BRINGING THE LOST TO GOD
By Bernard Timmerman
1. Who is God?
2. Who are the lost?
3. How can they be brought to God?
1. WHO IS GOD - Creator – Law Giver
God is our creator. (Psalm 100:3) “Know ye that the Lord is God: it is he that made us and not we ourselves”. When we read, “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”, we may be prone to think of God the Father. In many of the verses in Genesis 1 we read, “and God” - twenty-five times in thirty-one verses. In verse 26, “and God said let us make man in our image and after our likeness”. There, we read the plural us and our. In Hebrews 1:2, we read how God through Christ made the world. “Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;” In verse 3, “Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power,”. Whose power? Even by him who could say, “all power is given unto me in heaven and in earth”. (Matthew 28:19) He is Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever. John tells us that he was with God and was God. II Corinthians 4:6 says, "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." We are told in many many scriptures of God our creator, perhaps as many as 100 times.
2. WHO ARE THE LOST?
Adam broke God’s law. He ate of the forbidden tree. “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die”. Man then became dead in sin or lost. Adam proved his lost condition by trying to hide from God. (John 3:20)
Man hates the light - God’s light. (1 John) We are using the word lost. Other words are also used: unbelievers or those who believed not His word, he that believeth not shall be damned, sinners, rebels, reprobates – the list goes on.
Man is corrupt from the sole of the foot to the head. (Isaiah 1; Psalm 14, 53; Romans 3; Titus 3) Man has not only lack of will but lack of understanding. Christ said to the apostles, “Are ye yet without understanding? (Mark 8) He opened their understanding that they might understand the scriptures. (Luke 24:45) By this we ought to know that man is lost and even worse, wants to stay lost. Man hates the light. (John 3:20) “will not come to me that ye might have life. (John 5:40)
Man is lost, as pictured by Christ Jesus, as a sheep in the wilderness, apart from the ninety and nine. He leaves the ninety and nine to save the one that is lost. (Luke15:4,6,9,24,32) The word lost is used five times in the three fold parable - the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost son. As he said in the parable, "compel them to come in that my house shall be filled." (Luke 14:23) The lost are sinners, yes still lost sinners until they are saved sinners, forgiven sinners, having the remission of sins. (Acts 2; Romans 3:24-26; 4:5) Many speak of having been lost but now are serving the Lord. I am not sure but there still may be those thinking that they have sought Christ’s help and are now accomplishing a righteousness before God. But, have they every truly known the lostness of their condition? Has their mouth been stopped? “That every mouth be stopped and all the world become guilty before God”. (Romans 3) and, “I died” (Romans 7) It is not only necessary, to change our ways, “except ye repent, ye shall likewise perish” and, “bring forth fruits meet for repentance’, but our standing as a lost sinner must be changed. We have the spirit of disobedience. We have walked according to the course of this world. According to the prince and power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience". (Ephesians 2:2)
A few more things concerning the lost as they are described in scripture:
The first mention of the lost in regard to salvation pertains to the house of Israel. David, the king of Israel said in the last verse of Psalm 119, “I have gone astray like a lost sheep.” God stated by the pen of Jeremiah in chapter 50:6, “My people have been lost sheep" and by Ezekiel in chapter 34:16, 4, “I will seek that which was lost.” In the New Testament, Matthew 10:6, “Go not into the ways of the Gentiles but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:" (II Corinthians 4:3) “For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.” (Matthew 18:11) "For the son of man is come to seek and to save that which is lost." (Luke 19:10)
God’s Ways Given in Promise
Genesis 3:15 -“The seed of the woman.”
Genesis 12:3 - to Abraham, “In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”
Genesis 22:18 – to Abraham, “In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”
Genesis 26:4 - to Isaac the same words as to Abraham
Genesis 28:14 - again to Jacob
Galatians 3:8 - also confirmed to be the gospel by Paul, “to Abraham was the gospel preached”, referring to Genesis 12:3 and Galatians 3:16-17
Acts 3:25-26 – Confirmed again by Peter
3. How are the Lost Brought to God?
God planned it – Ephesians 1:4, Romans 8:28-29
Christ promised it – John 6:37, 45, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. All that the Father gives shall come. It is written in the prophets, “and they shall be all taught of God.” “Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me”. (John 6:45) It is only one way. “No man cometh unto the Father but by me.” (John 6:44) "For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." (I Corinthians 1:21)
This may all be theological and objective and we need that. There must be an anchor outside of ourselves. There are many different aspects to God’s great salvation. He grants repentance unto life. Yes, Cornelius needed that also. God gives faith. “They believed through grace.” (Acts 18) “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: (I Corinthians 1:30) We must endure the sound doctrine of salvation by the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:24; II Timothy 4:3)
I lived for ten years on the subjective. I thought I did it and that proved it. It wasn’t by faith but works, even making my faith a work. I believed. I accepted. I received, thinking I did this with my will. I may even have thought I repented but I never did repent to bring me in submission and agreement with God as He reveals himself in his word. I became two fold more the child of the devil. Yes, His faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17) It is a faith in the only true God and his Son Jesus Christ. (John 17:3) Saving faith will be preceded and accomplished with repentance of our proud ways.
