Glorifying God, serving one another, extending His kingdom.


Praise God. I want to talk this morning about drawing near to God. James makes a reference to drawing near to God. It’s find in chapter four. He said, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. I’ll be quite honest, I’m not into religion. Some might say when I’m playing golf or I meet someone for the first time, “Are you religious then Billy?” I said, “No, I’m not religious.” In fact, I hit religion. Religion is a system of trying to work your way to God, hoping that through good works and everything else and religious activities you’re going to reach God. No, I’m not religious. I’m a Christian who has come to know eternal life through Jesus Christ and rather than me try to work my way to God, God has worked his way to me. He has come dying from heaven and he has worked his way to me and God longs for intimacy. God longs that we come into that place where we know the the kiss of his spirit touching us with great intimacy. One thing that God longs for is heartfelt relationship, not religious activities. Activities that might have a form of godliness but there’s no power. And so I’m asking you a number of questions this morning as you as you seek God. What is your heart relationship with God like? Do you want more of God in your life? Do you long to know Him? is God first in all things? First in your thoughts, first in your behavior, first in everything in life. Bible says seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these shall be added to you.” Peter was bold and he boasted that he would always be there. “Lord, if everyone deserts you, don’t worry, I’m gonna be there. You can rely on me. I won’t let you down.” And some days later, what a different story because in Luke 22 in that garden of Gethsemane when Jesus wept and as the soldiers came to arrest him we read that Peter he followed afar off. What happened? He followed afar off and following God afar off where he’s not the center of your focus is the first step to backsliding and having a cold heart. He followed afar off. So don’t grow distant in your relationship with God. Don’t follow Christ at a distance. Let Christ be first, amen. Let him be the center of your attention. Matthew, or Jesus said, referring to Isaiah the prophet and applying it to the foresees who were a group of religious people who did really religious things you said he said these people they honor me with their lips but their heart their heart is far from me and my prayer today Oh God revive us in the midst of years amen renew my mind renew my heart fill me with your Holy Spirit, O God, that I might know your direction, that I might be led by your Spirit always. Lord, God, fill me, I pray.” It was the Psalmist who said, “O God, you are my God.” And we’ve been making a declaration this morning how we believe, Amen. We believe. And the psalmist, he made a same declaration. “Oh God, you are my God. Early will I seek you. My soul thirsts for you. My flesh longs for you in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water. So I look for you in the sanctuary to see your power and your glory. What dedication, what determination, desperation. God, I long for you, amen. I thirst for you. Thirst brings desperation. So let me ask you this morning as we’ve enjoyed a time, lovely time of worship. How desperate are you for God? How desperate are you? Are you content just with a little of God? Just enough to appease your conscience? Just enough that you have peace knowing that you have eternal life and that if you were to die you’re going to heaven, but not enough to bring conviction. Conviction where you will see your life transformed, not enough where you will make God first in your life. Just a little, but not too much. How desperate are you? Notice what James says, he says, “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Notice God places the first step of responsibility on us and he tells us to draw near to him and he will draw near to us. Actually we are not taking the first step because when Jesus stepped out of heaven into this world he made the first step, amen. God took the initiative. He lived, he died, he rose again so that we could draw near, amen. And you are as close to God as you want to be. How thirsty are you? Because God took that first step. When you come to the book of Hebrews, you’ll see that we have a basis of drawing near to God. And the writer who I believe may have been Paul, he said therefore brethren having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus. Note how we enter. We enter not on our own achievements, we enter not in our own righteousness, we enter not in our own good works, we enter solely by the blood of Jesus, amen. And he describes it by a new and living way which he consecrated for us through the veil. That is his flesh and having a high priest over the house of God let us draw near with a true heart and full assurance of faith. Amen. It’s new, it’s living. His death provided a means of reconciliation and when you go into the New Testament, particularly Paul’s letters, you can see that he writes that he has become our peace who made