A Pastors Perspective, Drawing Near

Jackson,Tn

By: Mike Upchurch

Drawing Near

There is a great promise found tucked away in the book of James and it’s this….
“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you……” James 4:8

In light of that promise, I’d like to ask you a personal question. Though I won’t hear the response, I suspect that if you’re honest in answering, you may learn a bit about yourself, and a little introspection can help us all. The question is this;

If God says that He will draw near to us if we draw near to Him, then are you drawing near to Him?

If you are, then I highly commend you. But if you’re not, then a second question; why not? The premise sounds so simple, yet so few of us seem to put it in practice. If He has promised in His word to forgive our sins and bring us restoration, and grant us an abundant life here (John 10:10) and eternal life as well, then why do we shy away from Him? Why do we shun a deep relationship with Him? Why do we hang our head in shame when we are in His presence? I suspect I know, but more about that in a moment.

First, read Isaiah’s promise to those who seek Him….

Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the LORD, And He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭55:6-7‬

Why would anyone reject that offer? To be abundantly pardoned or forgiven and begin with a fresh start and a clean slate seems like an offer too good to refuse! Yet we do refuse. Some of us feel our sins are too vast and too great to be forgiven. To be mindful of our sins is one thing, but to allow the awareness of our dreaded sins to hinder us from coming to Him at all is very dangerous.

Here’s my simple take; in talking with many people over the years who’ve struggled in their relationship with God, it seems that some people feel God is angry with them because of their sins and failures. They feel He is upset with them, and will reject them if they try to approach Him.
I can certainly relate to that. There was a time in my life when I felt so guilty that I wouldn’t even pray. I was convinced that God was angry with me because of my sins. I was so messed up in my thinking that I would serve Him sacrificially and continually in the desperate hope that He might eventually change His mind about me and like me after all. Especially when He saw how hard I worked (can you relate?).
Still, I felt certain He was very upset with me. I was sure that if it weren’t for Jesus, He would have killed me long ago to be rid of me. I had no idea at the time how truly wrong I was. I let the shame of my sins keep me from the very One who could and would forgive them!

However, that all changed for me in the late nineties. I was saved and had served in Churches for many years, but I felt empty inside. I felt there had to be more! I then purposed to go on a quest to know Him. I was so sick of “Church as usual”. It seemed some of the churches I’d been in were just buildings filled with arrogant, prideful and sinful people who weren’t close to God at all, me included. If we were close to the Lord our lives would be different! I knew there had to be more to the Christian life than our dry and dusty experiences, and I felt there certainly could be more of Him available in my life than I had at that time. I read scriptures that said we could hear God speak. I read verses that commanded us to seek Him and that we would find Him. I read where Paul said in Corinthians that the Kingdom of God consisted not in words but in power (1 Cor 4:20). I wanted to know that power! I wanted to know Him! I wanted God in my life!

So I began my search. I would pray for hours, usually with an open bible before me. I would get up at 2am in the morning and pray, sprawled out on my bedroom floor in the darkness. This went on for weeks. But as I began to seek Him for the satisfaction that my empty soul needed, I began to stumble upon the truth of who He really was! As I studied, I learned about His character and His attributes. I learned about His patience and His kindness. As I drew near to Him, I began to realize how wonderful knowing the Lord could be! I learned that the Cross changed everything. I learned that God’s anger at our sins was satisfied by Jesus’ death on the Cross. I learned that He was truly all-knowing. I learned that nothing I’d ever done surprised Him. I learned that He wasn’t angry with me. And I learned that allowing the Holy Spirit to dwell in me gave me EVERYTHING I needed to overcome my sinful past and become more like Him!

You can take advantage today of that which took me years to learn; the knowledge of the following truths about the Lord; He is slow to anger; He is full of love; He is patient, kind and gentle; He knows everything about you! I also learned that nothing is hidden from Him, not even the deepest secrets of your heart. I learned too that the Cross was the key! Through Jesus, this loving God was now wanting friendship with us! And in spite of us, He is wanting to hold us in His arms and restore us to Himself!

You can draw near to Him as imperfect as you are right now. You can draw near to Him if you’re caught up in an extramarital affair. You can draw near to Him if you’re suffering from alcohol or drug addiction. You can draw near to Him if you have outstanding warrants. You can draw near to Him while reading this! You don’t have to “clean up” first to approach Him! You can even draw near to Him if you’re not sure if He exists. There simply isn’t a scenario you can describe that would forbid you from drawing close to Him!

You are welcome in His presence. You will be welcomed by Him with loving arms. He already knows every detail of your life anyway. You haven’t surprised Him. You haven’t disappointed Him. You haven’t destroyed the possibility of His receiving you no matter WHAT you’ve done. And He already knows what you’ll do tomorrow, and He’s not going to kick you out then either! As He promised, He will draw near to you. With peace; with love; with forgiveness; with encouragement; with hope! All the love and happiness you’ve searched for in other ways….whether in drugs or drinking or sensual love in the arms of another person….the love those things can’t bring you can be yours in Him! Look at Jesus’ own words to those who would come to Him…

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.””
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭11:28-30‬

Seek Him! Draw near to Him! From first hand experience, I can promise you that He will never reject you! Ever!
And that’s the way I see it.

Pastor Mike