Have you ever been lost?  Do you remember what it was like as a child to look up and discover your parents were suddenly not next to you in the local store?  Do you recall being in a strange city or an unfamiliar neighborhood and you couldn’t find your way home?  In our day of constant high speed Internet on cell phones with built-in GPS capability, it’s almost impossible to get lost.  In fact, many teenagers and young adults have no idea what it’s like to be lost because of their map application on their smart phone.  They have never felt that sinking and lonely feeling of being lost in a strange place.

I’m fearful that many church members grow up with that same type of problem.  They hear sermons that talk about God in a generic manner.  They hear nothing of His true character from the Scriptures.  Many people go through church and never hear about sin, the wrath of God, the depravity of man, and our hopeless condition without Christ.  They hear about how good God is and about how He loves everyone.  How many people have merely repeated a prayer at the end of a worship service and been baptized without any genuine knowledge of sin and salvation in Christ Jesus?  How many people believe they are on their way to heaven but have never known they were lost?

Many preachers from history have shared startling statistical statements that should leave us trembling.  Billy Graham, on national television, once stated that he believed 85% of church attendees were on their way to hell.  Before Billy Graham, Jesus made a statement that is quite shocking.  Matthew records Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:21-23:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. [22] On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ [23] And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

That was my story – almost.  I was a lost church member.  I grew up in church.  As a boy, my parents were experiencing marital problems, and my grandfather took me to church each week.  One day, at 6 years of age, I repeated a prayer after a preacher and I was told that I was a Christian.  I only did what I had witnessed other boys and girls doing, and it was not a genuine act of faith.  I had no idea of sin and salvation in Christ.  From that point forward, I entered the church, was baptized, and lived as a lost church member.  I was often miserable.  I was in a perpetual fight with my flesh about what I truly wanted and what I knew I had to do in order to please my father.  It was not until I was 25 years old that the Lord saved me.  At the time the Lord saved me, I was teaching a Sunday school class in our church and totally fooled into believing that I was right with God because of what I did when I was a young boy.  My faith was more connected with the fact that I prayed a prayer rather than Jesus suffering in my place.

How many people in American evangelicalism are lost in their sin, but they have never been told the truth?  How many teenagers are lost, but their parents and their youth group leaders have never taught them the true gospel?  How many senior adults believe they are on their way to heaven, but in reality, they are on their way to hell?  Many people in the average church are on their way to hell.  That’s more than my opinion, that’s what Jesus said.  He said many would argue about their works before His judgment throne.  However, He will cast them from His presence.  They knew Him, but He never knew them.  This is a warning regarding lost church members.

Could this be you?

When was the last time you examined yourself to see if you are in the faith?

J.C. Ryle, in his commentary on Matthew 7:21-23 writes, “The day of judgment will reveal strange things.  The hopes of many who were thought great Christians while they lived will be utterly confounded.  The rottenness of their religion will be exposed and put to shame before the whole world.”   As you look into the pages of the Scripture what do you see?  As you read 1 John, does your face appear in the negative statements and warnings?  As you hear Jesus’ warning about false converts, do you tremble inwardly knowing that this is you?  If so, I plead with you to repent and turn to Jesus Christ.  Call out to God for mercy and have faith that Jesus died in your place on the cross. Have faith that He suffered under the wrath of God for you.  If you desire to be saved, you can come to God and He will take away your sin.  Will you repent?  Don’t postpone or hesitate.  If you’re lost – now is the appropriate time to turn to God.

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Author Lost Church Members

Josh Buice

Pastor Pray's Mill Baptist Church

Josh Buice is the founder and president of G3 Ministries and serves as the pastor of Pray's Mill Baptist Church on the westside of Atlanta. He is married to Kari and they have four children, Karis, John Mark, Kalli, and Judson. Additionally, he serves as Assistant Professor of Preaching at Grace Bible Theological Seminary. He enjoys theology, preaching, church history, and has a firm commitment to the local church. He also enjoys many sports and the outdoors, including long distance running and high country hunting. He has been writing on Delivered by Grace since he was in seminary and it has expanded with a large readership through the years.