We’ve been talking about James 4:8. Last time we looked at how this verse is a command, a commitment, and a comfort. In this post, we want to continue to think rightly about the truth we receive from this great verse. Scripture is God’s self-revelation to man. And this verse reveals 3 key things to us. First, it reveals:
The Purpose of the Gospel
Peter says in 1 Peter 3:18 – For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God
When James commands us to draw near to God, he is simply reminding us of the very purpose of the gospel. Christ suffered for our sins in order to bring us to God. If you aren’t drawing near to God and you profess to be a Christian, you’ve missed the point of the gospel.
If you are not a Christian, I set the gospel before you – the good news of Christ’s perfect life, substitutionary death, and victorious resurrection. He suffered for our sins to bring lost sinners to God. Therefore, draw near to God now. This is the purpose of the gospel.
Let’s explore that a little more by seeing that 2ndly, James 4:8 reveals to us:
The Primacy of God
Draw near to God. This is not “draw near to heaven” or to “the church.” This is not “draw near to good works.” This is “draw near to God.”
- You can try to get to heaven and never draw near to God.
- You can draw near to the church and never draw near to God.
- You can draw near to good works and never draw near to God.
This verse reveals the primacy of God. The command is to draw near to God. Now, if you do draw near to God, those other things will flow out of that, won’t they? If you draw near to God, heaven awaits you. If you draw near to God, you will draw near to the local church. If you draw near to God, good works will follow. But those things are all secondary. The primary thing is God — the triune fellowship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
You were made to draw near to God. You were made to know God. That’s eternal life. John 17:3 says And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. You were made for God. To adore God. To grow in your knowledge of God. To learn theology. To praise God. To be in awe of God. To worship God. To love God. To live for God. To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
Your entire life is to be about drawing near to God. Oh, how many things distract us from that! This is why James says:
Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.
How can you find enjoyment in your sin when sin is an affront to a holy God and takes you away from a glorious God? Oh to know this great God! Oh to know Him more! Oh, to find the sweet fellowship He offers us in Christ! Oh to walk with Him! To love Him! To live for Him! To draw near to Him! If God is not at the center of your life why would you waste another second? Draw near to Him!
This verse reveals the purpose of the gospel, the primacy of God, and 3rdly:
The Power of Grace
James may seem like he’s coming across harsh compared to how we are used to talking to one another in the 21st century. But I don’t think he is being “harsh.” I think he’s being truthful. And in the midst of this, he reminds us of this gracious command. To submit to God and draw near to Him.
Believer, let me speak to you for a moment:
God is not your enemy. And truth is, you have messed up and you do sin every day. And sometimes you sin rather egregiously. Like sometimes you really blow it don’t you? And you think: Well, no way I can draw near today. I’ve got to get my life back on track. Let me clean up a bit. Let me make up for my wrongdoing. Let me get God back on my side—and then I’ll go to him.
Remember when you were a kid and you maybe broke a window in the house? And so what you did was you cleaned the whole house so when mom got home she would be in a good mood. And then you broke the news about what you did. That is not how God operates.
The reality of the gospel for believers is that God is for you in Christ. Yes: God is for you in Christ! He is not against you. There is no more atoning work for your sin to do. Jesus has paid it all. So, James says, draw near to God!
Yeah, but I don’t “feel” close to God and so…NO. QUIT THAT. Draw near to God.
- Well, ok, if I get a sign then…NO. HERE’S YOUR SIGN: DRAW NEAR!
- Maybe if God impresses something in my heart or mind then…STOP IT.
- Quit the excuses. Quit with the feels.
Jesus paid it all. Draw near to God. Do so now! See, you want to work so as to secure yourself another chance. Maybe if I can behave this week God will let me back in. Guess what? Nothing you can do can make you deserve another chance. No one deserves a second chance. No one. This is why grace is so amazing. God gives more grace (James 4:6). Grace upon grace in Christ. Therefore, Christian, I exhort you to obey this command: Draw near to God.
Unbelievers, pretenders, those who perhaps only put forth a form of godliness but deny it’s power:
I exhort you to draw near to God in Christ. You have no other out. You have no other hope. There is only one way. And because of Christ God will pardon any sinner who comes to him for salvation. Why would you refuse Him today? Why would you not see that all your sins: your wicked behavior, your vile thoughts, your hypocrisy, and your rebellion can all be forgiven in Christ?
Draw near to God in Christ by faith. Draw near to Him. And He will draw near to you.
We will look at how to do this in the next post.