both one and we who once were afar off have been brought near by the blood of Jesus and he has broken down that wall of separation yes we were separated from God but he has broken down that wall amen having abolished in his flesh in his death in his resurrection and now we can be reconcile and we can discover a new and living way by the Spirit of God into intimacy with God. Praise God. We can come into his presence crying, “Abba, Abba, Father!” because God is our God and we are his children. Amen. It’s a new and living way. It’s not dead. It’s not based on rituals. It’s new and it’s living. praise God. We who are far off have been brought near.” Note what the writer said in Hebrews. He said that we can come near with confidence. We hold on to that confession, a drawing near because we know that we have a high priest. And he said let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering. And we can come near to God because there’s no condemnation. Amen. He’s lifted Come on church. You’re forgiven, you’re loved, you’re accepted. God is your father, amen. We are his children. Glory you have not only purpose in this life but you have eternal life, amen. We can go on and on and on, keeping God thanks for his mercy and his grace toward us. And he said, let’s draw near with confidence. Let’s look at a number of ways in which to draw near and then we will look at things that hinder us in drawing near. We draw near with a clean heart. Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith. Listen to what he said, you see God wants authenticity. There’s so much fake news around and there can be fake Christians too. They have a good talk but they don’t have a good walk. And God wants authenticity. The world out there wants to authenticity. Let us draw near with a true heart, a clean heart. And then thank God we can draw near with a confident heart. The writer to the Hebrews says, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised it is faithful. It’s important that you have a good grip, amen. It’s not loose. You’re not wavering, but you are convicted. Your values, the way that you live, the fact that you take on the name of Christ one, you are a Christian, you are holding fast, amen, to that. The confidence that we have, the hope we have. Forgive me for bringing up golf but you do know I play golf don’t you Keith? Yes, yes. But one of the things important in playing golf is your grip. That you have a good good grip. Bad grip, ball can go anywhere, left right. And you as a believer it’s important that you have a good strong grip on what God has done in your life and what God wants to do. We hold fast and we draw near with confidence, amen, because of him who has become our high priest. And then we draw near with a confident heart, not only with a clean heart but with a confident heart. How do you draw near? Well again the writer says seeing them we have a high priest. Let us hold fast our confession. And he said let us, let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Amen. We can come anytime. We don’t need a special occasion. We don’t need a special person, only Jesus Christ, because he is the one mediator. Amen. We don’t need a priest. We don’t need a Pope. We just need ourselves. Praise God. With a confident heart. How do I come? I come with boldness, I come with confidence, amen. Word I come to, I come not to a throne of judgment, I come to a throne of grace, amen. Why do I come? I come in time of need. When do I come? In time of need. Why do I come? Because I need mercy and I need “I need grace. “I need mercy and grace.” And then we come back to this passage here in James because we need to draw near with a consecrated heart. And he said, “Therefore, submit to God, “resist the devil and he will flee from you. “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” And you think we Irish preachers will challenge you tell you what it is. Look what James does. Cleanse your hands, you sinners. Purify your hearts, you double-minded. Boy, he tells it. Well, you know, I find in church culture we want to water a dime a little. Even other church leaders, we want to, we don’t really want to go there. We don’t want to talk about that. We want to brush it over. We don’t want to talk about things that are affecting our lives in case we upset people, in case we offend people. Huh James? We don’t like you calling us double-minded sinners and he goes away, he goes a lot worse than that. But here’s the point he’s making, he said look when you’re coming near to God we need to submit to God. We need to submit to God and then we can resist the devil. Don’t try resisting the devil if you haven’t resist, haven’t submitted to God. I tell you he’s no match for you unless you submit to God. You need to submit to God and then resist the devil in your life. That’s the way round. We think, “Oh, I’ll just take the devil on and I’ll rebuke him for this and that.” Don’t you dare go down that road unless you submit to God. That’s the rule of engagement. You missed that. You’ve had it. You find out in the Acts they discovered. Yeah. Thirst after God. Submit to him in our relationship with him. Do Do you know