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'Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian'

Sermon preached by
The Reverend Eric Royden
21st July 2002

Acts 26:1-3
Then Agrippa said to Paul, "You are permitted to speak for yourself."

So Paul stretched out his hand and answered for himself:  "I think myself happy, King Agrippa, because today I shall answer for myself before you concerning all the things of which I am accused by the Jews, especially because you are expert in all customs and questions which have to do with the Jews. Therefore I beg you to hear me patiently....

Acts 26:24-29
Now as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, "Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!"

But he said, "I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and reason. For the king, before whom I also speak freely, knows these things; for I am convinced that none of these things escapes his attention, since this thing was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe."

Then Agrippa said to Paul, "You almost persuade me to become a Christian."

And Paul said, "I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains."  
New King James Version

'Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian'. (Acts 26.v28)

Paul was appearing before the Roman governor Festus and King Agrippa to answer charges levelled against him by the Jews. Festus was a heathen who despised religion and believed it to be false. 

There are many people today like Festus in every walk of life who live life to excess as if they had no souls. God has no meaning for them but life without God is meaningless. We can only know God through Jesus Christ, who said, 'I am the way, the truth, the life, no one can come to the Father except through me'. But there is always hope, for one of the most successful evangelists today is an American who was a thief, a robber, a drug addict, yet became a Christian, then a pastor, then an evangelist who has brought millions of people to know the Lord.

King Agrippa was of Jewish extraction brought up amongst Jews and knew and believed of the Prophets, Whereas Festus considered Paul mad, Paul felt in Agrippa he had a man to whom he could appeal, In reply, Agrippa said, 'Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian'. He was saying, you got close Paul, you almost made it.,/p>

There are many people like Agrippa. They are interested to know about the Church, they wish it well and follow its progress, but that is as far as they are prepared to go. They are almost Christians. They would however probably be offended not to be seen as Christians. The term Christian has come to mean anyone not an atheist, a Jew, or member of another religion.

That is not the biblical understanding of a Christian. Whilst liberal churchmen may be prepared to have a loose interpretation, any evangelical would expect a Christian to be regular in worship, to accept Jesus as one who died for the forgiveness of their sins, to have a way of living according to the teachings of our Lord, to have an acceptance of Scripture as the authoritative and infallible Word of God.

Whether people are antagonistic or sympathetic towards the Church, the sad thing is their children are being brought up without knowing of or about God. 

Schools have virtually given up teaching Christianity and many many children are facing life not knowing God and devoid of all spiritual knowledge and faith, knowing nothing about the Bible or its characters. 

Even the Church seems to have given up persuading parents to send their children to Sunday School or Junior Church. Time and interest can be found for any other activity, but Church has no call on them. Children are being left a terrible legacy. We should do all we can to persuade our nearest and dearest who are not Christians to seek the Lord.

Those who do attend Church, may not fulfil what is required of them. 

Jesus told the parable of the wheat and tares. Tares were one of the curses a farmer had to struggle against. They were a weed called darnel and in their early stages so resembled the wheat that it was impossible to tell one from the other. When they had grown the difference was obvious but by that time the roots had become intertwined so that one could not be pulled up without the other. Eventually they would have to be for the tares were poisonous and caused dizziness and sickness. The owner told his servants not to pull out the weeds but leave them until the harvest when the weeds could be separated and burned.

When His disciples asked Jesus to explain the parable, He said, the field represented the world; the wheat was the Christians and the weeds represented those not accepting Him.

This parable has a message for our Lord's Church to-day.

Like the field the Church has its good and bad seed. Many people, both inside and outside the Church are confused as to what the Church actually believes and stands for. We have hypocrisy, unbelief, division, doubt, false prophecy and sin. 

Yet it need not be so. In this book (the Bible) God laid down how we should conduct and live our lives and what we should believe and accept. If men and women, especially those in ministry, would only follow those guidelines there would be no confusion. This is one manual that does not need updating.

Billy Graham could fill a stadium with 30-50,000 people yet when coming to Cambridge some years ago on a mission, a Canon of the Church, who would probably have difficulty filling a Church hall, wrote to the Times newspaper protesting that the visit caused concern to the work of religious education and was likely to issue in disillusionment for educated men and women in a 20th century world. In other words, Billy was speaking in absolutes, he was not an 'almost' Christian.

There is false teaching going on. We have paedophile priests allowed to continue in one denomination. We have Vicars running off with other men's wives. If you have sin coming from the pulpit you will have sin in the pew. If you have apathy in the pulpit you will have apathy in the pew. If you have fire for the Lord in the pulpit you will have fire for the Lord in the pew. Our eternal future is dependent upon proper biblical teaching and acceptance of it.

Jesus concluded His explanation of the parable by referring to the harvest at the end of the age. He talked of the weeds being burned in the fire. The Bible says man is destined once to die and then face judgement. Jesus taught there are two destinies, heaven and hell. Many refuse to accept this doctrine but our Lord spoke of both and if we reject hell we must reject heaven for He spoke equally of both.

It is said God would never send a person to hell. Of course not, but, we may well choose to go by the way we live our lives.

One consolation for us is that we can know all those committing such evil deeds will one day face retribution and justice will be done.

When we die we will stand before Jesus all alone and have to answer to Him. Jesus didn't almost shed His blood on the cross for us. He shed His blood. So we will have to answer as to how we lived our lives and how we responded to His call.

The Bible states: salvation is found in no one else for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. Paul said he wished everyone could be like him an altogether Christian. He was utterly convinced of the truth of Christianity. That Jesus Christ was God manifest in the flesh. Risen and ascended and is now at God's right hand in glory as Saviour. That the purpose of Jesus coming into the world was to purchase redemption by suffering in our place at the cross.

Today a cushy Christianity obtains in many places. The main intention is to say pleasing things, for we are told in the Bible that people love it so. A lie will be believed if told often enough. Rogue traders make goods and stamp them with the name of a famous firm. Rogue Christians are putting God's stamp on their own brand. God's Word is clear and unequivocal.

The Bible says let us put away every sin that besets us. Sin is often equated solely with immorality. Sin is in effect doing anything Jesus wouldn't do. 

We have to ask am I doing anything of which I would be ashamed of if Jesus came alongside me. Jesus insists on dictating how we live and if we are in any doubt we say No.

We are careful what we watch on television and at the movies. We don't watch foul- mouthed chat show men with their crude sexual talk. If we feel something is likely to corrupt our minds, we switch off. Nor do we get ourselves involved in strife, be deceitful, malicious, lie or gossip. Without gossip peace reigns, Scripture states; with it we are likely to form wrong judgement.

We must get any sin out of our lives and live for God. Our nation so badly needs Christian men and women. Men and women who are altogether and not almost Christians.

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