Grace Sought Me, Not I Sought Grace
I read something written by Dave Hunt recently via e-mail. It was from the Berean Call e-newsletter or something. The jist of the article was "Noah found grace." There were actually a number of things presented quite well that I agree with whole-heartedly, but this main thrust of the article stood out a bit. What is the danger in simply stopping there, with "Noah found grace", and ignoring what the Bible says about the only reason men seek God's face? Well, it makes it sound like Noah was the only smart one, to be honest. I immediately think of Noah being pious, humble, obedient, and sensitive to God's Word. And he was, I'm sure... but why? Is this the reason Noah "found grace?" or does it go much, much deeper than this?
If I am saved because I sought God's grace and my neighbor who hates Christ is not because he did not, then this basically says that the difference between me and my unsaved neighbor is something that resides within me. Ultimately, the fact that I am saved and he is not rests upon something I did and he did not do. So am I smarter to seek God's grace? Am I more righteous? Am I more spiritual? Am I more sensitive to God's Word? Am I less rebellious or obstinate because I chose, perhaps even just this one time, to turn and seek God's mercy? "No, of course not," you will say, but that is what it is saying. The distinguishing factor is something positive in me that my neighbor lacks, or something negative in my neighbor that I lack. Truly, I would have something to boast about and reason to see myself as better than my neighbor. Sure, I would see that I am a sinner just like him, but in the end I am saved and in a right relationship with God because I did the right thing, and he is not because he refused to. I sought grace... he did not. I followed directions and was a good listener, like a good boy, and he was not.
[Incidentally, I asked a Christian friend this same question and jokingly they replied, "They didn't turn to God because they are stupid, I guess." I know they were joking, but it illustrates how this way of thinking does lead to the conclusion that we are the reason we are saved.]
The thing is the Bible does not stop there, so we should not -even if it offends our sensibilities. Actually, we should not stop especially because it does offend our humanistic sensitibilities. The Bible *does* tell us why men turn to God, why they come to Christ, why they seek mercy, why they flee to Him for refuge. It is because God did a special work in them to remove the blinders and show them how wicked they are in light of His holiness. It is because God removed the heart of stone and gave them a heart of flesh (Eze 36:26). It is because God granted them repentance and faith. He granted them to see their need for a Savior, and then showed them the only true Savior. This is why men seek God's face, why they "find grace" (like Noah). No man seeks God unless God has first sought him. God gives the man the "change of heart". The Potter works freely with His clay -and imagine this, He does so without our permission!!! (*gasp*)
No, it is not because of "free will". Our wills are not free. That is a devilish myth. They are enslaved to our sinful natures. This is why no man, without his will being effectually changed by God, seeks God's face. "No man seeks after God," Paul reminds us. All men are born in the flesh, and the mind in the flesh is hostile toward God. Yes, that's right. The mind in the flesh is not even able to submit to Him. This is not about permission -its about ability. The unconverted man is not able to seek God because he is not willing to... he does not want to. He is not willing to because God is his enemy, by nature. He is hostile to God. God is seen as a threat to the flesh's autonomy and idolatry. It is only when God crushes the flesh and converts the sinner, regenerating his fallen will, that the sinner turns to Him and embraces His mercy. Conversion is something God does -not something we do, and not even something we are cooperative in. God asks no permission. He calls us from death to life perfectly just as Jesus rose Lazarus from the dead. Imagine Jesus asking the dead Lazarus, "ok, are you sure you want to be alive?" No. Jesus said, to the dead body, "Come forth!" and Lazarus rose. Praise God that His call to us was that effectual, and we are not still in the dark, dead, hating Christ, and seeking to justify ourselves and dethrone God.
Grace is not just an initiating power which sits offered on a table. It is, in our cases and in this circumstance, an efficient power. It is not just God's disposition of willingness to accept an undeserving one into favor. It involves God's efficient power in bringing them into that favor. Indeed, we have a purpose-driven God who will not fail in all that He purposes, and all glory in our coming into favor and salvation is owed to Him alone.