No One Seeks God
When I graduated high school I repeated a pattern most of the kids in my town followed. I enrolled in a local college about 20 minutes from my house. I didn’t have to move out. I didn’t have to quit my job or leave town. I didn’t have to pay for tuition. I didn’t have to start over. It made sense—financially, socially, and vocationally.
But I was still living at home, under my parents’s roof—and rules. I was still attending the same church, where everyone knew me. I felt constrained. I felt managed. I felt stuck. So I made the decision only a bull-headed 18-year-old kid searching for “freedom” would make. I forfeited my scholarship at the local college. I enrolled in a larger university 5 hours away. I left my town, my home, my church, my family, and joined a fraternity filled with other bull-headed 18-year-old kids looking for freedom.
I don’t need to write a paragraph about what we did that semester at the Sigma Nu house. You can use your imagination. I answered to no one. No family, no church, no authority, and no rules. “There was no king in those days at college, and every boy did what was right in his own eyes.” I explored my new-found “freedom” and found it to leave me empty, guilty, and enslaved.
About half-way through that first semester, a young man named Richard began walking through our fraternity halls (all 3 floors) and knocking on every door. He was kind, unobtrusive, and non-threatening. He carried a Bible with him and would say pretty much the same script when I answered the door. “Hi. I’m Richard. I’m with the Christian Campus ministry and was wondering if you’d like to meet up, pray, read the Bible, and talk about God? I’d love to encourage you.”
That was over 25 years ago and I can still see Richard’s face and hear his words. But most important, I can still feel the seething anger in my heart when he mentioned the words, “Bible,” “prayer,” and especially “God.” I’m sure my face betrayed my rehearsed response each week. “No thanks, Richard. I’m already a Christian. And I’m busy.”
What I was really saying was, “Go away, Richard. I moved five hours away to get away from the Richards in my life.” But I wasn’t really saying that to Richard. I was saying it to God. “Get your claws off my life, God. I don’t want you here.”
I grew to despise even the sight of Richard. The way he held his Bible. His niceness. It made me angry. He didn't preach a sermon or lecture me about drinking, recreational drug-use, or sexual purity. He only offered to read the Bible with me and talk about my life. But that's was all it took.
In Chapter 3 of Romans, Paul says something that will make us bristle if we’re paying attention. He gives a sweeping summary of the human condition. It’s more like a closing argument in a courtroom from a skilled attorney who is proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In Paul’s list of 14 statements, this line stands out:
“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
Had you told me in my fraternity days that I was an ignorant, rebellious, unrighteous, spiritual criminal, running away from God, I would have whole-heartedly disagreed with you. Maybe I would have said, “Look, I’m not perfect. Just sowing some wild oats here. Me and God are okay. He understands. I love Him. He loves me. End of discussion.”
Richard left me alone. But thankfully, God did not. He was after me. After just one semester, deeper emptiness, a move back home, and a DWI, I was caught—both by the police, and by God. It was a glorious capture. God blew the lid off my hypocrisy and offered me a much more abundant life. If Richard only knew. God didn’t use Richard to share the gospel with me. He used him to prove Paul’s doctrine of depravity.
Not long after my conversation, a sweet lady bought me a two-volume set of the works of Jonathan Edwards. Buried somewhere in the second volume, I found a message that caught me off guard. It was titled: "Men are naturally God's enemies.” It blew my mind.
One of the points Edwards made was that the primary proof of our animosity toward God is our indifference toward him. We snub God. We ignore Him. We suppress Him.
His passage was Romans 5:10 "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Then Edwards backed up to the beginning of chapter 5 where Paul says, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." If at conversion, we have peace with God, what does that say about our pre-conversion? We’re at war with God. That’s hard news to swallow because we don’t “feel” like we’re at war with God or that we are his enemies. Edwards writes:
They entertain very low and contemptible thoughts of God. Whatever honor and respect they may pretend, and make a show of towards God, if their practice be examined, it will show, that they certainly look upon him as a Being that is but little to be regarded....It is evident, that the mind of man is naturally averse to thinking about God: and hence if any thoughts of him be suggested to the mind, they soon go away...They do not love to have much to do with God. The natural tendency of the heart of man is to fly from God, and keep at a distance from him, as far off as possible.
Then Edwards quoted a verse from Psalm 10:4 "The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God. God is in none of his thoughts." That was me to a letter. God was in none of my thoughts. Sin makes God unreal to you. Sin makes you forget God.
This was Edwards’ slam dunk, though: "There is in every natural man a seed of malice against God. And it often dreadfully breaks forth. Though it may in great measure lie hid in secure times when God lets men alone... yet a very little thing will set it in a rage.”
Richard represented God to me. And I wasn’t having it. The seed of malice in my heart toward God was dormant so long as God left me alone. But Richard showing up at my fraternity door provoked that malice within me. I felt threatened by a Bible study.
One of the greatest proofs that unbelieving men and women do not love God is this: They simply want him to leave them alone and they'll happily return the favor. But when he disturbs them, they will spit poison like a viper.
The text doesn’t say, “No one seeks blessing from God.” Of course they do. “No one seeks answers to prayer from God.” Of course they do. “No one seeks forgiveness from God.” Of course they do. I did that plenty of times as a college student.
“Lord, give me a girlfriend…Lord, give me a job…Lord, give me health. Lord, help me get home safe.” I never prayed, “Lord, give me YOU!” I wasn’t seeking God. As the psalmist says, God was “in none of my thoughts.” As Edwards said, “I was averse to thinking about God.” As Paul said, “No one seeks for God.” Guilty as charged.
At the time I didn’t see it. But looking back, Edwards was spot-on. But more importantly, Paul is dead-on. His closing arguments are devastating. They may cause us to squirm, dodge, protest, and sulk. But he’s priming us for the good news.
We’re unrighteous. We don’t understand. We have turned aside. We run away from God. But if we follow Paul’s trail, it leads to the One who is righteous, and does understand. He has not turned aside and the best news of all? He chases after sinners—not to punish them, but to pardon them. Not to destroy them but to deliver them.
Sin makes us want to get away from God, not get near him. But here’s a crazy truth: God draws near sinners in Jesus. He eats with them. He hangs out with them. He teaches them. He heals them. He loves them. He died for them, but not when they wave a white flag. He knows they never will. “While we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of God’s Son.” That’s insane. That’s unbelievable. That’s the gospel.
Mutiny is exhausting. Surrender. God is not coming to take your life. He’s coming to offer you a more abundant one through His Son. Jesus was willing to die for you. He was willing to become an enemy and be treated like an enemy for you. How can it be dangerous to give control of your life to somebody like that?