James 4:8-10 is often called the New Testament “2 Chronicles 7:14 promise for the church,” because it echoes the Old Testament promise that God revives believers who come to Him in humility, prayer, and repentance.
James precedes this promise by describing something we all know too well—the predictable outcomes of life dominated by sinful desires and governed by the world’s system: pride and arrogance leading to conflict, frustration, quarrels, fights, and destructiveness (vv. 1-3). But he follows up this reality-based analysis by offering two antidotes that lead to revival: There is hope in the form of a wake-up call (vv. 4-6) and an invitation (vv. 7-10).
God’s Wake-Up Call
James says that these believers had settled for what they thought was a happy medium between sold-out commitment to God and a worldly lifestyle. In reality, they had become adulterous, arrogant enemies of God.
Talk about a wake-up call! James makes the choice clear: Believers who have traded their closeness to God for camaraderie with the world must lay aside their sin and humbly plead for grace. The Spirit of God jealously desires our deepest affections. Our wicked ways must be completely abandoned in order for Him to bless with revival.
The incredible news is that despite our unfaithfulness, God is willing to take us back! James unpacks this gracious invitation and shows us the way. God wants us to experience His grace, and He wants the relationship restored. God actually yearns to revive His children!
This invitation involves six actions that are key to revival: submit, resist, draw near, wash, grieve, humble. Much could be written on any of these, but let’s focus on what it means to “draw near” to God and believe His promise to reciprocate.
Drawing near to God involves coming close—just the way you wish to be with those you love.Seeking expresses the action, while drawing near expresses the heart attitude.
Isaiah proclaimed, “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon” (Isaiah 55:6-7 NIV). God called out, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you” (Jeremiah 29:13-14).
Jesus taught that coming close to God is life’s top priority—the one thing that undergirds everything else: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).
Like the father in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), God yearns to be reunited with His wayward children.
God loves us beyond description, and He wants our relationship to be restored. The Scriptures teach that this is why God the Father waits so patiently for our response—why He doesn’t just bring about the conclusion of humanity’s discouraging history today (2 Peter 3:9). He does not want anyone to perish, so instead He waits for more of us to draw near!
In fact, God has always wanted His children to draw near to Him with all their hearts. Not surprisingly, then, drawing near is a major theme of redemption history. God created us to walk with Him in fellowship and experience the joy and fullness of life (1 John 1:1-5; 3:1-3; John 10:10). God planted a garden to be near His children. Adam and Eve drew near in the Garden to walk and talk with God.
Sadly, the first couple was deceived by the lies and worldview of Satan (just like the church James was addressing), and they chose to sin against God. As a result, they were separated from God.
But God graciously provided a plan of forgiveness and restoration through the promised Messiah, making it possible for sinful men to draw near again to God (Genesis 3:15). Adam and Eve, Seth, and Enoch were some of the first to take advantage of this offer (Genesis 3:21; 4:26; 5:24).
Moving across history’s timeline, we see God proposing the tabernacle (Exodus 35–40) and eventually the temple (2 Chronicles 7:14-16) to be near His people. Yet as close as the Israelites came to God in this context, they were still separated by the unfulfilled demands of the Law. The Law could not restore, but instead magnified their sinfulness and increased their fear.
But in the fullness of time, God Himself took on the form of a man. Jesus Christ came near to the world through the incarnation in order to die for the sin of humanity and to rescue them from death with an offer of eternal life. Thus the message of Jesus to the Judean villages was simple: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17).
Because Jesus became flesh and dwelled among us—because Christ went to the cross and then rose gloriously from the dead—we can draw near to God!
Not surprisingly, then, all of history culminates in the awesome day when a voice from the throne will boom across a renewed heaven and earth: “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them” (Revelation 21:3)! The culmination of history is in the fulfillment of this divine hope: that God would be close to us, and we would be close to God. Every revival approximates this ultimate goal.
Where Do We Begin?
James 4 suggests that God is ready to open His arms and restore those who return to Him.Drawing near is the decision to come back into the life of God. It is a restoration of what we were designed to enjoy forever.
Even now, despite the darkness of human sin all around us, God is never far away. And the experience of God’s nearness is not out of reach. He is present right here and now, ready to revive us again. Our responsibility is to draw near to Him in humility, prayer, and repentance … and God will reciprocate.
What hope this brings! Even when evil is destroying life and relationships, James wants believers everywhere to know that there is a clear pathway to revival.
Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.
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