The subject of compassion for the lost is not one I enter into lightly, but rather with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. I tremble at the thought of spending another day of my life so self-absorbed that I would not reach out to the lost, sick, hurting, and dying world in which we live on planet Earth. The Gospels show us over and over that Jesus had compassion on all the people that His path crossed.
"And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest." - Matthew 9:35-38
We can over spiritualize the verse above thus changing the meaning to whatever we want it to say, or we can take it in its proper context to literally mean what it says, and say what it means. It doesn’t take a doctorate in theology to understand “the harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few.”
We say that we love God and love people; however, it is easy to "talk the talk" without "walking the walk." The Bible tells us:
"My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth." - I John 3:18
We may have a hard time adjusting to the fact that God has commissioned each of us to go and share the gospel with the lost, but this was the mission of Jesus while on the Earth and it is the mission of the church, all Christians, today as we represent His body.
"For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." - Luke 19:10
"Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins." - James 5:20
"The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise." - Proverbs 11:30
In the spring of 1988, I met Jesus Christ in an astounding way as I was born again, forgiven, justified and redeemed in one awesome experience. A few weeks later, I received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and my heart was filled with His amazing love; shortly afterward, I was water baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. My life was turned upside down, for the better and everything changed. I was so excited about what God was doing in my life that I told everyone who crossed my path about what Jesus had done for me.
I became a bold witness for Jesus, sharing my testimony all week long and bringing people to church with me every Sunday. I joined the Gideon’s ministry and handed out Bibles every Saturday. We went to the local jails, the country jails, the regional prisons and the State Prison. We went to schools, college campuses and any and everywhere we could go, giving out Bibles and sharing Jesus. These were some of the best years of my life because the reality of God’s love that I found in His Son Jesus Christ was just too great to keep silent. I had to share the good news with every one that I met. I had a passion for Jesus and all I wanted to do was to share him with others.
But somehow, someway, the enemy came into my thinking and over a course of time, gradually but surely, my burden for lost souls disappeared from my life. I learned that if we are not careful, the devil will gradually plant lies in the fields of our minds and the weeds of error and deceit will take over our thinking. The enemy then can build strongholds in our minds with flawed ideologies which control our thinking because we are viewing God, ourselves, others, or even our very purpose in life wrongly. These strongholds must be violently torn down in order for the truth of God’s Word to come in and liberate us to think like God wants us to think.
"For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds; Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;" - II Corinthians 10:4-5
If we do not have a real sincere burden for the people that are lost and on their way to hell, then something is wrong with our thinking. As Christians, we are supposed to love God and to love others. How can we really say we love everyone if we are not concerned enough about the lost to share Jesus with them in order to help them find their savior.
Ray Comfort, in his teaching series on how to win souls for Jesus, gives the analogy that if our neighbors’ house was on fire and we knew they were in the house at the time, we would sound the alarm, yell, shout, burst the door down or do anything and everything that we could do in order for them to get out of the house and escape to safety. Yet, we know people that live all around us that are not Christians. We know that they are on their way to a sinner’s hell and an eternal lake of fire, but we sit back and do nothing. We should be sounding the alarm to them and going to any extent we can to help them see the pathway to eternal life.
As I have reflected upon my lack of burden for the lost over the past 25 years of my life, I have come to the conclusion that Satan used religion to sow four big lies in my mind that built a stronghold of deceit and error in my heart (so strong that these lies stole my burden for the lost). I developed:
1. A Misunderstanding of the Sovereignty of God;
2. A Misunderstanding of Universal Reconciliation;
3. A Misunderstanding of the Class System in God’s Kingdom, and
4. A Misunderstanding of the Doctrine of Predestination.
1. A Misunderstanding of the Sovereignty of God
The sovereignty of God is something I thought I totally understood. In fact, I think I have been proud of the fact that this was one area of my life I had figured out. “God is the head” has become one of my favorite and most frequent thoughts. I even bought into the lyrics of the song sung by Doris Day some 50 years ago.
Que sera, sera,
Whatever will be, will be.
The future’s not ours to see,
Que sera, sera.
Thinking God is so in control of everything, that it really doesn’t matter what I do or think because it will not change anything, is a misunderstanding of the sovereignty of God. With this attitude, what is the use of praying, because whatever will be will be. We really need to take a step back and analyze what we truly believe in our hearts about the sovereignty of God.
Yes, God is in control of His creation, but He gave us each a will to choose and He wants us engaged as co-laborers or partners with Him. Our choices effect the sovereign will of God. It is not God’s will that any should perish and go to hell, but everyday people are perishing and going to hell. What is the difference maker here? It is you and me. We are to do our part in helping people, in intervening or interceding upon their behalf. We are to go and share the Gospel so the will of God for people becomes reality in their lives. Jesus came to save the lost and to give them eternal life. We are to partner with God in helping this come to pass.
