You have your Bibles with you today.
I'd like to ask you to turn with me if you would to Mark Chapter 12 and we would be looking at verses 28 through 34. The Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.
And the scribe said to him, You are right, teacher. You have truly said that he is one and there is no other beside him. And to love him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the strength, to love one's neighbor as oneself, is much more than all burnt sacrifices and offerings. When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, You are not far from the kingdom.
And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions. Bow with me as we go to our Lord in prayer. Heavenly Father, as we come before you today, we have many that we need to lift up to you that are going through physical trauma and just horrible illnesses. We pray for John Henson, who had a massive heart, a massive stroke and is in ICU right now and is suffering greatly.
We pray, Father, that you might have mercy on him and spare his life if that be your will. Pray for Libby Oldham, who got sick this morning and seems to be struggling with vertigo. And we would ask, Father, that you minister to her and help her to recover quickly. For Kitty Clay and Jim Belk, as they have continued to suffer and need your touch, just need you to help them with the pain that they are experiencing and the weakness that you would give them strength and healing. Pray for Bruce Knothorff, as he has had a hip replacement this week, and ask, Father, that you be with him and help him to recover completely. And his wife, Denise, who is going to have to have some stents put in, we pray that you get her prepared for that and the stents will do their intended work. Father, we pray for Stephanie Hall, who is a friend of our neighbors, Dean and Theresa Naylor.
And she's just discovered that she has stage care for cancer. We would ask, Father, that you minister to her and help her through this difficult time. Heavenly Father, as I studied this passage this week, I was reminded of how easy it is for us to be deceived and to trusting in our works and our goodness for salvation. In this passage, we look at a scribe who knew the Bible, who taught theology, was known by his people as a true man of God, but Jesus told him he was not far from the kingdom. That meant that he was not in the kingdom.
We are not told of what his response was to Jesus. Perhaps his silence meant brokenness and repentance and trust in God. I pray this morning that the individuals in Grace Church might be enlightened and unsatisfied with being not far from the kingdom. May we experience genuine brokenness that leads to true trust and repentance, for it is in the precious and holy name of Jesus that we pray. Amen.
You may be seated. John Wesley was born in 1703. He was the 15th child of Samuel and Susanna Wesley. He was raised in a very godly environment. He was educated at Oxford. He became a professor of Greek and logic.
He was ordained at age 25 as a priest in the Anglican Church. He joined a club at Oxford called the Holy Club, led by his brother, Charles. And at least once a week, they gathered together for a prayer and for study of the Greek New Testament. He set aside an hour every single day for prayer and reflection. He fasted twice a week. He took over the Lord's Supper at least once a week. He went to the prisons and visited with them. He went to help out the sick and the weak. If you were there during that time in his life and somebody would ask you, is this man a true Christian?
You would have not doubted it whatsoever and you would have been dead wrong. In 1735, he was called to be a missionary to the United States to go and do mission work among the American Indians. In Georgia, it was an absolute fiasco. Everything went wrong. He was a complete failure.
There was one conflict after another, after another, after another. Everything went wrong and he went back home after just about dying of a disease, completely deflated, doubting his Christianity completely. When he got back home, he wrote a statement. He said, I went to America to convert the Indians, but oh, who's going to convert me? Here was a man who came to realize that his heart was extremely wicked and filled with waywardness and he needed the salvation that only Christ could give. While he was on the boat back to England, he met with a small group of German Moravian Christians and he was extremely impressed with their simple faith. Now I want to share with you what Kent Hughes had to say about John Wesley's conversion.
Listen carefully. On the morning of May 24, 1738, something happened that Wesley would never forget. He opened his Bible haphazardly and his eyes fell on the text in Mark chapter 12, verse 34. You are not far from the kingdom of God. Wesley said that the words reassured him and well they should because before he went to bed that night, he crossed the invisible line into the kingdom of God. This text was to become Wesley's life verse, a reminder of the shape of his life for the first 35 years of his existence.
