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Eastside Core Values

Pursue God

Lesson audio

Fundamental Problems

To understand the reason for this lesson, you must know that one of the three core values of our church is the pursuit of God. This, we are told, is what we do during the "weekend experience." This may be only a semantic distinction; it's difficult to know in the emerging church just what is intended here. But there are three potential problems:

·         First, the essence of Christianity is not us pursuing God. It is God pursuing us.

·         Second, there is this matter of the "weekend experience." This is a euphemism for the worship service; and it implies that the only time that you pursue God is during worship. We will endeavor to show that what you do during worship should impact what you do during the week.

·         Perhaps this is a very small point. To pursue someone means that they are running from you. God is not running from us — I hope. In what follows we will use the verb, "seek." The Scripture is full of references to seeking God; I was unable to find any in which we pursue God.

That being said, does the Scripture command us to seek God? Over and again, it does.

Seeking God

"So That Men Might Seek Him"

As Paul makes clear to the Greeks on Mars Hill, God intended for man to seek him.[1] We might make three points about this:

·         The first is the evidence of God in nature. We presume that God could have designed the universe in any way he wanted, including such a way that it would make it difficult for us to conclude that there was a God. But he didn't. The universe is designed to show God's existence.[2]

·         Indeed, Paul argues to the Romans that these things have been seen since the beginning of humankind.[3] Think not?  How many cultures have a religion?  How many don’t?

·         Jeremiah takes this a bit further; he argues that it is obvious that God fills both heaven and earth.[4] The essence of the matter is that it's just too obvious to ignore.

"In Their Misery"

In the great love story of the Old Testament, the book of Hosea, God makes it clear that one of the reasons he brings exile and destruction upon Israel is so that they will turn and seek him.[5] Just how does this work?

·         This is a matter of God's permissive will. God allows you to be miserable with what you have done, so that you will turn and seek him. This sounds like God is authoring evil; is he?

·         Augustine settled the matter some years ago; he told us that God allows no evil out of which he cannot make a greater good. If God can take your suffering and turn it into a deeper and more loving relationship with him, then why shouldn't he do it?

·         As an example of this consider the Old Testament king Manasseh. He was one of the most evil Kings of Israel, and God had him deported for it. In prison, he repented and humbled himself and God returned to the land. Then, as the Scripture records, Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.[6]

My Heart Says Seek Your Face

David, in Psalm 27, reports a common reaction of those who believe in the Lord. He tells us in verse eight that his heart said to seek God's face. We touch upon the spiritual and the emotional in this.

·         Frankly, sometimes you just don't know why you are seeking him. It is as if the Holy Spirit is moving in you, telling you to seek God's face. When that happens, listen.

·         Indeed, we are told to seek his face while he can still be found.[7] Have you ever had someone tell you that time was running out? Perhaps the Lord God knows when your days run out, and is moving you to seek his face before it's too late.

·         As you do this however, be sure you do it with all your heart.[8]

Those Who Did Not Seek Any

It is the glory of the New Testament that the Gentiles, who knew nothing of God and had no way to seek his face, find him in Jesus Christ. This was prophesied long ago;[9] you might think is rather obvious. Consider, however, the story of the Samaritan woman. Do you not recall that she was rejected by Christ? He was sent to the Jews, and the Jews alone. In her humility she reminded him that even the dogs get the crumbs off the table. That was before the resurrection. After the resurrection things are quite different. As Paul tells us, the Gentiles then found a righteousness based on faith.[10]  It is the marvelous love of God that he extended the sacrifice he made for the Jews to the rest of the human race. It doesn't matter who you were born; what matters is how you were reborn.

Seeking God in Faith

The Rewarder of Those Who Seek

God does not just allow us to seek him. Rather, he rewards those who seek him. If you will, he makes it profitable for us to seek his face.[11]  This can cause some confusion. Why is it necessary for us to seek him in faith? Permit me an example or two.

·         Suppose you are seeking a new form of the amoeba. It may be a long search, with many hours on the microscope, but one thing is certain. The amoeba can do nothing about it.

·         Let's go up the chain a bit. Let's suppose you are hunting the rare South African bologna lizard. The lizard is cognizant of you, and can run and hide. But there is no sense in which he can outsmart you. He can only react and run.

·         One more step up. Let's suppose you are hunting the legendary Sasquatch. Here is a beast that not only can run and hide, but probably can fathom how you are approaching him, what techniques of search you are using – and use them against you. He's likely to recognize the camera you set up, and avoid it. It is hide and seek, and he knows the rules of the game.

·         Now step up to God. He not only knows the rules, he writes them. If he decides you don't get to see him, that's the answer. His conditions of search must prevail. And therefore if he says you must seek him in faith, you will find him no other way.

