“Seeking the lost, yes, kindly entreating, Wanderers on the mountain astray;
‘Come unto Me,’ His message repeating, Words of the Master speaking today.”
(Wm. A. Ogden, 1886)
Think about these words for a moment; what message is proclaimed when we sing them? Not until the third stanza of the song does its message become explicitly personal (“Thus I would go on missions of mercy,...”). Even the title of this great hymn, however, expresses thoughts which deserve our very careful and serious consideration.
“Seeking....” When we think about what we sing, we must realize that in this song the “seeker” and the singer are the same person! Here is an admonition (Col. 3:16), both to ourselves and to fellow-saints to actively look for lost people! When Jesus spoke of His purpose in living among us as a man, He summarized that purpose in the simple declaration that “the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). Six times in the New Testament the word “lost” describes those who are separated from God because of sin. “Seeking” is a continuous action; it should be a constant effort on our part, with a distinct goal in mind (identical to our Master’s!). Christians (and only Christians) are commissioned by our Lord to proclaim His message of salvation to a world estranged from Heaven by sin (Mt. 28:19-20; Mk. 16:15-16; Lk. 24:47; Rom. 10:13-15). If we, being Christians, do not learn to inquire about the souls of others; do not commit ourselves to telling others of the saving grace of God; do not train ourselves to “carry and share” that life-giving message to every person we meet (Acts 8:4), then we are not accomplishing one of the very basic goals our Lord intends for us! Christians ought to be “seekers,” by choice, training, and conviction (consider Josh. 24:15; 2 Tim. 2:2; 1 Cor. 9:16; and 2 Cor. 4:13). What we seek is every soul which needs salvation (remember 1 Tim. 2:4 and 2 Pet. 3:9), just as our Master does. Every Christian is authorized to “hold forth the word of life” (Phil. 2:16) amid the darkness of sin (vs. 15).
“...the Lost.” Now let’s think about the other person; those souls which Jesus came to save, and which He urges us to find (for salvation). How does a man know that he is lost? In daily life, he may see the same “landmarks” over and over (spiritually, he makes the same mistakes or receives the same consequences of sin repeatedly), he may realize that he has no clearly defined destination toward which he is moving (spiritually, he is “asleep”), or someone else may point out to him his lost condition (which is the responsibility of Christians). When Paul ascended Mars’ Hill in Acts 17, his audience had no clear conception of their wretched spiritual condition until he described it (vv. 22-32). Likewise, those who heard the apostles speak on Pentecost had not realized their eternal danger until Peter and the others pointed out their complicity in the death of Jesus (Acts 2:36-37). When Barnabas and Saul journeyed into Asia Minor in Acts 13:4-14:27, they went for the specific purpose of informing people of their need for salvation! Many (perhaps most, maybe even all) of those they taught had not been aware of their dangerous condition before encountering these missionaries, but that ignorance in no way reduced their danger! When they learned of their state, each had to make a choice; they
were no longer uninformed! Like watchmen on the wall of an ancient city (note Eze. 3 & 33), these men announced the impending danger of judgement so those who heard them could escape in safety.
Much like the ancient world, our world is steeped in sin, error, and ignorance. God entrusted the gospel of salvation (Eph. 1:13) to the church, instructing us to dispel the devil’s darkness with it. He intends that every Christian “shine” in this present world so that those who are lost can recognize their perilous position and “be found.” He intends that every Christian direct lost souls to His Son. He wants each of us to “seek the lost.”