The Almost Christian 7

Acts 26:28 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.

Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. 15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 “You will know them by their fruits.

Luke 13:24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.

Look upon things to come as the greatest realities; for things that are not believed work no more upon the affections than if they had no being; and this is the grand reason why the generality of men suffer their affections to go after the world, setting the creature in the place of God in their hearts. Most men judge of the reality of things by their visibility and proximity to sense; and, therefore, the choice of that wretched cardinal becomes their option, who would not leave his part in Paris for his part in Paradise. Sure, whateve his interest might be in the former, he had little enough in the latter. Well may covetousness be called idolatry, when it thus chooses the world for its god. O! consider—eternity is not dream; hell and the worm that never dies, is no melancholy conceit. Heaven is no reigned Elysium, there is the greatest reality imaginable in these things; though they are spiritual, and out of the ken of sense, yet they are real, and within the view of faith. “Look not therefore at the things which are seen, but look at the things which are not seen; for the things that are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (The Almost Christian Discovered, International Outreach, Inc.)

The title or phrase “almost Christian” is something of a terrifying one. In one sense there is the idea that the elect cannot fail to be a Christian, yet when one looks at the words of Christ in terms of the efforts of men it should shock us and make us think. We should be careful to note that it was the words of Agrippa to Paul and how Paul had almost persuaded him to be a Christian. No one can be almost persuaded to actually become a Christian in reality as that is the work of God, but it is telling in terms of the human side.

It is also quite telling that Jesus, who knew all about sovereign grace, told people to strive to enter at the narrow gate. He did not tell them to take it easy since God had determined who would enter, though indeed God has to regenerate a heart for a person to enter the kingdom, yet He still told them to strive. We should also take this to heart in how we speak to people. It may seem to them that they just need a little more persuasion or a few more works to get over the edge, but that is simply not true. However, they are to strive to enter.

It may be the case that we cannot have a perfect fit between men striving and the sovereign grace of God, but we can know that both are taught. I would argue that there is no real tension between the two but that men should strive against their sinful selves and strive while seeking the Lord to give them grace and praying for a new heart. Men should strive in their seeking of the Lord and in seeking by the means which He may show them grace. God uses preaching to bring men to Himself, so men should apply themselves diligently to hearing Christ preached. God uses the Word by His Spirit to work on the hearts of men, so men should apply themselves to reading the Scriptures. No, the Scriptures do not regenerate a man, but the Holy Spirit does while men listen to them. This may be a mystery to us, but men should seek the Lord according to the ways He has set out.

When men are under the true preaching of the Word God may convict them of sin, of righteousness, and of the judgment to come. When men are under the true preaching of the Word of God, men may have a sense of the terrible reality of eternal things opened to them. Men come to a sense of the reality of eternity through more than just bare words, but God has to give them a sense of the reality of eternity. When men only hear with the ears, the affections of their hearts are not really moved from worldly things. It is God who must give men something of a sense of eternal things before they are moved to seek Him and plead with Him to change their hearts. Indeed it is a huge problem when men have the creature set up in their hearts, but only grace can deliver them from that. Yes, men must strive against themselves and in prayer to the Lord, but only grace can make them really strive and only grace can deliver them from the creature.

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