Is it possible for a Christian to get closer to God? No. Yet, if you listen to some people, you would never know that. Look at the titles of these articles I recently read. “12 Steps to Get Closer to God” and “10 Ways to Get Closer to God”. If we add those together, we need to do 22 things to get closer to God! I’m tired already! How about you?
This kind of thinking is based on a faulty understanding of the gospel. The real good news is that we who believe in Jesus Christ are as close to God as we are ever going to get, both in this life and the one to come. Why? Because we are united to Christ. He lives in us and we live in Him. You cannot get any closer to God than that! For example, Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Also, the letter to the Ephesians mentions that we are in Christ over 30 times just to mention a few.
Some may wonder about James 4:8 which says, “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” In the early church, some who believed in Jesus as their Savior, especially Jewish people, were taught that they also needed to commit themselves to believing in the law if they wanted to truly be saved. Salvation was Jesus plus the law. James appears to be addressing these who were in church but who were not appearing as genuine Christians because of the false gospel they believed. So, he calls them double-minded and sinners. His exhortation to come near to God is an invitation to become a Christian. The Bible never tells Christians to come near or to get closer to God.
We can certainly feel closer to God at times, but that is not an indication of whether we are close to God. During those times of feeling closer to God, we are experiencing our union with Jesus Christ in a more tangible way than we do on other days. You might ask, “Is there a way for us to experience more of our closeness to God?” Yes! It’s much like our human relationships in that the more communication and time we spend with another person, it makes us feel closer to that person. However, if we don’t have the foundation of understanding and believing that we are already as close to God as we will ever be through our union with Him, these ways tend to become legalistic.
These are often called the “spiritual disciplines”. I don’t like that designation because I can’t imagine calling the times I spend and communicate with my wife the “marriage disciplines”. Yet, there is no doubt we sometimes (not always) feel closer to God through prayer, reading, memorizing, meditating in the Bible, fasting, etc. When we desire to do these, it gives us the opportunity to gaze upon the Lover of our soul. I personally love reading my Bible and praying every day. I will also confess to you that every time I get ready to read my Bible, I am tempted to watch television or read a magazine. I’ve come to realize this is just a temptation to try and stop me from my times of intimacy with my God.
Believe that because you are united with Jesus Christ, you can never get closer to God. And to experience more of that closeness, be creative in how you spend time and communicate with Him. There is not a right time or right way to do this. It is as unique as God has designed us.