Draw Near to God and He Will Draw Near to You1
Of all the many promises in the NT, few are as precious and powerful as the one we find in James 4:8. There we are exhorted to “draw near to God” with the corresponding assurance that if we do “he will draw near to you.” Continue reading . . .
Of all the many promises in the NT, few are as precious and powerful as the one we find in James 4:8. There we are exhorted to “draw near to God” with the corresponding assurance that if we do “he will draw near to you.” Is this not one of the greatest and most comforting and reassuring exhortations and promises you’ve ever heard? If you can’t say yes, you don’t understand what is being said.
How is this done? In the first place, he’s not talking about making a physical or geographical journey. In the Old Testament, when God’s people were subject to the Mosaic Law, one literally had to travel to Jerusalem and go to the Temple to “draw near to God.” God’s presence was uniquely manifested and limited to the Holy of Holies behind the veil of the temple. See Exod. 1922; Lev. 21:21-23; Ezek. 44:13.
But in the New Covenant God’s presence is here, within our hearts. Thus to “draw near” to God is not a spatial movement but a posturing of the heart in which we repent of our sins, cry out to God for his sustaining strength and help, and seek the joy of his love.
The author of Hebrews put it this way: “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:22). Consider three other occasions in Hebrews where our author encourages us to draw near.
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).
“Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25).
“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Heb. 11:6).
There are several other NT texts that affirm the same thing, two of which are:
“For through him [i.e., through Christ] we both [i.e., believing Jews and believing Gentiles] have access in one Spirit to the Father” (Eph. 2:18).
“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18a).
In our society there are all sorts of barriers to prevent or hinder access to certain people and places: whether they be Hollywood actors or professional athletes or the President of the United States; whether it be the Mona Lisa in the Louvre in Paris or the gold currently housed in Fort Knox in Kentucky.
All these people and places and events combined that limit access are nothing in comparison with God. He infinitely transcends in value and glory and honor and power all such big-shots on earth. But the Bible tells us that he has made the greatest imaginable sacrifice precisely to open up to himself free and unhindered access. And you never need an appointment to draw near to God. There is never an inappropriate time to visit God. You will never, ever be turned away if you draw near to him through faith in Jesus Christ.
So what does it mean to “draw near”? Since God is a spirit and is everywhere present, you don’t need an airplane or automobile to draw near to him. You don’t even need legs! No physical movement is required. No financial payment is needed. No connections are required. You can be lying in a hospital bed, driving in your car, sitting at your desk, running around a lake, or even attending a Sunday morning service and you can instantly and always draw near to God.
Perhaps the most common mistake people make is to think that if I am going to draw near to God I have to visit some physical structure that is regarded as holy and sacred. The result is that people think God “lives” here in this building and that if I am to encounter him it can only be on a Sunday morning. Now certainly it is crucial that we gather corporately on a weekly basis to seek God and to engage him in life-changing ways. But we can draw near to God 24-7, anytime and everywhere. Thus, contrary to what many of our church traditions have suggested, you don’t have to walk down an aisle to draw near to God. God is equally present to you where you sit as he is when you kneel in front of a platform.
Drawing near is an invisible act of the soul. It is that spiritual movement of the heart of a man or woman by which we cry out to God for help, by which we express our trust in his goodness, by which we lay hold of his promises, by which we believe him to be all that Scripture says that he is, by which we proclaim that he is great and beautiful and praise him for all he is and has done, and by which we say “You alone are my hope and my joy and my salvation and I refuse to trust in another.”
And what makes this commandment so precious and dear is that it comes with a guarantee: if you draw near to God he will draw near to you! He will satisfy your soul in ways you can’t even begin to fathom (Ps. 16:11).
He will fill you with joy inexpressible and full of glory (1 Peter 1:8). He will flood your soul with the peace that “surpasses all understanding” (Phil. 4:7) and guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:7). He will live in you and walk with you and talk to you through every minute of every day. He will fill you with power to resist the world, the flesh, and the devil. He will awaken your heart to the height and depth and width and breadth of the love he has for you in Jesus (Eph. 3:14-19). And he will do “far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Eph. 3:20).