we search for it. There is a reality of loss here, a dimension and panic that sets in when something of great value has somehow slipped from our possession.
The coin that was lost is also a simple illustration of a sinner who is separated from God, and once again enslaved to the habits of sin. The longer a piece of money is lost, the less probability is there of its being again found; as it may not only lose its color and no longer easily seen, but will be progressively covered with dust, dirt and the clutter of life: and in that, its value may be vastly diminished… So the sinner sinks deeper and deeper into the impurities of sin, loses even their character among men, and even gets the ‘image of God spoiled from his heart’. He who wishes to find again the image of God in his life, which he has lost by sin, carelessness and neglect, must first light a lamp (as in our scripture text)—the Word which will be a lantern to his steps, and receive that Spirit which is a light to the soul, so that he can ILLUMINATE that valuable thing in his life once again (through the Word of God, preaching, conviction, etc).
We must sweep the house—put away every evil thing that neglect and carelessness has caused, the evil of our doings; and then seek diligently—using every means of Grace available, crying incessantly to God, until God restores to us the light of our countenance—and thus we find once again the lost coin.
What is God’s response?
God gives us the tools we need to overcome the neglect of our spiritual lives. In our text, the woman “lights a lamp”. The light of God is “a lamp unto my feet” — a glimpse into the pathway God has set for us. The woman also “sweeps the house” — a picture of the washing of sin (sweeping of iniquity, cleaning our hearts). The sweeping of the filth of this world from our lives will find that which we carelessly lost and return the ‘coin’ to its original value.
Unlike the wanderer, God does NOT run after those who neglect, but allows them to search for the neglected area of his life until he finds it. God gives them the tools (lamp and sweeping) to find again what was lost and in the process, they learn how important it was to value it, lest they lose it again.
LOST BY REBELLION AND ARROGANCE
Luke 15:11-13 "Then He said: “A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.”
The prodigal is the infamous story of rebellion and arrogance. He lived in the Father’s house. That was his home. The Father’s house is always where we belong, no matter what it appears like, or what you think, nowhere else will be greater for you in your life and pursuits than the Father’s house and nothing short of rebellion and arrogance could ever take us out of the father’s house and into a far country (life of sin)—You see, sin was STRANGE (a far country) to him. His Father’s house was prosperous, safe, blessed and ‘normal’. Sin, debauchery and worldly ways were foreign to him, as it should be to all of us that were created in the likeness of Him.
2 Peter 2:20-22 "For if, after they have escaped the pollution(s) of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”
Definition: ‘To turn’ (Gr) hupostrepho (hoop-os-tref’-o); to turn under (behind), to return: “to revert back” The same word for conversion? More of a ‘retro-version’ or ‘undoing the conversion.’
Defining the term… “Backsliding” an Old Testament word with New Testament meaning — “a turning back; to retreat”… Apostasy was an abandoning of what one has believed in (faith or cause)
The Bible gives a sad litany or account of man’s unfaithfulness to God!
Adam and Eve — blew it in Paradise!
The Wilderness generation—an entire generation perished… Only 2 made it in! These are people who’d seen miracles like the dividing of the Red Sea, manna from heaven, bitter waters turned sweet, a good pastor and leader in their midst and still—they turned back because of rebellion and unbelief.
Israel in the Promised Land — place of promise and blessing (they forgot and turned away). The root of this is ingratitude! Having known God, but were not grateful!
Just like the prodigal son. He lived in the father’s house and possessed all the blessing that entailed; promotion, challenge and happiness. Yet, simply out of arrogance and rebellion, we leave the Father’s house to pay homage to the world… Consider this… we, just as the prodigal, seem determined and maintain an inclination to rebel against God, regardless of what He has obviously done for us!
2 Peter 2:22 "But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”
When a dog returns to his vomit, he laps it up vigorously, he is not gagging or saying, “This is disgusting, I can’t believe I’m doing this” — No, the dog is not aware of his vomits’ repulsive nature to the rest of us. And when a hog (sow) returns to the mud, it is with a leap and a bound and a ridiculous smile, screaming ‘ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh’ as he leaps full on into the filth and mud. The mud seems normal and right to the hog. You see, that is the nature of a HOG and a DOG — they belong there—to them it is normal. But to us? Created in the image of God? Raised in the Father’s House? Known by God while in our mother’s womb? No, to us, the far country, the ways of this world, the sin and debauchery of arrogance and rebellion must stay foreign — completely unnatural—not consistent with the work of God in our hearts and His desire for our lives and destiny.
What is God’s response?
This should be scary enough to give you chills—warning enough to create ‘pause’ in your life, enabling you to think this behavior through. God’s response to arrogance and rebellion is that He doesn’t go after you. He doesn’t chase you down; he doesn’t try to get you to stay… He doesn’t EVEN withhold the blessing of inheritance from you even on your way out the door. God does not provide you with the tools to find your way back—He simply waits. He waits. He waits for the arrogant and rebellious to get bitten by the world HARD enough that finally your whole existence, your life at every level and senses are shaken.
He waits for you to come to yourself as the prodigal ultimately did—to your right mind—to the spirit of humility and repentance… And makes you FIND your own way back!
Of course we know the rest of the story, how God IS faithful to wait and receive the prodigal back, restore (redeem) him to full son-ship, etc… But only AFTER he found his way home… by himself.
Are you wandering? Straying? Neglecting the things of God? Rebellious? Restless? Toying with going back to a far country? This has been a story of lost things…
Where are you?