Among many fundamentalists and evangelicals, the word ‘lost‘ has acquired a very specific technical meaning. Used as a noun, ‘the lost’ are those on their way to hell. The state of being lost is sometimes expanded to illustrate the seriousness of their situation:
- Lost and undone without God
- Lost without God in this world
- Lost and bound for eternal hell
What Does ‘Lost’ Mean?
The term ‘lost’ is used as the opposite of ‘saved‘, which means someone who has accepted Christ as savior and is now on the way to heaven instead of hell. The dichotomy between the two states is sharp and it is part of a larger understanding on sin, salvation, and hell that we will not address in this post.
A popular song expresses the urgency of lostness:
Souls are dying; men are crying; won’t you lead them to the cross?
Go and find them; help to win them; win the lost at any cost.
What Does the New Testament Say about Being Lost?
Does the New Testament use the concept of lostness?
It does, but never in the way described above. Recently we discussed Jesus’ parables dealing with lostness in Luke chapter 15. In order to help the Pharisees understand how the Father feels about lost people, Jesus told stories about the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. In every case the lost item was restored, much to the happiness of the one who experienced the loss—the shepherd, the woman, and the father.
These are only parables, but there is nothing in them to suggest that the lost items were the objects of wrath or punishment, as assumed in the lost-saved dichotomy. Quite the contrary; the lost sheep and coin were eagerly sought after, and the father desired the presence of the lost son to the point that he celebrated the son’s return.
I contend that when we feel alienated from the Father for any reason, we do not face rejection or punishment but rather the desire of the Father for a restored relationship. This is the nature of our lostness—our relationship with the Father is strained or broken and we feel alienation. However, the feeling is entirely on our side; the Father is not alienated from us, and he desires to restore the relationship and remove the alienation.
Luke chapter 19 reports Jesus as saying that this is his purpose: ‘The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.‘ We can sing,
Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind but now I see.
When we feel alienated from the Father we may feel like a wretch, but he does not see us so. He seeks us out to restore the relationship. Perhaps he is reaching out to you right now. As believers and followers of Jesus, we are not called to win the lost but to find the lost and help with reconciliation.
There is another interesting New Testament passage that speaks of being lost. In First Corinthians chapter 15 Paul argues for the hope of the resurrection and includes this comment:
If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
Paul is certainly not saying that believers who have died are lost and on their way to hell. He is simply saying that without the resurrection they are dead and gone, never to be seen again.
It is difficult to see how we have developed the word ‘lost’ to indicate someone who is going to hell. Instead, lostness speaks to a lost relationship and our feeling alienated from the Father.
Do You Feel Alienated from the Father?
Do you feel:
- Lost and undone without God?
- Lost without God in this world?
- Lost and bound for eternal hell?
No, you are not. We are never without God. If we are lost, we know that the Father is seeking us to restore our relationship with him and to eliminate our feelings of alienation.
If you feel lost and alienated from the Father, you can know that he is without malice and desires a restored relationship. You can find that relationship by following Jesus. If you unsure how to do that, click How to Follow Jesus and enjoy your restored relationship.