James 4:8a “Come near to God, and he will come near to you.”
I suppose that an invitation like this could sound scary, like being “invited” into the principal’s office at school. It’s not a place a student usually goes unless he’s in some kind of trouble. He knows it’s not going to be pleasant in there. When God invited Israel to gather around Mount Sinai to hear the 10 commandments, they were terrified by the smoke, the darkness, the lightning, and the booming voice of God. They were all too aware of their failure to keep the commandments the Lord was handing down.
But the invitation here is not like that. We can come near to God with confidence because we are living under his grace. The blood of Jesus opens up a way to God without fear because it cleanses us from our sins. When we come near to God, he comes rushing to us with his gifts, like the Father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son: “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him, and kissed him” (Luke 15:20).
When we come near to God in baptism, God comes near with his Spirit to cleanse our hearts and claim us as his own children. When we come near to God in the words of Scripture, preached or taught or read, God comes near in promises that give peace, and hope, and love, and faith, and courage, and power. When we come near to God in the Savior’s supper, God comes near in the same body and blood that redeemed us to say again that all is forgiven. There is no sin that keeps us part.
You know that a frightened child wants nothing more than to have its parent near. Lovers want nothing more than their beloved near. And penitent believers want nothing more than to have their Savior near. He always has good things for us in hand when he comes.