“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.