The Divine Seeker

How have you been feeling at this time? I have had mixed feelings. There has been some anxiety about what’s going on and also discouragement about the perceived failure of certain projects. There is uncertainty about the future and what it will look like. On the other hand, there have been good times, with bright, sunny weather when it has felt more like a big holiday than anything else.

Today in my Bible reading I looked at Matthew 13:44 – 46. These verses describe two people both seeking after items of great value. In the first story, a man found treasure in a field, and in the second a merchant sought and found a pearl of great price. Both men sold everything they had in order to buy these items of great value.

When I was young, it was always explained to me that the “seekers” in these stories represented Christians seeking after God, and when they had found him they gave up everything they had in order to belong to His kingdom.

However, some years ago I was at a Bible study going through Matthew’s gospel. One of the questions about this passage asked us to consider that the man and the merchant were in fact the Lord Jesus Christ. At first, it seemed strange to think about it in those terms having always thought of it the other way around. I thought deeply about this, and asked myself what I had given up in my search for Jesus. Had I sold everything I had, like the two men in these stories? Had all the cost really been on my side?

I considered the Lord Jesus. What had He given up in His earthly mission to save souls, including my own? Why, He had left the glory of heaven to come down to this tear-stained world and sacrifice all that He ever had and who He was for the salvation of many. I tried to imagine what it would be like to do that – of course it’s hard for human minds to conceive of the great glory that Jesus gave up for us. In John 17, He speaks about the glory that He’d left behind:

“And now, Father, glorify me in Your own presence with the glory that I had with You before the world existed.” (v5)

Jesus was about to be crucified on a cruel Roman cross, all to save sinners like us. He truly had given up everything for us.

What about the second part of these parables, the treasure and the pearl of great price? At first I couldn’t conceive of myself as being so valuable as these things. But God spoke to me powerfully, so much so that I sobbed and sobbed thinking of all that He had given up for me and how much He loved me.

In Deuteronomy 7, God spoke to the Israelites about their value to Him. He was leading them into the Promised Land and He had a special love for His people above all other peoples on the earth.

“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” (v6)

Zephaniah 3:17 speaks of the Lord’s love for and joy in His people:

"The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty One who will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness;
He will quiet you by His love;
He will exult over you with loud singing."

I grew up not really believing that the Lord loved me, even though I had recognised Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was for me. I somehow couldn’t accept that I was loved like that. These verses show the Lord’s fierce and protective love for His people. How could I not accept the validity of His love for me?

In the New Testament, Ephesians 1 describes the great love and the lavish gifts which God has given to His people. This is such a wonderful passage to think over at times of discouragement and doubt.

“..He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ..” (v4, 5)

Even before the very existence of this world, the Lord had set His love upon us. He gave up glory and all that went with it to seek out sinners like you and me. We can’t make sense of it all, but we also can’t ignore these passages about His deep love for us. This song came into my mind as I thought about this passage again and all that Jesus left behind for our sake, when He came to “seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).

You laid aside Your majesty, gave up everything for me,
Suffered at the hands, of those You had created.
You took all my guilt and shame, when You died and rose again,
Now today You reign, in heaven and earth exalted!
I really want to worship You my Lord, 
You have won my heart and I am Yours
Forever and ever, I will love You!
You are the only One who died for me,
Gave Your life to set me free,
So I lift my voice to You in adoration!

Noel Richards

“The Truth Shall Make You Free”

I wonder if you’ve ever got the wrong end of the stick about something? Maybe you’ve been given some directions to visit someone and have not heard properly, so you believe that the person lives at number 22 So-and-So Drive, but it’s actually number 32, so you turn up at the wrong address and have to be re-directed. Perhaps you’ve always believed that a pair of trousers you own is a lovely red colour, until you are told that they are in fact green! You have been living with a form of colour blindness and have therefore made some unflattering fashion choices because you simply weren’t able to decipher the true colour. These kind of things are fairly small but still have an impact on our lives and decisions.

What about bigger things which have bigger consequences? Sometimes people are unaware that they have an intolerance or allergy to medicines until it is introduced into their system and important bodily functions are impaired. Once this is discovered, they will have to avoid the substance for the rest of their life if they want to be well. A new truth has been discovered which must be acted upon, otherwise it may have life-threatening consequences.

Similarly, there are consequences to our beliefs in the spiritual realm, which may be far reaching and eternal. Jesus had been speaking with the Pharisees, a leading group of ultra-religious Jews who thought they knew everything there was to know about obedience to God. In fact, they failed to recognise the Son of God when He was standing right in front of them. The Old Testament scriptures had prophesied His coming and how He would live; Jesus’s lifestyle and actions confirmed that He was indeed this coming Messiah, yet they simply couldn’t see it.

