Every year on our Picnic Anniversary we try to look at where we are as a Family of God, and truly see where we are in God's eyes. What our greatest needs and struggles may be. We try to have a true moment of self-reflection, as compared to the Only Standard that counts. And there is one major problem which I feel we all struggle with to some extent or another—and that is feeling acceptance and closeness to God.
So many people feel they are far away from God. So many wonder why others have this relationship they never seem to experience or understand—maybe even thinking it is not real or unachievable. So many constantly even feel that God may save them, but that He's never pleased with them; never truly accepts them on a personal level; never interested in being close to them, as He seems to be with others. As a whole, we have learned to act certain ways, keep certain commandments, pray because it is what we should do, and live in limbo between knowing God intimately and being lost completely.
Are you one of us that never quite feels like God is happy with and close to you? Often feeling insecure and unsatisfied in your walk? If you truly know Him, that is exactly the way you should feel because He didn't create us to live out our lives as most of us are living right now. God did not do all that He did to forgive you and I, just to get us to Heaven or make us better people. His sole purpose for dying was to know you and I intimately, to share in our lives, to be so near to us that we become one, as He is with the Father: John 17:20-21. Jesus' final, most intimate prayer for us in the Garden before His Death was that we could become as intimately known by Him as He is to the Father; that we could know we are as loved by the Father as Jesus Christ Himself. When we wonder if Jesus really accepts us personally—when we wonder if He wants to get close to us, like He does others—we have to finally see that not only is He okay with us getting closer to Him; not only is He interested in us getting closer to Him—it is His greatest passion and desire that you and I get intimately closer to Him. Please do not think for one more moment that you are different, or less, or unworthy, or rejected. He wants you desperately! Do not let Satan ever again whisper into your ear that God does not want to be near to you as with others, because you are different, or unworthy.
So, if God is really that dogmatic, that longing to be close—why don't I ever feel His Presence like others? Why am I not closer to Him? Listen to theses verses and let's see if we can figure it out together: Lamentations 3:25; Acts 17:27-28; James 4:8. It’s not that God does not want to be intimate with us, and not that He hasn't done all He can to make it possible, but that we are not truly as serious, and as passionate about it as Him; that we are not making the effort to seek and find Him. Although Scriptures say He is right there, waiting to be discovered. Scriptures are actually very clear about what it takes to draw near to God, we just seem to either miss them altogether, or not be willing on our part, to do what it takes to find Him. Salvation is free, but to be near a Holy God requires purposeful dedication and desire. The Book of Ruth gives us a beautiful picture of what it takes to be intimate with Christ. Ruth, the Moabite widow of a Jewish man—a foreigner; poor and helpless; considered cursed and rejected by the Israelites—sought out Boaz; a relative of her husband's family, who by law, could be her Kinsman Redeemer if he would accept her as his wife, and save her; as her mother-in-law, Naomi prepared her to seek His acceptance, this is the advise she gave: [Remember, all Scripture is given with Jesus Christ as the ultimate picture] Ruth 3:1-5 [How appropriate that Boaz is working to purify barley in order to provide Bread for the hungry when she approaches him.] Naomi tells Ruth to do several things, which are a beautiful and exact picture of how we can draw nearer to God. Everything we need to remember about wanting to draw near to God can be recalled as getting ready for a big date with Someone you really want to impress. 1) Such a massive step: wash yourself. Listen to these verses closely: John 15:9-11; 1 John 3:6-9. Imagine the dirtiest, urine and feces smelling, drug using bum on the street. Now imagine bringing them to the altar to marry them, just as they are at that moment. Imagine leaving the church and expecting to have a time of love and intimacy with them afterwards. This is how our sin looks to God—and yet we say we want to be near Him. We say we want to please Him as our Beloved. Our love and distraction for sin can so perfectly be compared to the addict's love for their drugs—overwhelming, engrossing, destructive—getting clean in a spiritual sense, means to rid ourselves of these things that cling to our souls—taking us from Him and making us look horrible to Him. He is Holy and Selfless, waiting beside us, and we are far from Him in our own heart and soul. 2) Anoint yourself: Ruth 3:3. The second step Naomi gave to Ruth was to anoint herself with sweet smelling oil (used as perfume). In Scriptures, Oil always represents the Spirit. We cannot just come clean from the ways of the world with our own strength and draw nearer to Him; we must replace the ways and thoughts of the world; replace that source, that drive, that motivation for our lives, and be renewed, filled and motivated with Something better—something that will make us think, feel and care like the One to which we are wanting to relate. Galatians 5:22-23. How else can we have sweet fellowship and intimate connection with Him? How can we share in His desires? Understand His will? See people and things as He does? If we are not surrendered to His Spirit within? We have to clean our minds by separating from the desires of the world, and then, ask the Spirit to fill us with the thoughts, desires and loves shared by our beloved. 3) Put on your best: Ruth 3:3. Why would you put on your best, look your best, for one particular Person? Because you want to impress them. Because you hold them in high esteem, honor them, care about what they think. Instead of coming before God in prayer to go through your list of needs, or complete your ceremonial requirements for the day, try coming to Him in true reverence for Him—in a real desire to please and touch Him. Come with the sole purpose of getting His attention and showing He is worthy of your best. 4) Pursue Him: Ruth 3:3-4: you need to stop wondering if He can or will draw closer to you; stop complaining that you never "feel" His Presence, and aggressively go in pursuit of him instead. Show Him your passion to be His, no matter the cost. Surrender yourself to Him, at His feet, completely, instead of fretting over His absence. Show your desire for Him by searching until you find Him. Jeremiah 29:12-14. Stop feeling like you are too unworthy of Him—none of us are worthy of Him. Just as Ruth could have said she knew she was nothing but a poor, cursed, hated foreigner who had no business going to Boaz. It is not our worthiness, but the worthiness that He places upon us in His love. 1 John 4:17-19 (Understand His love and you’ll love Him more than ever) Many people can’t be loved by others after a big failure because they can’t forgive themselves and feel worthy again. This is showing their focus is more on themselves, and less on the true love of the one they let down. We have not understood anything about His True Nature until we realize we are passionately loved. Even in all of our failures; even in all our rebellion; even when we fall again—this is the Good News: it's not about our own worthiness, but the worthiness and even honor that He has won—that He has earned—He has given to us: John 17:22-23. Jesus loves you so much, and He is so humbly selfless, that all of the glory He was awarded for giving up His throne and becoming a Human, for dying horribly and suffering rejection by men and God, He has given to us—we are that important to Him. Isaiah 61:10; 1 Corinthians 1:30-31.
So, how do we look to God? Because of our works? No! Because of the honor and righteousness He gave us. Let your love and desire to be near Him overcome your embarrassment and fear. Instead of groveling, boast in how Awesome He is. 5) Feel Him, Hear Him, Come with the selfless intent of doing whatever it takes to please Him: Ruth 3:4-5. Trusting His ways, His wisdom, and His timing. With the sole intent of making Him happy more than wanting to please self.
It all comes to this: desire Him so much that you will do anything to prepare yourself to be His Beloved. Don't look at it as resisting sin anymore. Understand that it is making yourself pleasing and acceptable to the One you want to be close with, and then pursue Him until you find Him. Knowing that He wants closeness desperately. Knowing it is based on what He did in passion for you, not your own merits. If you've never felt worthy, never been close to Him, listen to this quote by Thomas Jefferson: "If you want something you've never had, you must be willing to do something you've never done." When Ruth heard all that Naomi had told her to do in order to win Boaz, this was her reply [I hope it is yours as well]: Ruth 3:5. If you are not close to Him, do something about it. You have to get ready for your big date.
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