They call them the chain gang. They wear stripes, but they’re not prison inmates. They’re football officials, and they carry this chain that measures whether or not a team has made a first down. Now not everyone is a football fan, so let me explain this. A team has four tries to move the ball ten yards. If they succeed, they get a “first down” and they get four more plays. If they fail, they have to turn the ball over to the other team at that point on the field. Many times it’s impossible to tell with the naked eye if the ball has made it those ten yards, because it’s very close. So they call out the chain gang. They come trotting out, they extend the chain to its full length, and then they set it down. If it extends beyond the ball, the team falls short. If it falls short, the team has succeeded. And as many who have played or watched football know, winning or losing a game can, like in moments like these, literally be a matter of inches no matter how far you’ve brought the ball.
I’m Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about “The Difference is Inches.”
Some of us were talking recently about a friend of ours who died suddenly and how what seemed to be a passive faith in Christ had become a very active faith in Christ in his last months. I said, “You know, maybe he discovered the ’18-inch’ difference.” As you might expect, I got some quizzical expressions. I said, “You know, 18 inches – that’s about how far it is from your head to your heart.” Those inches can be the difference between winning spiritually or losing it all. Between knowing all about Jesus and really knowing Jesus!
In Mark 12, beginning with verse 28, Jesus has a conversation that may help you see exactly where you stand in relation to Him. It’s our word for today from the Word of God. An honest seeker asks Jesus, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Jesus responds by saying that loving God with everything you’ve got is the first commandment and loving your neighbor as yourself is the second commandment.
This man totally agrees with Jesus like a lot of church folks do today. The man said, “You are right in saying God is one and there is no other but Him. To love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” See, this guy had so much right. He agreed with Jesus’ teachings. Maybe you do, too. He understood that the issue wasn’t religion or rituals but your personal relationship with God. Hopefully, you understand that, too.
But then comes the startling bottom line: “When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.'” He’s not far, but he’s not in. Maybe that’s you, too. You’ve got Jesus in your head, but somehow you’ve missed having Him in your heart. And as Romans 10:10 says, “It is with your heart that you believe and are justified.” Eighteen inches! That could be, for you, the difference between going to heaven and going to hell.
You know Jesus died to pay for your sins, that He rose from the dead, that a person needs to turn from their sin and put all their trust in Jesus to be spiritually rescued. You know it, but maybe you’ve never done it. Every day you wait, your heart gets a little harder and your last day on earth gets a little closer. Please, if you don’t know you’ve consciously given yourself to Jesus, do that today while the Holy Spirit’s drawing you to do it. Open your heart and tell Him, “Jesus, I don’t want to just know about You. I finally want to know You for real. Take me, I’m Yours.”
I would love to help you be sure you belong to him and to get this settled. And there are some practical steps you can find at our website, which I think will help you get this settled once and for all. Our website’s ANewStory.com. I hope for you it will be a place of new beginning.
It could be that Jesus is saying to you right now, “You’re not far, but you’re not in.” You can change that right here and right now. Jesus in your head won’t get you where you want to go. Jesus in your heart will get you to heaven.