Are you attracted to Jesus, but still on the ...

The Threshold of the Kingdom

D. P. Thomson: The message reproduced here has been given on many occasions, and the writer has had the joy of knowing of not a few who, through its instrumentality have been led to personal faith in Christ. Sometimes it has formed one of a series of addresses in the course of an evangelistic campaign, and in such cases it has generally been delivered about half-way through the mission. At other times it has been given as a single address, infrequently at a Sunday evening service. It has been found equally suitable for either purpose.

The reader need hardly be told that this message is addressed to a particular constituency, and is specialized accordingly alike in form and in type of appeal. It is not sufficient to say that it is an address to young men and women, for there are in the average audience or congregation many different types of young men and women, each with its own distinctive needs and problems, and all alike calling for special treatment. These are susceptible to different lines of approach, and will be found to respond best to different types of appeal.

This particular message is addressed to very large class of young men and women who have been reared in Christian homes, have subscribed in general to the truth of the Christian religion and have availed themselves - in greater or less degree - of the opportunities for worship, study and service afforded by the Christian Church, but have never come to the point of definite, personal surrender to Jesus Christ, as Saviour, Master and Friend.

It is the writer's experience that no class is so consistently represented in the average congregation and mission audience, and that none will respond more readily or give finer evidence of a vital and transforming experience. It is from this class that the Church can most easily recruit the men and women she so badly needs to-day for leadership in the onward march of the Kingdom of God.

This particular address deals primarily with the Kingdom of God, partly because that great conception so dominates the teaching of Christ, as recorded in the Synoptic Gospels, and partly because the Gospel of the Kingdom lends itself most readily to the type of appeal suited to the constituency in view. No attempt is made to expound the idea of the Kingdom of God, the address being concerned not with the Kingdom itself, but with those who occupy a position of very great hopefulness in relation to it, and of very great danger to themselves if they fail to improve in it. It is the speaker's aim to show how greatly that one step of faith and decision is needed, and to what splendid issues it will lead if taken.

Throughout this address all the background of Christian thought and training of those to whom the message is primarily delivered, is presupposed. The appeal is based on what only needs to be made explicit to receive immediate assent. The logical implication of such assent is moral decision, and it is for a decision that will involve the surrender of the whole personality to Christ that the appeal is made. Later, in personal conversation and in subsequent meetings, opportunity may be taken to deal with the implications of that decision, as affecting home life, vocation, recreation, friendship, etc.

It remains to be added that an attempt has been made to preserve as far as possible the form of spoken address, despite the inevitable literary roughness and seeming lack of proportion, and that because the present volume seems to demand it. The writer is very conscious, however, of the fact that the actual audience addressed invariably creates its own atmosphere and draws from the preacher much that is quite unpremeditated and that is not readily recalled when one sits down with pen and paper at the desk. To that extent such an address as this will always suffer unless taken down by a stenographer.

"Thou art not far from the Kingdom of God." - Mark 12:34.

D. P. Thomson: It was near the end of the Master's life when this young man came to Jesus. Men were always coming to Jesus. There was something about Him that never failed to attract - a magnetic charm of personality that even His enemies felt.

Men came to Jesus from widely different motives. Some were seeking healing of mind or body. Others were drawn by mere idle curiosity or speculation. Not a few came really hungry for that revelation of truth and that baptism of power they believed He alone could give them. There were men in that crowd whose disinterested passion for the coming of the long-promised Kingdom had led them out to the fields and lanes of Galilee to sit at the feet of the new prophet. There were others whose narrow fanatical bigotry was such that no Galilean peasant aspiring to Messianic honors could hope to escape the storm of their indignation. It was a strangely mixed company that sat at the feet of the Master, that stood to listen as he spoke, or to watch Him perform some miracle of healing.

Probably it is true to say that no man in that crowd was really actuated solely by a single motive. What man is if we are to believe the psychologists? Certainly, so far as the subject of our study is concerned [the inquirer], we have here the revelation of a complex by no means uncommon. This man had his ideals and they found convincing expression in the way he addressed the Master. And he had his failings, for surely the very fact that he was there as the Pharisee's dupe is token enough of that. But as I stand by, and watch him conversing with Jesus, as I mark his eager look and warmhearted appreciation of the words of Christ, as I listen to the gracious rejoinder made by the Master, I can't help feeling that whatever there may have been in him of duplicity or self-deceit, there was more - far more - of a genuine desire for truth and a real heart-hunger for God. The words of Jesus seem to make that clear beyond doubt.

