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Not Far from the Kingdom (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
October 30, 2020 4:00 am

Not Far from the Kingdom (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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October 30, 2020 4:00 am

No one is “almost” born again! Jesus was absolutely clear about the requirements for salvation—and it takes more than sincerity or a good heart. Examine this life-and-death issue along with us on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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INTRO MUSIC As we work our way through this brief section, I want us to consider first of all the question that this man poses to Jesus, then the affirmation that he makes to the answer provided by Jesus, and then this man's condition as described by Jesus. This present question is clear. It's there in a sentence. Which commandment is the most important of all? Secondly, the affirmation.

The affirmation. And the scribe, verse 32, and the scribe said to him, You are right, teacher. Now, you will notice that he restates what Jesus says in large measure, verse 33, to love him with all the heart. The definite article is in here now, and with all the understanding.

It's interesting that there are—it's a different word that he uses there. In Greek, Jesus uses the word for mind, he uses the word for understanding. It doesn't matter, it doesn't change the meaning at all, but it is translated in that way because of the distinction, with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself. But you will notice that he both precedes that, and he follows that by an emphasis that he draws out from the opening phrase of the Shema, which is quoted there at the end of verse 29. So, he's not only affirming the universal obligation of devotion to God—one that is undiluted, one that involves placing our entire personality in God's service—as well as affirming that obligation, you will notice that he does two things. One, he affirms the uniqueness of God.

Notice that? You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. He understands, you see, that the expression at the beginning of the Shema—"Hear, O Israel, the LORD your God, the LORD is one"—and then it goes from there, is akin to the beginning of the Ten Commandments, "'I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt. You are to this.

You must not do that.'" In other words, there is a distinct logic that emerges from the identity of the God who speaks. And what the man is affirming is the fact that God is not like the gods of the idols, he's not like the gods of the heathen, and all the way through the Old Testament—indeed, all the way through the story of life—the reality of the uniqueness of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ revealed as God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, three in one, one in three, mysterious.

At best, what we have is an extrapolation or a formulation of the truth, not an explanation of the truth. But all the way through history, right up until the present day, that God who has revealed himself in the world that he has made, in the conscience of men and women, with a sense of oughtness, in the Bible that he has given and preserved for us, and finally and savingly in the person of his Son, this God is the God who then obligates us to love him with all our heart, soul, mind, strength, and so on. Now, if you think about that, that makes sense. Why would you be obligated to a God of your own making? If you made your God, if you dredged your God, little G, up from somewhere, you're not subservient to this God. This God exists to serve you. This God exists like something you would put on a mental shelf and go to and ask for its help every so often. But if you think about it for long enough, you go, Why would I even ask this thing for anything? What could this thing do?

Blind, deaf, and dumb piece of junk. There's nothing that this thing can do. No, you see, this is what the prophet was dealing with six hundred years before Christ. Listen to Isaiah 45. There is no other God besides me, a righteous God and Savior.

There is none besides me. Now, we're not here to camp on this this morning, but let us notice in passing that the exclusive reality of God was as offensive six hundred years before the arrival of Jesus as it is twenty-one hundred years after the arrival of Jesus. And it's one of the great challenges that a Bible-believing Christian faces in articulating our faith in our day. God says, I am God, and there is no other God. He's not saying I'm a cosmic principle. He's not saying that I am a dimension within you that you must go into yourself and try and discover. Rather, he is affirming that before there was time and before there was anything, there was God.

In the beginning, God. What is the greatest commandment? You love this God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul, all your strength. The man says, you know, you're right in saying that there is only one God. And notice, secondly, he says—and also, it is important, he points out—that we recognize that this undiluted love for God is actually more important than all whole, burned offerings and sacrifices. It's almost as if he introduced it. He keeps the word all in there to make the point.

It's been all, all, all, all. He says, and in actual fact, this kind of love for God in one's neighbor is more important than the sacrifices. Now, he's not saying here that the sacrifices are irrelevant.

They're clearly not. They were established by God. But he is acknowledging this—that the routine of the sacrificial system, minus an obedient heart, is irrelevant to God. The process of doing what God has asked us to do that is divorced from the reality of heart and mind and soul and strength and obedience is like going through the external routines of a bona fide, orthodox, manageable marriage out of which the love has long since trained.

All the hellos are there, all the goodbyes are there, all the yes-thank-yous are there, but it is obvious that the love has gone. And so he says, Jesus' obedience actually matters more than that. Well, of course, Jesus might have said to him the same thing.

Here, here, scribe, you have done well! Because what he's doing is he's actually simply quoting from the Old Testament. He's acknowledging what it said. 1 Samuel 15.

Question. Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Does he have as much delight in the sacrifices as in obedience? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice.

Now, that brings us to our third and final point. Notice what Mark tells us. Verse 34. And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely—or he answered discreetly—let's just remind ourselves that the question that he has posed to Jesus has been clear, and it has been sincere. His affirmation to the answer given by Jesus has been both wise and scriptural. No evasion on his part, no self-justification.

