I recently started reading the book of Isaiah this week. Isaiah is one of those profound books where we get to see both sides of God- the loving father, and the wrathful judge. It can also be a book that’s hard to understand but with the help of the Holy Spirit and the hundreds of commentaries online, you can make headway into this book.
The first chapter of Isaiah got me thinking about how we can start growing closer to God. In these first verses, God is angry at the people of Israel. He is reminding them of their sin, and showing them the consequences that have followed them. Their land is barren, their cities burned to the ground and not one of them is sound. NRSV puts it this way- the whole head is sick, and the heart is faint.” (Showing how the lives of the Israelites at this time are entrenched in sins)
God, through Isaiah, tells the Israelites that he will no longer accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices. He is tired of them shedding sacrificial blood for nothing. He ascertains that he will no longer listen but turn his ears away when they pray. He tells them how full of blood their hands are, and how he will hide his presence from them.
But then, God loves the people of Israel. From the days of old, he has forgiven their iniquities and given them countless other chances to right their wrongs. Even now, God is providing a way out for them
What role does repentance play when growing closer to God?
As we have already established, growing closer to God is not possible if we are still living in sin. Until we offer true repentance, God will not hear our pleas, and he will continue to hide his eyes from us.
First, we have to learn to see through spiritual eyes
Jesus said that no one had to be a witness for man, for he himself knew what was in man. (Our default nature is to be evil and rebellious of all that is true.) If we try to uncover our iniquities in human eyes, we will come up short. First, because we do not like to paint ourselves in a negative light, and two, because we do not fully understand God’s holy nature.
Hence, we need to seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance to uncover the unlovely sins that God hates in our lives. When dealing with any issue, even repentance, recognizing the problem is always the first step.
Next, we have to seek forgiveness from the almighty
God rejected the Israelites’ sacrifices because they were still entrenched in sin. God was tired of their assemblies and the meaningless prayers they offered while they were still sinners.
If we are to grow closer to God, we need to plead and seek his forgiveness. It all starts with presenting ourselves before him, and in David’s words, letting him search our hearts for evil desires. (Psalms 139 23:24)
Repentance is being deeply convicted of one’s sin, taking it to the cross of Jesus, and being intentional about letting God write his new covenant in our hearts. (Jeremiah 31:33)
It’s a raw process where you have to be honest with God, while still surrendering your life to him.
How to grow closer to God by seeking his will
Seeking God is a lifelong mission. It’s being intentional about the small things that add up. If you want to grow closer to God, you need to know his will, and it’s only possible by getting into his word, praying ceaselessly, and pursuing his commands.
Now come let us reason together
Finally, after allowing him to search our hearts and seeking his forgiveness, we are invited to a deeper relationship with God. He promises to restore us, listen to our prayers, and accept our sacrifices.
If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land, but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken. ( Isaiah 1:19-20)
Growing closer to God is possible. But it has one condition- Repentance. There is no way around it. It’s God’s condition for experiencing his promises, his blessings, and the eternal kingdom he promised believers.