“Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isa 55:6-7).
This clarion call of the Prophet Isaiah applies to you, dear friend, if you are yet an unconverted person. Your life will not only be meaningless upon earth—since it is so temporary—but your soul, which is permanent, will be full of fearful torment and guilt for all eternity if you should die without Christ. “Seek the LORD, and ye shall live,” says Amos (Am 5:6a). I would be naïve to assume that these few statements will cause you to want to seek the Lord, but I want to urge you to consider what I have to say, for it is only because I believe there is hope for you that I come to you with such ‘unkind’ words. Were I convinced that there is no way of escape for you because of your rebellion, I would rather allow you to live peaceably while you may. But having been in your position before, and brought to realise how close I was to being plunged into a Christ-less eternity, I count it grossly irresponsible and ungrateful to remain silent. “For the love of Christ constraineth us” (1 Cor 5:14a).
I suppose, if I have your attention till now, that one question that must be bothering you is why the title of this article is worded in the way it is, rather than: “How to seek the Lord and Find Him”? The answer is quite simple: unless the Lord finds you, or more accurately, unless the Lord first changes your heart, you cannot find Him. The Apostle Paul, quoting Old Testament Scripture, insists: “There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Rom 3:10-12). All unconverted men, without exception, is under the bondage of sin (v. 9), and so are not able to, nor desire to seek after God. If unconverted man is unwilling and unable to honestly and wholehearted seek the Lord, how can he find Him? Moreover, the Lord Jesus Christ teaches that “Except a man be born again, He cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn 3:3). How then can an unconverted man seek and find the Lord? We see, then, that although Isaiah and Amos urges us to seek, you cannot be saved by your efforts at seeking alone. Salvation is wholly by the grace of God: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8). You must be spiritually resurrected (Eph 2:5: Jn 5:24) and your heart must be changed by God. At which time, rather than your finding the Lord, you will be found of Him. This is why John Newton in his beautiful hymn Amazing Grace, confesses: “I once was lost, but now am found, Was blind, but now I see.” He knew that he did not find God, but God found him—just as the woman found her lost coin and the shepherd found the lost sheep (Lk 11:1-10) and not the other way round.
So then, dear friend, remember that it is not ultimately by your effort that you will experience conversion. “All our righteousnesses,” says Isaiah “are as filthy rags” (Isa 64:6). Your seeking does not guarantee that you will find God. But you have great hope of salvation if you seek. Jonathan Edwards, the Great Puritan philosopher theologian was referring to this hope when he says: “God usually give success to those who diligently, and constantly, and perseveringly seek conversion” (Sermon on Hosea 5.15, in Works 2.87b). On the other hand, if you do not heed the call to seek, you are almost guaranteed to perish in your sins.
Oh, friend, this is a matter of such grave importance. Your eternal destiny is at stake. I am aware that you do not know Christ, not to mention love Him and embrace Him, but I am sure you care about your soul. You may not have thought about your soul but you know you have a soul because you have a sense of morality that animals do not have. As such, may I urge you to spend some time to think and ponder about where your soul, that is you, will go, if you should die tonight. Reflect on your life and think about your sinfulness in the eyes of the most holy God. Yes, God is not only a God of love, but He is a God of absolute justice and holiness. The prophet Habbakuk says of the Lord, “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity” (Hab 1:13a). If you remain in your sin—and you will unless you are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and represented by Christ—you will be cast into the darkness and torments of hell to suffer intolerable damnation. It is written in the Scriptures, “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement” (Heb 9:27). In the day of judgement, all the secrets of men will be made bare (Eccl 12:14; Rom 2:16). Oh, will you not labour to have a proper apprehension of the terrors that await you? And as you do so, may I urge you: “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near” To this end, may I offer you a few simple directions on how you must seek. If you desire some thing more detailed, may I recommend Joseph Alleine’s A Sure Guide to Heaven or The Narrow Way by William C. Nichols.
Firstly, may I urge you to forsake your sinful way of life. Isaiah says “Let the wicked forsake his way.” Do you know of any habits or sins which you know to be blasphemous or displeasing to God? Consider the word of Isaiah: “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isa 59:2). Are you involved in some immoral activities? Repent of them, forsake them. Do you have or know of an evil habit—gossiping, lying, excessive drinking? Renounce them and put a stop to them. Are you involved in an immoral relationship or are you often found in evil company? Unless you separate yourself, you will be dragged back to your old ways in no time. Yes, it is true that you may not have complete victory until your heart be renovated by God, but if you are serious about seeking God, will you not muster as much effort as you can to rid yourself of these habits, practices and friendships? Will you not re-arrange your day-to-day activities so that they do not interfere with your seeking God?
