Not Far But Not In

Bible Book: Mark  12 : 28-34
Subject: Salvation is Near; Too Late; Religion without Salvation; Kingdom of God

Mark 12:28-34

Few people have so affected history as John Wesley. Had it not been for Wesley’s conversion, and the ensuing revival with its social impact, England would have probably undergone something similar to the French Revolution. John Wesley’s conversion to Christ was one of the most important historical events of the Western world. He was born in 1703, the fifteenth child of Samuel Wesley, the rector of Epworth and his wife, Susanna. He enjoyed a good upbringing under his unusually talented and dedicated mother, and went on to a brilliant career at Charterhouse and Oxford, where he was elected fellow of Lincoln College in 1726. There he served as double professor of Greek and logic. After serving as his father’s curate on two occasions he was ordained a minister in the Church of England in 1728.

Returning to Oxford, he joined a group of undergraduates led by his brother, Charles, a group who were derisively nicknamed the “Holy Club.”

Though Wesley was not yet saved, he joined with these men for prayer, the study of the Greek N.T. and devotional exercises. He set aside an hour each day for private prayer and reflection. He took Communion each week, and set himself to conquer every sin. He fasted twice a week, visited the prisons, the poor and the sick. Doing all this helped him, imagine that he was a Christian. In 1735, still unconverted, he accepted an invitation to become a missionary to the American Indians in Georgia. It was a great fiasco. He utterly failed, and when he returned to England he wrote, “I went to America to convert the Indians, but oh, who shall convert me?” His missionary experience taught him the wickedness and waywardness of his own heart.

However, all was not lost, for in his travels he had come across some German Christians whose simple faith made a great impression on him. When he returned to London, he sought one of their leaders. Through a series of conversations to quote Wesley, he was “clearly convinced of unbelief, of the lack of that faith whereby alone we are saved.”

Then on the morning of the 24th May 1738 something wonderful happened that Wesley would never forget. He opened his Bible haphazardly and his eyes fell on these words, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.”

(12:34) “The kingdom of God, far from the kingdom of God, thou art not far from the kingdom of God.” Wesley was near that before he went to bed that night he entered the kingdom. I wonder does these words of Christ describe you? Have you any interest in spiritual things? In eternal things? In the things that concern your soul and your eternal welfare? Could it be that you are not far from the shore of safety or the border of heaven? Is your hand on the door of salvation? My, suppose you stop where you are, and go no further? Suppose I tell you that many have come just where you are, and got no further? Do you realise that to be almost saved, is not to be saved at all? Many are convinced, but not converted, many have kissed the door of heaven, but this …. are in hell! This text raises three simple questions!


It’s wonderful to be brought near to the kingdom and many are the providences that combine to bring us to that position. A mother’s influence can bring you near to the kingdom, a Christian friend …. kingdom. A godly Sunday School teacher …. kingdom. A divine intervention in your life can bring you near to the kingdom. John Wesley often spoke of himself as “a child of providence.” For when he was six years of age, he woke one night to find his home on fire from the ground to the roof. He had been forgotten when everyone else had been dragged from the building. Just before his roof caved in a neighbour plucked him as a brand from the burning. But that terrified boy never forgot the fire. My …. have you been miraculously preserved? Have you survived a terrorist attack? A car crash? Have you had a narrow escape? Has such a thing not made you think of eternity? Not brought you near the kingdom?


Is that not what this scribe had? He was a scribe, an expert in the Old Testament Scriptures! Indeed everything that he stated here was in perfect harmony with all that was stated in the O.T. (Lev 19:18 Deut 6:4-5) He states that our love for God must be sincere (heart) emotional (soul) intelligent (mind) intense (strength) You see, here was a man familiar with spiritual things and of him, the Saviour says” Thou art not far …. God.” John Wesley had a mother, Susanna who was a marvel of nature and a miracle of grace. Her own testimony was that she spent regular tine with each of her nineteen children, instructing them in the things of God. (a) Does that describe you? From your earliest days have you had an association with the things of God? Like Timothy, from a child have you known the Holy Scriptures? (2 Tim 3:15) Maybe you have a mother in the glory this …. and you can recall her tears, her prayers, her godliness, her instructions? You’re not a stranger to the things of God and to you the Lord Jesus says, “ Thou art not far …. God.”


