As Close to God As We Choose

We are as close to God,

not as we wish we would be,

but as close as we choose to be.

Howard Hendricks

     These words produce an immediate conviction to our hearts.  They clarify what we know to be true.  There are times when we are aware of our closeness to the Lord, but the times are many as well when we are not as close as we once were, or as close as we wish we would be.  Although convicting, it is also reassuring that we can, indeed, be as close as we choose to be.  Does the Lord not say “Come near to God and he will come near to you?” (James 4:8)  Do we not read in Jeremiah that “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart?” (Jeremiah 29:13)  And Proverbs 2:3-5 says “And if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.”

Many have undertaken to instruct us in walking closer to God.  Scripture itself instructs us in Psalm 24:3-4.  “Who may ascend the hill of the LORD?  Who may stand in his holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.”  We understand by this that it is the fear of God demonstrated by walking in His ways that brings us close to Him.  Many expositors state that much time spent with God is also necessary to experiencing closeness to Him.  Chuck Swindoll in his book “Intimacy with the Almighty,” points to simplicity, solitude, silence and surrender as being keys to drawing close to God.

As I examine my own life I find that any lack of closeness to God is due to satisfaction with my current distance from Him.  This satisfaction is created, I think, by a reliance on self rather than on Him.  I cry out to Him in times of need, but other days are characterized by some degree of dependence upon my own resources.  Am I looking to my own experience and training for any adequacy?  Is my daily agenda a matter of my choosing, rather than His?  Am I concerned about my own accomplishments rather than His?  If I would walk close to God, I must repent of this independence.  G. Campbell Morgan describes repentance in “The Westminster Pulpit” as follows.  “The repentance that Christ preached, and His Apostles preached, the repentance which is demanded of every man is always indicated by the use of the word that means a change of mind.  When Christ used that word, and when, as I have no doubt in the hearing of the men who listened to Him, it had exactly that meaning of change of mind, He had passed beyond the outer circumference of things into the inner center of a man’s life.  He began by declaring to men that their thought was wrong, that their conception of life was wrong.  Now we say to a man, alas, too often, change your conduct.  Jesus never began by telling a man to change his conduct.  That is to begin in the externalities of human life.  He comes to a man, and says, change your mind, and by that word He means that men hold wrong views at the very center of their being.  The word ”repent” passes into the fundamental realm, the thought of a man’s life.”  The wrong view, of which I need to repent, and change my mind, is that of my independence from Him.  My thinking needs to be changed to reflect that it is in Him, and Him alone, that I find my adequacy for any situation in life, (II Corinthians 3:5-6) that I have no ability, nor do I have the right, as a servant (doulos,-better translated slave) to establish my own agenda, and that I was never intended to find satisfaction in my own achievements which were not a ppart of His plan for my life.  I need repentance, a change of mind, which results in confidence in His adequacy, a commitment to His agenda, and concern for what He desires to accomplish.  This change of mind, from independence to dependence, brings me closer to Him daily as I look to Him for all that I need.

In Genesis 15:1, God states that He wants us not only to know Him as the One who will meet all our needs (a shield); He also wants us to know and experience Him as a reward.  He describes His gift of Himself to us as “your very great reward.”  Psalm 16:5 states that “The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup:  thou maintainest my lot.” (KJV)  Psalms 73:26 tells us that “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”  And again in Lamentations 3:24, we read the following.  “I say to myself, the LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”  What does it mean to know Him as a reward or portion?  It means that we can go beyond knowing and worshipping Him as our provider, we can know and worship Him as our portion.  We can experience a closeness to the One who we worship and serve not only for what He does for us, but for what He is in Himself; not solely because of His gracious provision, but because of His Glorious Person.

Walt Henrichsen, author of “Disciples are made, not born,” commented on this closeness to God by drawing an example from the book of Job.  His words in a personal note were as follows.  “Job opens with Satan taunting God over the faithfulness of Job, stating that Job served God because of God’s generosity.  If, however, God withdrew His favor, Job would curse God.  The book of Job tests this theory.  Satan’s estimate is based on weaker characters, exemplified by Job’s wife, who would have Job do what Satan had counted on his doing; but Job rejects the advice of his wife in words which are tantamount to saying:  ‘to curse God now would be to prove that I have served Him hitherto not for who He is, but for the blessings He has bestowed upon me; now that ill-fortune has befallen me I can show that I serve him for who He is.’”

Job’s worship of God for who He is was due to a close walk with Him.  The Lord has not restricted this close knowledge of himself to only a few. (like Job)  He opens His Heart to all who would come.  To know Him more deeply is the work of the unfolded ages which are before us.  “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (KJV)  This journey of drawing close to Him need not wait until we are with Him in heaven.  It can begin today, as we turn from independence to dependence, look to the LORD as our portion, and worship Him, not only for what He does for us, but for who He is.

In Christ, Richard Spann

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