The Bible teaches that not one of us would respond favorably to God if God did not, first, sovereignly and graciously draw us unto Himself. Jesus will say, in John 6:44,
44 “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him…”
Jesus is teaching us that not one of us is “naturally” attracted to God and to His plan. No, we, by nature, are slavishly devoted to following our own plan. Left to ourselves we would never choose God ourselves, but thankfully, God in His grace draws us to His Son so that we believe. Jesus teaches, again in John 6:37,
32 “All that the Father gives me will come to me…”
If we are asked, “Why do you believe in Jesus,” our first answer is: praise be to God, for God in His grace effectively called me to His Son and I came to Him in faith.
A great preacher, Charles Spurgeon, once wrote, “Sometimes, when I a trying to prepare a sermon to preach, I say to myself, ‘Why must I take all of this trouble. I men were in their senses they would run to Christ without calling. Why must we put this business so temptingly? Why must we plead? Why must we be so earnest, because men do not want to come, not even to their own Savior?’ They do not wish to have their sins forgiven. They do not wish to be renewed in heart and they will never come, no, not one mother’s son of them, unless He that sent Christ to them shall draw them to Christ. A work of grace in the heart is absolutely necessary before the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus will be accepted by anyone of us. Unto this I say, ‘Amen!’”
Someone may ask the question, “Should we, then, try to persuade others to believe if they are unable to believe apart from God’s sovereign work? Why should we seek to persuade others?” In this study, in Acts 26:19-32, we observe that the truth of God’s sovereign grace in bringing salvation to men does not at all hinder Paul from pleading persuasively with King Agrippa. This text tells us that King Agrippa was, in fact, almost persuaded, and indeed we know how Paul reasoned with Agrippa and sought, with a burdened heart, to convince him that Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior. The main idea that we can track through Acts 26 is that God calls us, His sons and His daughters, to make every effort to persuade others to follow Jesus.
Paul would write in 2 Corinthians 5:11 and 20,
11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men… 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
We see a clear picture of Paul doing just that before King Agrippa and Bernice in Acts 26. There are four considerations regarding God’s call upon us to persuade others of the Lordship of Jesus and of His provision of eternal life to all who would come to Him in faith.
We are, first, going to consider the goodness of the goal of persuasion. Next, we will consider the nature of the methods of our persuasion. Third, we will look at the reality of the resistance to persuasion. Finally, we will consider the danger of “almost” being persuaded.
Let’s first consider the goodness of the goal of persuasion. In taking up the task of trying to persuade others to worship Jesus and to trust in Him alone for the hope of Heaven is a very, very good commitment. This truth needs to be emphasized today in Christ’s church because the world does not believe that. The world maligns anyone who attempts to convince others of the “truth” of Jesus. They say that such persuasion is “arrogant” and even “bigoted”, for to try to persuade a change in one’s belief regarding God is completely unnecessary, so the reasoning goes. Under such pressure, and it is massive pressure and if you have ever been a part of the work of persuading others you feel the pressure intensely coming against you by many who are around you, many believers begin to ask the question, “Wait a minute, is it right to proselytize? Is it a good endeavor to persuade others?” God’s answer, in the Bible, is, “Yes! It is a very good thing.”
In fact, from Acts 26:19, Paul considers it an act of disobedience not to persuade. It is a good thing to persuade others of the truth regarding God because God gives us such an obligation and a privilege to tell the world and the God who gave such a command is a good and awesome and pleasing God. In fact, we reveal a lack of love for God when we step aside from this role that God has given us, in this life, of persuading, and we reveal a complete lack of love for other people when we set aside this goal that God has given us: to persuade and to reason with others regarding the truth of Jesus Christ.
The choice of which God wants worshipped is not like the choice of which flavor of ice cream one chooses to purchase in Baskin-Robbins. If you were to go into Baskin-Robbins and you were to select a certain flavor of ice cream and I came up to you and said, “No, no, no! You have it all wrong! That is a horrible choice. What you need to choose is ‘Heath Bar Crunch,’ and I begin to tell you of all of the qualities of “Heath Bar Crunch”, such kind of persuasion might be considered, and perhaps would be considered as “arrogant”; that I have a prideful view of my own opinion in regard to which flavor of ice cream is the absolute, best flavor.
