Answering The Invitation to Draw Near: A Journey Story

Keith KettenringChristian Living, The Uncommon Journey

Eric wonders what’s going on. A few Sundays ago, Pastor Parker, in his 45-minute sermon (ugh!), highlighted the idea that drawing near to God allows God to draw near to us. The idea came directly from what St. James wrote in chapter 4. Eric usually dozes during most of the pastor’s sermons. But, for some reason, he was awake enough to hear this part. What would happen, he thought, if I would try to draw near to God?

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When he got home, after a mile-high burger at The Eatery with the family, he couldn’t get the idea of drawing near to God out of his head. Since the Packers-Patriots game wasn’t on until 3:00, he decided to read the passage again.

Do you know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the [S]pirit that he has made to dwell in us?” But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. 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 our joy to gloom. Humble yourself before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

He cringed as he read these verses. He called himself a Christian but knew how much he’d bought into the world’s system of operating – watch out for yourself, make lots of money, be happy, “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours,” be successful, give God a few hours on Sunday but live the rest of the week for yourself. Did this make him an enemy of God? He never thought of it like this before.

Now, as he read the passage again, he felt overwhelmed. There was so much here. If he took it seriously, so much would have to change. So he asked himself, “Should I really do this or should I just think about it and hope the feelings go away?” The game wasn’t on for another 20 minutes so he took out a legal pad and started writing.

For me, what are these things?

  • Friendship with the world – Where have I bought into the world’s system? A start: manipulating people. unbiblical priorities. playing politics. money issues. That’s enough!!
  • the “Spirit he has made to dwell in us?” – Is the Holy Spirit working in me? I guess since something’s happening in me now is proof that He is at work.
  • Grace – nothing happens without God’s grace
  • God opposes the proud? What?!? God actually opposes me? Wake up, man!
  • God gives grace to the humble? I’m screwed! I have little idea what it is to be humble.

What does it mean for me to do these things?

  • Submit to God – ???
  • Resist satan (he’ll flee) – ???
  • Draw near to God (He’ll draw near) – Is this prayer? Reading my Bible? What?
  • Cleanse my hands (of sin) – ???
  • Purify my heart (double-minded) – How can I do this?
  • Be wretched; mourn, weep – Now I’m lost!
  • Let laughter turn to mourning, joy to gloom – lost even more
  • Humble myself before the Lord (he’ll exalt me) – OK. I get the idea. Humility is key. But I don’t know how.

Something was different about this experience. He wasn’t trying to convince himself that it didn’t matter whether these things were lived or not. He was open to the idea that he needed to do something. But he had no idea what to do.

He put up the footrest on the recliner, laid back, and began to think about what it would look like if some of these were true for him. He prayed, “Lord, help me make it happen. I’m tired of saying I’m a Christian but not acting like one…at least not like the Christian described here. Help me…”

By the time he awoke from his nap, the game was already in the second quarter. Drawing near to God was nothing like he’d imagined.

What would it look like if some of these were true for you? Share your story or struggle below.

Dr. K