Have you ever been lost? I do not mean "turned around" or temporarily disoriented. I mean totally, completely lost. All alone. No one to ask for help. Nothing that looked familiar in any direction. No clue as to which way to go. No idea of how to even retrace your steps. Lost!

Let me share some feelings produced by being lost. The moment you realize you are lost, you lose all confidence. The instant you realize you are lost, you feel panic. Any confidence you generate is false confidence. You can keep your emotions under control and stop your panic. Yet, even if you stop the panic, you are still lost. Your chance of surviving the experience is much greater if you control panic. But you are still lost.

When you are lost, you feel extremely vulnerable. The feeling of being at risk rapidly rises. You realize in ways words cannot describe that you could be seriously hurt or die. If you control the panic, if you use every skill you possess to cope with the situation, you are still lost.

What happens if you are lost and you prove to yourself that it is not a temporary situation? What if you are so lost that all you can do is try to survive? If you cannot guide yourself out of "being lost," you hope to survive until someone finds you and shows you the way.

  1. To understand my thoughts, first you must understand my perspective.
    1. I do not regard human existence to be the result of chance and accident.
      1. I fully believe that the physical body and the person inside the body was produced by a Being Who is much greater than any human.
        1. I am the specific result of intelligence that designed an incredible body.
        2. I am the specific result of power that gave that incredible human body life.
        3. The more I understand about life, the more in awe I am.
      2. I unquestioningly believe human life began with an existence and design that far exceeds today's human life.
        1. I believe that human life began at its highest level of potential.
        2. I believe that human life began in full relationship with the superior intelligence that designed us and gave us life.
        3. I believe that we lost that existence and relationship because our first ancestors were deceived by evil.
        4. I believe once the deception began, all humanity was victimized by the deception and suffered the consequences.
    2. To state this in simple terms, I believe that evil separated our first ancestors from God, and humanity got "lost."
      1. The longer we existed, the more "lost" we became.
      2. The longer we existed, the further we separated ourselves from God.
      3. People used human judgment and reasoning to search for the way back, but they failed.
        1. When we convince ourselves that humanity can find the way, one of two things are true.
        2. Either, we are convinced we can stop "being lost" by looking to and trusting humanity; "we" are the way.
        3. Or, we conclude we are not lost and never have been lost.

  2. To me, one of the clear messages of the Bible is the God who created us specializes in guiding people who realize they are lost.
    1. After only eleven chapters, the first book of the Bible introduces us to Abraham.
      1. God began His promises to Abraham by saying,
        Genesis 12:1 Now the Lord said to Abram, "Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father's house, To the land which I will show you."
      2. God intentionally placed Abraham in circumstances that made Abraham realize he was lost.
        1. Abraham was totally dependent on God's guidance, and he knew it.
        2. Every time Abraham depended on himself for guidance, he suffered major consequences.
        3. He spent a major portion of his adult life depending on God for direction.
      3. God was pointing to the way back to Him.
        1. Basically, that is what God's interaction with Abraham was all about.
        2. Abraham is a road sign showing the way back to God.
    2. It was not just Abraham.
      1. God rescued Israel from Egyptian slavery and placed them in the desert wilderness.
        1. There was a very good highway called the King's highway connecting Egypt to Syria. [It was the obvious way to go to Canaan.]
        2. God did not take them by that highway for a reason.
          Exodus 13:17 Now when Pharaoh had let the people go, God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, even though it was near; for God said, "The people might change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt."
        3. In the wilderness they were totally dependent on God for guidance (Exodus 13:21,22).
        4. God was pointing to the way back to Him.
        5. Israel's wilderness experience was a road sign pointing to the way back to God.
      2. God gave Canaan to Israel.
        1. God guided them in the conquest of the land.
        2. Every time they attempted things without God, they suffered major consequences.
        3. God was pointing to the way back to Him.
        4. Israel's experiences in Canaan was a road sign pointing to the way back to God.
      3. When Israel settled in Canaan, they often thought they did not need God, that they could manage just fine without God.
        1. Too often, God did not address their needs in the way they wanted.
        2. Too often, God "cramped their style."
        3. Too often, God "got in the way."
        4. Too often, God "did not deal with the real world."
        5. God tried earnestly to help them understand that only He could show them the way back, but commonly they simply would not listen.
        6. Israel's experiences in Canaan were road signs pointing to false detours and to the true way back to God.
      4. The Babylonian captivity was necessary if God was to focus the remaining Israelites on the way back to Him.
        1. They had forgotten they needed to find the way back to Him.
        2. They became obsessed with evil and did not realize it.
        3. They needed to turn their lives around and did not know it.
        4. They refused to understand they were lost.
        5. The seventy years they spent as exiles in Babylon was a road sign at a critical intersection to point to the way back to God.
    3. In Babylon, they were so lost that they gave up hope.
      1. God did not want the Babylonian experience to destroy hope; that was not its purpose.
      2. They forced God to use Babylon as a "wake up call" to make them realize they were lost.
      3. When they woke up, God needed to encourage them and give them hope.
        Isaiah 40:3-8 A voice is calling, "Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. "Let every valley be lifted up, And every mountain and hill be made low; And let the rough ground become a plain, And the rugged terrain a broad valley; Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, And all flesh will see it together; For the mouth of the Lord has spoken." A voice says, "Call out." Then he answered, "What shall I call out?" All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, When the breath of the Lord blows upon it; Surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.
        1. Often when a king traveled, a level road was made for him.
        2. God the King will travel through the wilderness; make a road for him.
        3. Prepare yourself to follow His glory; prepare yourself to follow Him.
        4. You cannot count on people; they are here one day, gone the next.
        5. You can count on God; He is always here and never gone.

