Sunday, January 23, 2005

Post-Restoration Hope #7: To Seek Again

I lead a small group at my church. I call them the "council of the wise." I bring them questions and they give me answers, lots of answers. I really appreciate them for that. The question today was this:

"For a person who has been a churchgoer all of his or her life, what would have to happen for that person to become a seeker again?"

Here are their answers:
1. System of faith fails.
2. A crisis.
3. A step by step process.
4. See the person who taught you your faith fall.
5. Develop a relationship with a person who you once thought was lost because they were not the same kind of Christian you are.
6. Develop a relationship with a "non-Christian."
7. My own answer was that it would take an "agonizing process."

I really like their answers. I believe they "got" my question. I then asked them this question:

"Is happiness a barrier to seeking God?"


The council of the wise was divided on this matter and had a good debate on it.

It can be, but does not have to be. The longer one is happy, the more challenging it is to think that anything needs to be different. "People think themselves to good," says C. S. Lewis, "when they are only happy."

I was programmed to believe that salvation from the fires of Hell was my ultimate destination, reason for living, and the end of all things. I was programmed with a virus. Yes, there is motivation in it and it certainly is a powerful motivation. BUT (and this is a big but), what motivation is there when you’ve arrived? Since I didn’t have the luxury of a "once saved; always saved" theology to fall back on, I was abused (almost a hyperbole) by the "get saved; stay saved" theology of guilt motivation and shame-based spiritual formation. So, my desperation was not so much in seeking God, for I had found Him, but rather in holding on the to waters of my baptism.

So, there was nothing seeker oriented in how I was raised. I mean really, seek what? I was saved. All I needed to do was be moral enough to stay saved. "You got it, but I wonder if you can keep it?" was the message I got from my church culture.

The only way (in that church system) to get beyond this was to become a Pharisee. If I were to take hold of certain places of power and authority, then and only then would I be relived on my guilt because in the attainment of certain offices in the church I would be able to be the teacher, the learned as opposed to the learning. I would have arrived again. No one would throw me into doubt with questions for I would be the questioner.

Now, this is no longer my challenge. I am not longer ruled by that church system. I am secure in my faith. My problem now is being too satisfied with my "salvation." Just a "fat and happy" Christian going to the spiritual mall to consume some more of the good stuff.

There is something seriously wrong if taking comfort in salvation removes my desire for seeking God. Yet, the relief of knowing Hell is not my eternity has done something to me, something very, very bad!!! Now, rather than fight my own guilt, I am fighting my own satisfaction. You tell me which is more difficult. Is it the bully of guilt or the deception of the backstabbing best friend?

If you have been reading my posts on "Post-Restoration Hope" you might not believe what I am about to say, but I am a sucker for settling for "church as usual." I am a creature of habit. Don’t mess with my habits! I want to know what is happening, what is going to happen and I want it to be the same always. I lose a day of equilibrium when the furniture in my house gets moved. So, when I say that my enemy to fight is satisfaction, I am not talking about some namby-pamby, flimsy little battle. This is a challenge of heroic proportions.

I am at risk, as C. S. Lewis says, of being "only happy."

But God is good. I have had the benefit, however, of experiencing a church split and much church tension. I have been exposed to a variety of different faiths, and non-faiths. I have see leaders fall. I have seen my faith system come apart. I have experienced every single thing the council of the wise told me about and then some. For this, I see there is a God who loves me enough to do (allow, set up, whatever) whatever it takes not to let my faith rot.

At the same time I have not had the untimely loss of a loved one, significant health issues, lost my home or belongings or job, I’ve not been cheated on and on and on. For this, I see there is a God who loves me enough to do (allow, set up, whatever) whatever it takes not to let my faith rot.

I want to be a seeker of God!


lee said...

Once you have been chosen by God and believe His promises, what is there to seek any longer--unless it is seeking to imitate Jesus? (1Thess 2:14) All of the ways we imitate Jesus involve loss, cost, sacrifice--the common denominator of your list of answers.

