July 18, 2012

James 4:8

Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.   Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.

This verse was our memory verse Sunday.  It again popped up as the focus of my private devotions this morning.  When God draws something to my attention, I've learned from experience it's best to stand up, take notice and find out what He's saying.

Sometimes my children are so eager to obey when I say, "Please run down stairs to get me..."  they take off running before I finish my sentence.  On a good day, I shake my head and laugh to myself and thank God for children whose hearts desire so deeply to do what I ask.  After a few minutes the little one comes running back and says, "What was it you wanted me to get?"  On other days, I call them back right away and we talk about how they need to listen better so as to know exactly what I want them to do.  We practice me giving instructions and the child repeating and then following through.  Other times still, I might be in a hurry and so I wait long enough to know they are standing in the basement wondering what I wanted them to do.  Then I speak like the voice of God from the clouds *wink* and call down the stairs with a gentle reminder saying, "I need a sack of flour from the pantry."

When it comes to James 4:8 most people seem to be like this.  They get the first part of the verse, "Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you..."  but we forget the second part altogether.  How many times have you seen or heard this verse quoted?  How many times have you heard the entire verse quoted?  I can not think of one time I have ever heard it referenced in its entirety.  As I quickly sit here and and scan the deep reaches of my brain picturing all the children's books and memory verse cards and school books, story books, sermons, greeting cards, posters, devotion books, etc... I do not recall even one time.

Incidentally, this is also why we must open our Bibles and study it out for ourselves instead of taking someone else's word for it.  You might be missing something really good.

Look back again at the verse, "Draw nigh to God..." What are we to do?  Draw close to God.  That's simple enough to understand.  This will help us to grow, overcome trials and be most effective in the life He has for us.

What is the blessing?  "... and he will draw nigh to you."  If we take even the smallest step toward him, he will come closer to us.  Did you ever experience this in a relationship?  When you reach out to someone, even in a tiny way, they will make some effort back to you.  In turn you are encouraged to make more investment in the relationship.  The other party reciprocates again and on and on it goes.  I have definitely seen this principle work in my own life.  This is just what God is telling us to do.  He wants to know that we are interested in a relationship with Him.  He wants to know that it is important to us.  After that He will work out the details.  

And that is good stuff.  But, unfortunately, most people stop there.  And that is a shame.  By skipping half of the verse, we miss an important key to our Christian walk.  God doesn't just tell us WHAT to do, He tells us HOW to do it.  But if you stop at the start, as most sources do, you will never know what those steps are.     

Consider this.  What keeps me from drawing nigh to God?  If we keep reading we see, "... cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded."  The answer is un-confessed sin and hypocrisy keep us from drawing nigh to God.  We must cleanse sin and double-mindedness from our lives because they are in the way of us getting closer to God.  Sin and hypocrisy, as they effect our drawing closer to God, are almost always the source of our trials or the hindrance to overcoming them.  

Once again, go back to your earthly relationships.  How many times have you been wrong in a situation and known it and thus avoided a certain person because you didn't want to see your wrong reflected back at you.  You didn't want to humble yourself and admit you were wrong and ask for forgiveness?  That is what happens with God.  We feel we can't go closer to him because in His goodness our sin is reflected back at us.  We are unable to get any closer to Him because of the barriers we set up by our failure to admit our wrongs and seek forgiveness.  Pride is such a wasteful emotion!

Think of the anguish caused in those relationships when we are letting an issue go on and on instead of facing up to it.  When we finally deal with it, we find it was not nearly as hard as we thought and usually was easier and far less painful than the emotional pain and suffering caused in not facing it head on to begin with.

How much pain and suffering are we inflicting on ourselves in the name of pride instead of admitting our sin, asking God to help us overcome it and, seeking forgiveness and moving on?  This is not what our Father wants for us.  But we may never know it, if we continue to stop short of the end of the verse.

So let's take a minute and ask ourselves is there sin in my life that I need to deal with.  Lord, show us sin we may have hidden even from our own selves.  Lord, show us areas of hypocrisy in our lives.  I like to ask my family about specific things.  Do you see this in my life?  Or what area do you think I need to work on?  Sometimes it is far easier for others to see our sin than for us to recognize it.

Then what?  How does one draw nigh to God?  Prayer, Bible reading and study, worship, doing His work, sharing the Gospel, living out His will....

Don't wait!  Because here is the clever bit.  You can now call upon Him and ask the Lord to draw nigh unto you today!

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