|Preacher||Rev. Maurice Roberts, Inverness|
|Sermon Title||The Sin of Not Seeking God|
|Text||Romans ch.3 v.11 |
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"There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God" (Romans 3, 11).
My concern this evening is with the second part of this verse: "there is none that seeketh after God" (text).
What Paul is telling us here is that one of the sins of men and women is the sin of failing to seek God. You will notice that there are a lot of sins listed here in this portion of the Word of God. We can't certainly look at them all, but some of them we must notice. Look for instance at: "They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one" (v.12); "Their throat is an open sepulchre" (v.13). A sepulchre is a grave and a grave which is open is full of putrefaction - rottenness if you like. A throat which is like an open sepulchre is a throat which is full of rotten talk. It is another way of speaking about the way men and women curse God and blaspheme and swear. Then he speaks again: "Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood" [that must refer to murder] (v.14-15). "Destruction and misery are in their ways" [that must refer to vandalism, destruction of property and lives, and graffiti] (v.16).
Some of the sins listed here are things which everybody tells us and we understand to be wrong: sins which everybody recognises to be sins. Murder - everybody recognises to be wrong. Cursing and blasphemy - most people would say that that is wrong. However my text refers to something that not very many people realise is wrong: "there is none that seeketh after God" (text). How many times have you heard people confessing that sin? How many people's consciences, I wonder, are troubled by that sin, and yet it is here in the list together with other sins - greater perhaps in many ways but still sins and this is one of them: failure to seek God. That forces me to ask you a question - have you ever sought God? Would it be true of you now that you are here because you are seeking God or are you here for some other reason? Are you only here because of the influence of a mother or father or friend - because you have no desire for God? This portion of the Bible tells you that it is a great sin not to seek God. I want us to consider that.
The first point I bring to you is that not to seek God is regarded by God as very sinful. Let me explain why because it may not be clear to you why this is a great sin. In a sense one can understand why some people do not regard this as a great sin because, after all, it is a very, very common sin. Many people are living their lives all around is in this world who - and it would be true of most of them - are not seeking God. We get so used to it that in a sense we are rather surprised when we are told here by the apostle Paul that it is a great sin not to seek God. So let me make it clear why it is so great a sin.
The first argument I give you is this. Not to seek God is a mother sin. Do you know what a mother sin is? A mother sin is a sin which gives birth to a whole lot of other sins. It is rather like this. One day a person gets out of bed and they feel rather unwell. They have a headache so they take an aspirin. The aspirin doesn't really make much difference and after an hour the pain comes back. They then take two aspirins and the pain goes away for another hour but, again, it comes back. They continue taking medication for days or even weeks before concluding that the problem is not going away. They go to the doctor and the doctor discovers what has been happening: there is a tumour growing in their head, on their brain. Any amount of aspirin is not going to cure that. That tumour, or growth, or cancer, is causing all sorts of changes in the body - pain, weariness, fatigue, inability, loss of appetite. All of this is attributable to one thing that is growing in your head - a tumour. That is like failure to seek God; it is a mother sin - causing many, many other sins as well. That is why Paul calls it a sinful thing; when we do not seek God for ourselves it is the root cause of almost every other sin.
I give you another reason why the Bible calls this a very serious sin. It is because God made us with a soul. We have something that animals do not have. An animal just has a body - its own nervous system, brain muscles and instincts - but the animal does not have a soul. You and I do. There is the difference between a man and woman on one hand and an animal on the other: they don't have souls, we do. The soul was made by God so that we might seek Him and know Him and talk with Him and have fellowship with God all through our lives. Remember how this was true of Adam in the garden. Adam didn't just simply do his days work in the garden and then wash his hands and go to sleep. No! Before he rested at night, God used to come to him in the cool of the day and walk and talk with him. Adam had a soul and his soul needed fellowship with his Maker. So do you and I! God gave us that soul so that we would seek Him, desire and long for Him, and have fellowship with Him. Our hearts are restless until we have this fellowship with God. That is the way we are made. If people never seek God it is as though they were born animals. It is a sin for a human being to live like an animal - that's obvious. Yet, if people don't seek God, they are, in fact, living like animals.