Paul makes a very simple statement in Romans 10, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. He adds, “How shall they call upon him whom they have not believed and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard, and how shall they hear without a preacher and how shall they preach except they be sent, as it is written. How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things!” How can their feet be beautiful unless they themselves have their feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace? (Ephesians 6:15) "So then, faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:19)
When the lost are led to God by His word preached, they must first be convicted and convinced that they are lost. Many want an add-on salvation. They would like assurance or a certainty that they are going to heaven, or as Thomas Boston stated, “When God begins to call he finds them in a Laodicean state.” “And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32)
Christ Jesus said He would send the Comforter, “and when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgement”. (John 16:8-9) “Of sin because they believe not on me”. That was wonderfully fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, but it must also take place in our lives today. George Whitefield stated that we must be convicted of our original sin, our actual sin and our sin of unbelief. I mentioned before Christ’s words, “Ye will not come to me that ye might have life” (John 5:40)
Believing on Christ is believing who he is and what he did as well as to believe his teaching. Paul being brought by Christ first asked this question, “Who art thou Lord?” The answer was, “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.” We don’t know what thoughts went through Paul’s mind, but it may have been, “Jesus the crucified one.” His next question was, “What wilt thou have me to do?” This is important – a very important aspect of God leading the lost to Himself. With Paul, Christ spoke from heaven. Paul at this time was told where to go. He must be instructed by one appointed by Christ. He was told by Christ to, “go into the city and it shall be told thee what thou must do.” Christ then said to Ananias in a vision, “Arise and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus: for, behold he prayeth”.
Ananias was fearful but Christ said, “Go thy way, for he is a chosen vessel unto me to bear my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.” Acts 9:15. In Acts 22 we read Ananias’ words to Paul, “And now, why tarriest thou? Arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” Paul wrote to the Galatians, “but when it pleased God…to reveal his Son in me.” (Galatians 1:15a, 16a)
Paul was three days without sight and did neither eat nor drink. I believe it was during those three days that Paul learned what he wrote in Romans 7, “I had not known sin but by the law: for I had not known lust except the law had said, thou shalt not covet. (…7b) In verse 9 we read, “For I was alive without the law once, but when the commandment came sin revived and I died.”
Paul, writing to the Galatians stated that the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. (Galatians 3:24) “Before faith came we were kept under the law shut to the faith which should afterwards be revealed.” (Galatians 3:23) (Hopeful’s Conversion)
Paul must have learned himself that which he wrote in Romans 3:19, “Now we know that what things soever the law saith it saith to them who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become guilty before God”. Then we have those wonderful words in verses 21 & 22, “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:” In verses 9-20 we read of the awful lost condition of all men, that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become guilty before God. Paul was there three days guilty, learning, having his mouth stopped. Christ’s way with Paul was a pattern to those who should hereafter believe. (I Timothy 1:16)
I fear in much of the preaching today, this is either taken too lightly or skipped altogether. The Puritans spoke of plucking unripe fruit. As I said before, we go from doing wrong to doing right – very important – a needed part of the whole. Read James and I John. But our doing differently is not the basis of our being led from our lost condition to God. We must be led to believing, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world”. “When he had by himself purged our sins, he sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high”. On the cross he said, “It is finished.” Without the shedding of blood there is no remission” (Romans 3:4,5)
God leads us through justification to sanctification and in the end, “them he also glorified”.
Paul writes of Abraham and David as examples to the New Testament church at Rome and to us in Romans 4:5. “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Verse 6, “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works”. True salvation is not without works. In God’s salvation we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works. (Ephesians 2:10) We see the same in Philippians 2:12,13. But in justification being made righteous it is solely and only the work of Christ Jesus on the cross. He was made a "curse for us." (Galatians 3:13) We are saved by the gospel and the gospel is as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.” “By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. “(I Corinthians 15:3)
We are first sinners forgiven, then also sinners being made new creatures in Christ. Both are through grace whether it is repentance, or faith or love and obedience. Christ Jesus said, “Without me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5b) We must also learn and receive from God through Christ by the mighty work of the Spirit to the understanding that only what Christ did apart from us merits our salvation – every part of it sanctified by the blood of the covenant. The only way we are safe is to be in the one who is, “the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth.” (Romans 10:4)
Think of the fulfilling of what God said to Abraham. “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed”. Paul in Galatians 3:17 states, “And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.” “Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.” (Acts 3:26)
He can and does bless us and brings us, the lost sheep that went in the wilderness. He lays us on his shoulder and brings us back. Back to the Father but also adds each one to the church that should be saved. Christ Jesus prayed for those who would believe on him through the word of the apostles to all be one “as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (John 17:21)
In John 8:28 through verse 59 we have a fearful description of coming short of being brought back to God, mainly because they did not believe. They were apart from God or guilty before him. They did not want to continue in the word after being described as believing on him mentioned twice, “many believed on him”. In verse 30, Jesus spoke to those which believed on him (verse 31) and then in verse 31 and 32, “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” The Jews then showed that they were still in bondage to their sin.
Those words were very important for them and for us today. We have much the same problem in the church today as was with the Jews then. We need also to continue in the Word.
The Arminian must repent. Hyper Calvinists must also repent and both must continue in the word of Christ. John 8:31. Christ said that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in my name” Luke 24:27; Matthew 28; Mark 16;John 8; Matthew 11. Like the Publican – come to Christ as well as calling on the name of the Lord who says:
"Look unto me"
"Ho everyone that thirsteth"
"The Spirit and the bride say come"
Also Hopeful’s conversion or the burden falling off at the cross as we read it in Pilgrims Progress.