You are not far from the kingdom of God. Beautifully, not only the verse, but it's setting the Lord conversing with a scribe, a lost clergyman of the house of Israel, bears remarkable parallels to Wesley's own lostness. Both were clergymen. Both were highly educated. Both were Bible scholars who knew the Scriptures inside and out. Both were confronted with Christ who said to both, you are not far from the kingdom of God. With that, I want to get into the text.
The background is this. The religious leaders are furious at Jesus. Number one, because he had cleansed the temple and that cost them a great deal of money and it also publicly humiliated them and just to be honest, they wanted him dead. The Sadducees thought that they could just stump him with a great question that they had on the resurrection and Jesus just blew that question away and then said to them, this is your problem.
You don't know the Scripture and you don't know the power of God. Jesus also dealt with a political issue that the Pharisees brought up to him on the subject of taxes and he answered with such wisdom, with such godliness that the Scripture says that the people marveled at him. Jesus said to them, bring me a coin. They brought him a coin.
He showed it to them. He said, now tell me whose inscription is on the coin. And they said, Caesar's. Then he said, render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's.
Here's a real question. As Eugene Oldham stated the night that I preached on that sermon about render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, Eugene made this statement. He said, whose inscription is on you? Are you in the kingdom of God? Are you in the kingdom of this world? Which kingdom are you in?
If you're in a situation where you're just not far from the kingdom, then you can't say what you need to say. And that is this, that my citizenship is in heaven. This world is not my home.
I'm just passing through. I don't know about you, brothers and sisters, but that's what I want to say. I want to know that my citizenship is in heaven. I want to know that I belong to Jesus and this world is one in which I'm just passing through. I got four points that I want to share with you.
Point one is the approach. Look at the first part of verse 28. One of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another and seeing that he answered them well. So the Sadducees had not just been embarrassed by Jesus proving that they were not right concerning this doctrine of the resurrection. And they blew him away with that, so they're embarrassed about that, but Jesus goes on to let them know that one day, because there is going to be a resurrection, they will stand before Almighty God and they will give an account for their life. Well, the Pharisees agreed with Jesus in what he said about the resurrection, but they were jealous of his popularity and so they wanted to argue.
But one scribe who heard the other Pharisees running off at the mouth seemed to have a totally different attitude than they had. When Jesus answered and was answering these questions, he looked at Jesus and he saw godliness and he saw just unbelievable wisdom and knowledge. Scripture says that he saw that Jesus answered them well. His approach was not condemning.
His approach was very humble. He saw wisdom in Christ and legitimately wanted just to tap in to that wisdom. The vast majority of scribes and Pharisees at that point in time I think were just trying to trap Jesus, but what about this guy? What about this scribe? What were his intentions?
That takes us to point two and that is the question. Look at second part of verse 28. So he asked Jesus which commandment is the most important of all.
Scholars are not agreed on this scribe's intentions. Some believe that he was trying to trick Jesus into giving an answer that would be opposed to what Moses said in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, and that very well may be what most of the scribes and the religious leaders were wanting. Here Moses was the most important character in all the scriptures, the one who they felt like was closest to God than anybody else, and they wanted to make Jesus look bad concerning his understanding of Moses in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, because no one they believed could be closer to God than Moses. And what Moses said could not be questioned and it could not be negated. So if Jesus answered this question, if he answered this question by elevating himself and putting down Moses and making the law look like it really wasn't that important, then they could just discredit Jesus and make him look bad and call him a heretic. If they had listened to Jesus before, perhaps in the Sermon on the Mount, they would have known Jesus' understanding and what he believed about the Word of God. They would know that Jesus would never have wanted to denigrate or delete any of the scripture. In Matthew chapter 5 and verse 17 and 18, Jesus said the following about the Word of God, he said, Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them.
For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or tittle will pass away from the law until all is accomplished. The question of the scribes to Jesus was not one that all the religious leaders, it was one that all the religious leaders had to deal with. And here's what they had done. They went to the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, we call it the Pentateuch. They went to that and they found 613 laws that had been stated.
They called this the fence around the law. They said these were little laws that were around the big Ten Commandments, and if you kept the little laws, then that would keep you from breaking the big Ten Commandments. That was skewed and erroneous thinking, but that's kind of what they were doing. They went even further than that. They said since there are 613 letters of the alphabet found in the Ten Commandments, then this proves that. Now that's some crazy deduction, but that's kind of where legalism will take you. And they also broke the law down into two parts.
