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by Ken Swiger

Close, but no cigar. That is a common phrase which many people use. I am unsure of its origin. Perhaps one of may know. But I imagine that this phrase came into being when a cigar was once the prize and someone fell just short of earning it. That is the common usage for that saying today. It is normally a light-hearted comment offered to someone in jest, but it is literally possible to come really close to achieving something we desire and still fall short of it. Stories of unfulfilled dreams are almost modern parables. How frustrating to come so close and then fail.

The apostle Paul understood this and compared it to a running race:

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 - "Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they [do it] to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring [it] into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway."

Paul understood that it is possible to come really close and still fail to achieve. Let's look at some folks in the Bible who came really close to perfection, really close to the kingdom of God. Let's see if there is anything we can learn from them.

John 19:17-18 - "And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called [the place] of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst."


John 19:23-24 - "Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also [his] coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for r my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did." (The scripture being fulfilled herein is Psalm 22:18)

At the time of his death, who was in closest physical proximity to the Messiah? Those who loved him and cared for him? No, the ones closest to him were the ones that nailed him to the tree. They are the ones who came really close to perfection because they stood next to the one who said:

Matthew 5:48 - "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."

Who also said:

John 10:30 - "I and [my] Father are one."

If you try to imagine someone who close to the Kingdom, who would come to mind? Yeshua once told a man who had remarked correctly that the true love of GOD was more important than all rituals and sacrifices that HE was not far from the Kingdom. Some say that he said this because the man was in the presence of the KING, but I think it is because he understood true love spurs us into ACTION and is not just a word.

At the time of Messiah's intense suffering and imminent death, who was closest to the one who represented the Kingdom, the King himself, who was closest? THE SOLDIERS. ROMANS. They were standing at the crossroads of human history. They were front-row for the most important event ever. How were they observing this momentous occasion? They were busy ignoring him. They could have reached up and touched the feet, which a woman had washed with her tears, dried with her hair, and anointed with expensive oil, but their only interest in his feet had been holding them still as they drove metal spikes through them.

Psalm 22:16 - "For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet"

They could have permitted the Messiah some dignity and used his garments to cover his exposed body. But instead they ripped in pieces the garment whose hem a woman with a long-lived affliction had struggled to touch so that she could be healed. She had the faith to be healed by touching that garment. They could only see it as being useful as a rag or a remnant to patch up something else. They were busy getting for themselves. They were greedy. They gambled, they CAST LOTS. Casting lots here was a way to gamble and choose a winner of the coat, which was too nice to rip up four ways.

Note about Gambling: Some believe gambling is a sin. But the term "cast lots" occurs 19 times in scripture. The majority of these are commanded by God as a means of letting the people know which one HE has chosen for a particular purpose.

Proverbs 16:33 - "The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof [is] of the LORD"

Certainly it would be wrong for a believer to waste money gambling when they had not taken care of their obligations to their family and to GOD. And of course there is a guilt-by-association that goes with gambling due to the amount of sex promoted in and around the major gambling centers. I am NOT saying that believers should have any part with such things. But gambling itself, rolling a dice, or buying a lottery ticket is Not a sin in and of itself.

Now back to our gamblers at the foot of the torture stake. They were nearest Yeshua, but they couldn't be further away from him. They could have touched him, but they ignored him. They could have helped him retain some dignity, but they treated him shamefully. They were only occupied with outward things. They wanted his clothes, but not him. They were glad to have his clothes, but not his cross. They were glad to have his garments, but not his grief. They were glad to have his robe, but not his rejection. They didn't want the shame of being counted with him, as one of his followers.

Today many people are still occupied with outward things ABOUT Christ, but not with HIM. They have rituals, but not the redeemer. There are things they do which they contend are religious and therefore must be done to please GOD. But they never bother to check and see for themselves whether or not their ritual is even in GOD's instruction manual for how he wants to be worshipped.

Today many people are still occupied with outward things ABOUT Christ, but not with HIM. They embrace legalism, but not the one who GAVE the law. When the average professing Christian thinks about the law, what do you suppose comes to mind? Obeying the ten commandments (especially the 4th one). But they have replaced the laws of GOD with their OWN laws and commandments... THEIR TRADITIONS!

They are all kinds of legalisms in professing Christianity, even though they by-and-large refuse GOD's law as an old and obsolete BURDEN. LEGALISM means something you do to be saved.

Some examples of modern day legalism: Using only the King James Version of the Bible... Speaking with tongues in order to be saved... Using name Jehovah...Going to church every Sunday and giving tithes...Being baptized by a minister in a specific church organization (or a MINISTER at all)... Using a particular "sacred name"... following a particular calendar...

Today many people are still occupied with outward things ABOUT Christ, but not with HIM. They are active in Church, but not alive in Messiah. The Church is the BODY of Christ. All the members of a body must be ALIVE to be of use. God clothed man to cover his nakedness (Genesis 3:21). Man stripped GOD naked and put him to shame on the torture stake. Yet he offers us the opportunity to be clothed in spotless white:

Isaiah 61:10 - "I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh [himself] with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth [herself] with her jewels."

Let's not gamble with our Eternal lives. Let's not come close and then fall short of the prize at the end of the race.

Seventh Day Christian Assembly • P.O. Box 22351 • Knoxville, TN 37933-0351• 865-688-1107
"And hereby do we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments." 1 John 2:3
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