Friday, December 11, 2009

The Endless Pursuit

So whose “job” is it to make sure that you have morning devotions and spend time with the Lord? Yours? Surprisingly, the Bible gives us a different answer.

All throughout scripture we find that Christ takes in the initiative in our relationship. This is the very essence of the Gospel. It’s why we celebrate Christmas. Man sinned and Christ, without us even asking Him, came down to earth to pay the penalty for that sin.

But He doesn’t simply leave us there. He doesn’t fold His arms across His chest and say, “All right. I’ve done My part. Now it’s your turn to do yours!”

The Bible tells us that God continues to take the initiative and He continues to pursue and seek after us. There are so many passages in scripture that attest to this, but let me just cite a few:

  1. Psalm 23:6, “Surely goodness and mercy shall pursue and chase after me all the days of my life.”
  2. Ezekiel 34:11, “For thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out.’ ”
  3. Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

But what about our devotional time in the morning? Aren’t we supposed to set our alarm clocks extra early, force ourselves out of bed as we rub our groggy eyes, and go through the painstaking effort of spending time in Bible study and prayer? Well, as with the rest of scripture, God tells us that He is the one that pursues us in this area also. “The Lord God has given Me the tongue of the learned,” Isaiah writes, “That I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to hear as the learned. . . . And I was not rebellious, nor did I turn away” (Isaiah 50:4, 5).

Did you pick up on it? The Lord awakens us every morning! And only an act of rebellion on our part can derail that which Christ sets in motion every day. Each morning, He knocks on the doors of our hearts, seeking to have fellowship with us.

So why not respond to the Lord’s initiative and His pursuit? Why not allow Him “who has begun a good work in you” to “complete it” (Philippians 1:6)?


Sherman Haywood Cox II said...

I like the sentiment in this post, but I have some practical questions that center around what these things mean. For example what does it mean to "respond to the Lord’s initiative and His pursuit?"

Is this a work? Is it passive? How does one actually do this? Or more precisely, how does one recognize that God is doing this? In your example, you talk about how it is not our work to try to force our devotionals. We are not to set the alarm clock and force ourselves to wake up to have them.

However, we are told to "allow" God to do it in us. I like that, but what does it mean? What are the steps to take us there? If there are not steps, then how do you help someone to get into this allowing state? What is the nature of "allowing?" And as I asked before, is this totally passive?

Back to our example, Are we to wait for the desire to study the Word to come to us before we do it?

Staci said...

Amen!! But I do think we need to pray and ask God to help us be aware of that morning call and responsive to it!

Staci said...
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Shawn Brace said...

Sherman, I very much appreciate the probing questions! These questions often come up in my own mind as well whenever I either hear someone mention this concept or I address it myself!

I do think that it is the natural inclination of the human heart to figure out what we have to "do." We want to do something. We want the bottom line. We want to know what the steps are!

But this is the thing: this whole thing, for me, is really a matter of motivation and passion. I don't know if it's simply because I'm kind of a temperamental person, but when I talk about "responding" to the Lord I am talking about approaching devotional time with a heart that looks forward to the time, rather than a heart that is forcing itself to do it. And, like I said, this all has to do with motivation.

And the good motivation can only be placed there by an external source. We cannot produce that motivation in and of ourselves. So, often times, this simply comes by believing God's promises to us. It also comes by us hearing the Good News of God's initiative - and this is partly why I wrote what I did. Hopefully the Good News will motivate the readers to get excited about God's initiative.

And, really, this question kind of goes back to something I have written previously on my blog about the responsibility of the preacher/writer to draw faith from a reader/listener's heart. This is the role of the preacher: he is to uplift the wonderful love of Christ in every sermon so that faith is drawn from the listener. This is why motivation and excitement has to come from an external source. (If you'd like to read that previous post, called "Preaching Mozart," click here.)

So let me give you two, very practical examples of this point: 1) I drove down to Boston and back a few months ago to tape some radio programs with my dad. I had about 4-5 hours of driving, round-trip. On the way down, I just listened to the radio. Really, a waste of time. But it was a reflection of the fact that my own experience with the Lord had been lagging for some time.

On the way back, I simply made the choice - I chose - to put on a podcast of someone who I feel knows the Gospel very well. And you know what? My heart was overwhelmed with the beautiful Gospel that he lifted up! My heart was revived and faith was drawn out of my heart because I simply "heard" the Gospel.

Yes, I did take the conscious "step" to listen to the podcast, but I choose to look at it as me simply choosing to respond to Christ's invitation to place myself in position to hear His Good News.

2) A number of years ago, I was sitting in a meeting at Camp Meeting for Earliteens, and the speaker got up and told the kids that they "had to spend time reading their Bibles and praying, even if they did not like it." And then he compared it to doing homework: "You may not enjoy it, but it's something you have to do!" Talk about getting young people excited about the Bible!

Well, my dad was helping to lead out in the meetings that week, and he got up a short time later, and for the rest of the week, and tried his hardest to reverse the damage that had been done by this presenter. And instead of saying, "You have to spend time in prayer and Bible reading," he simply uplifted the "matchless charms of Christ," which would naturally excite the kids to do that which the previous speaker was trying to guilt them in to doing. Again, this is a difference of motivation.

Do I wake up early in the morning to have devotions because I am trying to find God; trying to initiate relationship with Him even if I don't really want to? Or do I wake up early because I am responding to His initiative and I am excited about my time with Him?

I also wrote about this topic in an article for Ministry magazine a few years ago that I would be happy to e-mail you if you send me your e-mail address. (You can send it to shawnbrace at gmail dot com)

Does any of this help?

Shawn Brace said...

Thanks also, Staci, for your comments!

Sherman Haywood Cox II said...

Pastor Brace,

Wow...thanks for the extensive response. And it does help. I thought about my question again after writing it and I also began reading "Beyond Belief" again and the thought hit me much in line with what you are saying here.

The idea of actions or "what to do" is beside the point. There will be actions and acivity and even things that might normally be considered work. But the issue is one of motivation, as you note. Why am I doing this? Is it to win heaven? Is it to become righteous? Etc. Such things will be the burden that you spoke of. But if it is because of the love of God. Is it to learn more of the one who has done so much for us. Is it sparked by an appreciation of God's gracious gift. If so, then it is in the faith walk...

But looking on from the outside. We see two people getting up at 5am shaking the cobwebs out of their heads and washing the sleep out of their eyes...

By the way...please send me the article at sherman.cox At sabbathpulpit dot com.

God bless

Shawn Brace said...

You are welcome, Sherman!