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Draw Near to God

          Grasping, quarreling, fighting! Trying to get what is not theirs! Even killing!

          What is this? A TV promo? A popular novel? Believe it or not, this is the Apostle James’ wake-up call to some early Christians. Using what some scholars believe were colloquial expressions of the day, he scolded them for allowing lust and covetousness to control their behavior. Read James 4:1-6.

          In his typical forthright style he pinpointed how such attitudes and selfish behavior arise: their hearts were in the world. And, he told them: that frame of mind indicated hatred toward God, who is the Source of peace and love. They had not chosen to be holy, that is, to be consecrated wholly to God.

          We who believe in Christ today probably shrug off these lines in James’ epistle. His portrayal of sinning among the new converts is so unlike our congregational life today that we skip to the next chapter. But we shouldn’t. And why not? What appeared as ugly outward behavior then could be occurring as inward ugliness now. To skip over this passage is to miss the connection between the sins and weaknesses described in verses 1-6 and the practical instruction on how to replace them with a godly life in verses 7 and 8. Here are clearly stated steps for rebuilding a relationship with God after a severe crippling of one’s faith walk with Him.          

          Let’s read James’ next words: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

          Looking heavenward from the tangled affairs among those early believers, we see a patient, caring Father who wants them to become like Him. He desires to reconnect with them spirit to spirit. Even though their transgressions have shut Him out of their minds, God provides the fragrant ointment of grace. His desire to reclaim far exceeds any of their transgressions.

          In this setting, James wrote an urgent appeal, “Submit to God.” For us today who are broken, humiliated Christians whom Satan has controlled, James says: “Submit to God.” On the operating table the patient submits to the surgeon and is healed. In the wrecked car the pinned-in passenger submits to crow bars and blow torches of the rescue team and is free. The voice of James calls to us urgently, “You are in a helpless condition. You cannot help yourself. Submit to the One who passionately desires to rescue you.”

          And now God speaks: “Don’t go back and repeat the cravings and enslaving behavior that brought you to surgery or to the hands of the rescue team. Resist the addictive thoughts and habits that brought you down. So, submit to the Healer and resist the destroyer. 

          Now, an incredibly beautiful spiritual transaction is waiting in the wings. The apostle, like a stage manager, gives the cue to you and me: “Draw near to God.” Quietly, humbly, submissively, in tiny steps, we approach our Deliverer. How could James have put it more simply: “Draw near to God.” We do. The High King of Heaven responds, drawing near to us. This caring, security-building transaction is followed by another and yet another until we are in His arms. Our days of haughty self-confidence and pleasure-seeking are over. His passionate desire for our loyalty has been satisfied. The spirit of Godwardness that He placed in us has found its true home. A restful calm settles into our innermost being. God smiles.