The Tragedy of The Almost: Acts Series #41
There are three kinds of people in this world: there are those who are alienated toward Jesus, there are those who are altogether for Jesus, and there are those who are almost to Jesus. There are those who are hardened toward him, there are those who have a heart for Him, and there are those who are halfway to Him.
In Acts 26:24-30, we read:
“While Paul was saying this in his defense, Festus said in a loud voice, ‘Paul, you are out of your mind. Your great learning is driving you mad.’ But Paul said, ‘I’m not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I utter words of sober truth. For the king knows about these things, and the king knows about these matters and I speak to him also with confidence, since I am persuaded that none of these things escape his notice; for this has not been done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.’ And King Agrippa replied to Paul, ‘In a short time, you are persuading me to be a Christian?’ Another translation says, ‘In a short time, you will almost persuade me to be a Christian.’ And Paul said, ‘I wish to God, that whether in short or long time, not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am, except these bonds.’ And then the king got up and he slipped out with all the others that were there.”
I want to write again, there are those who are alienated from Him, there are those who are altogether for Him, and there are those who are almost to Him. I don’t know where you are in one of those three relationships, but trust you are walking with Christ.
I. We Need To Respond To The Evidence Of Almost Being To Christ
We begin with the sermon that concerns us. The Apostle Paul laid out his defense in the entire chapter of Chapter 26 in the Book of Acts. Clearly, he went through the Word of God and he applied it to the men and women in that room as he would everywhere he would travel, whether it be the synagogue or a Coliseum or one on one. And this message is not for the one who’s not reading this book, this message is for you. Sometimes when we hear a message, we say, “Well, I sure wish so and so was here today to hear the message, because boy, they really need to listen up and hear the message.” But this message is not for someone else, this message is for you. The sermon concerns us.
Secondly, the Scriptures convict us. Listen to what Paul said to Festus. He said, “The learning has not made me mad.” He says, “I lay out sober truth.” He turns to King Agrippa and he says, “Do you believe the prophets? I know that you do.” In other words, the Scripture spoke loud and clear. You know, when you and I read the Bible, the Bible reads us. It’s not like any other book. It’s not like picking up a magazine or a booklet or going to a local bookstore and buying something and taking it home. It’s not like any other book. When you read the Bible, the Bible reads you. We are hearing the Word of God here today.
I realize there’s more than two billion people on this planet who’ve yet to get a copy of the Word of God. We are working really hard to make it possible for every man, woman, boy, girl, to have access to the gospel of Jesus Christ. But what is worse, a person who doesn’t have a Bible and never had one and does not read it, or the person who has multiple copies and does not read it? Let me ask it to you another way, if you took out all the pages out of the Bible that you don’t read, how big would your Bible be? For some people, they would only have their favorite portions left for them to read.
However, the Scripture convicts. It convicts men and women when they hear it for the very first time. The sermon concerns us, the Scripture convicts us, but the savior convinces us. He said to King Agrippa about the Lord, this thing was not done in a corner. This thing was not done in secret. Jesus didn’t come in hiding. Jesus didn’t perform the miracles in just a private place. He didn’t just preach for just a few and not many more to hear Him preach. This was done before the then known world. And you know that the works of God today are so powerful taking their place throughout the world. And the Word of God is advancing. And the Kingdom of God is expanding and it’s not being done in a secret place. The evidence is clear. We have the message, we have the Messiah or the master, and we have the living Word of God. And where are you? Are you alienated from Christ, or you’re all together, or are you almost to Him?
I’m reminded of the story about William Hyatt. William Hyatt was driving his car through the Mojave Desert. I saw in the news that the Mojave Desert eclipsed 130 degrees Fahrenheit, one of the hottest places in all of the world. And some years ago, William Hyatt was driving his car and he ran out of gas. He got out of his car, and he was walking through the blistering sand of the Mojave desert. He was doing his very best to find some place where he could contact someone, and could find a way to get through to the other side. But he went as far as he could, and he fell face downward in the sand on a simple molehill. And there he died face down in the sands of the Mojave Desert.
