So Close Yet So Far Away

Hope everyone is having a good beginning to your week. We had a great day Sunday worshipping the Lord together at Pine Grove Baptist Church.

We are carefully and prayerfully taking steps to resume normal church activities. We moved from the gym into the sanctuary and next Sunday, April 18th, we will begin our small groups again at 9 am. We are excited to get back to normal ( or as close to normal as we can get). I hope you can be a part of what God is doing at PGBC!

We continued in our sermon series in Romans, as we looked at Romans 9:30-10:3. Paul wrote about Israel in chapters 9 through 11 to a Gentile audience. He wanted the Gentile believers to understand that the present unbelieving status of many Israelites did not mean that God had failed to keep His promise to them or that they (the Gentiles) should doubt their own eternal security as believers.

The title of the sermon is So Close Yet So Far Away because Israel knew the Scriptures better than anyone and they should have been able to recognize Jesus as the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies, but many of them couldn’t see it.

I’ve heard other preachers tell a story similar to the one I’m about to share. It’s a hypothetical story about a couple: we’ll call one of them the church attender and the other the church avoider.

The church attender was a faithful attender at their church for decades. Volunteering in just about every possible ministry along the way, teaching various classes, basically being involved every way possible, the church attender felt very good because of their faithful involvement. If someone asked church attender how someone gets to Heaven, church attender would say something along the lines of being a good person and doing good things gets people into Heaven.

Church avoider on the other hand never went to church. Church avoider didn’t mind church attender going to church as long as avoider wasn’t expected to go too. Church avoider didn’t really give much thought to spiritual matters for the great majority of their life, until an unexpected diagnosis of a terminal illness forced avoider to think about eternity. Someone shared the Gospel with avoider and avoider accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. Avoider died a short time later and entered into their eternal rest in the presence of God Almighty.

Church attender lived several years after this and continued to faithfully attend church until passing away. Attender never accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, though they attended church all those years. Attender will remain eternally separated from God in Hell because of their sin.

Attender was so close and yet so far away. No doubt they heard the Gospel, but never responded to it in faith. Attender was very religious but never was made righteous through faith in Christ.

The difference between being RIGHTEOUS  and being RELIGIOUS can make all the difference in your eternity.

Romans 9:30-10:3

30 What should we say then? Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained righteousness—namely the righteousness that comes from faith. 31 But Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not achieved the righteousness of the law.[a] 32 Why is that? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were by works.[b] They stumbled over the stumbling stone. 33 As it is written,

Look, I am putting a stone in Zion to stumble over
and a rock to trip over,
and the one who believes on him
will not be put to shame.[c]

10:1 Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God concerning them[d] is for their salvation. I can testify about them that they have zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. Since they are ignorant of the righteousness of God and attempted to establish their own righteousness, they have not submitted to God’s righteousness.

The Jews tried to be reconciled to God by observing the Law, but observation of the law can’t save a person. Israel had a works mentality and many people today do as well, although they probably wouldn’t think of it that way. Much like the church attender from the illustration above, many people take the approach of trying to make sure their good outweighs their bad. It’s always right to try to do good, but it is important for everyone to understand that doing good doesn’t earn us salvation. Salvation can’t be earned. It’s a gift of grace that can only be accepted by faith.
II. Faith in Jesus is essential for salvation. 
Paul writes about a stumbling stone that Israel tripped over. That stone is Jesus. You see, there is only way to Heaven and that comes through faith in Jesus. Jesus is not one of many options, Jesus is the only option. Jesus is the only way.
Many people believe that there are many ways that lead to salvation, but Jesus didn’t teach that. John 14:6 tells us, “Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” 
To get everything right except Jesus is to be completely wrong!
III. Religiousness + ignorance = lostness. 
Paul tells us in verse 2 that Israel had zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. Zeal for God means enthusiasm for God. They had great excitement for God and they made God their priority but they couldn’t see that Jesus was the Messiah that had been prophesied about in Scripture. Their zeal for God couldn’t overcome the damage done by their ignorance about God’s Son Jesus.
Anyone that is ignorant about the truth of who Jesus is and what He’s done is in serious danger. You can be the most religious person in the world and still end up in Hell.
This was not just a biblical issue, this is still an issue for many today. Many people count on their religiousness to save them but religion is only good if it is connected to believing faith in Jesus Christ. And when a person comes to faith in Jesus, it changes everything!
Unfortunately, I believe 3 words describe much of the American church today: comfortable, consumer-based, and lukewarm. Only willing to do what we are comfortable doing. Approaching church as consumers instead of committed members ready to serve others. Lukewarm – not on fire and not completely cold.
The church needs to WAKE UP!
Believers today need to:
– spend more time in God’s Word than on Facebook or Tik Tok
– worship God with more enthusiasm than we show at ballgames or concerts
– pray passionately instead of worrying and complaining obsessively
– prioritize eternal matters over temporary, worldly things
But instead of being discouraged about the state of the church today, we should be excited instead. When the church wakes up, God is going to move in a powerful way!
The same God of the Bible, the same God that split the Red Sea, that same God is waiting patiently for the church to wake up and take the idols off of the thrones of their lives and put God back where He belongs.
If God is really only a part of our lives on Sunday mornings, we need to ask ourselves if we’re truly committed to Jesus.
Don’t get to the end and stand before God and find out you were so close yet so far away.
Matthew 7:13-14 says, 13 Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. 14 How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.
Matthew 7:21-23 says, 21 Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, and do many miracles in your name?’ 23 Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers!
The difference between being religious and being made righteous through faith in Jesus can make all the difference in eternity.