The Tragedy of the Religious Lost
Our Scripture text is Matthew 9:1-8, and particularly verse 8.
You may ask, “These people glorified God and acknowledged His power; why is that a tragedy? The tragedy is that they missed the forest for the trees. They marvelled at the healing of this palsied man (paralysis) and gave God they glory but they missed the reason that the Lord Jesus healed this man’s physical ailment. Jesus healed this man to show the truthfulness of his claim that he has the power to forgive sins. To miss how God forgives sins, and who can forgive sins, is to remain un-forgiven—lost—and die and enter the judgement of God condemned.
It is a tragedy when people remain in their sin when there is forgiveness in God’s Son, Christ Jesus. And it is a double tragedy when religious people talk of God, see some of the works of God, but refuse to see their sinful state before God and God’s gracious gift of forgiveness and eternal life through faith in his Son.
So, let us continue…
Chapter 15 of Luke’sGospel is often called the Lost and Found chapter of the Bible. It contains three parables: the parable of the Lost Sheep, of the Lost Coin, and of the Prodigal Son. In the first two we learn that the Lord seeks the lost, the Lord places great value on men’s souls, and all heaven rejoices over on repentant sinner. In the Prodigal Son parable we learn of the prodigal’s rebellion, of the prodigal’s lost estate (inheritance), and of the prodigal’s estrangement from his father. Notice in Luke 15:32 the father describes the repentant returned son as having been once dead and lost and now is alive and found.
The word “lost” is defined as 1) mislaid, 2) ruined, 3) forfeited, 4) not able to find the right way, 5) bewildered, 6) alienated, and 7) shipwrecked (Noah Webster 1828). To be lost means that by your sinful rebellion you are ruined before God, you have forfeited all claim upon God, and you are alienated from God.
First, a lost person cannot find themselves. Sometimes you have to state the obvious. The prodigal son could not recover his squandered inheritance (estate), it was wasted, gone. He could not pay back what he did not have. Also, the prodigal’s father owed him nothing! You cannot do anything to restore your ruined soul, redeem your forfeited inheritance (life with God), or cancel your alienation from God and restore a blessed relationship with God.
All the prodigal could hope for is the mercy of his father. God must be merciful to you and graciously redeem you and reconcile you to himself. Your salvation—forgiveness and restoration—is entirely upon God.
Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Remember, in the parable of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin it is the shepherd and the woman that seek the lost objects. Likewise, it is God who has taken action to pay your sin-debt, and must take action to graciously bring you to Christ Jesus to be saved.
Second, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has come and has given his life a ransom for you.
Luke 19:10, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Matthew 20:28, “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
Romans 3:25, “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;”
Romans 5:8-9, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.”
Third, Jesus Christ, who victoriously rose from the dead, is today seeking out lost ones that he might save them.
Matthew 11:28-30, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Revelation 22:17, “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”
Hebrews 7:25, “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”
John 6:35, “And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.”
Fourth, the Lord Jesus Christ commands all men to repent. Just like the prodigal son, you need to come to yourself—the end of yourself—knowing and owning your rebellious sinfulness, and count yourself utterly unworthy of forgiveness and reconciliation, and come to God for mercy (Luke 15:17-19).
Luke 13:3, “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”
Mark 1:14-15, “Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.”
The religious lost came to hear the Lord Jesus teach: Matthew 9:8 (with Luke 5:19). In Mark 4:16-19 we have another parable, the Parable of the Sower. Notice that both types of people describes in verses 16-19 hear the Word of God for a time joyfully. You might say, they got religion. Then they later hear something in the Word of God at which they are offended. The religious lost like to hear select things from the Bible, but are offended when it convicts them.
Herod the Great was a ruthless and powerful ruler. In Mark 6:20 it is recorded that John the Baptist preached right at Herod, rebuking him publicly for his sin. Herod, rather than immediately having John killed, heard him gladly and “did many things.” The inference is that he did religious things—maybe like praying, offering sacrifices, or giving to the poor. John’s preaching got to Herod deeply. But, like many a tragic lost soul, when it came down to choosing between this world or God, Herod chose this world; and, although reluctantly, had John the Baptist beheaded.
The religious lost in Matthew 9:8 came to see the works of God on those others in need. They like to see the drunk delivered, the religion-less become a church goer, and the loose person become moral—they marvel—they glorify God.
They fail to see their need of a work of God in them to bring them to the feet of the Saviour and redeem them. The Lord did not heal the palsied man to amaze the crowd; he healed him so that men would know that the Lord Jesus Christ alone can forgive sin.
The religious lost are blind to their sin because they have faith in their own righteousness; because they mis-use Jesus to build up their own righteousness; because they believe themselves to be the answer to others—“Do like I do and all will be well with you.”; because the disregard the Word of God; and, because they resist the Spirit of God. The religious lost are blind to the power of Christ to forgive sins—Matthew 9:8—they saw the man healed and paid no attention to the forgiveness of sins.
If you say, ‘You are describing me as a religious lost person, what am I to do?’
Consider these truths…
Your sinful heart offends God and you are condemned already—John 3:18, “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
You have no righteousness with which you can justify yourself before God. Christ did not come to show you how to make yourself good before God—2Corinthains 5:21, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
Only Christ can make you right with God by the gracious gift of His righteousness graciously put upon you. Christ died your death on Calvary. Christ sacrificed himself to God to satisfy God’s wrath against you. Christ shed his blood as the payment to God for your soul. Christ rose victoriously from the dead, which declares to us that He is the Son of God with power to forgive sins and find and redeem lost souls.
Seek God and repent; seek God that he would do a gracious work in your heart and bring you to the feet of the Saviour that you might be saved by Him.
Do not resist the Holy Spirit.
Acts 7:51-53, “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.”
Matthew 12:31-37, “Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come. Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit. O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”