Sunday, October 1, 2006

Close To God

Not long ago I was digging through some old teaching tapes I had stored in a box, and I ended up listening to one in which the speaker commented on an ad he saw in a magazine selling Christian music tapes. In this ad was a picture of mountain, alongside a picture of the Christian tapes. The caption read something like, “Which will bring you closer to God?”

“Now wait a minute,” he said with more than a slight tinge of sarcasm and facetiousness. “I thought that JESUS came 2,000 years ago to bring us close to God! And you’re saying that now we can bypass all that just by listening to a tape?!?!” Although I’ve always valued how Christian music helps people feel connected with God, I fully get the point - that it’s not music that brings us close to God, nor does anything bring us close to God except Jesus Himself. Ephesians 2:13 says that in Christ Jesus we have been brought near to God. I don’t think we need to spend our time trying to figure out how to get close to Jesus. Rather through the person of Jesus Christ we have been brought close to God. It’s a done deal!

That said, there’s a paradox of sorts in regards to our closeness with God. James says “draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” So on the one hand we are as close to God as we’ll ever be. We’re never “not close” to God, because He lives in us and is one spirit with us. But the paradox is that even though we’re already close to Him, He still wants us to “draw near” to Him. This is one thing that I think is so wonderful about God. He has given us, as a gift, complete access to Him and oneness with Him by nothing we’ve ever done to deserve it, but rather through the sacrifice of Jesus. Yet He doesn’t force this closeness upon us in experiential form. He allows us to get to know Him and understand the closeness we already have with Him by our “drawing near” to Him.

But I really do think that being confident about the first part of the paradox is essential to living in the second part. Unless we are fully assured that it’s solely by Jesus’ blood that we have closeness with God, we may have a hard time “drawing near.” If we somehow think that drawing near to God is contingent upon how well we’ve performed, or if we think that our failures and weaknesses keep Him from allowing us to be near Him, then we may live the rest of our lives afraid to do what He longs for us to do! But if, instead of trying to figure out how to get close to Jesus, we live with the constant mindset that “in Him we (literally) live and move and have our being,” and that in Christ we are (already) close to God, then we will have confidence in “drawing near” experientially. And not only that, but we will also realize that our presenting ourselves to him as “a living sacrifice” is an act of His grace working in us, rather than something we try to conjure up through our own holiness.

Sometimes instead of letting my weaknesses be an opportunity for God’s strength, I subconsciously turn them into an opportunity for self-pity and self-condemnation. The condemnation for our sins is a weight that Jesus bore on our behalf. If we begin to try to bear that weight ourselves, we not only lose the joy of the salvation that He gave us freely, but in a sense we’re telling God that Jesus’ blood wasn’t good enough. There are times when I slip into that mode in which I try to get “close” to God through my own attempts at godly living and through trying to cheerlead my soul into becoming a “better” Christian. But since that always fails, what I try to do is to constantly remind myself of all that Jesus has sufficiently accomplished for me. This brings me back to trusting in His grace and strength.

Here are just a few examples of what Jesus accomplished for us by His blood. We have been purchased with His blood (Act 20:28). We have peace with God through His blood (Col 1:20). We have been sanctified with His blood (Heb 13:12). We have been justified by His blood (Rom 5:9). We have been redeemed by His blood (Col 1:14). By His blood, we have the forgiveness of sins (Eph 1:7). We have been cleansed and purified, and our sins are taken away by His blood (Heb 9:22-28). And finally, “we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus” (Heb 10:19) – with or without Christian music!

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