D.A. Carson writes:
One of the most striking evidences of sinful human nature lies in the universal propensity for downward drift. In other words, it takes thought, resolve, energy, and effort to bring about reform. In the grace of God, sometimes human beings display such virtues. But where such virtues are absent, the drift is invariably toward compromise, comfort, indiscipline, sliding disobedience, and decay that advances, sometimes at a crawl and sometimes at a gallop, across generations.
People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.
I post this quote for myself more than anything. Over the past few months, God has been revealing this truth to me with increasing clarity. I think so many times I have prayed for God to reveal His love to me or for God to allow me to have a close relationship with Him.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist or a seminary graduate to realize how grossly I was missing the point. A close relationship with God marked by intimacy, love and freedom doesn't "just happen," much like a close romantic relationship doesn't "just happen" (newsflash to all you "love at first sight" people). As the quote states, it takes time, energy, reform, discipline, if you will. The scriptures clearly tell us to pursue righteousness:
He who pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.
Proverbs 15:9The LORD detests the way of the wicked but He loves those who pursue righteousness.
1 Timothy 6:11
[ Paul's Charge to Timothy ] But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.
1 Peter 3:11
He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.
If we are charged to "pursue" something, how have we misconstrued this into something just happening, by either praying or attending church? By definition, pursue means to carry out or participate in an activity; be involved in; quest for: go in search of or hunt for. Do any of these definitions imply that an apathetic approach is appropriate in our pursuit of Christ?
At the risk of being redundant, I can't even count how many times I have wished I felt closer to God. Hmmm...let's just ask a few questions: had I been discplining myself to spend time reading and meditating on the scripture? Had I set aside specific increments of time to be still in the presence of the Lord and thank Him for His hand on my life? Had I devoted myself to love and serve others? Had I been pursuing Him with every breath that I took? A relationship takes work - a lot of work. Why should it be any different when cultivating a relationship with our beloved, our bridegroom?
The quote couldn't be clearer: we, as sinful and imperfect humans, will never naturally "drift toward holiness." Everything within our being and everything in the world around us will serve to act as a current, dragging us away from holiness and away from the abundant life promised to us through Christ.