‘Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double minded’. - James 4:8
I like James 4v8 because it gives a clear, straight-forward directive… ‘Draw near to God and He will draw near to you’. It is a powerful promise that I’ve memorised and tell myself regularly.
When I think of ‘drawing near’ I think of praying in a fresh expressive way, just as I am… like being with a best friend. I can read James’ word to ‘draw near’ and give God the number one focus of my thoughts, purpose, efforts and life. The promise is made better by the fact that we CAN draw near to God.
But this is only half the verse, and it is misleading if read on its own. This verse comes after James describes how sometimes we don’t make a clear and regular decision to submit to God because we ‘hang-out’ in AND are influenced by a world which pushes God out and is actively opposed to Him (v 1-4). James says stop being double-minded and — stronger than that — he says stop cheating on God.
Why do we do it? James says we haven’t submitted all our passions and desires to God. Imagine this: one day I have an itch, a desire for something, even though it’s not of God, and I just pursue it as I please. I justify it because others do it. Sound familiar? But really, what will it lead to? What habit will it reinforce? When we look back from heaven will we be delighted we did that? I know for me, so many things are my own desires and convictions and they ignore God’s influence.
As I draw near to God sometimes I am aware I need to ‘cleanse my hands’, acknowledging I’m a ‘sinner’ (v8). That can mean identifying where I’ve been wayward, simply in prayer: “God I have been away from you in my passions and desires and have put my priorities above yours. I’ve lived like unbelievers some days and have been influenced by worldly thinking.”
James writes, ‘purify your hearts, you double-minded’. When we let worldly passions and desires motivate and drive us, it is like we are cheating on God. We must
remember God never cheats. He is loving towards us and is jealous for love back (v5). The ultimate alternative to ‘hanging out in the world’ is ‘hanging out with God’ by drawing near to Him. That is an invitation. It’s where our passions and desires receive the force and flow of the Holy Spirit and we really get served a different menu!
Today as you draw near, don’t fill your prayer time with requests but leave space for the influence of God to do its work to give you a new perspective.
Let’s draw near, and let the Holy Spirit work in us. Acknowledge the sin and ditch it. Be single-minded as you go forward with God. Draw near. Draw near. Draw near.