When God sent His son, Jesus, to Planet Earth, it was to save us, as Graeme Loftus explains. It’s the best story ever-and you get to write the final chapter.
Modern songwriters often express a sense of lostness in their innermost being as they grapple with life. Neil Diamond said it clearly in his ballad, “I am … I said”: “But I got an emptiness deep inside/ And I’ve tried, but it won’t let me go/ And I’m not a man who likes to swear/ But I never cared for the sound of being alone.
“‘I am,’ I said/ To no-one there/ And no-one heard at all/ Not even the chair. / ‘I am,’ I cried. / ‘I am,’ said I/ And I am lost, and I can’t even say why/ Leavin’ me lonely still.”
Jesus said He came to this earth specifically to seek and to save the “lost” (Luke 19:9, 10). This is His primary statement outlining His mission on earth, and the implications of this are enormous. Jesus is suggesting that all people are “lost” until they respond to His “seeking” and are “saved.” The one purpose of His life was to hunt for those who were “lost,” because He was the only one who could “save” them.
Most of us only have a glimmer of understanding of what Jesus meant when He described us as being “lost.” Jesus had a much deeper insight into what it means to be lost than Neil Diamond had on his heart when He used the term. Such human expressions of lostness are only an emotional symptom of the real lostness of which Jesus spoke.
Jesus used three powerful parables in the Gospel of Luke to help us understand what being lost meant from His perspective. The first (Luke 15:3-7) outlines the position of someone who has had a close relationship with Jesus in the past but has wandered so far away that he or she doesn’t know how to re-establish that connection with Him again. From this story, being “lost” is a state of separation from Jesus.
He is the Shepherd who cares for our spiritual life and all the needs that flow from it. Cutting ourselves off in thoughtlessness, independence or even rebellion from the life He gives, leaves us coping with life and its issues with only our own resources. We are no match for the destructive forces that begin to impact us without Him and eventually the narcissistic nature of our human souls implodes on us and threatens to annihilate us.
Such people know they are “lost” but don’t know how to get back to Him and the life He gives again.
The second parable (Luke 15:8-10) describes the loss of an inanimate object that has no consciousness at all. This is the situation of people who have never encountered Jesus, understood His mission, or have any conscious awareness of what it means to be lost. They are dead to their spiritual condition and have no desire to change. That doesn’t mean Jesus writes them off and has no concern for them. On the contrary, the coin was one of the valuable expressions of a woman’s wedding dowry, which she would have proudly worn around her forehead. It is a symbol of the one she has betrothed herself to in a covenant relationship.
Whether the lost person realises it or not, he or she is incredibly precious to Jesus and He does His utmost to find him or her.
The third parable (Luke 15:11-24) tells of a man who grew up experiencing the true nature of God’s heart but never valued all the love lavished on him. He stupidly and rebelliously tells God that he wishes He was dead and begins to live as though He was, squandering all God gives to him.
Unlike the first two examples of being lost, this young man knows the way home to the Father and in brokenness and repentance makes his way back home again, trusting in the Father’s heart to re-establish the relationship he had walked away from.
The human race has not always been lost. The Bible describes the time following this earth’s creation where Adam and Eve lived in a close, loving relationship with Jesus their Creator, who walked with them intimately in the garden He had made for them (Genesis 1:26-31; 3:8; John 1:1-3).
In the tragedy that followed, they chose to distrust Jesus’ plea and warning to them that living independently from Him would result in their death. He had clearly said to them, “You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.”
The word death means exactly what it says, the opposite of “life.” The Bible is clear that death is an eternal separation from God through non-existence that will result from an ultimate “destruction” or total annihilation through fire (Revelation 20:11-15). In the final analysis, this is the experience of being “lost.” It will be an excruciating destiny, psychologically and spiritually, to realise that our refusal to be “found” by the One who wanted to save us from this fate has been our own deliberate choice.
Choosing to be “lost” is even more unbelievable when we consider the depths Jesus went to “save” us.
He knowingly and intentionally took upon Himself the consequences of our human choice to live independently from our Life-giver. His death on the cross of Calvary was not just a physical consequence of our distrust of and rebellion against God. Jesus was willing to endure the consequence of eternal separation from the Father and non-existence in the grave in a representative way for us, in order that we might experience eternal life and relationship with God again (Matthew 27:46; Luke 23:46). That is the depth and extent of His love for us, demonstrated in the energy He put into seeking us in order that we might not be lost, but saved.
Life and eternity will never be able to use all the words and metaphors that are needed to explain the depth of what Jesus did for us. The Bible likens our salvation to a criminal justified in court, an orphan adopted by a loving father, a child born from above, an unclean person washed from defilement, a slave bought back from the slave market, an adulterer forgiven and embraced again by his or her spouse, and a betrayer reconciled by the one he or she betrayed.
Jesus has done all He can for us, but He leaves each of us with the choice to accept or reject it. It isn’t a hard decision, but it is one we all must make.