that your relationship, listen to me, come on church, listen, your relationship with God and what God has done in your life, it’s not a hobby. It’s a commitment, it’s a conviction, it’s a life of submission, it’s a life of putting God first in all things. And we can preach health and wealth and everything will be okay, your life will be abundant, just look out for our all but listen to what Jesus said he said take up your cross and follow me what did he say he said deny yourself oh I don’t want that I want a life of happiness I want a life of fulfillment I want a life listen to me if you’re going to enjoy life and God’s purpose and God’s blessing it’s important that you understand if you’re going to live you need to die. Mm-hmm, you need to die. And how do you die? By submitting to him, by taking up your cross and following him. Something we don’t always want to hear, we want to hear nice things, nice things. But is God first? Is he first? James makes a profound promise here in chapter four. He said, “If you throw near to God, God is drawing near to you.” Understand we can’t draw near because the door of God’s heart is always open to us. His presence is always available, not just on Sunday mornings. Come on and thank God for the team, how they lead us wonderfully into God’s presence. But you You know you can do discover God’s presence tomorrow morning. Amen. Just by being quiet and sensitive to the Holy Spirit leading you to the place of intimacy. You don’t have to wait until next Sunday. Amen. Isn’t that good? God is with you always. And we can draw near because of the cross. The Father turned away from his son because Jesus became our sin and the sin of the world rested on his shoulders. That’s why on the cross as darkness fell, he cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Normally judgment and condemnation follows after death if you are an unbeliever, but Jesus faced hell before death when he was separated from his father as he took off that cup of suffering. You see that cup of suffering that he was drinking from had the content of all iniquity, all brokenness, all sin, all bitterness, all evil. Think about it. Right through to the end of the age, the wrath of God was in that cup. You and I may not like a cup, a cup of coffee, a cup of tea, maybe something stronger, but we won’t go there. My favorite cup out there is my Manchester United Mall, which I happened to let Maureen Burton drink from last week. She wasn’t too happy. I said, “Maureen, do you see what you’re drinking from?” “Man United forever.” You know, Jesus took the cup of suffering, drank of it. Why did he drink? Because of you, me, that we would have and discover intimacy with God and this is eternal life that you might know God. Amen. That’s why he took off that cup. He suffered our condemnation that we would know a new and living way with God. The Father turned away because he didn’t want to turn away from us. And drawing near to God is to simply open our hearts to what is available. God longs for you. He doesn’t want to have measures. He wants you, body, soul and spirit. The book of James is a great book. It’s a book about faith. And if we are to take hold and strengthen our grip on God’s promise, we need to know what it is to walk by faith and not by sight. In the first chapter he talks about faith in my response to circumstances when I don’t understand the the little trials that come and he gives us instruction how to live by faith in all circumstances. I to ask God for wisdom not to waver. In chapter 2 he describes faith as a lifestyle because if I say I have faith then there must be works because faith without works is dead. In chapter 3 he says that faith is manifested in my speech and how I control my tongue. If you can’t control your tongue there’s a question mark under the reality of your faith. And then in chapter 4 he goes on to see that faith is manifested in my relationship and how I live to those around me. I am no longer living for pleasure and the desires for other things but God, but I’m living for God. Faith will be manifested in my relationship with God and with one another. But then James turns his attention to the enemies of faith and there are three main enemies. The flesh that lies inside each one of us. The world around us, and I didn’t mention briefly several weeks ago about the culture of the world in which we live, And that world is squeezing us into a particular mold. But we looked at a young man called Daniel, and we learned lessons from Daniel’s life to live a life of integrity and a life of conviction, not to lie the world around us to squeeze us into its value system, our mindset. And then the third thing is the devil who prowls toward us. We know there’s a devil because he runs around like a roaring lion seeking whom he made the bar. But you know, we Christians sometimes, we give him more credit than what’s due. Because we blame a lot of things on the devil and it has nothing to do with the devil, it has to do with me. And the decisions and the choices that I make, because if I make the wrong choices and decisions, it will have ramifications in months, years to come, amen. when