William Hyatt did not know that just on the other side of that little sandhill was an oasis of water and fruit trees that could sustain his life until help came. William Hyatt almost made it, but almost isn’t good enough. I think about a lot of people who start out to do something and they don’t follow through. They almost got there, but they didn’t make it. The man or a woman who says “I’m going to be faithful to God’s house in the days that come.” They get started, but they never quite get there. They almost did it. You know, I want to encourage you not to be almost persuaded, but to be all together for Jesus Christ.
II. We Need To Realize The Excuses For Almost Being To Christ
What are the excuses that people use for not really becoming a follower of Jesus Christ? They hear the Word, but they don’t have the Word. They know about Christ, but they don’t have Christ in their heart.
Now I want you to get the picture clear in your mind. There is the Apostle Paul, who’s standing on his behalf to make a defense about the Gospel and the truth. Also, there is King Agrippa, a lady, her name is Bernice, and there is Festus. I want you to see these individuals that are there in the room. And I want you to understand that there are several excuses that people use for not following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.
The first excuse that often is used is the pressure to stand. Festus is the modern-day bully. Festus is the one who’s going to let you know what he thinks whether or not you get a word in edgewise. He’s going to power up, intimidate you to try to get you to back down and not be a follower of Jesus Christ.
The reason why a lot of people don’t follow the Lord is because they don’t want to take a stand for Him. They don’t want to be singled out. They don’t want to be labeled as a Christian or as a Christ-follower. And so, they shrink down instead of standing up. And you know the Bible has made it clear, if I reject the Lord or I’m ashamed of the Lord, He’ll be ashamed of me when He comes back. The reason why a lot of people don’t respond when the pastor gives the invitation to come forward and accept the Lord: they’re concerned about what others may have to say about them. Well, I want to remind you, that your security and eternity is not based upon whether people like you or not. We’re not running for a popularity contest; we want to please the Lord.
If you please the Lord, it doesn’t matter who you displease, but if you displease the Lord, it doesn’t matter who you please. You’ve got to get past Festus. You’ve got to get past what the crowd and what the world has to say about you. We must realize that when we meet the Lord, we will all give an account of our life. On Judgement Day, we will not be evaluated based upon what others said or did not say, but whether or not we follow faithfully before the Lord. So, the first excuse people use is the pressure to stand.
The second excuse is the pleasure of sin. I mentioned in passing that Bernice was there. You see, at this time, King Agrippa and Bernice were living in an adulterous relationship. If King Agrippa makes a commitment to follow Jesus Christ, he’s going to have to leave Bernice.
And do you know why a lot of people won’t follow the Lord? It is because they love their sin more than the Savior. They love the things of this world more than the things that are yet to come in the world that’s ahead of us called heaven. The reason why a lot of people won’t follow the Lord is because they enjoy their sin for a season. People should get wrapped up in the fact of what sin will ultimately do to them. You need to learn to treat sin the same way that sin will treat you. Sin will have no mercy on you. Sin will not be tolerant of you. Sin will take you further than you’ve ever imagined. It will cost you more than you’ve ever tried to add up in your life. And the reason why a lot of people do not follow Christ, and maybe you are one of them is because you love your sin more than the Savior.
Are you more interested in taking care of yourself than being ready to meet the Lord when He returns. This is why a lot of people don’t follow the Lord. This is why a lot of people put it off to some distant day because they, in their mind, think I can live my life the way I want to, and toward the end of my life, I can make my life right with God. But the Bible doesn’t teach that at all. There is a pleasure of sin, and that’s why a lot of people reject Christ as their personal savior. They’re not willing to give up their sin. They’re not willing to give up their Bernice. King Agrippa knows immediately, as soon as he would follow Christ, he would have to walk away from Bernice.
“I won’t follow the Lord, a young man,” says, “Because if I do, I’ll have to leave my girlfriend.” “I won’t follow the Lord because if I do, I’ll have to quit the job that I currently have, that’s paying me a lot of money.” What I want you to know, Jesus Christ died for your sin. He has no mercy on those at the end of the day, who hear the gospel and reject Him throughout all of eternity.
