Psalm 27:1-6
Mark 12:28-31
Hebrews 10:19-22

I was reading about a father who was also a pastor and who asked the third-grade class to draw a picture of God. His daughter, who was in that class, showed her dad her picture: “I don’t know what God looks like,” she said, “so I just drew you, daddy, instead.”

It has been said that “a child is not likely to find a father in God unless he finds something of God in his father.” And so I thought it would be good to spend some time today talking about drawing near to God, our Heavenly Father, through the Lord Jesus. For I can say with certainty that the closer any father gets to God our Father, the better father he will be.

Seems to me the first step in drawing near to God is having the desire to do so.

It’s one thing to talk about wanting to know God better, but how desperately do we want it?

Let’s do a heart check. On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you desire to draw near to God?

Is this as much a priority for us as it was for the writer of the 27th Psalm?

One thing I ask of the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” (27:4)

In those pregnant verses I read from Hebrews, there is only one main, frank command, “Let us draw near!” 7 times in this letter the writer uses this verb “draw near.” We’ll take a gander at just three of those

4:16 “Let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.

7:25 “He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him

11:6 “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who draws near to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

It may well have been that this writer had Jeremiah 29:13 in mind: “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek me with all your heart.” Or perhaps, he had read a copy of James. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (4:8).

But regardless the overwhelming passion of this writer is that we “draw near to God” that we have fellowship with Him; that we not settle for a Christian life at a distance from God, that we experience what the old Puritans called communion with God.

This is the very heart of the entire New Testament gospel, isn’t it? That Jesus came into the world to make a way for us to come to His and our Father in heaven.

But how in the world can we draw near to someone we can’t see, hear, or touch? It’s not like we can meet God at Starbucks for coffee and greet Him with a hug. So how do we “draw near;” what is that supposed to look like?

Once we have the desire, we can take the next step toward drawing near: “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength.”

With all your heart.

What does that even look like? I know what it is to love Gail with my heart what it means to love my children and grandchildren with all of my heart. But how do we love God with all of our heart?

I think it has to do with corporate worship. Worship is how we express affection for our Savior. It is how we give our admiration and love to our heavenly Father.

There’s a couple of scriptures that link corporate worship and loving God with our hearts.

Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians. 5:19).

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts” (Colossians 3:16).

When Paul uses the phrase ‘one another’ he is almost always thinking of corporate worship. So notice in both cases he has the gathered people of God in mind. Doing what? Singing from the heart!

“I love you Lord, and I lift my voice to worship You, O my soul rejoice, take joy my King in what You hear, may it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear.”

With all your mind.

I am going to suggest that this has to do not with corporate worship, but with our personal worship of God as we walk with Him on a daily basis. Taking in His Word. “This is the air I breathe, Your very Word spoken to me.”

Breathing in His word and breathing out a prayer on a daily basis.

I am so proud of my wife who starts every morning with prayer before she even gets out of bed. And then as she sits at the table having coffee and yogurt she reads from the Bible and her devotional book, Jesus Calling.

In Africa, converts were zealous about daily devotions. They would find a special spot in the wild and pour their hearts out to God. After some time the spots became well-worn, and paths were created. If someone began to neglect his life, it would soon be noticed by others. Believers would then gently and lovingly remind those in neglect, “There’s grass growing on your path.”

Which begs the question, doesn’t it? is there grass growing on our path?

With all your soul and all your strength.

I am going to combine both of these by saying they have to do with ‘obeying’ God.

Watch out now; I don’t wish to muddy the waters, but obeying God can be more important than worshipping God. Amos 5:21 says, “I hate all your show and pretense; the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies.”

Why? Because primarily God’s desires an obedient and repentant heart.

David understood this: “You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. “You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God” (Psalm 51:16–17).

God wants us to love him with our obedience. Jesus said this clearly: “If you love me, obey my commandments.”

We can dance in the aisles with all our heart and sign up for every Bible study and still not be developing an intimate fellowship with the Lord because He wants our obedience which will come as we draw near.

I was reading about a pastor who did some light grocery shopping. After picking up some staples, he headed to the all-important potato chip aisle. Unlike his usual routine of looking for the best buy, he had decided to buy Mikesell’s potato chips. As soon as he picked up two bags of Mikesell’s, he heard a familiar voice, “Way to go, Van! Thanks a lot, buddy.” It was his friend Chuck, a delivery man for Mikesell’s! 30 minutes earlier, he had run into Chuck. When he arrived at the grocery he remembered Chuck worked for Mikesell’s and would probably be pleased if he purchased the brand he sold. So, the fact that they had just spent some time together influenced his decision.