that comes and I bear the fruit of it I turn round and blame the devil. God forbid. So I want to draw your attention to the conflict that lies inside of us hindering our walk with God hindering us from drawing near. And the source of the conflict, if I can find James, he’s here somewhere, there he is, but like the matter prophets, they all move house and you can’t find them. But here we go because James says, “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from the desires for pleasure that war in your members you lust and do not have, you murder and covet and cannot obtain?” So James is highlighting something here. He’s highlighting a fight on the inside of us, the flesh. You see, the Psalmist said, “Delight yourself in God and he will what? He will give to you the desires of your heart.” Amen. It’s not amazing to have the desires of your heart fulfilled and satisfied. But there’s a key here. The key, the principle, is to draw, delight yourself in God. Because when you delight yourself in God you will automatically align yourself to his desire for you, amen. And his desire for you is to bless you abundantly, amen. That is his desire for you. But you need to first of all delight. Love God with all your strength, with all your might, with all your soul, amen, to love Him as the Lord your God, to put Him first in life. Delight yourself in the Lord. So there’s a little challenge going on here. How am I doing in the war the fight that lies inside of me? If we are not drawing near our desires can lead to conflict with others and our relationship with God. Did you get that? If we are not drawing near our desires, our feelings, our emotions can lead us away from God and not toward God. Your life will be one of conflict if God is not directing your steps. And do not be consumed by the desires of the flesh, fulfilling, desiring pleasure, exalting the God of materialism, not knowing God to be first. Now, I want to draw your attention to a number of things that can hinder a strong near and this will be my conclusion okay well don’t be getting too carried away it’s an Irish conclusion but it’s a good one. And that’s a challenge. A challenge. And here are hindrances from drawing the air. See the Pharisees had a form of religion, but it wasn’t heartfelt relationship. They put up barriers preventing people from drawing near to God. They wanted to preserve their own kind of religious ways. If you were a Gentile you could only go into one court. There was a sign up, do not enter, it’s not for you. Record for Gentiles. If you are a lady you had it in Judaism because there’s a court, especially for you, but you couldn’t go in to where the man went. I’m glad. Can you see what Christ has done? He tore the veil of the temple from top to bottom, and he made a new way. Praise God. And Jesus always had a conflict with the Pharisees. They were the religious people of his day. It’s quite ironic that Jesus had a conflict with the religious people because they had a form of works but they didn’t know heartfelt relationship. And he said hypocrites. You think I challenge you? Listen to what Jesus said. Hypocrites. Too-faced. There’s no authenticity in your lives. And then he brings them to Isaiah’s prophecy. He said, “You people, you draw near to me with your mouth, you honor me with your lips, but your heart is far from me.” And he said to them before that, he said, “You have made the command of God of no effect high. You have made the command of God the Word of God, you have made it of no effect high by your tradition.” And God forbid that we become traditional in the sense that we go through the motions of worshiping God, serving God, saying we are a Christ one when we don’t have a heartfelt relationship. God desires our heart. It was A. W. Tozer in his book Pursuit of God describes two veils. The first veil is the veil between the Holy of the Holies and the world that was torn at the death of Christ. We read that in Matthew and as I refer, as I mentioned, isn’t it interesting, it was not torn from bottom to top it was torn from top to bottom. That’s significant because God tore the veil, amen. It wasn’t a little small veil by the way, it was huge in width. Only God did it because as the Son of God was dying on the cross he tore the veil to make a new and living way for you and I. But the second veil, Tozer says, is the veil of our hearts. And that is our decision to put a veil there, but it’s our responsibility to turn that veil down by the grace of God. And let me just mention what I believe in a number of veils we can put upon our own heart. We can have the veil of religion as we mentioned. We can have the veil of on confessed sin where we just allow sin to go on and on and habitually sinning and not coming to a place of confession and repentance, not coming to a place where we know His forgiveness. I know we’re not perfect. None of us are perfect. We’re all broken. But thank God for the promise when we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to what? Cleanse us from all on righteousness. But if I ignore that, if I ignore turning to God, if I just brush it all over and think well God