Worship is about drawing near to God. There are no rigid formulas that can get you close to God if your heart clings to sin. If you humbly repent of your sins, however, no mere formula can keep God away.
James added, “Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8). Of course, hand-cleaning is worthless without a contrite heart. Ask Pilate. In calling for purity of heart, James surely knew that Jesus blessed the pure in heart saying, “for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)
Encountering God makes it impossible to cherish your sins. It produces repentance. If there’s no repentance, it wasn’t God. No exceptions! Repentance is the painfully honest clarity of heart that forever prevents self-trust and turns our trust toward God for the next step forward… and the next… and so on.
God listens to our repentance but turns away from self-righteous pride. Psalm 66, a call to worship, offers seekers the best advice passible: “Cherish the sin in your heart and God will not listen.” (Psalm 66:18, NIV).
The good news is that you have a choice. The bad news is that seductive and selfish distractions can keep us too double-minded to choose well.
When we repent, God draws near. The closer He gets, the more we see His holiness. This keeps us humble, which keeps God coming. To quote a Texan pastor named Matt Chandler, “When you see God for who He is, sin loses its beauty.” In fact, encountering God transforms our entire notion of beauty.
So how do we choose well? God’s word draws repentant sinners straight to baptism—dying with Jesus in a water grave for the forgiveness of our sins and rising with Him to a new Spirit-filled life in His kingdom.
Let’s hear from three men who saw the risen Jesus:
- When Peter met Jesus, he fell down at His feet and said, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8). He experienced deep repentance and full forgiveness. We can too! Peter affirmed that God is “patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9).
- Paul believed that “the kindness of God leads you to repentance.” (Romans 2:4). He affirmed God’s desire for “all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4). What truth? Paul continued, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all…” (1 Timothy 2:5-6). So, what does Jesus mediate?
- Forgiveness! The apostle John said, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9). John described Jesus’ mission simply: “He appeared in order to take away sins.” (1 John 3:5).
So, there’s your part: “Draw near to God…” and there’s God’s part: “He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8). That’s an astounding promise from a responsive God. Every shed of hope in my sinful soul hangs on the conviction that God forgives repentant sinners.