There is not only the pleasure of sin, the pressure to stand, but right before them is the Apostle Paul. He has chains on, and it’s the price of salvation. The reason a lot of people won’t respond to an invitation is because of the price of salvation.
Yes, salvation is free, but it will cost you everything. God’s grace and mercy are free, but there is a price tag in following the Lord. There’ll be some friends you won’t have. You may lose a job along the way. You may get persecuted, ridiculed, or laughed at, or scorned. In some places, it may mean imprisonment, may mean torture. There’s a price tag in following Jesus. It’s amazing to me that some people think they can love the world and live in the world and have eternal life at the same time. I just don’t think they’ve counted the cost. I don’t think they’ve measured the price. I don’t think they’ve evaluated their life to the best of their ability. You see, there are those who want to hang out with Festus and want to please the bullies of the day. There are those who want to spend their time with Bernice, but what about the Apostle Paul?
He stands there with chains and he says, “I wish you were like me, except for those chains.” He doesn’t wish that they would have the bondage that he has experienced, but they’re not willing to follow an Apostle Paul who’s following Christ. They’re not willing to pay the price of salvation.
I want to ask you a question, if someone came to you and said, you can have all the wealth of the world, but you’d have to cut off your little, tiny finger, would you be willing to do it? You’d say, “Well, all the wealth of the world, all the wealth in stocks, and golds, and bonds, and jewelry, and all that, sure, cut off one pinky, no big deal.” How about for a hand? Would you cut off a hand? Would you sever a hand? Would you let somebody take off your hand for all the wealth of the world?
There are many who would say, “Sure, I’ll take off one hand for all the wealth of the world. I can have the diamonds in South Africa, the sapphires in Asia, and the gold in Fort Knox, count me in.” How about two hands? Would you do it for two hands? How about for two hands and a foot? Would you give two hands and a foot for all the wealth of the world? How about two hands and both feet? You lose both feet, you lose both hands, but you have all the wealth of the world; trillions and trillions and trillions of dollars at your disposal for two hands and both feet. How about two hands, both feet, and one ear? How about both ears? Cut off your ears, lose your hands, you lose your feet, but you have all the wealth of the world.
What about one eye? Would you let somebody pluck out an eye? How about both eyes? How about if someone took out both eyes, took off both ears and got rid of both hands and both feet? I don’t know of anyone who would think that all the wealth of the world is worth that price.
But can I tell you something? There are a lot of people paying a whole lot more and getting a whole lot less. They’re losing their soul, trying to grab the world. And if you could grab it and you could get it, you couldn’t keep it. You would lose it anyway. Oh, my friend, Jesus Christ values just one soul much less the eight billion souls on this planet today. I want to encourage you to make the right choice, make the right decision. Jesus said, what would profit a man if he would gain the whole wealth of the world and lose his soul. In other words, it’s not worth the trade. Don’t let Festus rob you. Don’t get wrapped up in Bernice and King Agrippa. Become a Christ follower today.
III. We Need To Realize The Effects Of Almost Being To Christ
What are the effects? As a person sows, he or she will reap. What’s the end of the story?
First, there is a hardened heart. If you can read this message today, and you can say no to Jesus Christ, you have hardened your heart. And the second time, it’ll be easier to say no again. And the third time, it’ll be easier to say no again, because you hardened your heart.
The same sun that will melt wax will harden concrete in the highway. The same Gospel that brings one person to Christ will harden another one. Two people can be sitting in the same church, hear the same message, get the same invitation, one surrender, and one walk out. It’s a hardened heart. You say, “Well, I’ll come to Christ when I’m ready.” Who ever said you’ll have another opportunity? Whoever declared that you could follow Jesus Christ at any time you wanted to? There are some people who sit in services week after week in the local church and they have the hardest hearts of all.
The second effect is a hindered harvest. When someone says no to Jesus Christ, someone else says, no. We all have a sphere of influence. If you say no to Christ, somebody else who looks up to you will say no to Christ also. When a man or woman doesn’t follow the Lord, others say, “Well, you know what? They’re not following the Lord, so I won’t follow the Lord either.” Don’t let someone else name you as an excuse for not following the Lord.
