Monday, May 19, 2014

Seeking after God

Today, we will take a look at seeking after God, and the things of God.  What does it mean by “to seek God”, that we often find in Scripture, in both OT and NT?  Could it be that it was referring to a one-off event or occasion?  Or was it often carrying the connotation of a present perfect continuous tense of “always seeking”?

I once read someone (an overly grace or hyper-grace chap) wrote “this Matt 6:33 verses does NOT apply to us, for we, believers {he meant they, overly grace or hyper-grace believers) are already righteous”.  What does Matt 6:33 say?  This is what it says:

Matt 6:33 (Amplified Bible) - But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides.

So, there are believers out there, from skewed teachings of their leaders, believe that they are no longer to be seeking any more, the kingdom of God and His righteousness, on the ground that they were told that once they have converted (into a believer), they are completely righteous, perfect even, and have since, be with the full mind of Christ; and that they cannot be, of any other way; and cannot be unrighteous at any point in time anymore; for their belief is that all their sins, including FUTURE ones had been forgiven them at their moment of conversion!  So, to them, essentially, seeking is for the non-believers, and once conversion has taken place, no seeking necessarily; rather their motto is “just bask in grace” (although, it is clear that this Matt 6 was addressing believers {and NOT non-believers}) [If you want a proper exposition of this Matt 6:33 text – click here].

Is there or is there NOT, seeking God, for the believer?  If you so decide like what this chap I referred to, decided, that as a non-believer, you sought, and when you have become a believer, you have found, and there is no more seek or seeking necessary, you will likely to see no impetus to carry yourself in the way Christians are commonly expected to. 

Purportedly, you don’t need to go to church (you are forever righteous; nothing you can know that can change that; it is a voila, already), don’t need to take in, any more of the Word (you have the full mind of Christ); no need to refrain from sins (for all sins, inclusive of FUTURE ones had already been forgiven); don’t need to be counselled or taught of the ways of God (you got the full mind of Christ; purportedly, anything God instructs, you would already know and doing!  No “should” or “ought” necessary?!)

The “I am done seeking, for I am already righteous” posture will cause one to ignore many more of the very fundamental and base requirements of God, for one to walk with God.  Or maybe such people believe they are walking with God! 

Are you in a close walk with God?  The “walk with God”, in Scripture referred to the close walk, the pleasing and satisfactory walk with God.  There are a couple of people in Scripture said to have “walked with God”.  They included Enoch, and we will take a look at him:

Gen 5:21-24 (Amplified Bible) - 21 When Enoch was 65 years old, Methuselah was born. 22 Enoch walked [in habitual fellowship] with God after the birth of Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 23 So all the days of Enoch were 365 years. 24 And Enoch walked [in habitual fellowship] with God; and he was not, for God took him [home with Him]. Heb 11:5-6 (Amplified Bible) - 5 Because of faith Enoch was caught up and transferred to heaven, so that he did not have a glimpse of death; and he was not found, because God had translated him. For even before he was taken to heaven, he received testimony [still on record] that he had pleased and been satisfactory to God. 6 But {For} without faith it is impossible to please and be satisfactory to Him. For whoever would come near to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists {God is} and that He is the rewarder of those who earnestly and diligently seek Him [out].

The “walk” of Enoch is understood as a habitual walk or a walk in habitual fellowship with God or walk in “a manner of life” given over to God.

Enoch lived 365 years.  He did NOT walk with God from day 1; he started walking with God from the age of 65, after the birth of his son, Methuselah. 

Gen 5:22 said that he walked with God for 300 years, before he was taken up (bypassing mortal death) to Heaven by God.  From Heb 11:5-6, we are further told that his walk had been pleasing and satisfactory to God for the reason that he had walked with faith, with God.

The author of Hebrews gave a dual fundamental truth in Heb 11:6, and they are:

1.   Without faith it is impossible to please and be satisfactory to God; and
2.   To come close to God one must “believe God exists and that He rewards” those who earnestly and diligently seek Him.

I will NOT elaborate further here on the faith-truth, that without faith it is impossible to please God.  We will take a more in-depth look at this faith aspect, another time.

Here I will concentrate on the second of the dual-truth. What does it mean “believe God exists and that He rewards” those who ….?  Now, does it mean so narrowly like, “You have to believe God exists, the opposite being you don’t believe He exists”?  I don’t think so. 

If you have NOT believed He exists, you would NOT have become a believer in the first place.  Generally speaking, the Book of Hebrews was directed at believers, and so, this phrase could NOT be about whether or NOT one believes God exists.  Also, to read it so narrowly would be incompatible to the previous verse of referring to a habitual walk with God.  A believer obviously believe God exists; that is the bare minimum; he may NOT know enough about God (his character, his ways, his truths, etc), but he believes God exists. 

Rather, it is more of, it is saying that you have to believe God will come near you as you come near Him {and so, the translation of “God is” is preferred by me}; and His coming near you is the reward of your seeking.  If you earnestly and diligently seek Him, He would be come and “meet” you, or He let Himself to be met by you; or He would come and walk with you, or He let Himself to be pursued and followed by you (or be walked with, by you).  James 4:8a - Come near to God and he will come near to you.

