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Following Hard After God-Dennis Lee
Following Hard After God
There’s a doctrine, teaching if you would, that says before someone can seek God, God must first have sought him or her. It states that people are inherently sinful and therefore cannot rightly think about God; therefore God must illuminate their mind and their heart to His presence.
Basically what this is saying is that we pursue God because God first pursues us and has puts within us the urge, a longing to pursue Him. This is seen in what Jesus said.
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:44 NKJV)
It’s by this very drawing that God takes away any credit for our salvation.
The Apostle Paul said it this way,
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV)
This overall impulse to follow after God, therefore, originates with God, but here’s the kicker and what’s at the heart of today’s message, and that is, it’s our responsibility to follow.
We see this throughout the Bible as we’re told time and again to seek the Lord. This is seen in what the prophet Isaiah said,
“Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.” (Isaiah 55:6 NKJV)
But there’s no place where this whole doctrine or teaching is more eloquently stated than when King David proclaimed,
“My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me.” (Psalm 63:8 NKJV)
As we purpose to follow hard after God, He upholds and strengthens us. This is seen in a beautiful analogy given to us by the Psalmist of a deer in search for water.
“As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” (Psalm 42:1-2 NKJV)
Only a longing heart for God’s mercy and grace can know such a desire. The problem, however, is that such a longing isn’t seen that often in the church. Jesus is received as Savior and Lord, but there really isn’t any special love or desire to follow Him.
Yes, we’re saved as the Scripture clearly teaches, “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Acts 2:21 NIV) But there’s no real hunger or thirst for God, His kingdom, or His righteousness. We’re not like that deer desperate for water; and we’re satisfied and content with so very little, spiritually speaking.
Part of the reason may be because people have forgotten that God is a Person, and they forget that a personal relationship needs to be cultivated with God.
Like any relationship, full knowledge and a close intimate relationship can never be achieved through brief encounters. Such a relationship can only be achieved when long and loving interaction takes place.
Therefore, having such a relationship with God takes more than brief encounters on Sunday mornings. (Also, please understand that religion can never substitute for this relationship.) Such a relationship can only be achieved through the longing response of created being, that is, you and me, for our Creator. Jesus said no less in His prayer to the Father.
“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3 NKJV)
God greatly desires this loving relationship, but it can never be achieved through form religion that relies on mechanical responses. Instead it can only be achieved through a personal intimate relationship with God that is communicated to us through God’s Word, the Bible, and through times of intimate communication, or prayer.
This is how the Lord made us in the beginning. We were made in the image and likeness of God, Genesis 1:26, and because of this we have within us the capacity to know Him. But because of our sins, which we have inherited, we lack the power or the ability to do so.
But the moment the Holy Spirit quickens us and we become born again, we sense this new relationship with God and our souls leap for joy. Not only are we sons and daughters of the Most High God, but that we can now have an intimate relationship with Him, where we now call Him Abba, or Daddy, Galatians 4:6.
But this is only the beginning. Because we now have this wonderful new relationship with God we can move forward into this glorious pursuit of His presence and further this new relationship we’ve entered into.
We need to pursue hard after God. Over 900 years ago, St. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote,
We taste Thee, O thou Living Bread,
And long to feast upon Thee still:
We Drink of Thee, the Fountainhead
And thirst our souls from Thee to fill.
We see this love and longing in the lives of those godly men and women of the bible and of the past like St. Bernard of Clairvaux. These men and women mourned for Him, prayed, wrestled, and sought Him day and night, in season and out with all their hearts, and once finding Him, they sought Him even more.
Consider Moses whose knowledge of God spurred Him forward to knowing God to even a great degree. He cried out,
“If it is true that you look favorably on me, let me know your ways so I may understand you more fully and continue to enjoy your favor.” (Exodus 33:13 NLT)
God was so pleased by this request that the next day He called Moses to up the mountain where the very presence of God passed before him.
And then there was the Apostle Paul who wanted an even deeper relationship with Jesus.
I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord … that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” (Philippians 3:8, 10 NKJV)
As I read these stories in the Bible, and the biographies of these great men and women of faith, I think of how tragic it is when we no longer seek after God or pursue this wonderful relationship any further. We no longer search the Scriptures and pray for heavenly wisdom concerning our relationship with Him.
Instead we seek after worldly wisdom, both from inside and outside the church. Christians are taught platitudes and strategies concerning what it’ll take to survive in our world, but not much is said about topics like holiness, righteousness, faithfulness, and repentance.