will let me away with it, no no no no. You are creating a veil, a bar you’re between you and God. The other veil that I want to mention is the veil of unforgiveness. Maybe you’ve been hurt in the past, maybe wrongly, maybe you’ve been offended, and you think, “Oh, I’m never gonna forgive that person. When I hear that statement, I’ll never forgive.” I think, “Oh no, don’t do that because you are creating a veil, a veil. And you may not be able to forget it, but you must come into a place where you release it and give it to God, amen. Because if I don’t, in the context of Ephesians chapter 4, it’s in the context of anger and bitterness, if I don’t, what happens is I give place to the devil. Really, posturally? Yes. I thought the Bible says that the devil can’t touch me. Yes, in 1 John we read that quite clearly. Thank God I’m protected, amen. Thank God under me, over me is the hand of the Almighty, the shadow of God. Hallelujah! However, the Bible says I can give place to the devil. The word place literally means jurisdiction. And I can step out of God’s protection by my own forgiveness leading to bitterness, leading to root of bitterness, and it eventually becomes, listen, it eventually becomes a demonic problem because I have given place. What has happened? I have created a veil, so it’s important that you know how to forgive, I’m at. It’s important that you know not to harbor bitterness. It’s important that you don’t ally hurt to fester. Bible warns us completely. But over the years I’ve seen Christians be sidetracked and they miss out on their destiny and their purpose in God all because they allow offense to come in. It’s important. The veil of on forgiveness. Then we have the veil of idols and basically I think James is referring to some of these idols and our pleasures and our wanting pleasure, our need for things other than God. Do you know that he should be one amen number one? Do you know that he is? He’s Yahweh. Did you know that Jesus said I am? He’s not means he’s Yahweh. Amen. Did he not say I am the resurrection and the life Amen, and did he not say I listen I am the bread of life My satisfaction and fulfillment will not come in the pleasures that the world can offer whether that has to do with sexuality or anything else or any other idol that might be in my life, my pleasure will come by knowing he is the bread. He is the bread. He is the one who will satisfy me. He is the one who will give me fulfillment because he is the bread of life. Amen. I’m almost finished and we’re gonna stand and worship the Lord and we’re gonna ask the Spirit to move upon our heart I met, but here’s the veil, the veil of apathy and indifference. Someone said that all of us can shield our beliefs about our identity, our possessions, our relationship from the abiding presence of Jesus and live apart from intimacy, excuse me, with him. It’s not us this morning. It’s not us. Shielding our beliefs, our values, our identity, our possessions, our relationship from Him, not knowing intimacy. I want to leave you with, I love the Bible. The Bible is God’s book, amen. Isn’t it amazing that in this Bible you have everything, amen? And even regarding sexuality and looking at Song of Songs. I just I find this amazing, amazing that here in the midst of the Bible we have such description, but yet we know that eventually I believe that the Spirit is referring to Christ and the Church. That’s the purpose. That’s why it’s there. Listen to what Solomon wrote. He said, “I slept, but my heart was awake. Well, I heard my lover knocking and calling.” Knocking and calling, open to me, my treasure, my darling, my love, my perfect one. In fact, we’ve just celebrated Valentine’s Day. You just had to go to the Song of Songs. Roses or red, violets or what? You didn’t need all that. Just go to the Song of Songs. Open to me, my love, my treasure, my darling, my love, my perfect one. My head is drenched with dew, my hair, with the dumbness of the night. But I responded, here’s how she responded. Hmm, I have taken off my robe. Should I get dressed again? I have washed my feet. Should I get them silent? What a response to her lover, her perfect one. You know, I feel sometimes that’s how we respond to Jesus. Jesus, I’m too busy for you. Jesus, I’ve other things to do. Jesus, you’re not really number one. Yes, I do love you, But, but, I’ve taken off my robe. My lover tried to unlatch the door. My heart thrilled within me. She eventually gets it. I jumped up to open the door for my love and my hands drip with perfume. My fingers drip with lovely mare and I pulled back the bolt. I opened to my lover, but he was gone, my heart sank. I searched for him, but could not find him anywhere. I called to him, but there was no reply. We have the ability to do religion, to do our own thing, but not embrace heartfelt relationship. I pray that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength. Jesus said. He said, “Behold, I stand at your life’s door.” He’s talking to the church here. I’m standing at your door. I’m knocking to come in. Anyone hears my voice and opens the door? What did he say? I will come in. Oh, I love that. This is the