"And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?" (Mark 12:28)

Jesus listened to that young man's question - listened with the same keen sympathy with which He will listen to yours - listened because He would be the last to stifle any man's questioning or bid him silence the voice of enquiry even though it spoke with the accents of doubt - and then He answered.

And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: {30} And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. {31} And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:29-31)

I like the answer of Jesus, but I like even better that young man's frank and generous response.

And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: {33} And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. (Mark 12:32-33)

It cost him something to say what he did and I can't help admiring him for it. The Pharisees didn't like it, and the men who were using him as their dupe tried to hide the fury that burned in their hearts. But Jesus understood. He realized what it cost. He was quick to lay hold of what it implied. His gaze had been fixed on that young man's face. His eyes had been reading that young mail's soul. You know the way Jesus Christ looks at men? You feel you simply can't hide anything from Him - and you realize with a start that as a matter of fact you really don't want to! Then Jesus spoke - and the words were those of our text to-night

"Thou art not far from the Kingdom of God."

The Kingdom of God! How often do we catch that phrase on the lips of Christ! He is always talking about the Kingdom - inciting men to claim its citizenship, to share its privileges, to shoulder its obligations. Now He is describing its lowly origin - now picturing its silent, but steady, growth - now depicting its inevitable and ultimate triumph. It was for the Kingdom of God He lived.

It was for the Kingdom of God He died. It is for the realization of that Kingdom that all the redeeming energies of His risen life are being given so freely to-day.

Now what do we mean by the Kingdom of God? We use the words continually. We have grown familiar with their sound. In a vague undefined kind of way they have come to mean something to us. And yet how many of us have ever stopped to ask exactly what we mean by the Kingdom? How many have made any serious attempt to define it in terms of common speech? Some have.

"I would paraphrase it," says Dr. Herbert Gray, "as `A new social order based on God,' or `A new type of civilization centered in God.'"

"The Kingdom of God," says Principal Clow, "is the rule and realm of God in the hearts and lives of men."

As definitions these may be inadequate. As hints and suggestions towards a satisfactory definition they are invaluable. Taken together they may give us some idea of the range and scope of Christ's Kingdom. They will at least enable us to interpret the Master's meaning for our immediate purpose to-night.

When the laws of God become the laws of man, when the love of God has become the universal rule of common life, when the Father's will is done on earth as it is done in heaven; when the nations of the world have claimed their place in the great family of the redeemed and entered into the full enjoyment of their inheritance in Christ - when they have learned to find in the discharge of every obligation and in the rendering of their fullest service that happiness and that harmony which are the ultimate goal of all human desire and endeavor - then the Kingdom of God will have come in power.

That time is not yet. Indeed it sometimes seems further off than ever. But there is a sense in which the Kingdom of God has already come. It is here in embryo at least - here in promise if not in power - here wherever you find men living in conscious fellowship with God - loving their fellows, striving to serve them, seeking to relate their time and their talents to the universal purpose of Christ, finding in Him the source of their strength and the secret of their joy.

Not far from the Kingdom. Then some men are far from the Kingdom! Yes, there are men and women in this city of ours to-night of whom it can be said, without any want of charity, that they are a long way from the Kingdom of God. They never name the name of Christ except in oath or blasphemy. They never kneel in prayer. They have no use at all for the Bible. Their minds and hearts are occupied wholly with other things. Their attention is given to other matters. Their pleasures are found in other and very different places. Sometimes they are actively hostile, more often they are quite indifferent, but in mind and sympathy and purpose they are far from the Kingdom of God.