God was so angry at Israel that He told Moses He was going to destroy them, so Moses interceded upon their behalf and God changed His mind. It was God’s highest will for Moses to intercede for Israel therefore, Moses had an influence on the sovereign will of God. This is what prayer is all about. If God is just going to do whatever He is going to do, “que sera, sera,” then there is no need for any of us to pray about anything. But the opposite is true; for God is wanting us to pray and He wants to answer our prayers. It is a powerful thing when prayer warriors begin to pray for lost people, for it moves the hand of God and prayer is the beginning of how the lost get saved.
If life’s core principle is “whatever will be will be”, then why did the Apostle Paul put himself in such harm’s way continually to share the Gospel with the Gentile world? Why did most of the Apostles die a martyr’s death preaching and sharing the Gospel? If this principle is true, why do we do anything at all?
Jesus gave us commandments as to what our life’s mission and purpose is on this earth. For us to ignore His instructions is to commit the sin of omission. So many times we define our Christian life by how good we do in the area of not committing certain sins, or sins of commission. But in reality, the sins of omission are just as offensive to God. He has an assignment for each of us, every day of our lives and if we do not do what He has told us to do, then we are sinning a sin of omission. The words of Jesus when He gave the great commission and again, just before His ascension, should be engraved in our hearts.
The Great Commission
"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." - Matthew 28:18-20
"But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight." - Acts 1:8-9
Let your light shine
"Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." - Matthew 5:14-16
It is not God’s will that any should perish, thus He put His Spirit and His Word in each of our hearts so we would go into our community and share Jesus with the lost, and as a result, they can find Jesus and eternal life.
2. A Misunderstanding of Universal Reconciliation
I have learned that God is very merciful, loving and kind, and it is hard for me to think that a God so loving can leave someone in eternal punishment forever. But we must never forget that God is not only merciful but He is also Just and Holy. His nature is so very just that justice must be served. He cannot simply let someone off the hook, because He wants to be kind and merciful to them. His justice requires that all lost sinners will be punished with eternal judgment of hell and the lake of fire. The only way out of this is for someone to receive Jesus Christ into their hearts, because Jesus is the only one that actually paid the price for our sins on the cross of Calvary, with His very own blood. He was our substitute, taking the judgment and punishment we deserved, then going to hell in our place for three days. Everyone that puts their faith in Him can stand before the Father guiltless as the advocate Jesus Christ proclaims, “They are innocent, I have paid the price for them, justice has been served.”
Jesus mentioned the word Hell fifteen times in the Gospels. Other times, He referred to it as a furnace of fire or a place with weeping and gnashing of teeth.
And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. Mark 9:43-48
"The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth." - Matthew 13:41-42
"The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." - Matthew 24:50-51
The story of the rich man and the beggar Lazarus in Luke chapter 16 should draw everyone’s attention to the reality of Hell and the reality of torment in a place in the afterlife.
Furthermore, there is the reality of the Great White Throne of Judgment where everyone that is in hell, will be cast into the Lake of Fire and brimstone with the devil, the beast and the false prophet and will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
The lake of Fire is an eternal abode, not a temporal one.
"And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." - Revelation 20:10-15
I understand that God will bring everything into unity and harmony, but do we really want people to go to an eternal place called the lake of fire?
Hell’s fire is actually the breath of God.
"For Tophet is ordained of old; yea, for the king it is prepared; he hath made it deep and large: the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of the LORD, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it." - Isaiah 30:33
One day everything will come into harmony.
"Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:" - Ephesians 1:9-10
Every knee should bow and every tongue should confess
"That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." - Philippians 2:10-11
This does not mean that they will ever get out of the lake of fire? They will always be a part of the underworld and will not be in the personal presence of Jesus Christ in eternity. If the enemy can get us to believe that one day everybody will get saved in eternity and everybody will be happy, then why do we need to be concerned about their eternal well-being?
In fact, the Bible teaches us about the deceitful bow. This is an analogy explaining how God has to bend their wills like a bow with a string attached to it, bending the bow with the string. If God were to let these people out of the lake of fire, it would be like the string being cut from the bow and the bow, instead of being bent, would go straight again. God has to leave these people in the lake of fire in order to keep their wills bent for all of eternity. If he were to let them out of the lake of fire, then their rebellious wills would stand up and go and do their own thing once again.
