Down the Road, Paul and Agrippa

August 24, 2014

You
eat what you kill!  That was what I was
told when I started selling for Saint John Toyota in 1985.  Angela and I had spent most of the previous
year in upstate New York on staff at a Wesleyan church and that didn’t work out
the way we anticipated and so we had returned to Saint John and eventually I
ended up selling Toyotas.  I never liked
saying I sold cars, it’s because people think less of you, but when you say you
sold Toyotas it’s like you’ve done a service to humanity, and really it wasn’t
a bad gig and I was always driving a brand new car.
If
there was one down side it was the salary, there wasn’t one, there was no base,
no minimum, it was completely commission, or as I was told “You eat what you
kill”.                            
And
so one day my Sales manager asked me if I had sold anything that morning to
which I responded “I almost sold a Camry.” 
To which he responded, “Well then, I will almost pay you on
Friday.” 
How
often do we use the word Almost?  I tell
people, “I run almost every day, almost Monday, almost Tuesday. . .”  Which means in reality that I never run.  The Oxford Dictionary defines almost this way; Almost: adverb Not quite; very nearly:  Remember this (Get Smart Clip). 
Almost means that you missed it, it might have only been by this much
but you still missed it.
When
I was a kid, when somebody said “I almost did this” or “I almost did that” the
proper response was, “Almost only counts in horseshoes.”  Did you ever say that?  Did you know why almost only counted in
horseshoes? Because in Horseshoes if you are close you still get some
points. 
That
is one of the facts of life: almost doesn’t cut it, as a matter of fact “Almost
only counts in horseshoes.” 
We’ve been following
Paul on his journeys and as we continue down the road Paul has been arrested
for preaching the Gospel, again.  This
time the Roman Consulate Festus decides to hand over the responsibility of Paul
to King Agrippa, who wasn’t really a king at all he was actually Herod Agrippa
the second, who ruled over a small part of Palestine at the grace of the Romans
with his sister Bernice, who was the sister in law of Festus. The story is told
in the book of Acts in chapter 26 Paul states
his case, he starts with his early life and then how he persecuted the
Christians, and then he told of his conversion, in short he gave his testimony.
Paul has laid everything out and used all his ammunition, and then he closes
with these words in Acts 26:27 King Agrippa,
do you believe the prophets? I know you do—” 
Paul has become the
master fisherman. He has baited his hook, he has cast his line and now he has a
nibble, he can see Agrippa taking the bait, easy, easy, and gotcha.  He gives the line a jerk to set the hook. You
know it’s at this point that most of us fail in being fishers of men. We
testify, we witness and get folks interested and then we don’t set the hook and
they eat the goodies and swim away. But not Paul, Paul takes the time to set
the hook. Paul was used to success, and I’m sure that he was ready for Agrippa
to say, “I believe Paul, I believe”. 
But instead we read
in Acts 26:28 Agrippa interrupted him. “Do you think you can persuade me
to become a Christian so quickly?” 
You
might be more familiar with this translation Acts 26:28
NKJV Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian” Almost
Paul, but not quite. Paul must have been flabbergasted, discouraged, disgusted.
And when I get discouraged I think of Paul, he blew it, he wasn’t a hundred
percent. 
Why?
Who knows, maybe he wasn’t convincing enough, perhaps he had turned Agrippa off
in some way or perhaps Agrippa wasn’t paying attention maybe his mind was
wandering and was thinking of something else. We don’t know why Agrippa was
only “Almost persuaded”.  Paul had done
everything right but it didn’t seem enough.
I
love the ministry, it’s my life, and to a certain degree I have been training
for the ministry since I was sixteen years old.   During the summers I spent working on salvage
tugs and oil tankers but during my high school years I began selling and I
continued to sell into my time at college. I sold dress clothes, blue jeans,
vacuum cleaners, wood stoves, bicycles, cars, trucks, travel trailers and
advertising. From the time that I was sixteen years old I made my living
convincing people that they needed what I had to offer.
And
really, ministry is sales. No that’s not sacrilege. I have something other
people don’t have but need. My job very simply is to convince them that they
need Jesus Christ. Every once in a while someone will ask me if I can do
something about the weather to which I reply “Sorry I’m in sales not
management.”
Now
I am not one of those people who can sell everything to everybody I will never
be able to sell refrigerators to the Inuit, I worked hard at my selling and I
used all of the tools of my trade. I made sure that I was properly groomed, and
well dressed, I discovered how to address people and set them at ease, and I
learned everything about my product and I learned how to set the hook. I
discovered early that it was no good spending time selling a product and then
never actually asking the customer if they actually wanted to buy it or not.
And
so Paul is ready to set the hook, He says “King Agrippa, do you believe?” and
Agrippa says “You know Paul, you almost persuaded me”.  Not good enough Agrippa, almost found is still
lost, almost saved is still doomed.