Secondly, you must also make every effort to block out sinful thoughts. “Let the … unrighteous man [forsake] his thoughts.” If you are prone to immoral fantasy, if you are wont to scheme and plot evil, if you are bearing grudges and imagine vengeance upon your enemies, you must actively cast away these thoughts. Are you by nature a proud person? Unless you humble yourself, you may not expect to be shown grace (Lk 14:8). And yes, if you have any notion of winning your way to heaven by your sheer discipline and outward conformity to the Laws of God, you must banish that thought too.
Thirdly, although outward conformity to the Law, and use of the means of grace—prayer, reading the Scripture, hearing sermons, etc.—will not merit salvation, yet they are absolutely essential. “Let him return unto the LORD” says Isaiah. If you do not spend time to read the Scripture and to attend to sermons, you cannot possibly be seeking at all. “Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom 10:17). Prayer is also essential. Someone may object: “Doesn’t Proverbs 15:8 teach that the prayer of an unbeliever is an abomination to the Lord?” Let David Clarkson answer: “There are abominations in the prayers of a wicked man, but for him to pray is not an abomination; it is the good and acceptable will of God, that which he commands.” Cry out for mercy, dear friend. Weep for your sins and plead for pardon for your great wickedness against Him. Appeal to the Lord to take away your heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh. Cry out to Him for illumination when you read the Scripture. Friend, I cannot over-emphasise the importance of prayer and the reading and hearing of the Word. Indeed, I am fairly certain that if the Lord should grant you conversion experience, you will be either hearing a sermon, reading the Scripture or earnestly in prayer. Bear in mind that not all will experience a dramatic conversion. Some of us may be overwhelmed by a sense of our burdens of sin being lifted, and overwhelmed by a flood of love for the Lord and inexplicable joy. Others may feel nothing but be nevertheless convicted that our sins are forgiven. Though regeneration is sudden, it may not be appreciated or realised till much later. However if comes about, it will be through the Word and through prayer.
Finally, may I urge you to strive with all your might in your effort to seek the Lord. Heed the Lord’s admonishment: “Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able” (Lk 13:24). The word translated ‘strive’ is the Greek agonizomai from which the English agonise is derived. You are to seek persistently, wholeheartedly and diligently even to the point of exhaustion. The Lord does not guarantee you that you will enter if you strive—remember that your striving is in no way meritorious—but He does suggest that if you seek half-heartedly, you can hardly expect to find Him. Edwards is surely right when he says:
It is most likely that God should bestow this gift [of salvation] in a way of earnest attention to divine truth, and the use of the means of grace, with reflection on one’s own sinfulness, and in a way of being more and more convinced of sinfulness, and total corruption and need of the divine power to restore the heart, to infuse goodness and of becoming more and more sensible of one’s own impotence, and helplessness and inability to obtain goodness by his own strength. (Concerning Efficacious Grace, in Works 2.543a-b).
May I, by way of conclusion, remind you that if you are deign to flee to Christ for salvation and embrace Him with your whole heart, He is ever willing to receive you. Though Christ indeed says, “No man can come unto Me, except it were given unto him of my Father” (Jn 6:65), He also says, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (Jn 6:37). And so He calls us, “Come now, and let us reason together… though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18). Meditate Isaiah 53. Was it for your transgression Christ was wounded? Was it for your sins that He was bruised? If you truly believe yourself to be a worthless sinner deserving of damnation, it is evident that God has already changed your heart. Come to Christ, casting your burden of sin upon him and embrace Him as your saviour even if you detect but a glimmering of faith. Yes, it is not great faith that is saving, but that faith the size of a mustard seed. Do not wait till you have great faith to acknowledge Him as Saviour and Lord. You cannot have faith but that He first change your heart. But if that little faith is present, we have the assurance of Christ that, “A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall He not quench” (Matt 12:20a). Christ did “not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Mt 9:13). If you genuinely believe you are a sinner, Christ is calling you. Do you not feel the grievousness of your sin? Meditate on your corruption. Is there not pride in your heart? Is there no arrogance? Is there not an attitude that you are better than others? Is there no jealousy? Is there no unbelief? Is there not an attitude of disdain for matters of religion? Is there no self-sufficiency? Is there not an unwillingness to put Christ ahead of your worldly endeavours? If you see these in your heart, cry out honestly to the Lord, and realise that Christ can forgive you of them.
Will you not weep before Him like the importunate widow (Lk 18:1-8) and give Him no rest till He grant you a new heart or gives you the assurance of a changed heart?