The day was when all of our cars had bench seats, not bucket seats. When my wife and I started dating the “thing” was for the girl to sit in the middle, close to her boyfriend/husband, who was driving. So the story goes that an “experienced” couple was at a traffic light, each sitting next to their respective windows, when a young couple pulled up next to them, and the girl was sitting in the middle close to her man. The more “experienced” lady asked her longtime husband, “how come we don’t sit close like that anymore when we are driving?” Her husband gave a matter of fact reply, “well, I haven’t moved.” 🙂
If there was distance, it wasn’t the driver’s fault. So it is in our relationship with the Lord, if you look up and feel like “wait a minute, there’s some distance in my relationship with the Lord.” You can ask the Lord “what happened, why the distance?” To which he will reply, “I haven’t moved.”
James 4:8 says “Come near to God, and he will come near to you.”
Are we close to the Lord, or far away? The Greek word translated “Come near” is the word engizo = to come near(distance), come near(time). In Matthew 3:2 the word is used when John the Baptist begins preaching, his message was “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near” … He was “turn around, stop going that way, come THIS way because the Kingdom is right here and right now! It’s time to be near to God and he’s over here.”
Luke 12:28 also uses the word saying “lift up your head because your redemption is drawing nigh” Oh don’t be discouraged any longer, hope is here, and provision is almost made, look this way!
When God is calling us to draw near, we need to act. In observations on this verse, Oswald Chambers says “the paralysis of refusing to act leaves a man exactly where he was before. When once he acts, he is never the same” (My Utmost for His Highest – November 4)
So, what happens? How did the distance arise in our relationship? Well there could be a myriad of reasons, but perhaps we can group them into three groups, as suggested by James 4.
The FIRST is our Affections – James 4:4 calls them “adulterous people”. That’s a pretty strong word but we understand it, do we not? Sometimes our affections get divided, misplaced. Sometimes we give affection and attention from our heart to things/people in areas that we should be giving to the Lord. It’s not always bad things, but just we’ve let our heart get divided. We are seeking support, encouragement, advice, direction, illumination, from others instead of our God and King, Savior and Friend. James 4:4 further says that “a friend of the world is an enemy of God” and verse 5 says that The Spirit within us “envies intensely”. When there is distance in our relationship God is understandably Jealous.
There is a Second area that cause distance and that is Attitude – the word is PRIDE. It goes on to say there in James 4 that “God Opposes the Proud”. There is only room for ONE person in our relationship with God to be the greatest, head, leader, direction, and King. When we TAKE that roll, it unfortunately causes distance. God is not going to stay close, if we want to run the show. God will not share his glory with anyone. Jesus said “I am the vine, YOU are the branches”(john 15:5) … Not to say that he LEAVES us, but certainly he cannot relate in closeness to us when PRIDE causes us to think we can take his rightful place in our life. We would never SAY that we are God and King, but we can act that way sometimes can’t we?
The Third thing that causes distance then is Action – James 4:7 instructs us “submit to God, resist the devil, and he will flee”. Distance comes when God is asking for obedience in an area and we will not submit, obey, and follow. And you can be sure that wherever God is asking for obedience, satan is working against us. When we are focused on fighting satan, we look up and find ourselves away from the Lord. That might sound strange, and you say “but I was fighting satan”. But God is asking for your attention. Submit to him and HE will take care of satan. Are we focused on obedience, or on disobedience?
SO THEN … Let’s flip it, how do I get back to the closeness in my fellowship with Christ? Again quoting Oswald Chambers he says “The moments when I TRULY LIVE are the moments when I act with my WHOLE WILL”(ibid)
Same three things – First Affections – What did Jesus tell the Ephesian church in Revelation 2? “You have left your first love“. He gave them the remedy, “repent and do the things you did first“. For a couple that has “fallen out of love” or for the child of God who has found distance, the instruction is the same, “turn around and do what you did when you were close”. If you don’t feel it, do it UNTIL you feel it. Love, Confess, Talk about, Brag on God. Worship him. Turn your back on inordinate friendship with the things of the World, set your affection on him
Second – Attitude – The Lord doesn’t love sacrifices, he loves a broken and contrite heart. It is in humility. Proverbs 15:33 says “The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor” Proverbs 22:4 says “Humility and the fear of the Lord bring wealth and honor and life.” And James 4:10 says “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” We should say “Lord, i need your grace, because i am weak and without the ability to be close, i am sinful, Lord you know how I am made, help me draw close”
Finally then, we draw close in Action – One other quote from Oswald Chambers. “Never allow a truth of God that is brought home to your soul pass without action on it” (Ibid). What will you do with this truth? James teaches again in 4:7 “submit to God, resist the devil”. That is the proper order … Turn your face to the Lord and say “YES Lord”… in every area. Turn your back on temptation and move toward obedience. ACT on the Obedience requested, so then when you resist the devil, it is basically a passive result of the active obedience and the Devil will FLEE. No confusion here on the translation. The word pheugo means to disappear quickly, become invisible. POOF … when we ACT in obedience, satan has no power.
When my Affection, Attitude, and Actions are FOR God, when they BURN for Christ, I look up and guess what? I am NEAR HIM and He is Near Me
Prayer: Oh Lord, search me and know me. See if my affections have waned, see if my attitude is prideful instead of humble. Lord search my actions to see that I am submitting to you in every area. Then lead me in the way everlasting from a loving, humble, obedient heart, draw me close. For the Glory of Jesus, Amen
Bless the Lord
Come Lord Jesus – Maranatha