Close, Really Close!

 

What an interesting conversation! It followed the confrontational exchanges with the Pharisees, Herodians, and Sadducees, who were trying to catch Jesus in something He said. (See: Mark 12:28-34.) One of the scribes, (also a Pharisee, according to Matthew’s account) who knew Jesus answered them well asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

The Lord affirmed the most important commandment is to love God with every fiber of ones being—all your heart…soul…mind…and…strength. Jesus added the second is to “love your neighbor as yourself.” He concluded, “There is no commandment greater than these.”

The scribe gave Jesus’ answer high marks. That always cracks me up: the scribe gave JESUS high marks! Additionally, he noted these are “more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that the scribe answered with understanding He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

Do you know anyone who, like this scribe, is not far from the kingdom? Clearly, Jesus was not speaking of where the scribe was standing, though he was, in fact, standing close to the King. Jesus observed that the condition of this man’s heart made him close to understanding and acknowledging God’s sovereignty in his life. Don’t we all know people who are close, really close? How should we relate to these precious souls? From Jesus, we learn many things in this regard.

First, notice Jesus showed interest. Those who are close to the kingdom need encouragement. Remembering the Parable of the Sower, we realize that Satan’s desire is to snatch the sprouting seed of God’s Word from the seeker’s heart. This underscores the urgency. By showing interest—staying close to kingdom-seekers—we help them stay close to the kingdom.

Second, Jesus responded to the scribe’s question with a clear, concise and Scriptural answer. Jesus was not always so straight forward in answering questions. Yes, Jesus was able to discern that this man had “ears to hear” His message. This greatly influenced how He replied. We do not have this ability. Nor do we have all of the answers. Indeed, we cannot know everything, but we must be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks us a reason for the hope that is in us. (See: 1 Peter 3:15.) And, people will ask! When it comes to satisfying the thirst of those who are seeking living water, only the pure gospel of Jesus Christ will suffice!

Third, Jesus was unequivocal in telling this teacher of the law exactly where he stood. Again, Jesus’ ability to know the man’s heart put Him at a special advantage. We do not have this capacity. What we can do is point people to Jesus, who is the way, truth and life (John 14:6). What we can do is share the good news, concerning the riches of God’s grace, which are made available to all who believe (Ephesians 2:1-10). What we can do is just what Jesus did when He talked with another person who was quite obviously close to the kingdom. We can tell people exactly what Jesus told Nicodemus. An inspired account (John 3:1-6) of the encounter follows:

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him."

Jesus replied, "Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again."

"How can anyone be born when they are old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother's womb to be born!"

Jesus answered, "Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.

 

To speak so forthrightly about spiritual things is not easy. We need to be sure that our sole interest is the spiritual welfare of those with whom we converse. Still, we must, if we are to be like Jesus, tell of God’s mercy and grace with joy in our hearts, as well as with a clarion voice.

Let us, therefore, do our best to seek out those who are close to the kingdom. Let us welcome the opportunity to engage in spiritual conversations and develop redemptive relationships. Let us show interest in them and share the reason for our hope with them. Let us, also, lovingly and compassionately talk with them about God’s deep and abiding love for every soul on this planet, including them. And, let us eagerly encourage them to step out in faith and make their entrance into the kingdom of God. In doing this we will be walking in the steps of Jesus, leading those who are close to the kingdom into a kingdom-relationship with God.

 

© Bill Williams

June 7, 2006

 

About a fellow sojourner

a sojourner in life, trying to follow in the steps of Jesus.
This entry was posted in Blogroll, Christian Living, Christianity, Church, Discipleship Training, Evangelism, Following Jesus, Life, Religion, Spirituality & Religion. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Close, Really Close!

  1. Mike Ratliff says:

    Well done Bill. Our discernment is limited isn’t it? God did not give us the ability to know who “has ears to hear” therefore we must give the gospel to all. We must preach it with our lives. We must always be ready to give an account of the wonderful work God has done in our hearts. It is the Holy Spirit who makes up for what we lack. He knows who “has ears to hear” and those who don’t. He is the one who makes our Gospel presentations effectual. I like this very much because the burden of salvation is not ours. It is God’s Ours is the burden of Evangalizing. Even in is this we need God’s hand on us for apart for Jesus we can do nothing.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  2. Daniel says:

    Amen, as iron sharpens iron, so man sharpens each other. Christian faith is a community based faith and therefore, as much as Christ has shown us His Love, we ought to share that love to each other! 🙂

  3. Thanks for stopping by, Daniel! Blessings to you and yours, -bill

  4. Thanks for underscoring the role of the Holy Spirit, Mike! I appreciate your comments. Blessings to you and yours, -bill

  5. Deb says:

    ‘Do you know anyone who, like this scribe, is not far from the kingdom?’

    That visiting vicar! 🙂

    In all fairness, the vicar — now a canon with the diocese who used to be the rector at our church years ago — was asking in an engaging and interactive way some great questions he thought that most of the people in the congregation could answer. I think he was just so stunned to realise, during the process, how little biblical knowledge the kids/adults knew. He was probably also a bit disappointed to observe that he would not be able to go much deeper spiritually with them in the course of his sermon — which I now reflect that he had to greatly amend on the spot!

