On several occasions at Camp Zion, Bro. Paul Ragland asked this question before he would preach. Every time he would ask it, I would be bothered spiritually because I had never experienced lostness.
The word "lost" means to be separated from God and under His condemnation. This is the condition of every non-believer who has reached the "knowledge of accountability," that point in life where a person is responsible for his own sin. Many refer to this as the "age of accountability" and try to say that when a person reaches a certain age they are accountable.
A person is not accountable based on age but on a time in their life when they have knowledge between good and evil. The only scripture that makes this clear is Deut. 1:39, "Moreover your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, and your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it." This verse refers to those Israelites who were under 20 years of age at Kadesh-Barnea who were not sentenced to death when they refused to enter Canaan. (Num. 14:26-35)
Notice, "they had no knowledge between good and evil" not right and wrong as many say. There is a difference between good and evil and right and wrong. Children can and should know the difference between right and wrong as young as one year old, yet, they have not knowledge of good and evil at that age because they can only think "concrete" not "abstract" until they are about six or seven years of age. "Concrete" means "tangible" or capable of being touched. God is "abstract", a Spirit, not capable of being physically touched. Faith is also abstract. Therefore until a child is capable to think in abstract terms they are not able to be saved and have not reached the "knowledge of accountability." In this condition they are "safe" and will go to heaven if they die as II Sam. 12:23 indicates.
The word "knowledge" means to have some understanding about good and evil. "Good" refers to God and "evil" to the devil. Therefore, for one to be saved he must have some understanding about God, not just mimic or repeat what he has heard as a child. Those who make a profession at a young age usually repeat what they have heard and they have no real knowledge or understanding of good and evil. (By the way, the tree Adam was forbidden to eat of was the tree of the "knowledge of good and evil" not a tree of "the knowledge of right and wrong.")
At the point one reaches the knowledge of accountability he is "lost" and may not even recognize that fact. It is not enough to be lost or even recognize that you are lost because to be saved you must experience "lostness." Many have come to the conclusion that they are lost because they have reasoned out and concluded from scripture that they are not saved. This is only mental ascent to one's condition which is not enough to produce real salvation.
Godly sorrow or Holy Ghost conviction must have a complete work before one will repent and receive Jesus Christ as their Lord. (II Cor. 7:10). Repentance is necessary to be saved. Romans 10:13, states, "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" and I Cor. 12:3 states, "No man can call Jesus, Lord but by the Holy Ghost." This takes a completed work of Godly Sorrow in three areas: sin, righteousness, and judgment as John 16:8-11 bears out.
When Godly sorrow has its complete work there will be more than the revelation of the fact that you are not saved thus concluding you are lost. There will be the reality of being lost as you realize you are separated from God in your sin of unbelief, and are in need of the Lord to control your life.
Many who say they are saved have never experienced "lostness"; therefore, they cannot tell you a time and place where they were saved because they really are not saved. Some were bothered and made a profession to get the pressure off them but they have never experienced lostness; therefore, they are not saved. Others prayed a prayer or did what some well meaning preacher or personal worker told them to do, but they have never experienced lostness. Therefore, they are not saved. Oh how sad it will be for those who one day will be cast in the lake of fire, because they mimicked and repeated words they were told to say before they ever reached the knowledge of accountability and hung on to that profession when they were void of knowledge of good and evil and did not experience lostness.
When did you experience lostness? I did not ask when you got saved! If you have ever experienced lostness you will never forget it and that Godly sorrow that produced the experience of lostness in you will have its finished work. But if you have never experienced lostness then you are not saved. II Cor. 13:5 states, "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?"
THE PERSUADER - June-July, 1995