And some men are in the Kingdom. That inference is equally clear. They have heard the voice of Christ and seen the vision of need. They have marked His teaching and given heed to His invitation. They have come in all their weakness and failure - and all their promise of better things; they have come with their hopes and their fears, their aspirations and their strivings, with their hunger for something better and bigger than they know - and in Christ they have found their real life - the life that is life indeed. The challenge of His Kingdom, they have heard and accepted - its citizenship they have claimed, its rights and privileges they are now enjoying, its obligations they are endeavoring to discharge and to its service they are giving their lives. They have their faults - none know them better. They have a long way to go yet - full well they know it. But this at least may be said of them - they have given the lordship of their lives to Christ, they have found in prayer a new meaning and in the Bible a new book - they are finding the world a better and happier place to live in, and they are happier and better men themselves.

There is a third class, and it is of that third class I want to speak for a few minutes tonight. - These are the men and women of whom Jesus would say that they are "not far from the Kingdom of God." They are not in the Kingdom, and they themselves would be the first to admit it - but they are on its very border-land. The ideals of Christ attract them, the personality of Christ appeals to them, the message and challenge of Christ awaken a real response in their hearts. They are interested, even eager: always sympathetic, often expectant, frequently very hungry for something really vital. They pray, they read their Bibles, they go to meetings, they attend a Bible Class, join in acts of worship, and even seem to enjoy the company of Christian people! They would hate to be shut up in the company of the utterly ungodly and blasphemous. These are the men and women of whom Jesus would say, "Thou art not far from the Kingdom of God," and there are some of them here to-night.

It is to you that I want to speak. I want you to look with me at this young man and to ask what there was in him that led Jesus to class him so.

(1) In, the first place I think it was because he had been brought up in a good home and had lived a clean straightforward life. The grosser forms of sin had never appealed to him - he simply hadn't allowed them to. The more materialistic conceptions of life had never gripped him - he had seen their shallowness only too clearly. He was honest and upright, agreeable and well educated, clean in mind and speech, and certainly no one could call him altogether selfish. True, no all-embracing purpose had gripped him, no great master passion had swayed him, but you couldn't help liking him when you got to know him - for the man he was and for the man you felt he had it in him to be. And isn't that true of some of us?

It is just because you have been brought up in a good home - just because a healthy interest has kept you from some of the things that have brought other men and women down - just because you have never allowed the grosser forms of sin to attract you or the cheap materialistic conceptions of life to grip you - just because you have lived a decent, clean, straightforward life - that Christ is saying to you to-night - "Thou art not far from the Kingdom of God."

(2) And there was a second reason - that young man had given religion a place in his life. He went to the synagogue, he attended the Passover, he read the law and did his best to keep it, he attended to the duties of religious observance - and Christ recognized the value of that. He knew that true inclination and spiritual susceptibility may well be developed by the diligent use of what our fathers used to call the means of grace. And you? You read your Bible - from time to time at least. You say. your prayers - not always perhaps, but you do pray. You go to church. You attend a Bible Class. Perhaps you are a member of the church and sit down at the Lord's Table. You haven't found Christ yet and you know it. You have never given Him His rightful place in your heart. But you give religion a place in your life, and just because of that He is saying to you now, "Thou art not far from the Kingdom of God."

(3) There was a third reason - that young man had begun to think seriously about the biggest things in life. He was facing its problems. He was trying to solve its enigmas. He was grappling with the biggest question of all - he was seeking the Highest Good [allusion to Cicero]. Am I not speaking to-night to some one of whom the same can be said? You have begun to think about the biggest things in life - you are trying to solve its problems - the problem of free-will, the problem of pain, the problem of death, the problem of destiny, the practical problems of life itself, the problem of trying to relate the teaching of Jesus to the terrible complexity of modern conditions.

You haven't solved them. You don't seem to be getting any nearer a solution. You only seem to be getting more hopelessly involved every day. Your people think you are imbibing strange notions - they aren't afraid to say that you are getting off the rails! They know - and you know - that you are drifting away from the old landmarks. You can't repeat the old shibboleths [conventionalities]. You can't subscribe to the old creeds. You can't look at life as an older generation looked at it. Somehow everything is different.

My friend, I don't care where your thinking has taken you. I am not concerned where it is leading you. What I want to say is this - if you are really grappling with the biggest things in life, if you are really seeking the truth, and are ready to act on it when you find it, then I believe Jesus Christ would have me tell you to-night, that you are "not far from the Kingdom of God."

