Draw Near To God
Come close to God [with a contrite heart] and He will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; and purify your [unfaithful] hearts, you double-minded [people].
A personal relationship with God has always been an amazing thing to contemplate. The Scriptures tell us that God’s love is as comforting as a mother’s tender care, but they also remind us that He is a consuming fire. How do we relate to a God like this?
Our relationship with God begins with His invitation. Isn’t it amazing that Almighty God stoops low to communicate with us? We offer Him nothing, yet He gives us Himself. James tells us that our efforts to pursue God will certainly be rewarded, but we shouldn’t come to Him with a cavalier attitude. Like the priests who cleansed themselves before entering the Temple, we too, need to cleanse ourselves if we are to experience God’s presence.
James also addresses our actions and our attitudes. Our “hands” represent our choices, either to obey God or act selfishly. Our “hearts” reflect our attitudes and perspectives. James reminds us that we are too often “double minded,” pulled between God and money, spiritual riches and earthly treasure, our position in Christ and our position at work or church.
It’s easy for us to drift along each day without a thought of how dirty our hearts and hands may be- until we think about entering God’s presence. When we bow before the Holy One, He shines His light on the dark recesses of our lives and points out any dirt He finds there. At that moment, we can turn and walk away, or we can say, “Yes. Lord, I see it too. Thank You for forgiving me.” And we draw near to Him.
The first duty of the gospel preacher is to declare God’s law and to show the nature of sin.
The problem with most humans is that when we begin a relationship with someone, we usually put a lot of effort in developing it. We put our best attitude on. We pay careful attention to the other person. We look for ways to do special things for them. We make sure when we are going to be together that we groom ourselves well, wear good clothes and do all the other little things that lets them know we enjoy being with them. But after a while, unless we continue to work at it, even the best relationships will drift into the taken-for-granted phase.
We hear so much today about how much God loves us-and He does- that it becomes easy to take Him for granted. There are those who believe that since God is always going to be there it isn’t important to continue to pursue Him as they did when they first met Him. The Bible says that in the last days “the love of many will wax cold” toward God. James reminds us that in order to draw near to God, we must be willing to take a bath! He says we must wash our hands- maybe the rest of us too! Remember how in those first days of dating we made sure we were bathed, hair shampooed, teeth brushed, clothes fresh and clean? We dressed to impress. Remember how when we first came to Christ that we made the effort to not only go to church but to also worship, give, serve, and listen? Remember when talking with God and hearing Him answer was an incredibly exciting moment? Remember when our conscience moved us to live as much like Christ as possible? Sometimes we forget that our spirits and hearts can become not so clean.
Having raised three children, I can tell you that dirt happens. Somehow it didn’t take long for a freshly-bathed child to get dirty again. Having tried to walk this journey of faith with God for almost fifty years now, I can also tell you the our hearts and souls seem to keep attracting and being attracted to the things of this world that dirty them. Just like our physical bodied need continuous baths, so does our hearts and spirits. As Christians we need more than just a Sunday bath. We need to be cleansed daily for dirt doesn’t just happen on Sundays. It happens the rest of the week too. In 1 John 1:9 we read: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” As Christians our drawing near to God comes through confession. As we confess our sins Christ pulls us near and gently and lovingly washes us with His own blood. In the gathering at the Last Supper, Jesus washed the disciples feet. Peter, who often speaks for most of us resisted having Jesus wash his feet. After all he knew that Christ was exalted far above everyone in the room. And Jesus said something so powerful. He said, “Unless I wash you, you won’t be clean.” And what he said to Peter is true for us. Unless we are washed by Christ, we will never be clean enough. James is telling us that cleansing is just as necessary for us to come before God as it was for the Old Testament priest as they prepared to enter the Temple where God’s presence resided. Hebrews tells us that we have access to the throne of grace by the blood of Jesus.
“Therefore, believers, since we have confidence and full freedom to enter the Holy Place [the place where God dwells] by [means of] the blood of Jesus, by this new and living way which He initiated and opened for us through the veil [as in the Holy of Holies], that is, through His flesh, and since we have a great and wonderful Priest [Who rules] over the house of God, let us approach [God] with a true and sincere heart in unqualified assurance of faith, having had our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
So then our cleansing comes solely from submitting our hands and hearts fully to God and allowing Him to wash us and purify us so we can be presented before the throne of grace. Having said this, we dare not take for granted or lightly our need to be sanctified and cleansed. Although our salvation has been fully purchased by Christ it still requires a response from us. And I would think that response would be one of intense gratitude and love.
I don’t mean this to be critical but I’m convinced that those who truly know Christ will have a desire to draw as close to Him as possible. I think it’s impossible to draw away from such love once one experiences it for themselves. I realize the reality of those who draw away from the church or fellowship with other believers. Maybe the programs and activities of the church can become dull, boring, and irrelevant and perhaps the flaws and imperfections by its members can frustrate us or move us to separate from the church. However, when we separate from the church we also distance ourselves from Christ since the church is His Body and He is the Head of the Church. I’m not speaking about the institutions or allegiance to the bureaucracy of church structure but a heart dedication to the living organism called the church.
I realize that we the church need a lot of cleansing and the only way we can ever become fully the Body of Christ is to respond to Christ in the same way Peter responded to Christ that night. “Not just my feet, but my hands and my head,” Peter said. Although that wasn’t necessary, it captured the essence of drawing near to God. As the world around us grows more dark and evil, perhaps it would be well to draw near to God as close as possible.
Dr. John Thompson