“Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near” (Isiah 55:6)
The time for seeking God is not something we do at our own convenience. Yet, we often act as if God is blessed by our condescension – that He is just fine to wait for us until we’re good and ready, not only to avoid wrong-doing but also to offer obedience to His will in our lives. This is what is called the “sin of presumption” – we are presuming that God’s grace will always be extended to us – that it is, in fact, He who serves us and not the other way around. And to be certain, God’s grace never fails; but for us to live as though this were true, careless of our soul’s condition, is a grave sin. Saint Paul declared to the Romans: “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!” (6:1). Through presumption, we fall into this snare of the devil; through it we assume that we can find God when it pleases us. But such presumption only demonstrates that we neither understand ourselves nor “Our Father, Which art in Heaven.”
We do not know our own selves when we abuse our natural and God given inclinations to avoid evil. In doing so, we are corrupting the very thing that God set in place as a fire-wall against sin. When we play with these deep emotional reservations given us against sin – being made in the image and likeness of God – and we put off a disciplined reaction to our God given conscience until a time convenient for us, we do in truth, have no security that the feelings of guilt will ever return. We all know that when we resist good inclinations, we tend to continue resisting them: we are attempting to sear our conscience trying to cauterize the wound of our sin. The more we resist, the easier it is to resist. The more I give into my pet sin, the more I enslave myself to it; and the less inclined I am to respond to my conscience, whose voice screams out, “Repent!” less loudly each time I ignore it as it fades into the background noise of my presumption. So, presumption is essentially lying to myself.
And our presumption demonstrates that we do not know God because it toys and puts to the test Him Who should never be put to the test. After all, He is the one (not any person on earth) that is able to “destroy both body and soul in hell” (Mt 10:28). We reject His gift of forgiveness, we neglect the gilt of our conscience: why should God continue to prevail upon us to seek our repentance? Think about it, it really is inconceivable that God should be expected to wait upon our convenience. We chuckle at it because it’s so familiar to us when Saint Augustine of Hippo quips “Lord, make me chaste… but not just now!” Such presumption! And aren’t we all guilty of it? There isn’t one good reason why Saint Augustine shouldn’t have been forever rejected by God; there isn’t one good reason why you and I should continue to receive God’s good gift of conscience.
Our conscience is a good and positive gift. Like the nerves that tell us to pull our hand from the flames, our conscience is there to warn us our body and soul are in peril of death.
If salvation were a thing that we could buy, we would expect it to be dependent on a marketplace and terms we could negotiate to obtain it; but our salvation is not a matter of contract with God, it is a matter of His Grace for which we are completely dependant. God is the sole source of grace in the universe; and He gives us His grace freely – not out of merit – for one reason alone: He loves us. And not just us as a group, but each one of us as a unique person created for His pleasure. None of us asked to be made and none of us has a right to life that God is obliged by: life is His gift to us as our conscience is. That is why we must: “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near”
Here’s a few lines from a poem by Francis Quarles that sum up what Saint Peter calls “the response of a good conscience towards God” (1 Pet 3:21).
“He’s firmly mine by oath, I His by vow.
He’s mine by faith and I am His by love.
He’s mine by water, I am His by wine:
Thus I my best beloved’s am,
Thus He is mine.
He is my altar, I His holy place,
I am his guest and He my living food.
I’m His by penitence, He mine by grace,
I’m His by purchase, He is mine by blood.
He’s my supporting elm and I His vine:
Thus I my best beloved’s am,
Thus He is mine.”