This week's 'thought' comes to you from John R. W. Stott in the opening paragraphs of his book, "Basic Christianity." I have been leading a Thursday night discipleship group using the IVP Study based on this book, and called "Christ - Basic Christianity." The words he writes are a needed reminder in a world that often thinks that we determine our own destiny; are the "captain of our souls," and thus the initiators when it comes to the search for God and salvation. Enjoy.
"'In the beginning God.' The first four words of the Bible are more than an introduction to the creation story or to the book of Genesis. They supply the key which opens our understanding to the Bible as a whole. They tell us that the religion of the Bible is a religion of the initiative of God.
You can never take God by surprise. You can never anticipate him. He always makes the first move. He is always there 'in the beginning.' Before man existed, God acted. Before man stirs himself to seek God, God has sought man. In the Bible we do not see man groping after God; we see God reaching after man. Many people visualize a God who sits comfortably on a distant throne, remote, aloof, uninterested, and indifferent to the needs of mortals, until, it may be, they can badger him into taking action on their behalf. Such a view is wholly false. The Bible reveals a God who, long before it even occurs to man to turn to him, while man is still lost in darkness and sunk in sin, takes the initiative, rises from his throne, lays aside his glory, and stoops to seek until he finds him.
This sovereign, anticipating activity of God is seen in many ways. He has taken the initiative in creation, bringing the universe and its contents into existence... He has taken the initiative in revelation, making known to mankind both his nature and his will... (and) He has taken the initiative in salvation, coming in Jesus Christ to set men and women free from their sins... God has created. God has spoken. God has acted. These three statements of God's initiative in three different spheres form the summary of the religion of the Bible...
Christianity is not just pious talk. It is neither a collection of religious ideas nor a catalogue of rules. It is a 'gospel' (i.e. good news) -- in Pauls words 'the gospel of God... concerning his Son... Jesus Christ our Lord.' It is not primarily an invitation to man to do anything; it is supremely a declaration of what God has done in Christ for human beings like ourselves."
Years beforehand A. W. Tozer had said nearly the same thing in his book, The Pursuit of God:
"Before a man can seek God, God must have sought the man... We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to that pursuit. 'No one can come to me,' said our Lord, 'except the Father which has sent me draw him,' and it is this very prevenient drawing that takes from us every vestige of credit for the act of coming. The impulse to pursue God originates with God, but the outworking of that impulse is our following hard after Him, all the time we are pursuing him we are already in His hand: 'Thy right hand upholdeth me' (Ps. 63:8). In this divine 'upholding' and human 'following' there is no contradiction. All is of God, for as von Hugel teaches, God is always previous. In practice, however, (that is, where God's previous working meets man's present response) man must pursue God."
He truly is, as Francis Thompson once wrote, The Hound of Heaven. To His name be the glory for all that He has done and continues to do.
May your trust be in Him, Pastor Jeff