God’s Word for You
James 4:8a He will draw near
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, August 15, 2020
8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.
James is going to talk about the manner in which we draw near to God. He will talk about repentance and turning away from sin. But before we talk about that, we need to keep two important points in mind. First, just like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, our Father runs out to meet us when we so much as sluggishly approach him. Luke reports Jesus’ words: “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). When God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses, he promised: “Wherever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you” (Exodus 20:24). Perhaps everything in this chapter of James so far is a summary of a passage from Job: “Submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come to you” (Job 22:21), except that James is a better coach than Eliphaz. It is not prosperity we seek, but God himself. He knows how to bless us better than vague promises about prosperity. God is the one who gives parents to little children, a believing husband to his wife, a kind owner to a cat, friends to the lonely, pastors to Christians, help to the lost, and comfort to the despairing.
Second, drawing near to God is something we do through repentance and prayer, but also and especially through his holy Word. To seek God apart from his Word is like looking for flowers in the street, or like looking for a pie in a pine tree. When we seek him apart from his Word, we open ourselves up instead to the devil’s words, and as long as anyone removes himself from the Lord’s table, the devil is happy to play the host and feed and feed and fatten up his guests with trifles and delicacies that lead only to everlasting torment. The devil points us to fear. He invents ways of dealing with sin that don’t deal with sin at all (the devil is never your friend): he makes some feel comforted that they might try again tomorrow, try a little harder to be good. But God doesn’t tell us to try harder; God tells us to be perfect (Matthew 5:48). The devil makes some feel happy to balance their sins with good deeds, but God doesn’t tell us to balance our good deeds and our sins, he commands us to be without sin altogether and to be holy (Leviticus 19:2). The devil makes some feel proud that they aren’t as wicked as other people they know. But anyone can think of a worse sinner than they are. The Bible is full of examples of the vilest sinners: Jezebel, Manasseh, Herod, and more. But God doesn’t tell us to be better than anyone else. He tells us to purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God (2 Corinthians 7:1). And the devil tempts many people, especially today, misleading them through the philosophies of modern science, to imagine that there is no God at all, that their sins don’t matter, and that there is no life after death, no punishment; no atoning. But God promises: “The wicked will learn that my words were well spoken” (Psalm 141:6).
The truth of God’s word is the answer to all of these lies of the devil. We are not perfect, but Jesus was perfect in our place. We are not holy, but our holiness—stolen by Satan—is restored by Christ. We cannot compare ourselves to others, but Christ shows us our true selves, forgiven and rescued. We can’t hide from Judgment Day like an ostrich hiding its head in the sand, but we can face the judgment with confidence in Jesus, who is both Judge and Savior.
When we have the gospel of Jesus, all of the devil’s lies are exposed as quicksand. Only Christ offers firm ground and the true way to heaven. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Draw near to God through his Word, and know that you have a place with him forever.
God’s Word is our great heritage
And shall be ours forever;
To spread its light from age to age
Shall be our chief endeavor.
Through life it guides our way;
In death it is our stay.
Lord, grant, while worlds endure,
We keep its teachings pure
Throughout all generations. (Christian Worship 291)
Submitted for the new hymnal:
O Holy Spirit, now remain
Within our hearts forever,
And bless us as you have again
With this word that we treasure.
This Testament sufficed
To show us Jesus Christ
Who died to make us pure.
This gospel shall endure
Throughout all generations.
Pastor Timothy Smith