What does it mean to be spiritually lost?

A person who is spiritually lost has not yet accepted the free gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus. To be spiritually lost means not being a part of the family of God. A spiritually lost person has no personal relationship with God, no forgiveness of sins, and no grounding in spiritual truth. Some spiritually lost people seek out a sense of spiritual safety through things like religious rituals or self-fulfillment. These might feel comfortable, but apart from a genuine relationship with God through Jesus Christ, that person is still lost. False religion will ultimately prove just as useless as seeking out spiritual fulfillment in oneself. Both are empty wells that can never truly satisfy the spiritual longings innate in all humans.

The Bible uses the metaphor of sheep and a shepherd. Jesus is the shepherd, and humans are the sheep. A good shepherd will go after a sheep that is lost in order to find it and bring it back into the safety of the flock. On our own, we are lost sheep and unable to find God (Isaiah 53:6). Jesus told the parable of the lost lamb to illustrate the Good Shepherd being willing to seek and save the one lost sheep: "So he told them this parable: 'What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, "Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost." Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance'" (Luke 15:3–7). While 99 of the 100 sheep were safe, the Good Shepherd found it essential to go after the one sheep that was lost. This parable illustrates God's passion to bring each spiritually lost individual safely into His flock.

Before we are saved by putting our faith in Jesus as Lord, we are lost sheep. When we surrender to Jesus, He brings us into His family. We are no longer spiritually lost. We are where we belong—in His care: "For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls" (1 Peter 2:25). When we put our trust in the Good Shepherd, He leads us in the paths we should go and helps us navigate through life's joys and hardships (Psalm 23; John 10:11–14). While physical sheep are prone to wander and need to be protected from predators like bears and lions, as spiritual sheep our minds and hearts are prone to wander. We need to learn not to be drawn away by the deceitfulness of sin (James 1:12–18) and we need to be protected from our spiritual enemy, Satan (1 Peter 5:6–11).

Those who have put their faith in Jesus are secure in Him forever. We are also given the indwelling Holy Spirit to help guide us, transform us, and protect us (Ephesians 1:13–14; 6:10–18; Romans 8:26–30; Philippians 1:6; 2:12–13). As we surrender our hearts to God's work, we learn to discern truth from error (Romans 12:1–2). We learn not to wander away from Him. We learn the importance of His Word and we study it regularly to know truth (2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16–17). We come to God regularly in prayer, worshipping Him, confessing our sins, and asking Him for the things we need (1 Thessalonians 5:17; Hebrews 4:14–16). We spend time with other believers, helping one another follow our Good Shepherd faithfully (Hebrews 10:23–25).

The good news of the gospel is that Jesus came to be our salvation, and not only that—He proactively seeks us out as lost sheep to be brought into the fold: "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10). On our own we could not come to God or find our way to Him (Ephesians 2:1–10). We were separated from God by our own sin (the ways we go against God) and deserving of death (Romans 3:23; 6:23). But God came to us. Jesus is fully God and fully human. He lived a sinless life, then died on the cross as a sacrifice for sin. He paid the penalty for our sin so we wouldn't have to. Jesus rose to life from the dead, showing He is who He claimed to be and that His sacrifice was enough. Now all who trust in Him receive forgiveness and new life. In the words of the classic hymn, Amazing Grace, "I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see." Jesus saves the spiritually lost, brings us into His family, and shows us the way through this life and into the next one.

Related Truth:

How can a person find God? What does finding God mean?

How can I be saved?

Who can be saved?

Is it true that Jesus is the only way to heaven?

What is salvation?

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Truth about Salvation

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