Summary: Practical instruction is shared for coming into closer intimacy with God.
How to Draw Near to God (1)
We begin this morning with this simple commandment from James 4:8 “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” The one thing everyone of us need is this nearness of God that James is referring to.
(1)We know God is omnipresent. So in one sense He is near to everyone, even the ungodly. Paul said to the pagans at Athens, “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ’For we are also His offspring’” (Acts 17:26-29). In one sense God is present with everybody—He gives each person his or her next breath. But that’s not the nearness James is talking about.
(2) We also know that God, the Holy Spirit, dwells in every believer. Rom 8:9 “... Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” But James is talking to believers and telling them to draw near. Therefore, the nearness of God that comes with being a Christian is not what James is talking about either.
(3) What is James talking about? He’s telling Christians to purposefully move into greater intimacy with God. It’s possible for a married couple to live in the same room. But if the husband is in his office on the computer and the wife is in another room watching television, is there any intimacy going on? They are logistically close to one another, but there’s no close interaction. Each is functioning independent of the other.
James is calling on Christians to get into the same room with God—get into a conversation with God—talk with Him and hear what He has to say to you--get to know God as a person much more deeply.
I think most of us intuitively know what James means when he says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” The question that we have is “How.” We want a closer walk with the Lord; we want to feel His presence—not only during church but throughout the week. OK—draw near to God. I want to do that. But where do I start and how do I proceed?
1st Prepare your heart to seek the Lord.
God commended King Jehoshaphat because he had prepared his heart to seek the Lord (2 Chron. 19:3). In 2Chron. 30 King Hezekiah led Israel to keep the Passover which the nation had not done in many years. The timing did not work out for it to be done exactly when the Law called for it. Many of the people did not have time to adequately sanctify themselves in preparation for the Passover. There were several technical infractions but Hezekiah appeals to God on this basis. 2 Chron 30:18-19, “May the good LORD provide atonement for everyone 19 who prepares his heart to seek God, the LORD God of his fathers, though he is not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary." The one qualification these Israelites had met was this: they had prepared their hearts to seek God. The NIV translates it “who sets his heart on seeking God.” The Hebrew word translated prepares or sets is kuwn (koon). It’s root meaning is to be erect (i.e. stand perpendicular). Sometimes it is translated “make provision” or “make ready.” The word was used in reference to David preparing provisions for Solomon to build the temple. This word is also translated “be stable” or “establish.”
So what do we mean when we say, “Prepare your heart to seek the Lord?” We mean (1) make a firm decision to do it and (2) make preparations to do it. James tells us a double-minded man can not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Have you decided to follow Jesus? Have you made a firm decision to seek the Lord? David used this same word in Ps 57:7 when he said, “My heart is steadfast (kuwn -koon)(KJV says “fixed”), O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and give praise.”
Without that kind of determination, it’s doubtful any of us will seek the Lord long. I’m asking you this morning to make a decision—a decision that you will seek the Lord. I don’t think that happens by accident. We have to decide that’s what we want to do. Let me share with you a very simple philosophy I have about leading this church. My approach is this: I have decided that to the best of my ability I’m going to seek the Lord for the rest of my life. I’m not going to be diverted from that. I’m going to pursue God. Now here’s the invitation to anyone in our community. If you would like to join me in doing that, I would love to walk it out with you. My goal is not to be the biggest church in town or to impress people with some kind of external success. I want to faithfully and fervently pursue God. I believe there are lots of people who feel the same way. I believe there are many in this room who are here because you’ve prepared your heart to seek God.