Let me give you another reason why it is a great sin not to seek God. It is because of the way in which God has made this universe. You know what the world is like - even the youngest child knows. When you wake up in the morning and draw the curtains in your bedroom, the light comes in. Who made that light? God did. How did He make it? He placed the sun in the sky, and the moon and stars at night. Why did God do all these wonderful things? Why did He make the world in this way? The answer is, He made it to be a theatre for the display of His own glory so that when we would look up into the heavens we would say, "What a great God made all this! What a wonderful intelligence created these things that I see. The tiny flower with its beautiful colour, the rose with its petals, the tree that sways in the breeze, the birds that fly in the air, the stars above, the sun in the daytime, the moon at night - it's a wonderful world." That is what God intended us to do when we saw these things. He made the world, I say again, like a theatre for the display of His own glory. Why? So that we would seek Him and desire Him, pray to Him and desire to have fellowship with Him. If that is the case then it must be a great sin for any one of us not to seek God.
I have one more reason before I move on. There is one man who has lived in our world who was absolutely perfect and He is the great example of how we should be. I am referring, of course, to the Son of God - the Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Let me remind you of how He lived. When He was a child of twelve - that's not old is it - He was seeking God. His mother looked for Him thinking He was in their company when they went a day's journey home from Jerusalem and the temple. They discovered He wasn't there and with great concern they came back. They found Him in the temple asking questions of the clever men. His mother chided Him and said, "Why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, they father and I have sought thee sorrowing." (Luke 2, 48) - 'You do not realise that we sought you anxiously'. His reply was this: "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" (Luke 2, 49) - His heavenly Father's business. Putting it simply, He was seeking God all through His childhood; every day He was praying to God, every day reading the Scriptures - the Bible. All throughout His teenage years when so many young people go astray and turn their backs on God, all through those years, our Lord was seeking God.
We see Him again at the age of thirty. What's He doing? He's being baptised by John in the river Jordan. What's He doing now? He is seeking to do the will of God: baptised in order to preach the Gospel. At the age of thirty-three, on the eve of His death in the Garden of Gethsemane, what's He doing there? He says to His heavenly Father - "not my will, but thine, be done" (Luke 22, 42). He is seeking the will of God. My argument is if our Lord and Saviour, the only holy and perfect Man who ever lived, spent all His life seeking God then so should you and I be doing the same all the time. That is how we should be living our lives: putting God first at all times, in all decisions, and making Him our supreme goal and delight. If any one is not doing that, it is a sin. Do you see now why the Bible says in my text - "there is none that seeketh after God" (text)?
No wonder the world is in the mess it's in: wars, crimes, catastrophes, hunger, misery, poverty. The reason is that people are not seeking God. I have to put it to you - is it true of you perhaps that you have never really sought God? My duty is to bring it home to your conscience that if you haven't then you are living with a terrible sin in your life - a great sin. You may not have realised it; it may never have crossed your mind. You say you are not a murderer or an adulterer, you are not a criminal! Maybe so! But you have not been seeking God and you are guilty of that sin.
Secondly, this is a sin which causes so much misery in people's lives. You know what's meant when we say people have made a right mess of their lives. You know what that means. It is only by the grace of God that we have not all made a complete mess of our lives. When I look back to my life I can say, "Thanks be to God that I didn't make the mess of it that I nearly made." We can't thank ourselves for anything; everything is of His mercy, that's true. However, very sadly, some people make a terrible mess of their lives. I am going to show you that there is one great reason why they make a mess of their lives, sadly. That is this very thing, because they have not been seeking God. If we do seek God, as we should, we shall never make a mess of our lives, never. Here is the clue to the right life - to seek God.
