Understand the Plight of the Lost

Do we ever stop to think about what unbelievers are up against?

The Confident Witness (2)

…remember…that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.  Ephesians 2.12

Broken-hearted for the lost
I suspect that very few of us think of the Apostle Paul as the “emotional type.” He was so bold, so steeped in doctrine, so committed to the Lord’s mission. He didn’t have time to get all sentimental about people and their problems.

We would be wrong to think that way, especially where the lost were concerned. Paul ached for lost people. He wrote to the Church in Rome that he had “great sorrow and anguish” in his heart and would be almost ready to give up his own salvation if only the Jewish people would believe (Rom. 9.1-3). We hear this passion for lost people in the way he urged the pagan King Agrippa to believe the Gospel (Acts 26.24-29). 

Part of the reason Paul was so confident and consistent in his witness for Christ is that he really understood the plight of lost people, and his heart was burdened that they might be saved.

Captive to the Lie
What is the plight of lost people? What did Paul understand that we, apparently, do not?

First, Paul understood that lost people are living a lie and bound for eternal destruction. By refusing to acknowledge God and to embrace His salvation, lost people have become trapped in the Lie which says there is no God, or, if there is, He doesn’t matter unless you want Him to. We’re on our own down here, and each of us has to figure out what’s best for him. It’s every man for himself in a dog-eat-dog world, so keep your head down, your shoulder to the wheel, and just give it your best shot (cf. Rom. 1.18-32). 

This is the way of fleeting highs but overall drudgery, disappointment, despair, defeat, and death. Paul knew this lifestyle, because he’d been there. The god of this age has blinded the minds of those who do not believe, and they’re on a downward spiral of sin and self-interest from which, short of the grace of God, there is no deliverance or escape in this life or the next.

Without hope
Further, apart from God, Paul explained, people have no hope. Oh, of course they have plans and dreams and life goals and so forth. But nothing they aspire to or achieve ever quite seems to satisfy the longing in their souls. 

People are restless, anxious, and uncertain. They live in the fear of death (Heb. 2.15), and in order not to think about this too much, they fill their lives, when they’re not working, with all manner of diversions and distractions. They fear more than anything being alone or having nothing to do. More than anything except death, that is. On the surface they look happy, successful, and clever. But within, they sense their lives have no meaning, no direction, and no hope beyond a cold, dank grave at the end.

Look at the drugs and other concoctions people take to overcome their depression, get a little sleep, or hype them up above their merely mundane experience. Look at the frenzy with which they shop or play video games or swoon and rave over the latest icons of pop culture. They’re like a child in a playpen, who moves from one toy to the next, engaged for a few moments, then becoming bored. Finally, when all the toys have been tried and laid aside, all they can think to do is sit and cry for someone to come and hold them.

No true community
And they’re alone, all alone. Apart from God’s covenant and promise, people can find relationships to be a challenge. That’s because they enter their relationships following the advice of 70s self-help guru Robert Ringer who counseled us to “look out for number 1.” Relationships that are all about me are not going to be very satisfying. We need something more, something spiritual, some reason to care for people deeply, even to the point of being willing to give our lives for them.

But this is not the way relationships work apart from God and His covenant. Where life is every man for himself, relationships are fleeting, self-interested, sensual, unstable, and ultimately unsatisfying. This explains why marriage is on the decline and why more people prefer merely to “hook-up” rather than to settle down.

Paul knew this. He saw this in the people around him, and his heart broke for the plight of lost people. Paul got it. He understood that, for all their outward beauty, bluster, and bounty, lost people are desperately alone, afraid, and casting about for something real and lasting.

The Gospel is real and lasting. The Gospel overcomes the Lie, fills us with the hope of glory, and empowers us to love one another as Christ has loved us. Paul was a confident and consistent witness because, understanding the plight of lost sinners, he longed for them to come to the truth that is in Jesus.

Do we?

For reflection
1. In Romans 1.25 Paul says unbelievers have embraced the Lie. What is “the Lie” and how does it affect people who are trapped in it?

2. In Ephesians 2.12 Paul says that those who are “without God” are also “without hope.” What does he mean by this? How can you see that he’s right?

3. Only within the framework of God’s covenant can we know the love of Christ and share it with one another. Do people who don’t know the Lord long to love and be loved? How do you see this? How does the Lie affect their view of love?

Next steps – Preparation: How can you see that Jesus has given you hope, fellowship, and true and abundant life? How can you incorporate these observations into your witness to the people in your Personal Mission Field?

T. M. Moore

“The Confident Witness” is one of six studies that make up the core of our online course, Mission Partners. Preview this course at The Ailbe Seminary by clicking here.Mission Partners is one of the courses in our Certificate for Kingdom Leadership curriculum, which will open for registration on January 1, 2019. For an introduction and overview of that curriculum, click here.

How confident are you in your ability to share the Good News of Christ and His Kingdom? Our book, 
The Gospel of the Kingdom, can help you get your witness and testimony in proper working order, so that you can be a confident witness in your own Personal Mission Field. Order your copy by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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