Coming to Terms with “Lostness”
Lostness is something we rather not think about, perhaps because it forces us to deal with the transcendent. Our general tendency is to live in the reality of this world. Indeed, our faithfulness is measured by our loving obedience to God in “this life”. But the Bible is clear that the transcendent should drive our actions in this life. Paul said, “…we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18). Positively, our great hope of one day seeing Jesus face to face and our lowly bodies transformed to his glory as we behold him, must daily encourage us to take up our cross and follow Christ (1 John 3:2, Philippians 3:21, Hebrews 12:2). But many transcendent truths such as the lostness of people without Christ, the coming judgement or the reality of hell are very uncomfortable truths for us. They are truths we conveniently avoid, sadly at times because they make us look unwise in an “enlightened” world.
We simply cannot overlook the reality of lostness. Having never experienced the wonder of knowing Jesus, never known the joy and peace that comes from being a child of a loving God or the security that comes from knowing a sovereign God, having never walked with the Holy Spirit, so many live in endless strivings and sin, not knowing that a great judgment is coming and that everyone will have to give an account (2 Corinthians 5:10).
Disciples Marked by Love, Talking Tough Truths
Living in a postmodern, post-truth world where objective truths are shunned by the vast majority, I am convinced that if our lives are marked by humility, integrity and an all-consuming love for people, it opens a door to talk about truths such as judgment and hell. It may seem more appealing, easier and wiser to talk only about the love of God. And that we must do with reckless resolve. But when a judgment so great is imminent it would be criminal negligence to stay silent about it. The “MeToo” movement, the WikiLeaks saga, and the revealing of digital private data have given a glimpse of one aspect of the judgment. Everything hidden will be made known (Luke 8:17). Everyone will have to stand before a holy God. People need to know this! In the New Testament the Holy Spirit ensured to mention that a great wrath is coming (Romans 2:5, Colossians 3:6, 1 Thessalonians 1:10, Revelations 6:16). One of the saddest passages is, “…and (we) were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:3). These truths should break us as it did Jesus who wept over the unbelief of a city (Luke 19:41) or Paul who said, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers” (Romans 9:3).
Jesus talked about hell more than anyone else. Using vivid images such as outer darkness (Matt. 22:13), eternal fire (Matt. 25:41), and weeping and gnashing of teeth (Luke 13:28). Jesus didn’t shy away from warning people of the reality of hell. May God grace us with wisdom, love, and relevance to explain these truths in a way that will not fall onto deaf ears. It was Spurgeon who said “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. If they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees. Let no one go there unwarned and unprayed for.”
The Gospel and Vocation
A great way to spend a two and a half hour drive would be to listen to the Book of Acts in one sitting. It is almost astounding to hear over and over again the absolute single-mindedness and resolve of the apostles to make Christ known. They had all seen the risen Christ and now, filled with the Holy Spirit, their message was the risen Christ. But what is unexpected is that a great reason for the spread of Christianity was that it was normal people who were taking the Gospel out. Soon after Stephen’s death, Acts 8:1 reads “And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles”…vs. 4 “Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.” We all have a responsibility to proclaim Christ regardless of our vocation. Whether one is an economist on Wall Street or saving girls from sex slavery in a dark alley in India, we all must proclaim Christ with those we serve and with whom we serve alongside. Our joy, integrity, and service will impress people to consider Christ, but may we not fall short of proclaiming Christ to them. As Paul said, “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5).
If free medical care is at our disposal we would never deprive it from a friend who is struggling with illness. Then shouldn’t our eyes be opened to the reality of the transcendent so that we act in urgent love to share Christ with those who are lost without Him? Oh that this truth would be engraved deep in our hearts “that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:11b-12). May we boldly proclaim the hard truths of Scripture, so that the message of the cross will be all the more glorious, compelling sinners to respond to Christ.
Asiri Fernando is a leader with Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka.