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Almost 11-6-05

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Acts 26:27  King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets?  I know that you do believe.  28  Then Agrippa said to Paul, You almost persuade me to become a Christian.  29  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.

 

Introduction:  Have you ever almost accomplished something in your life?  Have you ever almost finished painting wall or have you almost waxed your car?  Have you almost completed a trip or may be you have almost cleaned your house or almost finished a task at work?  Almost really means that one has very nearly but not exactly or entirely or very near but not quite done something.  Have you ever been almost a winner?  Have you ever almost lost?  Almost is not the place any of us want to be. 

Few words stir up the emotions more than the word “almost.”  This is true in many areas of life.  Almost for the Houston Astros could not make them the “World Series Champs.”  You see almost winning makes losing even more disappointing.  As they say, “it’s always next year,” but we find those words usually spoken after the close of an almost winning year.

We see something extremely tragic in our text today.  Like the Astros this man was almost a winner, almost a Christian, almost saved, but being “almost persuaded” in matters pertaining to one’s spiritual life won’t get you delivered and set free.

The entire 26th chapter of the book of Acts is a record of Paul’s witness before King Agrippa.  Paul told of his pre-Christian actions and then told of his conversion on the road to Damascus.

Act 26:12  While thus occupied, as I journeyed to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests,  13  at midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me.  14  And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?  It is hard for you to kick against the goads.  15  So I said, Who are You, Lord? And He said, I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.

 

This, to me, is one of the saddest incidents in the entire Bible.  Looking at this story we can see that this is an example of God reaching out to the sin-darkened heart of a man, to give him a chance to be saved.  And yet that man would not hear because of the love of the world and the circumstances of his life.

Paul, the great Apostle to the Gentiles, was on trial once again.  This old veteran for the Kingdom of God had faced many trials and tests before, but this one was going to be an exam to prove once and for all, his faithfulness to the Lord Jesus Christ.

God was going to use Paul to bring forth a message as he stood before King Agrippa and Festus the governor, to proclaim the gospel and to give testimony of his conversion on the road to Damascus.  Paul was fighting for his life.  He had been arrested and put under protective custody of the Roman army because the Jews had determined to kill him.  Paul had appealed to Caesar, since he was a Roman citizen by birth.

Paul was God’s instrument to bring about the preaching of the gospel to King Agrippa.  God knew that Agrippa’s heart was ripe for the gospel and God determined to give him a chance to hear and to repent.

As Paul stood between his Roman guards that day, waiting for his audience with Agrippa, I cannot help but believe that he stood there in silent prayer.  He was seeking God for wisdom, asking the Lord to give him the right words to say in presenting his case.  He had been charged with many false charges because of his preaching of the gospel.

What a hard thing to endure…to know that you are preaching and teaching the truth, in love, trying to reach out to a hurting world and then to be condemned for doing so.

There is no way of knowing just how long Paul stood in waiting for King Agrippa, but the silence was suddenly interrupted by the blast of trumpets and cries of the Announcer who declared the entrance of the King.

Satan knows how to sidetrack your attention from the truth that God brings to you.  The “voices” of the world around you will do everything they can to drown out and overpower the message of the gospel that is brought to you through God’s messenger.

There may be some here right now who won’t hear what this message has to say to them simply because your mind and your heart are occupied with the things of this world.  Perhaps it’s your children, your job, your home, what you plan on doing after church or any one of a thousand things that occupy your mind.  Whatever your mind is dwelling on, that is the work of the enemy of your soul, to keep you from hearing what God has to say.  If we are not careful to give God our attention, Satan will steal even the truth that we hear from God’s Word.  Almost, we will hear from God, but yet we can miss God’s best.

King Agrippa was seated upon his throne.  He loved the praise and respect of his people.  He loved the long, flowing robes of royalty.  He loved the splendor and wealth of being the King. He loved the way that everyone would see to his every desire and that he wanted for nothing.

The heart of man is always influenced so easily by praise and by prosperity in the things of this world.  A man or woman who has everything that life can offer and who are living in prosperity and self-sufficiency are very hard to reach with the message of the gospel.  They don’t see a need for God.  Their god is their standard of living.

Acts 26:2  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,  3  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.

 

As Paul stood there that day, he began with praise for the knowledge and judgment of Agrippa.  Paul understood Agrippa’s need of respect and he knew that if he were to be given a fair hearing, he would have to please Agrippa’s ego.

I think it is important that we realize that our circumstances as Christians, should never determine our joy in the Lord.  Paul was a prisoner, standing before the King, accused of crimes worthy of death and he was headed for the prison at Rome where he would eventually be beheaded for the cause of Christ.  Yet Paul was not troubled.  He was not crying and grumbling about his difficulties in life.  He was not complaining to God who allowed these things to come into his life.  Paul was not crying out in hopelessness!

Instead he made a great statement of his faith that showed the condition of his heart in the midst of a great trial when he said, “…I think myself happy, King Agrippa…”

Happiness isn’t something that is purchased with money.  Money can buy short-lived enjoyment. Money can buy a little bit of happiness, but when the money is gone, the happiness that it buys goes with it.  To really be happy we must learn that happiness is a state of mind and the condition of the heart.  If your heart is right with God, happiness comes naturally.  We think happy.  We act happy.  We are happy, because the Spirit of God dwells within us and not because of our circumstances.