What if we changed the definitions of "fat" to mean faithful, available and teachable and "happiness" to be the result of fulfilling our obligations to others?

Then we would have to ask ourselves, what piece of furniture will I donate today? What am I willing to lose on behalf of my Savior, in order to advance His kingdom?

TCS said...

I don't know what to say, Although we don't know each other, You are putting words down that I really understand. A existance too similar to my own upbringing and life. I can add a time in life where my work or lack there of, required a dependance on God. That makes you a seeker. There is more to seek than just imitation of Jesus. There is relationship. A growing, deeper and deeper, knowing of him. Real dicipleship I think is that relationship not just following his example, but spending time together. That Life to the Full that he promised has got to be so much more than just life "unending".

don said...

Chris, your group must have been listening in on our small group last night, as we were talking about transformation, and one of the baddest threads we got onto was how hard is is to WANT transformation when you are just plain comfortable.

Only two things motivate people to change: escape from something unpleasant, or reaching out to gain something desirable. When you feel neither unpleasant nor in need of anything else, you won't change. That's why your post is so "to the point" to many of us, because we just don't SEE that we need to grow. Life is good! Inertia takes over, and we can be in danger without even knowing it.

DJG said...

But, just like a good marriage, it is o.k. to get comfortable. That doesn’t mean you quit listening to your partner and try to fulfill their needs. God will always push us out of our comfort zone if we listen to Him, and yet I think He wants us to feel comfortable and protected in His arms.

I came from the same background, trying to assure my salvation everyday, not knowing or understanding grace. When I discovered it, I was set free. Maybe those shackles are still too much on the forefront of my memory, but when I was set free I wanted to soar. I want so much more from every worship experience that I don’t think I can ever be fat and happy. But, I think there is a great need for contentment too. Making a daily choice to be all we can be will keep us on the right track.

jettybetty said...

Same background here, too. I am thankful for my heritage. I just don't agree with a lot of it.

My answer to your first question. The desire to seek is something God does in a heart for anyone to seek at any time. When you look at your list of answers given by your group, those are all things God does--perhaps with the intent of getting attention, thus seeking can start again or begin whatever the circumstance.

I don't consider myself a Calvinist, and I am definitely not Armenian--I just think God is at the center of the whole process. I suppose I think I should be looking at what God is doing, not what I am doing. That way, at least for me, all my praise flows to him. I 100% agree with you statement: There is something seriously wrong if taking comfort in salvation removes my desire for seeking God. I think what I am trying to say totally agrees with your statement.

To your second question, yes happiness is a barrier to God, but so is sadness. I have had people tell me out of their pain, that the God I know cannot be loving if he allows them the pain they are in.

I want to be a seeker too, not 99%, but 100%.

David U said...

Your posts continue to generate much discussion, even if we fail to include you in it! :) Thanks for causing us to reflect, seek, and search. Just like most everybody else who is reading your posts, I could relate to what you were discussing. Jim Woodroof encouraged all of us to be searchers and seekers, and then when Mike got to Searcy he REALLY took that encouragement to another level. He didn't give us any choice! :) It was a blessing.

Thanks for challenging us brother!

lee said...

Amen to jettybetty’s post!

An answer to those who question God is that He is in control, His perspective is perfect and trustworthy, unlike ours. Why would He have to justify Himself to us or apologize for what He knows and we don’t? Those who are known by God and seek to do His will come to see circumstances through Him rather than looking for God in circumstances.

Not everyone who seeks and finds Jesus waiting for them is willing to fix their eyes on Him exclusively and follow His sacrificial example. A relationship with Him (and with others) always costs, and “finders” who are content to let Jesus pay it all are like the rich young ruler who was not willing to invest "sweat equity."

For those who are still seeking God, there is comfort in what Paul said, according to Jesus’s promise: God [has arranged] so that men and women would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.

Fajita said...

Great comments. Can't respond to all of them, but you all are making me think. Thanks.

Keith Brenton said...

I'd like to add a number 8. to your list:

Watching another seeker seek.