  3. Do you know the earliest name for the church?
    1. The book of Acts tells us even the Jewish enemies of Christians used this name for the church.
      1. When Paul asked the high priest for a letter of authority to go to Damascus, Syria to arrest Christians in the synagogue there, he asked for permission to go arrest anyone who belonged to "the Way" (Acts 9:2).
      2. People in the synagogue at Ephesus spoke evil of "the Way" (Acts 19:9).
      3. "The Way" was the reason for a huge disturbance among the worshippers of the idol Artemis in Ephesus (Acts 19:23).
      4. Paul defended himself in court by declaring that he used to persecute "the Way" to death and by arresting men and women (Acts 22:4).
      5. At another court appearance, Paul said he belonged to "the Way" (Acts 24:14).
      6. Acts 24:22 states the Roman governor Felix had knowledge about "the Way."
    2. We can use some other terms to define "the Way," but I am personally convinced in our thinking those terms do not do the meaning of "the Way" justice.
      1. We can point to a verse like Act 16:17 and talk about the way of salvation.
      2. Or, we can point to a verse like Acts 18:26 and talk about the way of God.
      3. But those have become such religious phrases many people do not find meaning and understanding in them.
    3. To get to the meaning in a manner that properly increases our understanding, we need to do some remembering.
      1. We need to remember that Abraham was a sign pointing to the way, but that is all he was.
      2. We need to remember that Israel's experiences in the wilderness, in Canaan, and in Babylon were signs pointing to the way, but that is all they were.
      3. In Jesus' lifetime, the Jewish people needed to understand the law was not the way, the priests were not the way, animal sacrifices were not the way, and the temple was not the way. All of them were signs pointing to the way, but they were not the way.
    4. "Then what was 'the Way' back to God?"
      1. "The Way" was not a what; "the Way" was a who.
        John 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."
      2. Only Jesus can take us back to God.
      3. Only Jesus is the Way.
    5. "But I am not lost! I do not need anyone to show me the way!"
      1. Really? You have life's purpose all figured out. You know exactly how to get back to the One who made you.
        1. No funeral of anyone you know causes you to question anything.
        2. You have an answer for every injustice in life.
        3. You have all evil figured out.
        4. You know exactly how you need to travel through greed, selfishness, hate, self-centeredness, jealousy, conflict, envy, dishonesty, deceit, love of money, and love of pleasure. No problem, right?
      2. You look at your marriage, and you know exactly the right direction, right?
      3. You look at your children, and you have your bearings, right?
      4. You look at your lifestyle, and you know exactly how to live, right?

Perhaps this is the greatest injustice we do to Jesus: we make him a religion instead of allowing him to be what he is--the way back to God. Perhaps this is the greatest injustice we do to the church: we made it a religious institution instead of allowing it to be what it is--people following Jesus back to God. Perhaps this is the greatest injustice we do to ourselves: we add some religion to our lives instead of allowing Jesus to do what he died to do--lead us back to God. "No one comes to the Father, but through me."

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 25 March 2001

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