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« Don’t Abandon Baptism | Main | Five Accomplishments of the Blood of Jesus Christ »

Ballpark Religion

“Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.” Mark 12:34. 

WOULD YOU RATHER BE CLOSE or “right on the mark?”  My dad used to say, “Close only matters in horseshoes and hand grenades.”  Mathematics and physics are not kind to closeness.  Chemists obsess on specificity.  Quality control inspectors measure closeness with micrometers.  Who wants a brain surgeon to almost nail a frontal lobotomy?  Or, a 747-jet pilot who comes close to landing on the runway?  In vital issues where exactitude cannot be fudged, being in the ballpark doesn’t cut it.  I know, I know.  “Nobody’s perfect.”  It seems to me that that excuse justifies loopholes more often than it expresses humility.  If it doesn’t work for brain surgeries or aircraft landings, to be dismissive of orthodoxy in doctrine is flat out wrong.  In eternal matters, we cannot afford to settle for closeness.  

This scribe in question seemed to be thinking the right way.  He confessed that there was one God.  He declared that we must love God.  He believed that loving God was greater than outward ceremonies and religious show.  You have to dig a little deeper, however, to locate the controversial core of this exchange between Jesus and the questioning scribe.  Jesus discerned some equivocation or self-affirmation in the man’s statement.  Jesus’ answer was not evasive, but it was cryptic.  He simply said, “You’re close.”  He didn’t denounce the man.  But, neither did He say, “That’s it!  You’ve got it!”  Jesus combined encouragement with warning: “You’re not far!”  Now, the man simply needed to make the final connection.  Evidently, the Master struck a nerve because the man asked no more questions. 

Cornelius discovered that devotion was not enough.  He was a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always.” Acts 10:2. But close didn’t cut it.  God’s angel told him, “Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God. Now send men to Joppa, and send for Simon … He will tell you what you must do.” Acts 10:4-6.  In Athens, the Apostle Paul told the worshipers of the “unknown god” that religion wasn’t enough. (Acts 17:22-23.)  In Ephesus, Aquila and Priscilla encountered Apollos.  When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” Acts 18:26. 

“Not far from the Kingdom.”  “Not far” describes the thickness of glass between the space shuttle and nothingness of space; between a submarine and millions of tons of crushing water; between the glass observatory platform jutting out from the rim of the Grand Canyon and a fatal plunge to the canyon floor, 2000 feet below.  

In the pursuit of God, the greatest tragedy is not the many who aren’t close enough to hear His voice; it is the few who actually consider it, analyze it, evaluate it, compare it, critique it—and then do nothing about it.  The final distance between you and an altar of repentance is the hardest piece of real estate to conquer.  The final surrender, the final confession, the final expression of faith, the final act of obedience, the final embracing of truth presents the greatest challenge.  The scribe preferred playing politics with truth.  He was so close that he knew he didn’t have an excuse, yet he still had no intention to truly accept Christ.  What is the will of God for you?  Whatever the cost, do it.  You will not be just in the ballpark.  You will cross home plate.

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