Study 7 COMING NEAR TO GOD: PRECEPT AND PROMISE
THE LETTER OF JAMES
by Francis Dixon
Scripture Portion: James 4:8-12
In James 4:8 there is a precept, something we are to do – “Come near to God”; there is also a promise, something God will do when we play our part – “and he will come near to you.” In one sense we are always near to Him (Psalm 139:7-10; Acts 17:27-28); in another sense, because He is holy and we by nature are sinful, we are estranged from Him (Ephesians 4:18). The amazing thing is that God invites, urges and pleads with us to come to Him, a fact that is reiterated throughout the Bible, and this is what James is saying. But how can sinful men and women come near to a holy God? There are three requirements:-
- (1) We must come in faith (Hebrews 11:6).
- (2) We must come through Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Hebrews 10:19).
- (3) We must come sincerely (Hebrews 10:22).
The important thing is that we do come near, for then God guarantees that He will meet with us and bless us. How should we come?
1. Come near to God just as you are, and He will receive you.
The scripture for that is John 6:37, and it means exactly what it says! - that if anyone, anywhere, at any time, comes to the Lord Jesus, He will receive him. No-one who comes is ever turned away. There are no ’ifs’ and ‘buts’ about this. What an ever-open door this is where the troubled soul can go in! Will you come near with your need, and come to the Lord just as you are? If you will do this He guarantees to receive you.
2. Come near to God confessing your sin, and He will forgive you.
The scripture for that is 1 John 1:9. If you are conscious of sin, of guilt, of some specific way in which you have grieved the Lord, you can be forgiven and cleansed now, if you will act upon this gracious promise. The confession must be made to God; it must be specific and not general. The moment you make your confession the Lord promises to forgive and to cleanse you. What an encouragement this is for anyone who is conscious of sin! Will you come near and make your confession, and receive the Lord’s pardon and cleansing? What a relief it is to know that because we have confessed our sin to the Lord and renounced it, He has freely pardoned us and promised to forget our sins completely (Proverbs 28:13).
3. Come near to God with your trouble, and He will help you.
The scripture for that is Psalm 50:15. What is your trouble? In this promise the Lord guarantees to help all who are burdened, and He promises to deliver them and to bring out of their trial and difficulty something that will be for His glory. See an illustration of this in 1 Samuel 1:9-19. Do not despair; turn to the Lord Himself and act upon this gracious promise. He makes the promise to you!
4. Come near to God with your problem, and He will undertake for you.
The scripture for that is Psalm 55:22. It really means: bring the matter to the Lord Himself: it is too big for you and you cannot solve it anyway. But He can! He is great enough and willing enough to do so. See an illustration of this in Isaiah 37:14-17, and verse 36. Perhaps you have asked others to give you help, but it has proved inadequate. Come near to the Lord and He will undertake for you. If you still feel that your problem is too great even for Him to solve, turn to Genesis 18:14 and compare Luke 1:37. Nothing is too hard for the Lord!
5. Come near to God acknowledging your weakness; He will strengthen you.
The scripture for that is Isaiah 40:28-31. Perhaps you have been greatly tempted, and as a result of the pressure you have succumbed. Notice the word in 1 Corinthians 10:12-13. How can you escape? By coming near to the Lord, confessing your own weakness, and recognising that He is ”the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth…” and that “He gives strength to the weary …” Come near to Him in your weakness and wait upon Him.
6. Come near to God seeking guidance, and He will lead you.
The scripture for that is Proverbs 3:5-6. There is nothing we need more frequently than guidance. Should I move house? Should I buy that house? Should I get married? Should I emigrate? Should I invest that money? Should I retire now or later on? Should I change my job? Should I …? Remember this: God is always more eager to guide us than we are to be guided, so come near to Him now. For an illustration of His guidance read the whole of Genesis 24. Then turn to Acts 16, and notice how definitely the Holy Spirit led Paul and his colleagues - particularly notice verses 6, 7, 9 and 10. If you still need to be assured of God’s willingness to guide you, look up the following wonderful promises - Psalm 25:9; Psalm 32:8; Psalm 37:23-24; Psalm 78:72.
7. Come near to the Lord now, at this very moment.
Perhaps you have never come to Him in a definite way and trusted Him to save you and make you His own - look up and read Matthew 11:28-30; Acts 16:30-31; Romans 10:13. Or, do you need to come in one of the ways mentioned above? The important thing is really to come to Him - “Come near to God and he will come near to you.”
Will you do it, not only now, but in every time of need?