Closer to God is a goal for all Christians, but one that often seems elusive. I’m sure you’ve seen the snippet on the picture above on posters or in your church bulletin. Although you know that you are the one who caused the distance, this cliche doesn’t tell you how to fix it. 

Today we identify five practical steps to draw closer to God using James 4: 7-10, and an unlikely mentor named Zacchaeus.

WHO IS ZACCHAEUS? 

Zacchaeus  was a tax collector who collected taxes from the Jewish people for the Roman government. He also lined his pockets with stolen money. If anyone needed to be closer to God, it was this man!

Closer to God coins

Despite Zacchaeus’ corruption, he was curious about Jesus. After all, this man was the talk of the town. So, when he heard this miracle worker was passing through Jericho, he decided to head into town and check things out for himself. 

When he arrived a large crowd had already gathered, and being short, he was unable to see anything. Zacchaeus never allowed obstacles to stop him from achieving his goals, so he climbed a tree for a better view. 

Closer to God Tree

Nothing in the story indicates Zacchaeus did anything special to catch Jesus’ attention; however, Jesus sensed his presence and looking up in the tree told the man to come down. Zacchaeus promptly presented himself before the Lord and was shocked when Jesus invited Himself to the tax collector’s home. 

Of course, this riled the self-righteous gossipmongers, but Jesus didn’t pay any attention. A man was about to be drawn closer to God and his life will change now and for eternity.

FIVE STEPS THAT BROUGHT ZACCHAEUS CLOSER TO GOD. 

“Submit yourselves then, to God” (James 4:7a NIV). 

Closer to God Submit

Zacchaeus had reasons to stay in the tree: the crowd’s hate was palpable and mobbing him was not out of the question. However, when Jesus told him to come down he didn’t hesitate or make excuses. 

“Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7b). 

Surely Satan didn’t want Zacchaeus to get closer to God, therefore I believe he tried his best to keep him from Jericho that day. Perhaps he planted ideas in his head about staying away from the peasant crowds and counting his money that afternoon. Providing reasons to ignore God is Satan’s specialty. Don’t be fooled by his ploys. 

“Come near to God and He will come near to you” (James 4:8a). 

Zacchaeus showed up; Jesus took care of the rest. When Jesus invited himself to Zacchaeus’ home he made no excuses about the house being a mess or not wanting to inconvenience Jesus. Trying to hide your flaws is futile, God knows about them anyway.

 “Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn, and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom (James 4:8b, 9). 

Upon receiving forgiveness, Zacchaeus recognized his depravity, thus both his heart and behavior changed, consequently he made restitution to the people affected by his thievery. He gave the people four times the amount that he cheated them and half of his money to the poor. 

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 4:10). 

Closer to God Humble

Wealth and influence don’t impress Jesus, and Zacchaeus realized this when standing in God’s presence. No matter what your position, be humble, understanding everything is from God. 

SO HOW TO APPLY THESE FIVE “ZACCHAEUS” STEPS TO DRAW CLOSER TO GOD? 

Listen for God’s voice and obey.

Closer to God Humble

Zacchaeus obeyed God without hesitation by coming down from his perch. It was a lesson I learned during a tumultuous time in my life. The chaos drew me closer to God, thus I cried out to Him for help and healing. However, when He told me an unappealing truth, unlike Zacchaeus, I rejected His “suggestion.”

As it happens, ignoring God got me nowhere except in trouble and further from my Savior. You can read my story here. When God speaks, listen and follow the path He puts before you, even if it isn’t the path you want or assume is best.

Now, I know what many of you are thinking, I try to hear God, but He either isn’t speaking or I’m deaf.  I get it, I often struggle to hear God speak. Click on this blog post for ideas on how the fruit of the Holy Spirit can help us during our “hard of hearing” times, or is it selective hearing? 

Don’t listen to Satan’s lies. 

As mentioned above, I think Satan must have planted ideas in Zacchaeus’ head to stop him from seeking out Jesus. Satan never wants us closer to God because you never know what will happen!

Satan’s ploys in this area aren’t original, however, they are effective. He convinces you that you are already close to God. Or Satan tells us that God doesn’t care, can’t help, or worse won’t help us in our current situation.

He is also good at making a case for what God owes us; after all, we teach Sunday school, serve on church committees, work in the nursery, serve on mission trips, etc. Not only does God not owe us, moreover, He gives us more than we deserve. That’s what we call grace. 

During my divorce, I learned to quit blaming God and recognized that church work is not a vaccine against trials and troubles. 

Show up for appointments with God.

Zacchaeus understood that meeting God was the first step and he didn’t miss the opportunity to do so. 

Just like a marriage or friendship, we must get to know God and spend time with Him to stay close. If you stop talking to a friend or ignore your spouse, the nearness dies, and the kinship you felt no longer brings joy to your life. That is why Bible study, prayer, and meditation are imperative to maintain a satisfying, joyful, and authentic relationship with our Creator and Savior.

Furthermore, when you spend time with God don’t do all the talking. We all know annoying people that don’t allow us to get a word in edgewise, however, when we visit with God that is often how we act.

To draw closer to God, pray for sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s leading and know that God may speak through other people, Scripture, or even a whirlwind, earthquake, or sounds like thunder.  Be alert to hear His voice.

Ask God to bring our sin to light. 

Closer to God Bring sin to light

Why do you want to do that? I know, I feel better not confronting my sin too. However, neglecting to seek forgiveness for specific sins grieves the Holy Spirit and affects our relationship with God.

Surely Zacchaeus felt that way too. Can you imagine confessing all he had done to Jesus? However, can you imagine how free he felt that day?  

Pray these Psalms to prepare your heart for confession 6, 32, 51, 103, and 130. Other Scriptures to help recognize your sin include Luke 18: 8-14, Acts 3: 19-20, and 1 John 1:9. 

Like Zacchaeus, appreciate your forgiveness and let your actions reveal your changed heart.

Recognize you aren’t special. 

Despite his wealth and power as a tax collector, meeting Jesus face-to-face brought Zacchaeus to his knees. 

Realize that we’re not saved because we are the favorite child. God’s gracious love and mercy is the reason for our salvation.

God does not honor a proud spirit. All successful endeavors (even those attained by nonbelievers) are by the grace of God. Someday all people will know this is true. Be humble in any success, giving God all the glory. 

Closer to God Praise

Learning to follow these five steps helps me when God seems far away. They remind me that the cliche is true – it is me that moved. Honestly, God is never far. The distance we feel is a state of mind, not reality. 

COMMENTS AND ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

If you want to learn more about Zacchaeus click here for an article about this complicated man. The Bible documents his story in Luke 19: 1-10.  

Additionally, if you have any ideas on how to draw closer to God, please share your thoughts in the comment section below. You may help a sister-in-Christ draw closer to her Lord and Savior. 

Blessings until next time.