The third effect is a horrible hell. We don’t hear much about hell today, but Jesus Christ talked twice as much about hell as He did about heaven. And some people have the idea that if God allows somebody to go to hell, then He’s not a loving God and He’s not a just God. What I want you to know, God balances all the books. It’s not your responsibility; it’s not mine to balance the books. We have such limited knowledge.
But God’s more than fair. He’s just. Every man and woman in this world has an adequate witness to know who God is. Now some of us have more witness opportunities than others, but no matter where we are on this earth, we have an opportunity to know there’s a God. When a man or woman reaches out to Him, God will do everything in His ability and power and more to make the Gospel available to him or her. There is a horrible hell. Not only did Jesus Christ talk twice as much about hell as He did about heaven, but some people have this idea that it’s hard to go to heaven and it’s easy to go to hell. I actually believe it’s the other way around. I believe it’s easy to go to heaven and hard to go to hell.
It’s easy to go to heaven, accept the Lordship of Jesus Christ and become a Christ-follower and heaven is your eternal deed. You become a citizen in heaven. But to go to hell, you have to say no to this message. You have to say no to the Holy Spirit. You have to say no to the Son of God. You have to say no to the Heavenly Father. You have to trample underneath your feet, the blood of Jesus Christ. You have to ignore the divine Word of God. You have to reject the local church in your community. You have to work really hard to go to hell. But if you work really hard and climb up over all that, then you will spend eternity in hell. What is hell? It’s separation from the love and mercy of God forever.
Hell was first created for Satan and his fallen angels. When Adam and Eve fell in the garden of Eden, sin entered into this world. When men and women reject Christ as their personal savior, they will spend eternity the Bible says with Satan and his falling angels.
In Revelation Chapter 21, we read about the judgment throne of God. It is called the Great White Throne judgment. The Bible says that whosoever was not written in the Lamb’s book of life, the angels will cast them into the lake of fire. This is the final state, the Bible declares as hell.
I urge you, I persuade you, I do all I can to motivate you to become a Christ-follower and to surrender your life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. For those who know the Lord as their personal savior, I urge you just as much to become a soul winner, become a prayer warrior to share Christ, to get into their lives and build bridges to lost and dying humanity.
Someone said many years ago if there was more hell in the pulpit, there’d probably be less hell in the street. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know this: that we ought to have a reverential fear of God and we ought to understand that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of God and not know Christ as your personal savior.
At the close of World War II, the United States of America dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. And when that atomic bomb exploded, instantaneously 50,000-plus people died and disappeared, never to be seen again. Scientists say that when the atomic bomb exploded that the heat of that fire, of the atomic bomb, was more than 10,000 times hotter than the surface temperature of the sun. The Japanese were preparing, they knew that the United States was planning to drop an atomic bomb. They were hiding in basements. They were getting as low as they could down into the earth to try to protect themselves. And when the bomb exploded, the brick, the mortar, the homes, even down in the depths of the earth, everything was consumed and sucked into that fire instantly.
I’ve often wondered if mankind and his ingenuity and scientific ideas can create a fire that hot. How hot can God create fire? I believe the worst thing about hell is to know you didn’t have to go there. To know that there is a God who loved you. To know that you could have followed the footsteps of Jesus Christ, but you were more concerned about what Bernice, King Agrippa, and Festus had to say than what Jesus Christ, the king of the universe had already said. For a person never to have the opportunity again to feel and sense the presence of the Holy Spirit, must be worse than hell itself.
In the Book of Jude, the Bible talks about the chains of darkness. Inscribed on every chain that pulls a man or woman further downward into the hot halls of hell will be, “I never knew you.” The final four words that God will say to a man or woman that does not know Christ as Savior on that judgment day will be “Depart from me for I never knew you.” It’s God’s will for you to be a whosoever. Whosoever will come into the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. It is God’s will for you to come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. And for those who are following the Lord, it is God’s will for you to be a soul winner or prayer warrior to invade this dark world with the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.