This is not at all similar when it comes to “which” god we choose to worship, rather the God that we choose to worship is much like the instance of which kind of liquid we are going to put into the gas tank of our automobile. If you were to take a jug of milk and you began to pour it into your newly purchased automobile I would be the first, and I don’t know a lot about cars but I know this much, to tell you, “Don’t do that! That is going to be very, very bad for your new automobile.” I would seek with all of my powers to persuade you because I care about you and the investment you made, or, if you put sugar-water or coffee, or any other sorts of the thousands of kinds of liquids in this world. Rather, I would seek to persuade you to put in gasoline and I would show you that the manufacture’s booklet tells you to put in this kind of liquid. Why do they put that in it? It is not to limit your choices at all. They put that in there because they designed this vehicle to run on a certain “kind” of liquid.
The God of Creation has designed us in our being and He has designed us to worship a specific God: the God who created us and the God who reveals Himself in the Scripture. Paul models for us an energetic commitment to persuade men and women of the Gospel. Let us consider what we have learned from the past in Acts. In Acts 18:4, Paul is on a missionary and it is early in the morning in Corinth,
4 Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.
In Acts 19:8, in Ephesus,
8 Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God.
In Acts 26:2, Paul is on trial in Caesarea and Paul begins by saying,
2 “King Agrippa, I consider myself fortunate to stand before you today as I make my defense…”
He is there to make a “defense” because he is on trial for being accused of come capital crimes and it is important for him to make a defense, but in the process of making a defense Paul’s real heart-motivation is not just to defend himself so as to be free from the accusation being made against him, but his heart-passion is to persuade those who are listening in the court that Jesus Christ is God come in the flesh; He is Lord and He is the Savior of all. He begins by telling his personal testimony and then in Verse 17 and 18 he tells of his commission that God had given him to out from his own people and from the Gentiles and He is:
17 “…sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light…”
Paul said that God told him that he needed to persuade people, to turn them, from darkness to light and to open their eyes to see the “Truth” in regards to the Messiah. Then in Verses 19 and 20,
19 “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. 20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.”
Paul considered it an obligation before God to persuade. Paul goes on to say, in Verse 22,
22 But I have had God’s help to this very day, and so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen…
None of us can persuade anyone apart from God’s grace and strength and kind work through us. Even here, when Paul’s life and freedom is on the line he is using this trial as an opportunity to persuade. Such was his mission of persuasion pressing upon his soul. He wanted to persuade Felix; he wanted to persuade Agrippa; he wanted to persuade Bernice and everyone else in the court who was sitting there watching that they needed to listen to God, repent of their sin, and believe in Jesus Christ. In Verse 27, Paul says,
27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.”
28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me…?”
The New King James Version translates that conversation this way:
28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.”
Some believe that Agrippa is saying this sarcastically or contemptuously towards Paul. I don’t know the heart-attitude that King Agrippa was having at that very moment, but I do know this: King Agrippa understood something about Paul’s speech. This was not a speech to get Paul off of the hook from the accusations being made. King Agrippa, who is standing as judge, knows that is not why Paul is speaking. He understands, “Paul, you are trying to persuade me of something and in such a short time do you think that I am going to be persuaded?” He said, “Paul, I am almost persuaded.” He understood that Paul was trying to press upon his heart a response towards God.
The Greek dictionary definition of the word persuade is a word which appears throughout the Book of Acts and one that appears 2 Corinthians 5:11, when Paul writes,
11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.
It literally means “to induce one by words to believe”, “to seek to win one”, “to convince”, and “to win over”.
I have to tell you, up front, as one who is proclaiming this message to you in this study, I long for every one of you to become a Christian. I so hope, with every ounce of my being, that I can persuade you, if you have not yet trusted in Jesus Christ, to win you over, to convince you, and to induce you by my words to believe.
It is interesting that while the world often ridicules Christians for trying to persuade others to respond to God in faith and obedience, this same world has no problem at all with its own persuasive actions. Does the world seek to persuade? You had better believe that it does. It always has.
This word “persuade” is used elsewhere in the New Testament. One of those places is in Matthew 27:20. Jesus is standing before Pilot and Pilot recognizes that Jesus is an innocent man. He calls to the crowd to make a choice between Barabbas and Christ. In the story we read,
20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to (ask that) Jesus (be) executed.
Do you believe that people in this world seek to persuade you to move away from God? They absolutely do at every step. We are going to be involved in this work of persuasion. It is just a matter of, first, which side of persuasion we are going to be involved and they how effectively are we going to be about it.