If one believes, like the overly grace chap I mentioned above, who thinks that he seeks NOT anymore; and so, he, making the scriptures on seeking irrelevant to him, would miss the habitual fellowship walk with God; he would miss “be pleasing and satisfactory to God”, for he would have thought (true to his belief) there is just no more condition(s) to pleasing God, and when such is his belief, he would have just assumed God is walking WITH him. 

Once, I followed a blog of an overly grace believer (a UK chap) for sometimes; and he talked about his journey from IC (institutional churches – traditional ones), to CC (cyber churches – the overly grace ones), to “Once you laid hold of “you are just to bask in grace” {of the grace revolution (teaching)}, you have the “permissive will” of God to live life as you think fit”!  [I am NOT saying there is no such thing as the “permissive will” of God, but it must necessarily be framed against the character of God and His ways; the unqualified “as you think fit” is very dangerous!]

In other words, he has come to believe, through the overly grace teachings that God is walking with him, and he is free to live as he deems fit.  Purportedly, he believes the gift of salvation has forced the hand of God(!) to walk with him!  The overly grace believers, though they do NOT openly admit it, they are purporting “God, you alone, got my butt into salvation, you MUST keep my butt in!  God, you walk me-lo”.  The correct understanding is that it is God is FAITHFUL, NOT God MUST; people fail to see “being faithful” is NOT the same as MUST (as in no choice); being faithful, does NOT necessarily mean God MUST!

Why “seek” is NOT a one-off, but a “seeking after”. The primary reason is because God is holy, and He is unchanging.  Holiness characterises God.  Meaning?  He sticks to holiness, and thinks and does no evil.  When we are evil or unrighteous, we separate ourselves from Him, and so, the walk would no longer be a close one.  Because we are still having the fallen flesh, and we are still in the world (although we are no longer of the world) their desires (both from the flesh {fallen flesh} and world {allures of the world}) can draw us into sins and unrighteousness; and so, we, as believers, still could draw away from our close walk with God or the Lord.

In the above, I quoted James 4:8a as “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” The rest of the verse (James 4:8), reads “Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  See, there is condition to His drawing near to you; it is NOT God does NOT want to draw near; but if you don’t wash your hands, you don’t purify your hearts, and you are double-minded, you are keeping God at bay. 

The “double-minded” referred to, in James 4, is about the wavering between giving in to the desires of the Spirit (which leads to walking with God), and those of the fallen flesh {Gal 5:17 – desires of the flesh and Spirit are mutually opposing} and the world {James 4:4 – friendship with the world is enmity with God}, both of which, of the fallen flesh and world, are being used by the Devil (and so, following after them could lead you to be deceived by the Evil One).

If you do NOT understand this, soon enough you could fall to sin, and worst still, under the overly grace teaching of purported unchanging righteousness and perfection the moment one is saved, you could think and be deceived into believing that nothing is amiss.

The argument that God is still with us, for God, by His Spirit, indwells us, and so, is walking WITH us (regardless), is NOT correct.  God is omnipresent, and God by His Spirit indwells every believer, but there is a place you will NOT find God is WITH you?  Is there such a place?  “I thought Scripture told us that we cannot hide or run away from God; in the depth of the sea, He is there, into the heaven (sky), He is there; how come, you say there is a place we will NOT find God is WITH us?” 

That place is evil; in evil God is NOT!  I mean God is present, for He, by His Spirit indwells you, but He is NOT present WITH you; He is present but NOT present WITH you.  In evil God is NOT WITH you; He sees you doing evil, but He is NOT WITH you.  The “WITH you” is what we are talking about.  I repeat, James 4:8 tells us that we got to wash our hands, purify our hearts, and NOT be double-minded (James 1:7 – Don’t expect to get anything if you are double-minded; double-minded is also about flip-flopping in the belief of God’s truth). 

Now, you also cannot be proud; James 4:6 – “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”  (But we will NOT dwell into this, here).

The Holy Spirit can be like a guest in your home; He may NOT be with you with some of the things you do in your home.  And if you just “park Him at one corner, and show Him the sign, “Don’t interfere”, He may just sit there and do nothing, and is grieved by you. 

If we honestly want to please God and be satisfactory to Him, we should be giving the Holy Spirit free reign in us; that we should allow Him to prompt us, anything and everything that irks Him, and we have to response positively to His promptings.  If we ignore His prompting, then He may stop prompting.  The Spirit of God does NOT generally go round overwriting your volition.  Seeking after God is allowing the Holy Spirit to tells us what we are to do or NOT to do, and we following such dictates of the Spirit.

In the psalms, we read this: Ps 105:4 - Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.  The Hebrew word for face, here, is the same word also translated as presence.  This means we are to seek God’s presence always, remembering now that it is NOT mere presence, but God’s presence as in He is WITH us.  We look to Him in our endeavour, and rely on His strength; and this means we exercise faith for the endeavor; we do NOT depend fully on our own strength.

