The word “almost” is without a doubt one of the saddest and most tragic words in the English language. It designates the potentiality of what COULD have been. We use the word “almost” to describe what MIGHT have been had one or two factors been altered just slightly.
Athletes retire into the shadows of the comfort of the word “almost.” If one or two yards had been played differently, or if the ball had bounced just slightly in a different trajectory, we might have won. Lovers suffer the agony of what could have bloomed, had one moment been relived. I almost asked her to marry me! Investors incessantly count the bills that they could have had if they had just moved a stock a day or two earlier. How many lay on their beds lamenting, Almost! Almost!
Only Two Categories
Let us be clear. There are really only two classes of human beings, not three. There are those who are redeemed by the blood of Christ, and those who are lost. There is no third category. There is no special class of persons in-between that are half-saved, half-atoned, half-way adopted by God. No one is half-way justified by faith.
Let’s discuss some of the defining marks of the Almost Christian. What exactly did George Whitefield (a staunch Calvinist) and John Wesley (an unabashed Arminian) mean by “Almost a Christian?” More importantly, could that be you?
- He is moral and religious. If you were to ask the “almost Christian” whether or not he is a “good man,” he will unhesitatingly say yes. It will annoy him slightly that you even had to ask. In fact he is in his own mind the “quintessential good man.” He views himself as intelligent, wise, and stately. He shows up for duty, and volunteers for service. A model citizen, he wears medals of honor, both real and imagined, on his chest. Ask him if the world would be a better place if more people were like him. He will respond “of course” (and he really believes it!).
- He fears not for his soul. Ask him if he is going to heaven, and again he will give an unqualified yes. His self-righteousness and confidence in his own nature yields little doubt that he will stand unassailable on the Day of Judgment. Anything that God might have against him is clearly nothing but a misunderstanding on God’s part. A few words of clarification and God would soon reckon aright. If he should be summoned to the Great Judgment Seat at all, he believes it will be as a standard by which God might judge other men. In fact, like Festus and Agrippa, he believes it is often HIS duty to do the judging even in this life!
- He has heard the gospel. He knows Christian theology well. He can never use “I didn’t know” as an excuse for his unconverted state. Some of the greatest Bible debates relate to the fate of the un-evangelized people groups. What will God do with that tribe that never gets a missionary? Never has the Bible translated into their tongue? Has no church? But as interesting as that debate is—it is completely immaterial to the “Almost Christian.” Both Festus and Agrippa cannot use ignorance as any excuse for their state of rebellion.
- Has a noble view of Jesus. Throughout the ages, philosophers, ethicists, historians, politicians and free-thinkers alike have had a noble view of Jesus. They have admired His teaching, life, purity, pacificism, His love and compassion. Pontius Pilate himself said, “I find no guilt in this man!” (John 18:38).
- But He is NOT a Christian. But despite his “goodness,” and “rectitude”; despite his self-assurance and his high view of his own achievements, and even his high view of Jesus, there is one thing he most certainly is not—a Christian. He has never repented. Never begged for mercy. Never sought shelter in the blood of Christ. Never made Christ his deepest joy and highest prize. He might be but one millimeter from grace, and yet he might as well be a thousand miles away separated by the highest mountains and deepest oceans.
You probably remember the 1986 World Series between the Mets and Red Sox. It was the first series I remember well from childhood. Boston was winning three games to two. Game six went into extra innings. The Sox had two outs--one away from a title--but with a couple of hits and a wild pitch, the Mets rallied again to tie. Mookie Wilson was next at bat. After a number of foul balls, Wilson hit a bouncer to first base. Bill Buckner stooped to scoop up the ball. Just tag the base and the Sox would be champs. Instead the baseball went between his legs. For the rest of his life, he would live with that terrible word “almost.”
King Agrippa had the opportunity of a lifetime, to hear the Apostle Paul preach in person; the author of 13 books of the New Testament. Paul was a man who had seen the Resurrected Lord Jesus. The Apostle Paul preached the gospel right to King Agrippa’s heart. Believe it and repent, and Agrippa’s sins could be forgiven. But instead Agrippa let the Gospel go right by him.
Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville Florida.