We live in a day that emphasizes methodology and technique above character. People in our time suppose that it doesn’t matter what you are as long as you do what you’re supposed to, whatever that means. This can be seen in the attitudes of people towards star athletes on their favorite teams. Character doesn’t matter until the athlete does something so horrendous and out of control that people have to notice. However, people of true greatness avoid that trap. For example, consider John Adams at the time of the Boston Massacre. He was then a prominent lawyer with a growing practice and enlarging political prospects. Then came the tragic events of the evening of March 5, 1770. The British officer and soldiers who fired on the crowd were charged with murder. No one would defend them in court—except John Adams. Though he feared for his reputation and even the welfare and lives of his family and himself, he did not hesitate to take the case. Why? He did so because he believed in the rule of law and the right of every man to a fair trial and a proper defense. So he risked everything to do what was right.
Every church must have a sense of Christ’s character and want to demonstrate his character and way of life before a watching world, and more importantly, to God. To say this another way, our individual spiritual lives must be in right order before the collective “body life” of our church can be right. A crucial aspect of this way of life is drawing near to God. When Christians draw near to God, then they realize that they are near to each other. Consider Romans 15:7.
The Holy Spirit in this text gives as tremendous exhortation: “let us draw near”. But think of the One whom the writer encourages us to approach. He is the true and living God. He is the God who is glorious and majestic (1:3), the Creator of all things (3:4; 11:3). He is angry with sinners (3:10; 10:27) and is all-knowing (4:13). He is also the Judge of mankind (10:30-31; 12:23; 13:4) and is a consuming fire (12:29; cf. Deuteronomy 4:23-24). Anyone that takes these words seriously might want to draw back. We might well fear him rather than want to be near him. You see, in order to draw near to God, we must have a correct concept of the God who is there and who wants us to draw near! This involves an ever-deepening knowledge of God’s revelation of himself in the Scriptures.
“As long as we do not look beyond the earth, being quite content with our own righteousness, wisdom, and virtue, we flatter ourselves most sweetly, and fancy ourselves all but demigods. Suppose we but once begin to raise our thoughts to God, and to ponder his nature, and how completely perfect are his righteousness, wisdom, and power —the straightedge to which we must be shaped. Then, what masquerading earlier as righteousness was pleasing in us will soon grow filthy in its consummate wickedness. What wonderfully impressed us under the name of wisdom will stink in its very foolishness. What wore the face of power will prove itself the most miserable weakness. That is, what in us seems perfection itself corresponds ill to the purity of God” (Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1.1.2)
However, (and this is the good news!), because of God’s free grace to us in Jesus Christ, we can approach God with joyful confidence. This joyful confidence rests on what we have in Christ. “Since we have… let us…” (10:21-22). In the words of Margaret Clarkson in the hymn “We Come, O Christ, to You”: “You are the Way to God, your blood our ransom paid; in you we face our Judge and Maker unafraid.” Here we see the logic of the believer. Or to say this another way, God wants us to love and worship him with our minds. Think about what you have in Christ, and then think about what you should do because you have been so richly blessed. Our nickname for this is “Therefore Christianity”. Know what you have in Christ, and therefore, live this way. How then should we think? Don’t merely moan about your failings. Proper mourning over sin is fine; in fact, it is commendable (Matthew 5:4), as long as it doesn’t leave you in the swamp of depression. True spiritual sorrow over sin in a believer will lead the saint back to Christ and real repentance (2 Corinthians 7:8-11). However, don’t look for a supplemental experience, as if Christ were insufficient. Instead, by faith lay hold of Christ and then live like someone in Christ should live.
By these words God the Holy Spirit is revealing to us God’s desire for close fellowship with his people (1 John 1:3-4; 1 Corinthians 1:9). God wants you! Therefore, a Christian who is living by faith in Christ should have a good self-image. On the other hand, if anyone is struggling with self-image problems it shows some sort of failure in the life. It might be sin and a guilty conscience or more specific sins or weaknesses, such as not laying hold of spiritual blessings by faith, or having little faith, or becoming disconnected from Christ by legalism, or not meditating on the Bible, or not keeping in step with the Spirit’s leadership or grieving the Holy Spirit. To draw near to God is the way to have a little of heaven on earth. In heaven you will be with God; on earth he would be with you. Is there any difference in kind? So then, we see a spiritual attitude of which we should be giving evidence and promoting. What is it? We should be exhorting one another to draw near to God. “Let us draw near to God.”
Grace and peace, David