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THE PARADOX OF SEEKING

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Saturday Evening, November 11, 2006
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

“Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

“There is none that seeketh after God” (Romans 3:11).


Every sermon I prepare is written out word for word. I actually add very little in the pulpit. I did not always preach that way. For many years I preached from a few notes. But about five years ago a preacher friend advised me to write my sermons out in full manuscripts. I now do that every week, writing out in full two sermons and often three. I find this very helpful, especially in selecting the right words. So many English words have fallen into disuse, that I must be careful to select the simplest English words in preparing each sermon. The book that I have found most valuable is The Penguin Dictionary of English Synonyms by Richard Soule (Bloomsbury Books, London, 1986 reprint). I have used my copy so much that the cover is falling off!

Tonight I am speaking on “The Paradox of Seeking.” It is important for you to know what the word “paradox” means. The Penguin Dictionary defines it like this:

Paradox, absurdity (as appears at first sight, yet not so in fact), seeming contradiction (ibid. p. 372).

The two texts we just read are paradoxical, that is, they appear at first to contradict each other, yet on further examination there is no contradiction. Let’s look at the paradox of our two texts again.

“Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

“There is none that seeketh after God” (Romans 3:11).

Which statement is true, for they seem to contradict each other? Are we being asked to do what is impossible? We are told,

“There is none that seeketh after God” (Romans 3:11).

But we are also told,

“Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

These two verses appear to contradict each other. If there “is none that seeketh after God,” how can we be told, “Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart”?

I. First, we will study Jeremiah 29:13.

“Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

This verse tells the sinner to seek Christ. It is a very strong word of advice, and it contains an equally strong promise. The unconverted are advised to seek the Lord, and are promised, if they will seek Him, they will indeed find Him.

The text demands that you search for Christ with all your heart. There are several ways of seeking Christ that will fail. One is to seek Him with no heart in it, no real purpose in the heart. People like this simply come to church, sit in the pews, listen half-heartedly to the sermons. They may read their Bibles and pray before meals and at other times, such as praying before going to bed at night. But it is all just a routine.

John Bunyan had a real illumination from God before he was converted. He read Matthew 7:14,

“Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14).

After reading that verse, he said,

But [because] the passage was [very] narrow, even so narrow, that I could not, but with great difficulty, enter thereat, it showed me that none could enter into life [in Christ] but those who were in downright earnest.

That’s what Jeremiah 29:13 is talking about, being “downright earnest.” It means eager, as a man inside a burning house is eager to get out! “Downright earnest” means enthusiastic, as a man who wants to make high grades in school is enthusiastic in his studies. The opposite of “downright earnestness” is laziness, sluggishness, slowness, “chilling out,” like a couch potato. “Downright earnest” means that you want Christ so badly that you

“strive to enter in at the strait gate” (Luke 13:24).

Others are seeking Him from a false heart. They say they want Christ, but they really want to be accepted by others in the church. They want to be “passed” so they can go ahead and live their lives any way they want.

Others have their minds on something else. Many young people are so engrossed in worldly things that it sucks up their mental energy and diverts them from seeking Christ. Their minds are so set on these worldly things that they do not seek Christ at all. They are so obviously at enmity against God, so obviously in rebellion against Him, that they do not seek Him. They are far from what Bunyan called “downright earnestness.”

I could go on and say that there are those who are “locked in” with unconverted people, so they have no earnest desire to find Christ. They must see that their non-Christian friends are a hindrance to their own conversion. The Bible says,

“Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord…and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (II Corinthians 6:17-18).

Remember, that only those who wholeheartedly seek Christ will find Him.

“And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

But now we will look at Romans 3:11, which seems to contradict Jeremiah 29:13, as a paradox.

II. Second, we will study Romans 3:11.

“There is none that seeketh after God” (Romans 3:11).

“Well,” you may ask, “since there are none who seek after God, how can you expect me to seek Him?”

Actually the answer to this seeming contradiction is quite simple. Before God shows His grace to you, Jeremiah 29:13 seems like law to you. You should seek God. You should seek Christ with all your heart. But when you hear this it is law to you, and your heart rebels against God and His laws and rules.

“Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Romans 8:7).

You will not seek Christ with earnestness, because Jeremiah 29:13 is law – it is what God wants you to do – and so you rebel against what you should do, and do not seek God as the law tells you to do. You deliberately react and refuse to seek Christ out of rebellion against God.

Only when God’s grace comes to you will you be changed. Only by God’s grace can you be set free from a world where

“There is none that seeketh after God.”

Only by God’s grace will your heart be opened, and only then will you want to obey Him when He says,

“Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

Luther went so far as to say that a person who seeks Christ from the depths of his heart is already converted. I don’t think that is quite right, but I do think Luther was close to being right. When a person truly seeks Christ with all of his heart, he is at the very threshold of salvation, and only a slight step will take him to Christ.

I have seen that again and again across the last forty-nine years of ministry. A person whose heart longs for Christ will find Him soon enough, for it is grace and grace alone that has transferred him out of a world where

“There is none that seeketh after God,”

and has brought him to seek Christ. A person who is brought thus to the door of salvation only needs to take a simple step of faith and he will find Christ and be saved, his sins vicariously paid for on the Cross, and washed away completely by the Saviour’s precious Blood. Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
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THE OUTLINE OF

THE PARADOX OF SEEKING

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


“Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

“There is none that seeketh after God” (Romans 3:11).

I.   First, we will study Jeremiah 29:13; Matthew 7:14;
Luke 13:24; II Corinthians 6:17-18.

II.  Second, we will study Romans 3:11; Romans 8:7.