In James 4:8 we read, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” This text indicates that we may be away from God. It is sin that separates us, makes distance between us and God (Isa. 59:1-2). But we do have the ability to draw near to God.
First, let's look at this one to whom James is urging us to draw near. He is an omnipotent or all-powerful God. The rhetorical question is asked in Genesis 18:14, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Job said of God, “I know that thou canst do every thing” (Job 42:2). John declares, “...the Lord God omnipotent reigns” (Rev. 19:6). He is also an omnipresent being. It was spoken of God during the dedication of the Old Testament temple, “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; much less this house I have builded” (I Kings 8:27). Study carefully Psalm 139:7-10 and Jeremiah 23:24. God is also an omniscient being; He knows all things. The psalmist declared, “Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite” (Psalm 147:5). And the Hebrew writer also recognized this trait of God when he wrote, “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and open unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:13). We should all want to be near to One who knows all that we do.
But how do we draw near to God? The sinner must come through Christ. He is “The way,” and “no man cometh unto the Father but by me” he declared in John 14:6. Paul said that both Jew and Gentile have access unto the Father through him (Eph. 2:18). And it is also stated, “Wherefore he is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him” (Heb. 7:25). We are also made nigh by the blood of Christ as stated by Paul: “But now in Christ Jesus ye who were sometimes afar off are made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13).
For the child of God, in order to draw near to God, we must come with true hearts. “Let us draw near with a true heart...in full assurance of faith” (Heb. 10:22). The rest of our text also shows this: “Cleanse your hands, ye sinners, and purify your hearts, ye double-minded” (James 4:8b). The psalmist informs us that “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart” (Psalm 34:18). We draw near to God in our song service and in prayer (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; Heb. 13:15). We draw near to God in the Lord's supper, a memorial of a solemn event (I Cor. 11:23-26). We draw near in godly living as we “cleanse the hands and purify the mind.”
But we may also draw away from God (Matt. 15:8; Heb. 10:38-39). We draw back when we rebel against any of God's commandments. This is true when we refuse to be baptized for the remission of our sins, when we fail to assemble with the church when she meets, when we fail to contribute of our means as we are commanded, when we fail to study, sing, pray, or partake of the Lord's supper, etc.
How near should we come? Peter followed “afar off.” We should be near enough to be friends. Abraham was called “the friend of God” (James 2:23). We must draw near enough to be “one,” as Jesus and the Father are one (John 17:20-21).
What are the results of drawing near to God? First, it is good for us. “But it is good for me to draw near to God” (Psalm 73:28). “Blessed is the man You choose, And cause to approach You, That he may dwell in Your courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Of Your holy temple” (Psalm 65:4). Second, we find grace and mercy to help in time of need (Heb. 4:16). Third, as our text states, God will draw near to us. What an awesome thought!
Christ came to draw men unto himself. “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32). We should delight to approach God. “Yet they seek Me daily, And delight to know My ways, As a nation that did righteousness, And did not forsake the ordinance of their God. They ask of Me the ordinances of justice; They take delight in approaching God” (Isa. 58:2).
What about you? Are you drawing near to God or trying to distance yourself from him?
Paul M. Wilmoth