Let me show you that that is so. I am going to take you back again to the Garden of Eden - Adam and Eve - because that is where it all began. Along came the serpent, and the devil speaking through the serpent said to Eve that if she ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, from which God said she mustn't eat, her eyes would be opened and she would be like God - knowing good and evil. The devil said that God knew that it would do her good (Genesis 3). In other words, the suggestion was that God didn't want them to eat from this tree because if they did they would become like God Himself and God was too jealous to want that to happen. That was what the devil was suggesting you see. Perfectly untrue, of course, but that was the lie - that was the deception. So Eve fell for it as we sadly know and she gave some of the fruit to her husband and he ate also.
My point is this. What should Adam and Eve have done on that occasion? The answer is very simple: they should have sought the Lord. They should have held a prayer meeting there and then. They should have said to the devil - speaking through the snake - 'Wait a minute! Hold it right there! This is a new thing. God has said to us that we are not to eat from this tree. You tell us if we do it will bring advantages. We are going to ask our Lord. "O God, what is true? Show us what is right."' Do you think God would have left them in the dark? Not at all; he would have shown them. If they had asked His advice and shown they were sincere He would have shown them what was right. He would have exposed the lie and there would have been no sin, no fall, no death, no misery, and no hell for mankind who dies in unbelief. It all came down to this one thing - failure to seek God.
That is only one of very many ways of putting it. Let me give you another way to put it. Let's take our own government. My point just now is this: failure to seek God leads to unnecessary misery. Some years ago in the 1960's they abolished capital punishment. Before that, in this country - Great Britain - anybody who was found guilty of murder after a proper criminal trial was put to death by hanging: capital punishment. But in the 1960's governments thought that they didn't wish to do that any more; they would simply put them in prison instead. Nobody is hanged any more for murder. The idea was that it didn't really make any difference to the incidence of crime and the incidence of murder. People are just as likely to commit murder if they are going to hang for it as not. That is how the argument went.
Let me tell you about the statistics. In Scotland, up to about the year 1950 or so, I think there were one or two murders every year. If there was a murder in Scotland it was sensational because it was such a rare thing. Do you know how many murders there are today? Dozens and dozens! So many it doesn't attract any interest or excitement. We hear it so often - an old woman killed in her a home, a child abducted, somebody shot, somebody knifed in a public house. It is so common. What the government of the day should have done on the issue of capital punishment is this. They shouldn't have depended on their own wisdom; they should have said in the parliament, "We must seek God. We must seek the Lord over this matter - whether to abolish it or not." Seeking the Lord would have meant studying the Word of God. What does the Bible say on this subject? There is no doubt what the Bible says on this subject, "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed" (Genesis 9, 6). Capital punishment is part of the Word of God; governments are obligated to impose it. If you doubt it read Romans 13.
Let me come to the question of 'social abortion': mother's able to put to death the baby in their own womb. It is becoming so common. More than a million of these little babies have been killed in the place where they should have been safest of all - in their mother's womb. A few years ago in this country if a mother aborted her own child she was liable to be found guilty of murder and to face the consequences. But that was all abolished by a government in the 1960's when so many things were changed. What should the government of their day have done? They shouldn't have depended on their own wisdom; they should have said, "We must seek God and, on this very point, we must study His Word". Is it right to have social abortions or not? Of course it is right to have an abortion when the mother's life is at risk. But social abortions are abortions which are carried out simply for the convenience of the mother and of the family. They don't want the child - it's a nuisance to them. However the government of the day didn't do that. How much misery is created! How many people have suffered! We talk about the society in which we live becoming more dangerous. There are some parts of London you would hardly walk through in the daytime today. Isn't it becoming like that in Inverness? There are parts of Inverness you would hardly go on your own as a woman at night - hardly even as a man. Why not? Because law and order is breaking down. What is behind it all? What is at the root of it all? Failure to seek God and His will in these matters!