Here was a man who had a perception of spiritual truth for did you notice what he said? He realised that loving God and mankind is “more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Ps 51:16-17 Jer 7:22-23)

Does that not tell you something about his heart? You see, he speaks of the entire ceremonial system as not being as important as loving God. What he was saying was light years beyond where many people are today, who imagine that their good works will get them into heaven. No wonder the Lord Jesus said, “Thou art not far …. kingdom.” Have you a perception of spiritual truth? Do you realise this …. that if you are going to be saved, that if you are going to stand in the right before a holy God, that it will not be by external ceremonies, like sprinkling, communion, paying into the church, living a clean life?

My, John Wesley was a master of external discipline, fasting, prayers, and good deeds. Yet as he stood in the face of death, his religious exercises gave him little comfort and no assurance of his acceptance by God. Do you realise that if you are going to be saved it will be by faith in Christ alone? Then “thou art not …. far.” My …. have you had strong convictions of your sin? Have you a deep respect for eternal things? Do you desperately sense your need of Christ? Then to you the Saviour says, “Thou …. far.


You see, here was a man who was near the kingdom, but he was not in it! Did he ever the kingdom? Did he take that final step that makes all the difference? The Bible does not tell us, but perhaps a more relevant question this … is this, will you enter the kingdom? What is holding you back? Are you fearful that you won’t keep it? Are the habits of sin too strong in your life? Have you been off by false professors? Are you afraid what an unsympathetic partner would say? (2)


Is it not solemn to realise that there are those who are engaged in the work of the Lord, who do not personally know the Lord of the work? Do you ever these old modernists at funerals? Man, they would bury as a saint if you were the biggest rogue in town. No cross, no blood, no Saviour, no eternity, no heaven, no hell!

The Lord Jesus spoke of them as “blind leaders of the blind.” (Matt 15:14) The apostle Paul said, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” (Gal 1:8) Do you know something? John Wesley did not get enter the kingdom until he was thirty five and he always felt that the fault was not altogether his own. He groped in the darkness for many years and no one helped him, not even his ministers in fact to one by the name of William Law, John Wesley, wrote these words, “How will you answer to our common Lord, …. that you sir, never led me into the light? Why did I scarcely ever hear you name the name of Christ? Why did you never urge me to faith in His blood?  Why did you never press salvation on me?

If you say that you thought I had faith already, truly, you know nothing of me.” My …. I pray that I may never receive such a reprimand. I want to be a faithful watchman. I want to lift up my voice and cry to those of you here without Christ that if you die without the Saviour “In hell, you will lift up your eyes in torments.” (Lk 16:23) You’ll never walk the golden streets of heaven, you’ll never gaze on the glories of the New Jerusalem. My …. miss Christ and you’ll miss heaven, miss heaven and you’ll perish in hell! (a)


Is this what is holding you back from trusting the Saviour?  In many ways this scribe is to be admired. I mean initially he was not a coward. He was willing to risk mockery as he stepped up to the door of the kingdom of God. When he approached the Saviour it seems that he was not acting solely on his own accord.

(Matt 22:35) He seems to have been the man of ability, he was the spokesman for the rest, the man who took the initiative. But what if he took the final step and entered the kingdom? Remember his cronies were standing by, watching. Would he be counted a fool?

Would his reputation among his friends be lost? Would he be ready for the cold shoulder? Fearfulness! Do you know what the Bible says? “The fear of man bringeth a snare.” (Prov 29:25) My …. Why are you not saved? Is it down to the fact that you love the praise of man, more than the praise of God? (Jn 12:43) Are you afraid of what others will think, say, and do? Is it the jibes and laughter of others that’s holding you back?