    Conversing about spiritual matters is a very private issue here. In the US, especially the South and Southwest (Bible Belt), conversations centered on spirituality amongst most church goers is easier and flows more naturally. How it is handled there is very off-putting to church folks here.

    ‘Let us welcome the opportunity to engage in spiritual conversations and develop redemptive relationships.’

    One must invest a lot of time and energy into establishing a genuine, daily friendship with others before they reward you entrance into their more private inner sanctum of spiritual self. The term ‘redemptive relationships’ does not resonate here. It does with me, because I am American. It would probably, as a phrase to use, be considered as a concept within a circle of more mature Christians here in the community where we live. And within the assigned scope of an authorised ministry team, it fits a lot more neatly.

    Sure wish I could discern the cultural ‘approaches’ as keenly as Jesus!

    Thanks, for this excellent post.

  6. Deb says:

    ‘Do you know anyone who, like this scribe, is not far from the kingdom?’

    That visiting vicar! 🙂

    In all fairness, the vicar — now a canon with the diocese who used to be the rector at our church years ago — was asking in an engaging and interactive way some great questions he thought that most of the people in the congregation could answer. I think he was just so stunned to realise, during the process, how little biblical knowledge the kids/adults knew. He was probably also a bit disappointed to observe that he would not be able to go much deeper spiritually with them in the course of his sermon — which I now reflect that he had to greatly amend on the spot!

    Conversing about spiritual matters is a very private issue here. In the US, especially the South and Southwest (Bible Belt), conversations centred on spirituality amongst most churchgoers is easier and flows more naturally. How it is handled there is very off-putting to church folks here.

    ‘Let us welcome the opportunity to engage in spiritual conversations and develop redemptive relationships.’

    One must invest a lot of time and energy into establishing a genuine, daily friendship with others before they reward you entrance into their more private inner sanctum of spiritual self. The term ‘redemptive relationships’ does not resonate here. It does with me, because I am American. It would probably, as a phrase to use, be considered as a concept within a circle of more mature Christians here in the community where we live. And within the assigned scope of an authorised ministry team, it fits a lot more neatly.

    Sure wish I could discern the cultural ‘approaches’ as keenly as Jesus!

    Thanks, for this excellent post.

  7. Thanks for these observations, Deb. Your insights regarding the now nearly infamous visiting vicar are interesting…people with basic Bible knowledge are a vanishing breed–this is true on this side of the Atlantic, also. But, you are probably aware of this.

    I’m wondering if there is any correlation between the decline in biblical literacy and the comfort level others have in engaging in spiritual conversations. Example: I have a relatively new friend, whom I have known for just a few months, who is intimidated by what he perceives as everyone’s rocket-scientist-like knowledge of the Bible. We’ve spent quite a bit of time discussing what it means to be a disciple. He has become comfortable in the knowledge that we are all apprentices of Christ.

  8. ruminatingpilgrim says:

    That’s an interesting point Bill (re: biblical literacy). I suspect you might be correct. I would also suggest that people in the Church appear to have more knowledge than they actually have. It sounds like a condemnig statement, but i don’t mean it to be. The point is that we tend to give the impression that we’re good enough in knowldge the Bible so as to fit in with the crowd at church. That works well on Sundays, but it gives a bad impression to those, like your friend, who are close to the Kingdom, but are intimidated for one reason or another.

  9. Greg England says:

    Some of my most sobering moments in life and ministry are those moments when I realize that I’m further from the King and the kingdom than I realized. We can get caught up in a lot of religious ritual and church programs and be far from the heart of God … thinking all the time, perhaps, that surely we are seated at either the right or left hand of the Father. Those are sobering moments. You gave us much to think about in this post.

  10. RP: Seems to me like your observation is correct. It doesn’t sound condemning, either. It’s something we must keep in mind. Example: I’ve been teaching adult Bible classes for about 30 years. I developed the habit of covering some of the familiar narratives with a quick summary and an even quicker “well, you know the rest”. Several people, including folks who are older in the faith than me, have told me that they really don’t know the rest of the story. So, I’ve slowed down some and try to cover less material in a more thorough manner. It’s a learn-as-you-go world!

    Greg: Yes. We’ve walked the same pathway…probably even preached the same sermons…cried over the same failings and frustrations…and, now, we rejoice together in the fact that the God of all grace loves us still!

  11. Jennifer says:

    I have been a follower of the Christ for many, many years. However, the closer I get to Him and the more I know of Him, the more I realize just how far from Him I really am. I think that is normal. How can we, finite beings, even come close to beginning to understand all the mysteries of our Lord. Now, that doesn’t give us excuse to just throw our hands up and say, “Well, if I can’t know everything then I don’t want to know anything.” If anything, it should be an enticement for us to know more and more and more of Him….to be like Enoch who walked with God. Wouldn’t that be amazing? To walk with God. Wow.

  12. Yes, Jennifer, yes!!!

  13. I appreciate you stopping by my Stoned Campbell Disciple blog and making some very kind comments. I am delighted to get to know you and will be reading your blog too.

    Shalom,
    Bobby Valentine

  14. Thanks for stopping by, Bobby. Your blog is fantastic! Your insights are a blessing to many. -bill

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