The man is clearly knowledgeable, and he is at the same time teachable. That's what makes this final point—his condition, as described by Jesus—so striking. You are not far from the kingdom of God. You're right there on the border, says Jesus. You're on the one-yard line.

But you're not in the end zone. Now, the observer finds themselves saying, if they're at all interested in religious things, this can't possibly be. Remember, this had already happened, and the disciples had been the ones who said, who then can be saved? You can read this in chapter 10 on the story of the rich young man, who, remember, went away sad. He said he'd kept all the commandments since he was a boy, and Jesus says, Well, let me tell you what's really in this deal here. And he put his finger on the fact that the man did not obey this first and greatest commandment. He didn't love the Lord God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength. He loved his money more than that. Therefore, money was his idol. Therefore, that idol would have to go if he was going to go into the kingdom.

He understood that. He went away sad, because he wanted his money, and he didn't want the kingdom. And the disciples on that occasion said, Well, who in the world can get saved? I mean, if you've got a guy like this, and he can't be in the kingdom, who gets in the kingdom?

It's a good question. And Jesus says, Well, you see, what is impossible with men is possible with God. You come to this story, and you say, If this fellow's not in the kingdom, then who gets in? After all, he's religious, he's relatively self-effacing, he's concerned about pleasing God. Isn't this just the ideal person that Jesus is looking for for his kingdom?

I mean, I think that's the word on the east side of Cleveland. Jesus is just looking for some nice people who are quite humbled to ask some questions about spiritual things, and they're religious and interested in making sure that they know what is number one on the commandment list. Is that what Jesus is doing?

If that's what Jesus is doing, then he's making a dreadful mess of it. Because again and again, people like this find themselves rebutted—find themselves distanced from the kingdom. You have to go way back to chapter 2 and remember that when Jesus begins to add to his disciple band, he picks up a fellow called Matthew, or Levi, who is a tax collector. The Jews hated tax collectors because of the way they went about their business.

They were dishonest. And people said, Well, look, if you're gonna start having people like this as your disciple, we don't want anything to do with you. We're religious people. We're commandment people.

We do everything right. We are the people. If you really were the Messiah, you wouldn't be having that party—you wouldn't be going to that party over at Levi's house. Do you realize some of the people that are in there, Jesus? It's not only tax collectors, there's sinners, there's all manner of people in there. And Jesus says, Guys, I don't think you've got the picture.

It's not the healthy that need a physician. I didn't come to call the righteous. I came to call sinners to repentance. To repentance.

Do you remember what we said at the beginning? Jesus stands on the stage of human history, and he says, The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is near, repent and believe. I didn't come to call righteous people. He said, I came to call sinners. But do you see what happens when we're religious people?

Unless our religion shows us our need of God, our religion will actually keep us from God. And you see, that's what had happened to this man. This man wanted to know what the number one was so that he could try his best to make sure that he did it. So in other words, he speaks rightly when he addresses Jesus, and he calls him teacher. He says, Well said, teacher, you're right. You've truly said what is right. What's the missing link? The missing link is clear. He did not understand that Jesus Christ had not come ultimately to teach him but to save him.

To save him. We're only weeks away now, really, from Christmas. The carols are already out in the malls. They're everywhere. It's a great opportunity, incidentally, just to speak about the Christian faith. Christmas carols seem to get underneath the radar of political correctness in a way that nothing else actually does. It's a terrific couple of weeks of opportunity.

They started at least yesterday or the day before, didn't they? You can speak to them. You can tell them and say, What does that mean? And the message of the angels was clear. You shouldn't be afraid, for unto you is born this day in the city of David a teacher.

Is that what it says? For unto you is born this day in the city of David an example. Christ is both teacher and example.

No. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord. And you will call his name Jesus, Yeshua, the Savior, because he will save people. He didn't come to judge the world. He didn't come to blame. He didn't only come to seek. It was to save he came. And so when we call him Savior, then we call him by his name.

But you see what happens. If the law—if the law, as expressed here in Love God and Love Your Neighbor, we could collapse it to kind of like the golden rule. You know, if the golden rule does not show up how needy we are, then it will become for us a barrier against ever entering the kingdom of God. Well, I'm a pretty good person. I love God as best I can. I mean, not all, all, all, all, but, you know, at least some, some, some, some.

And, you know, I got a few neighbors that I'm not dealing with, but the rest I'm giving a good stab at. Now, I went to check, because I said, I bet that Zen Buddhism has got something on this that encourages those who are into Zen, and far more into Zen than realize they're into Zen. It's come at us from fifty different ways in the last two or three decades, in magazines and every other place. It's quite customary for us to say, This is a great basketball coach. You know, he's very Zen. This is a wonderful actress. She's very Zen. You don't really know what it means. But I went to look and see, What does Zen Buddhism do with this notion of, like, loving God and treating your neighbor as yourself and so on? This is what it says. Doing this will be good for the people you help and are kind to.