promise my pastor Billy McHellas gave me on the 9th of February, 1975. How to think there? It’s a promise I love. ‘Cause that night I opened my heart to God and Jesus came in. Holy Spirit came in. And he said, “You’re gonna dine with me. You’re gonna sup with me. You’re gonna have intimacy with me.” That’s what God wants. And maybe you’ve come this morning and maybe you have been coming and you’ve enjoyed the presence of God, you’ve enjoyed everything about what you experience on a Sunday morning, but maybe, just maybe, you have never ever, ever opened your heart and your life to God. Maybe you do good things and religious things, but you don’t know that intimacy. You don’t know the Spirit of God bringing you to the place of understanding and knowledge and peace and joy. And if that’s you this morning, let me tell you that Christ is standing at the door on his knocking. Note the handle is on the inside, not the outside. We must open the door. And if you open the door this morning, you can be assured of peace and joy. Amen. I’m not saying that you’re going to have pain free life. No, no, no. But there will be peace and joy. There will be life. There will be purpose. I want you just to close your eyes and just think of that image of Jesus standing at your door knocking. And maybe as a Christian you have backslidden and maybe you do need to just come and say Lord I’m coming to you today refresh me renew me help me. And as we have our heads bowed our eyes closed I’m gonna pray first of all I’m gonna pray for maybe those of you who don’t know the Lord as Savior You don’t know him as your God. You’ve heard about him. You know him at a distance but you don’t don’t really know. And if that is you this morning, you want me to include you in that prayer, then just raise your hand right now. I will be praying. Amen. Don’t be afraid. Let the Spirit of God bring you to the place of assurance and peace and purpose. God bless you. Anyone else just lift your hand. This is between you and God but I’m gonna be praying in a minute. The Spirit of God is just working on your heart propping you and there’s a bottle going on inside of you. Just submit to God. Amen. Right now. That’s you. Just lift your hand. Yes. I want to know God. I want to know purpose. I want to know his life. I I want to know forgiveness. Today I want to become a born-again Christian. I want to know God. Is that you? Just lift your hand right now before I pray. God bless you. Anyone else? Just as a sperm is moving in this place as he was at the very beginning. Praise God. Anyone else? I’m gonna pray. Maybe you didn’t raise your hand and you still want to make this commitment and you can still make this commitment right now just by praying this prayer in your own way in your own heart and then please come and see someone tell someone because you need to confess with your mouth what you have believed in your heart. You can’t secretly just keep it to yourself. You need to confess with your mind. Just come and see Keith or myself or any other member of the team and say I’ve made that prayer today. For those of you who did lift your hand then please come and see us. We’d love to pray with you and give you some literature. Here’s the prayer. You can pray. If you’re watching online you too can pray. Dear Father, I come to you today in the name of Jesus Christ and I asked as I turned to you that you would forgive me of my sin as today I receive the promise of eternal life. Help me. Help me to know your presence. Help me to embrace a new understanding of what it means to be a Christian but this day I submit and I commit my life to you in Jesus name amen as every head be by it’s still every I closed if you’ve prayed that prayer you raised your hand them please come up to the front afterwards we will be here we’d love to pray for you individually would love to make that connection with you. But maybe you’re here today and you’re backslidden. Maybe you’re a believer and suddenly you realize that you’re no longer having that thirst and that desire to follow God that God wants you to have. God is no longer number one in your life. Other things come first. you’re not seeking first the kingdom of God you’re not aligning yourself to delighting yourself in God it’s not you today I want you to stand in a moment as all of us will stand but I want you to lift up hands and surrender to God the team are gonna lead us in a song but let me pray for you father I pray today that we will renew our minds and our spirit in you. Revive us Lord in the midst of years. We make a fresh commitment to you and we will submit to you and we will resist the devil. Lord we will thirst after you and we will hunger after you the bread of life so help us let’s not judge this that and just you make a fresh commitment in your own heart to God I could ask you to come to the front but we’re not going to do that this morning but where you stand just lift up only hands and say Lord Lord I come to you Lord I submit to you come on just you do that between you and God let the Spirit refresh you today Let them bring you into a place of renewal. Amen. Thank you Lord. [Music] (no audio) (buzzing)