Drawing near to God is a conscious, willful, and deliberate act of obedience. Belief alone is never enough if there is no obedience. Besides, true belief in God compels the spirit to live for God, walk in Him, and obey Him. “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” -1 John 3:9-10. It is true that it is God who works in us so we can do good things and obey Him (Philippians 2:13) but we should have the will and the effort to cooperate with the workings of God in our life.
How do you draw near to God? “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 your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” -James 4:8-10.
- Purify your heart. “I have stored up your word in my heart,that I might not sin against you.” -Psalm 119:11. “Create in me a clean heart, O God,and renew a right spirit within me.” –Psalm 51:10. It is interesting to note how the Psalmists have beed concerned of the condition of their hearts. “Keep your heart with all vigilance for from it flow the springs of life.” -Proverbs 4:23. “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it?” -Jeremiah 17:9. The heart or the soul is a crucial part of our being. As the Bible says, from it flows the spring of life so we need to guard it and keep it pure. If there is anything impure, release it. Release the bitterness, the unforgiveness, the envy, pride, malice, and anything that runs contrary to the righteous, loving, and gracious nature of our Lord Jesus Christ. We must allow Jesus to reign in our heart so we may have cleansed hands too. Good works follow when we have cleansed hearts.
- Repent. Take note of the Scriptures. “A lion has gone up from his thicket, a destroyer of nations has set out; he has gone out from his place to make your land a waste; your cities will be ruins without inhabitant. For this put on sackcloth, lament and wail, for the fierce anger of the Lord has not turned back from us.” -Jeremiah 4:7-8. “But I, when they were sick— I wore sackcloth; I afflicted myself with fasting; I prayed with head bowed on my chest.” -Psalm 35:13. “therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” -Job 42:6. In the Old Testament, when people mourn and show their humiliation for their sins, they wore sackloth which is a coarse garment made from goat’s hair. It is accompanied by mourning and weeping and putting on of ashes. This act was done to show that the person is mourning and is ashamed of the sins he committed. It is to show submission and repentance to God. When we are repentant, we are to show that state of mourning of the sins which God abhor to see us doing. We should be able to see that state of poverty we are in because of our sin and go to God in that contrite heart to seek His forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” -1 John 1:9. Like the father of the prodigal son, who lavishly forgived his rebellious son, God lavishes forgiveness to those who approach Him with a sincere and contrite heart. But that prodigal son did not remain rebellious anymore. He changed. That is repentance. Repentance is more than just an emotional experience. It does not rest on that feeling of unworthiness. It is the knowing and acting. Repentance starts in the mind. When our mind is renewed by God, then our acts of obedience follow. Unless we truly repent, we cannot draw near to God.
- Humble yourself before God. “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” -James 4:6. That picture of putting on sackloth and mourning and weeping also speaks of humility before God. It is an act of mind and heart that says, “Yes Lord, I agree with you. I am wrong and I have sinned against you. I need you and I cannot do this without you”. Being humble is relinquishing that control and authority we have over our life that says we know better and we have it all under control. We relinquish that and give it all to God. Because we know and accept that He alone knows better and He is the One who is in control. Humbling is submitting to God. We cannot draw near to God if our hearts are full of us and our accomplishments and possessions. We cannot draw near to God if we are so full of this world, the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). We have to be emptied of these things and be full of God. As the seed needs to die to grow and live so we must die to self and our old nature to live a life with God (Galatians 2:20). To be able to do so takes humility, a form of stripping us of self and its prideful nature, and covering us with a submissive nature to the will of God.