(4) That young man was convinced in his own mind that Christ was right - and he had the courage to say so. And so are you! You know that His teaching is reasonable. You know that His message is true. You know that when He says that life without Him isn't worth calling life at all He is right. You know that you need Him, and that He can make all the difference to you. It takes more than intellect to make a man a Christian, but when you get to the point of admitting in your heart that Christ is right - and of sharing that conviction with others - then you are "not far from the Kingdom of God."

(5) And then, lastly, I think I am right in saying that that young man was deeply moved by the appeal of Jesus. I am sorry for the man who isn't. I pity with all my heart the man who can come face to face with Jesus Christ, who can look into those eyes of understanding love, who can listen to those words of power, who can stand beneath that Cross, who can hear the appeal of Christ - and not be moved to the very depths of his being. You have been so moved by the appeal of Christ - as you stood before some great masterpiece of art - as you heard some great oratorio - as you read one of these marvelous reinterpretations of Jesus, so many of which have appeared these last few years - as you dipped into the Gospel story again - and you are deeply moved tonight as you hear the appeal of Christ once more in the words to which you are listening now. And just because of that, Jesus Christ is saying to you - as He lays His hand on your shoulder and looks into your eyes to-night: "Thou art not far from the Kingdom of God."

But my friend, that isn't enough. I catch a note of warning in Jesus' voice. Don't misunderstand me - I must say it - it is a dangerous thing to be "not far from the Kingdom of God." Your very nearness may lull you into a sense of false security. Just because you have been brought up in a good home, and under the shadow of a Christian Church, just because you have lived a decent, clean, straightforward life, just because you are really seeking the truth you may think it's all right - and it isn't. It is very far from being all right. You may be near the kingdom but you are not in it. You may be on its very threshold tonight, but you are not inside.

What do I mean by that? You are not in because you have never personally and definitely accepted the invitation of Jesus Christ and given Him the lordship of your life. You have given Him a place in your thoughts, you have given Him a place in your life, but you have never given Him yourself - all you are and have, and all you may become, your gifts and talents, your powers and possibilities. You believe in the power of Christ to set men free - to enable them to realize their best - but you have never made that power your own by one definite act of faith. You believe in the forgiveness of sins, but you have never come to claim that forgiveness for yourself. You realize that Christ is crying to-night for volunteers - for men and women who will give themselves to the great enterprise of His Kingdom - and you have not yet responded to that call.

Why not come into the Kingdom to-night? Do you want a job big enough to engage all your energies? Do you want a provision generous enough to supply all your need? Do you want an adventure great enough to demand all your courage? Do you went a dynamic powerful enough to transform your life? Do you want a Leader worthy of all your loyalty and all your love? Then take Jesus Christ as your Saviour tonight.

Bring Him your life with all its unrealized possibilities - with all its past failures and shortcomings and defects - and lay it down at His feet. Bring Him your powers of mind and body, your discovered and developed talents. He needs them all, and He alone is worthy of them. Give Him His chance to make you the kind of man or woman you have it in you to be. And make up your mind that the kind of citizenship you are going to begin to-night will be real and vital - that you are going to give Him your best all the time and all the way.

You tell me you are not clear? You don't understand? There are things in the Bible that puzzle you? You have intellectual difficulties that are not yet cleared away? My friend, I know you have. So have I! There are hundreds of things that I don't understand. But there is one thing I do know and it is this - that I need Jesus Christ, and that He alone can make me the man I want to be. And you know it too!

When you go into the city to one of these great seven-story buildings - what do you do? You see a lift [elevator] - you want to go up to the top flat [apartment]. Do you say to yourself - "I don't understand the principles of hydraulics or electricity and I'm not going up till I do. I am not quite clear how this lift works and I won't use it till I am!" You know it has taken other people up and you know it will take you up. In you get - and up you go! I only ask you to do the same to-night in the biggest things of life as you do in the everyday things, to be as fair with Jesus Christ as you are with the man who runs the lift.

You know what He has done, and you know what He can do for you. Then give Him your life to-night. Tell Him you don't understand but that you are willing to trust Him. Come to Him just as you are. - Let us pray.

A sermon by David Patrick Thomson, Organizing Secretary of the Glasgow Students' Evangelistic Union, 1925, BV3797.A1T4

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