The heavy laws, that was the more important laws, and the light laws, that was the less important laws. So the majority of the religious leaders were not wanting guidance and direction and wisdom. They just wanted to trap Jesus and make him appear to be flippant about God's law. I could be wrong, but I don't think this scribe is doing that. I think this scribe is very intrigued with Jesus' wisdom and his godliness, and I think his question to Jesus is a question that was legitimate and that it was honest. It seems to me that Jesus senses the sincerity of this man.
This scribe is not a braggadocious, conceited blowhard. He is a student of God's word. He wants clarity. He wants understanding. He wants to know the truth, a whole lot like John Wesley.
All right, point three is the response. Look at verse 29 through 31. Jesus answered, the most important is this, Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength. Second is this, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no other commandment greater than these. If you go through the gospels, you'll find something very interesting about Jesus. When somebody came to him and they ask him an honest question or they ask for help, Jesus always responded by giving a clear, concise answer or by just meeting the need.
I think about blind Bartimaeus. He came to Jesus. He called him the son of David, said he was the Messiah. Jesus said, what do you want? He said, I am blind.
I want my sight. Jesus healed him right there on the spot and gave him his sight. I think of the parents who brought little children to Jesus. Jesus took them and he put them up on their lap. The parents were asking that Jesus might bless them. Jesus hugged them. He put his hand on their head and he blessed every one of those little children. I think of the thief on the cross who was hanging there, dying on the cross and he turned around and he said to Jesus, remember me when you're in your kingdom. And Jesus said to him, today you will be with me in paradise. I think of the statements, the conversation that Jesus had with his disciples, telling them that he was getting ready to die, that he was going to be crucified, that he was going to suffer unbelievably. And there was great distress in the hearts of the disciples.
There was great misunderstanding. And so they were crying out to Jesus and what did Jesus say to them? He said, let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me.
My Father's house or many mansions, if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you and if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself that where I am, there you may be also. Jesus does the same for this scribe. He gives him a succinct, absolutely honest answer.
No beating around the bush, just the facts. Jesus quotes to him what the Jews call the Shema. The word Shema is a Hebrew word that means hear or listen. Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one and thou shalt worship the Lord thy God with all thy heart, mind, soul and strength. The Shema was revealed to Moses when Moses was 120 years old.
He was getting ready to die. And the old generation that had rebelled against God had finally died off. The new generation was getting ready to go into the promised land. And so God gave this instruction to Moses in order that he might give that instruction to the people of God as they were going into the promised land and they were to take it, they were to memorize it, they were to meditate on it and then they were to pass it down from one generation to the next, to the next, to the next. Listen to these instructions that God gave to Moses. Deuteronomy 6, 4 through 7.
Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.
You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk to them when you sit in the house, when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise. Religious leaders of Jesus' day were doing some things in accordance with these instructions. They were wearing what's called phylacteries. A little phylactery was a little leather pouch. They would tie it to their forehead or they would put it on the back of their wrist and they would take scripture and put inside of it and during the day they would take that scripture out and they would memorize it. And when people saw them, they knew that the word of God was important. The command here is to love God.
How much? With all your heart, mind, soul and strength. It's interesting if you go back in the same chapter, in Deuteronomy chapter 6 and verse 2, the scripture tells us that connected to that kind of love must be the fear of God.
So this is not a silly, mushy love, but it's a respected, serious, no-holds-barred, committed love even unto death. Also notice he says that the Lord our God is one. We believe in the Trinity. How can we believe in the Trinity that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are all God and yet believe that there is only one God? Well, the scripture indicates here in the Hebrew language that the word for one is not the normal word that is used for one.
This is the word ekkad and it means one as in a cluster, like a cluster of grapes. In a cluster of grapes, you have many, many different grapes, but they are all of the same substance and essence. God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit have different functions and they have different offices, but they are the very same in substance and essence, just like the cluster of grapes. So Jesus is not disclaiming his deity here. Jesus is proclaiming his deity. So we are to love the triune God.