Young people, I wish to say a word to you: the world is seeking to persuade you to conform your lives, your heart-attitude, and your thinking to itself. Romans 12 describes it this way: the world is seeking to squeeze you into its mold. The world has a mold that it wants you to fit into and if you don’t fit into that mold it is going to put on the pressure and it is going to squeeze you to make you conform to its way of thinking, its attitudes, its actions, and its behavior.
Your college professors, when you get there, are going to give you a heavy dose, if you attend a secular university, of denying, Bible-hating philosophy. You are going to have to make a choice because they are going to try and persuade you to believe that the Bible is not true; that the God that reveals Himself in the Bible is a false god and a false deity, someone you don’t need to recognize what-so-ever. Your peers, and you already experience this, young people, are going to try and persuade you to live a certain way. They are going to tell you that the partying way of life and the way of pursuing material gain through getting a good degree and then being able to buy nice cars and homes is what life is all about; to have fun, to feel good, and to get as much of this world’s “stuff” as you possibly can anyway you can. Your peers are going to “squeeze” you and you are going to have to be able to stand up and the only way we can stand up is by turning the tables and say, “I am either going to persuade or I am going to be persuaded.” That is the only way out of this thing. If we are not in the action of persuading, we are being persuaded. That is the way the spiritual life works.
I remember Dr. Dunn, before we set off for college, talked to the high school graduates and in that message he said, to those who were going out to some of the secular universities, and it is a fine choice to go to a secular university and there is nothing wrong with that, but he said, “If you don’t go as a missionary and if you don’t go with a missionary mindset, that you are going into a mission field to reach a world of darkness and a world doesn’t know God and rejects Him, you will be eaten up by that world in that university.” That is true, but that is not true just for those entering college. It is true for all of us.
The Holy Spirit is the one who uses us to be able to persuade others. Our responsibility is to lay the Gospel facts out there and to trust God to do the rest. Friend, I affirm with great joy that salvation is all of God and that, indeed, no man can coerce a true decision for Jesus Christ, but God calls us to “reason” with our friends, our family members, and our acquaintances to call them to Jesus. Certainly, the Bible tells us, in our persuasion, not to use manipulative words.
In 1 Corinthians 2:4, Paul is going to say,
4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.
What does Paul mean? He is trying to persuade others, but he claims to Corinth, the very city in which, as Luke records, he is trying to persuade them that he didn’t come with wise and persuasive words. What he means by that is that he not attempting to persuade through trickery, manipulative talk, and emotional appeals to play upon their weakness and vulnerability. That doesn’t negate the fact that we are still called to try to persuade and convince others of the truth.
If we are to avoid manipulating people to make decisions, then how are we to persuade them? That leads us to the second point: the nature of the methods of our persuasion. First, consider Paul’s gentleness. In Verse 2 and 3, as he stands before King Agrippa, he says,
2 “King Agrippa, I consider myself fortunate to stand before you today as I make my defense against all the accusations of the Jews, 3 and especially so because you are well acquainted with all the Jewish customs and controversies. Therefore, I beg you to listen to me patiently.”
Remember Paul has been unfairly incarcerated for two years and that is a long time for anyone to be anyplace, let alone in prison in chains. Paul gets before King Agrippa and rather than being hostile towards the authorities who kept him unjustly in prison, he is very polite and gentle with them. Remember how Felix said to him in Verse 24,
24 “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.”
25 “I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable. 26 The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice…”
How does Paul reply? He doesn’t say, “Same to you, only more of it!” He is gentle and he tells Festus that what he is saying is reasonable and true and if Festus understood what Agrippa knows he would understand that the Bible is reasonable and true. Paul was able to speak with Agrippa because he understands that the Scriptures are true and Paul knew that Festus didn’t know that, but that Agrippa did. Paul is very gentle with these men!
In the midst of our persuasions it is important that we learn to put some honey in the medicine. Sometimes we seek to persuade others with such a bitter cup. Parents, it is vital that we remember that God doesn’t call us to scold our children into the Kingdom of Heaven and He doesn’t call us to nag our children into the Kingdom of Heaven, but rather with gently persuasion to seek for their salvation. Such nagging and scolding can do more harm than good. Remember the fable that Aesop told of the sun and the wind getting into an argument with each other over who was the stronger. They decided that they were going to try upon a traveler who was walking along a road and they said, “We will see who is stronger by determining who can get that traveler to take off his coat the fastest.” The wind first blew, and the sun set aside under a cloud, but the more the wind tried to blow the coat off of the traveler, the more the traveler held onto the coat and put it around him. The wind finally gave up and the sun came out and gently but surely began to warm that traveler and as he gently warmed the traveler he freely, of his own volition, took off his coat.
