Calvary Road Baptist Church

“COME TO SEEK AND TO SAVE”

Luke 19.10

 

One of the tragic consequences of the fall of mankind into sin is the effect of spiritual deadness and blindness on one’s perception of reality. The lost man’s thinking is so distorted by his condition that he is self-deluded into thinking that his mental faculties are healthy and that his capacity to reason about spiritual matters and to evaluate spiritual information is intact. Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth. It is precisely because unsaved man is such a ripe target for satanic and demonic assault, as well as because of his own sinful capacity for self-delusion, that faith is so profoundly important. We know that without faith it is impossible to please God, though few bother to ask themselves why it is impossible to please God without faith.

Faith is a man’s connection with the spiritual realm and with eternal truth. Because our physical senses are virtually useless with regard to the spiritual realm and our deadness and sinfulness creates such distortion with respect to eternal matters, what must we resort to that we might navigate the hazards we face? It can only be a person’s faith, which enables him to know things he cannot discover for himself, and to embrace conclusions made for him by God regarding what he should do with the facts he is presented with. It is no wonder, then, that the Word of God was given to play so prominent a role in our lives, being a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our pathway. We are spiritually blind and hopelessly lost in an unsaved condition, desperately needing to be rescued from our plight. It would be good, then, would it not, for sinners to pay heed to what Jesus, the Light of the world, says and does? How sad it is, then, that sinners sometimes foolishly and wrongly conclude that they know more about the Lord Jesus Christ’s intentions with respect to sinful men than He seems to know. As well, how ridiculous it is, and would be amusing was it not so tragic, when the lost pretend to have insight that has been revealed to no one else concerning God’s plan and purpose.

Before we turn to our text for this morning, allow me to quickly retrace a series of lessons taught by the Savior as He approached the last week of His earthly ministry, the week of His passion that ended with His crucifixion.

Luke chapter 14 opens with the Savior dining with a ruler of the Pharisees on a Sabbath day, less than two weeks before that fateful day. On that occasion, He defended His healing of a man on the Sabbath. Perhaps it was the next day that He clarified the cost of discipleship. Luke 14.33 sums it all up: “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” There is no wiggle room in that statement is there?

Luke chapter 15 finds publicans and sinners drawing near to hear Jesus teach and preach. Of course, the Pharisees and scribes objected, murmuring among themselves. In response, our Lord once again defended His ministry with three great parables (the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son, or the prodigal son). Each parable emphasized in some way the value of the lost, as well as His intention to receive, to restore, and to reconcile that which was lost.

Luke chapter 16 finds two main lessons being taught. The first half of the chapter is given over to pointing out that you cannot have it all. The world, the flesh, and the devil would promise it all and seek to persuade you that by some great feat you can have it all. However, Jesus pointedly declared that you cannot have it all, and that decisive choices must be made. Luke 16.13: “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” To emphasize that point, He teaches about the rich man and Lazarus in the last half of the chapter. The man who served mammon, who went after the money, was the rich man who died and ended up in Hell suffering torment in the flames. Lazarus, however, made the right choice. His choice may have resulted in poverty and sickness in this life, but paradise in the next life. The point is well illustrated. Decisions made on this side of eternity affect you on the other side. You cannot have it all. Choices must be made. In addition, there are consequences associated with every choice.

Luke chapter 18 opens with our Lord teaching two parables, one of them about a Pharisee and a publican praying, the Pharisee being proud and public in his praying, and the tax collector being very humble in his plea for mercy. The middle of the chapter records Jesus showing His accessibility to little children (“Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.”), and an encounter after that with a rich young ruler who refused to part with his money, again illustrating that you cannot serve two masters, and that choices must be made. The chapter concludes in Jericho with the Savior being acknowledged as the Messiah by two blind men when they addressed Him as “thou son of David” and refused to stop crying out to Him until He dispatched disciples to bring them to Him. That showed real determination by two helpless men to seek the Lord while He may be found.

The chronology of Luke’s gospel now places the Lord Jesus Christ about eight days before His crucifixion, and a day’s walk from Jerusalem. By the time we arrive at Luke chapter 19, word has spread to Jericho about our Lord’s parable of the Pharisee and the publican praying, no doubt a factor in Zacchaeus’ aggressiveness in seeking Jesus, even though he was the most despised of the publicans, being their chief. Though the multitudes murmured when Jesus joined Zacchaeus as his houseguest, remember that He had also been the houseguest of a ruler of the Pharisees the previous Sabbath. Jesus was not in any way inconsistent, being willing to sit down with the most prominent of men, who were simply sinners of a different stripe. The Pharisee was a religious hypocrite, while the publican was an extortionist and a thief. Both men who seemed so successful by worldly standards, however, stood before God as men guilty of sins.

Thus, we see that when the Apostle Paul hearkens back to the 14th Psalm in the third chapter of his letter to the Romans (“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.” “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.” “They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”), what he writes is entirely consistent with the Lord Jesus Christ shows about men by His conduct.

