In nearly every sport, close doesn’t count. It does no good to say, 'I almost made that goal,' or 'We almost won,' when you didn’t. A miss is a miss. A loss is a loss. Close doesn’t count. This is also true when it comes to entering the kingdom of God. 'I’m almost in,' or 'I think I’m in' are no consolation. You’re either in or you’re not. In is in. Out is out. Close doesn’t count. Think of what that means when Jesus tells an expert religious teacher, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." Wait...this expert wasn’t in? This had to have startled him as well as others on the scene. Some would think, 'If this religious leader isn’t in, who is?' Others likely thought, 'Who is Jesus to determine who’s in and who isn’t?' Still others would wonder why he wasn’t in since the man just agreed with Jesus when He stated that the most important commandment is "Love the Lord your God with all your heart" and "Love your neighbor as yourself." (Mark 12:28-34)
Does God have all of your heart? You are not in the kingdom of God merely by agreeing with Jesus about the commandments; God demands obedience. You are not in if you think the obedience God expects and deserves is attainable, especially when we are so often guilty of loving ourselves above God and our fellowman. You are not in if you fail to see your helplessness to enter by anything you can do, offer, or give. It was essential for the expert to see he needed more than a clarification of the commandments; He needed a Savior, a divine rescue. So do you and I. Please take this to heart: If you think you are in the kingdom of God because you are a good person or because you haven’t done anything too bad, you are not in. Close doesn’t count. Good isn’t good enough. God only accepts wholehearted, perfect love from you. But take heart, for the One who clarified the Law perfectly is the One who lived the Law perfectly, and He did so for you, to offer up His life as the perfect sacrifice that cleanses you from all sin. Close doesn’t count, but WHAT JESUS DID COUNTS FOR YOU. Through faith in Him, His perfect life counts as your perfect life. Through faith in Jesus, you are IN - you are in the kingdom of God!
Come visit us at CHRIST OUR REDEEMER for more of this message of God's grace!
Christ Our Redeemer Lutheran Church
Daniel is the Staff Minister at Christ Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, El Paso TX.