I’m
sure that Paul wanted to say, “Agrippa, almost only counts in horseshoes.” But
Paul wasn’t alone and neither was Agrippa. 
In
Second Peter 2:5, Peter refers to Noah as a “Preacher of righteousness”   Now you would think, at least I would, and
that if this fellow was a good enough preacher to get mentioned in the Bible as
a preacher of righteousness that he must have been pretty persuasive. Wrong,
out of all the people on earth he only persuaded seven people to join him on
the ark.


Noah
Didn’t Persuade Everyone
Only
eight people all up were willing to forsake sin for God, while the rest forsook
God for sin, why? Because they were more concerned with the temporal then with
the eternal. That’s the way most of us are. The concept of delayed
gratification is lost on us, we want what we want and we want it now. We just
can’t see much further then tomorrow. That’s why so many people don’t look at
resale value when they buy cars, that’s down the road. That’s why the government
makes CPP contributions mandatory and why we have the old age pension. That’s
why people don’t make up wills or funeral arrangements, they can’t imagine that
this will end.
The people
of Noah’s day were having a ball, they were saying, “Eat drink and be merry for
tomorrow you may die” today our philosophy is “eat drink and be merry for you
ain’t never gonna die. The people of Noah’s day didn’t want to hear that things
were coming to an end any more than people today want to hear that.
Hebrews 11:25 speaks of the “Fleeting
pleasures of sin.”  God doesn’t
try to tell us that sin isn’t fun, but he does say that the fun doesn’t last.
I’m sure that if Noah’s neighbours had of realized how close the reality of
judgment was they would have changed their ways.
Now I’m not
advocating that you need to give up your fun and games, and live a dull,
boring, humdrum, ho-hum, monotonous life in order to get to heaven. Even Zig
Zigler couldn’t’ sell salvation with a line like that. Jesus didn’t say “I have
come to take the fun out of life” and Jesus didn’t say “I have come to make
life unbearable” and Jesus didn’t say “I have come that life may be a drag”
what Jesus said was recorded in John 10:10 The thief’s
purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and
satisfying life.
Who
is them? Them is you? They were those who had responded to the claims of the
Gospel. Millions of people have discovered an important fact, and that is that
Christianity does not take the enjoyment out of life. Jesus Christ’s primary
motivation is not to make life miserable but to make life full and rewarding.
If
you don’t think that you can have fun as a Christian I would wager that is
because you are receiving your “Fun” from external sources. Drugs, alcohol, or
premarital or extra marital sexual activity. In other words you aren’t
receiving your gratification from within or from friends you are dependent on
external stimuli.
But
things do end, and eventually the rain started, and Noah and his family went
into the ark. And those on the outside, yelled out things like “Noah, you
almost convinced us to repent.” And Noah leaned over the rail and said, “Almost
only counts in horseshoes.”
But
wait, Noah and Paul you’re not alone. Genesis 19 records the destruction of
Sodom and Gomorrah. Sin and immorality abounded in those two cities and God
told Abraham that he was going to destroy the cities. Abraham began
negotiating, “If I can find, 50, 45,40, 20, 10 righteous men will you spare the
city” and God said “sure” or something like that. But in the end only four
people were saved, Lot, his wife and their two daughters. Lot tried to convince
his future son-in-laws, in Genesis 19:14 So Lot rushed
out to tell his daughters’ fiancés, “Quick, get out of the city! The Lord is
about to destroy it.” But the young men thought he was only joking.
Lot
Didn’t Persuade Everyone
Lot’s
future son-in-laws didn’t take the claims of God serious. They thought it was a
game; unfortunately too many people have that attitude today. Religion is one
big game show. And so society asks us “Do you believe door number one, door
number two or door number three? And whatever beliefs you pick you win as long
as you live that belief sincerely.”  It
doesn’t matter if it is Christianity or Islam, or Mormonism, or Hinduism, or
J.W.ism, they are all seen in the same light. Wrong, It’s just that people
refuse to take the words of Jesus Christ seriously, he said and I quote from John 14:6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the
life. No one can come to the Father except through me.
 You say, “No preacher that isn’t right, what
he really meant was that if you are a good person then he won’t punish you.”
wrong, he meant what he said, and what he said was “I am the way and the truth
and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.   The only door to heaven is called
Christianity and all others doors lead to hell.
God
wasn’t joking when he said that the wages of sin are death, and when the fire
and brimstone rained down on Sodom Lot’s son in laws must have cast their
voices heavenward and said, “Lot almost persuaded us” And when lot looked down
on the charred remains of those 2 great cities he said “Almost only counts in
horseshoes”
Paul, Noah and Lot you’re not alone
Luke 18:18 Once a religious leader asked Jesus this question: “Good
Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” 
Jesus
responded by saying, “That’s a good question, I’m glad you asked, keep all the
commandments” and the ruler said, “been there, done that” and so Jesus says in Luke 18:22 So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him,
“You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
And
then in the next verse we see the man’s response:  Luke 18:23 But when
he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.
