9/24/06, P-16-B

Draw Up Close to God
James 4: 7-8

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. .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: 7-8, NRSV

ur old house brightens up whenever our grandchild Charlotte is brought in. Marilyn and the other grandmother have combined efforts to help our kids. Charlotte has changed things; all things. At five months she is not yet into talking or remembering names and she seemed to forget me while we were on vacation so I have been working hard to get back into her good graces.

It happened on Tuesday; daughter Candi passed the tiny one toward me and the princess got a big smile on her face and reached out to grab my neck and put her little happy face into my shirt, and looked up into my face lovingly. It made my day and brightened my life. She won a renewed place in my heart. For a moment I felt something like our Heavenly Father must feel when His children come home with arms outstretched to meet the one whom they have served during their lifetimes.

Becoming and remaining a child of God is far more than taking vows of loyalty. It is so more like winning the heart of a grandfather. It’s the most natural thing in the world of family relationships. We draw up close, we show friendship, and our Heavenly Father looks down at His children and can not help but open up His big arms to us.

I know, and you know this, because that’s how it happened to you, if it has happened.

The old King James translation says, “Draw nigh to God and, and he will draw nigh to you.” Most modern translations use, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you,” as do the NASB, NRSV. However, my dear Greek professor said that the best English rendition of the Greek is “close.” “I would even translate the key verse: “Come on and draw up real close and tight with the Father!”

Now that Charlotte remembers granddaddy every time we meet she draws up close to me real tight. Drawing up “nigh” misses the feeling of the mutual love we have. Drawing near is better but, when we meet a dear one, we draw up close in an embrace.

My whole concept of meeting God at the time of death was changed by the first person that I was ever privileged to be with as a pastor at a bedside. It was during my clinical quarter at a hospital. I knew that he was close to death and we had bonded in our conversations. He was a devout Episcopalian and he loved John Wesley, who was also a English Catholic.

When I entered his room he motioned for me to come close. I reached down and he signaled to put my ear closer. He was barely able to whisper his last words: “I want to see my Jesus!” He smiled and he was gone. Because he had already been close to Jesus’ Holy Spirit and had drawn up real close to Him, he was fully expecting to live forever in close proximity to the Father.  

However, let me quickly point out that we do not just draw close to God whenever we think we are dying; we all know that the point of Christianity is to live for Jesus every day of this life present.

The theme of the early American Methodist Circuit Riders was to “Wear out for Jesus.” The problem was that they had to cut paths through the woods to get through to the villages that were away from the ocean and the rivers. They forded many streams through icy waters or, in the summer in hot Georgia, they had to fight mosquitoes and water snakes. Howbeit they forded every stream in order to carry the Gospel to those in isolated places. Most of them died young. The average age was below forty. Some would limp into Annual Conference and finally have to say that they were worn out. Indeed, they would have to stand, or sit, before the bar of the Conference and admit that they were “worn out,” and fellow Preachers had to verify that their friend in ministry was “worn out.”  Only then were they given a small station appointment where they could live in one place. There was no pension and very little salary. But they were the happiest band of men that ever lived. They had worn out serving their Jesus knowing full well that they would soon make that last drawing up close to the Father. Very few were married and very few of them had grandchildren to cuddle up with. Most of the burned out Circuit Riders were still young men in years.

And when we all get to heaven we need to take a few years to get around to all of these Methodist Circuit Riders and thank them for making the way for us. 

Our life can sometimes feel as difficult as did the physical struggles of the Circuit Riders. We live in secure homes with central air conditioning and heat. We have running water and soft beds. We do not even think about any scarcity of food. However, we struggle against most of the same things as have all Christian throughout history.

The New Testament is all about God’s love and Grace. He wants us to have good things but sometimes our comfortable lives can cloud the fact that we still wrestle with evil and forces that threaten to undo our lives. However, the promise that the Circuit Riders lived by remains. When we make the choice to “Draw Up Close to God,” the guarantee is that “He Will Draw Up Close to Us.”

No matter how lost we may become in every person there is still enough faith to repent and come home to God. When I was serving a central city church I met men living on the street in filth and extreme rebellion. Yet, several of them made the choice to reform and I saw them Draw Close Up Into the Love and Grace of God. He forgave even them. My prayer is that they are still close to Him.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor
9/24/06, P-16-B