5 Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.
6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.
7 I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.
8 I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, 10 because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
11 You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
4 You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit He caused to live in us envies intensely? 6 But He gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’
7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.
The very first question and answer of the Westminster Catechism reads as follows:
“What is the chief and highest end of man? Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy Him forever.”
In those two brief sentences you will find all of the answers to all of the big questions of life.
If you are one of those who loses sleep wondering why you’re here and what the purpose of your existence is, you can finally relax, because I have just given you the answers!
The Bible opens and closes with God and people enjoying perfect harmony and fellowship with each other. Relationship is what it is all about.
When we clear away all the clutter and all the stuff in our lives, the one thing which we treasure the most and need the most is relationships.
One of our most basic desires is to love and be loved, and I think you’d really struggle to find anyone, regardless of whether they are Christians or not, who would disagree with that.
The difference between believers and non-believers though, is that we understand the need for those relationships goes beyond mere human companionship. We began our existence in a garden with God. And the Bible closes in Revelation 22 with the redeemed in the city of God where the River of Life flows, where the Tree of Life bears its fruit.
People are always at their best and happiest when they are close to God. God has always wanted us to walk with Him. Sadly, as we know, sin has destroyed that. When people refuse to believe in and to live for God, they destroy themselves and bring further damage into their lives as well as into the lives of others.
We were created for community, but sin has warped that original plan of God. Now it’s all about survival of the fittest and looking after number one.
But God, in His grace, has given us the opportunity of reversing the devastating effects of sin. Throughout the Bible, and in the New Testament in particular we are told to love one another, to serve one another and to forgive one another. Those things do not come naturally to the sinner, and that is why we need Jesus.
If we are going to cultivate better interpersonal relationships, we need to begin by cultivating our relationship with God first.
How close to God do you live? How often do you communicate with Him? How often do you take time out to be still so that you can hear Him?
One of the best ways of measuring your relationship with the Lord is to ask yourself if you feel accepted, comfortable, and at ease in His presence.
How comfortable or uncomfortable do you feel when you sense God looking at you?
There are times when you feel great joy, passion, and excitement about being a Christian. And there are times when you don't feel it. This thing we call life happens, and sometimes it is very hard. However the Bible doesn’t say, ‘The righteous live by feelings.’ Rather, it says, ‘The righteous live by faith.’ Romans 1:17
Feelings change, but walking with God takes faith. It takes commitment, and it takes consistency.
The analogy of walking and the Christian life is used throughout Scripture. But what does it mean to walk with God? It is not simply living by rules and regulations. It is much more than that.
Amos 3:3 asks a key question: “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?”
The word ‘together’ in this context implies the idea of two people moving in rhythm together, something like riding a tandem bicycle. But it is not about getting God into rhythm with us. It is us getting into rhythm with Him. That is what it means to walk with God.
There is also a popular misconception among many Christians that God is very hard to please, but this is not true. We looked at this concept a couple of weeks ago. When God looks at a Christian, He sees you as a redeemed sinner. He sees you as justified by the blood of Christ. And what does God say about Jesus? “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)
Of course you have weaknesses and frailties – God knows that better than you do, but He is not as hard to please as you might think. He is merciful and patient with you.
Do you want to please God? Hebrews 13:15-16 tells you how.
“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise - the fruit of lips that confess His name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”
If you want to please Him, then worship Him, understanding that worship is more than standing up in Church singing a few hymns once a week. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.
The last verse of Psalm 16 says “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
There is tremendous satisfaction and fulfillment to be found in a life walked close to God. The things the world offers might bring short-term joy, but they will not last. Without God to fill that God-shaped void in the human heart, there will always be a sense of emptiness. Something will always be lacking without Jesus in your life.
But He doesn’t only bring joy and happiness – He also helps us to make sense of and live through the inevitable difficult times in our lives. We all know Psalm 23, but just listen again to this wonderful promise in verse 4: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
When David wrote these words, he was speaking from first-hand experience.
He knew what it meant for God to comfort and strengthen him when life was hard, and he knew that God was with him, because he was with God. David walked with Him.
Our only real source of spiritual energy and vitality is to be found in daily fellowship with God. But as we know, walking with God does not come naturally to sinners. It takes a conscious effort for us to walk with Him. It is no coincidence that the words disciple and discipline have the same meaning.
