That was good singing, let's turn to Luke's Gospel chapter 2 to our portion that we're considering this evening under this title 'Losing Christ'. It may seem an obscure title to many of you but, Lord willing, as we go through these verses tonight you'll get the gist of the message that I believe the Lord has laid on my heart to you all this evening.
If you've any children and you're in the gathering this evening, one thing will be sure: your children will be precious to you. Of course, all the children of the world, red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in God's sight, and all should be precious in all our sights. None of us should ever seek to harm them or condone any harm towards them. But the fact of the matter is: there are no children like your own children - isn't that a fact?
Well, I want you to consider tonight what it must have been to have been the parent, or the guardian, of the Lord Jesus Christ. What must it have been to have had a child like the Christ child? All of us who are parents recognise in our children unique and lovable traits, but what must Joseph and Mary have recognised when they looked at their little boy? What would they have observed in Him? Well, Luke gives us a bit of a glimpse into their home life in verse 40, where we read: "The child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him". Then in verse 52: "And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man". Most parents will have, somewhere along the way, discipline problems. They'll struggle with how to deal with certain idiosyncrasies in their particular child, whatever they may be, but those are problems - whilst so familiar to parents, all of us who are parents, all of us who can remember being children, how we at times riled our parents - this is something that was foreign and unknown to Joseph and Mary.
Could you ponder just for a moment what the memories must have been like, for Joseph and Mary, of the Christ child? Sacred memories of His birth, for you remember that His birth was miraculous. The Lord Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Ghost in the virgin womb of Mary before she was even married to Joseph. You remember, after His birth, the mighty deliverance that came from the wicked hand of Herod, who wanted to wipe out all the children under two years of age in order to put to death the Christ child - but how God delivered Christ from Herod's infanticide. Can you imagine, as they looked as parents at the Christ child, what hopes must have been in their breast? You look at your own children, or your parents look at you, and the hopes that they have for your achievement, and they fear for you, and they perhaps will even fight for you in order to get your goals and your dreams and desires realised. But how different it was for Joseph and Mary, because as they looked at the Lord Jesus Christ as a lad, they could remember angelic salutations.
In fact, in chapter 1, if you look at it, Luke chapter 1 verse 32, we read: 'He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end'. In verse 35 again: 'And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God'. As we go through Luke's narrative we find a woman, Anna, and as Christ is brought by his parents into the temple this old prophetess, as she sees the Lord Christ and Messiah, the Saviour of the world, rejoices in her heart and sings praise unto God, and tells all the people who she comes in contact with that Christ has been born.
Then how can we forget Simeon's reaction, in chapter 2 of Luke and verse 34 we read: 'And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall 0pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed'. What a beginning this child had on the earth. What memories His earthly guardians had of His inception into humanity, salutation by angelic hosts, by angelic declarations from God, rejoiced by prophetesses and great men like Simeon. They looked at this Christ child, and just as we look at our children and see all our hopes and fears wrapped into one, she could see all the prophecies of the men of God and the patriarchs of the past in that one child - as far as they were concerned, their child.
It's indescribable, isn't it, the hopes and dreams that Joseph and Mary saw wrapped up in that little boy? What's even more indescribable must be how they cherished Him, how they must have treasured Him. Yet what I want you to consider tonight is that, though they would have cherished and treasured Him, I would say more than any of us could cherish our children, or than our parents cherished us, the tragedy of the story tonight that we have before us is: one day they lost Him! Now I have to be honest with you tonight, that as I have read this record many many times, it amazes me to absolution: how they could have lost such a child as the Lord Jesus Christ. Now I have to be cautious here, because many preachers and expositors are always guilty of criticising saints in the past, unfairly so - but I have to be honest with you: how could they have let such a lad out of their sight as the Christ child? Especially when you consider what a busy place Jerusalem was, and what a busy place Jerusalem was during the Passover feast. All the pilgrims from all around were coming together, and furthermore what never ceases to amaze me is that it took them a day to realise that their son had disappeared!