How? With all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. What does that mean? Well, the heart is a source of all thoughts and words. In Proverbs chapter 4 verse 23, the scripture says, watch over your heart with all diligence for out of the heart springs the rivers of life. The soul. What is the soul? It has to do with the emotions. In Matthew chapter 26 verse 38, Jesus said that his soul was grieved unto death. What about the mind, the will, the intentions, and the purposes? What about the strength? That refers to physical energy and functions.
Folks, listen carefully. Genuine love for God is intelligent love, it is emotional love, it is willing love, it is an active love, it is the exact opposite of half-hearted devotion. It is a comprehensive love, an all-consuming love.
It is a love with singular adulation. When Jesus later addresses the Pharisees, he is essentially saying that they were the exact opposite of what the Shema required. Matthew chapter 23 verse 25 through 28 says this, woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for you clean the outside of the cup and the plate but inside you are full of greed and self-indulgence.
You blind Pharisee, first cleanse the outside of the cup and the plate at the inside of the cup and the plate that the outside also may be clean. Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for you are like whitewashed tombs which outwardly appear beautiful but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. So what was Jesus teaching about the Shema? Was he saying if you try a little harder then you'll finally get to that point where you are sinless and you are right before God.
Absolutely not. Now I could back up that no answer that I just gave with a lot of scripture from the New Testament. They didn't have the New Testament. So let me back it up with Old Testament scripture. First Kings chapter 8 verse 46, there is no man who does not sin. Psalm 14 one, there is no one who does good. Psalm 143 verse 2, in God's sight no man living is righteous. Psalm 20 verse 9, no one can say I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin.
Ecclesiastes 7 20, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and never sin. If you don't hear anything else I say in this message today, I want you to hear this. Trying to obey the Shema will not save you.
You need to understand that. It's extremely important. Paul said in Galatians chapter 3 verse 24, it, the Shema, the law of God, it is our tutor to lead us to Christ so that we can be justified by faith. It is a tool that God uses to show us what our hearts really like and how much we need a savior so that there will be brokenness so that we would come to know him. So that we would come to the point where we would be like the tax collector in Luke chapter 18 that beat on his chest and he said, God have mercy on me, a sinner. So God's primary commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.
If you think that you've done that perfectly and let me tell you something, you are greatly, greatly deceived. This commandment should shatter your heart. This commandment should bring you to deep, deep brokenness. This commandment should make you realize how desperately you need a savior. What can you do about this, this feeling of being absolutely helpless and absolutely hopeless?
Here's the answer. Run to Jesus. Run to Jesus.
Be broken. I mean really genuinely broken and then run to Jesus with everything that's in you. Jesus doesn't stop with the greatest commandment. He gives a second commandment, said the second greatest commandment is this, that you should love your neighbor as yourself. I think John the apostle really got this commandment. For over in 1 John chapter 4 verse 20, he says the following words, if anyone says I love God and hates his brother, he's a liar for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
The Lord's point is that we are to love our neighbors, to strangers and enemies as we love ourself. How do we love ourselves? Jesus knew how we loved ourself.
There's no problem there. We love ourselves. He says you need to love others. First of all, you need to love God and then this is connected to love for your neighbor.
How important. He said in Matthew chapter 22 verse 40 that on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. What does that mean? It means if you love the Lord your God through your heart, mind, soul and strength, then you will have no other gods before you. You will not make into you any graven image. You will not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain, that you will keep the Lord's day and keep it holy. And then if you love your neighbor as yourself, then what does that mean? That means that you will honor your mother and father, that you will not kill, that you will not commit adultery, that you will not steal, that you will not bear false witness and that you will not covet. All right, that takes us to point four and that's the reaction.
I love this. Verses 32 through 34. And the scribe said to him, you are right, teacher. You have truly said that he is one and there is no other beside him and to love him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the strength to love one's neighbor as oneself is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices. When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, you are not far from the kingdom of God.
After that, no one dared to ask him any more questions. I would have loved to have seen the religious leader's reactions to the way that this particular scribe reacted to Jesus. He knew Jesus had answered him with godly wisdom and truth. These were the two greatest commandments.