So don’t be content with having just raised your hand on a Sunday morning. Don’t be content with a surface knowledge and relationship with God; the very One you’ll be spending an eternity with. Instead shut yourself away and pray, and couple it with fasting, weeping, and mourning so that you can get closer to Jesus Christ who loves you.
Like Moses pray, “Lord, show me Your glory … and If your Presence doesn’t go with us, then don’t send us.” (Exodus 33:18, 15)
Concerning our approach to God the Bible says,
“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him.” (Psalm 34:8 NKJV)
David is saying that we should be consumed with God and all of His goodness.
It’s should be kind of like our consumption of Lays potato chips. What’s the slogan? “You can’t eat just one.” In other words, once you taste them you’re going to want more. Think about it, how many of you take a taste of your favorite ice crème and then put it back in the freezer?
So as we taste the goodness and grace of God, our desire should then be to dig in and consume even more of His goodness and grace.
Jesus said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.” (John 7:37 NKJV) And “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” (Matthew 5:6 NKJV)
This search for God should take precedence over everything else, and the desire should consume us the same as the desire to eat food or drink water.
And so my purpose today is to encourage everyone to this great longing after God, because it’s the lack of following hard after God that has brought the church to its present state of being more about form than it is about having this overall desire to follow hard after God.
What is it going to take? It’s going to take an acute awareness of our sinful condition coupled with a desire to experience the fullness of what our relationship with Christ can be. This must be our goal and great desire, otherwise there’ll never be that revival we long for, and there’ll be no manifestation of God’s presence in our midst.
Let me say it like this, Jesus waits to be wanted by the church, that’s why He says to the church of Laodicea, the lukewarm church, the last days church,
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20 NKJV)
We’re living in an age of religious complacency, where a real and vital relationship with Christ is rarely found. In its place we have instituted programs and methodology, but none of these can replace nor satisfy the longing that exists within the heart of every believer.
Therefore we must be determined to find God, to seek after His presence with the whole of our hearts and with the whole of our being.
There’s really not anything more important than seeking God’s presence. Unfortunately we have a nasty habit of seeking God “AND.” This word “and” is our greatest hindrance in seeking God.
What do I mean? It’s when we seek God “and,” and wealth, power, things, or personal glory. Jesus tells us that we cannot serve God “and” mammon, because we cannot serve two masters, Matthew 6:24. Further, the Bible tells us that God is a jealous God, Exodus34:14, and He’ll have no other gods before Him in our hearts and in our lives.
One of the reasons we add the “and” is because we fear that taking it out we’ll narrow or restrict our lives. But that’s a false assumption, because God gives us not only everything we need when we seek after Him and His righteousness, Matthew 6:33, but He’ll also give to us more than we can even ask or think, Ephesians 3:20.
So we need to seek Him with the whole of our being, and we need to make the Lord the whole of our existence, and sacrifice all the other stuff, that is, the “ands,” so that we can concentrate upon the Lord.
What may help in this seeking process and following hard after God is to consider ourselves like the Levites, the priests of the Old Testament. This really shouldn’t be hard because we’re told in God’s word that as believers in Jesus Christ we’re a holy and a royal priesthood, and that together we are being built up by God into a spiritual house offering spiritual sacrifices to Him, 1 Peter 2:5, 9.
Here’s the point. When God divided up the Promised Land, He never set aside a specific parcel of land for Levites. Instead their portion of the promise was the Lord God Himself. The Lord said,
“You shall have no inheritance in their land, nor shall you have any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance among the children of Israel.” (Numbers 18:20 NKJV)
It’s with these words that the tribe of Levi was made richer than all their fellow Israelites put together.
Further, let’s not miss out on the spiritual principle here, that the man or woman who has God for his or her treasure has everything they’ll ever need. Jesus said,
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven … For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21 NKJV)
God does not deny earthly pleasures, but a believer who knows God in such an intimate way will never look for their happiness in what the world has to offer them, nor will they feel a sense of loss when it’s gone, and that’s because having a close relationship with the with the Lord will give them satisfaction, joy, and a peace that’ll never depart.
And so we are to search for the Lord God with all our heart, that is, we’re to pursue and follow hard after God. Don’t get ripped off by Satan thinking that since you raised your hand in church, accepting Jesus as your Savior and Lord that that’s all there is to it. That’s only the beginning.
Seek hard after God. The Lord said,
“And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you.” (Jeremiah 29:13-14a NKJV)
Therefore, as the prophet Isaiah said, “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.” (Isaiah 55:6 NKJV)
Where are you?
If you are let me ask you this,
Hopefully your answer is yes, because it is only then that you’ll find true satisfaction, and joy, and that peace that passes all understanding
Wednesday Evening Bible Study