I could multiply the examples but I give you one which is almost amusing but not quite. I remember a lady who used to come to church - not here but in another place. She would come from time to time. Over a period of years she came but she was never ever converted. As far as we know she died as she lived - a worldly person. However I can remember that from time to time she would say this to me, "I keep coming to church but I am not converted." The implication was that the minister couldn't be very good. Indeed, in my case, that was terribly true. But that was what she wanted me to know. I couldn't be up to much because she kept coming and she wasn't converted. But I have to say to you - to be fair to all concerned - she was quite a heavy drinker. She would come to the house of God and sit there but she wasn't seeking the Lord.
My dear, dear friends, whether your minister be good, bad or indifferent, you can sit in church for a thousand years and if you are not seeking the Lord, you will never find Him. Although your minister have the tongue of an angel (1 Corinthians 13, 1), though he have the wisdom of Solomon, he can't convert you until you seek the Lord! You have to do it. A minister can't do it for you. If I could I would but I can't. Every soul must seek God for himself and her herself. So you see we are required to understand that the miseries that men and women suffer are often all derived from this mother sin - people are not seeking the Lord. I hope it is not true of you. I hope that you would say to me if I asked you, "But sir, I am seeking the Lord. I don't tell the whole world this because it is such a private thing, but I desire to know God for myself." It would be such music to my ears to know that though you may not have found Him yet, that you are truly seeking after Him and searching for Him.
My third point is this. What are you to seek and how are you to do it? I am trying to be practical here. What are you to seek? The answer is in the text: "there is none that seeketh after God" (text). Not simply seeking to be known as a churchgoing person, not simply known to be religious or devout. It can be quite a decent thing to be religious. "He goes to a Presbyterian Church you know." "She sits in that beautiful building listening to the preacher, at least once a week" "It is beyond all praise that anyone would ever go to church in this day and age; they should have a knighthood." "Going to church - what a virtue!" A person may get all that praise and acclaim from men but they may be sitting there fast asleep. Churches are very good places for sleeping in - aren't they? The sermon goes by and you say, "What on earth was that man talking about? I was nearly fast asleep most of the time." There we see how easy it is to be in the house of God and to gain no benefit, to gain no profit, to understand nothing at all concerning the things of Jesus Christ. What is wrong? The answer is that people are not seeking God. That then is for what we are to seek: we are to seek God Himself.
As I come now to show you how we are to seek God, I must begin by explaining that God Himself is also seeking us. That makes all the difference. God is seeking us. He has explained to us that He is the sort of God who seeks after us poor sinners. How do I know that? At your leisure read that famous chapter - Luke 15. There you will see the Lord Jesus Christ tells three parables about lost things: lost coin, lost sheep, lost son. He is saying that because He is illustrating this great truth - that He as the Saviour has come into the world to seek the lost. Further on He puts it in these words: "the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which is lost" (Luke 19, 10). He means you and me: sinners like us. There is half the battle: it is not as though we are seeking a God who is playing hide and seek with us. God does not hide Himself from those who seek Him. God has given us wonderful encouragement to seek Him. Listen to some of the promises of God: "seek, and ye shall find" (Luke 11, 9). Salvation is very easy - don't make it difficult. Never imply to anyone that salvation is difficult. Salvation is easy. All you need to have salvation is to want it. That is not true of many things is it? Plenty of people want lots of money. That is why they participate in this National Lottery and put their money into it every week; they want to win the jackpot or some such thing. Most of them, poor things, will be in their graves before they win much more than five pounds. Very few people get the jackpot. You can want a fortune but that doesn't mean to say you will get it. The Bible tells us if we want God we will certainly get Him. If you want Christ as your Saviour, you will certainly get Him. Certainly! The promise is unbreakably sure. Listen to this promise: "ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29, 13). That is why some people come to church year in and year out and they never find God: it is that they are only seeking half-heartedly.
