A couple of months ago I posted an article entitled “Do We Miss the Point of Worship? Is it for Seekers and Evangelism?” I have been thinking about that article quite a bit lately in the context of the worship life of the church. Seekers are generally thought to be unchurched persons who have a desire for things spiritual. They know there is something more, they are just trying to find it. They are said to be seeking God, looking for Him. We are told that our services need to be user friendly, non-threatining, not offensive, and accessible so that unchurched visitors — seekers — will not be turned off to our message and will return. Listening to an Internet radio program the other day — Chris Rosebrough on Pirate Christian Radio — the commentator observed that there are no seekers in the church. As the basis for this statement, he referred to Paul’s letter to the Romans, Chapter 3:9-12:
What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
Paul quotes Psalms 14 and 53 here, for the proposition that no one seeks for God, that we have all turned aside, becoming worthless, pursuing what pleases us. This recognition that there is no one who seeks after God, therefore, has ancient authority as the Psalmists attest. Paul says elsewhere in Ephesians that we are dead in our trespasses and sins. In the first chapter of Romans, Paul tells us of the completeness of the fall of man, that no one is righteous not one of us; that while the invisible attributes of God are made known to us through what He has made, we dishonored Him, and so our foolish hearts are darkened; that thinking we are wise we became fools. We are all given over to the lusts of the flesh to the extent that we worship the things that are created. And this is the work of God, darkening our mind, giving us over to our mind, because we dishonored Him. As fallen creatures, we worship ourselves rather than the creator.
When the seeker is looking for a church, shopping around for the best fit, he or she is generally looking for something that fits his or her conception of what God is or may be. When we look or shop, the reality is, we pursue our own idea of God — the god we think we pursue is, simply put, a god of our own making. Think about it: if we are dead, how can we seek God? How can we look for him. How can we find him? Think about the dead body in a coffin. This person has no life in him. There is no breath, no movement, nothing. This person cannot under any power that he has in himself lift himself up, sit up, and start talking to you. In order for something him to be made alive, this dead person must have life given to him, that is, something from outside of himself must breathe it into him. If the dead person cannot even sit up on his own, how then is he able to seek God? For at that point where all life has left the body and there is nothing left, there is, for one who is dead, no god. There is nothing. There is only a lifeless body, worthless flesh which has no power whatsoever to seek God, let alone set up where it lays.
If we understand Paul as merely referring to this in a spiritual sense, that the deadness and darkness of which he speaks in his letters is merely a dimming of the image of God in us, but we as humans still have some spark of goodness and power in us to be able to seek God, Paul is not consistent from letter to letter. For the spiritual deadness of which Paul speaks is a complete death, resulting in an utter blindness as outlined in Romans chapter 1, death that required the action of God in Christ to bring us back to life (Ephesians 2, Colossians 2). There is no one righteous he says not one. There is not one person who seeks God. We like to think that we are seeking God. But really, in the end, when we commend ourselves for being spiritual, for seeking after spiritual things, we are seeking after things that somehow satisfy a desire in our flesh.
We, as humans, are relational creatures. We are meant to be in relation with one another, and with our Creator. Consequently, we long for connectedness to a community, to that greater consciousness that is so often called god. But really we do not like the God that we find that reveals himself to us in the Scriptures. For if we look at our churches around us in the decay and the depravity and the falling away that is openly occurring, we see that we hate the God that we think we seek. As fallen creatures we are opposed to the God of the Bible. In fact we HATE the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Daniel, Peter, Paul and all those who have gone before us. We hate the God who reveals sin, who reveals our depravity, who reveals our debt. We want the god we seek to tell us what we want to hear. We want to find the god that says I am okay just as you am (come as you are, you need not worry about how you present yourself to a Holy, Righteous God). You want to have sex with children, that is okay if it feels right to you. I know that the writers who recorded My Word were simply sinful men and had their own biases and proclivities. My Spirit will tell you if your lifestyle choices are okay. You want to abort babies? Well, that is fine. My word only means what you think it means to you in the context of today’s cultural norms. Want to come before the presence of the holy righteous God smoking cigars, drunk, high on drugs? That is alright. I love you just as you are. I know you cannot stop sinning and that you are doing the best you can. Just keep doing what you can, do not worry about my temple, or my table. I love the ugly, the drunk, the sinner, and all belong in my house and at my table. Multiple marriage partners? Take as many as you want! I let King David have several. Sex out of wedlock? Women as pastors? All of these things are fine if that is the way you feel. I have been around for eternity, and will be around after you die. I have seen it all, and I do change with the times if that is how you see Me. Just know that if you do these things, if you teach these things, if you believe these things, you make Me a liar. But I do not lie. Nor do I change. If you do these things, if you teach these things, if you believe these things, My Word will turn you ever inward to yourselves and continue to give you over to the desires of your flesh, so that seeing you will become blind and grope aimlessly in the dark; hearing you may not understand. You make my house like the rest of the world, treat it as your living room, you tell me who I am, — YOU worship YOUR OWN god.
Isn’t this what is taking place in Christendom today? Isn’t this what is taking place in the churches of America?
There are no seekers in the church. There is not one righteous person who stands before this holy God. Remember the sons of Aaron who were killed immediately after being ordained as priests in the service of the just then consecrated Temple of God because the approached God in an inappropriate manner? Or what about Korah and his family? They were swallowed by the earth at the command of God because they sought to usurp the authority of the Levite priesthood, ignoring the plain Word of God. What about Saul who ignored the Word of God and the throne of David was taken from him? What about Ananias and Sapphira in the New Testament? In Acts they withheld gifts that rightfully belongs to the church from God, lied to the Holy Spirit and they were killed.
No, in the church, in the body of Christ, there is only the one true God who revealed Himself in the person and work of Jesus Christ on the Cross and in the empty tomb. There is only the holy, righteous God who brings you and me to Christ by and through the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Word and Sacrament. We come into the church, into this gathering of people, called out by the Holy Spirit, as dead sinners, completely separated from God. The Spirit brings us to Christ for life and healing. In the wounds of His hands and feet, in the blood and water that poured forth from His side, in His death, we are finally and fully killed. Crucified with Him, we die to this life, to the church shopping and the false ideas of the world that we are seekers after God. The American Declaration of Independence that declared that all men have the unalienable right endowed by the Creator to pursue “happiness” captured the essence of fallen humanity. As the author of Ecclesiastes writes, such a pursuit is a chasing after the wind. Only in Christ are we given rest and peace. Only at the feet of this Master are we given what is needful. Our life and our faith are complete and utter gifts, something we do not deserve. Yet Christ took our place willingly so that we could come into His church, His bride, and be united with Him, born anew as disciples through the life and peace that only He can give. Christ presents us, then to the Father, who makes us Holy and declares us good for the sake of Christ.
It bears keeping in the forefront of our minds and on our lips that there are no seekers in the body of Christ, in the sense that we are simply looking for God and have to find our way back to Him. That is an ancient and gnostic heresy. No matter who we are, we have all been brought to the church by the Holy Spirit to be made alive and holy in Christ. We play no part in it. Christ is the shepherd searching for the lamb that was lost; He is the big brother who goes after the wayward prodigal son; He is the Joseph who preserves the life of His family in times of great need; He is Moses who delivers His people from the hand of slavery; He is the Joshua who leads His people through the waters of Baptism into the land promised to their fathers by God Almighty. Start from the premise that God tells us who He is, who and what we are, and what He does FOR US through the person and work of Jesus Christ, through His Word. Then you will be made to see and perceive; you will be made to hear and to understand.