Some of us are like the wind when we try and persuade others, blowing on people so hard in such a strident manner and in an argumentative way, that we are of no good. Let us consider, in our persuasion, the kindness and the gentleness with which Paul adorned his speech and with which he treated others with such respect.
It is also vital as parents, however, that we do use every bit of our authority in our position in our children’s life to persuade them to not to be overly fearful of driving them away from God by using our authority. I know many parents who, even in junior high or younger, say, “I don’t want to drive my kid away so I am not going to make them go to church or make them go to youth group.” You are the parents and this is a way that you can lovingly say, “No, I know you have a hard time but we believe that this is best,” just as you do for school, hoping eventually that they will get it. The education in school is valuable and so it is for parents that we need to persuade our children and we have a lifetime to do it, but often times that becomes off of the radar of our goal and our purpose when we need for it to stay front-and-center all of the time for us.
There are four methods Paul employed to persuade King Agrippa. In the first method, he rooted his comments in the authority of Scripture, as we see in Verse 22,
22 “…I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen…”
We don’t have Paul’s full speech before King Agrippa but we have a description of it when he says, “I have just been telling you the Scriptures, King Agrippa.” It is important, when we communicate and seek to persuade others, that we communicate not our own opinions and not our own ideas, but rather we speak words as they are from God. King Agrippa was predisposed to believe the Bible because of his upbringing and because of what he had already affirmed. He says, in Verse 27,
27 “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.”
There are many today who have never received the forgiveness that Jesus Christ offers and who have never received His salvation, but yet who would say, “I believe the Bible. I don’t have any problem with the Bible. I grew up to believe the Bible. That is what I believe.” They don’t often have a clue what the Bible says and so it is vital for us to do what Paul did with King Agrippa to say, “Let me show you specifically. It is not enough just to believe in the Bible in general; that it is a good book.” God has placed us, in other people’s life, to open up the Book and say, “Let us look specifically at what God is saying and then try and understand what it means and how we need to apply it.” That is what Paul did.
It is important for us, with neighbors, co-workers, and family members who believe in the Bible generally but don’t know at all about the specifics or haven’t been convinced of the specifics, that God places you and I in their lives to help persuade them. Someone may ask the question, “What about persuading people who don’t believe that the Bible is true and who are more like Felix and Festus?” Again, I believe while Paul was more careful, and he sensed the restriction, he opened the Book before these men. The Bible is still powerful in the lives of those who do not believe in it. Often the Word of God will pierce a skeptic’s heart. Indeed, if a skeptic’s heart is to be pierced it will be pierced by that penetrating sword that God has given us in His Word.
It is important for us, as believers, however, to back away from considering that this Book and quoting verses is some kind of magic incantation; that all we have to do is quote a verse and, bang, everything else is done for us. If that is all the opportunity we have, it is better than nothing, but Paul “reasoned” from the Scriptures and he spent some time to talk about what they mean. We should consider that the Bible is our resource of truth to bring to people, but God intends for us to explain it to them and to help them to understand and see how important it is.
As a preacher I come each Sunday and my responsibility and my goal is not to present anything “new” to you. I have no desire to ever present anything new to you. One or two things might be “new” but that is not my real goal. My real goal is to deal in “old matters”; matters that are ancient. That is why God has placed me here and that is why God places us in the world, not to give the next, newest philosophy on life, or the next newest thing on how to in our families, in our lives, and in what is important, but God places us here to deal in old things and to help people walk these old and ancient paths, paths that are true, lead to God, and lead to Heaven and paths that the prophets of old and the Apostles have already laid down for us.
The second method Paul used was that he told his own, personal testimony and of the testimony of the power of God’s grace in his personal life. He bore witness to what Jesus did for him personally. This is important when we persuade others, not just to lay out cold facts but to say, “This is the difference this has made in my life. You know me and you see that this is real in my life.”
If we track through this story we first see that Paul’s testimony was through his present attitude and his present way of living: he is in prison. Many people aren’t very happy in prison and the men who sat in judgment over the people in prison weren’t used to people with positive attitudes standing before them. That is what was so strange about Paul; each one, one-by-one, as they listened to Paul, they thought, “This is not at all what we thought we were going to have stand before us. As we listen to the accusations we thought it was going to be one thing, but it is to some religious matters that we don’t understand.” As they examined Paul they, each, one-by-one, three or four times in the story, said, “We come to the conclusion that Paul has done nothing to deserve death. We kind of like this guy.”
