In my 50 years of preaching, I have studied with people who I thought understood the Truth and would obey the gospel. Yet, something held them back. I’ve heard various excuses.
“I know what you’re saying is true, but if I do that, then I’m condemning my grandma, because she didn’t believe that.”
“Someday I will be baptized.”
“I need more time to think about it.”
“I know that’s what the Bible says, but….”
In yesterday’s post, we discussed Paul’s conversion account but did not consider the response of the hearers.
First, let’s back up a bit. Paul’s been arrested for preaching Jesus. The non-believing Jews are angry. Indignant. And out for blood. His defense of Christianity and His conversion to Christ, only incited the angry mob more. And so to protect his life, he’s sent away by night from Jerusalem to Caesarea to appear before Felix the governor.
Paul used this opportunity to preach about “the faith in Christ.” He spoke of righteousness to a man who was unrighteous. Self control, to an immoral man whose life was out of control. And about the judgment to come to someone who stood condemned.
It’s little wonder that the Bible says, “Felix was afraid.” But not enough to accept Christ. His response? “Go away for now: when I have a convenient time, I will call for you.” (Ax 24:19-25) His convenient time never came.
Fast forward two years and now Paul is summoned to appear before King Agrippa, who assembled a prestigious crowd of prominent people, military commanders and the governor, Festus, in an auditorium.
Paul’s passionate presentation is loudly interrupted by the Governor who accused Paul of being insane. Paul then turned to Agrippa, and asked, “Do you believe the prophets?”
The King is put on the spot. If he says, yes, then he must admit that Jesus is the fulfillment of those prophecies. Instead, he replied, “You almost persuade me to be a Christian.”
Paul responded that he “would to God” that not only Agrippa, but everyone present would “almost, and altogether” become a Christian. (Ax 26:24-29)
Almost. The word hangs in the air like a last-second shot that bounces off the rim. Almost. But lost.
Almost. How many stories have we heard or told about that prime real estate or Amazon stock that soared in value, and we almost bought it. But didn’t.
Almost. Life is filled with them. Almost made a hole in one. Almost won the race. Almost made the team. Almost got a promotion. Almost. But we didn’t.
Some say that Agrippa wasn’t serious. It was a statement of derision, ridicule and contempt. Maybe. But consider, what Agrippa almost had.
Almost. God’s grace. Forgiveness of sins. A relationship with the Lord. Peace of mind. The privilege of prayer. A new purpose in life. The hope of heaven. He almost did. But didn’t.
Agrippa was closer than either Governor. Felix trembled. Festus called Paul crazy. Agrippa was “almost persuaded.” Yet, all three remained lost.
What prevented Agrippa from obeying the gospel? Pride? His political position? Fear of losing prestige or power? An unwillingness to change his lifestyle? We don’t know. But we do know that almost wasn’t good enough.
What about you, dear reader? Are you an almost or altogether a Christian?
Sadly, some who learn the truth and obey the gospel, quit. Imagine standing before God in judgment and saying, “I almost remained faithful.” But hearing those frightful words, “Depart from Me.” Almost. But not altogether.
Don’t be an almost Christian.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman