Key Verse – For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost (Matthew 18:11 NKJV).

Key Thought – Apart from Jesus all are lost, but Jesus came that none need remain lost.


The word I’d like to study today is “lost.” Our text says Jesus came to save that which was “lost.” In Luke 15 Jesus told some parables, one was about a lost coin, and one was about a lost sheep, and one was about a lost son.

When Jesus prayed for His disciples (and by extension for you and me) in John 17 He said, While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is LOST except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled (John 17:12 NKJV).

Another time when Jesus was teaching His disciples, He said, Take heed that you not be deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time has drawn near.’ Therefore do not go after them. “But when you hear of wars and commotions, do not be terrified; for these things must come to pass first, but the end will not come immediately. Then He said to them, Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven. But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony. Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist. “You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But not a hair of your head shall be LOST (Luke 21:8-18 NKJV).

In Matthew 5, we read of Jesus sending out the twelve to preach. These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the LOST sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 10:5-6 NKJV).

Yet another time, Jesus was with His disciples, and a woman came seeking healing for her daughter. But He (Jesus) answered and said, I was not sent except to the LOST sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 15:24 NKJV).

Over and over in the Bible we find this word “lost.” What does it mean? And what is it’s significance to you and I? Well, let’s see if we can find out:

What does it mean to be lost?

The Greek word most often translated into our English word “lost” (APOLŌLOS) means “destroyed, dying, lost, perished, ruined, put to death.”

To be lost is to be destroyed… to be lost is to be dying… to be lost is to be perishing… to be lost is to be ruined…. It is a terrible word.

And it’s no better in English. The definition of the word “lost” in Websters is equally alarming. Let me share some of the various meanings of the word:

  1. Lost means “no longer possessed.” I suppose this is the definition most of us think of when we think of the word “lost.” I had something, but now I don’t. ILLUS – We had two small metal tables on our deck. ILLUS – My losing everything in my old age. Thank the Lord for find my iPhone!
    2. Lost means “unable to find the way.” That’s another common meaning we are all familiar with. ILLUS – Amelia Airheart was the first female pilot to try and circumnavigate the globe. Lost. ILLUS – time I asked directions from a kid and he sent me on a wild goose chase. I was soon lost.
    3. Lost means “not appreciated or understood.” e.g. His jokes were lost on me. (Paul would appreciate this definition!)
    4. Lost means “obscured or overlooked during a process or activity.” e.g. His meaning was lost in translation. ILLUS – My chess club loss – I was so busy thinking about my strategy that I didn’t notice what my opponent was doing. It was a very sick feeling that swept over me when I made my fatal mistake, and he smiled at me and said, “I tricked you.” From that point on the game was LOST because I had been so busy in my own plans that I overlooked his plans.
    5. Lost means “not made use of, won, or claimed.” ILLUS – from time to time I read about the number of people who have bank accounts or investments that they either were unaware of or forgot about, and those accounts escheat to the state. In other words, because the person forgot about what was there’s, or did not claim what was their’s in time, they LOST it.
    6. Lost means “taken away or beyond reach of attainment.” ILLUS – The children of Israel were ready to enter the promised land. Joshua sent spies into the land to reconnoiter. All but two of the spies returned with a negative cowardly report, advising against entering the land which God had already promised was their’s for the taking. So God turned them around and sent them back into the wilderness. As they travelled away from the land that had been so close to them they could still taste the fruits of it, it must have seemed “taken away or beyond reach of attainment” (for that generation, it was).
    7. Lost means “hopelessly unattainable; futile” (e.g. a lost cause) ILLUS – My son Joshua played football for Mount Union College. Their football team was so far above and beyond most of their opponents that it seemed like those teams had lost before they even took the field. The idea of beating Mount Union seemed hopelessly unattainable… futile.
    8. Lost means “ruined or destroyed.”

When we consider that list of definitions, it’s pretty easy to see that nearly every one of them has application to our spiritual lives as well as to our temporal physical lives. There is no question that when the Bible speaks of a person being “lost” it is very often referring not to that first definition (i.e. they had something but no longer possess it), but rather to the others. All of those other definitions describe an aspect of what it means to be “lost” spiritually.

