“Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” (James 4:8, AV)
There are many prominent people in the world, but they are relatively unapproachable. Take the President of the United States for instance. Consider going to Washington D.C. and on a whim trying to get into the White House to see the president. It just is not going to happen. If you could see the president, you would need a screening to make sure you were not a dangerous individual. If you could get through the screening, you would have to pass through the guards and Secret Service agents.
Unlike drawing near to the President of the United States, in some ways it is easier to draw near to God who according to Scripture has established all leaders in their positions. So, you can draw near to God, who is greater than all earthly authorities. Yet, certain requirements exist for us to draw near to God.
James exhorts his readers to “draw nigh to God.” He would not have given this command if it were not possible. He further states that if you do draw near to God, that “he will draw nigh to you.” There are a couple things that we must grasp from this exhortation. The first is that drawing near to God is an imperative, a command. James commands his readers to draw near to God. It requires our initiative.
Secondly, he tells us that then God will draw near to us. Here, we have a question. Is not God always present? God is omnipresent. He is infinite. As such, He is always near, is He not? Here, James must not be referring to nearness in the sense of a physical presence, but rather a manifest presence of closeness. God in fact does manifest His presence in particular ways in a variety of places within His infinite omnipresence. He does so as He has chosen.
While this manifest presence of God is difficult to illustrate, it is something like this. Imagine you are sitting on a train next to someone. You do not know the person and you do not speak to the person through the entire trip. While you are near to the person, there is no sense of any relationship with the person. That person has not manifested his or her presence to you in any kind of a relationship. In a similar way, God is always near and yet does not always manifest His presence to us.
So then, how do we draw near to God in such a way as to experience His manifest presence in our lives? Well, there are some vital steps that we must take and the first, has to do with our relationship to Him. James goes on to tell the readers, “Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” James presents these steps in the context of worldliness. Previously he wrote that a person’s friendship with the world would cause a separation from God. The only way to resolve the problem of man’s separation from God is through true faith in Christ. We must be saved by faith, which cleanses us from our unrighteousness, and produces repentance from doublemindedness.
If you want to sense the manifest presence of God in your life, you first must be born again by His Spirit. This means transferring your trust in your own good works for salvation, to Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross alone. He died on the cross to pay the penalty of your sin so you could have cleansing from sin. Moreover, He provided reconciliation for you with God so you could have a relationship with Him and experience His manifest presence in your life. The first step is to trust in Christ alone for your salvation if you have not done so already.