In our survey of Luke’s gospel leading up to our text, we have seen the Savior clarifying and sharpening the focus of other’s perception of His ministry as the time of His sacrifice for our sins draws near. He wants sinners to understand. He is no respecter of persons. He is accessible to one and all. Choices have to be made. He is the Messiah of Israel. Now, especially in light of His saving encounter with the publican Zacchaeus, He clarifies His entire mission. Why did He leave heaven’s glory and come into this world a man? Why did He set His divine prerogatives aside? What are His goals? What is His purpose?

This morning’s sermon seeks to answer that question.

 

SERMON:

 

Please turn to Luke 19.10. When you find that verse in your Bible, stand and read silently while I read aloud: “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” There are three parts to this verse: The first part shows us the identity of our Lord Jesus Christ, His most frequent description of Himself, “the Son of man.” The last portion of the verse identifies you and me, “that which was lost.” As accurate a description of a sinner as exists anywhere. I would direct your attention to the middle portion of the verse, “come to seek and to save,” which shows us the Lord Jesus Christ’s mission. This is why He left heaven’s glory. This is why He set aside His divine prerogatives for a time. This is why He bore our sins on the cross. This is why He came.

The coming of Jesus Christ was a mission, a mission that accomplishes two goals:

 

First, THE COMING OF JESUS CHRIST WAS A MISSION OF VINDICATION

 

You do recognize that “The soul that sinneth, it shall die,” Ezekiel 18.4 and 20. As well, you also realize that “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment,” Hebrews 9.27. Since all men are sinners by nature (“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” Romans 3.23), we conclude that you will someday die. After you die, you will face the judgment of God. As well, since you are a sinner, you will be found guilty at the judgment bar of God, Romans 3.19.

Revelation 20.11-15 records this future judgment taking place, as well as the pronouncement of punishment:

11     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.

12     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.

13     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.

14     And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

15     And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

 

As I pointed out during the exposition, you cannot have it all. Choices have to be made. And those choices are accompanied by consequences. Perhaps the clearest and most important example of this stark reality that you cannot have it all is the certainty that you cannot have heaven and Hell. You will enjoy the one or suffer the other throughout eternity. Be mindful that Adam’s fall occurred long before Jesus left heaven’s glory. Had God wanted to simply damn all sinners to Hellfire, He would have been well within His rights as the righteous Ruler of all that is to do so without Jesus ever coming to this wicked world. However, Jesus did come. Jesus did die on the cross. The gospel has been proclaimed throughout the world, though most sinners do not respond to the saving of their eternal and undying souls, as Jesus predicted: “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat,” Matthew 7.13.

So, did Jesus fail with those who died in their sins and ended up in Hell? Did Jesus fail with those who will refuse Him and reject His offer of forgiveness full and free to anyone who will come to Him? Not at all, because of what Jesus accomplishes with respect to the multitudes that die in their sins. What He accomplishes, with those who are not saved, is vindication. To vindicate is to clear from criticism; to uphold by evidence; to defend against opposition; to serve as justification.[1] Thus, while God’s Word says that He “is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” Second Peter 3.9, there are some who deny that truth. You have heard them. They are bitter that they cannot hold to their sins and cleave to Christ at the same time. They are upset that they cannot have it all. Therefore, since they will not let go of their stubbornness and pride to embrace Christ, they will claim God does not want them saved. Still others will claim that they never had a chance to be saved, so it is not their fault they perished in their sins. Either way, the attempt is made to shift the blame for not being saved to God.

However, the coming of Jesus to do and to die on the cross will silence the critics at the Great White Throne Judgment, because He is proof that God loves sinners and earnestly desires their salvation. Jesus will testify that every man had opportunity to respond to the light of revelation, and that the lost remain lost only because they refused to follow the light of revelation that ultimately leads to Jesus Christ, the Light of the world. “The mouth of them that speak lies shall be stopped,” Psalm 63.11. On Judgment Day, when the guilty would claim his innocence, or attempt to explain away his guilt, Jesus will be there to testify otherwise. When the unrepentant would claim he never had a chance, Jesus will be there to testify otherwise. When the stubborn would be tempted to claim that God did not really want him saved, Jesus will be there to testify otherwise.

Thus, though very little attention is drawn to it by contemporary preachers, the Lord Jesus Christ’s mission is, in part, a mission to vindicate God against the false accusations and erroneous claims of both Satan and sinners. In that mission, He will succeed.

 

Next, THE COMING OF JESUS CHRIST WAS A MISSION OF SALVATION

 

It is clear from our text that the Lord Jesus Christ wants this aspect of His divine mission to be far more prominent than that aspect that has to do with vindication. In like manner, the Lord Jesus Christ seems far more interested in showcasing Himself as the Savior of sinners than as the righteous Judge. Thus, one aspect of His divine mission is far more pleasurable and delightful, and displays far more prominently His love, grace, and mercy than the other. After all, the first prediction of His coming, in Genesis 3.15, describes His saving work. The typology of the Tabernacle in the wilderness, with all its furniture and sacrifices, pictures Him in type as savior. And the great prophetic utterances we are all familiar with, in Isaiah and in Zechariah, have to do with the predictions of His great saving sacrifice.