Now we almost feel like charging them with gross irresponsibility, or dereliction of their parental duties. But while I censure, for a moment, Mary and Joseph in their neglect, it would seem, of their child - right away I feel condemned in my own heart. Why should I feel condemned? Simply because, with a million other people upon this globe, I have been guilty of the self same thing. There are times in my life that I have lost the company of the Lord Jesus Christ as well. I'll be speaking a little bit to some Christians in our meeting this evening, and I ask you the question: have you ever had the experience of losing Christ in your life? The hymn writer put it like this:
'Where is the blessedness I knew
When first I saw the Lord?
Where is the soul-refreshing view
Of Jesus and his word?
What peaceful hours I once enjoyed,
How sweet their memory still;
But they have left an aching void
This world can never fill'.
The first thing that I want to bring your attention to from these texts is how easy it is to lose Jesus. I want to speak to Christians for just a moment, because many Christians, for most of their lives, have had a testimony with the Lord Jesus. They have walked their life and have guarded the presence of Christ in their life. They have guarded the presence of Christ from the Herods of this world, those things that have tried to take Christ away from you, temptation and sin that have tried to entice you, and have tried to get you to sell Him for 30 pieces of silver. Yet through all your life you have cherished Christ, and maybe up to recently you have cherished Him and guarded your testimony before Him. Yet, like Mary and Joseph, maybe oblivious to it, a day or two passes and you find that you yourself are estranged from Christ. You have lost Him.
Now please don't misunderstand what I'm saying: I believe in the doctrine of eternal security. I believe that once you are truly saved, and genuinely saved of course, you're always saved for time and eternity - you cannot fall from grace, if it is true grace, at all. But one thing you can do as a child of God is fall out of fellowship with the Saviour, you can lose the sense of His presence, you can lose His company in your home, in your family, in your church, in your individual personal life. Maybe you're sitting here in the meeting tonight, and you call yourself a Christian, and you've made sure, perhaps, almost all of your life that you've guarded His presence and you've tried to keep as close to the Saviour as possible, but you're here tonight and you don't know really how it happened or when it happened, but you know full well that the Lord is not in your life the way He used to be and the way He ought to be.
You may not know the reason, maybe you do know the reason: the particular sin that has sent Him away from you. But I say, and I believe every child of God must confess, that there are often days in our lives when quite happily we are without the presence of the Saviour. We let days pass into oblivion, and oh that tonight everyone in this building, saint and sinner alike, would consider that enough time has passed and enough distance has traversed without Christ in your life, without communion with Him. Oh that tonight you would exhort the example of Joseph and Mary, and swiftly you would seek Him.
Of course, what is true of the Christian in another sense is true of the unbeliever. This Christ child was not just given to Mary and Joseph, this child was not just given to the nation of Israel, it was not just given to the church of Jesus Christ, but this Christ child was given to the world - 'for God so loved the world that He gave His only Son'. Titus 2 verse 11 tells us: 'For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men'. The Lord Jesus Christ, in a sense, has been given to you to be your Saviour, for He has been given to all men upon the face of this globe - whatever creed or culture or religion they belong to. Yet the tragedy of the story of the Christ child in John 1 and verse 11 is that: 'He came unto his own', in Israel, 'and his own received him not'. Effectively there has been a mass rejection by all of humanity of this Christ child.
In Mark's gospel chapter 5 and verse 17 there is a story of the demoniac of Gadara, and the Lord Jesus came and miraculously delivered him of the legions of demons - so much so that everybody could look in the town around, and see the man sitting, clothed and in his right mind. Some were astonished, several believed, but we read this tragic statement in verse 17 of Mark 5: 'Then some of them began to pray him to depart out of their coasts'. They didn't understand the power that this man displayed, and for fear of Him and fear of what He would do if He encroached upon their lives, they sent Him away. They began to plead with Him to depart out of their coasts.
When Peter and John were praying in Acts chapter 4, we read these words: 'For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together'. Rome and Israel, for the first time in their history, were together against the Christ child. The Bible teaches that one day all the nations of the world will gather together against Israel and against her Christ. Though the Saviour has been given to the whole wide world, Christ has been lost to it, for this world has rejected Christ. My friend tonight, if you are person who has never in your life repented of your sin, and by personal faith embraced the Saviour's grace in the gift of the gospel - in other words, if you've never been converted, if you've never been born again - you are among the Christ-rejecting world. How easy it is to lose Jesus.
