“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you…”
Recent sermons from a local pastor drew from both the experience of the Israelites at Mt Hermon and an exhortation from the book of James, to highlight for us the blessed position that believers have before our Holy God. We have the privilege, indeed the imperative to draw near to God in an intimate relationship.
I. A Specific Directive: “Draw Near to God…”
“And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. … 20 And the LORD came down upon mount Sinai, on the top of the mount: and the LORD called Moses [up] to the top of the mount; and Moses went up.”
[Exo 19:17, 20 KJV]
At Mt. Sinai, the people stood afar off, but Moses went up. These two positions sum up the choice that each of us as believers in the Lord Jesus have every day. We may settle for a distant relationship, always living in fear of judgment or we can obediently move beyond that, trusting that Christ’s sacrifice for our sin is enough and step into the position of glory that God is revealing in us.
With James’ exhortation, we see that there is a conscious decision to move in a specific direction. Moving toward God is a process of engagement in order to learn of Him.
There is clearly an intimacy that is unique to the church in contrast to Israel’s experience. Consider: Men such as Moses, David and the prophets knew intimacy with God, but corporate Israel did not…at Mt. Sinai, they stood afar off and soon fell into idolatry.
In contrast, the church as a corporate body (most of which is now already with the Lord) knows intimacy as the bride of Christ, but not every member of the body still living on earth knows that intimacy. The reality is this, we as individuals are as close to God as we want to be.
By virtue of Christ’s death, resurrection and His ascension to the Father’s throne, He now carries on a High Priestly ministry. The result of this is that His church is as near to God the Father as the Lord Jesus Himself is…yet the individual believers enjoyment of this position is dependent on his/her intentional communication with God beginning with confession of sin and restoration to fellowship.
Perhaps this is the difference between the king-subject relationship that is Israel’s position in contrast to the bride-bridegroom relationship that is the Church’s position. Israel is revealed to be God’s estranged wife (Jeremiah 3:8), whereas the Church is revealed to be Christ’s espoused bride (2 Corinthians 11:2).
This does not negate Israel’s future glory on earth under the reign of her King, the Christ; but it highlights the Church’s future glory as queen standing alongside Christ, her King.
II. A Spiritual Danger
In our relationship with God, James tells us that there is a tendency to act as spoiled children, always demanding and never satisfied with what we have. James tells us that we seek the wrong things. James 4:3, For the wrong reasons. James 4:4
It is for this reason that James counsels us that if we are to expect intimacy with God, we must cleanse our hearts and quit being of two minds concerning our relationship with God. For any relationship to grow into intimacy, there must be clarity about our commitment.
The promise from God is that He is committed to us, but if we want to benefit from that commitment, we must commit ourselves to Him.
III. A Savior’s Desire
There is hope and help… God has done all that He can except force Himself on us against our will. He leaves an open invitation toward intimacy with Him.
In Revelation 3:20 there is a picture of Christ standing at the door of His church in Laodicea knocking for admission. He offers an invitation to the individual believer to invite Christ into the local church by communing with Him personally, even if the local church that he or she is a part of has effectively shut Christ out.
Sad to say that this is the experience of many sincere believers who attend churches that are more concerned with social issues than they are with teaching the Word of God in a systematic, verse by verse manner. The Kingdom of God is something that only Christ Himself can establish on the earth when He physically returns to earth.
Far too many churches believe that they are called to establish the kingdom of God on earth now. This is a practical denial of Christ’s teaching (Matthew 24:39-41). However, it is possible for each believer, as heirs to the Coming Kingdom (Romans 8:17), to draw near to God and enjoy communion with Him even if their local church does not.
I notice that in Rev 3:18 the counsel to the believer before opening the door to that communion is to buy from Him gold tried in the fire, clothing from God’s wardrobe to hide the shame of nakedness and apply eye-salve in order to see clearly.
This tells me that in order to commune with Him. there needs to be an intentional commitment from each believer. This commitment requires three things: (These will be presented more fully in later posts)
- An investment to study God’s Word and to learn the beauties of Christ, our bridegroom.
- What we learn of Christ, we are to wear as a garment (as the Spirit of God teaches us, to put on Christ so that crucified old man is put off – Colossians 3:9,10).
- Then we are to apply it so that we live our lives according to what we can see, among other things, the position that God has called us to as the Bride of Christ.
To be sure, my frequent episodes of spiritual barrenness are, in part, because I haven’t seen clearly what my position in Christ is. It is so much fuller than that of a subject to His Sovereign King. While it is that of course, it is also so much more than that, it is even as a beloved bride to her bridegroom.
At mount Sinai, Israel chose to stand afar off but Moses chose to step into the glory.
That seems to sum up what the Spirit of God is teaching us today. As Christians, we can settle for a relationship, bound to the law at the foot of mount Sinai, as one that is only subject to the King. Or we can choose to step into the glorious liberty of Christ by investing our time, talents and energies into growing that relationship as an espoused bride to the King of kings.
It is a staggering thought that in Christ, we are being made glory bearers. There are an abundance of scriptures in our new testament that reveal the glory that is ours in Christ but I am reminded of this statement in the Messianic Psalm 45:9
Kings’ daughters [were] among thy honorable women: upon thy right hand did stand the queen in gold of Ophir.
For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
What a position that we have been given next to the King!! As members in God’s church, we have been given so much, how can that not motivate us to serve Him, not only as our King but as His glorified bride?
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