  1. Lost means “unable to find the way.” Jesus said, Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it (Matthew 7:13-14 NKJV). Many are lost because they simply haven’t found the way!
    2. Lost means “not appreciated or understood.” How many will be in hell rather than heaven because they didn’t appreciate or understand what Jesus did for them on Calvary? ILLUS – Two thieves hung with Jesus. Both started out lost, but one came to appreciate and understand what he was seeing on that middle cross. Jesus said that one would be with him in paradise. The other never did appreciate it and died lost.
    3. Lost means “obscured or overlooked during a process or activity.” Oh my – how many will be in Hell because they were too busy doing other things to notice the urgency of their state… the frailty of their lives… the uncertainty of another day? Too busy. Jesus’ parable of the rich fool comes to mind. Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. “And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ “So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. ‘And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” ‘ “But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ (Luke 12:16-20 NKJV). There was nothing wrong with building barns, or accumulating wealth. The problem was that these things were his focus, and kept his eyes from what was coming! And it came suddenly!
    4. Lost means “not made use of, won, or claimed.” Paul preached the gospel to Felix the governor. And after some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, “Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.” (Acts 24:24-25 NKJV). Many remain lost because when they hear, they procrastinate… they put it off until another day. There are no doubt some in this very room that are just like Felix. You’ve heard it over and over, but every single time the Holy Spirit pulls at you and says “Listen” you say, “Go away… I’ll deal with that another day.” You don’t claim the gift that is yours… you don’t make use of the salvation that Jesus died to give you. And you remain lost.
    5. Lost means “taken away or beyond reach of attainment.” How many of you know that God does not offer forever? God He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, Will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy. (Proverbs 29:1 NKJV).Jesus told the parable of the 10 virgins. They fooled around until it was too late. When they got to the wedding, the door was shut. When Noah entered the ark that God had told him to build, because God was going to judge mankind for their sin, once Noah and all who were to be saved were safely inside the ark, God shut the door. God’s offer of mercy is not forever. There comes a day when it is “taken away or beyond reach of attainment.” And you don’t know when that day is! Too many presume upon God’s grace, and remain LOST!
    6. Lost means “hopelessly unattainable; futile” – Dante Alighieri wrote his “Divine Comedy” between 1306 and 1321 A.D. It was an allegorical poem depicting his understanding of the afterlife. At one point therein he described the gateway into the inferno… Hell. Above that gateway Dante imaged an inscription – “All hope abandon, ye who enter here.” And for those who remain lost, there is a point where there will be no hope… where salvation is “hopelessly unattainable and futile.”
    7. Lost means “ruined or destroyed.” Actually, this is the strongest of all the definitions, and probably the one that most accurately conveys what the Bible means when saying a person is lost. One of my Bible dictionaries says that the word “lost” is a strengthened form of a word that signifies “to destroy utterly.” The idea is RUIN. It conveys the ideas of DOOM and HELPLESSNESS.^[Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words]”

Well, I think that’s enough about what it means to be lost. Let’s consider a second question:

Why are some lost?

All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6 NKJV)

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23 NKJV)

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned– … Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. (Romans 5:12, 18 NKJV)

You’ve heard me say it before. All means all and that’s all all means. We dare not water down this important truth of Scripture – not everybody stays lost, but ALL of us start out lost. The simple truth is, if you’re breathing, you either ARE or WERE lost.

So my question was “Why are some lost”, but we should reword it, based on this clarification, to “Why do some STAY lost”.

John Newton wrote the hymn that in survey after survey is voted the most popular of hymns.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
> That saved a wretch like me,
> I once was LOST, but now I’m found,
> Was blind but now I see.

I can sing that song. Many in this congregation can sing that song, and understand exactly what Newton meant. Why can some say that they were once LOST but not any more? And more importantly, why is it some cannot say that, for they are still lost? What keeps some people LOST?

Jesus gave some insight into this in His parable of the sower and the soils. Turn with me to Matthew 13 and let’s read that parable. (READ Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23). In this parable Jesus described 4 kinds of people, 3 of which were lost and stayed that way, 1 of which were lost, but did NOT stay that way. One was saved.

One was lost because he heard the truth and did not understand it (Matthew 13:19). Remember one of the definitions of the word “lost” was “not appreciated or understood.” One reason people remain lost even after listening to the gospel being preached from this pulpit or any other, is that they simply do not understand it. And notice Jesus didn’t say it was simply a matter of mental acuity. He said we have an enemy who does everything in his power to keep us ignorant… to cloud our minds and keep us from understanding.

If you struggle to understand the hope of the gospel, my friend, then pray for God to help you understand. And Christians… this is yet another reason we give altar calls every single Lord’s Day at the end of our service. People don’t all understand the gospel. We need to be praying for them – “Lord, please open their eyes… please help them understand!” Those who DO understand should be at this altar praying for those who DO NOT!

Another person who was lost in Jesus’ parable, was so because the trials and troubles of life crowded out the truth (vss. 20-21), and he stumbled.

