Summary: This sermon talks about our need to follow God with the whole of our being, or following hard after God.
Following Hard After God
There’s a doctrine, teaching if you would, that says before someone can seek God, God must first have sought him or her. It states that people are inherently sinful and therefore cannot rightly think about God; therefore God must illuminate their mind and their heart to His presence.
Basically what this is saying is that we pursue God because God first pursues us and has puts within us the urge, a longing to pursue Him. This is seen in what Jesus said.
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:44 NKJV)
It’s by this very drawing that God takes away any credit for our salvation.
The Apostle Paul said it this way,
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV)
This overall impulse to follow after God, therefore, originates with God, but here’s the kicker and what’s at the heart of today’s message, and that is, it’s our responsibility to follow.
We see this throughout the Bible as we’re told time and again to seek the Lord. This is seen in what the prophet Isaiah said,
“Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.” (Isaiah 55:6 NKJV)
But there’s no place where this whole doctrine or teaching is more eloquently stated than when King David proclaimed,
“My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me.” (Psalm 63:8 NKJV)
As we purpose to follow hard after God, He upholds and strengthens us. This is seen in a beautiful analogy given to us by the Psalmist of a deer in search for water.
“As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” (Psalm 42:1-2 NKJV)
Only a longing heart for God’s mercy and grace can know such a desire. The problem, however, is that such a longing isn’t seen that often in the church. Jesus is received as Savior and Lord, but there really isn’t any special love or desire to follow Him.
Yes, we’re saved as the Scripture clearly teaches, “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Acts 2:21 NIV) But there’s no real hunger or thirst for God, His kingdom, or His righteousness. We’re not like that deer desperate for water; and we’re satisfied and content with so very little, spiritually speaking.
Part of the reason may be because people have forgotten that God is a Person, and they forget that a personal relationship needs to be cultivated with God.
Like any relationship, full knowledge and a close intimate relationship can never be achieved through brief encounters. Such a relationship can only be achieved when long and loving interaction takes place.
Therefore, having such a relationship with God takes more than brief encounters on Sunday mornings. (Also, please understand that religion can never substitute for this relationship.) Such a relationship can only be achieved through the longing response of created being, that is, you and me, for our Creator. Jesus said no less in His prayer to the Father.
“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3 NKJV)
God greatly desires this loving relationship, but it can never be achieved through form religion that relies on mechanical responses. Instead it can only be achieved through a personal intimate relationship with God that is communicated to us through God’s Word, the Bible, and through times of intimate communication, or prayer.
This is how the Lord made us in the beginning. We were made in the image and likeness of God, Genesis 1:26, and because of this we have within us the capacity to know Him. But because of our sins, which we have inherited, we lack the power or the ability to do so.
But the moment the Holy Spirit quickens us and we become born again, we sense this new relationship with God and our souls leap for joy. Not only are we sons and daughters of the Most High God, but that we can now have an intimate relationship with Him, where we now call Him Abba, or Daddy, Galatians 4:6.
But this is only the beginning. Because we now have this wonderful new relationship with God we can move forward into this glorious pursuit of His presence and further this new relationship we’ve entered into.
We need to pursue hard after God. Over 900 years ago, St. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote,