When Jesus Draws Near

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Night falls early this time of year. Where I live, right outside Nashville, Tennessee, sunset is 4:45. I drive home from work in near pitch blackness. I was recently driving the winding roads home and felt my heart was growing as cold as the night air. My awareness of God was not less, but my sense of reality with him felt like last year's jacket - hung up and forgotten. I had been doing churchy things in fleshly ways. I needed, as Francis Schaeffer says, to do the Lord's work in the Lord's way.

But how do you do the Lord's work in the Lord's way when God feels distant? How do you get back into the presence of a God whom you've talked about but not talked to?

My commute home takes me over the rolling hills of Middle Tennessee. As I ascend one hill and take the hard left on the descent, I feel the prompting of the Spirit. I don't have to wait to talk to God. There is no better place. There is no better time. Right now is a holy moment.

I pray. With a weak, undeserving voice, I confess my coldness to God. I confess that my desire to talk about him exceeds my desire to be with him. It has been this way for at least a month. I have prepared sermons, taught Hebrews, prayed with and for people, led discussions, organized systems and structures, and done it all in the power of my own strength. Whatever good came of any of it was a gift of grace from the Lord to those people who sat under me. I was not worthy of God's attention - not now. Not after I treated him as an object.

And yet, he listened. More than that, he drew me near to him. As my mouth confessed the true state of my heart, I did not feel condemnation sweep in. I felt grace. I felt love. I felt the refreshing air of the Spirit blowing where he will. And i realized where he wanted to blow was in my direction.

The Lord softened me. He reminded me of my worthiness and merit in Christ. He assured me that I am his, and he is mine. There is no distance between him and me because I've been united to Christ. I am in him, and in him I am never alone, never forgotten, never merely fleshly. I have the same Spirit living in me that rose Jesus from the grave. And I needed to be raised that night.

No one saw this moment. It came and went without fanfare. No one else was ever involved. But it was a real, holy moment - a divine breakthrough into this world. At 5:00 PM on a Thursday evening in Franklin, Tennessee on a back road hill, God broke into the world.

I felt peace that night, and I slept well. I woke up and taught Hebrews 2 to eight men in my small church plant. I met with a friend to answer questions about the Christian faith. And I realized in the midst of that morning of grace that Jesus cares about his people. He is the good shepherd.

I wonder, where will you be when Jesus draws near?