Introduction - Growing Closer to God with James

Through the years I have often heard (and sometimes thought) statements like this a lot, "I feel like I am so far from God," or "I feel so alone in my spiritual life." These are a scary thoughts but it is also comforting to know people recognize there is opportunity to make improvements in their lives and grow closer to God. After all, recognizing the problem means you are on your way to solving it! These lessons are designed to be "talked through" in class room setting so everyone can understand they are not alone when comes to being alone (see what I did there). Understanding where you are, and where you want, and need, to be is very important, and knowing others have traveled the same road provides hope for those who might feel lost. As we study together please be honest about struggles you have had, or continue to have, so we can grow as a body, and as individuals, closer to God.

When something is wrong I don't like to be at fault. I don't think anyone does. However if we feel ourselves further from God than we should be we have to ask the question, "who moved?" Did God move away from us so that we now find ourselves alone? Did the will of God change without us knowing about it? Of course not! If we find ourselves further from God than we should to be, we are the ones who moved. We are the ones who have not applied His will to our lives. In short, we are at fault and we need to change. James makes this very clear.

James 4:7-8
Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

These 2 verses hold the key to a close relationship and discipleship with God. Since we have been given the gift of free will we must take the first steps toward God so He and pull us into Himself. To do this there are few things we need to consider as a class:

1. Submission to God's ways and will.
2. Resisting the temptations of the devil.
3. Taking action to become closer to God.
4. Allowing God to become closer to you.
5. Making sure your hands are clean by doing to will of God.
6. Having a pure and honest heart.
7. Being consistent even in your thoughts.

Each of these points are stepping stone on the path to being closer to God. Notice how 6 of the 7 are steps we must take! This does not minimize the role God's grace and mercy plays in our lives, but instead ensures we are interested and vested partners in our salvation.

It is a great feeling to know God wants us to be close to Him and that He is never far away. Luke gives us insight into God's desire for a relationship with us by letting us know He has put everything into place to make the path to Him easy.

Acts 17:26-27
26 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.

Notice these things about this passage:
1. God has removed the stipulation that you must be Jewish to be acceptable.
2. He placed each of us on the earth when and where was best for us the find Him.
3. If we search for Him, He isn't far away.

Finally, we must realize our relationship with God on earth is very important, but it is also very short. Our focus and goal should be to spend eternity in the presence of God the Father, God the Son and God the spirit in Heaven. As we fix our attention on this, the everyday cares of the world will, rightfully so, fade in comparison. I badly as we want to be saved and in paradise, God wants it more.

2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

He is patient and waiting for each of us to come to know Him better and wants us each to succeed in our journey to find Him, not just while we are on earth, but to receive the gift of His eternal reward.