Greg Laurie is the senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., one of the largest churches in America. He is also the featured speaker for Harvest Crusades, large-scale evangelistic outreaches that have been attended by more than 4 million people around the world since 1990. Greg is heard internationally on the daily radio broadcast, "A New Beginning." To learn more about Greg Laurie go to www.greglaurie.com.More ↓Less ↑
The word “almost” is a fascinating word. It means “slightly short of” or “not quite” or “nearly.” Other words we use in the place of almost are “about,” “approaching,” or “close.” It is often used to speak of delaying something.
For instance, if you are in a restaurant and the server comes to you and says, “Are you ready to order?” and you aren’t ready, but you don’t want him to go away (because you are afraid you won’t see him for another hour), you say, “Almost.”
Or, maybe you are late for a meeting at work and your boss calls you and says, “Where are you?”
You say, “I’m almost there.”
“Almost” is a word that is generally coupled with procrastination. In other words, we will say something along the lines of, “I am almost ready to decide, but not yet.” You don’t want to say no. Nor do you want to say yes. So instead, you say almost.
But there are some words that don’t work with “almost,” like “almost pregnant.” You either are, or you aren’t.
Another word that doesn’t work with “almost” is the word “Christian.” You can’t almost be a Christian. You may be in the process of checking out the claims of Christ. In fact, you may be closer than you were a month ago. But you either are or you are not a Christian.
In a scene from one of the “Star Wars” films, Luke Skywalker is talking with Yoda. Yoda is telling Luke to move an object using the Force. (I am not advocating this as theology.) So Luke says, “Master, moving stones around is one thing. This is totally different!”
And Yoda says, “No. No different. Only different in your mind. You must unlearn what you have learned.”
Luke says, “All right. I’ll give it a try.”
Yoda answers, “No. Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
The same can be said of being a Christian. You either are a Christian or you are not.
The Bible tells the story of a man who used the word “almost” with the word “Christian.” He was known as Herod Agrippa, who was one of several Herods in a wicked dynasty.
The first Herod we read about in Scripture was known as Herod the Great. He was known for the great edifices he would build. This was the Herod who was in power during the time of the birth of Christ. And that Herod was such a paranoid tyrant that he had all of the baby boys in Bethlehem slaughtered.
His son, Herod Antipas, was responsible for the beheading of John the Baptist, and the son of Herod Antipas executed James the apostle and also imprisoned Peter. But after refusing to give God glory, Herod Antipas was struck down by God, eaten by worms and died.
Then there was his son, Herod Agrippa, before whom the apostle Paul was brought for examination. In a sense, it was Agrippa who was brought before Paul, because although Herod was in the position to technically judge Paul, he really in effect was judging himself.
At the conclusion of Paul’s statement to the king, Agrippa said, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian” (Acts 26:28 NKJV). You see, Herod was moved by Paul’s powerful and persuasive message. But he walked away. He was close, but not close enough.
I think there are a lot of people like Agrippa out there today, maybe more of them than outright nonbelievers. Though atheism perhaps has been made a little more popular of late, and there are some prolific authors that have written books that challenge Christianity and faith in God in general, the fact of the matter is there are comparatively very few actual atheists in our country. Most Americans believe in a higher power, and many claim to be Christians. This is something that is still the warp and woof of our country.
On the other hand, there are people who are pretending to be Christians when they really are not. You can pray and not necessarily be a Christian. You can believe Jesus is coming back again and not necessarily be a Christian. You can be baptized and not necessarily be a Christian. You can keep the Ten Commandments to the best of your ability and not necessarily be a Christian.
It is not your works that make you a Christian. When you put your faith in Christ, then you will see the evidence in your life. And while it is true that faith without works is dead, it also could be said that works without faith is dead.
There are two big steps that must be taken to become a real Christian and not an almost Christian. First, we need to have our eyes opened. Prior to becoming believers, we are spiritually blinded. That is the reason some can hear the gospel and be unmoved by it. To become a Christian, a person’s eyes first must be opened spiritually.
Second, we must turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. God opens our eyes spiritually, but turning from darkness to light is a step that we must take. It means stepping away from sin. And what is the benefit of making that commitment? Jesus said that we will “receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me” (Acts 26:18).
It is not enough to be exposed to truth. We need to act on it. The scary thing is that when we hear the truth again and again but don’t respond, our hearts can actually get harder.
It is not enough to have our spiritual eyes opened and see our need for Christ. We have to turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God (see Acts 26:18). Because there really is no such thing as an Almost Christian.