Paul stood before Agrippa with a “happy heart” because he knew that it wasn’t King Agrippa or Governor Festus who determined his future.  Paul’s future and his very life were in the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Paul’s confidence and the conviction of his heart to believe in Jesus were unshakeable!  He was happy because he knew that God had brought about every circumstance in his life and that God was still orchestrating everything that happened.

Paul began to testify before Agrippa and Festus.  He told them of his training in the school of Gamaliel, of his becoming chief among the Pharisees, of his persecution of those who were called Christians, of his conversion on the road to Damascus, of his blindness, healing and call to preach the gospel to the Gentiles.  Paul’s words were inspired by the Holy Spirit and presented in such a way that they could not be easily pushed aside.

You see, God was not only giving Paul the words to say so that he could present a case for his innocence, but more importantly, God was giving Paul the message that would reach into the very heart of King Agrippa with the truth of the Gospel.

Acts 26:26  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.

Acts 26:26 (Amplified) For the king understands about these things well enough, and [therefore] to him I speak with bold frankness and confidence.  I am convinced that not one of these things has escaped his notice, for all this did not take place in a corner [in secret].

 

King Agrippa knew and understood the customs of the Jews and their religious beliefs.  He also had knowledge of the events surrounding the ministry, life, crucifixion and resurrection story of Jesus Christ.  It was his duty, as King, to know about those who he ruled over.  It was his duty to know their history and to keep up with all the current events so that he could rule effectively.

Paul knew that his story was not a surprise to Agrippa.  After all the crucifixion, resurrection and the preaching of the gospel throughout all of Israel and the Gentile nations around the region was not a secret.  This message was being shouted from the housetops, taught in the synagogues, preached on the street corners, going from house to house and told in so many ways, by so many people that it could not be ignored or forgotten.

Our Father has never tried to hide the truth of the gospel.  It has always been His will that every man, woman and child should come to repentance.  Jesus came down and publicly proclaimed that He was the Son of God.  Jesus died on a cross for the whole world to see. Jesus resurrection from the grave was not a secret.  It was broadcast and is still being broadcast around the world so that all men might believe on Him and be saved.

So as Agrippa listened to the testimony of Paul, his heart was touched and his spirit was stirred within.  There is no record of Festus being touched by anything that was said.

We need to understand that we never know who God is speaking to when we testify about the Lord Jesus Christ, particularly when we are around more than one person. 

Every week, as I stand on the stage of this church, I wonder who God is speaking to as I bring forth the message.  I am pray that it is being spoken in the right manner and that somehow God will use the words that I speak to bring the message that He wants you to hear. Sometimes I feel that the message is for everyone and there are times when I feel that God is speaking to someone or to only certain people.  God knows the heart of each of us and He knows what we need and He will do whatever is necessary to let you hear what you need to hear!

King Agrippa heard the gospel clearly.  His heart was touched by the power of the Holy Spirit in the message that Paul brought.  Agrippa was as close to Heaven at that very moment in his life, than he would ever be again for all eternity.  For a few brief minutes God was reaching out to Agrippa in one great attempt to save Agrippa’s soul.  God the Holy Spirit was tugging at the heart of Agrippa to repent and accept Christ as his Savior.

God was using Paul to bringing forth a powerful, Spirit filled, anointed message that was specifically designed to bring Agrippa into right relationship with God.  This was a “last ditch”, “once in a lifetime” effort to reach King Agrippa for the Kingdom of God.  Would Agrippa hear God?  Would he obey the call of the Holy Spirit?  Would he make a decision for Heaven or for Hell?  His eternal soul was hanging in the balance during Paul’s sermon that day!

Paul was hoping that his testimony would have a powerful effect upon Agrippa.  Paul knew that Agrippa believed all that he was saying.  Paul knew that Agrippa believed in the teachings of the Prophets and the Law.  Agrippa believed, he understood, he knew the truth, but would he surrender his life to Christ?  Sadly I must report, the answer came at the end of Paul’s testimony!  The words of Agrippa have rang throughout the centuries as words that represent the answer to God’s call upon the heart of every soul that has hung in the balance and then failed to turn to God.

CLOSE:

Acts 26:28  Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.”

Agrippa – means “hero like.”  What a hero he would have been to first come to a saving knowledge of Jesus and with his royal power to persuade others to also come.  But the Word said that he “almost.”

Almost – what a terrible word that is in its fullest meaning when applied to the salvation of a lost soul that is bound for hell.  Almost – so close to Heaven and yet Agrippa will never see or experience its wonderful glory.  Almost – so near to the love and mercy of God, only to see the wrath and judgment of the God.  Almost – so close that they could reach out and touch the Lord’s nail-scarred hand and yet to never feel His warm embrace.  Almost – one decision away from Heaven or Hell.

What was it that kept Agrippa from making Heaven his eternal home?  What is it that is keeping you from making Heaven your home today?  “Almost” is a desperate place to be, make Jesus your Lord today. 

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