The second thing I want you to notice is: often the most unexpected people lose Jesus. It wasn't a character like Simeon who lost the Christ, Simeon only nursed the child in his arms once, he had that child close to his breast. But think about this for a moment: it was the very bosom that nurtured and nourished Him in His infancy that lost Him. It was perhaps, arguably the one on earth who loved Him the most, and in an earthly sense the one that the Saviour loved more than she loved Him - and yet they lost Him! With all their appreciation, with all their affection toward Him, they lost Him! I ask you tonight: how many great saints of God, preachers and theologians, and even missionaries and pastors and ministers, have fallen into a pit where they can no longer see Christ's gentle face. They can no longer here His whispering voice, still and small; they can no longer feel the touch of His nail-pierced hands - they have lost Him! They haven't lost their salvation, but they have lost the sense of the company and the presence of the Lord Jesus.
Are you in that position tonight? Can I give you two suggestions of why you may be there, what the reason is? First of all it may be the chastening of the Lord. Like any loving parent that does not spare the rod to spoil the child, God's word teaches us that whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. Whatever you're going through tonight, the fact of the matter is: there are times when we see that God's presence has been withdrawn from us, we may even feel that we're God-forsaken. You know as parents, or as a child, that parents don't always smile upon us, yet they still love us, they're still our parents. Christians go through chastening experiences, disciplining from the very hand of God. The fact of the matter is: if you're truly a child of God, no matter how dark your days may be, no matter how overcast the clouds are at this present time, God will bring you through! His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding every hour; the bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower. Take courage, my friend, God's promise still is true. Wherever you are tonight He has said: 'I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. I will be with thee, even unto the end of the age'. Though you be a disciplined child, rejoice tonight that you're still a child of God, and from your breast wells up that adoption cry: 'Abba, Father'.
The other reason why a Christian in this place tonight may have lost the presence of Jesus is because of deliberate conscious sin. This is so elementary, yet so profound. Isaiah 59 verse 2: 'Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you'. You can't sin and have fellowship with God, I don't care who you are. I don't care whether you assess your sin to be a little white one: you can't sin and not lose the presence and company of the Lord Jesus Christ.
But maybe you don't have Christ tonight? Maybe you're not in a cold or apathetic state that I've been talking about? Maybe you have never been converted? Maybe you've never met the Saviour? Well, a general gospel principle is this truth as well, and it's this: often the most acquainted with the Lord Jesus Christ are those that ultimately lose Him. First Peter 4 says: 'If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?'. You remember Adam, the first man, and God made Adam in His own image. God made him the superintendent of the whole of creation, and we read in that paradise, before sin entered, that Adam walked with God and talked with God in the cool of the day. There was a communion that we can only imagine and conjecture about - but God's presence was lost that day in the garden because of sin.
Friend this evening, that is the same reason why Jesus is lost in the lives of men ever since. It doesn't matter who you are, it doesn't matter who your family is, it doesn't matter your church affiliation, it doesn't matter how many sacraments you have taken and entered into. The fact of the matter is: even the most acquainted with the Lord Jesus Christ, even those growing up in Christian homes, and even those who have professed faith in the Lord Jesus, know nothing of His life in their bosom - eternal life, the new life from heaven! How easy it is to lose Jesus, often the most unexpected people lose Him.
Thirdly I want you to notice that this can happen in the most unlikely places. Where did they lose the Lord Jesus? Well, they lost Him first of all at a feast, it was the feast of the Passover. Of course, feasts are often times of happy memories, and I'm sure that you have happy memories of childhood and parenthood and so on, and you cherish them. It's not my wish tonight to be morbid, though I may be accused of being so, but I have to confess to you this evening that I prefer preaching at a funeral rather than a feast. I don't want to offend anybody by saying that, but I mean it. The word of God clarifies what I mean when it says in Ecclesiastes 7: 'It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart'. You see, it's hard to lose Christ at a funeral, but it's easy to lose Christ at a feast.
