This is a phrase used among Christian’s to refer to every person’s need for Jesus Christ in order to fulfill one’s life. Over time, I’ve come to think of this as being a somewhat optimistic metaphor. Yet, it is true. The human soul was meant to be tightly knit with it’s Creator and since no man or woman has that naturally because of our sin, we have a very difficult problem to overcome.
Interestingly, virtually every person alive knows of this need. Some call it “the search for meaning.” Others will say that every person needs some cause “bigger than himself to serve.” Some try to quell it and say that we merely need to become at peace with the universe. Many try to satisfy it or even numb themselves by seeking sex, money, entertainment, food, drink, power, or virtually anything else. Some look to science to explain this need away. Some just look out to something or someone outside themselves and depend upon them to be their hope and fulfill that need. All humans seek a god to worship and the worship that god demands depends purely on what that person thinks his or her god wants.
Where we Christians get a little too optimistic and even a bit idealistic is when we start thinking that all of these people are somehow seeking for God. No, they are not. These people are seeking after whatever will satisfy them. They are seeking to sin against God. They don’t need God. They can invent their own gods. The only man or woman who seeks God is drawn by the Holy Spirit.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. — Romans 8:28-30
You see, in order to seek, you must have first been known by God, predestined by God, and called to Him. Then and only then, do you seek to have your God-shaped hole filled. I think too many Christians believe that they themselves were responsible for their own salvation. That somehow all they needed was the information and then they got to make the decision to come to Christ. Maybe, but that doesn’t sit well with me or my reading of scripture.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. — Ephesians 2:8-10
I read this passage and I am convinced that it fully implies that salvation itself is completely and totally a gift from God to those He has chosen to bestow it upon. It is a gift He gives through many mediums, but a gift nonetheless. Once the Thief has chosen to rob your house, your soul is in His hands.
Some will say, but what about free will? Free will is a difficult concept to master. There are shades of liberty. As John Donne put it, “No man is an island.” He was speaking of death, but really in all things, the will of one man or our God influences, guides, prevents, changes, or manipulates our lives in certain directions we can’t really control. Free will does not indicate that I can do anything I want. If I want to rule the world from the moon, I can’t just do it. I’ll have to somehow conquer or persuade everyone to let me rule and then get to the moon.
Becoming a Christian without God doing all the work is about as difficult as trying to fly to the moon by waving your arms. It cannot be done.
Now, this is all “just” theology. When this theology meets the pavement, you get missions. If I know that men and women only come to Christ when the Spirit draws them, what does that mean for the missionary and evangelist? Not much. You must still share the message, that is our Great Commission. You must still use every form of persuasion and self-sacrifice to reach out and love those that might come to Christ. God uses people to convert people more often than anything else. That medium requires the speech and blood and sweat and life-example of Christians.
The main difference I see is peace. Contentment is the main reward of following this doctrine. God is responsible for growing the harvest and you, the evangelist, are only there to water, to weed, and possibly to gather the harvest when the season is right. If you are serving faithfully in whatever capacity you can, you’ve done your work. Everything else is up to God. If your ministry of evangelism converts none, but you have done the work you can, you have done enough. Even your imperfect service can be brought to God’s glory. That is, in itself, a small miracle given that you are merely a sinner, redeemed and justified, but still a sinner.
Let the Spirit minister through you, but let God take all the glory. Amen.