Drawing Near to God (part 3) - Three Steps
- Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (Jas. 4:8).
God has devised three important steps to allow us to return and draw near. Everyone has the choice to be reconciled and become His beloved children again. That return will lead to an eternal fellowship in the blessed state that all who are near Him enjoy. God can’t draw near to anyone unless they draw near to Him, because He is already as close as we allow with our freewill. God created the gate and path to return, but Jesus warned that it is not easy to find (Mt. 7:13-14). Yet if we love the truth and seek to draw near on His terms, we will find that opportunity.
First, we must submit to the provisions and conditions God created for our reconciliation. This is the gate God created, which has narrowed by those who want to draw near on their terms and not His. Entrance into this gate demands we hear His words of warning and comfort (Rom. 10:17) and believe them exactly as written (Jn. 8:24; 14:6). We must accept God’s warning that all have sinned and fallen short of His glory and we must want to repent and return (Rom. 5:12; Acts 17:30). Learning God so loved the world He gave His only Begotten Son to die for our sins, we add our own confession (speaking the same thing) to His: “God has made Him Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:36-38; Rom. 10:9-10). The final step in our return from being a prodigal allows us to be “born again.” We must “die with Him”, “be buried with Him”, and “be raised with Him” to pass through the gate and “walk in newness of life.” All of this is done upon obedience to His command to be baptized (immersed) in water (Rom. 6:3-8; Col. 2:11-13; Mk. 16:15-16). These five things are the only combination that will unlock the narrow gate that leads us to the path to life. Once on that path, we are as near to God as His grace and mercy allow us.
Since sin separates us from Him, and “if we say we have no sin we are deceiving ourselves”, we must become proficient in removing it. A single sin has the potential to separate us from God and create the same chasm Adam and Eve created after their single sin. Each sin is as dangerous as the first one. A single unrepented and unconfessed sin can lead Him to forget all the righteous things we have ever done (Ezek. 18:20-32; 33:12-20). To remain near, each sin, the instant we realize we did it, must create a godly sorrow leading first to repentance and second to confession. Only when God sees our godly sorrow creating urgency, leading us to immediate repentance and confession (2Cor. 7:8-11; 1Jn. 1:8-9), can He always remain near us.
After passing through the gate, the narrow path opens before us. How far we travel and how well we remain on the path is our greatest opportunity to draw near to God. God created us in His image and after His likeness: “God made man upright, But they have sought out many schemes.” (Eccl 7:29). It is these schemes that make the narrow path difficult. We have to identify our own “schemes” and remove them. Only by returning to God’s original intent can we draw near.
While some are content to be near to God only by His grace and mercy, others with zeal and effort seek to draw near by “putting off the old man and putting on the new man.” As we “put to death our members on the earth,” and “put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another,” we manifest our zeal and desire to become more like Him. The closer we are in character, the nearer we can draw to Him (Eph. 4:17-23; Col. 3:1-13).
The narrow path leading to life is based on our quest to grow. If we only lean on God’s grace and not obedience and submission, we are not drawing near. This is a confusing concept so we need to think carefully about it. When Jesus gave the parable of the talents, it was not God’s grace He was concerned with, but our efforts to “trade and make gain.” Think about it! How do we “trade and make gain” with the gospel? What does a one talent man do in the spiritual realm that leads Jesus to condemn him? The gospel is not simply a gift of grace alone, but a gift of grace giving us an opportunity to “trade and make gain.” The more zealous we are, the nearer we can come.
Paul made it clear that the grace of God was given to instruct us in how to draw near to God. “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.” (Titus 2:11-12). This is our blueprint to draw near to God, our road map to stay on the narrow way, and exactly how we “trade and make gain.” As we “deny ungodliness and worldly lusts,” and as we grow to “live soberly, righteously and godly in this present age,” we draw nearer and nearer to Him.
Paul described his own quest to draw near after he came through the gate leading to life. Writing three decades after this entrance, he still proclaimed “I have not already attained.” He was still striving to walk the path: “I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.” I have not “laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Paul concluded with two exhortations: First, “If you want to be mature have this mind,” and second, “join in following my example,” “as you have us for a pattern.” (Phil. 3:12-16).
As Paul walked this path to life, he gave instructions on how to follow him. “I buffet my body and bring it into submission,” “I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live but Christ living in me.” “Give diligence to be approved of God, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.” John later added, “We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” (1Cor. 9:27; Gal. 2:20; 1Jn. 4:6).
If we truly want to draw near to God, He has revealed what must be done: “As He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.” In order to do this, we must “‘come out from among them, and be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you, I will be a Father to you, And you My sons and daughters.’” Paul concluded: “having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (1Pet. 1:15-16; 2Cor. 6:14-7:1).
God has left us examples of those who lived before us who in their quest to draw near to Him have been pointed out. “Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” (Gen. 5:21-24; Heb. 11:5). “Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations, Noah walked with God.” (Gen. 6:9). “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” (Job 1:8). “Abraham was called the friend of God.” (Jas. 2:23). “The Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend,” “with My servant Moses; He is faithful in all My house. I speak with him face to face.” (Ex. 33:11; Num. 12:6-8). “David, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’” (Acts 13:22). “O Daniel, man greatly beloved,” “from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard.” (Dan. 10:11-12).
Conclusion. Drawing near to God begins when we enter the narrow gate in obedience to the true gospel. We draw ever nearer as we walk the narrow and difficult path leading to life. It is an upward call, and as Paul, it must be our highest priority. As we become holy as He is holy, come out from among them, and cleanse ourselves of filthiness of flesh and spirit, we continue to draw nearer and nearer. There are so many examples of those who lived before us who sought to draw near to God in their own generation. God is no respecter of persons. If we follow their example, we will draw as near as they did.
- He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God? (Mic. 6:8)