Ask, Seek and Knock[12]

You will remember the line from the seventh chapter of Matthew. It's interesting to go back and look at this passage to see what's around it:

·         Immediately preceding it are Christ's instructions which tell us, "do not judge." Is it possible that Christ is tying judgment to this question of asking and seeking? Perhaps our habit of passing judgment on others comes from our envy of the things the others have! I think it safe to conclude that if you seek God you must put aside judgment, for judgment is his.

·         One more deduction: is it possible that we should be seeking God when we are passing judgment? Perhaps our time is ill spent; our envy might disappear if we spent the time communing with our heavenly father, asking him for all of our wants and needs.

·         What would make me think that? Well, one reason is that immediately following this section Christ talks about what we called the Golden Rule. Think about that one for a while.

Three Seekers

There are three prime examples of the seeker after God in the New Testament. Each of them has some instructive points.

·         The Magi, the astrologers from Persia, seek God in the flesh in the form of the infant Jesus. It is instructive that these people do not know and do not follow the religion of the Jews. Their knowledge is incomplete; yet God prompts them divinely to undertake the journey. Perhaps what we know is not nearly as important as who we seek.

·         Zacchaeus is another seeker. He has a physical problem; he's very short. So he climbs a tree. When Christ sees this, he invites him down and turns him into the host for the evening meal. From this we may infer that no matter what your problems are, if you seek God he will welcome you.

·         Nicodemus is our third example. He came secretly, by night, fearful that all of the things he had learned and practiced all his life were in jeopardy. He knew this could result in a complete change in his existence. He approached it timidly. But he did approach it. So I conclude that it is not our courage, but our willingness to face our fears and go to the Lord anyway, that really counts.

How Do We Seek God?

If you were to examine the website at Eastside Christian Church, you would draw the conclusion that seeking God is something you do only during the worship service on the weekend. We no longer call it a worship service, per se, is now a weekend experience. I leave to the reader the implications of that change. If I might borrow from an older lesson, the things you do in worship symbolized the things you should be doing during the week. Things such as:

·         Praise. If using God's praises during the worship service, shouldn't you be praising him during the week? Or do you complain that he has not provided for you what you want?

·         Scripture reading. This used to be much more prominent, but we still get a passage of Scripture or to projected on the overhead screen during our services. It emphasizes that the Christian must be familiar, indeed study, the Scriptures. That too is something you should do during the week.

·         Fellowship. We will cover this more closely in the lesson on building community, but when we turn around and greet one another it's a form of fellowship. This too is something you should do every week.

·         Giving. We bring tithes and offerings – even if we do it electronically rather than in the basket — every week. But during the week you will find opportunities to help; some of them will require your checkbook. You should be generous in these matters, for God has been generous with you.

·         Communion. In communion we remember the sacrifice of Christ. It is something you contemplate during the week: I am forgiven, but at what cost?

·         Prayer. Prayer is part of our worship; it should be part of our daily life.

I hope this settles the question; seeking God is not for Sunday morning. If it is, we are quite a bunch of hypocrites.

Intellectual Answers

The current tendency at Eastside Christian church is to view intellectual Christianity as a form of hypocrisy. We don't encourage people to study the Bible. In particular, we have a policy that says we will form no new adult Bible fellowships. Studying the Bible is something that is old-fashioned, and must be allowed to decay with age. I submit, however, that this is not the attitude that Christ would've had. It happened only once in Christ's ministry, but he was approached by some Greeks — noted for their philosophical methods of inquiry.[13] they came to him indirectly by one of his disciples, Philip. We don't know what question it were asking, but Christ took that as an opportunity to declare the coming of the kingdom. He did not send them packing.

The traditional thinking about intellectual Christianity is this: it is faith seeking understanding. As one medieval philosopher put it, "I believe, in order that I may understand." Without faith, God will not reveal to you that which you need to know. But if you have faith, the fact that you approach your Christianity with the mind will not deter him from enlightening it. There are those few of us whom God has created in such a way that the intellect is paramount. But even for such misshapen creatures as us, God provides the way for faith to satisfy our deepest needs.

Imitation of Christ

Seeking God is not just a matter of intellectual curiosity, nor of emotional worship. It does no good to seek God if that search does not change you. The rule of practice is, as it always has been, the imitation of Christ. If you seek God, he will reveal himself to you, particularly in the form of Jesus Christ. Christ is God in the flesh – and you should be able to learn by example.

[1] Acts 17: 24-28

[2] see for example, Psalm 19

[3] Romans 1:20

[4] Jeremiah 23:23 – 24

[5] Hosea 5:14 – 15

[6] Second Chronicles 33:12-13

[7] Isaiah 55:6-7

[8] Jeremiah 29:13

[9] Isaiah 65:1 – 2; Romans 10:20

[10] Romans 9:30

[11] Hebrews 11:6

[12] Matthew 7:7-12

[13] John 12:20-28

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