Please understand, friend, if we are to persuade others, the Gospel must permeate our whole lives in our attitudes and in our way of living so that we love God and we love other people. Often times our persuasive words are negated by our unpersuasive lives. It is impossible to have a persuasive ministry if our lives are far from God and if our lives are disobedient in rebellion.
People want something that truly works, don’t they, and they are persuaded by something that truly works. Before I buy any major appliance or automobile or major purchase in my life, do you know what I do? One of the things that I do is talk to other people who have purchased a camera, or a computer, or a car. I ask, “What did you learn? What did you buy? Are you happy with it?” I read a magazine called Consumer Reports. That whole magazine is one which tells you what other people think in testimonies. These magazines sell because people are persuaded through the testimonies of others.
Yet, so often we Christians keep quiet about what makes our lives really tick so people don’t have the access to the information: “I am looking for information on how my life can be meaningful and how my life can be different. I know that there is something hollow here,” but they don’t have access because not enough Christians are saying, “This is what works in my life. This is how God is working in me and through me in God’s grace.” It is not all pragmatic, but certainly personal testimony is powerful and it is what Paul used when he presented his testimony. In Acts 26, Luke records Paul has he is making his defense and he tells his whole testimony of how he was a “religious man” but his life was empty and how God shown the Truth into his life and how he came to understand that he had been in rebellion against God. Finally, he knows God and he has an eternal purpose through Jesus Christ and he knows that Jesus Christ really did rise from the dead and that He really is living.
Luke will tell this story three times indicating how important a personal testimony is. Christian, your story of your conversion is the most important story of your life. It is more important than the story of how you played on that championship baseball or basketball team. It is more important than the story of how you met your wife. It is more important than the story of the cute things your children did when they were young. It is more important than how you decided upon your career and what God in your career. All of those things are great stories and they ought to be told, but the most important story of your life and my life is how we came to Jesus Christ. Many parents don’t stop long enough to take the time to tell their children of their story.
If I were to come up to your children and ask, “Tell me about you mom and dad. How did they come to know Jesus Christ?” Would they be able to tell me? They should and they should have heard that story dozens of times, because that is the most important story of our life. If we are not going to tell our children, we probably aren’t going to tell our neighbor, but God wants us to persuade through using our story.
The third method Paul used is that he related the clear facts of the Gospel message. If we don’t deal in these facts and these bits of truth that God has given, this volume of wonderful history and meaning behind that history, then we are not going to be able to persuade people of the Gospel. In Verse 23, Paul relates these truths,
23 “…that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles.”
If we don’t know how to talk to others about God becoming a man in Jesus Christ, about Jesus Christ living a perfect life, about Jesus Christ dying as a substitutionary sacrifice for our sin, about God’s justice being fully met in Him upon the cross, about Jesus’ resurrection from the grave and His ascension into Heaven, and all of what this means from both a spiritual and personal standpoint, and about how God offers forgiveness and life to the fullest to every sinner who simply trusts in Jesus Christ and repents of their sins, we will never persuade anyone.
Wherever these Gospel truths are clearly explained, it will by God’s grace and power frequently convince that these are the tools and the methods. This is the reason why we promote so much the Evangelism Explosion ministry in our church to help us more about the truths that we need to be able to communicate and in order to persuade.
Paul’s persuasion was that he rooted his comments in Scripture. He related his personal testimony of God’s transforming grace in his own life. He related the facts of the Gospel and the meanings behind those facts. The last method Paul used is that he made a personal appeal for King Agrippa to respond in Verse27,
27 “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets?”
At the end of Paul’s persuasive speech, he doesn’t say, “Hey, you all, what do you all think?” Paul says, “King Agrippa, do you believe?” Friends, if we never ask that question we are not really trying to persuade. It is possible for us to say, “Let me tell you my story and let me tell you the Gospel facts. I will be gentle with you. I will open the Word,” but if we don’t stop long enough to say, “Tell me, how are you going to respond to Jesus now,” and do that personally and press it personally to our sons and our daughters and other members of our family, and our neighbors and our friends and to our co-workers we are really not about the work of persuasion unless we say, “King Agrippa, do you believe?”