"They return, but not to the most High: they are like a deceitful bow: their princes shall fall by the sword for the rage of their tongue: this shall be their derision in the land of Egypt." - Hosea 7:16
"But turned back, and dealt unfaithfully like their fathers: they were turned aside like a deceitful bow." - Psalms 78:57
I had come to believe that we would go from the New City to visit the lake of fire to teach them in eternity. Really? I can hardly believe that I accepted this as truth. What good will that do them at that point? If they are there for eternity, will this not break our hearts to see family members and friends in the lake of fire, knowing that we could have been a witness and a light to them, by leading them to a saving knowledge and experience with Jesus Christ while we were on this earth? I don’t want friends and acquaintances looking at me and saying, why didn’t you tell me about Jesus and His love? Why didn’t you warn me about hell and the lake of fire?
3. A Misunderstanding of the Class System in God’s Kingdom
The third thing the devil did to my belief system that caused me to lose my burden for lost souls was to deceive me into thinking I was in an elite class of believers. Because of my good choice of being part of a group that believed everything about God correctly, I determined that the most important thing in my life was simply living the right way so I could be in the New City or the bride of Jesus Christ. I thought this was a far superior life than the average Christian lived and my focus was turned inward instead of outward.
I actually thought that winning lost souls was a job for the people that were not as spiritually enlightened as me, or something that the 30-fold or the spiritual immature Christians should be engaged in. Such activity was beneath me, because I was called to be the bride of Jesus Christ. As I reflect upon my attitude, I realize now that I had become deceived to a point of spiritual nausea; I wonder sometimes why God didn’t vomit me out of his mouth.
There is no greater calling, no greater thing a person can do than to share the gospel with others while we are on this earth. The bottom line is that we need God’s compassion for the lost. I am praying, “God please break my heart for what breaks yours.” He is telling me to go and share Jesus with the lost. In fact, what brings the Angels joy is when a sinner repents and gives his life to Jesus.
"Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth." - Luke 15:10
Jesus’ main mission was to preach the gospel to the poor. The disciple’s main mission was to share the gospel with the world. Our main mission and most important assignment from God is to share the Gospel, to let our light shine. I have made a grave error for many years of my Christian life as I have let the enemy deceive me into thinking that the lost was not my concern. He may have won a victory over me for several years, but today I can testify that the truth has set me free and now I am free from the devil’s devices, free to lift up my voice and speak the truth in love. I am going to spend the rest of my life sharing Jesus with everyone that He brings into my pathway.
It is not shallow Christianity to be concerned about the lost. It is not immature Christianity to have compassion on the lost; in fact, it is the exact opposite. The deepest level of love you can show someone is to share with them the love of God demonstrated through Jesus Christ dying on a cross to save them from their sins and from the punishment of their sins. The son of man is come to save that which was lost. You cannot go deeper into your faith unless you learn to share your faith. In fact, you become a ‘Dead Sea’ with water flowing in but not out. Nothing can live in the Dead Sea.
4. A Misunderstanding of the Doctrine of Predestination
I believe the fourth thing that the devil did to me to cause me to lose my burden for the lost was in my understanding of predestination. I had come to believe that we all made choices in eternity past that explained our behaviors here in time while we are on planet earth. I still believe that today, but what I don’t believe is the thinking that if people are really called they will somehow find their way to church. This is simply not biblical.
We are the body of Jesus Christ; we are His hands and His feet. We are the mouth piece of Jesus and He has commissioned us to go into the World and lift up our voices to share the gospel with the lost. Every Christian, not just the preachers, not just the evangelist, but every Christian has a calling and a responsibility to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the lost and dying world.
We cannot possibly know who chose what in eternity past, and it is not for us to know; that is God’s business, not ours. It is not our job to judge; it is our job to share the love of God with humanity. Look up all the scriptures in the Bible on compassion and all of the times in the Gospels that the scriptures speak of Jesus having compassion on people. How can we possibly think we are bearing the fruit of love, of the Holy Spirit, if we are not even concerned for the lost? I may have let religion steal my burden for the lost for many years, but God has given it back to me and by the grace of God, I will spend the rest of my life sharing Jesus with any and all that I can influence.
If you do not have a burden for the lost or if you have lost your compassion for the lost, I encourage you to begin to pray, ‘God, break my heart for what breaks yours’. As you pray this way, I promise you that God will begin to give you a burden for the lost and perishing. You will begin to share Jesus again and you will see people get saved, as they find and discover Jesus Christ and the eternal life that He so graciously gives to us. If you don’t think you are the personality type that can possibly share your faith with others, remember that you can always smile, you can always show love, and you can always bring them to church or bring them to someone that is gifted in sharing the gospel. Let’s get a burden for the lost and learn to release the compassion and love of Jesus Christ into their lives.