I feel like I talk a lot about HURT from this pulpit. As I review previous sermons in my mind, it seems like the topics of hurt… pain… trial… hardships, come up a lot. But then I suppose that’s because pain… trial… hardship… and hurt DO come up a lot in life. And the sad fact is that some people do not rise above pain. For some, a traumatic or difficult event in life will turn them TO God, but for others, that same pain may well turn them FROM God. I’m reminded of the old saying – “The same sun both melts wax and hardens clay.”

If you are hurting, my friend, don’t turn away from God… turn TO Him. If your pain is keeping you LOST today, I implore you to turn to God. Tell Him your hurt, and ask for help in getting through it. Don’t let it keep you from Him. And Christian, here’s another reason we need to be praying for others. Do you know one who is lost and stumbling because of something that has happened to them? Do you know someone whose pain and circumstances seems to be hardening their heart rather than softening it? Then why in the world aren’t you praying for them… praying that God would help them through the pain and to the cross, where they can be no longer lost?

Finally, Jesus mentioned a third person in His parable – a third explanation as to why some remain lost. Some let the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke out the truth (vs. 22).

Lost means “obscured or overlooked during a process or activity,” we learned earlier. Jesus said many remain lost because they’re too busy building their portfolios… pursuing their careers… maintaining their lawns… washing their cars…. Now such things are not wrong in and of themselves, but for some they become such a focus in life that they can’t see the truth of the gospel. And such remain lost.

Some of you have seen the video online of the two animals (let’s say they are gazelles) that are engaged in a fight. The scene is of Africa, and the gazelles are locked in heated battle, while several of their buddies look on. Off in the distance there is the slightest of movement, which draws your eye to wonder what it is. As you continue to watch the video, it soon becomes clear that that movement is a lion running straight toward the battling gazelles. They are oblivious to the danger, though, for they are concentrating on their own situation. As the lion thunders closer, all the other gazelles that are looking on see them, and flee. It is not until the lion is leaping through the air to pounce that the two notice their danger, but by then it’s too late.

I asked it earlier and I’ll ask it again – how many will be in Hell because they were too busy doing other things to notice the urgency of their state… the frailty of their lives… the uncertainty of another day? Too busy…

Well, we’ve looked at two questions so far – What does it mean to be lost, and why are some lost (or more accurately, why do some REMAIN lost). Let’s ask one last question:

Does God want anyone lost?

Well, what does our text say? For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost (Matthew 18:11 NKJV).

There is only one reason that Jesus lived and died in history, and lives again for eternity – so that nobody needed to stay lost.

Not you – He doesn’t want you lost… Not anybody you know or love, He doesn’t want them lost… Not anybody.

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9 NKJV)

Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? (Romans 2:4 NKJV)

who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:4 NKJV)

If you’ve heard nothing else I’ve said here this morning, please hear this. If you are still lost, then this is the message God has for you right now – YOU DON’T NEED TO REMAIN THAT WAY.

– Jesus died in YOUR place.
– Jesus paid for YOUR sins.
– Jesus rose again so YOU could live forever.
– Jesus wants to save you… so that you will never be lost again.

For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13 NKJV)

that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9 NKJV)

Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:21 NKJV)

Do you believe this, my friend? You may be lost, but you don’t have to remain that way. You may have put it off before, but you need not put it off today. God does not want you lost. Jesus came to save the lost. He came for you.

I was lost, but Jesus found me,
> Found the sheep that went astray,
> Threw His loving arms around me,
> Drew me back into His way.


I want us to apply these truths in 3 simple ways this morning. The musicians can make their way to platform as I mention them:

  1. If you know in your heart that you remain lost, today, I want you to step to the front as we sing and let us pray with and for you. Don’t wait until you understand everything, for you will never understand it all in this life. If the Holy Spirit is convicting your heart of these truths, then don’t wait. Come as we sing.
    2. If you are saved, then ask yourself this question, “Who should I be praying for today… here, at this altar?” If the Holy Spirit is placing a name on your mind, or a face is there before you of a lost loved one or friend or coworker… one who is LOST – then I encourage you to kneel here and pray for them. Ask someone to go with you if you want, but don’t let them be unprayed for this day.
    3. Finally, this week we start VBS. One of the reasons I preached this simple salvation message today is to remind us of what this week is all about. Let’s ALL be praying for souls to be saved… little lives to be forever saved and never more lost. Whether you’re involved in VBS or not, you can come and pray. Let us start our vacation Bible school by flooding Heaven with our prayers for the children entrusted to us this week. Everyone who is helping – come and pray. Everyone who is not – come and pray.

For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost (Matthew 18:11 NKJV).


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