"He gave gifts to men" (Eph 4:8)
Its interesting to read two men I have come to admire for their consistency in interpreting the Biblical text wrestle about the same thing and yet bring out different facets of truth. They in no way disagree with each other in these articles, but seeing their words in such close proximity to each other, allows me to marvel at the beauty and depth there is to be found in God's word. I also believe it shows us the value of receiving gift ministries of Christ to His Church (Eph. 4:11ff) in the way God intended. By all means, check everything these men or anyone else for that matter would say, preach or write. Check everything out with Scripture.. and do this ALWAYS.. and yet where you find them to be speaking truths consistent with the biblical text, allow these men and their words to feed and nourish your soul and your walk with Christ. Here's what I mean..
First of all here's a short article by R. C. Sproul on "Seeking After God"
"How many times have you heard Christians say (or heard the words from your own mouth), "So-and-so is not a Christian but he's searching"? It is a common statement among Christians. The idea is that there are people all over the place who are searching for God. Their problem is that they just haven't been able to find Him. He is playing hide-and-seek. He is elusive.
In the Garden of Eden, when sin came into the world, who hid? Jesus came into the world to seek and to save the lost. Jesus wasn't the one who was hiding. God is not a fugitive. We are the ones on the run. Scripture declares that the wicked flee when no man pursues. As Martin Luther remarked: "The pagan trembles at the rustling of a leaf. The uniform teaching of Scripture is that fallen men are fleeing from God."
People do not seek God. They seek after the benefits that only God can give them. The sin of fallen man is this: Man seeks the benefits of God while fleeing from God Himself. We are, by nature, fugitives.
The Bible tells us repeatedly to seek after God. The conclusion we draw from these texts is that since we are called to seek after God it must mean that we, even in our fallen state, have the moral capacity to do that seeking. But who is being addressed in these texts? In the case of the Old Testament, it is the people of Israel who are called to seek the Lord. In the New Testament, it is believers who are called to seek the kingdom.
Coram Deo: Are you seeking the benefits God can give you or seeking after God alone?"
and now, here's an article by John Piper... called "What Does It Mean to Seek the Lord? Meditation on Psalm 105:4"
"Seeking the Lord means seeking his presence. â€œPresenceâ€ is a common translation of the Hebrew word â€œface.â€ Literally, we are to seek his â€œface.â€ But this is the Hebraic way of having access to God. To be before his face is to be in his presence.
But aren't his children always in his presence? Yes and no. Yes in two senses: First, in the sense that God is omnipresent and therefore always near everything and everyone. He holds everything in being. His power is ever-present in sustaining and governing all things.
And second, yes, he is always present with his children in the sense of his covenant commitment to always stand by us and work for us and turn everything for our good. â€œBehold, I am with you always, to the end of the ageâ€ (Matthew 28:20).
But there is a sense in which Godâ€™s presence is not with us always. For this reason, the Bible repeatedly calls us to â€œseek the Lord...seek his presence continually.â€ Godâ€™s manifest, conscious, trusted presence is not our constant experience. There are seasons when we become neglectful of the Lord and give him no thought and do not put trust in him and we find him â€œunmanifestedâ€â€”that is, unperceived as great and beautiful and valuable by the eyes of our hearts.
His faceâ€”the brightness of his personal characterâ€”is hidden behind the curtain of our carnal desires. This condition is always ready to overtake us. That is why we are told to â€œseek his presence continually.â€ God calls us to enjoy continual consciousness of his supreme greatness and beauty and worth.
This happens through â€œseeking.â€ Continual seeking. But what does that mean practically? Both the Old and New Testaments say it is a â€œsetting of the mind and heartâ€ on God. It is the conscious fixing or focusing of our mindâ€™s attention and our heartâ€™s affection on God.
â€œNow set your mind and heart to seek the Lord your God.â€ (1 Chronicles 22:19)
â€œIf then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.â€ (Colossians 3:1-2)
This setting of the mind is the opposite of mental coasting. It is a conscious choice to direct the heart toward God. This is what Paul prays for the church: â€œMay the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christâ€ (2 Thessalonians 3:5). It is a conscious effort on our part. But that effort to seek God is a gift from God.
We do not make this mental and emotional effort to seek God because he is lost. Thatâ€™s why we would seek a coin or a sheep. But God is not lost. Nevertheless, there is always something through which or around which we must go to meet him consciously. This going through or around is what seeking is. He is often hidden. Veiled. We must go through mediators and around obstacles.
The heavens are telling the glory of God. So we can seek him through that. He reveals himself in his word. So we can seek him through that. He shows himself to us in the evidences of grace in other people. So we can seek him through that. The seeking is the conscious effort to get through the natural means to God himselfâ€”to constantly set our minds toward God in all our experiences, to direct our minds and hearts toward him through the means of his revelation. This is what seeking God means.
And there are endless obstacles that we must get around in order to see him clearly, and so that we can be in the light of his presence. We must flee every spiritually dulling activity. We must run from it and get around it. It is blocking our way.
We know what makes us vitally sensitive to Godâ€™s appearances in the world and in the word. And we know what dulls us and blinds us and makes us not even want to seek him. These things we must move away from and go around if we would see God. That is what seeking God involves.
And as we direct our minds and hearts Godward in all our experiences, we cry out to him. This too is what seeking him means.
â€œSeek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.â€ (Isaiah 55:6)
â€œIf you will seek God and plead with the Almighty for mercy...â€ (Job 8:5)
Seeking involves calling and pleading. O Lord, open my eyes. O Lord, pull back the curtain of my own blindness. Lord, have mercy and reveal yourself. I long to see your face.
The great obstacle to seeking the Lord is pride. â€œIn the pride of his face the wicked does not seek himâ€ (Psalm 10:4). Therefore, humility is essential to seeking the Lord.
The great promise to those who seek the Lord is that he will be found. â€œIf you seek him, he will be found by youâ€ (1 Chronicles 28:9). And when he is found, there is great reward. â€œWhoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek himâ€ (Hebrews 11:6). God himself is our greatest reward. And when we have him, we have everything. Therefore, â€œSeek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!â€ - Seeking with you, Pastor John Piper"
I hope you can see that what Sproul was writing about, namely that unregenerate man does not seek God, in no way violates what Piper brings out, when he defines what true seeking is... and through these words, and because of them, let us, God's people, truly live lives seeking the Lord, His will, His face, and His presence. - JS