Friday, April 23, 2021

Seeking the Lord (Romans 3:9-20)

"There is no one who understands; no one who seeks God" (Romans 3:11).

A person either is regenerated and belongs to God or he is not. There is no middle ground from an eternal standpoint. From a human standpoint, however, within history we do see some people move into the kingdom of God by stages. The Puritans devoted a great deal of attention to this phenomenon, and it is our purpose today to address it briefly.

The Puritans distinguished between an awakening and a conversion. A person who has been awakened is someone who not only hears the facts of the Christian message but comes to believe that he is indeed a sinner and that he desperately needs some kind of salvation. Sometimes awakened people become Christians, but sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they move into a cult or get into some kind of self-help program, or in some other way undergo a moral renovation that takes care of their felt need. That a person is “under conviction of sin” does not mean that God is at work on that person’s heart.

The Puritans encouraged people who had been awakened to become what they called seekers. Christians, of course, are to seek God at all times, but this is not what the Puritans meant. Rather, a seeker is someone who sees that his only hope is in the Gospel but who does not believe he truly loves God and has been converted. The Puritans encouraged such a person to “put himself in the way of the Gospel” by reading the Bible, obeying God’s law, attending worship, fellowshipping with God’s people, and the like. In time, they believed, such a person would become a true believer, if he wasn’t one already.

We cannot read the heart. A man may say, “When I look inside myself, I don’t see any real love for God.” But that man may be wrong. If he loves the Bible, the Law, the church, God’s people, and does good to them, he in fact loves God. We are not to base our faith on what we see inside ourselves but in the promises of the written Word of God. On the other hand, a person may feel gushes of love for “God” but be a stranger to the God who really exists. Thus, we must always come back to faith in the promises of God and not rely on our own feelings.

Becoming a Christian by the stages of awakening and seeking is not by any means the only way a person can be converted. Some are brought up in the faith. Some are converted instantly. Beware of taking one pattern of conversion and making it the norm for everyone.