Obviously. It's good. Then it says, Beyond that you will find a growing satisfaction in yourself, a belief in yourself, a knowledge that you are a good person, and a trust in yourself. In yourself, in yourself, in yourself, in yourself.

What does it do? It says, You have it in yourself. Do this, and you will be accepted. Christianity says, You don't have it in yourself. Accept this. Accept what? Accept the call of the kingdom.

Which is what? To repent and to believe the good news. To recognize that when I look at all, all, all, all, it condemns me. If that is the standard of acceptance with God—if total perfection, the fulfillment of the first and second commands—if that's how you get into the kingdom of God, none of us are going in.

Let's just flat-out acknowledge it. No matter how good you feel about yourself. You haven't lived a day of your life when you've loved God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and neither have I. If perfection is the standard for entry, how is anybody going in? That's where the gospel comes. This shows us that we can't do it. The gospel says, But another has come who has done it, who has kept the law in its absolute perfection, who has fulfilled it in its totality, and who furthermore has not only kept all of that but has paid the penalty necessary for the fact that we haven't kept all of that. And the one who has effected this on our behalf is none other than the king who says to us, Abandon all your efforts to rule your own life. Abandon all your attempts to establish your own kingdom.

And enter my kingdom. Well, our time is done. If you're like me and you don't know the story, you're into chapter 13, 14, 15, and 16 trying to find this man. Trying to find out what happened to this man. Trying to find out if he ever got into the end zone. And you can read all the way through to the end, and there's no indication of it. We don't know. But let me ask you, what about you? Is someone gonna conduct your funeral service and say, She was close, but not close enough?

Is somebody gonna stand here as we usher your corpse out into the waiting hearse and say, You know, he spent his whole life on the one-yard line, but he never entered the end zone? He could give you the information as good as anybody. He understood about the teaching of Jesus. He understood the nature of the priority of the commandments.

He had it all down pat. But when the Savior passed by, saying, Whoever comes to me, I won't cast out, he never called out to him. Can I ask you, have you ever called out to him? Have you ever called out to him and said, Jesus, be my Savior? I need a Savior.

Be my Savior. If you do, he will. How do I know? Because he said so. It can't be that easy, can it?

That easy, and that difficult. Because everything in you says, You don't have to do that. You're a good soul. You know the commandments.

You're self-effacing. You're righteous. See what it is that keeps you from Christ as a Savior? It's not bad stuff.

It's good stuff. It's not because you think you stink so badly that he would never save you. It's because you think you're so good that he doesn't need to save you. But if he doesn't need to save you, who does he need to save?

For whom did he come? You're listening to the Friday edition of Truth for Life. Alistair Begg is titled this study in Mark chapter 12, Not Far From the Kingdom. Please stay with us because Alistair will close with a word of prayer in just a minute. Over the last couple of weeks, you've heard me describe a wonderful new documentary about the Puritans.

This is my last occasion on this daily program to offer this resource to you. If you've been thinking about getting in touch with us, today is the day to do that. The documentary is called Puritan, All of Life to the Glory of God. We're coming up on Reformation weekend when many pause to remember how Martin Luther ignited a revolution in the church. October 31st marks another anniversary of this historic mile marker in Christian history. You may not realize that the Puritans played a pivotal role in the Reformation, and their legacy continues to this day. This captivating documentary includes brief comments from historians and Bible scholars, really tells a powerful story.

It's punctuated by sweeping scenes from Europe, beautiful cinematography. The set of two DVDs contains both the main documentary on one disc and then special features on the other disc, and there's a link provided in the event that you'd prefer to stream the documentary. Ask for a copy of this inspirational DVD called Puritan when you give a donation to support the ministry of Truth for Life.

Simply click the DVD image on our mobile app, or visit slash donate, or give us a call at 888-588-7884. Every Sunday that Alistair is in the pulpit at Parkside Church, you're invited to compliment the teaching you receive from your local church by watching Alistair teach the Bible online. To check Alistair's teaching schedule for this Sunday, go to slash live. And now, here's Alistair to lead us in prayer. Father, thank you for the Bible. Thank you that we can read it. Thank you that your Word is fixed in the heavens. Thank you that it is good news—not the good news of self-effort, but the good news that when, with the trembling lip of childlike faith, we reach out a hand that contains nothing, except the openness that receives from you as a gift, the wonder of your grace and your mercy, we enter into the reality of your kingly rule. Oh God, I pray for each of us that you will clarify the issues in our minds, because this really matters. It matters.

We need to know what it means, and we need to know why it matters. And then we need your grace to call out to you. Enable us to do so, we pray.

For Jesus' sake. Amen. We're glad you've joined us today. I'm Bob Lapeen, along with Alistair Begg, and all of us at Truth for Life. We hope you have a refreshing and relaxing weekend, and we want to invite you to join us again Monday as we continue our study in the Gospel according to Mark. Today's program was furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-31 12:58:59 / 2024-01-31 13:07:31 / 9

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