Jesus Didn’t
Persuade Everyone
Now
let’s get one thing straight, money is not the important thing here, the
important thing is the attitude. Money, an unsaved boyfriend or girlfriend, a
job, a hobby a habit, what is the thing in your life that is more important than
Jesus.
With
me, look I would have come to the Lord three months sooner than I did if it
hadn’t been for a female. She was something else. When I was with her I felt
like a million dollars. She had a gorgeous shape, all the curves were in the
right places and she drew stares where ever we were. If I left her for five
minutes when I came back there was a crowd around her. I’d only been serious
with her for six months, but I had first laid eyes on her two years before and
it was love at first sight. Every nickel I earned’ was spent on her and I knew
deep down in my heart that when I accepted Jesus as Lord that I’d have to give
her up.
Right
then she was my life and I fought a battle for three long months knowing it was
her or God. And on the night that I turned my heart over to the Lord he told me
“if you are going to serve me 100% then she has to go.” and I knew what I had
to do and the next day I did it, I put a for sale sign on her. Oh did I fail to
mention that “she” was a 1971 Cutlass Supreme convertible. She was fire engine
red, with white top and leather interior power windows and a 350 rocket engine
with four barrel carby and, and, and.
Maybe
you aren’t foolish enough to let something as dumb as a car stand in the way of
your salvation, maybe it’s your career or your friends, or you money or your
pride. Jesus is looking for all of you. The rich young ruler thought he had it
in the bag, it wasn’t until Jesus spoke that he understood, “He didn’t have the
riches, the riches had him”.  Who or what
is standing in your way. What is it in your life that is more important than Jesus? 
The
rich young ruler wanted to follow Jesus, that wasn’t the problem. The problem
was that he wasn’t ready to give it all up. Salvation is free but it aint
cheap, it will cost you all that you have and all that you are. The rich young
ruler knew that there were things in his life that would hold him back. It
would save a lot of time, if some people were at least honest enough with God,
and with themselves to do what the rich your ruler did. And that was to say,
“Jesus you almost persuaded me to follow you”, and then he walked away.
And Jesus must have been broken hearted as he thought, “Almost only counts in
horseshoes.”
Paul
you are not alone.
But
there were others who were persuaded. Peter, Andrew, James, John, Bartholomew,
Matthew and the rest of the 12. Zacchaeus was persuaded and so was Nicodemus,
and Joseph of Aramiathia, and the woman at the well, and Simon the Pharisees,
and the Paralytic at Peter’s house, the lone leper, the Prostitute who washed
Jesus feet, the centurion at the cross, Saul of Tarsus, Cornelius, Priscilla,
Eunice, Jude, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Moody, Graham, Mansvelt, Kneebone,
Wickwire, Slauenwhite and the list goes on and on and on.
In
Hebrews chapter 12 Paul writes Hebrews 12:1 Therefore,
since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith,
let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so
easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before
us. 
That
crowd represents the millions upon millions of people who have done more then
“almost believe”.  That crowd of
witnesses is all of those who have gone on before you who were persuaded. The
twelve were persuaded, the 120 were persuaded, the 3000 were persuaded, the
multitudes were persuaded.
You
say “Denn you almost persuade me to become a Christian” almost isn’t good
enough, almost finishing the race means that you didn’t make it. Almost in
means that you are still out, almost healed means that you are still sick, and
almost saved means that you are still lost.
Denn
Won’t Persuade Everyone
Almost
doesn’t make it down here and almost won’t make it on judgement day. When
Agrippa died and stood at the pearly gates, and said “Paul almost persuaded me
to become a Christian” St. Peter would have said, “Sorry Agrippa, Almost only
counts in horseshoes.”
The
big difference is that horseshoes is only a game, and if you blow it then you
play another game.   Life and salvation
are no game, there is no second chance. When it’s done, it done. That great
American Philosopher Yogi Berra said “It aint over til it’s over” and that’s
true, but remember Yogi , when it’s over it’s over. Paul said it best when he
stated in the book of Hebrews 9:27 And just as each
person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment,
Almost
persuaded isn’t good enough, it won’t help you follow Jesus in this life and it
won’t get you to heaven in the next life. Why was Agrippa only “almost persuaded”  ?I don’t know. It wasn’t Paul’s fault, he did
everything he could and it wasn’t God’s fault. Why is it that some who sit
under my ministry are only “almost persuaded?” I don’t know, it’s not my fault,
it’s not God’s fault. Jesus lost some, Paul lost some, Noah lost some, Lot lost
some and Denn Guptill will lose some but I don’t want to. Are you almost
persuaded?