Rom. 3:9-12; Acts 10:1-7
Continuing in our study of soteriology, I’m going to do something you might not expect. Yesterday’s devotional was titled “The Problem,” so you’d think the next logical entry would be titled “The Solution,” right? But no. The reason for this is because we covered this recently. We talked about God’s solution—what Christ did on the cross—on Good Friday, and I really don’t have anything to add to that for right now. Instead, I’d like to tackle another aspect of our salvation and try to clear up some misunderstandings.
A few years ago we saw the rise of the Church Growth Movement, an attempt among church planters to turn starting new churches into a science. They study demographics, they try to change their approach in worship, and they tailor their presentation of the Good News to their audience.
A lot of this is not only a good idea; it’s thoroughly Biblical, or it can be. Paul never changed his message, but he certainly changed the way he presented it: “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” Of course it can go too far, and some churches—it could be argued—have done so. But there is one term that’s common in these circles that I want to clarify.
The term is “Seeker Sensitive.” This is an approach in which the church goes out of its way not to offend unnecessarily a person who’s seeking for answers and who might be open to the Good News of Christ. As far as musical style, preaching style, and a host of other nonessential details are concerned, it can be adapted to fit the audience.
But is the concept of a seeker biblical? Well, it can be, but it desperately needs some clarification. Take a look at the Romans passage again. Read it slowly. Anything jump out at you? According to this, there's no one who seeks God. That’s one of the universal terms we noted yesterday.
But what about the passage in Acts? Cornelius was known as a God-fearer. These were Gentiles who turned away from pagan religion and who basically saw the God of Israel as the one true God. But they weren’t ready to become full converts yet, possibly because of the circumcision issue. But Cornelius loved God, financially supported God’s work, and offered sacrifices. He also prayed regularly; in fact, that’s probably what he was doing when the angel visited him. So wasn’t he a “seeker”? Wouldn’t what he was doing constitute “seeking God”? I'd certainly think so.
So how do we resolve this seeming contradiction? Here’s my simple solution, and I think it works: On our own, by our own initiative, we'll never seek God. Our sinful nature hates him. We might enjoy some benefits that come from God, but never God himself. You'll never seek something or someone that you don’t desire. And on our own, we have no desire for the real true God. Please forgive me for repeating myself, but C.S. Lewis put it so well: To talk about "man's search for God" is like talking about a mouse's search for a cat.
But he seeks us. He started in the garden, seeking after his wayward children. He didn’t wait for them to come to him; otherwise he would've waited forever. But he seeks after us, chasing us down with a stubborn love which refuses to be daunted by our behavior. He starts to open our hearts and draw us towards himself.
And what’s the sign that he’s seeking us? That we’re seeking him. If we have a desire for him, or even a questioning attitude, that means he’s on our trail. We start to wonder if there’s something to this God of the Bible after all. Maybe those crazy Christians really are on to something. That’s a seeker.
So what does this mean to us as Christians? Two things. First, it’s a reminder for humility. No matter what you thought were the circumstances which brought you to Christ, he was seeking you first. You didn’t “find Jesus” so much as he found you. This reminds me of a cute story I once heard. A man in a church came upon a little boy and was concerned about the boy's salvation. He asked the youth "Young man, have you found Jesus?" The boy's response: "Sir, I didn't know he was lost." That illustrates this glorious truth--Our Lord came into this world to seek and to save that which was lost. He's not the one who was lost. We were.
It also should provide some balance in our approach towards the lost. Yes, I’m all in favor of being all things to all people so that by all means we might save some. You'll find no one more in favor of tailoring the presentation of the message in order to appeal best to one's audience. But I want to soberly remind all of us that God has to take the initiative in opening the hearts of the people we’re trying to reach. If he doesn’t draw someone’s heart towards himself, then nothing we do will change the outcome. That brings us to the question raised in the title. Strictly speaking, the "seeker" in our salvation is the Savior. He’s the seeker, we’re the sought.
Lord Jesus, thank you for saving me despite my best efforts. You have sought me and bought me, and you own me. Because of this, we’re going to do things your way.