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“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”  James 4:8

How can we draw near to God in 2012?  Let me propose two ways, consistent with the gospel.  They are not heroic.  They only require faith and honesty.

One, at those very places in our lives where we are the most sinful, the most defeated, let’s face it and admit it.  Whatever view we take of Romans 7, surely every one of us can say, “I do not understand my own actions” (Romans 7:15).  And beyond admitting the impasse which we thought that, by now, we’d have grown past, let’s trust God to love us at that very point in our existence.  It is his way.  God loves grace into us (Owen, Works, II:342).  Let’s open up.  If Jesus is a wonderful Savior in every way except where we are the most hypocritical, then he is no Savior for us.  But the truth is, he draws near to broken sinners who own up.  What if we saw, in our very sins, the nearness of God awaiting us with greater mercy than we have ever known before?

Two, let’s confess our sins to one another and pray for one another.  No one grows in isolation.  We grow in safe community.  Sadly, such an experience is rare in our churches.  It should be common among us gospel people.  It should be our lifestyle.  We should be obvious, even scandalous, as friends of sinners.  But so often, someone must break the ice.  I see no revival in our future without a new culture of confession.  Personally, I have found a good way to measure my own honesty is the level of my embarrassment.  If I’m not embarrassed by my confession, I’m still holding out.  But it is freeing to come clean with a brother or sister and receive the ministry of prayer (James 5:16).  What if in 2012 we were, to one another, unshockable friends, down on our knees together, not judging one another but praying for one another?  Surely God’s nearness would be there.

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7 thoughts on “Drawing near in 2012”

  1. Great words Ray! Your pastoral heart is so evident on this blog and such a good work for all of us.

    How it lifts the soul to confess knowing that we have a merciful God who want to pour his mercy on us. Owning up to our sins should not make us question our standing with God, it should make us more firm in our knowledge of God’s mercy. But we have to be firm in our justification for that. People who put their assurance in their sanctification can’t look into darkness of their lives or see their failures. For doing so only makes them doubt their salvation. But when we are firm in our knowledge of our justification we can see the deep darkness of our sins because it only shines the greatness of Christ’s mercy and powerful grace even more. We have to cherish the gospel and hold fast to it before we can confess sin.

  2. JM says:

    Is it just me or does it seem that God speaks to us not just individually but also corporately. So many times I see a common word that God is relating to us His church. A particular subject matter that we see as a common thread running throughout the hearts and minds of all….some common difficulty or joy that is spoken of or experienced…and as I read this article I am seeing this yet again.
    In a word… answer to the question you did not ask…a resounding yes. My heart affirms what you are writing as true in my own personal experience today. God is stripping away the mask I did not even know I was holding up….the hypocrite I did not recognize in myself. Indeed….repentance and honesty before God and man….brings air into the room I new not to be so stagnant before. God is faithful.

  3. Pastor Ray, can you just repost this every year and just update the years? Thanks sir.

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Ray Ortlund

Ray Ortlund is senior pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and serves as a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. You can follow him on Twitter.

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