Oh, they may laugh you into hell, but they’ll never laugh you out!


Is there an old skeleton in the cupboard that rears its head every time you think about eternal things? I say to you this …. “come to Christ, come to Calvary,” and I hear you respond, “My past is too sinful, my soul is too stained.” Do you know anything about the man who wrote the most of the New Testament? His name was Paul, and before he was saved, he made havoc of the church. He persecuted the believers, even unto death.

Do you know how he describes himself? He refers to himself as the chief of sinners. (1 Tim 1:15) Surely if the chief of sinners can enter the kingdom, you can also.

My …. there is no sin too vile that Christ cannot cleanse, no heart to hard that He cannot soften, no past to guilty that He cannot pardon. What is holding you back from the kingdom? Maybe its:


You say,  I would become a Christian, I would enter the kingdom, but there are too many hypocrites in the church.” I know there are hypocrites in the church. But the false merely proves the true. There are quack doctors, but does that eliminate the competent ones? Of course there are false professors but as the old preacher used to say, “I’d rather come to church and sit between two hypocrites than to die, go to hell, and live with all the hypocrites forever.” My …. what is holding you back from the kingdom? Is it an unsympathetic partner? Is it fear? Is it an unforgiving past? Remember its possible to be near, but not in. It is possible to be within an inch of Heaven, yet go to Hell.

“Thou art not far …. God.”


What is exactly needed to make you belong to the kingdom of God? What can you take you into the kingdom? This …


If this scribe finally did enter the kingdom, it was because he submitted to the logic of his own words. Maybe he attempted to love God with all his heart, and he failed, and he realised that he could never keep the Law because he was a lost sinner. Seeing himself for what he was, he cast himself on the mercy of God, only to find salvation. My, it’s a great day when a person discovers and acknowledges the greatness of his sin.

Sir James Simpson, the discoverer of chloroform used to say that the greatest find he ever made was learning that he was a lost sinner and that Jesus Christ was just the Saviour he needed. Have you made that discovery?

Do you realise that you cannot keep the Law, that you have broken God’s Law? That you are a sinner?


Did this scribe ever make it into the kingdom? We don’t know. Scripture is silent. One thing is sure John Wesley made it. For on the evening of the 24th May 1738 he went to a meeting in Alders gate, London, where someone was reading Martin Luther’s preface to the epistle to the Romans. About a quarter to nine, while he was describing the change God works in the heart through faith in Christ, Wesley said, “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for my salvation, and an assurance was given me, that He had taken away my sins, even mine and saved me from the law of sin and death.” That decision to trust Christ brought Wesley into the kingdom.

My, what decision will you make? Will you turn to Christ, or turn from Christ? You see, its possible to be not far from the kingdom, but not in the kingdom.

Its possible to be within an inch of heaven, and go to hell. My …. convictions not acted on die, truths not followed fade, lingering can become a habit, and we can either go in or go further away. Are you near to the kingdom but not in? I plead with you, do not stop where you are, push on, push up. Do not tease your soul by stopping so near to the kingdom. One step of faith, and you’re on your way to heaven! Many years ago after sailing around the world, the ship the “Royal Charter,” went to pieces in Moelfra Bay, on the coast of Wales. The local minister in that area had the sad task to go and visit and bring comfort to the wife of the first officer, made a widow by that tragedy. The lady was sitting in her lounge expecting her husband, indeed the table was spread for his evening meal, when the messenger came to tell her that her husband was lost.

The minister says, “Never can I forget the grief, with which she wrung my hand as she said, “ So near home, and yet lost.” Is that not what they said about the shuttle as she became visible in the Texas sky on Saturday 1st February 2003? “So near home and yet lost.” What anguish! But nothing in comparison to the anguish that will grip your soul when you are compelled to say at last, “Once I was at the very gate of heaven, and had almost entered in, but now I am in hell.”

“ Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.” My, you may never be as close as you are now. Will you take the final step, trust the Saviour, and enter in?