Harvest House Publishers
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. JAMES 4:8
God wants a face-to-face relationship with you, a divine romance that He initiates. You respond to His overtures of love by drawing near and pursuing Him. James says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8). How can you draw near? By studying, line by line, His love letter to you—the Bible—that you may know, understand, and love Him. When you open the pages of the Bible, His written words to you, and begin to read what He has to say, you are engaging in the divine romance, responding to the God who loves you. Knowing and loving the Bible are as essential to spiritual life as breathing is to physical life. A.W. Tozer, in The Pursuit of God, encourages us to develop the lifelong habit of spiritual response. Knowing and loving the Bible is your spiritual response to the divine initiative of God. It includes taking interludes alone with God in the Bible—respites with Him that refresh your heart and nurture your spirit. To know and love the Bible means to live in God’s Word in such a way that God’s Word lives in you.
Early in my relationship with God, I opened the Bible to Jeremiah 31:3 and read, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” Those words were spoken to the people of Israel, but they also define the boundaries and quality of God’s love for me. He loves me always and forever. Those words struck at the core of my being and caused my heart to burn with a passion for the God who loved me with an everlasting love. The romance between God and mankind is far more exciting and mysterious than that of a Shakespearean drama. Sentimentalism is replaced with agape love. Sensualism is replaced with commitment. Mysticism is replaced with communion. God’s divine romance is practical; it’s essential to a rich and meaningful everyday life.
Face-to-face fellowship is God’s idea, created by His initiative, and fulfilled by His design. The Bible tells us that “the LORD used to speak to Moses face-to-face, just as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11). In fact, God told Moses that He was passionate about His relationship with him (Exodus 33:12). Jesus says, “If anyone really loves me, he will observe my teaching, and my Father will love him, and both of us will come in face-to-face fellowship with him; yes, we will make our special dwelling place with him” (John 14:23 Williams New Testament). The Lord wants to meet with you in face-to-face fellowship as He lives with you and in you.
Throughout the Bible we see God’s desire for fellowship. God walked with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3:8). He dwelt in the tabernacle at the time of the Exodus (Exodus 29:43-46) and in the temple at the time of Solomon (2 Chronicles 7:1-3). He tabernacled (lived) among His people in the Person of Jesus according to John 1:14 and now makes His home in the hearts of His people through the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 14:15-23). The ultimate fulfillment of God’s desire will be seen as the holy city, new Jerusalem, comes down out of heaven (Revelation 21:2-4). God’s desire is clear. He wants to fellowship with you. How can such a fellowship occur?
Face-to-face with God means heart-to-heart with God—God speaking from His heart straight to your heart—an intimate romance joining your heart to the heart of God. It is a radical intimacy with the God who created you, loves you, and wants you for all eternity. How does God communicate with you so that you may hear Him speak? God’s Word is filled with His words. If you want to know what God has to say to you and fellowship with the One who loves you more than life itself (John 15:13), open the pages of your Bible.
God speaks to us in the Bible. Behind the written Word is the very voice of God Himself. The three Greek nouns for word in the New Testament reveal that God speaks (lalia), He has something to say (rhema), and He says it in a language we can understand (logos). Jesus uses all three of these Greek words when He talks with the religious leaders of the day about hearing His Word (John 8:42-47). The important point in the use of these three Greek words is that behind the written Word is the Person of God Himself, speaking to you from all of Scripture. God wants you to know you are never alone when you are reading or studying His Word; He wants you to be assured of His ongoing presence with you. The One who said to Joshua, “Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you” (Joshua 1:5 ESV) is also the One who says to you, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5 ESV). He is not only with you but also has something to say to you.
A.W. Tozer, in The Pursuit of God, contends that God, by His nature, is continuously articulate, filling the world with His speaking voice. “God’s word in the Bible can have power only because it corresponds to God’s word in the universe. It is the present Voice which makes the written Word all-powerful. Otherwise it would lie locked in slumber within the covers of a book.” When you open the Bible and begin to read, God is there with you, speaking to your heart. You might be reading Psalms, Proverbs, the Gospels, or Revelation. Regardless of where you are in the Bible, God is there, waiting for you to turn to Him, meet with Him, hear what He has to say to you, and respond to what He has said.
WHY KNOW AND LOVE THE BIBLE?
When you open the pages of the Bible, what is going to help you know it and love it in such a way that you can hear what God has to say? The following truths about the Bible can motivate you as you spend time in God’s Word:
• The Bible is alive for you. Hebrews 4:12 (NIV) says, “The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” When you open the pages of the Bible, ask, Lord, what do You want to say to me today?
• The Bible has a purpose for you. In Isaiah 55:11 God says this about His Word, the Bible: “It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” When you open the pages of the Bible, ask, Lord, what do You want to do in and through me?
• The Bible changes your life. Paul told Timothy, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right” (2 Timothy 3:16 NLT ). When you open the pages of the Bible, ask, Lord, what areas of my life need transformation by You?
A COMMITMENT TO KNOWING AND LOVING THE BIBLE
Billy Graham was asked what he would do if he knew he had only three years to live. He said he would spend two years studying the Word and one year preaching the gospel. Elmer Lappen, the director of Campus Crusade for Christ at Arizona State University, told me years ago that if he could live his life over, he would spend more time studying God’s Word. Those two men have probably known and loved the Bible better than anyone I know. And yet they felt that they needed more time with God in His Word. As you embark on this 30-day journey, will you resolve to engage in this divine romance with God, step away from the crowd, and draw near to God in His Word, the Bible? If so, you are in for the time of your life—the great adventure of knowing God.
Billy Sunday captured the essence of the divine romance of God in His Word with these notes he kept in his Bible:
Twenty-nine years ago, with the Holy Spirit as my Guide, I entered at the portico of Genesis, walked down the corridor of the Old Testament art galleries, where pictures of Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joseph, Isaac, Jacob, and Daniel hung on the wall. I passed into the music room of the Psalms where the Spirit sweeps the keyboard of nature until it seems that every reed and pipe in God’s great organ responds to the harp of David, the sweet singer of Israel. I entered the chamber of Ecclesiastes, where the voice of the preacher is heard, and into the conservatory of Sharon and the lily of the valley where sweet spices filled and perfumed my life. I entered the business office of Proverbs and on into the observatory of the prophets where I saw telescopes of various sizes pointing to far off events, concentrating on the bright and morning Star which was to rise above the moonlit hills of Judea for our salvation and redemption. I entered the audience room of the King of Kings, catching a vision written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Thence into the correspondence room with Paul, Peter, James, and John writing their Epistles. I stepped into the throne room of Revelation where tower the glittering peaks, where sits the King of Kings upon His throne of glory with the healing of nations in His hand, and I cried out: All hail the power of Jesus’ name! Let angels prostrate fall; Bring forth the royal diadem and crown Him Lord of all.
Key Verse: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8).
For Further Thought: Will you make the decision to pay the price in time and energy to know and love the Bible so that you may come face-to-face with God in His Word? Ask God now to prepare your heart as you begin this 30-day journey of knowing and loving the Bible. Write a letter to the Lord as a prayer to Him in the space provided.
My Response: A Letter to the Lord