Consider, as well, the announcement to Joseph of the Savior’s birth. The angel told Joseph, “Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.”[2] So you see, surrounding His birth, the emphasis was on Him being the Savior. Throughout the course of His earthly ministry, the emphasis was on Him being the Savior. The events surrounding His death on the cross, His resurrection from the dead, and His ascension to the Father’s right hand, speak to Him as Savior rather than as Judge.

In this present dispensation, have we not been undertaking to carry out the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ for these last two thousand years? Did Jesus not say concerning Himself on the road to Emmaus, “Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem”?[3] Has He not chosen to use us in the gospel ministry to labor and serve Him to fulfill His mission?

Thus, our understanding of Luke 19.10 is in perfect accord with what we see elsewhere in the gospels, and throughout the New Testament. The Lord Jesus Christ wants the most prominently displayed aspect of His divine undertaking to be as Savior. He will save to the uttermost those who come to God by Him.[4] Notice how this is demonstrated. Shortly after saving the blind beggars (illustrating His willingness and ability to save the utterly helpless), our Lord saved a man regarded by most as utterly wicked, a betrayer of his people, a forsaker of the covenant, one that most certainly had been given up on as being past any possibility of redemption.

However, be mindful of precisely how the Lord Jesus Christ explains the salvation of Zacchaeus. We read the account of Zacchaeus struggling to see Jesus, striving to make contact with Him by climbing the tree before Jesus gave instructions to him. However, the Savior’s explanation of what happens goes like this: “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” In other words, to the naked eye, having access to the mere physical evidence of what transpired, an onlooker would think Zacchaeus was seeking Jesus. Zacchaeus might have thought he was seeking Jesus, as indeed he was. However, on another plane, in the realm of God’s providential workings in the affairs of men, in the realm of spiritual factors that cannot be accounted for by human observation alone, Jesus sought out and then saved Zacchaeus, not the other way around.

 

Is Jesus still seeking and saving the lost? He most certainly is. As with the blind beggars and Zacchaeus, He makes use of circumstances, by the outworking of His providential control of all things, along with the information that is passed on by knowing and unknowing men who are tools at His disposal.

The blind beggars had no doubt learned of Jesus over the past two or three years from the preaching of John the Baptist in that same area, from the preaching of the Apostles when they were sent there, and from the word-of-mouth comments made by travelers the two beggars had overheard as they were passed by. They heard about Him giving sight to the blind. They heard about Him raising the dead. They heard about Him restoring withered limbs and making the lame to walk again. They heard about Him cleansing lepers. All these things were well and good, but it must be understood that such things served primarily to reveal Jesus to be the Savior of sinful men’s souls. Therefore, when Jesus passed by them one day they cried out and Jesus sent disciples to instruct them to come to Him. However, who was actually seeking whom? Jesus had sought them out to save them. And the same thing is true of Zacchaeus.

It was rumored among the publicans that Jesus was not opposed to keeping company with publicans. Then Jesus taught a parable about a self-righteous Pharisee and a humble and repentant publican. That, too, was passed along by the publicans as they passed along the money they had collected, until both the money and word of the parable reached Zacchaeus. Jesus did not have to travel through Jericho to get to Jerusalem. He did so because He was seeking Zacchaeus, just as He had sought the blind beggars. Therefore, He went to where the man He was after lived. Notice that He did not overwhelm the man. Zacchaeus likely felt no overpowering urge to yield His will to Christ. It is just that he had come to realize the emptiness of wealth, and the burden of sin, and he wanted forgiveness. Only Jesus could provide forgiveness, since only Jesus is the Savior.

Sinners sometimes want God to wrestle them to the ground to be saved, as it was with Jacob. Or they want a flash of blinding light, as it was with Saul of Tarsus. However, those men’s conversion experiences are not normative, are not examples held up for sinners to follow. The example held up in the Bible for sinners to follow is Abraham. “He believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”

My friend, consider this prominent aspect of the Lord Jesus Christ’s mission, to save sinners. Consider, also, this matter of your stubbornness and perhaps your demand that God deal with you differently than other sinners. Sorry. He will not deal with you differently. You are called to simply trust Jesus because you know you ought to, just like the vast majority of others who come to saving faith.

The reason you have not come to Christ to this point could be that you are stubborn. If so, how has your stubbornness ever helped you? Has it ever helped your marriage? No. Has it ever benefited your parenting? No. Ever gotten a promotion or a pay raise for being stubborn? Again, no. Stubbornness is a refusal to think, a refusal to make an intelligent decision based upon the facts, and a refusal to exercise faith. If stubbornness has never, ever, not one time, helped you in any way, why are you so committed to stubbornness? Familiarity. You are just used to being stubborn, so used to it that you are fearful of anything else.

Let me tell you something. The time for being stubborn is past. The time to step out by faith has come. The time to yield to the very gentle wooing of the Holy Spirit has arrived. The time for you to be saved is now.

My friend, come to Jesus now and He will save you. It is what He came to do.



[1] Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 2039.

[2] Matthew 1.20-21

[3] Luke 23.46-47

[4] Hebrews 7.25



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org