The Heart of Discipleship – Seeking God

In his book The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart, Peter J. Gomes, a member of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and of the Faculty of Divinity, Minister in Harvard's Memorial Church, and Plummer Professor of Christian Morals, has observed:

“What I see in growing numbers are people on a pilgrimage of spirituality. We are having a deeper sense of unease in our lives and the material goods are leaving us less and less satisfied.”

Few would dispute his observations. In fact, being seeker-sensitive has become an obsession in some Christian circles in recent years. Cottage industries have grown up around the idea of training ministry leaders in the best techniques for tapping into the niche market of those who have a "deeper sense of unease". I must confess to having been swept away by the tide a couple of times and attending a couple of these workshops.

Some fellowships have so “successfully” marched under this banner that an entirely new category for church profiles, the mega-church, has emerged. Additionally, developing specialized ministries to “target” (yes, that’s the word most often used) seekers has become the sole priority of many such churches. This has resulted in an array of seeker-centered ministries, all of which seem to enshrine the notion that what matters the most to any number of identifiable affinity groups matters the most to God.

By now, you can probably tell that I'm not a big proponent of this approach. It's not that I'm against reaching out, but I do struggle with what seems like the commercialization of Christianity. When this attitude is full-blown what matters most to some seems to be how well a church or para-church organization is doing in the categories of brand recognition; market share and repeat customers (visitors).

The whole “seeker” discussion is much bigger than a flashy fad to follow or evangelistic strategy to implement. Do we not run the risk of cheapening the idea of being seekers when we reduce it to these categories?

You see, “seeking God” lies at the heart of discipleship. Jesus said that it all begins with desire. Take a look at Matthew 16:24; Luke 9:23; and Mark 8:34. Jesus said that Yagottawanna! Well, actually, the key Greek word used in each of these verses is thelō, which means: to purpose, decide, will, want, desire or wish[1]. In essence, Jesus said: If you yearn for God—if you are a seeker—it will be evidenced in the priorities you set for your life. To begin with, you must purpose to, decide to, will to, want to, desire to, or wish to deny yourself; take up your cross and follow me.

Seeking God is the single most important step that any person—every person—will take in life! Numerous biblical examples make this clear:

– Moses’ Prophecy: Deuteronomy 4:28-29,28There you will worship man-made gods of wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or eat or smell. 29But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

– David’s Counsel: 1 Chronicles 22:19,19Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God. Begin to build the sanctuary of the Lord God, so that you may bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord and the sacred articles belonging to God into the temple that will be built for the Name of the Lord.”

– Paul’s Assertion: Acts 17:21-28,24 The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’”

– Jesus’ exhortation: Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

Against this backdrop we turn to our primary text for this discussion:

"He has shown all you people what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." —Micah 6:8 (TNIV)

This is more than just a quick and simple list of God’s requirements, which would run something like:

(1) Do the right thing;

(2) Do the right thing with loving mercy;

(3) Do the right thing with characteristic humility.

You see, there is something more here. Look at the context. This verse is preceded by an exchange between God and His children. Through the prophet, God takes them to task for their infidelity to Him; their injustice towards one another; and apparent disdain for the righteous acts of God on their behalf.

He reminds them that He has not been a burden to them. Why, then, would they abandon Him? He brought them out of Egypt. He redeemed them from the land of slavery. He led them through Moses, Aaron and Miriam. He protected them from Balak. He blessed them when others wanted to curse them. Ultimately, He brought them safely to the Promised Land. All of these things speak of His fidelity to His promises. God’s sovereignty and holiness shine through.

Beyond this, it appears as though God even suggests how He wants His children to respond to His interrogation. He introduces a respondent—one who responds to the rhetorical questions He has posed, as well as the reminders of His faithfulness. In Micah 6:6-7 this respondent rattles off a series of questions:

– With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high?

– Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?

– Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil?

– Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

Clearly, these questions are intended to guide their steps by revealing that nothing they could do, no matter how extreme, would merit His favor. What an act of grace! Do these people deserve His help? Not hardly. They don’t even deserve a hint, much less explicit instruction for their return journey! In spite of the fact that God has a case against them, He gives them what they do not deserve.

There is no small amount of tension rising from this exchange. So, it seems logical that Israel would inquire: “What offering do you want from me?”

God’s reply: “I want your heart. I want you to stop living for your selves and start living for me. I want you to seek me first in all that you do.”

“How?” is Israel’s reply.

That which follows is not a quick fix or a mere patch job, though it is a succinct statement, which cuts to the very heart of the matter. These wandering children need to find their way back home. They’ve had their own way long enough! No sacrifice—no matter how excessive or extreme—will suffice. What God wants from them is that which they have given away to self-indulgence and idolatry. He wants their full devotion. He wants their hearts. He wants them to seek Him with all of their hearts and souls!

He wants something more than perfunctory obedience. He wants them to do more than mechanically do the right thing. He wants them to remember that they serve a God:

(1) Who is concerned about justice for all people; therefore act justly towards all people;

(2) Who loves to show mercy to those who are in need; therefore, practice loving mercy towards others.

