8th June 2023

  John Piper reflects on


Let Us Draw Near to God

One of the passages of scripture that has had the greatest impact
on me in recent weeks is Romans 10:1-2

What struck me here is that it is possible to have a zeal for God
and be lost.
So they are not saved. Why?
What's wrong with their zeal?
And Paul answers: It is not according to knowledge.
True knowledge is necessary for salvation.

Now zeal - the passion of the heart for God - is important.
Jesus said to love God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind
But without knowledge it does not lead to salvation.

Now here is the relevance of this thought.
In these verses there is one main, straightforward command, namely,
"Draw near!"

He has one simple, deep, high, holy, happy, seemingly impossible goal
for us Draw near.
To what?

Well, it is not hard to find out, since this is a favourite word for this writer.
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.

But concerning Israel he says,
"All day long I held out my hands to welcome a disobedient and rebellious people."

The great aim of this writer is that we get near God,
that we have fellowship with him, that we not settle for a Christian life
at a distance from God, that God not be a distant thought,
but a near and present reality.

This drawing near is not a physical act.
It's not building, a tower of Babel, to get to heaven.
It's not necessarily going to a church building.
It is an invisible act of the heart.

You can do it while standing absolutely still, or
while sitting in a pew listening to a sermon.
Drawing near is not moving from one place to another.

It is a directing of the heart into the presence of God who is
as near as the door of faith. He is commanding us to come.
To approach him. To draw near to him.

In fact, 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 God
without being consumed in our sin by his holiness.

The way to God is new:
it is not the old covenant way with dead animals and priests who die
and have to be replaced.

It is a living way, with one sacrifice and one priest: Jesus.
And he is alive and he intercedes for you.
Since this is true, draw near to God.

He says to do it "with a sincere heart, in full assurance of faith."
This is the zeal he wants us to have: as we come to God,
come with full assurance of faith, come with "confidence" or "boldness."

Your heart is sprinkled clean from an evil conscience,
and your baptism was the sign of it.
The blood of Jesus so completely covers our sin and removes our guilt
that the conscience can rest at peace.

The old Puritans called this drawing near "communion with God."
We need to learn from them.
With them, communion with God was a great thing.

They were concerned about communion with God in a way we are not.
The measure of our unconcern is the little that we say about it.

When Christians meet, they talk to each other about their Christian work
and Christian interests, their Christian acquaintances,
the state of the churches, and the problems of theology -
but rarely of their daily experience of God.

According to Packer the greatest of the Puritans was John Owen.
Owen's experience of communion with God is a great example for us.
God saw to it that Owen, and the suffering Puritans of his day,
lived closer to God and sought after communion with God
more earnestly than we.

Writing a letter during an illness in 1674 he said to a friend,
"Christ is our best friend, and ere long will be our only friend.
I pray God with all my heart that I may be weary of everything else
but converse and communion with Him."

One of his greatest achievements was his seven-volume commentary on
Hebrews. When he finished it near the end of his life, he said,
"Now my work is done: it is time for me to die."

How did he do it?
We get a glimpse from the preface:
I must now say, that, after all my searching and reading,
prayer and assiduous meditation have been my only resort,
and by far the most useful means of light and assistance.
By these have my thoughts been freed from many an entanglement."

Thus Owen drew near to God by prayer and meditation and
found light and freedom.

In this way, his was a zeal to draw near that accords with knowledge.

With this knowledge and zeal let us draw near day by day and hour by hour.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary.
For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God:
Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently
Come, Lord Jesus.