The Pursuit of God

God is the author of our salvation. There is nothing we can do on our own to gain it – not any amount of church attendance, not a lifetime of ‘good works’, not by praying to saints nor by the granting of indulgences. All the credit is due to God who secured our redemption by the blood of Jesus who willingly died for us on the cross.

We cannot even claim credit for ‘accepting’ Jesus for it is God who draws us to himself, and it is the Holy Spirit who guides and strengthens us from thereon. Just before he returned to his Father, after he had risen from the cross, Jesus said he would not abandon us and leave us on our own.

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” – (John 14:26 – English Standard Version).

The following excerpt is from The Pursuit of God by A W Tozer.

“Christian theology teaches the doctrine of prevenient grace, which briefly stated means this, that before a man can seek God, God must first have sought the man.

We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit.

“No man can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” (John 6:44 – English Standard Version), and it is by this very prevenient drawing that God 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; and all the time we are pursuing Him we are already in His hand: “Thy right hand upholdeth me.”

“My soul clings to you; your right hand uphholds me.” (Psalm 63:8 – English Standard Version )”

The Lowly Servant Girl

Luke 1:46-55 is Mary’s song of praise to God. It spills out of her heart after her relative Elizabeth, the expectant mother of John the Baptist, acknowledged her blessedness as the mother of Jesus. Mary’s song is often called the “Magnificat” which means “Praise,” from the first word of the Latin translation of its first line: magnificat anima mea Dominum (literally, “My soul praises the Lord”).

Mary’s song focuses on God’s great works, especially his tendency to turn everything upside down. He “took notice of his lowly servant girl” when choosing a mother for the Messiah, rather than selecting a woman of prominence (1:48). The Lord “scattered the proud and haughty ones,” rather than honoring them (1:51). “He has brought down princes from their thrones, and exalted the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away with empty hands” (1:52-53). God’s kingdom inverts human structures and values, as is seen so clearly in Mary’s own experience.

We can read Mary’s song and say, “Oh, what wonderful thoughts!” But do we really take seriously what she said? When I do this, I must confess that the “Magnificat” unsettles me. Why? Because I tend to be proud and even haughty. Because, though I’m not a prince, I am a person with authority and not necessarily all that humble. Moreover, I am certainly not hungry. And in comparison to most people in the world, I am rich.

So, Mary’s song can be unnerving to me, as, indeed, it should be. It challenges me to consider my values and goals. Am I striving for the wrong things in life? How much of my life is devoted to seeking security, reputation, and power? How often do I hold on to my material blessings rather than sharing them with the poor and hungry?

I don’t believe the purpose of the “Magnificat” is to make us feel guilty for what we have in the way of possessions or influence. Rather, it calls us to devote our lives to being, like Mary, a willing and humble servant of God. It reminds us that, like Israel, we are called to be God’s servants in the world, serving others as a reflection and extension of God’s kingdom. Mary’s song stirs in me a desire to live today for what really matters, so that God might use me for his purposes and glory.

In the days before Christmas, we can easily get caught up in mass consumption as we scurry about buying presents and enjoying lavish Christmas parties. Mary’s song encourages us to step back, to think about our values and our striving. Perhaps, this season of Advent can offer a different way, a way of seeking, a way of serving, a way of sacrifice.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Have you ever thought about what Mary’s song really says? How do you respond to its potentially unsettling message? How might you live today for the things that really matter?

PRAYER: With Mary, my soul praises you this day, O Lord. My spirit rejoices in you, my Savior. You are the Mighty One, the holy God at work in this world.

Mary’s song challenges me, Lord, to be honest about my values and desires. It forces me to admit that I often line up with those who are on top in this world, those who end up on the underside when your kingdom turns everything upside down. Forgive me, gracious God, for my selfishness, for all the ways I let this world form and shape me.

In this season of Advent, may I live as your servant. May I be truly humble before you and others. May I use well the opportunities and gifts you place in my hands, serving you and others for your glory. May I seek after what really matters, offering myself to you in every facet of life.

All praise be to you, O Lord and God, my Savior! Amen.

Used with permission from The Theology of Work

Mary’s Song – The Magnificat

My soul doth magnify the Lord:
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour
Because He hath regarded the lowliness of His handmaid:
For, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For He that is mighty hath done great things to me: and holy is His Name.
And His mercy is from generation until generations, to them that fear Him.
He hath showed might with His arm: He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the lowly.
He hath filled the hungry with good things: and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He hath received Israel His servant, being mindful of His mercy:
As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed for ever.

Luke 1: 46-55

The Indwelling Life of Christ

The following extract is from The Indwelling Life of Christ by Ian Thomas

The human spirit is that part of us where God lives within us in the person of the Holy Spirit, so that with our moral consent (and never without it), God gains access to our human soul. This is where He Himself, as the Creator within the creature, can teach our minds, control our emotions, and direct our wills, so that He, as God from within, governs our behavior as we let God be God.

“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25), and this is what it means to walk in the Holy Spirit: to take one step at a time, and for every new situation into which every new step takes you, no matter what it may be, to hear Christ saying to your heart, “I AM,” then to look up into His face by faith and say, “You are! That is all I need to know, Lord, and I thank You, for You are never less than adequate.”

The LORD is the strength of my life. (Psalm 27:1)