Summary: Is there a contradiction between God being near and nobody being able to come to Christ without the Father’s calling?
God is Near
Many of us can actually hear, deep within our hearts and minds, ministers’ voices declaring Christ’s words: “Nobody can come to me unless the spirit of the Father draws him.” As we hear these words, we feel a wall or a roadblock to even considering the subject of evangelism or reaching to others around us for Christ. We have a deep, and very emotional, feeling and understanding that if God isn’t involved, there’s no reaching them, so why bother trying?
If this is true, as we might believe we understand it, then we’re right to simply sit back and wait for God’s new people to come flooding in the doors of the churches to which God sends them. But, on the other hand, if our interpretation of this passage in John 6.44 is inadequate, then we need to grab hold of truth and run with it in any direction and at any pace that God has in mind for us to do.
How near is God to the people around us in our lives? Paul makes and interesting statement to people of Athens, which seems to declare something different than Jesus, Himself, declared.
Let’s consider this subject, together, this morning.
What is the Bible? The Bible is a record of God’s activity in the world. In it He reveals Himself and His nature. He reveals His purposes and plans, and His ways. The Bible is not really a book about individuals people and their relationship with God, although that’s part of it. But it’s about the activity of God and His relationship with individuals like Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah, and Paul. The focus is on God and His activity.
The Bible reveals to us that God has always been at work in the world. There has never been a time when He hasn’t been. He didn’t go off for some hundreds of years after Adam and Eve rejected Him. He continued His work, in which He has pursued the restoration of people to relationship with Him. The whole Bible is about humanity in exile and God’s quest to bring humanity back to where people are meant to be and are restored to the right ‘Creator-Creature relationship’ (per AW Tozer). God has never been absent from the world or what has taken place in history. When we read the Bible we are reading about God’s activity of redemption, and we see that He chooses to take the initiative and involve His people with Him. He chooses to work through them to accomplish His purposes.
When He was ready to judge the world, he came to Noah, through whom He had chosen to do it. When he was ready to build a nation for Himself, he came to Abraham, through whom He was going to accomplish His will. When He heard the cry of the children of Israel and decided to deliver them, he appeared to Moses because He planned to deliver Israel through Moses.
This is true all through the OT and the NT. When God’s fullness of time had come to redeem a lost world through His Son, He gave 12 men to His Son to prepare them to accomplish His purpose. When He is about to do something, He takes the initiative and comes to one or more of His servants. He lets them know what He is about to do. He invites them to change their lives to come alongside Him, so He can accomplish His work through them. Amos, the great prophet, declared, “The Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets” (Amos 3.7).
So, what about those people who are around us. How does God bring you into work in their lives and how can you know whether to come alongside them as God’s plan for your life? Jesus faced the same question and here is how He answered it:
John 5. 17, 19-20. We have to remember that God has been at work in our world from the very beginning and He still is at work. Jesus recognized that He didn’t come to do His own will, but the will of the Father who had sent Him. To know the Father’s will, Jesus said he watched to see what the Father was doing. Then Jesus joined Him in that work.
Don’t you think that where God has placed you, as one of His children, He has work to be done? Of course He does. He doesn’t place any of us just any old where with nothing to do- God is the greatest steward of His resources and doesn’t waste any one of us!
God tries to get our attention by revealing where He is at work. Oftentimes, we see the opportunity but miss it because we’re too slow to respond to God’s leading. We don’t respond immediately to the prompting of the Spirit (mention my opportunity to visit my aunt in Souris that I missed). We might say to ourselves, along with any number of other excuses for not responding: I don’t know if God wants me to get involved here, so I had better pray about it. By the time we leave that situation and pray, the opportunity to join God may be gone. A tender and sensitive heart will be ready to respond to God at the slightest prompting.