At the beginning of John 8, we see Jesus dealing sensitively yet authoritatively with a woman caught in adultery. The Pharisees questioned Jesus’ identity and witness to Himself, to which Jesus replied:

“Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going..” v14

Jesus continued to speak to the Pharisees about their eternal destiny, which would be apart from Him if they continued in their sin. They wouldn’t listen to what He had been saying about His identity and Jesus moved on to speak of His Father:

…He who sent Me is true: and I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him.” v26b

After describing the kind of death He would endure at their hands, Jesus turned to some Jewish believers and said:

“If you abide in My word, you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth , and the truth shall make you free.” v31, 32

Assuming that Jesus’ words about Himself were true, then the Pharisees were caught in a powerful delusion and were in bondage to a false notion. Not only that, but the consequences would mean that they would “die in their sins” (v21, 24). This would be a very high price to pay for their refusal to accept the Jewish Messiah who their own Scriptures had prophesied would come exactly when and where He did.

So we’ve seen that the price is high for a false view of Jesus based on His words in that passage. What about believers who do trust Jesus but don’t understand all His teaching? Are there consequences for them for having the wrong idea of Jesus and His message?

This is something I have personal experience of. I became a Christian at the age of 9, by recognising that I was a sinner and that Jesus had died for me. I prayed a simple prayer, saying sorry and asking for His forgiveness, and I believe that Jesus did come into my heart that very day. However, I lacked some assurance about the nature of His love. As I grew up, I continued to read His word, to attend church and go to young peoples’ meetings, etc; I did everything you might expect a professing Christian to do. But I struggled with low self esteem. I was bullied in various settings. I even wondered why God had allowed me to be born if I was only going to be bullied everywhere I went. I did also have friends, but I was always drawn to look at the negatives.

As I got older, I left school with good grades and went on to University to study Psychology. I had it in mind that one day I would be a clinical psychologist able to help people in real need who were hurting for one reason or another. However, I struggled to cope with the workload and when I got back a poor result for an early assignment, I decided to leave. I came home and had a few jobs that were a lot different to how I imagined my life would be! I felt like a complete failure. My old school friends were pressing on with their studies and enjoying University life, but I was a dropout.

Within a few years of this, I had married and had my first child aged 23. In many ways we were blessed with good things, but there were ongoing difficulties which made life hard. I went on to have my second child at 28, but even after this I had a gnawing sense of failure. I wasn’t a good enough wife or mother. I hadn’t made anything of my life. People my age were doing much better than I was (or so I thought). It got to a point where I felt I didn’t want to go on any longer. After all, my children would be better off without me. I still prayed and read my Bible and did all of those things, but nothing positive could get through.

One night I prayed to God in desperation; where was all the joy and peace Christians were supposed to feel and experience? Why was I so miserable? Couldn’t God just give me a terminal disease to end this misery?

What actually happened next change my life for good. One night I went to a church meeting; I felt there was no point in my being there. I didn’t have anything to contribute, I felt I was pretty useless as a church member. My pastor was a long way from where I was in the room. It was my plan to slip in and out without really having to talk to anyone. At the end of the meeting, however, my pastor ran over to me in the foyer of our church and hugged me tight, saying with some urgency, “We love you here, Jesus loves you”. I thought it was a bit over the top, but I knew he was trying to be nice. I went into the car park to drive home, but as I started off he ran over to me and banged on the bonnet of my car. I wound my window down and he asked me a very pertinent question. I was really moved by this; I felt that he knew to run after me and ask this thing through the Holy Spirit. That’s the only explanation I could come up with. My plan had been to go in and out with minimal human contact, but God had another idea.

I cried in the car going home and went round the block a few times until the tears had subsided. When I did get home I remember praying and almost trembling because I knew that God had seen me and knew my distress. I recognised that He was telling me that He did love me! For years and years I had “known” this love in my head, but it had little effect on my life. From that point on I knew His love in my heart. I went to see a Christian counsellor who helped me enormously. I realised that God loved me as I was, that He hadn’t wanted me to hit an unattainable standard of behaviour before He would accept me. The Bible says that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). This truth had been there all along, along with many other verses that speak of His love for His own, but I had never taken them to heart.

These truths about God’s love changed my life. I no longer look to my own performance as a basis of His love for me, but rather to the finished work of Christ on the cross. Really, I repented of my unbelief for all those years. The truth was staring me in the face, but it wasn’t until I was at rock bottom that God dealt with me and I truly understood His love. Knowing the truth has set me free from a lifetime of dashed hopes and forever missing the mark to know the comfort of His enduring love. I pray that you too will experience this in your own lives.

May the love of Jesus fill me
As the waters fill the sea;
Him exalting, self abasing:
This is victory.

Kate B. Wilkinson