The Expository Files


 

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“Christianity in 12 Words – New Testament Christianity”  Series

 

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” – James 4:8

Our assumption is, if you have read the previous chapters of this book, you believe in the existence of God and you accept the truth about who Jesus is and what He did. You’ve read these chapters which develop various aspects of New Testament Christianity. You have the information we have supplied in this little book. At this point, we need to move from information to transformation; from academic to practical; from general to specific, making this personal.

Is all this personal to your individual heart and life? Is the idea of God and His Christ-centered message merely academic for you?

For many people, most of what we have published in this book is data in the head, not application in life. There is belief in the concept of God, but no individual activity to become and be a child of God. There is a verbal confession of New Testament teaching about Jesus Christ, but without the consistent discipline of obedience to Him. Agreement is granted to all the writers and chapters in the book, but active agreement with God’s plan is absent.

Our final chapter, therefore, is about YOU. What will you do with this instruction from God’s Word? Will you study this, test it against God’s Word, then become His child and live this all out in life?

God seeks a personal relationship with every single person! By that I mean – not just God knowing who you are, but God knowing you as His child like a parent knows his or her children.

When I speak of God wanting to know us, please – let’s be clear. It is not about a little dot on a globe. It is not like your name in a data base. It is not that you are in a group that He is acquainted with. This is about God knowing you personally, and knowing you as His child!

The Bible clearly teaches, God wants that! What an amazing thought I want us to ponder soberly. It is written that God wants to know you, as His child.
In Genesis -

God’s interests in His creatures is declared on the opening pages of the Bible.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. – Genesis 1:26,27

This declaration is never said of plants and animals. And to this add, that the Lord God formed man from the dust and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living creature (Genesis 2:7-9), likewise never said of plants or animals. And in Genesis 2:18, the Creator saw that Adam was alone and needed suitable companionship. God cared about that. God said, “…a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh,” (Genesis 2:24). Special care of His human creatures evidenced again.

As the human race grew out of the garden and people filled the earth, God knew each one and cared for the welfare of his human creatures. He wanted the people He made to come to Him, serve Him and walk with Him.

God gave attention and care toward human beings, far different from His treatment of plants and animals. He gave Adam and Eve a special, perfect place to live. He put them in the garden and provided for them abundantly, having a relationship with both.

And for a time Adam and Eve knew God in a close, personal way experiencing the joy of knowing their Creator. God spoke to them and they listened. God gave them what they needed, and they received from His grace. They enjoyed His presence, His Help and His fellowship. But that relationship changed when they broke away from Him through their disobedience.

When Adam and Eve sinned – it is apparent in Genesis 3, that God was displeased. And, that their sin disrupted their relationship with God is obvious. Serious consequences came. But while there was justice and penalty, there was grace and care and no interruption in God’s love for them or His interests in their obedience. He wanted them to repent and come back. God spoke to them about their sin, and He wanted them to return to Him.

Further into Genesis and the theme is repeated, that God seeks a personal relationship with every human being. When Cain killed Abel, God said, “What have you done?” In the case of Enoch and Noah, God was pleased to have people walking with Him. God sought to be a friend to Abraham. Later in Genesis – concerning Joseph – the Bible says the Lord was with him.

What do you think we should learn from this history in Genesis? Isn’t it plain: God seeks a personal relationship with people. Enoch walked with God. Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. God cares; care that can be called perfect grace.

We were never meant to be without God in our lives. You are not like just another rock, or a limb on a tree. You are more than just that speck on the globe or that member of a large group. You are a person made in the image of God. He knows you! Do you know Him?

He wants you as His child under His care – and there is no higher or better care than to live as a child of God, reflecting His glory and grace. He wants that! Just as children need parents – YOU need God.

God would not create you in His own image, then treat you like one of a group of plants or animals. He wants you to come to Him. Why else would He conceive and reveal a plan of salvation?

In The Gospel of John -
Jesus said the time is near when “the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father seeks such to worship Him,” (John 4:23) and God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that we might have “the right to become children of God,” (John 3:16; 1:12).

This is something about God the Bible conveys to us over and over – that God seeks a personal relationship with each one of us. He loves, He cares, He seeks, He calls us through the gospel.

This is expressed by James in James 4:8 – “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” That’s what the Creator wants.

He wants us to come to Him through Christ, and He says, “I will draw near to you.” Galatians 4:9 speaks of being “known by God.”

It may remind you of that song, “Nearer, my God, to Thee.” And please note – this is not just about some emotional feeling that tugs at you periodically. This relationship you can have with God through Christ involves conviction, hope, priorities, prohibitions, participation and your overall submission to Bible authority.

The nearness of this great resplendent God is one of the astonishing revelations of the Bible. Moses fairly exults in it—“For what great nation is there, that has a god so near to them as the Lord our God is whenever we call upon him?” (Deuteronomy 4:7). The Psalms also take up the theme: “The Lord is near to them that are of a broken heart, and saves such as are of a contrite spirit” (34:18). “You are near, O Lord; and all your commandments are truth” (119:161). [Paul Earnhart]

You need God!
Responding to Him is never a casual option or another of many choices. It is essential. We need Him – to build a life of value and responsibility and hope. What we are talking about is not just something to feel good about – that God knows you and you know Him.

Much deeper than that we need God, every one of us. We need, for present and eternal reasons – to be in His family. Here, I am affirming something against the grain of popular thought in many circles. You may hear someone say, or read what someone has written like this: Why do I need God, I’m doing just fine!

Those who offer this boast may be doing fine in terms of temporal conditions – may have money, be in good health, have a lot of fun.

