Drawing God Closer to Us
Every word of God is flawless. Do not add to his words or He will rebuke you and prove you a liar.
~ Proverbs 30:5-6
Most of the people reading this will be concerned, already, with deepening their faith and drawing nearer to God. Knowing how wonderful is our God, we want Him to come always closer to us, to be with us every moment of our lives. We have felt and tasted how good the joy of the Lord can be, and we want more. How, though, do we get God more fully into our lives?
James' epistle promises us, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8) Surely, this is a good place to start.
I want to concentrate, in this brief message, on conforming our thoughts and beliefs to those of God. How can we possibly please God if we do not know what He wants? It would seem to be an easy enough task, for God has given us an instruction manual: The Bible. These are God’s words, given to us that we might learn about Him. Not that the Bible is an easy read: Much of it takes work to understand, especially when we wrestle with the epistles in the New Testament.
But the Bible is intended to be read. And having been read, God intends that it educate us. We draw closer to God — and thus, God draws closer to us — only if we are willing to change our minds to conform to what we read. It sounds simple enough, but it is nigh impossible, for we are filled with pride in our thoughts. And once we get past 40 or so, it becomes almost impossible. We become convinced that we know what is true and false, what is right and wrong — and if the Bible disagrees with us, we find a way to ignore it!
What does the Bible say about us, when we prefer the version of the Bible in our mind to the version in the Book? “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” (Mark 10:13-16) In other words, we must read the Bible like a child, empty of preconceptions. Where our ideas conflict with it, we must change our ideas, instead of changing the Bible. Our minds must be born again.
The act of reading the Bible without preconception is counterintuitive. Our human nature, and our interaction with the world, teaches us to defend our ideas. To read and absorb something we do not like is painful. The temptation to find what we want to find in the Bible, rather than what is actually said by God, is horrendously difficult. My own thought about why — or at least one reason why — we find it so difficult, is that much of the Bible goes against our worldly knowledge about how to succeed in life.
We want to be powerful, for example. We want to rule the government. We want to be rich. We crave acceptance, praise, even adulation of other people. We want to follow our instincts. We want sex, we want to have long lives, we want to be beautiful. We want God to approve of our friends and allies. We want to be wise, or at least have others think we are wise.
But all of these thoughts and desires inevitably come into conflict with God’s Word. How can we possibly cope? It is an automatic and even unconscious process, this subversion of the Bible to our own desires.
We must constantly renew our childishness. Some spiritual practices become easier and easier as we get older. Certainly, most people are less tempted to sexual immorality as they age. We may learn that money and fame are fleeting, and find it easier to resist pursuing them. But there is a downside, for we become ever more “fixed in our ways.”
I will testify to this: Every person can grow in joy and contentment by reading the Bible, if they are willing to change their minds to accord with what they read. God will draw closer to us as we draw closer to God.
Lord, let me draw closer to you in my ideas and thoughts, abandoning the ideas of my own mind. Amen.
~ Mason Barge
Editor, Daily Prayer