A new year’s beginning is the perfect time to for us to re-commit ourselves to God. The past year is now behind us, the things of that year are beyond us now and we cannot change them. If we were not as faithful as we ought to have been last year (and I would hazard to guess that none of us was as faithful as we should have been) then we need to commit ourselves, each and every one of us, to drawing nearer to God this year. The inspired writer James said, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” (James 4:7-8).
To submit to God means to be obedient to His Word – to yield yourself to His authority. In yielding to God, we resist the devil. In resisting the devil and yielding ourselves to God, we draw closer to Him and He draws closer to us. But, how can we submit to Him and draw closer to Him if our sins are separating us from Him? Isaiah wrote, “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness.” (Isaiah 59:2-3). Sin is not just actively transgressing God’s law, but sometimes it is in our passivity toward obeying His commands. James 4:17 says, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” Knowing God’s will and not doing it is the same as actively working against it. “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.” (Matthew 12:30). Our sins of commission along with our sins of omission pull us away from God – the opposite of drawing nigh.
Since sin has separated the non-Christian from God and will also separate the Christian from God, we each have the need to repent. Jesus made it possible for all of us to be able to be reconciled to God. His death paved the way for all mankind to become children of God through their obedience. His work in mediation also allows the erring child of God to be restored his fellowship with God – to draw nigh to God once more. We draw close to God after first submitting to His will – obeying the gospel. We cannot approach God unless we have first been cleansed. The non-Christian is cleansed (remitted) of his sins through repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38). The Christian who has fallen away can be cleansed of his sins once more through repentance, confession and prayer. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9). To “cleanse your hands…” (James 4:8) means to repent of our sins and to be forgiven. To “purify your hearts ye double minded…” (James 4:8), means to approach God with singleness of heart; to devote ourselves utterly to Him and to His will. It means for us to be double-minded no longer, in other words, to stop trying to serve two masters – God and self. Jesus tells us that this is impossible, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24).
In this new year, let us each submit ourselves to God and commit ourselves to resisting the devil with every fiber of our being. Let us each seek to draw “nigh” to God and allow Him to draw “nigh” to us. Just like in any relationship, communication is key. Communication is a two-way street – we must speak to God and allow Him to speak to us. God speaks to us only through His written Word. We need to read and study that Word daily in order to stay in constant communication with Him. But we also need to speak with Him on a daily basis. We can only speak to God in prayer. We need to be praying all the time – “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This year may we each seek to become closer to God than ever. I hope that by the time this year is over we each will have become a more faithful and productive child of God, drawing ever near to Him.