Henry Ford tells a story of a friend of his who was an insurance salesman and Henry Ford, who was a wealthy guy, purchased his insurance from another, a stranger who came knocking on his door one day. His friend was upset by that and came to him and said, “Henry, we have known each other all of our lives. You know I sell insurance. Why didn’t you buy from me? Why did you buy from this stranger?” Henry Ford said, “Because you never asked me?” This friend thought that the request was just assumed; “Of course, I want you to buy from me.” Henry said that he never asked and applied it personally. I wonder how many people in our lives we would have the privilege of leading into the Kingdom, and who would be ready and willing to call out upon God right now but they don’t, and we are not the one’s. Why is that? We don’t ask them, “Do you really want to believe in Jesus? Do you believe?”
I want to give you these last two points of the reality of the resistance to persuasion.
Festus, in this story, resisted and he called Paul insane and that much learning had driven Paul mad. Wherever the Gospel is preached there are people who think that it is insane to believe it. Friend, we cannot get discouraged in the ministry of persuasion because many people dismiss us with scorn. They did Paul. We don’t have Paul evangelistic abilities and we don’t have Paul’s apostolic authority and we probably don’t have Paul’s wisdom so we cannot expect to be treated better than Paul.
Paul did have many people who were persuaded, but he had many people who were resistant to the Gospel. Look at Agrippa’s response in Verse 28,
28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”
Agrippa resisted. Why? Here is the answer to the question, “Why are people resistant?” It is for the same reason that Festus and Agrippa resisted. They were resistant because they loved their sin. If you are resistant to the Gospel and if you do not want to believe Jesus, here is the reason, you love your sin. You may say, “That is not true, pastor. That is unfair. Here are some other reasons that I am resistant. I have looked at the Bible and it does not hold up under the tests of academia. That religion doesn’t make as much sense as some other religions make sense to me. Christians are a bunch of hypocrites. I have been around them for a long time and I don’t see the reality that you are speaking of.”
All of these are serious contentions for which we, as believers, ought to be ready to give an answer. They are serious and I am not saying that they are not sincere contentions, but what I am saying is that the reason underlying all of these others, why a person resists the Gospel, is not because of an intellectual or social reason. The real reason is spiritual in nature. It is that we are resistant to the authority of God in our lives: it is a love for sin.
In Festus’ and Agrippa’s life, for instance, they loved sexual sin. It is a known fact in Agrippa’s life and he was resistant to the Gospel because he didn’t want to leave that. They both loved the approval and the applause of other people. They loved the pomp and circumstance as they entered the city. They knew that if they loved God and they loved Jesus Christ that they would have to give all of that up. They loved the material things that were afforded them. They loved all of these things so the Gospel was pushed to the outside of their lives and resisted.
Lastly, I want to talk about the danger of being “almost” persuaded. Agrippa said that he was almost persuaded to become a Christian, but the man or the woman who is almost persuaded, and this is entirely upon the blessings of being a Christian, provides no benefit whatsoever. That is why I petition you, being almost persuaded offers no hope, no forgiveness, and no life in God. Furthermore, being almost persuaded brings a greater weight of regret because sometime in eternity future you will understand the necessity and the value of believing in this life and you are unable to believe and have that kind of benefit now, in this eternal time, once you stand before God. You will look back and you will say, “I was almost a believer. Why didn’t I believe?”
How I wish I could plead with you. How earnestly I desire to persuade you, as some of you are halting between these two opinions: should I believe or shouldn’t I? I know that these waiverings and these haltings will soon be over. For some of you it could be this year, but at the end of our lives that is it – there is no more decision to be made and for some of us we don’t know the hour. It could be this year, this month, this week, this day. For some it may be twenty, thirty, forty, or fifty more years, but it is going to come very, very quickly.
I wish that I had it in my power through my words to persuade you. If I did, I would, but I know that I don’t. I have done the best that I can do, as feeble and as frail as that is. My hope and my trust is that God, in His grace and mercy, will bring His Holy Spirit into your life and draw you unto Himself. My call, again, to you is God’s call: repent and believe.
In Verse 20 of this story, Paul says,
20 “…I preached that they should repent and turn to God…”
That is how we become a Christian: we repent and we turn to God. Beloved, do not waiver in this decision, but come freely and fully and call out to God. He will meet you graciously. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:11 and 20,
11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear (God), we…persuade men…20 We are…Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you…be reconciled to God.
Let us be about this work of persuasion. It is a very good work.