Wednesday, November 29, 2006

There is more! (So, seek the Lord with all your heart)

“Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience, and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.”

—Collect for the 2nd Sunday of Advent, Book of Common Prayer

We’re still looking at what I believe is God’s desire for His people to seek more of Him, to seek to know Him more intimately and deeply—to experience God, if you will. I believe we dishonor God, and cheat ourselves, when we settle for cold, purely cerebral, passionless, emotionless religion. There is more to Christianity than that.

In my first post on this topic, I looked, briefly, at three passages of Scripture (Luke 11:9-13; Philippians 3:7-14 and Hebrews 11:6) to illustrate that seeking God means seeking the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In my opinion, some of us conservative, Reformed, evangelical-types need to get over our fear of Pentecostal/Charismatic excesses. As I said, it seems some of us are more afraid of the Holy Spirit than we are of sinning against God! The Holy Spirit is God, and we’re not placing ourselves in danger of fanaticism if we speak of seeking the Holy Spirit. In Luke 11:13, Jesus declared, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” So, let’s seek the Triune God in all His fullness.

In my second post, I discussed seeking God in prayer, and encouraged us to pray like we truly believe God is real, is listening, and will answer us when we pray. If we don’t watch, our prayers can degrade into just talking to ourselves, merely saying words. Or, we can set our expectations too low, and settle for formal prayers that ask for nothing, expect nothing, and obtain nothing, as a result. I urged us to drop our pretences of respectability, and “get real” with God.

Lastly, I believe we can seek God and actually experience Him in life-changing ways through His inscripturated Word—the Bible. How do we usually approach Scripture? Do we just read through the assigned portion for the day, as outlined in some reading plan, then go about our business without ever encountering God? Do we take a superstitious, “verse-a-day-to-keep-the-devil-away” approach, never reading in depth, never reading through a book (I’m thinking of people I’ve met who, I gathered from talking to them, read the same favorite Psalm every day. And, that was all!). This will never do.
If we are to experience a deeper relationship with God, we must approach Scripture as we would approach God in prayer: with a conscious awareness of whom we’re approaching. “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16), wrote the apostle Paul. Scripture is, therefore, the Word of God. We should treat Scripture like it is the Word of God.
I want to close with just a few suggestions as we seek to draw closer to God through His Word:

Make time for God’s Word. In my experience, it’s awful difficult to get the most out of my reading of God’s Word when I’m in a hurry, rushing to get out of the house in the morning (for instance). I think we’re more apt to benefit from our reading when we take time. Don’t “rush” God (as if we could rush Him). Slow down and allow Him to speak to you. This may involve some time management, so we can fit adequate time into our busy days.

Pray before reading God’s Word. If God is the ultimate Author of Scripture, doesn’t it make sense to ask His assistance when you approach His Word? Before you read, ask God to speak to you, ask Him to help you understand. The prayer of Psalm 119:18 is very appropriate: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.”

Pray while reading God’s Word. Maybe there is something you just don’t get. Pray for understanding. Perhaps something you read fills your heart with rejoicing. Pray back to God praise from your heart. If what you’re reading brings conviction of sin, pray a prayer of confession and ask God’s help to obey His Word. I think you get the idea. Turn your reading of Scripture into a dialogue or time of a communion with God. Turn your reading into worship.

Pray after reading God’s Word. Thank God for what He has spoken to you, for what you’ve learned. Ask God to help you be a doer of His Word and not a hearer only (see James 1:22-25). Pray for the Spirit’s power to obey.

I want to know God better, don’t you? I want to be closer to Him. Let’s not simply “go through the motions”; let’s seek God with all our hearts:

“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me. When you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you, declares the LORD… (Jeremiah 29:12-14)

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