(3) Who has gone to the most incredible lengths to make it possible for them to join Him in the journey; therefore, humbly accept His invitation to walk with Him throughout this life and into eternity.

In giving them what they need to come before the Lord at all times, He gives people of all times what we need to come before the Lord. Seeking God consists of the following:

(1) An internal compass – act justly

(2) An external focus – love mercy

(3) An eternal emphasis – walk humbly with your God.

How are you doing? What matters most, in my estimation, is not that we do everything in our power to become seeker-sensitive. Instead, we should simply strive to be sensitive seekers. It is true for every generation, no matter where we wander, if we seek the Lord God, we will find him if we look for him with all our heart and with all our soul. This is the heart of discipleship.

______________________

[1]Thomas, R. L. New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries : Updated Edition. Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998, 1981. H8674.

About a fellow sojourner

a sojourner in life, trying to follow in the steps of Jesus.
This entry was posted in Bible Study, Blogroll, Christian Living, Christianity, Church, Discipleship Training, Evangelism, Following Jesus, Life, Personal, Preaching Notes, Religion. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to The Heart of Discipleship – Seeking God

  1. Dee Andrews says:

    How interesting and thoughtful. You are the second person in the last two days who I’ve responded to that ended their blog post with that same passage from Micah (the other was Danny Sims in his latest “Grace Notes” post).

    You’ve written so much to think about and to meditate on. And your conclusion is a thought provoking, profound one, too, that “if we seek the Lord God, we will find him if we look for him with all our heart and with all our soul. This is the heart of discipleship.”

    It’s not always an easy road to take, but I can’t imagine experiencing life in any other way. Not on the road I’ve been on.

    Thanks.

  2. I like the way the Contemporary English Version (CEV) renders this verse from the prophet Micah. Just wanted to add this to the conversation:

    Micah 6:8, “The LORD God has told us what is right and what he demands: ‘See that justice is done, let mercy be your first concern, and humbly obey your God.'”

    This translation seems to be animated with a sense of urgency. May God help us live into this positive view of what it means to seek the Lord.

  3. Jennifer says:

    Great post. I especially love one of your concluding sentences: “What matters most, in my estimation, is not that we do everything in our power to become seeker-sensitive. Instead, we should simply strive to be sensitive seekers. ”

    Amen.

    His,
    Jennifer

  4. Good word, Bill. You’ve got me thinking on this one.

  5. dojo says:

    I think that when we focus on transforming ourselves into disciples of Jesus that we, like him, will draw people to us. I think our time together should focus more on accomplishing this transformation…..

  6. Nick Secula says:

    When we truly are seeking God, when our heart truly yearns to draw near unto Him do the commercial appeal and window dressing that many church of our church members worry about reaaly matter? To a soul who is mourning over the sin in his life re really care if the carpet is blue or maroon? When a young lady has been crushed by the cruelty of this world will she really care about how many groups and programs a church employess, or how many church staff are on the payroll? When the heart is reaching for the savior what will they really care about… Jesus. In all of our wisdom or programs, groups and the like but when it comes down to it it is about Jesus Christ, and no program will ever replace true discipleship.

    Wonderful thoughts in this article. Look forward to reading your future posts.

  7. Yes, Donna. Thanks for this observation. In one of the most practical ways possible we lift Jesus up by focusing our lives on becoming more Christ-like. This is what being a disciple is all about and it starts with desire.

  8. Thank you, Nick, for stopping by and asking these poignant questions. It seems like we are on the right track here…it really is ALL about Jesus!
    Grace to you and yours,
    -bill

  9. ruminatingpilgrim says:

    Excellent post.

    One thought that I’d throw out occurred to me as I read. God’s command is really counter-cultural, as is much of Scripture. Of course, it’s not counter-cultural in order to be contrarian. You have articulated clearly that it’s because of God’s love and concern for us that he calls us out of culture and its trappings – even the culture of “church” – in order to follow Him and walk in His steps. It seems today’s Church runs the risk of losing that in the interest of marketing to “seekers.”

    Certainly, it’s the eternal Word of God, so whether it’s counter-cultural or not, matters very little. Nick and dojo brought this into focus for me with their comments – it’s all about your focus.

  10. Greg England says:

    Great thoughts, Bill. You’ve written much of what I’ve thought over the years. How frustrating it is to lose so many members and prospective members to the mega churches (and there are a mega bunch of them around here) because we have so little to offer in comparison. Yet, our whole mission is to be Christ where you are to those around you. We try to stress who we are to be rather than what we can receive.
    Thanks, too, for commenting on Tom’s site. What a remarkable story he told, wasn’t it? Love your heart and spirit, brother. Hope we can actually meet some day.

  11. Amy says:

    Love this post. You nailed it, bro! Thanks for the reminder of one of my favorite scriptures and the encouragement to keep our hearts centered on God.

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