He [Jesus] said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." Mark 12:34
In her autobiographical book, "Me," the actress Katherine Hepburn, although admitting her Christian roots, makes no profession of faith. In fact, she denies having faith. Yet she has moments of truth. She states, for example, "When you sin, you pay." (Saint Paul explains: "The wages of sin is death" [Romans 6:23].) Why did her marriage fail? She confesses to selfishness: "It was Me, Me, Me."
Some non-Christians at times come close to confessing Christian truth. In a dialog with Jesus, a scribe declared that loving God and the neighbor "is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices" (Mark 12:33). He was obviously not a follower of Jesus, yet Jesus said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God" (Mark 12:34). Again, after Saint Paul had stated his case to King Agrippa and appealed to him to believe, Agrippa replied, "Do you think ...you can persuade me to be a Christian?" (Acts 26:28).
We read in the Old Testament about Balaam, a pagan diviner, who refused to prophesy against the Israelites as they moved through the land of Moab toward the Promised Land. He said he would not do so even if he received King Balak's "palace filled with silver and gold" (Numbers 22:18). Instead he blessed the Israelites, uttering a messianic prophecy that "A Star will come out of Jacob" (Numbers 24:17). How far was he from the kingdom of God?
A person can be close to aspects of God's truth and yet be far away from having faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior. Also in matters of faith it is true: "A miss is as good as a mile." "Close," it is said in sport circles, "counts only in horseshoes." Some can be said to be close to Christianity because they know great deal about the Bible or because they are married to a Christian and sometimes attend church. Yet, lacking faith, they are far from God's kingdom. The Bible is plain: "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:16). God promises salvation to all who put their trust in Christ crucified and Christ risen from the dead.
PRAYER: O Holy Spirit, keep my faith centered in Jesus Christ and give me the joy of living in Him and for Him. Amen.
(Devotions from "With Jesus Every Day" copyright 1997, CPH. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be printed, reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission of Concordia Publishing House. Permission is granted for one-time emailing of this link to a friend. For information on other devotional material, please contact CPH at 800-325-3040 or visit CPH at www.cph.org.)