So let’s consider some of the consequences of not walking closer to Jesus.
We need to do this, because if walking with God is a good thing, it stands to reason then that not walking with Him is detrimental to the Christian.
You might have wondered about the opening words of James chapter 4, and it is worth reading them again:
“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
This letter was written to Christians, not to unbelievers. And we need to apply these words to our own lives. All of the struggles which James highlights here happen to all of us, and James challenges his readers to ask themselves and us why we have all this drama in our lives.
Part of the answer is that we are selfish, and we want things done the way we want them done.
They were living under the control of their passions and desires for pleasure. They were totally self-centred even when they prayed. They had allowed themselves to become compatible with the world, which is in rebellion against God.
Have you drifted away from God without being aware of it?
Someone once said, “It is easy to drift with the current swift, just lie in your boat and dream. But in God’s plan, it takes a real man to paddle the boat upstream.”
Is it possible that we have drifted away from God as far as those to whom James wrote his letter?
Again, what is the chief and highest end of man? Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy Him forever.
And we can only do that by drawing closer to God. James answers all the questions in chapter 4 in verse 8: “Come near to God and He will come near to you.”
So how do we do it? It’s all very well to decide to move closer to Him each day, but how do we actually do it?
The first step is to trust and believe in His love for you, and that one of His greatest desires for you is to bless you. Hebrews 11:6 says “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” Listen to this wonderful promise from God in Jeremiah 29: “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord.”
When Adam and Eve first sinned, the Lord asked them a question which He asks each of us: “Where are you?”
Finding God when you seek Him out is actually a lot easier than you might think. He has always been searching you out. If you have yet to find Him it is only because you have been looking in the wrong places.
He has all the answers to the so-called ‘big questions’ about the purpose of your existence and the meaning of life. He wrote the book. He has the answers.
And one of the greatest benefits of moving closer to God is that your need for Him will become even clearer. By that I mean that His light will begin to expose the darkness in your own heart. This is the opportunity for you to surrender to God those things in your life which cripples your walk with Him. James, as usual, pulls no punches: “Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.”
I said a couple of weeks ago that we don’t take our sin anywhere nearly as seriously as we should. Confessing our guilt before God and repenting is not easy, but it is so important. That’s why James says “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.”
Once we have taken the step of allowing God to purify us, we can begin this new journey of walking with Him in the power of His Spirit.
Because it is then, and only then that you will begin to experience life the way God intended it to be. Paul described this spirit-filled and spirit-led life like this in Galatians 5: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”
Jesus’ words in Revelation 3:20 are often used to describe God’s desire for non-believers to turn to Him. “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”
There is certainly some merit in using those words for the ministry of evangelism, but these words were actually spoken to a Church – to people who were already Christians. The problem was that they had become lukewarm in their dedication to Christ, and if the truth be told, this is something which affects us all.
Life happened, and in their busyness and routine, they had drifted away from Jesus. But He had not left them. All He wanted from them, and all He wants from us is for us to fall in love with Him all over again.
The living and risen Lord comes again and again and stands at the door, and He waits to be re-invited into our minds, our hearts, and our lives.
He created you, and He loves you with an everlasting love. Even when you rejected Him, He did not stop loving you. He has demonstrated the depth of His love by offering Himself in Christ, and He offers you mercy and forgiveness. God has drawn near to you. Will you draw near to Him?
Homegroup Study Notes
Read James 4:1-6
What are some of the warning signs you can see here in your own life?
Share with your group some of the personal challenges which you face in your spiritual walk.
All Christians would agree that our most important relationship is the one we have with God through Jesus Christ.
Yet, this is often the relationship we neglect the most. Why is this?
What are the obstacles or distractions in your life which hinders your walk with Jesus?
Describe a time in your life when you felt the closest to God.
What do you think it was that created that special season in your life?
Has it changed, and why?
Read Jeremiah 29:11-14
How have you sensed God seeking you out, pursuing a relationship with you?
Do you have a regular time set aside each day for reading the Bible and prayer? If so, how do you feel you have grown as a result?
Read Hebrews 13:15-16 and Galatians 5:22-25
How can these passages of Scripture help you to walk closer to God?
The closing hymn on Sunday begins with “I want to walk with Jesus Christ, all the days I live of this life on earth. To give to Him complete control of body and of soul.”
Use these words in your group as a guide for your closing prayer.