Spending time with our heavenly Father, and being reminded of what pleases Him, will likely result in our decisions being more pleasing to him.

So to draw near to God we start with a desire; that leads to loving the Lord our God with all of our hearts, minds, soul, and strength.

As part of obedience, but deserving special mention, I think we draw near to God as we share in His work.

Although God loves to be intimate with His people, our drawing near in fellowship has another purpose: that His kingdom would come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).

Perhaps the most profound unity we have ever experienced with the Lord is when we are sharing in his work. Whether that means praying for someone, sharing His Word with someone else, bringing a message of healing to someone who has been wounded, or something as simple as giving someone a glass of water there is nothing like doing God’s will here on earth.

And lastly, in drawing near to God we must always remember to never give up!

There will be times in our lives when it seems like God is closer to us than others. All of us experience the dry seasons of life when no matter how much we want to be close to God it seems that God is a million miles away. When those dark times seem to engulf us, there is a tendency to give up on God. More than any other time, that’s when we need to make drawing near a priority. That’s when whether we feel like it or no, we must discipline ourselves to take the time necessary in order to seek Him.

There have been seasons in my Christian life when God was a priority because I felt desperate for him; I was in crisis mode and needed the strength and peace that only God can provide. While those times of desperately reaching out to God were important, I’ve learned not to base the priority of drawing near to God on any situation I am facing and/or on my feelings.

But those who desire to be close to God will reach down deep within and find the stamina needed to “draw near to Him” despite our feelings. We will not give up, or give in! We will hang in there by putting one foot in front of the other and plodding on opening that Bible and praying those prayers when we least feel like it.

Then there are times when our hearts waver because our sinfulness has convinced us that we don’t deserve to draw near to God. That’s why the writer of the letter of Hebrews packs in the truth in verse 22: “having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our body washed with pure water.” In other words what he is saying is that the blood of Christ so completely covers our sin and removes our guilt that the conscience can rest at peace. Not because we are sinless, and not because the conscience doesn’t sometimes accuse us, but because when it does, we by faith speak to it and say, “I know I have sinned, it grieves me, I hate my sin. But I have a Savior, Jesus the Christ, who shed his priceless blood for me, to bear my sins and cover my transgressions. Therefore be silent, O conscience, I am at peace in Jesus.”

With all of this in mind, I have a story of a father and a son and a father figure. The movie Hoosiers tells the Cinderella story of a small-town Indiana high school basketball team that wins the state championship. One important character, an alcoholic named Shooter, played by Dennis Hopper, has failed at most things in his life but he has an extraordinary knowledge of and passion for the game. The coach, (Gene Hackman) works with Shooter to give him a 2nd chance in life. He asks Shooter to be his assistant coach, and soon Shooter is on the bench. The little-known Hickory High team is starting to experience winning ways when, during a pivotal game, the coach decides to get himself thrown out. He pulls the referee aside and says, “Take me out of the game.” The ref doesn’t know what the coach is up to, but he tosses him from the game. Shooter is terrified. A few scenes earlier, after another drinking binge, Shooter promised the coach he’d stay sober and remain as the assistant on one condition: “You’ve got to give me your word,” said Shooter, “that you will not be kicked out of no games!”

Now the end of this game is near, and the score is tied. The Hickory players call a timeout. In the team huddle, all eyes are on Shooter, including his son’s, who never thought his dad should be in this position in the first place. Shooter is paralyzed by fear; he can’t speak. Finally, his son says, “You reckon # 4 will put up their last shot, Dad?” That seems to jump-start Shooter, and he haltingly calls a play. The team goes back on the floor and begins to execute it. Then suddenly Shooter calls another timeout. Now he is completely engaged in the game, and his knowledge and passion for basketball have overtaken his fear. He lays out the strategy for the next play with confidence:

All right, now listen to me; this is the last shot that we got; all right? We’re gonna run the picket fence at ’em. Merle, you’re the swing man; Jimmy, you’re solo right. All right, Merle should be open swinging around the end of that fence. Now boys, don’t get caught watchin’ that paint dry!”

The players are with him; they walk back onto the floor, run the play to perfection, and sink the game-winning basket. Of course, Shooter and the players are deliriously happy. Amid the celebration, Shooter’s son looks into his father’s eyes and says, “You did good, Pop; you did real good.”

A weak, shame-filled alcoholic did real good because the coach decided he was worth taking a risk on.

In the same way, God sees our value and loves us enough to take a risk on us. Who among us is willing to take a risk with God and begin to draw near to Him by loving Him with all of your hearts, minds, strength, and soul?