Monday, January 02, 2017

Seeker-Friendly

It isn't hard to find religion in the human race. It seems to be "hard-coded", so to speak. Atheists are few. And it takes very little effort to find stories about people who "went on a search for God" and either found Him or didn't. Funny thing, though. The Bible disagrees. The Bible says, "No one seeks for God." (Rom 3:11)

Now, wait a minute! We can objectively see that lots of people seek for God. How can the Bible make such a claim?

Well, from a biblical perspective, it makes perfect sense. Scripture says that humans "by their unrighteousness suppress the truth." (Rom 1:18) In the text that follows, Paul says that God has made Himself known to us (Rom 1:19-20), but we "exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator." (Rom 1:25) We don't "see fit to acknowledge God." From that perspective, a "search for God" is mindless. Mankind rejects what he has been given. Indeed, the claim is made that "the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot." (Rom 8:7) Elsewhere we read, "The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Cor 2:14) So, suppressing the truth that God has revealed about Himself to us, we worship the creature instead, refuse to acknowledge God, are hostile to Him, and are incapable of either obeying or understanding.

Now, plug back in that "Lots of people seek for God" line and see how that works.

So how do we correlate this apparent contradiction? How do we put together the apparent fact that lots of people appear to seek for God with the biblical statements that we will not, do not, and cannot? How do we put together the seemingly inherent religiosity of human beings with the Bible's claim that "The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one" (Psa 14:2-3)?

In Isaiah God says, "I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for Me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek Me." (Isa 65:1) Jesus told His disciples, "You did not choose Me, but I chose you." (John 15:16) In Antioch in Pisidia Paul told those listening that God had provided "a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'" (Acts 13:47) In the next verse we read "as many as were appointed to eternal life believed." (Acts 13:48) Elsewhere Jesus says, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent me draws him" (John 6:44) and "No one can come to Me unless it is granted him by the Father." (John 6:65) This puts the impetus on God, not on us. The Bible says that those who come to Him are "granted" it (John 6:65; Acts 11:18; Phil 1:29; 2 Peter 1:3-4). We don't seek Him; we "receive" Him (John 1:12; Col 2:6). It is not by our effort or choices, but His (John 1:13; Rom 9:16).

So, that's how we find Him without seeking for Him. But what about all those others that appear to seek for God but don't find Him? What about the Hindus and the Mormons and the "many" who follow the gate that leads to destruction (Matt 7:13-14)? Lots of them appear to seek for God and find something or nothing, but they are seeking. How do we view that in connection to this biblical claim?

Well, first, you need to ask yourself, "Am I going to believe what the Bible says on the subject or what I think I see?" If the latter, it's easy for you. "The Bible is wrong" in some sense. But for the rest, you'll need to figure out in what sense they do not seek for God when they say (or even think) they are. There are curiosity seekers -- those who seek simply because they're curious. There are those who seek to obtain, not to know God. There are those who want what God offers without actually wanting God. They seek relief from guilt or comfort in difficult times or unconditional love. There are those who seek personal gain and those who seek "treasures" such as "spiritual secrets" or something like it. There are certainly those who "seek God" in order to demonstrate He doesn't exist. (Some of them have been surprised by God.) I think there are many reasons that sinful Man can "seek God" without actually seeking God Himself. What they are seeking is a god-substitute, a god of their own making and design. They are not seeking the Sovereign of the Universe to Whom they can bow down, submit, and worship.

We are commanded to seek for God and promised we will find Him. In order to please God, we must "believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him." (Heb 11:6). God says, "You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart." (Jer 29:13) Not until. Thus, what is necessary is a change of heart. That precedes "seek Me and find Me." As for the rest, what they are seeking may seem like God, but it's not. It's the benefits of God, the "good things" of God, the positives they want from God. They want the love and grace and mercy and power and comfort and peace and all the rest without the submission, repentance, change of heart, or death to self. Without an act of God, no one seeks Him. After that act of God, they certainly seek and find Him. And the "seeker-friendly" notion for churches is built on a false precept -- that there are lots of people seeking for God ... and that apparently the Bible is mistaken on that point.

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