O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, that so I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, `Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.’ Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
— A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God
IN THE BIBLE, there is a precious teaching which goes something like this: any desire that man has for God was given to him by God. In other words, worthless people that we are, we do not even have the desire to draw near to God without God helping us by first placing that desire within us. In Romans 3:9-12, Paul describes our desperate condition,
“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
Without God’s loving intervention, we have no natural inclination for seeking after God or even good works. We are, in fact, in a wretched state—and most of the time we like it that way!
Does this pitiful situation somehow negate personal responsibility or choice? Absolutely not! This doctrine in fact enables choice. Without God’s initiating and sustaining grace in our lives, we would never be able to desire goodness and work towards holiness. The old slave master of Sin would perpetually be at the helm of our lives, and we would always be at the mercy of its beckoning call.
Another interesting aspect of the God’s enabling grace is that it removes pride from the process of becoming holy. The Christian cannot claim any pride for the conquering of his personal sins. All the work that has made the transformation possible has already been done by Jesus Christ on the cross. This allowance and gift of “working out our salvation” is wholly built upon the love and mercy of God. We enter into this mighty battle against our personal sins and demons because God has given us the power and the means by changing the core affections of our hearts. God has in fact “removed our hearts of stone and replaced it with hearts of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).
Come Thou Fount
The hymn, Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing, speaks beautifully of God’s “preceding” work of grace in our lives.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God.
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.
Before we even possess an initial desire to seek Jesus, Jesus first seeks us. And His tremendous love is not only a spoken love, it is a demonstrated one borne on suffering and pain. But despite God’s faithfulness to us and despite Jesus’ redemptive work on the cross, the most depressing and frankly disgusting aspect of our humanity is this: even after returning to our beautiful and faithful bride, we still have a propensity to wander off and seek the harlot of our sinful past. The hymnist captures this miserable situation like this:
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it.
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, Oh take and seal it.
Seal it for Thy courts above.
In Romans chapter 7, Paul elaborates about this weakness and fickleness of ours in this way:
“For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing… What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
We are a people constantly “prone to wander.” This hymn reminds us that we depend on God’s grace not only for our salvation, but also for our daily sustenance to keep us from leaving His folds and gentle embrace.