And all the other commandments hang on those two commandments. That truth put the fear of God into this scribe's heart. And I believe put hope in his soul that he could know the Lord. Jesus said what to him? He said, you are not far from the kingdom. You are not far from the kingdom. This scribe, humanly speaking, was morally good, ethically sound and biblically competent. But Jesus didn't say he was in the kingdom. He said he was not far from the kingdom. I hope to God that there was genuine brokenness, that there was a genuine understanding of how wayward his heart really was so that he would turn around to the Pharisees and the Sadducees and he would say to them, I can't speak for you, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. And the Lord is that Jesus.
I hope he was able to say that. You might remember a few weeks ago we studied the rich young ruler who came to Jesus and he said, what must I do to inherit eternal life? Jesus said, you must keep the commandments. He said, well, I've done all those from my youth up. I've always kept the commandments.
I'm good there. Jesus said, okay, then this is what you do. You go sell everything you've got, distribute that money among the poor and then come and follow me. And what happened?
In response, he dropped his head down. He walked away sadly because he loved his riches more than he loved Jesus. I hope to God that this tribe didn't do that. I hope to God that he by faith and repentance moved from being not far from the kingdom into the kingdom. I want to close with what Kent Hughes had to say and he's got a word about John Wesley.
He's also got a word to us. I want you to listen carefully to his word. Finally, it was May 24th, 1738 and as Wesley randomly opened the Bible, he read that beautiful statement that in nine words condensed the progress of the spiritual pilgrimage. You are not far from the kingdom of God. Then came evening and the famous statement in his journal tells a story.
In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street where they were reading Luther's preface to the epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warned. I felt I did trust in Christ. Christ alone for salvation and assurance was given me that he had taken away my sin, even mine and saved me from the law of sin and death.
What are the lessons for us? First it is entirely possible to have grown up in the church, to have consistent godly parents and never have come to a saving knowledge of Christ. Second it is also completely possible to have studied theology and have never become a Christian.
One can know the scripture and the original as Wesley did and know more than the preacher and still be unregenerate. Third it is possible to have heard the grace of Christ preached all your life and still be resting in your own goodness. Fourth it is possible to become gospel hardened and so seal your damnation even within the church.
It is possible to fool everyone and have the preacher preach your funeral and ensure everyone that your soul is resting in heaven when it's really in hell. Fifth it is possible to be within an inch of the kingdom of God. The abiding truth is convictions not acted on die. Truths not follow fade. Lingering can become a habit and we can either go in or go further away.
Are you near to the kingdom of God but not in? There are times when a single step makes all the difference. When a man or woman stands at the entrance to an airplane one step they're on their way to a new destination but if they stay inactive they will never go anywhere.
What's the step he's talking about? Faith and repentance. Has that happened to you? Have you seen the waywardness, the wickedness of your own heart and said I don't want to take a chance on where I'm going to spend eternity. Have you turned from your sin and trusted Jesus and him alone as your Lord and Savior?
If that hasn't happened I would encourage you with all my heart to stop me one of these elders before you walk out of this door. Let us pray with you. Let us explain in more depth what the gospel is. Don't walk out of this building today without coming to know him as your Lord and your Savior.
Let's pray. Heavenly Father I just read to this congregation a call to brokenness and real repentance by Kent Hughes. Hughes wrote this part of his commentary with a deep burden for those readers who as Jesus said were not far from the kingdom.
Father I feel the same burden. My desire is that we be solidly in the kingdom and not just far from it. Convict us, burden us, break us until we genuinely know and love Jesus. Father we're getting ready now to celebrate in the Lord's Supper. I pray that the power of your Spirit will be so present here in our congregation that we can rejoice in the fact that we know you and love you. I pray Father that you would reveal yourself through the symbols that we are looking at in the Lord's Supper that are there to be an explanation of the gospel to us. That we might understand who Jesus is and what Jesus has done. That his body has been broken, that his blood has been shed, that we might be saved. That we might not be far from the kingdom but in the kingdom. We love you Jesus. Thank you for loving us. And it's in your holy and precious name that we pray, amen.
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