DAILY DEVOTION: The Nearness of Our God
In the 73rd Psalm, the psalmist Asaph expressed a struggle we all might feel at times. He questioned why the wicked seem to prosper while the righteous are chastened. The whole idea was troublesome until he entered the sanctuary of God. Once in the presence of God, Asaph realized his error. As he compared himself to the unbeliever, he saw that, apart from the influence of God, he had nothing in which to boast. He said,
“When my heart was embittered and I was pierced within, then I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast before You” (vv. 21-22).
Finally, his soul brightened as he considered that God alone was his salvation, and his relationship with God was his strength. He wrote,
“Nevertheless I am continually with You. … You will guide me, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. … God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (vv. 23-26).
The summary thought of Asaph’s revelation, and the point of this message, is in verse 28. He wrote, “But as for me, the nearness of God is my good.”
Let’s settle this truth once and for all: It is the nearness of God that produces our good. Christianity was never designed by God to be sustained by nice people trying to appear good. We’re not that good. We’re not that clever. And we’re not that nice. The only thing that can sustain true Christianity is true union with Jesus Christ. It is nearness to Him in all things that produces our spiritual fruit.
If we are honest, we will admit that, apart from the influence and work of God, there is nothing morally superior or remarkably virtuous about our lives. Our flesh has the same carnal passions as do people in the world; our soul carries within it the same insecurities and fears. Thus, apart from the influence of Christ in us, there’s no difference between Christians and non-Christians (except that Christians, when living separate from God’s presence, can be more obnoxious). It’s only our relationship with the Lord that keeps us from fulfilling the lusts and desires of the flesh, for apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:5).
Therefore, the strength of our walk does not originate from within ourselves; rather it comes from our relationship with Jesus Christ. Our virtue, if it can be defined as such, is that we have learned to prioritize seeking God; our character is the offspring of our oneness with Jesus. By this I mean, Jesus is not only first on our list of priorities; His influence rules over all our priorities. He inspires love in our relationships; His voice becomes the conviction in our integrity. God has made “Christ Jesus” to be to us
“wisdom … and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).
Thus, the God-seeker desires to find the Lord’s pleasure drawn to every aspect of his soul. He also knows that, should an area of his heart exist in isolation from God, he will remain vulnerable to manipulation by the enemy in that area. So let me underscore the psalmist’s truth, and let us say with our own voice of conviction: it is the nearness of our God that is our good.
Oh God, You are the lover of my soul. Faithfully, have You extended Your hands toward me. Yet, I have been, at times, a drifter and distant. Master, this day I acknowledge my most wonderful times are those spent close to You. When my heart is near to You, I am partaking of the nectar of life.