How to Grow Closer to God
James 4:4-10 (Read vs. 1-10)
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - Feb. 22, 2015
*Nothing is standing still in this world. You may think you're still, but every moment of every day, we are on a planet spinning at over 1,000 mph. On top of that we are racing around our sun at 67,000 mph. (1)
*Christians: Not one of us is standing still. This is true both physically and spiritually. Every day we are either getting closer to God or farther away. I wish this Christian walk was a one way street, but it's not. Sometimes it's two steps forward and one step back, and some people are headed in the wrong direction.
*Many of us know people who used to be in church every time the door was open. They used to come, teach, serve and give, but now they don't. Many of them aren't just pulling away from church. They are pulling away from God.
*But things can get better when it comes to our relationship with God! We can grow closer to God, and we must. Considering all that is going on in the world today, and the uncertainties of life, there has never been a more crucial time for us to get closer to God. And God wants us to be closer to Him. Today's Scripture shows us how.
1. First: We must choose to be friends with Christ.
*Choosing the right kind of friends makes all the difference in the world. And above all, we must choose to be a friend of God. That's why James put it so strongly in vs. 4, when he said, "Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity (or hostility) with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God."
*Everyone has a choice to make: Be a friend of the world or be a friend of God. You can go along with the world or you can go along with God, but you can't do both.
*When James talks about "the world" here, he's talking about the world system, the evil system that believes might makes right. It puts outward beauty over inward beauty. It believes that the end justifies the means, and it is based on a foundation of lies.
*This evil world system rejects Jesus Christ, and puts someone else on the throne. It puts self on the throne. It is selfish, sensual and sinful. It celebrates the darkest parts of our hearts, and it gives great rewards to the trashiest kind of talent.
*Everyone has a choice to make: Be a friend of the world or be a friend of God. This doesn't mean we can't have friends in the world. I thank God for my friends. I thank God for you. But God Himself deeply desires to be our Best Friend.
*That's why vs. 5 asks Christians: "Do you think that the Scripture says in vain, 'The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously'?" God has a holy jealousy to be number one in our lives. He wants us to see Him as our best friend, because He is our best friend.
*As Jesus said in John 15:13, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." That's what Jesus did when He died on the cross for our sins. Thinking about the cross, Charles Spurgeon said, "See what (our) sin deserved. It was all laid on Him. Ridicule for the folly of sin, scorn for the pretension of sin, shame for the audacity of sin, and Jesus took it all." (2)
*Martin Dale told about a woman who was sentenced to death during the French Revolution. Her only crime was being a duchess who came from a wealthy family. She was thrown into prison, but still allowed to be served by a maid who loved her dearly.
*While the exhausted duchess slept, the maid quietly put on her mistress' clothes. And when the duchess' name was called, the maid went out, and was executed in her place.
*Later, the duchess woke-up and found her clothes gone, so she put on the servant's clothes. And when the jailer came in, he said, "You are free to go. Your mistress has just been executed." (3)
*That's what Jesus Christ did on the cross for us. He took our place. How could we ever choose friendship with the world over friendship with God? God wants us to be closer to Him, so choose to be friends with Christ.
2. Also humble your heart before God.
*We will never get closer to God unless we humble our hearts before the Lord God Almighty. James made this truth very clear to us in vs. 6-7, where he said:
6. But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.''
7. Therefore submit to God. . .
*Then in vs. 10, James said: "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up."
*We must humble our hearts before the Lord, and God wants to help us be humble. That's one of the reasons why He designed us to need sleep every night. God gives us an everyday reminder that we are not as strong as we think we are.
*He wants to help us be humble, because pride is the granddaddy of all sins. Satan became Satan because of pride. Isaiah 14:12-14 brings these charges against the devil:
12. "How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations!
13. For you have said in your heart: 'I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north;
14. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.'"
*Arrogant pride is the granddaddy of all sins. It's one of the main reasons why Eve took the fruit in the Garden of Eden. And all of the evil in this world can be partly traced back to sinful pride. It is a hurtful and ugly thing.
*Do you remember the ebola nurse who refused to be quarantined? That kind of arrogance is nothing new. In 1856, the American sailing ship, "Frost" arrived in Guam from Manila. The military surgeon on Guam recommended to the governor that the ship be quarantined for at least three days before passengers were allowed to leave. The reason why was because a young man onboard had died of smallpox only one day before.
*Unfortunately, there was a very proud and prominent citizen onboard the ship. His name was Silvistre Palomo, and he insisted on coming ashore with his servant. "Who does that doctor think he is? Who does that governor think he is? I'm Silvestre Palomo! Nobody tells me what to do!" That's sinful pride.
*Palomo's servant was the first person to get sick, and before it was over 3,644 people died from smallpox. Almost half of all the people on the island died, all because of stubborn pride. (4)
*Many times we can't see it that clearly, but stubborn, sinful pride is always a hurtful and dangerous thing. So "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up." That's how to get closer to God.
3. And God wants us to be closer to Him, so also move toward the Master.
*As James says in the first part of vs. 8: "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you" Come closer to God, and He will come closer to you.
*We need to move closer to God. And when we do, we find out that He was close by us all the time. King David made this truth clear to us in Psalm 139, where he said:
7. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?
8. If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
9. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10. Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me.
*We can be as close to God as we want to be, because He is here all the time. And it's good to remember that God is always with us, even when we are not aware of His presence.
*In those times God is like a Father following a little toddler around. That baby doesn't have a clue. He is looking ahead, wobbling around, seeing where he can go, and what he can do. But his Father is right behind him, with His arms stretched out, ready to catch him if he falls.
*That's what God is like, so we can be as close to God as we want to be. And we can be as close to God as we want to be, because Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose again from the dead.