What am I talking about? Well, when you're kneeling beside a man who is dying, or a woman who is dying, that scenario is more real than attending the FA Cup Final or watching it on television. It's more real than the frivolities of this life. Whilst weddings are lovely occasions, everyone at a wedding is taken up at times with superficial, skin deep beauty and material frill or frivolity. But at a funeral there is a lone figure of a coffin, and there is an open grave, and those items give us a glimpse into the midst of death's cold sobriety, the realities of life and the certainties of eternity. My friend, could it be, and it's only a suggestion, that in the midst of all this feast of the Passover, the frivolity, everything that was going on around them, that they lost Christ?
I believe this is the reason why, in our technology crazed world, God is not in men's thoughts. We've got all the mod cons, all the luxuries and affluence that we would like, technology that blows our mind. I think this is the reason why many young people, because they are so successful, miss Christ. Maybe you're one of those people tonight, and I challenge you: everything is going for you, and that's tremendous, you're living a happy life at present, you've got health, maybe you've got a bit of wealth, maybe your business or your career or your job or your relationship is successful - and all the things in this world, that this world values, are going for you. But the fact of the matter is, as you look out with hope onto your horizon, Christ the Lord is not upon it. He doesn't figure.
Well, I want you to pause for a moment tonight and consider that perhaps this, your most happy moment, could be your most dangerous. I'm sorry, I don't want to shatter your dreams, what I want to do is shatter your illusions and fix your eternity for there is nothing more important than this matter in your life. Now I'm not saying - please don't misunderstand - that we can't enjoy our lives as Christians. If anyone should enjoy their life it should be a child of God, but here is a warning for all of us: let us not lose Christ in our feasts!
Not only did it happen in the most unlikely place, a feast; it happened in the holy city of Jerusalem. I want you to notice please that it mattered not the sacred ground on which they stood, nor the great congregation of pilgrims among whom they travelled. It mattered not the relatives of the Lord Jesus that were round about them, nor the religious label, nor the heritage that they owned, because none of those things prevented them from losing Him. In fact, can I go a step further and say: perhaps those things, in and of themselves, distracted Joseph and Mary; and those sights and sounds of the feast and festival distracted them to such an extent that they forgot about the Saviour! Before they knew it He was gone! That's what people are doing today. They perhaps are in the midst of deep religion, yet they lose Christ. They are among people in our family and their friends who are religious, maybe even Christians, but they have lost Christ themselves. They have Christian associations, they know Christian teachings; maybe they've seen religious hypocrites, and because of that they've been distracted and say: 'I don't want Christ' - and because of religious people they have lost Him.
My friend, this can happen in the most unlikely places. How easy it is to lose Jesus. Often the most unexpected people lose Him. It can happen in the most unlikely places, but I want you to see gloriously tonight: His company can be recovered. His company can be recovered! Look at this couple: they sought Him! How did they seek Him? First of all they sought Him where they lost Him. When they came out of Jerusalem they realised, after a day had passed, that they had lost Him. Not finding Him they went back to Jerusalem, and they went to the place where they lost Him in order to find Him. My friend tonight, you know what it's like when you lose your car keys or your wallet or something like that. You trace back in your mind and try to remember the last time you had it, and the last place that you had it in. The fact of the matter is: usually, if you can remember it, when you visit that place again, you find what you've lost.
Some of you Christians here tonight know where you lost the presence of the Saviour. You know why you lost the presence of the Saviour. Can I exhort you tonight to go and retrace your steps, and go to that place again, and before God repent of that sin and confess it, and find Christ? In fact, I assure you that if you do that you'll find the Saviour! Not only did they seek Him where they lost Him, but they sought Him persistently. They didn't give up after one day looking for the Lord. It says that three days they looked for Him, and then they found Him.
