Wednesday, March 18, 2009


There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God

(Romans 3:11).

In the classic western from 1956, directed by John Ford, titled The Searchers, the story is told of a young girl kidnapped by hostile Indians in Texas. Her entire family was attacked and killed. Only this little girl named Debbie (Natalie Wood) was unaccounted for. Her uncle, Ethan Edwards (John Wayne), spent years searching for her, accompanied by his slain brother Aaron’s half breed adopted son, Martin Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter). Edwards has deep prejudice for Indians, and even though the Texas Rangers had sworn in Martin as one of many deputies to search for Debbie, Ethan resents him. As the movie goes along it winds up being only Ethan and Martin searching for Debbie all over the west. There is so much more in the movie, and is likely John Wayne’s best movie. It is worth seeing, and is not loaded with cursing and sexual incidents like the modern films of today. But it is reel life only

In real life, man will search for many things. It may be a missing loved one, as in the movie I mentioned. It may be for the right person to marry, or the best job, or the best place to live, the right car or boat. It can be searching for something stolen from you, as household possessions or a car. I remember years ago a young man in our church in Atlanta had his buff ’55 Chevy stolen. He was upset and looked for it for some time. The police had been notified and they evidently searched for it also. Friends kept “their eyes peeled” for it, but no one ever found it. It likely got into the stolen car underground, and was altered, had the serial numbers changed, and became extremely hard to trace. Anyway, searching did not find it.

Why am I relating these things to you? Because many preachers and Christian workers will tell you that all men are searching for God. They want to help you find Him. But they are wrong. The natural man does not seek after God. They are not like my friend and his stolen car. Nor are they like Ethan and Marty in the movie searching endlessly for Debbie. There is scripture that might be applied to the natural man urging him to seek God as “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near” ( Isaiah 55:6). I suppose this could be directed at an unregenerate man or woman, if either could “have ears to hear”, in other words, if they could receive this directive in their heart. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned”(1 Corinthians 2:14).

Just as when the apostle Paul was in Athens near Mars Hill and saw: “For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you” (Acts 17:23). As Paul spoke to the people there he told them that this true God he represented 1) made the world. 2) is Lord of heaven and earth.3) doesn’t dwell in man-made temples.4)is not properly worshiped with man’s hands. 5) has need of nothing. 6) this God gave life and breath to all, and all other things that mankind interacts with. 7) gave all mankind (all nations and races), the same blood. 8) predetermined their times. 9) predetermined their boundaries.

After saying all that, Paul says: “That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us” (Acts 17:27). All I can say is WOW! There is such astounding truth here. I can’t wait to focus on, and preach on this chapter once again, but for now my focus is on this truth; man is told to seek God, but men and women cannot, and will not, seek God on their own volition. But you may object! In Revelation 22:17 doesn’t it say “whosoever will”? In John 3:16 doesn’t it say “whosoever believeth”? Yes it does, but who is it that will come? How do they get this willingness? The natural man does not have it. Jesus said “And ye will not come to me that ye might have life” (John 5:40) This is the condition of the natural, unsaved man or woman -- he or she will not come. If he would he could, and would be saved, yet he will not. God said to His ancient people, Israel “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). The heart in scripture is the innermost being, or innermost understanding. We are not discussing a mere intellectual knowledge here, but with everything you have inside, you must seek Him. But you cannot within your own human power do this. You can’t merely “make a decision”. The will is involved, but first there has to be a quickening ( a giving of life). The same one who gave us physical life, without our help, must give us spiritual life, without our help. You see, we are dead in trespasses and sin. He must make us alive. (see Ephesians 2:8,9). We will not seek Him in reality until He quickens us. Before a sinner can really hear the gospel, much less seek Christ, God must first seek him. That is why we say “We love Him, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). I wasn’t searching for God -- He wasn’t lost! But I was, and He came to me and found me.

The Lord often said “Him that hath an ear, let him hear” (see Revelation 2:17). You won’t hear until He gives hearing ears. You won’t see until He gives you seeing eyes. You won’t come to Him until the Lord draws you. In John chapter six, there were those who searched for Jesus for the wrong reasons. “Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled” (John 6:26). It doesn’t happen so much in our day, but in an earlier time many joined a church to have a position in the community, a position of respect. Many of them were not seeking Christ. In our day not many people respect the church. We are in a day of apostasy where the true gospel is scarce. But God is still saving sinners here and there. In the same chapter six, Jesus Christ shares how this is done. “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44).

“Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power” (Psalm 110:3a).


Stephen Garrett said...

Dear Charles:

You are a Hyper Calvinist if you assert that "quickening" precedes faith in Christ.

You cited John 5: 40 - "you will not come to me that you might have life." Is the obtaining of this "life" not the "quickening"? Does the text say we get life first and then come to Christ? Or, does the text say that life is received upon coming to Christ, or upon believing?

You said - "The will is involved, but first there has to be a quickening ( a giving of life)."

Well, this contradicts John 5: 40! Is not "coming to Christ" the same as choosing to trust Christ? And, does this decision to trust Christ not precede "life"?

God bless


charles said...

Dear Stephen,

Thanks for writing. Of course I believe the quickening has to precede responding to the gospel in preached form; in written form or any form. If I didn't believe that, I would not have written it so. I did because of this verse among others: " And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:" (Ephesians 2:1-10)

Now, Stephen I know that you know these verses. To me, this section of scripture, and a number of others indicate that life comes before faith. How can a dead man hear? Or see? As Jesus told Nicodemus " Verily, verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" John 3:3b).

I know you were formerly a hardshell, and seek to avoid anything that smacks of that. But, "don't throw the baby out with the bath water".Your research on that group has been massive and very enlightening, yet you will have to admit they are not wrong on everything. They are wrong on not evangelizing (preaching the gospel to every creature); but not on the beginning of spiritual life. Just as in the figure of Lazarus, he could not walk out of that grave to Christ until Christ gave him life through His spoken word.

All the best to you in Christ,