Not Far from the Kingdom
James Smith, 1859
One of the Scribes proposed a question to the Savior, which he answered. The Scribe then made a very discreet and judicious reply, and our Lord said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." Mark 12:34. The kingdom of God is the kingdom of GRACE, now represented by the Church of God, all whose members are called by grace, justified by grace, sanctified by grace, ruled by grace, used by grace, and saved by grace. It is the eternal kingdom of the God of all grace, which he has set up in the world for his own praise, and which will ultimately melt away into the kingdom of glory. To be in that kingdom is an unspeakable blessing, an invaluable privilege; let us therefore consider,
The Privileged State.
In the kingdom of God. This originates in regeneration, for except a man is born again, he cannot see, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. In order to be in this kingdom, we must have a knowledge of Christ the king; for without the knowledge of Christ, we are dead in sin, afar from God, and condemned already. We must agree to, and acquiesce in the laws and statutes of the kingdom, for everyone must voluntarily take the yoke of Christ upon him. We must renounce the world, for the world is the kingdom of Satan, and Satan is Christ's great opponent. We must he delivered from the power of darkness—before we can be translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son. We must make an actual surrender of ourselves to Christ, to be saved by his merit, supplied by his mercy, ruled by his word, and used in his service. There must be the consecration of the entire person to God, to do his will, enjoy his favor, and walk in his fellowship, just as was the case with Paul, when he said, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."
It is the privilege of all that are in this kingdom, to enjoy freedom. There are no slaves here. The children of the bond-women are not admitted here. Every fetter is broken, every bond is burst asunder, when the soul enters here. Freedom from the claims of a violated law, freedom from the tyranny of this present evil world, and freedom from the captivity of the prince of darkness, is enjoyed in the kingdom of God.
Access to God, and acceptance with God, is also a part of the privilege of Zion's citizens. They may approach God when they will, ask for what they will; and while doing so, realize that they are accepted in the beloved, and that God is well pleased with them.
Safety and the certainty of having all their
needs supplied, is their privilege too. They are hid in the hollow of God's
hand, they are safe under the shadow of his wing. He is a wall of fire round
about them, and the glory in the midst of them. He is a sun and shield, he
will give them grace and glory; and no good thing will he withhold from
those who walk uprightly. Unparalleled dignities and blessings are conferred
upon them. Every subject of this kingdom is a son of God, an heir of God,
and a joint heir with Christ. They are made kings and priests unto God.
White robes will be given them, glorious thrones will be appointed them, and
crowns of righteousness will be awarded to them. O what a privilege to be in
the kingdom of God! But let us now look at,
The Dangerous Position of Some.
Not far from the kingdom of God—but not actually in it. They approach very near to this privileged state—but they never enter it. O how many there are in this situation now.
They have clear light in their heads—but have no grace in their hearts. They know the gospel in theory—but have no inward experience of its power. But no man can be saved by light in the mind, there must be the life of God within the soul.
They have not only clear light—but correct morals. The tongue is controlled. The temper is governed. The life is regulated. But with all this, the soul is dead in trespasses and sins. There may be morality without spirituality. The life may not only be correct—but there may be a regular attendance on gospel ordinances. The preacher may be as a very lovely song, as one who has a pleasant voice, or who can play well on an instrument to them. They may come as God's people, sit as God's people, hear and sing as God's people—and yet not be in the kingdom of God!
There may be no objection felt, or opposition shown to the doctrines or duties of the gospel. All may be admitted, professed, and even admired; but still the person may not be in the kingdom of God. The Lord's people may be selected as their associates, and their company for many reasons may be preferred; and yet the party may not be in the secret. There may also be a form of prayer, both in the family and in the closet. I mean not a written form—but prayer without faith— prayer without the heart, without the soul; as the Lord by the prophet said, "This people draws near to me with their mouths, and with their lips they honor me—but their heart goes after covetousness." They may be employed in teaching God's word, either in the Sunday School, or in the pulpit—and yet not be in the kingdom of God.
Such are not far from the kingdom—but there is the door, they have not passed through that; they have come up to it—but they have not passed through it. O how solemn is the thought, how searching is the fact, that people may have correct views of truth—may regularly attend on the means of grace—may acquiesce in the doctrines and duties of Christianity—may associate and unite with God's people—may regularly bow the knee in prayer—and may employ their time and talents in instructing others in the things of God—and yet never enter into the kingdom of God themselves!
Reader beware! for many rest short of vital religion. They know nothing of a broken heart for sin, of living faith in Christ, or fellowship with God through him. They rest in a form of knowledge, or in a routine of religious services. Such may find out their mistake too late, as did the foolish virgins, whose lamps went out, when the Bridegroom came, and while they went to buy oil, those that were ready went in with him to the marriage, and the door was shut. Or, like those referred to by our Lord when he said, "Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" Matthew 7:22-23
Lest we should be of them, let us carefully examine ourselves by God's word, and as in God's presence; let us compare ourselves with the examples set before us in the Scriptures, and beseech God in his mercy to search us. O how suitable that prayer to us, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way."
Let us set our hearts upon certainty on this point, for it is of great importance. We cannot be too sure, and it is our duty to put the matter out of doubt, therefore the Apostle says, "Give diligence to make your calling and election sure."
Many will come very near to the kingdom—but will never enter it. As Bunyan says, "There is a way to hell—even from the very gates of heaven!" But it must be dreadful to come near, so near to heaven—and yet to be thrust down to hell.
Professors, you may not be far from the kingdom of God—but are you in it? Do you know the king, and walk with him? Do you approve his statutes and keep his laws? Do you habitually renounce the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life? Have you surrendered yourself and your all to Christ? Are you consecrated to the service and glory of Christ? O make sure, make sure! See to it that Christ is in you, and that you are really born again, not of corruptible seed—but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which lives and abides forever.