Seek My Face Not My Hands
I know the last post I made was extremely long, and blogs are not supposed to be that long. Hopefully I can do a little bit better job of keeping this one short and succinct, but I am making no promises, as this subject has been a burden on my heart as of late. The content discussed in this article is incredibly foundational and also controlling. Before you even begin reading. STOP. PRAY. Allow your heart to be prepared for what could be a hard and convicting lesson. Open yourself to the Spirit, be honest with yourself, allow Him to search your heart (He’s going to do it in regardless.), and be open to whatever He may say or ask you to do. Really. PRAY.
Desire. Hunger. Appetite. Longing. Yearning.
What images do these words conjure up?
Do thoughts of evil lusts immediately prick your conscience?
Or do good things like an ice cream sundae or a day at the beach come to mind?
In Christian circles, desire is a word that often comes with an overwhelmingly negative connotation. When we hear a preacher will be speaking about desire, our thoughts tend to go immediately to abstinence, resistance, and suffering loss. Certainly we are taught to do away with our fleshly lusts and desires now that we are in Christ (1 Peter 2:11). In no way do I desire to contradict the important message that we must discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness and refrain from chasing after the things which the world desires (1 Timothy 4:7-8). Jesus Himself taught those who followed Him to stop seeking eagerly after the things that the Gentiles seek telling them to not even worry for their necessities (Matthew 6:31-32). However, I have noticed a trend in my life that I think is common in Christianity today in America. We are prone to settle for shadows of the real thing (GOD) and to chase after earthly things that will not last. Many of the desires that we classify as wrong and evil are actually good and natural. The problem arises when we attempt to satisfy those desires by unnatural and unintended means. Our desires have been tainted by the burden of sin, and as a result, we stop seeking the face of God for the satisfaction of our desires and start looking around us to fulfill our desires.
We hunger for food because we need food.
We want to drink because it brings both health and pleasure.
We desire wealth for the comfort and ease that it can bring.
We search for love because we were intended to live in the context of relationships.
We long for intimacy because we were made to be completely transparent.
We want to be closer to God because we were designed to be close to Him.
We read the Word because we desire God’s blessing.
We pray because we desire to be heard and want God to move in our circumstances.
When these desires are distorted what do we become?
GLUTTONS DRUNKARDS SELFISH PROSTITUTES IDOLATERS
When our desires become distorted by sin and we make the fulfillment and our will and affections our supreme goal, we become ravenous idolaters and pleasure-seekers. Our plan quickly begins to align with cultural measures of success, and we seek self-glorification in all that we pursue. Our lives become hedonistic, self-seeking, and geocentric when we focus on this world and fail to consider eternal consequences. This is a good description of the way American society and culture function, but certainly we do not see the same darkness in the Church and in Christianity? Unfortunately, I see a tendency in myself and Christians all around me a frequent desire to seek glory for themselves. This tendency is incredibly dangerous and deceptive because those well-learned and well-established in the Scriptures (Pastors, ministry leaders, theologians, students of the Word, etc.) can bend Scripture to justify their self-seeking desires allowing desire for self-glorification to masquerade as a desire to glorify God.
Could it be that we seek to self-glorify because glorification brings satisfaction? Could it be that we settle for mere shadows and that our desires are too weak when we seek only to glorify self?
Could if be that our greatest satisfaction is tied to glorifying God which we were created to do as beings made in His very image and crowned with His very breath?
The depravity of man illustrates the tragic mark of sins stain. It has corrupted our desires so that we point to ourselves rather than pointing to the Creator. The Creation has come to worship itself rather than the omnipotent Creator.
Perhaps by way of illustration I can demonstrate this travesty. When it artist paints a masterpiece, it is said that the painting bears the mark of its creator. There are elements of the painting that make it unique in the very same ways that the artist is unique. The painting points to its maker because it bears his mark. In the same way, we are made in the image of God. We are His handiwork and we point to Him because our form demonstrates a variety of His deepest attributes. Yet when we seek praise for ourselves, we fail to recognize the source of our mastery and beauty. To use again the analogy of the masterpiece painting, it would be as if the painting cried out to the patrons of the arts, “Look at me! Aren’t I wonderful beyond all imagination? I am beautiful and unique. Is there any other such beauty on the earth? Worship me!” The masterpiece forgets the origin of its marks of beauty. Its beauty is born out of the soul and skill of the artist and not its own defining qualities. As Christians, we are prone to make the declaration of the painting. We may not say it as clearly and distinctly. We may make ourselves feel better by coating such declarations with Scriptural and spiritual justifications while the one we are designed to point to its pushed to the background…
Back to the fundamental issue of sin and how it has brought us into this pathetic state. Sin is a rebellion against God’s established character and disobedience to His explicit commandments. He is the designer and shaper of our appetites. Yet sin has given us knowledge of both good and evil giving us alternative routes to sometimes more instant gratification. So often we choose immediate satiation over complete, eternal satisfaction. Yet through God’s commandments and in His character we find the means of ultimate satisfaction. Shouldn’t we trust that the One who created and designed our appetites knows how to best fulfill them? If we follow His commandments in obedience perhaps we will find that not only will we glorify Him, but we will also find the consummation of our desires?
