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Discern Your Conflicts of Interest

“Draw nigh to God and he will draw nigh to you.”  James 4:8 

Getting close to God sounds so simple.  It’s like standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon and drinking in the vast panorama of copper, clay and sand-toned artistry, compliments of Creative Landscaping, Inc.  Or, like feeling the moist, pre-dawn air in your face as you slowly penetrate the rising mist and head toward yesterday’s prime fishing spot.  Aren’t those the times when we get closest to God?  Not really.  It’s much more brutal than that. 

David said, “But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.”  Psalm 73:28. When we are close to God, we feel better.  When we are close to God, we obtain his blessings.  When we are close to God, He soothes our feelings, He cleanses us from sin, He brings peace to our lives.  Close is good.  Close is also costly.  Each step that draws you closer to God makes you forego alternative choices.  This is where conflict of interest comes in.  An age-old law states that you cannot have stock in a business if you hold a public office that exerts control over the business.  The temptation to shape legislation for personal benefit cannot be risked.  Umpires and judges must step aside from situations involving a relative.  The principle of conflict of interest applies in every case.  

God’s standards for getting close to him have to do with eliminating the competition, not exhilarating feelings, enjoyment of nature or aesthetic appreciation.  He doesn’t ask if you like him, enjoy him, feel good about him, respect or honor him.  What God wants to know is if you love only him, and he won’t take your word for it—He judges your credibility for himself.  You have to cut off all competition.  Once you begin to give up things supremely significant to your flesh, God pays attention. 

Abraham found the secret.  “Take your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go into the land of Moriah to offer him there for a burnt offering.”  Genesis 22:1-2.  God forced a brutal, horrific choice upon Abraham.  His request seemed cruel, even despotic, but Abraham complied.  He journeyed to Moriah, built an altar, bound Isaac and lifted the knife to plunge it into his son’s chest.  Only then did God stop him and provided a ram for the sacrifice.  He brooked no conflict of interest in Abraham’s relationship with him. “But the Angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ So, he said, ‘Here I am.’ And He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.’”  Genesis 22:11-12. When Abraham drew nigh to God through the divestiture of his conflicts of interest, God drew nigh to Abraham.  

Stated another way, God’s presence in your life is inversely proportional to the status of all other interests you possess.  Less of you means more of him.  Don’t measure closeness to God by seeking a mystical, divine ambience in the sanctuary.  Don’t confuse it with the resonating chords of a worship chorus.  Don’t even mistake a dynamic and anointed service with your personal closeness to God.  Only when you set aside any cherished possessions and relationships that displace God’s priorities in your life, does God draw nigh.  

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