August 15, 2006
"Come near to God and He will come near to you." (James 4:8 NIV)
Tucked away in the middle of the book of Jeremiah, God asks a question. The context of the chapter is the restoration of Israel after the Babylonian captivity, and God is talking about a Ruler who will arise from their own people and will come close to God as the Lord brings Him into His service. In Chapter 30: 21, he asks, "for who is he who will devote himself to be close to me?" That hit me hard. It stood out on the page of my Bible. Would my name be included in the answer to this question? Could I say, "I will!"
"Who is he who will devote himself to be close to me?" Who will take the time? Who will make the effort? When I studied this out, there is definitely time and effort involved. We all know that we are only willing to put forth time and effort when we think the cause is worthwhile. So, do you think pursuing, devoting yourself and being close to the God of the universe is worthwhile? Assuming that you do, let's go deeper.
The word "devote", according to the Dictionary by Merriam-Webster, means "to commit by a solemn act, to vow, to set apart for a special and often higher end." Would you be willing, by an act of your will, to commit and make a vow to God to pursue Him, seek Him, trust Him and obey Him with all of your heart? With all of your time? With your money? With your gifts? This is a pretty big commitment. I'm not just talking about salvation. I'm talking about the giving over of your whole life to Him now, after salvation. A lot of Christians have just enough Jesus to keep them from going to hell. But God wants more than that. He wants someone "who will devote himself to be close to Him." How committed are you? It's a busy, fast-paced world and we're always seeming to run out of time. But what are your priorities? Take an inventory of what you do on any given day. Is there time spent with God in prayer, bible reading and just sitting still and listening for His voice? Are you devoted to your tasks, your schedule, your plans or is spending time with your Heavenly Father a priority in your every day?
A young man wrote this to his girlfriend. ?Sweetheart, if this world was as hot as the Sahara desert, I would crawl on my knees through the burning sand to come to you. If the world would be like the Atlantic Ocean, I would swim through shark infested waters to come to you. I would fight the most fiercest dragon to be by your side. I will see you on Thursday if it does not rain.?... Do we tell God we'll see Him when the stress eases at work? When the kids are older? When the house is organized? What are your excuses?
Let's go even deeper. God wants you to be close to Him. He says so. To be close is to cling or adhere to something or someone. Figuratively, it means to catch by pursuit. Are you pursuing God? It means to abide, to cleave, to follow close or hard after something, to be joined together, overtake, stick like glue. The Hebrew word for "close" is the same Hebrew word, dabaq, that is used in Genesis 2: 24; "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and they will become one flesh." God wants to be so close to you that you are one with Him. Jesus said it best when He prayed for all believers before His death on the cross. "Father, just as you are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me." One with Jesus and your Heavenly Father. Cleaving, sticking to Him like glue, following close and hard after Him. Does that describe your relationship with Christ? Or is it a casual, Sunday morning kind of relationship? What about your Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday life? Or one that you draw on only when you're in trouble? Just like you can't draw money out of an empty bank account...well, that's another message.
If I understand Jesus' words correctly,when we are one with Christ, the world will believe that God sent Jesus! You will be a witness in your world! God will also be close to you. James 4:8 says, "Come near to God and He will come near to you." Lest we take this verse out of context, let's look at what comes before and after it. In verses 7-9 we get a series of commands that if followed will contribute to harmony and holiness. We are called to commitment (v. 7), cleansing (v. 8), and contrition (v. 9). We are commanded to "Submit to God" and "Resist the devil". Submit is a military term meaning "to be subordinated" or "to render obedience". "Resist" means "take a stand against." So, take a stand against the devil and he will flee. Drawing near to God also requires cleansing. "Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded." We must recognize our need for cleansing and follow it with confession. Then submit to God, resist the devil, draw near to God and He will cleanse you and draw near to you. Be single-hearted, not double-minded. Have no divided allegiance.
Whether you are reading this in the comfort of your living room or from a jail cell, God is there asking, "who is he who will devote himself to be close to me?" "Who is she?" Is it you? Only you can make that decision. Only you can decide what (or Whom) you will pursue. Only you can set the priorities that you will concentrate on in your life. There is not one earthly thing, I repeat, not one earthly pursuit that will yield a better return and give you more fulfillment than the pursuit of God. He always satisfies. He always comes through. Devotion and closeness to Him have no equal in anything you can buy or receive from this world. No person, no job, no amount of money, no church, no relationship, no drug.....can ever satisfy the deep longing in your heart and soul that only God can fill. I urge you today to make that decision. Devote yourself to God. Draw close to Him. Stick to Him like glue. And whether you feel Him standing there with you or not, lift your eyes toward Heaven and say, "I will."
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