I have a brown cap that I wear only around the house. Though the thermostat says the house is warm, my head gets cold because I have no hair. I mislaid the cap. I looked everywhere I had been and everywhere it could be. I found another, less well fitting cap to keep my head warm and looked everywhere it could not be. I looked in all those places again. Still no cap. In fact, the time I spent looking far exceeded the value of the cap which has no sentimental value either. But, I had to know where it had gotten to.
After 3 or 4 days, I put on a pair of old knock-around jeans that I'd tossed in the floor of the closet during a warm spell here in Florida when I wore shorts. The cap fell out. Did I mention the jeans were brown? Or, that I had moved them at least twice (and everything else in the floor of the closet) looking for the cap?
Now, the cap did not know it was lost. Neither did the coin. The sheep probably knew when it looked around and there were no other sheep nearby, but he did not know the way home. The son never knew he was lost until things got so bad that he had nowhere else to go—but at least he knew the way home.
Sometimes attitudes and facts are so ingrained in us that we do not realize that everyone does not know what we know. When we preach the gospel "to a lost and dying world," they do not hear because they not only do not know they are lost, they do not know what "lost" is any more than my cap did.
Jesus did not tell his parables for the lost but for those who were sure they were not lost, who saw no need for salvation for themselves. We need to learn the lessons of the parables to understand how to show the lost their need.
Sometimes we appeal with love and companionship to a lost sheep who realizes a need for others of a spiritual bent, but unless we teach them, they are not really "found." When their feelings are hurt, they have no truth to fence them in the fold. This is happening in many churches and their numbers swell with those who are still lost but who are warmed by association with sheep.
We do not have to wait until the sinner hits "rock bottom" like the prodigal. Paul converted many by the appeal of a God who loves and who knows each of us individually. He also taught them that they were lost and destined to a fiery judgment without Jesus, "when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus." (2Thess 1:7-8). These sounded forth the word because they knew the reality of having been lost and being saved (1Thess 1:8).
In vain do we teach those who, like my cap, have no sense of being lost. They may learn facts, they may respond to some things that have some appeal to them, but they cannot be saved. Many of our religious friends fall into this category. We must sweep them from their hiding places to find them, expose them to the light and bring about repentance unto life.
Let us give thought to how we can show people that they are lost in order to motivate them to seek the salvation we wish to teach them.
When you follow the desires of your flesh, the results are very clear:
sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures,
hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger,
selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy,
drunkenness, wild parties,
and other sins like these.
Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. (Gal 5:19-21).