So far I have discussed the problem of desire from different angles, but what is the proper response for those who claim to be part of the bride of Christ, the Church.
“When You said, ‘Seek My face,’ my heart said to You, ‘Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.’”
Problems in Christendom commonly arise when we seek His hands rather than seeking His face.
(Remember that’s what this post is called. I promise everything you just read had a point. I’m just going to close it off now. Just making sure you didn’t forget what this whole post is about.)
What does it mean to seek God’s hands over His face? When we begin to look for what God can do for us, instead of simply seeking His face we can know that our desires are headed the wrong direction. When we begin to draw up plans in our circumstances and ask God to make them happen rather than asking for His will to be done, we know that we are desiring God’s strength over His abiding Presence. When we search for miracles and a sign, we may be longing for His power rather than intimate knowledge of and relationship with Him. For those who are ministers, it begins with seeking to build your kingdom and living to make your name famous rather than dying that you might live for Him. We can easily perform Christian disciplines out of a desire for Him to give us our hearts desire. When we begin to experience seeking fulfillment of desire by these means, we can be sure that we have bought the life that God is not enough and we need what this earth has to offer as well.
There is an epidemic of misplaced desire in churches across this country. These churches seek to make a name for their particular church or denomination rather than seeking to make much of the name of Christ and to preach the gospel. Christian leaders do this by adulterating the word and attempting to use it to make a name for themselves. Almost all Christians do this at one point or another when they refuse to obediently submit their will and affections to the King (read the last blog post if your struggle is in this area). In all of these cases, we simply do not have the faith to believe that God is enough. We believe there is more to be had than Him alone. We assimilate the culture. We begin chasing things of the earth and present age. We fail to hold Christ as the ultimate treasure. As a result, our prayers are not born out of a desire to converse and commune with God, but to have His hands on our side for the fulfillment of our plans and accomplishment of our will. This is a travesty!
Perhaps you find yourself convicted and don’t know where to start with correction. I am convinced that far too many people who claim to be Christians today don’t know what it truly means to desire and seek God. As a result of the comfort and freedom that we are surrounded with in America, it is easy to be nominal and identify yourself with religion by name only. Many people do this without even realizing they are bearing no fruit and have never truly converted. Such people seek only a safety net for eternity, and fail to recognize the depths of their brokenness and longing. At times, all Christians in America settle into apathy and inactivity. This must stop. Understanding and recognition of errors like these in our lives requires fierce introspection and the conviction of the Holy Spirit. More often than not, Christians who settle into an apathetic, inactive lifestyle have never sought the face of God or beheld His overwhelming glory. They do not even recognize that there are greater things to be sought than the things of this world. The error of seeking his hands only is not limited to those who are spiritually dead, though. You may think yourself to be spiritually strong. You do all of the write things. You read, pray, and meditate. Yet you may still be in the camp of those who have never sought His face. You may be counted among those who seek only your own benefit. You may still be wasting your life away chasing after shadows.
While I am convinced that many Christians have become content in apathy and others blinded by religious practice, I am even more convinced that one glimpse of His glory will forever captivate the heart. If we seek His face, He will become to us an all-consuming, completely satisfying desire. As long as we seek His hands only, this will not happen and we will continue in emptiness. The cunning schemes of the enemy love to prey on those who seek God’s hands only. When you seek only His hands and see your will coming to fruition, you may be quick to claim that God is “present” and His glory is “near.” It is only a fallacy and illusion. Your desires will continue to lead you on a path of destruction and you will not come to know God more deeply. We must learn to pray according to HIS will if we are to truly behold and experience His glory. We must make Him our greatest treasure and live for a land that lies beyond this world (Matthew 6:19-20, 13:44).
In closing, we must stop attempting to manipulate our circumstances and impose our will. We must cease praying according to our will for our glory. We must seek His face alone. When Moses beheld the glory of the Lord in the burning bush, it left Him forever changed. He stopped living life His way and started following God’s way. As a result, he found complete satisfaction. God is calling out to everyone on this planet. The earth declares His glory (Psalm 19:1-2). He knows what man is seeking and will never find apart from Him. And He is calling out to you today…
“Seek My face!”
What will your response be? Will you continue living in futility for your own glory or will you die so that He might be glorified in you? Will you make Him your treasure now?
(Matthew 6:19-24, 30-33, Luke 12:28-34, Colossians 3:1-3)
I implore you!
Seek His face alone…