A Duty and Privilege
"Draw near to God" James 4:8
Sin has placed us at a great distance from God, and left us wandering far from Him. Not only so, it has given us a dislike to God, and a distaste for the presence of God. So that naturally we try to avoid God. If we could get away from under his eye, out of the reach of his hand, or from under his authority—nothing would please us better!
True religion is nearness to God. Grace convinces us of our distance, produces a desire for reconciliation, and leads us back to God. Real prayer is drawing near to God. Not the mere performance of a duty; but coming before God—to hold fellowship with God. Therefore the apostle says, "Draw near to God." Jehovah is the object we are to approach, and in approaching him, we should think of three things:
First, of what he IS.Not only what he is in himself—as the great, the good, the glorious, the self-existent, the only God. But of what he is to us—in the person of his Son.
He is our Father, and as such he wishes us to approach him, to worship, and adore his divine perfections. In coming to him as a Father, we have nothing to fear—but everything to expect. His heart is a father's heart. His eye is a father's eye. He therefore looks upon us, listens to us, and feels for us—as a father does to his child—his beloved child. O my soul, in coming to God, never forget that he is your Father!
Secondly, what he HAS.He has all you can need! He has all you can desire! The treasures of the universe are his! He possesses heaven and earth. We cannot exhaust his fullness. We cannot diminish his wealth. Giving never impoverishes him, it never can. He has just what you need. He has all that you need. He has it to give. He feels pleasure in giving to his children. He delights in showing mercy to them.
Thirdly, what he GIVES.
He gives GRACE. The grace that justifies the sinner. The grace that sanctifies the nature. The grace that raises from the horrible pit and miry clay. The grace that is an antidote to all our diseases, wants, and woes.
He gives GLORY—a robe of glory—a crown of glory—a throne of glory—a mansion of glory! He gives all that will make existence a blessing and a joy. He withholds no good thing, whether it be temporal, spiritual, or eternal. He gives all that is needful for the body, or ornamental to the soul—all that is adapted to time, or necessary for eternity. As a Father He desires . . .
to be gracious to us,
to listen to us,
to bestow upon us, and
to magnify His unbounded benevolence in us.
Let us then, "Draw near to God." The medium of approach is Jesus. We could not draw near to him as sinners, through the medium of the law, or the old covenant; but Jesus presents himself, and says, "I am the way!" We must go through him, if we go acceptably, if we would go comfortably. He is the medium of access, as he is the sacrifice for our sins. He gave himself for us. He took our sins, our guilt upon himself. He stood as our substitute, he suffered instead of us. Thus he satisfied justice, and honored the divine government. God can now be just—and yet pardon, accept, and be a friend to us. In drawing near to God, we keep our eye on Jesus. On Jesus, as dying for our sins, and rising again for our justification. We feel confidence before God, because Jesus has removed all cause of offence, all occasion of wrath, by his obedience unto death.
He is also our Intercessor. He is with the Father. He stands before the Father's throne. He is there for us to plead our cause—to present his blood on our behalf—to perfume our poor petitions. We go into the Father's presence through Jesus. The Father receives us, listens to us, smiles upon us, and blesses us—for the sake of Jesus. Through Jesus we can enter into the holiest, come even to the Lord's seat, stand immediately before his throne; his terror will not make us afraid, neither will his hand be heavy upon us. Let us, therefore,
"Draw near unto God." If we do, it must be in faith, and the faith we exercise must be confidence in God—confidence in his character, veracity, and word; that he is gracious, merciful, and abundant in goodness; that he is true and faithful; that his promises are stable—as firm as the everlasting hills! So that we may say with John, "This is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will—he hears us."
We must draw near with fervor. The Lord hates lukewarmness; he loves to see energy, zeal, determination. "The fervent prayer of the righteous man avails much." But of what avail are the cold, or lukewarm prayers of the formalist?
We must draw near for fellowship. To communicate to God, and receive communications from God. To have fellowship with the Father, and with his Son, Jesus Christ. Personal fellowship—sensible fellowship—heart-affecting fellowship. Fellowship which humbles the soul in the dust, fills it with self-loathing, and raises it in the exercise of faith, gratitude, and love. Fellowship which obliterates the image of Satan—and conforms us to the likeness of God—changing us into Christ's image, from glory to glory, even by the Spirit of the Lord. If there is faith in God's character and word—if there is genuine fervor in the soul—there will be fellowship with God; and if there is fellowship with God, there will be a taste of heaven below.
Let us then draw near to God in every trouble, and in every trial, with every cross, and for every blessing which we need. Never let us be satisfied to pass a day without getting near to the Lord. Let nearness to God in religious duties, in commercial engagements, in our every day employments, be our constant object.
O to live as in the immediate presence of God, that the heart may hourly ascend to him, consulting him upon all matters, conveying to him all our purposes, laying before him all our plans, and seeking his approving smile and blessing upon every enterprise! Nearness to God will preserve us from the power of Satan, the influence of the world, and the powerful corruptions of our hearts. Nearness to God will brighten our evidences, nurture our graces, and fit us for heaven. Let us, therefore seek, sigh for, nearness to God. Jesus is saying to us, "Let me see your face, let me hear your voice; for sweet is your voice, and your countenance is lovely." Let us therefore say, "My voice shall you hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto you, and will look up!"