A debate with Jesus began when an Old Testament scholar brought an old chestnut; a repeated and tedious debate about the 613 commands of God in the scriptures at that time. Which one was the most important? Jesus cited two in Deuteronomy 6 and Leviticus 19. Jesus answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the scriptures” (Matthew 22:37-40).
The scholar was overwhelmed because he understood that every command was motivated and practiced by perfect love. He responded, therefore, saying that all the burnt offerings in the world would not be sufficient to make up for the human deficiencies in loving well, let alone perfectly.
Jesus, gladdened by the scholar’s response, said: “You are not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34). This man made progress because he saw he needed Christ’s righteousness and death to pardon his sins. We are half way to heaven when we admit we are not saved, but we are still not all the way until we receive the free gift of salvation by faith alone.
There once was a dear man in this condition. One Sunday night he went to church, and God spoke to him through the sermon. Christ was striving with him that night. The pastor invited people to meet with him in his office to receive the free gift of eternal life.
The Service finished, and out he went on his way back home. Sliding down the row, walking out the aisle, pushing open the doors, and marching along the sidewalk, he found himself unable to walk out the gates. He suddenly turned! He went marching back along the sidewalk, pushing open the doors, and walking up the aisle. As he was approaching the pastor’s office door, he was struck with the thought: “This is crazy.” So he went back out the church, walking out down the aisle, pushing open the doors, marching along the sidewalk, and finding himself unable to step through the gates. He suddenly turned back!
This went on for two or three times while a church officer was tending the gates, and was watching this guy. He looked, to him, like a man pursued by an unseen being. That is because he was. The officer said to him: “Listen, you really will need to make up your mind. Is it going to be in or out? I am shutting these doors and gates soon.” And the man, who was not far from the kingdom of God, replied: “By God’s grace it will be in!”
The man at the gate is Jesus, and you may be the one not far from His kingdom. Jesus says to you today: “Listen, you really will need to make up your mind. Is it going to be in or out? I am soon shutting these gates.” You better at least come to the point where you are prepared to say like the man, who was not far from the k, in reply: “By God’s grace it will be in!”