||Come Close To God
||I remember the devotion of your
youth, how as a bride you loved
me… declares the Lord.
||I want to ask you to remember the time when you were the closest you have ever
been to Jesus. Perhaps it was a glorious week at camp when you were a teen,
maybe a weekend retreat as a young adult, or the entire first breathtaking year you
were saved. Think of that time when your heart seemed to beat out a perpetual love
song to Jesus, when you unquestionably perceived His presence all around you. He
consumed your thoughts day and night.
No cumbersome weight of drudgery existed for you, His Word was so alive to you—
obeying Him was a pure joy. He was your very delight, His will and purposes seemed
so clear. YOU WERE COMPLETELY IN LOVE WITH JESUS! I want you to hunger for
that experience again, to long for it passionately.
How long has it been since you felt that way? Or maybe that kind of spirituality has
always eluded you. You have heard others talk about it, but you have never really
experienced it personally. Is that kind of devotion really possible for normal people?
Is the idea of being close to Jesus some fleeting blessing that God doles out
sparingly only on very special occasions to a precious few super saints or monks
living in monasteries?
The purpose of this article is to inspire you to aim at that level of devotion
continuously! I am convinced from God’s word that God can do immeasurably more
than we can ask or imagine. No where is that more true than in our personal love
relationship with Him. The problem is the enemy of our soul clouds and deadens us
to that glorious reality and we simply settle for less.
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they
shall be filled.” With God’s help you can attain the pure devotion you have always
craved. Think of the very pinnacle of your devotional life, the closest to Jesus you
have ever been and determine to not only get back to that place, but to exceed it
and live there on a consistent basis! You may not think that is possible, but I pray
God’s word will whet your appetite causing you to raise the bar of your spiritual
When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of
everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited
resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then
Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will
grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power
to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and
how deep his love is.
May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand
fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power
that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty
power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or
think. Ephesians 3:14-20
The Tenderness of God
We must realize that God is not the one holding back or determining how close we
live to Him. Just the opposite is true; He absolutely longs for us to live close to Him.
As we began, I asked you to remember the very summit of your devotion to Jesus,
the closest you have ever walked with Him. Now I want you to realize that HE also
remembers it. God is keenly aware of the state of our love and devotion. I remember
the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me… declares the Lord
(Jeremiah 2:2). Too often we imagine that God is so utterly complete in Himself, that
He is incapable of emotional feeling or tenderness.
Never let yourself think that God is so spiritual, so colossal, and impersonal that He
doesn’t even notice when you drift away from your relationship with Him. Just the
opposite is true. God is so tender, so utterly personal, His heart breaks when we
neglect our love relationship with Him. The scripture plainly teaches that we can
grieve the Holy Spirit.
The rest of Jeremiah, chapter two (if not most of the remainder of the whole book), is
God’s lament that His people have forgotten Him. More than anything I want you to
see that God not only expects us to live in love with Him, He is grieved when we
settle for anything less than youthful, bride-like, devotion. Notice the deeply
personal, even grievous language God uses later in this same passage. Does a
maiden forget her jewelry, a bride her wedding ornaments? Yet my people have
forgotten me, days without number (Jeremiah 2:32).
Which begs the question, why do we grieve God’s Spirit by drifting away from our
close relationship with Him or forget Him, days without number?
Loving Jesus in a Fallen World
I don’t know about you but living in an ungodly world brimming with anti-Christ spirit
most certainly tries to erode the closeness of my walk with God. Jesus prophesied
the ungodliness of the last days would directly impact the intensity and level of love
within people’s heart.
Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he
who stands firm to the end will be saved (Matthew 24:12-13). Notice that
although He predicted an increase in wickedness, He also said, “But he who stands
firm to the end will be saved.” Obviously, the saved will have the capacity to resist
and stand firm!
The Bible tells us we must guard our heart with all diligence, so we must realize it is a
constant battle to keep ourselves close to God. If we allow ourselves to simply drift
with the current of this world, it will always pull us away from God.
Later in the book of Revelation, Jesus once again awakens us to how very aware He
is of our devotion to Him. In one of the very personal letters sent from Jesus to the
seven churches in the opening chapters, He addresses a group of believers at the
church of Ephesus. He is clearly not detached or isolated from their situation. He
starts out by saying, “I know your deeds.” He goes on to commend them for their
hard work, perseverance, and endurance under hardship. He further applauds them
for not tolerating wickedness and for testing the claims of their spiritual leaders. Their
external performance is sound. By most indications this would be a very, very good
However, we see Jesus probes beyond their outward performance and
circumstances; He is focused instead on their inner devotion. As excellent as these
believers seemed on the surface, Jesus pointed out that from His perspective
something was still missing. The intensity of their love for Him was lacking and He
clearly was not content with this lukewarm status quo. Yet I hold this against you:
You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have
fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first (Revelation 2:4-5).