Oh, that people would count their soul precious enough to search, to seek and to find the Saviour in their lives today. We live in an instant society, and if a man thinks that he'll have to inconvenience himself in order to save his soul, he'll lose his soul and he'll lose the Saviour! Maybe you're here tonight and you've put your hand up in a meeting, or you've prayed the sinner's prayer, or you've read something at the back a booklet, and you feel that you're still not saved - in fact, maybe you know you're not saved. Well, if you're not saved, seek the Lord till He saves you! Oh, they persistently sought Him. There's very few people in our world tonight that are persistently, incessantly seeking the Saviour.
Then they sought Him, and I want you to see this, sorrowfully. Mary came to the Christ child, and said in verse 48: 'Behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing'. Are you sorrowing because you've lost Christ, and He's lost to you in your life? Well, you need to be, you ought to be! For without Christ you're without hope, and you're lost in eternity! But if you can find godly sorrow for your sin and for your estrangement from the Saviour, the Bible says that godly sorrow worketh repentance not to be repented of. Will you come with tears in your eyes, with a piercing in your heart for your sin, for your iniquity before God? Will you fall on your knees before the Holy One of heaven, and will you confess that you're a sinner, that you're undone, that you're unclean, that you're worthy of judgment and nothing but hell?
If we were to ask the question: where did they find Him? What would the answer be? Was it the place of entertainment? Many are running there to find satisfaction, sadly even Christians. Did they find the Saviour in an inn? Did they find Him in a tavern? Did they find Him playing games in the streets with the other children? Did they find Him in a place of secular education and academic esteem? No! They found Him in the same place as you and I can find Him today: the place where God met men. They found Him at the temple around those discussing the word of God! Where can we find Christ today? In the same place - not a temple, not a church, but the place where Christ is doing the Father's will. 'Where is that?', you say. Jesus said to His disciples: 'My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish the work that He gave me to do'. One day they led Him up Calvary's mountain, one day the laid Him upon the tree, and they stripped Him, and they spat upon Him. Though men, by wicked hands, took Him, it was God who delivered Him up by His determined counsel to be a sacrifice for men's sins. Though that struggle in the garden brought birth to Calvary love, for love of men He said: 'Not my will, but Thine be done' - and He went to Calvary, and He bled and died to do the will of the Father. Did He finish the work? Three hours after the darkness, when God's wrath was laid upon Him, He cried: 'Tetelestai, It is finished!'. Then they took Him off the cross and they led Him in a tomb. Three days later, so that God would show men that the work was finished, He raised Him from the grave.
That is where Christ is to be found tonight: at the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light; where the burden of my heart rolled away. It was there by faith I received my sight - have you been to the cross? Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power, are you washed in the blood of the Lamb? How will you leave this place tonight? Will you lose Christ again? Will you lose the opportunity to trust Him, to find Him? Will you search for Him where you are? Will you run to Him? Come to Calvary! My friend, better than just saying that He is at Calvary, as if it was something that happened 2,000 years ago, I say tonight in the gospel: He is here! He is here to save you. Will you lose Him again?
Now this message was for everyone tonight, and I trust that all will take it to heart. Has your heart been cold and silent, Christian? Do you know what it is to be estranged from the Saviour? Will you not come to Him again tonight? You know you don't have to be in the pubs and the clubs and in the bookies to be away from the Saviour. Are you not saved tonight, and you have never met the Master? Will you not come this evening and embrace Him? Seek ye the Lord while He may be found; call ye upon Him while He is near.
Just where you are, if you cry out to God for mercy, there is mercy with the Lord.
Father, we thank Thee for the presence of Christ in this place tonight. We thank Thee that He is no longer a child, He is no longer a corpse hanging upon a cross, He is no longer in a tomb - but He is exalted and ascended, and seated at Thy right hand, a Prince and a Saviour. Lord, we pray that folk, saint and sinner alike, will bow the knee in this place now. I afresh acknowledge Thee as Lord, Lord may we all do so tonight - and may some, for the first time, embrace Him as Saviour. We pray that the Saviour, the Father, and the Spirit, the triune God, will receive all the glory tonight - now and evermore. Amen.
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This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the recording, titled "Losing Christ" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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