Published January 29, 2013

Paul's Epistle...
"Getting Closer to God"

I love the promises of God. Scripture is full of them. And one of my favorites is found in James 4:8: "Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to you."

Would you like to draw closer to God? Here James is telling you how to do it.

The previous verse, James 4:7, says that we should "submit" to God. That's the same word used in the Bible for children "submitting" to parental authority, or how soldiers "submit" to their commanders. Not until we submit ourselves to God can He use us.

Then that same verse says we should "resist the devil." If we do, he will "flee from you." That's the opposite of drawing nearer. So we're told to separate ourselves from the devil but draw nearer to God — two actions on our part with the same overall goal. I like that.

Do you remember the excitement you had when you first accepted Christ as your Savior? Do you remember how everything seemed new – you really felt close to God? Do you remember how you had an insatiable appetite to learn more about God?

But as time wore on, perhaps the "new" wore off – just like the "new car smell" wears off after a while. For some, that's OK – because they're maturing in the Lord. For others, though, they tend to let the spark cool.

So, why should we draw closer to God? For one thing – and this should settle the matter – God wants us to draw closer to Him. Scripture tells us to do it: "Draw nigh to God..." The Psalmist, speaking to the Lord, said, "...those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God..." (Psalm 73:27-28).

Another reason to draw closer to God is because that is how our Christian lives are empowered. In John 15, Jesus calls himself the "true vine" and His followers "the branches." Those who don't abide in Him wither. "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples." (John 15:7-8). Our Christian lives are empowered by drawing strength from the "true vine" – and you have to be well connected to do that.

Years ago while in college I had a Citizens Band radio – one at home (the base station) and one in the car. The closer I was to home base, the clearer the communication was. The farther away I went, the more difficult the communication became because of the static. That's how it is with our relationship with God. The closer we are to Him, the better the communication.

How do we draw closer to God? There are two key ways – and both should be obvious.

First, pray regularly. The Bible says we should pray "without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17). This doesn't mean we should spend all day on our knees. It simply means that prayer should be such a part of our lives that we just seem to have an "open line" to God all the time.

All Christians should pray more – and I certainly include myself in that group. But just as with the radio illustration above, we are often kept from communicating in prayer by "static" in our lives. There's just too much going on. We just don't have time for God, it seems.

The story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10 is a good example. Mary chose to sit close to Jesus – at His feet – and listen to what He had to say. Martha, though, was "distracted with much serving." She had a lot to do – and thought that was more important. Martha felt sorry for herself and came to Jesus only to criticize Mary. But Mary simply wouldn't let herself be distracted by everything else going on. She wanted to be close to Jesus.

Martin Luther famously said, "I have so much to do today that I'm going to need to spend three hours in prayer in order to be able to get it all done." Oh that our understanding and our priorities were so well placed.

The other way to draw closer to God is by reading God's Word, the Bible, on a regular basis. It's how God communicates His plan to us – but it's worthless if we don't read and study it. The writer of Hebrews said the Scriptures are the way "through which we draw near to God" (Heb. 7:19).

For most of us, there are times when we feel especially close to God – and we bask in that fellowship. On the other hand, there are times when God seems distant somehow. You've heard the old saying, "If God doesn't seem as close as He once did, who moved?" Clue – it wasn't the Lord.

We have to decide to move closer to the Lord – and then do it. Christ said, "Come to me...and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28). "Come" implies movement. We have to "come" to Him – we have to move closer to Him.

The very last words in the Gospel of Matthew are the words of the Lord promising He will be with us always – even to the end of the age. With us! That's close! So, if He doesn't seem close, it's not because He isn't. It's our own faulty perception of His nearness.

Jesus is always as near to you as you truly want Him to be. As we draw nearer to God, He will draw nearer to us. You have His word on that!

- Paul

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