First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday, January 23, 2022)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“Let’s Draw Near to God!”
Hosea 1812-13; James 4:7-10
Since the beginning of 2022, I have been delivering messages that aim to cultivate a spirit that seeks God earnestly, intentionally, and seriously. My goal for this New Year is help us as Christ’s followers to pursue more of God in our lives; to make more room for God in our ordinary days; to develop a mindset that would value and treasure our relationship with God and consider it the believers’ most valuable asset, the pearl with great value.
I chose, “Nearer My God to Thee”, as our Closing Hymn today. The story behind this hymn is amazing. “Nearer My God to Thee,” was written by two sisters. Sarah Flower Adams wrote the words and her sister, Eliza Flower, wrote the music. Sarah, the author of the words, was a British actress who enjoyed a successful career on the stage playing “Lady MacBeth” in Shakespearean 1837 drama. After health problems that disrupted her plans to continue with theater, Sarah retired from the stage. Not long thereafter, her sister, Eliza, came down with tuberculosis. Sarah, determined to nurse her, came down with the disease as well, and both died at a relatively young age.
This hymn acknowledges the possibility of suffering but refuses to allow it to have the last word. It says: “Even though it be a cross that raiseth me; Still all my song shall be, nearer my God to Thee.” The message of the hymn is that every experience, good or bad, can draw us nearer to God, who gives us comfort and strength. Bearing a cross brings us nearer to God. Darkness brings us nearer to God. Angels bring us nearer to God. Loneliness brings us nearer to God. Grief brings us nearer to God.
The things that the hymn mentions such as a cross, darkness, grief tend to be difficulties. Sometimes when life is good we tend to forget that we need God. It is the difficult times that reinforce our deep need for God’s grace—that do, indeed, bring us nearer to God. Two short observations that I would like to share this morning:
First: Everything Stands or Falls on Being Close to God
I truly believe that everything stands of falls on being near to God. Our minds are slow to understand the will of God because we are not close enough to hear His voice. Our lives don’t reflect the light of Christ because we are not close enough. New perspectives are gained when we draw near to God. New compassion is gained when we draw near to God. Life is transformed when we draw near to God.
In Christ, God drew so near to us. John 1:14 states, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” In Christ, God has invited us to approach His throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” Hebrews 4:16. Friends, I want you to know that this is a privilege that no one ever enjoyed under the Old Covenant. Only in Christ, we can approach God’s throne with confidence. Everything stands or falls on drawing near to God. This is like the Thermostat that regulates our actions and responses. Without being close to God, our lives will be a mess.
Second: Foster Some Activities that Bring you Nearer to God
Fostering a closer relationship with the Lord doesn’t happen in a vacuum. I want to be practical today and suggest some tangible things that each one of us can do to foster a greater relationship with our Lord. These suggestions go in two directions: worship and service. We get closer to God when we pay attention to worship life and our life of service.
We draw closer to God when we pray. Prayer is an open line of communication between us and God. Read your Bible. God speaks to us through His Word. This is how we know who God is and how He works. As we study the Bible, we understand God’s purpose for our lives. The life of service is of equal importance to the life of worship. Give the best of every part of your life to God — time, treasure, and talent. We have been blessed to be a blessing to others. The life of service is a response to the grace God has shown us.
Friends, let’s draw near to God in this New Year. This will definitely involve some work on our part. The prophet Hosea invites us today to “break our fallow ground, for it’s time to seek the Lord.” We need to plow up the hard ground of our heart. It’s time to till and to dig the ground of our lives. The longer we wait, the harder this ground gets.
May drawing near to God become the deepest desire of our hearts today. So whether we are on the top of the mountain or at the darkest valley, healthy or our health is falling apart, have much or got little, may we draw near to God. Asaph wrote these words in Psalm 73:27-28, “Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.” Let’s draw near to God, and He will draw near to us. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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