The Importance of Seeking the Lost
When I was at the Memphis School of Preaching, we went on what are called “campaigns.” The students went to certain towns and helped the church in the local town to knock doors, hand out flyers, and set up Bible studies.
On one occasion, my group went to a place called Pontotoc, Mississippi. During the one week process, we knocked 1,600 doors, we set up 63 Bible correspondence courses, and had a total of 64 in-home Bible studies.
Suppose that only one third of the people enrolled in the Bible correspondence courses actually obeyed the truth, and that perhaps one third of the people in the Bible studies did so as well. That would have been 40 souls.
Because of Christians knocking on doors, just asking people to study the Bible, perhaps some will be saved. What is the importance of personal work? A principle can be found in Ezekiel 3:
When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. (Ezek. 3:18)
We also need to ask this question: What did Jesus do? We need to look to Him for our example, because whatever He was put on this earth to do, that is our responsibility as well. So what was His purpose for being here?
For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. (Luke 19:10)
His purpose was to seek and save the lost! Is this not our purpose as well? Notice what Jesus said when He called his disciples:
And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon's, and prayed him that he would (underline this in your Bible) thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship. Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, (notice this) Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him. (Luke 5:1-11)
“Let down your nets” Jesus said, and they did, and they caught so many fish that they could not bring them all in. So, Jesus tells them, “I will make you fishers of men.”
Mark’s account says, “I will make you to become fishers of men.” Many of us have the mindset that since we are not good at evangelizing, then we don’t really need to do it. However, Jesus did not call evangelists—He called fishermen, and told them that He would turn them into fishers of men. This principle is true with us as well. We might not know how to evangelize at first. But with practice and effort, we can become good at it.
On the day the Lord’s church came into existence, the apostles preached the following, and notice the outcome:
Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. (Acts 2:47)
The Lord added people to the church daily! That means someone had to be out teaching and preaching to those people every day. Notice again:
And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ. (Acts 5:42)
It seems to me that these people were so happy to have been saved from their sins that they wanted to warn others. They did not say, like some of us, “Well, little Johnny has a toothache today, so I’d better stay home.” Or, “Well, you know, I had a rough day at work today, so I am too tired…” —on and on our “reasons” for not evangelizing may go. Notice also Acts 8:1-4:
And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.
Persecution had forced these people to scatter. They had to leave, but they did not stop preaching. Notice also: who was scattered? Not the apostles; they stayed in the city. Some people say, “Well, it is the preacher’s job to get out and knock doors and evangelize, so why don’t we let him do that?” This passage shows that it is everyone’s job to evangelize! Notice Jesus’ words about what God thinks when souls are saved:
What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. (Luke 15:4-7)
When sinners come to Christ, there is rejoicing in Heaven! The final marching orders that Jesus left for His disciples were to evangelize:
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matt. 28:18-20)
These are some of the last words Christ ever spoke on this earth. Yet, what do we see today? Error is going around the world, while the truth sits at home trying to figure out how to put its shoes on!
An instructor at the Memphis School of Preaching explained after a long trip to Murmansk, Russia, that when he finally arrived at his destination, there were some Mormon “elders” there to greet him. He thought to himself, “Why is it that someone else always beats us to these destinations?” Wouldn’t it be great to be the first, and the only missionaries in a certain part of the world? Or in all of the world?
This world is lost! There is no middle ground, friend. Saved or Lost, these are the two categories in which all people today are found. Notice Paul’s words in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9:
And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;
Do we believe that? Do we really believe that if one hears and does not accept the Word of God, he will be tormented for eternity? Do we understand that the same punishment that awaits those who hear and reject God’s Word is awaiting those who have never even heard? Friends, this is the absolute truth. Let that sink in, and perhaps it will motivate you to reach out to your neighbor or friend.
So, what if I do not do personal work? Is it really that important? Notice the words of God to His prophet Ezekiel. While the specifics may not apply, the principle certainly does!
Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul. (Ezekiel 3:17-21)
In Israel, watchmen stood guard at the high part of the city, and when they saw the armies coming afar off, the watchman’s responsibility was to warn the city. If the people did not hear or listen to the warning, that was not his fault. However, if he failed to warn them, God made it clear that the watchman was also responsible for their loss.
We will close this article with the words of Isaiah, as an encouragement to those who are saved, those who have tasted and seen that the Lord is indeed good:
For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee: and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee. I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of the LORD, keep not silence, (Isaiah 62:5-6)
Christian friends, for the sake of the lost, and for the cause of Christ, I urge you: “Do not keep silence!”