People tended to forget that the presence of God can be good or bad; it is good when He is WITH you; bad, and can be very bad indeed, if He is AGAINST you.  When we seek His presence, we have to get to “He is WITH us”. These verses from Hebrews 10 remind:

Hebrews 10:26-31 - 26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. [This definitely is referring to believers]

For another NT text on “seek God” is NOT a one-off thing, we look at Acts 15:17 

Acts 15:17 - that the rest of mankind may seek {seek after [KJV]} the Lord, even all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, …

The context of this verse is that Paul and Barnabas had gone to the Council at Jerusalem and talked to the Council concerning what God had been doing among the Gentiles (including signs and wonders).  The Apostle James was here quoting what was happening was in agreement with what the prophets had said.  We can see that the text said that, that even believing Gentiles might seek after the Lord; and so, the “seeking God” is NOT referring to just non-believers seeking God (or that when any of them do find God, that would spell the end of their seeking God).  We, as Gentile believers, are to seek after the Lord; in fact, be seeking after the Lord, always.

Another NT text pointing to seeking rather than a one-off "searched and found", is this Colossian text, Col 3:1-2.

Col 3:1-2 – 1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

The things above, in the Colossian text refers to the Lord and things of the Kingdom.  The Lord was from above; Jesus said this, in John 8:23, “…, "You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.

The text began with since our entry into salvation, meaning “from then on, we are to ….[do certain things]”; and then, setting our hearts on something, clearly carries the connotation of perseverance of a position/posture taken; and perseverance necessarily involves length of time, like in one’s life or one’s walk, with God.  If you are still NOT convinced of the connotation, see this OT verse from 1 Chronicles 22.

1 Ch 22:19 (KJV) - Now set your heart and your soul to seek the LORD your God;…. (ESV) -  Now set your mind and heart to seek the Lord your God.

The context of this 1 Ch 22 text is that King David was speaking to his son, Solomon; following this command, he, David, asked his son, Solomon to build the Temple.  Solomon was instructed to set his heart and soul to be seeking the LORD always, but we know from Scripture, later in life, King Solomon, neglected this command; he sinned, neglected to purify his heart and was double-minded. 

Solomon was persuaded by his concubines to support the worship of pagan gods, including building high places for the pagan gods.  For this failure of King Solomon, the United Monarchy of Israel got split; the house of David ended up with only Judah in the south, with the Benjamin tribe still loyal to the house; the rest of the 12 Tribes (10 of them) broke away, after King Solomon’s rule.

Here is another warning by King David to his son, Solomon:

1 Ch 28:5-10 (KJV) - 9 And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever.

I hope it is clear enough that it is foolhardy to think that once we have converted (into a believer), we have done seeking God and the things of God. God is holiness and righteousness; and He is unchanging; us?! We have to continue to pursue His Kingdom and His righteousness in order to walk with Him - one who is holy and righteous; and it is also, we need to walk with Him in order that we can be victorious in our pursuit of His Kingdom and His righteousness.

In John 15, Jesus spoke about the mutual abiding of the vine and branches.  Jesus is the vine, we believers are the branches. Is it you are converted, you are done seeking?  No, let me explain below:

Jesus said in John 15:3, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.  Now, for the transitional phase of Jesus was still walking the earth, the disciples were converted by the word/teaching of Jesus (they had received in).  Jesus said they were made clean by His word (forgiven, atoned for).  However, immediately after that, in v4, Jesus added, “Abide in me, as I also abide in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must abide in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in me.  It is indeed, Jesus has come, and we have been cleansed (forgiven and atoned of our sins, when we entered into salvation), yet Jesus added that we are to abide in Him; NOT just He will abide in us; but we are to abide in Him [first], and He will [continue to] abide in us. 

What is all the abiding for?  It is so that the branch can go on to be fruitful.  People have to understand, what fruit is borne is NOT determined by the branch but the vine; in other words, it is NOT the vine follows after the branch.  The fruit is the fruit of the vine.  What it means is that we seek after God and NOT the other way round; He is the unchanging one; we are to ones who need to be changing/be transformed continually by seeking after Him and the things of His kingdom. 

In v8 of that John 15, Jesus said, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.  What does this suggest? It is suggesting, from the fruit of your life (your living), people can see you are indeed the branch of the vine.  You and I got to be bearing the same fruit as the vine, and it is the fruit of the vine, NOT our own fruit. This cannot result unless you and I are abiding branches to the vine, or we are seeking after God and the things of God, on-going. If you are trying to bear your own fruit instead of His fruit, He is NOT WITH you, on the other hand when you are bearing His fruit, He is WITH you. 

What is our own fruit and that of the vine?  The former is fruit of our flesh {fallen flesh}, the latter, of the spirit, the Spirit of God.  Getting yourself to be led by the Spirit of God is to be seeking after God.  Scripture (Rom 8:14) has it as “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the [true] sons of God.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions

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