I remember being shocked some years ago by reading this. It was someone who used to worship God in their own home using a prayer book. The custom in the family was that you took a Bible and opened it at a passage. They put it on a chair and then went on their knees. Their exercise was to read through this chapter of the Bible, which is a very good thing to do. But this particular man, as he was reading through his prayer book and Bible, he had a newspaper opened at the same time. His eye would be wandering over to the headlines. He was doing two things at once. He was going through the motions of reading his Bible and prayer but all the time his real attention was on a newspaper. I don't know what you would say about that but it strikes me as being a very good way of insulting God. If you entered into the presence of Her Majesty the Queen and, as she was speaking to you were distracted by the curtains and suchlike, paying her no attention, she would think you contemptuous. That is how God thinks of us. If we go through the motions without putting our heart into it, we will never get God. Let's not deceive ourselves. Though you get the most wonderful preaching, you will never be converted until you seek God with your heart.
Jesus Christ says all this and He says it so simply: "seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6, 33). We need many things. We need food and drink, homes and warmth, friends and kindness. Many of us perhaps will be married one day. All right, we need a lot of things, that's admitted. But Jesus said, "seek ye first the kingdom of God" and all the other things that you need will be added. You ask how it works. It works like this. When God sees that you put Him first, He will see to it that you will get everything that you need. You put God first and He'll see to everything else. The Christian life is a very simple life really. It simply means this: you put God first and then relax and God will see to all the rest. Isn't that simple? It means that you only really have one duty in life. My duty and your duty in life is simply to put God first and He will see to all the rest.
The worldly man's life is much more difficult. He has got to think about his sport and his money, his car and his house, his insurance and holiday. His mind is distracted by hundreds of things which worry him. We don't need to worry about anything. If we put God in His rightful place He will put everything right in our life. Isn't that much better than the worldly life?
I could use this illustration. There was once a person I met who was a great swimmer: a lady who became a champion swimmer. How did she become a champion swimmer? It didn't happen by accident. She got up early at about five or six in the morning, every day, and she went to the swimming baths to swim sixty or so lengths before going back home for breakfast. She was walking, running and exercising every day. She had to do that to be fit enough to win. Let's change the illustration. Concert pianists have to practice and practice all the time. You don't become a concert pianist without hours and years of practice. One of the greatest concert pianists said something that is worth remembering. He said, "If I leave off practising for one week, I can tell the difference - my fingers stiffen up. If I leave off practising for two weeks, my wife can tell the difference. If I leave off practising for three weeks, the public can tell the difference." You see, he loses that quality in his playing. In other words it is a lesson to us to be forever seeking God. If we are believers then "exercise thyself rather unto godliness" (1 Timothy 4, 7): secret prayer on our own every day, reading the Bible every day, on our knees every day. Exercise, exercise - like the swimmer; they do it to obtain a corruptible crown but we, an incorruptible in glory (1 Peter 1, 4). It is all seeking the Lord.
As I come towards my conclusion, dear friends, where does this text find you? Does it find you seeking the Lord or not? Be honest with yourself. If you seek the Lord with all your heart it won't be long before you tell us that you have found Him. God is ready to reveal Himself to those who seek Him with all their heart. But if you are only half-hearted don't be surprised if you live long and get many things but die without ever finding God. Multitudes have done it. I will say this to you; the happiest life in the world is the life lived with God - in Christ. There is the really happy life. Any Christian will tell you that right here. O yes the Christian has to suffer in many ways. The Christian has to lose many things. The Christian often feels heavy in heart because of temptation and trial but deep down we have a wellspring of happiness which this world knows nothing of. Our desire is that every one of you - old men, young men, boys, girls, teenagers, wherever you are in life - I would wish you every one, now, from this day onwards, to seek the Lord until you find Him. Very much like Isaiah. Do you remember the wonderful way in which Isaiah saw the glory of God: "high and lifted up" (Isaiah 6, 1). God began to speak to him. Amongst the things God said to him was this: "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us" (Isaiah 6, 8)? Isaiah the prophet answered: "Here am I; send me" (Isaiah 6, 8). I hope that all of you will say the same.
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