Too many modern believers focus so much on how good, kind, and loving Jesus is
and imagine that means nothing is required of them. In practical terms we think it
does not matter whether we walk closely to Him or not, He loves us just the same.
While it may be true that He loves us, it does not mean He is satisfied to simply let us
drift along far from Him. No, the Bible teaches it is the very fact that He loves us that
compels Him to correct us (Hebrews 12:7-11).
That is exactly what we find here in Revelation two. If we are far from God, He is not
to blame—He never leaves or forsakes us. However, Jesus specifically says these
believers had forsaken their first love for Him. In other words they moved further
away from God, not the other way around.
Recovering First Love!
Another thing that happens is we drift aimlessly through seasons of our life moved by
whims, feelings, trends, and other interests. We rarely think we are somehow to
blame for not being close to God. But Jesus does not see it that way. He does not
regard the state or condition of our love relationship with Him as merely a product of
accidental chance. He indicates we are very much in control of our love walk with
Him. Though it is not necessarily quantifiable, its quality can be tested because He
asks the members of this church to remember the height from which they have fallen.
That means there is a palpable difference between the love they formerly had for
Jesus and how they were currently living. Paul tells us to, be very careful, then, how
you live—not as unwise but as wise (Ephesians 5:15). The amplified version
articulates it by saying we are to live purposefully.
The reason I can say loving Jesus is no accident is because once Jesus makes
these believers aware that they have forsaken their first love, He gives them
concrete steps on how to recover their closeness with Him. Oh how wise for us to
also take inventory of our devotional condition, follow Jesus’ advice, and take those
concrete steps towards recovering our first love.
Remember… repent… and do
Remember means we are able to gauge the condition of our devotion to Him. We
can very definitely reflect on our current relationship with God and compare it to
earlier seasons of our walk with Him.
Repent means that if we are going the wrong way… we can turn around!
The last command is do! Do means there are definite actions we can take to recover
our first love. While we tend to think feelings are the real indicators of the quality of
love we have, Jesus always linked our love for Him to actions rather than vague and
elusive sentiments. For instance Jesus said, If anyone loves me, he will obey my
teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home
with him (John 14:23). What a phenomenal and inviting promise, that Jesus and
the Father will come and be at home with us! This is the ultimate in close
relationship! But the promise is to those who love Jesus by the things they do.
How well Jesus identified what so often steals our spiritual affection—misplaced
desires and priorities: But the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and
the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful
It seems in our day and time we are especially inundated with distractions, it is truly
the spirit of this age. TV, cell phones, Facebook, YouTube, and seemingly an
endless number of other things keep us from giving God our truly undivided
attention. He declares that we must be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10).
Here in His letter to the believers at Ephesus, He tells them the exact things they
need to do: Do the things you did at first. In the past, I misunderstood this passage
and thought it meant I had to manufacture the sentimental feelings I felt for Jesus
when I first got saved. Believe me that is at best a vague, frustrating exercise most
often ending in futile failure. Now I concentrate not on feelings but rather on those
basic devotional habits or actions that always produce results. What things am I
doing when I love Jesus most? I spend unhurried quality time in His presence. I give
Him my undivided attention. I drop my desire for other earthly pursuits and instead
spend the time and energy in seeking His face. I exchange the attention I’m giving to
useless things for time to hear His word. Bottom line, I seek first the Kingdom of God
and hunger and thirst for righteousness!
More than anything, when I meditate on the passages we have looked at here, I
realize if I’m not walking close to God it is certainly not because that is what He wants.
It is because that is what I’ve settled for. I have made a poor exchange in my time,
affections, and habits. The Bible spells it out so plainly. Come close to God, and
God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts,
for your loyalty is divided between God and the world (James 4:8 NLT).
For me the most inspiring thing of all is God’s promise to respond to us as we come
close to Him. How I can testify of this in thirty years of walking with Jesus. He is truly
faithful to His word. Oh there is nothing like the sweetness of His presence to remind
us that nothing we seek is more rewarding than His closeness. Truly He is our reward
and portion. Never settle for a ho-hum lukewarm love for Jesus.
Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him, and he will
respond to us as surely as the coming of dawn or the rain of early spring.
(Hosea 6:3 Living)
© 2011 by Ken Dornhecker
All rights reserved.