seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness . . . (Matthew 6:33)
Sometimes, in my personal experience as a pastor, Matthew 6:33 seems like a forgotten command in the Church, but seeking implies at the very least, a type of absence. Clearly, disciples are to look for the Lord because He is not so easily found. He is elusive, but discovering Him is always worth it, and there is great joy in the pursuit.
Yet how about those who want the benefits of God, but who do not want to be disciples? For the man or woman who lives in sin – who lives with a stubborn heart - the elusiveness of God is a reality at the beginning, the middle, and at the end of the day. God is not found as long as a person remains in sin. There is no easy way to say it. As I quoted yesterday in my sermon,
. . . your iniquities have made a separation
between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden his face from you
so that he does not hear.
It’s an unpopular message. Our culture wants to believe that God is at our disposal. All we have to do is call upon Him to rescue us or help us, and there is little, if any, demand upon our lives for moral and ethical living. God is at our mercy, rather than the other way around.
Here’s the problem: such a perspective is uninformed. The Bible makes it clear that God’s manifested presence is dependent upon a personal relationship with Him and a consistent exercise of godly living. Both are necessary. As Christians, we believe that Jesus reveals Himself to us in a new way when we receive Christ as Savior. This receiving happens when we pray in faith,
“Jesus, forgive me for my sins. I believe you were crucified for me,
That’s a simple prayer and saying the exact words is not what is important. Rather, what’s necessary is the preparation of one’s heart. Do you really confess your sins? Do you really want Jesus to live through the Holy Spirit within you? Those questions are important, because receiving Christ as Savior means that He is saving us from our sin.
So, what does it mean to be saved from sin? It doesn’t mean that salvation is confined to a future event. The future is part of it – we believe that as disciples we will be saved from eternal judgment. However, salvation means that Jesus is working within us to save us from our sin today. That means that if we want to be saved, we are saying that we want to be saved from our ungodly, immoral, unethical living in the present. We simply cannot have it both ways. If we want a relationship with the One who is God, then we have to live a life that is consistent with Him, and that way, above all, is the way of Holy Love.
God may be elusive, but He wants to be found!