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October 19, 2010
Last week I wrote about Sex & Assurance of Salvation, using that post to bring together two ideas that had been floating around my brain. Today I want to do that one more time—I want to use a post to smash two ideas together.
Many Christians talk about seekers, those who are in the midst of pursuing God. Of course this is a little bit of a misnomer since the Bible makes it clear that no one truly seeks after God. As Romans 3 says, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Case closed. Sinful man does not pursue God.
What this means is that no one initiates a pursuit of God—the kind of pursuit that would lead to salvation. Instead, it is God who is the initiator and the pursuer. It is God who seeks us. R.C. Sproul says “from our vantage point it seems to us that unregenerate people are in fact seeking after God. But God is not hiding. He is in plain view. His creation clearly and manifestly displays his glory. Fallen humans are not by nature seekers after God. We are fugitives from God, fully intent upon escaping from him.” We do not pursue; we flee. And there is a sense in which we do not need to pursue, since evidence of God surrounds us all the time.
Yet this can be hard to believe because it often looks as if unbelievers truly are seeking God. It seems, for all the world, as if they are truly seeking and yet not finding—as if they are seeking and God is keeping himself hidden from them. Aquinas offered an answer to this dilemma, and again, I turn here to R.C. Sproul. “He explained that the unbeliever desperately seeks happiness, peace of mind, meaning and significance in life, relief from guilt, and a host of other things we link inseparably with God. We make the gratuitous assumption that because people are seeking things that only God can give them that they are therefore seeking God.” So what, then, is the real situation? “People seek the benefits of God, while all the while fleeing from God himself.”
So what appears to be a pursuit of God may well be the exact opposite; something that seems noble may well be utterly evil. While it may seem that a person is pursuing God, he is actually simply seeking what only God can provide, all the while hating God himself.
We flee, that is, until we are called by God and saved by him. It is now, after we are saved, that we become seekers. Again, R.C. Sproul says, “To seek God is the business of the Christian. The quest begins at conversion; it doesn’t end there. Once we have ‘found’ him, the real search begins. We say ‘I found it’ because he found us and now invites us to seek him until we pass through the veil into heaven.” Do we pursue God? Absolutely we do. But only after God has first pursued us.
Isn’t that awesome? Are you a Christian? Then know that God, the God of all the universe, has pursued you, found you, called you, saved you.
As I thought about this, about the pursuit, I thought of how there is a sense in which it reminds me of the way a man pursues his bride. A man pursues a woman, seeking to woo her to himself, to be his wife. But the real pursuit does not end with a wedding. Rather, the pursuit begins with marriage. It is within the context of marriage that a man has the ability, the freedom, the opportunity and the responsibility to truly pursue her. And within marriage comes the increased desire to do so, at least in a God-centered marriage. It is within the structure of a God-given relationship that the pursuit can truly take form.
But of course too many men see marriage as the finish line, as crossing the tape, rather than simply starting out of the blocks. And too many see conversion as a kind of finish line, as a time when the pursuit ends. But, as we’ve seen, this is where it actually all begins.
Here is how Sproul says it. “In our lifelong quest for the living God, we are pilgrims in a strange land. … We are seekers—seekers of God. We may adorn our bumpers with a bold sticker proclaiming that we have Found It, but what we have found is not our final destination. By finding Christ we have found the route to our final destination, but there is much traveling yet ahead. We are both finders and seekers, having found our Lord only to begin our search in earnest.”
In finding God we have now begun the search in earnest. And in finding a wife and marrying her, the pursuit has now begun in earnest—the pursuit of her heart, of a deep and intimate knowledge of her, the pursuit of joy with her and in her, the pursuit of one who loves so much, so deeply, that he can barely stand not to know.
In either case, the finish line is really just the starting line.