But life is about so much more. Without God, that which is fundamental to your authentic identity and wholeness IS NOT THERE… And that absence is destructive. YOU NEED GOD . . . . I Need God.

First, He is worthy of our highest praise. He is the God of the Creation, the God of the Bible, the Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ. The more you learn of Him, the more you will be motivated to “seek the Lord” and find Him (Acts 17:24-27). Paul assures us, that He is “not far from each of us!” God is worthy of our praise, and we are deficient in mind and life until we acknowledge Him. Remember, we were made in His image!

Job said, in his acknowledgment of God - -
"Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised."

Further, your personal relationship with God determines your present and future and eternal well-being. Do you think you can do your best in this life – without the Creator? Do you think you can be the best kind of person – without obeying God? Do you imagine that you can cope with tragedy . . . serve people well . . . be a good father or mother . . . and all of that – without a relationship with God?

Do you think you can die and just automatically slip into heaven – when you have not sought to be a child of God??

A person without God cannot have a whole life – and cannot form good individual responsibility. For in Him we live and move, and have our very being.

Paul wrote in Romans 1 – that people who do not praise and serve the Lord, open their hearts up to futility and darkness (Romans 1:21). And he went on to say something about the eternal outcome of disobedience to God.

“….but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.” – Romans 2:8-11

Two simple truths emerge clearly as you read the Word of God: ONE, God seeks a personal relationship with individuals. He wants us to be His children. TWO, every individual needs to know Him. Psalm 118:28 ought to be the anxious confession of each of us to God – it says “You are my God, and I will praise You; You are my God, I will exalt You.”
“There is one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.” – Ephesians 4:6

Jesus Died To Make This Relationship Possible.
1 Peter 3:18 says this:

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but made alive by the Spirit.”

Look at that powerful phrase, “bring us to God.” I can’t get there on my own! Even if I stop doing what is wrong, give up all my sin – turn over a new leaf – start reading the Bible and “go to church” three times a week, and give all my goods to feed the poor.

I can’t work my way out of sin and to God – without Christ! Even with my work – my obedience, WHAT THAT IS, IS A RECEPTION OF THE GIFT OF SALVATION, by a gracious God.
So that Christians can not only say, “My Lord and My God,” but – as written in Hebrews 4:16 – “let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

C.S. Lewis wasn’t right about everything; but he had this right:

“If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for and looking for some excuse, some distraction, some cause for delay – keeping us from really getting down to work on our relationship with God.” But the fact of the matter is – the only people who receive and achieve in their relationship with God, are those who want it so badly, they seek it even when conditions are not favorable. And, they seek it consistently . . . every single day.”

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” Psalm 63

Your soul cannot be fully satisfied – your eternal welfare cannot be secure – until your relationship with God is secure. Because of what Christ did, you can leave sin and walk with God.

And . . .

1. You can read the Bible. Or, if more suitable for you, you can listen to the Bible read (from audio recordings). When you read or listen to what the Bible actually says, the promise is – you can understand the message Paul and the other apostles brought to man from God. “When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ,” (Ephesians 3:4).

2. You can obey the gospel. Think of this in terms of problem and solution. The problem is that you have sinned. The solution is what God has provided – salvation in Jesus Christ. You apply that solution to your personal situation when you obey the gospel. Hearing that message, believing in Christ, confessing your faith, repenting and being baptized – you are responding to the gospel. You are doing what the apostle said. People who are lost, who do not have God in their life are the people who have “not obeyed the gospel,” (Romans 10:16).

3. You can be a Christian. You should come up from the waters of baptism ready to be a Christian. That simply means, based on your reception of God’s grace and your love for Christ, you live by the teachings given in the New Testament. You determine to get up every day and “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,” (Ephesians 4:1).

4. You can support your local church. Open your New Testament to the Table of Contents. Observe that God, through His inspired writers, gave instruction to Christians in groups. The church in Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, the churches of Galatia, etc. It should be clear – just from the content of the New Testament – that God intends His people to be together, to work and worship together. When “each part is working properly,” there is the increase and edification God desires (Ephesians 4:16).

5. You can evangelize. Not, you can become a public evangelist or local preacher (though qualified men may take up that work). This is about what you can do, simply by living right and telling people about the Lord.

6. You can have a good attitude. By doing these things in this list, you are able – from the Word of God – to discipline your attitude; to think and act toward people as God directs; to control your temper. With consistent application of Scripture in your heart, you can be “pure in heart,” (Matthew 5:8), you can be “meek, merciful” and a “peacemaker,” (Matthew 5:5-9).

7. You can say “no” to the devil every day. When Jesus was tempted (in the account in Matthew 4), He showed us – we can rely on the written Word of God to refuse the advances and lies of the devil. The devil cannot force you to sin against your will. Instead, you can will to know God’s Word, know it and use it to resist sin.

8. You can worship. Consider, if you love God and you have obeyed Christ in baptism and you want to glorify God – worship is not something on your duty list; it is a joyous passion of your heart. God’s people want to honor Him through their lives. But more specifically, there is the opportunity afforded by the local church to take the Lord’s Supper, give, join with Christians in song and prayer and listening to God’s Word.

9. You can grow. If you accept the challenges written in this book, you will want to be closer to God with every passing day; you will not tolerate standing still, but will desire to press on. “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen,” (2 Peter 3:18).
10. You can pray. This chapter is about you and God, so obviously an important dimension of that is your communication with God. As a Christian, through Jesus Christ, you can approach God, ask for forgiveness, help, guidance and strength. “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us,” (1 John 5:14).

So, read this book again. This time, be certain you apply it to you!

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” – James 4:8

 

By  Warren Berkleyl
From Expository Files 21.12; December 2014

 

 

 

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