Drawing Near to God: Hungering for God’s presence in worship.
by David M. Edwards
In order to know God, you will need to put forth some effort. But if you love Him, it won’t seem like any effort at all. When you met your spouse, did it seem like effort to get to know him or her? When you became friends with someone you really liked and found that you had a lot in common, did it seem like an effort to get to know that person? Of course not. When you fall in love with God, you want to know everything about Him. You could live a million lifetimes and there would still be more you would like to learn about God.
One of the keys to getting to know God is at the heart of Moses’ prayer: hunger. Moses hungered for God. Moses longed for God. Moses realized that nothing else in the world could compare to the experience of being with God. Moses had a passion for His presence. Moses had lost his appetite for other people and other things. He was hungry for God. And guess what? God will always answer that kind of prayer.
It was James, the brother of Jesus, who wrote to the believers in Jerusalem, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded people!” (James 4:8). If we draw near to God, he will reciprocate and draw near to us. Drawing near to God is spending time with Him, worshiping Him, praying and talking to Him, inviting Him into every aspect of our lives.
James then gives us the formula for drawing near. If you’ve committed sin, confess it, get rid of it, and put it under the blood of Jesus (in other words, keep a short sin account). Next, ask the Lord to examine your heart, your motives, and the things that make you do what you do. Bring your heart under His lordship as well. May our actions be manifestations of a clean heart and conscience.
Notice that when he writes about this he says, “Purify your hearts, double-minded people.” What does he mean by “double-minded”? A person who is double-minded is drawn in two completely different directions. Thus, he will get nowhere fast because his loyalty is divided and he vacillates between faith and unbelief. A double-minded person is unstable in all her ways and her spiritual walk is inconsistent because she tries to serve God and her own interests at the game time. We’ve all learned that this kind of living never works. You cannot serve two masters.
I learned a long time ago that I am not going to get very far with God by playing spiritual games. God doesn’t play games! I soon discovered that the only people playing the game were me, myself, and I. It’s just like people thinking that they can “ride the fence” into the kingdom. There is no riding the fence, there is no lukewarm support group—you’re either in or out. If I really want to know Him, I’m going to have to get serious about my relationship with Him.
God our Father sent His Son, Jesus, in order that we might know Him more fully. Jesus was Emmanuel, God with us, God in the flesh, and God incarnate. God was willing to love us through a veil for awhile, but when the time was right, Jesus came and ripped the veil in two. He opened up a new and living way. He opened up permanent and perpetual access to God the Father by shedding His blood once and for all. His blood paved the way to restore God’s relationship with you and me. Praise the Lord!
God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son so that whoever believes in Him would never perish but enjoy an eternal relationship with Him. Again, it’s all about relationship. It has always been about relationship. From the moment Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, God sought to reestablish relationship with His children. We couldn’t get to where He was, so He came to us through Jesus. Until that time He loved us from afar, through or from behind a veil, because sin cannot exist in the same place as God’s glory.
But Jesus came and tore the veil so that we can get close to God. Now, when Father God looks at us, He looks at us through the blood of His Son, Jesus. Why wouldn’t we want to know the height and depth and width of the One who came to redeem us? Why wouldn’t we want to walk with Him and share our hearts’ concerns? Why wouldn’t we want to live to please the One who sought to restore our broken relationship?
But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith. [My goal] is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead. (Phil. 3:7-11, emphasis added)
Paul is talking about a relationship here. This isn’t “knowing” about the facts and figures of Jesus’ life. Paul is pouring out his heart. Paul is hungering for God’s presence. Like Moses, he wants to know the Lord in a personal and experiential way. He wants his personal fellowship with Jesus to be more intimate, nearer still, even beyond what he had known up to that moment.
To really know Jesus personally and to understand His nature. His character, and His ways will require us to draw near to Him. We draw near by listening to His Word, following the leading of His Holy Spirit, responding positively to His dealings with us when it comes to spiritual matters, as well as carrying on the cause of His great gospel. If I want to know the power of His resurrection, then I must experience the renewal of my own life by being born again, and be set free from the bondage of sin. I must yield to the power of the Holy Spirit in order that I might be an effective witness for Christ Jesus. As a result, I will have a physical resurrection, when this mortal body will put on immortality and I will live with the Lord forever and ever.
“My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” If I am to know Jesus and be a follower of Jesus, I must embrace His sufferings and His death. How? By daily picking up my personal cross and following Him. “Summoning the crowd along with his disciples. He said to them, ‘If anyone wants to be My follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me and the gospel will save it'” (Mark 8:34-35). We need that cross to kill our impure ways, our bad attitudes, our wrong motives, our ungodly thoughts, and so we can daily remember the price that Jesus paid for our sins.
We need that cross because something inside of us must die. Only God can resurrect us into a new life. We only need to wait and know that He is God.
From Worship 365: The Power of a Worshipping Life by David M. Edwards (Broadman & Holman, 2006)