*But how do we draw close to Him? -- By receiving Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior, by continuing to focus on Jesus, by fellowshipping with Him through Scripture and prayer, and by coming to Him as a little child in trust and love.
*Draw close to God in prayer and in praise. Draw close to God in worship and in His Word. Draw close to God and He will draw close to you. God wants us to be closer to Him, so move toward the Master.
4. And complete your cleansing.
*As James said in vs. 8-9:
8. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
9. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.
*Christians: God wants us to complete our cleansing, so He tells us: "Cleanse your hands, and cleanse your heart. Clean-up on the outside and on the inside. Clean-up you actions and your attitudes." Clean up your life by repenting from sin, and by confessing your sins to God.
 God will surely do His part! His Word makes this clear.
*In Revelation 1:5, the Apostle John speaks of grace and peace "from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood." Also remember that in John 15:3, hours before the cross, Jesus said this to His followers: "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you."
*And 1 John 1:8-9 says this to all Christians:
8. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
9. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
 God will do His part, but we have to do our part.
*How can we clean our hands? How can we purify our hearts? Well, whenever you clean something you are taking the dirt away. So we have got to find out how to get the dirt out of our lives.
*And we see here that it is partially washed away with our tears. Again in vs. 9, James says, "Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom."
*How long has it been since you cried over your sins? Maybe you have put the most obvious sins behind you. But there is no such thing as a good sin. And God calls us to have sorrow for our sins.
*The best way to have true sorrow for our sins is to remember the price that Jesus paid for our sins. See every sin as a thorn in His crown. See every sin as a stripe on His back. See every sin as a blow from the hammer that nailed Jesus to the cross for you. Every time you sin, remember the nails that pierced the Lord's hands and feet.
*Sometimes the cleansing takes tears, but tears are not enough. It also takes turning. We must turn away from all known sins in our life.
*This is a life-long challenge and commitment, because not one of us is perfect in this world. I'm surely not. I know people who are a whole lot better than me, and that is the direction we must be headed in.
*God wants us to be closer to Him, so complete your cleansing.
5. And trust God for your triumph.
*Trust God to give us the victories we need! This is the most important thing we can do.
 Trust God back up in vs. 6, because "He gives more grace".
*No matter how great our sin is, God's grace is greater! When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, in John 19:30, He said: "It is finished!" Jesus said that, because His death on the cross paid the price in full for all of our sins!
*But we must trust in the Lord and receive the pardon that He freely offers to you. You must receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. And when you receive Jesus, you receive the grace of God. With Jesus you receive God's gift of everlasting life.
 Trust God because He gives us more grace. -- And trust Him in vs. 7, because He stands behind His saints.
*There God makes this amazing promise to His people: "Resist the devil and he will flee from you."
*"Resist the devil." The word picture there is to take a stand against the devil, and there is no way we could do that on our own. But Christians, when we stand against the devil, God will stand with us! He will even stand in us, and the devil has to run away.
 Trust God because He stands behind His saints. -- And trust Him because He performs his promises.
*God always keeps His promises. He always keeps His commitments. In vs. 6, when He says God "gives grace unto the humble," we can count on it! In vs. 8, when He says, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you," we can count on it! In vs. 10, when He says, "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he will lift you up," we can count on it!
*We can trust in the Lord to give us His triumph. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans and much of the Gulf coast. Some of us got to go down to the North Shore to help with the clean-up. Untold thousands of trees were down. We were there just a couple of days to help remove fallen trees. We also helped serve the people who came by First Baptist every day for food and supplies.
*One of the greatest blessings of those trips was meeting a 13-year-old named Jordan. Jordan played drums in the praise band at First Baptist. His dad, Wayne, played too. But even though Jordan's dad is a devoted Christian today, Jordan told us of the time when his dad was everything but a follower of Jesus Christ.
*In fact, Wayne was a meth dealer in New Orleans, and he got busted. But they offered Wayne a deal: either he could go to jail, or turn in the ring leader. Wayne chose to turn in the guy who was over the whole operation.
*It was a huge turning point for Wayne, and he rededicated his life to the Lord. But the drug boss put out a contract on Wayne's life, and he lived under a cloud of danger.
*One day about 7 years later, Wayne's wife got a heavy burden for their family's safety. So she asked some prayer warriors in their church to make it a matter of urgent prayer. A couple of months later the family was eating at a fish place way out in the middle of nowhere.
*Suddenly Dad told the family that they needed to go to the car right away. In that crowded, out-of-the-way restaurant, Wayne had spotted his former drug boss, and the drug boss spotted him. The man came over, put his hand on Wayne's shoulder and asked, "Do you know who I am?" Wayne said, "I do."
*Then the drug boss said, "I want you to know that you and your family don't ever have to be afraid of me again. God got hold of my life when I was in prison, and I have been saved!"
*What a testimony! What a testimony of salvation, of answered prayer and God's special care! What a great testimony of victory over sin. But there's more! Jordan told us that he gave his family's testimony at summer camp that year, and one of the other youth trusted in Jesus.
*God just keeps on giving! -- And we can fully trust in Him.
*That former drug boss would tell us, "You can get closer to God!" Jordan, his mother and his father would also tell us, "You can get closer to God!"
*That's what the Lord wants for all us.
-So let's get started as we go to God in prayer.
(2) Original source unknown
(3) SermonCentral.com sermon "Smyrna" by Martin Dale - Revelation 2:8-11 - 09032003
(4) R.I. Haddock, A History of Health on Guam, Agana, Guam: Cruz Publications, 1973, p. 38 - Source: Curtis H. Tutterrow in "Proclaim!" magazine