Rarely do I sleep well. I am both a night owl and a morning person, so, many mornings, though I naturally wake up at a decent hour, I am rather grumpy. Last night was a pretty rough one for me. I slept worse than normal and woke up feeling unrested and annoyed. But there was something beautiful about this morning: I felt like I was getting a big hug from Jesus. I know that sounds a little weird, but that’s the best way I can describe it.
In that moment, all the stress and worry and anger and pain I had fallen asleep with disappeared from my view. That’s the beauty of the presence of the Lord: everything else has a way of moving from the forefront of our minds.
An encounter with the Lord is an invitation to change.
We don’t have to come to God when we’re perfect. We don’t need to get all of our ducks in a row for him to love us. He just wants us to come to him. The change we experience in his presence should come naturally as our love and affection for him grows. Lately, I’ve been busy and distracted and focused on plenty of other things, but this morning I felt such love that I couldn’t help but repent. I was compelled to restate my need and dependence upon him. I wanted to change, not because it would make him love me any more, but because I wanted to be more like him.
“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
The order of these verses is so interesting to me.
Draw near to God. This is a good step 1, it’s very clear what our action is: drawing near. But what does that look like in your life? Does “drawing near” mean going to church or reading your Bible or praying or living in community or forgiving? I think that drawing near means all those things and more. For me, it means making sure that I make today about Him instead of making it about myself.
He will draw near to you. Woah! What an incredible notion! With every move we make toward Him, he does the same. He’s not an angry parent who’s waiting for us to return, rapidly tapping his foot with impatience, but a loving father who’s willing to do what’s necessary for our relationship to be as intimate as it’s intended to be.
Now is when the work begins. We don’t need to be clean and spotless before we come to Him, because we can never do that for ourselves. If that were a stipulation, God could not be classified as a “loving” Father because it’s impossible for us to make ourselves pure.
Cleanse your hands, you sinners. Thanks James, for putting us all on blast. Though it does help keep us humble when we remember our true state apart from Jesus. We should be mindful of our actions and the things we do to others. Those sinful things we used to do with frequency should be discontinued and replaced with serving others.
Purify your hearts, you double-minded. I don’t know about you, but I don’t enjoy being called “double-minded”, I might hate that more than being called a “sinner”, though they’re both accurate descriptions of my state of being. I love that James has connected the heart and the mind in this verse, reminding us that those things we focus on will quickly become those things we develop affection for. We are to have one heart and one mind that is consumed with a deep affection for the One who first loved us.
I encourage you today to bring it in and draw closer to God; he’s waiting for you with open arms!