Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Almost Christian

Acts 26:28
The Almost Christian

When the Titanic sunk, two lists were posted.  The title of the one list was “lost.”  The other was called “saved.”  So it is spiritually, there are ONLY two kinds of people in this world: the lost and the saved. 

You are either one or the other.

Yet we have created several myths that tend to give people a FALSE sense of conversion.  They are the “almost” Christian and the “sincere fraud.”

Lets look at these groups.

I.    The “lost.”

    A.    They are not saved.

        1.    They have no relationship with God and are described as “enemies.”

“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior” [Colossians 1:21]

        2.    They have no sense of sin or conviction of sin.

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.” [Ephesians 2:1]

    B.    Some are willingly determined to go to hell.

        1.    Some have the knowledge of the truth but:

            a.    think it won’t happen.

            b.    think God will change His mind about Hell.

            c.    don’t care.

“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left.” [Hebrews 10:26]

        2.    Some want to go to hell.

    C.    Traditionally some are “fence riders.”

        1.    They want Christ but they also want sin

            a.    It seems the “best of both worlds.”

            b.    The idea is to maintain sin’s fun without guilt or consequences.

        2.    Their life resembles a ping pong ball.

(Ill.) As I was growing up in the mountains of Pennsylvania, Sunday a.m. the churches were full and the bars were empty.  When the service is over, the church is empty and everyone heads to the bar.

***** When God’s saving grace affects you life: Your behavior (24/7) changes because you are changed.  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” [2 Corinthians 5:17] *****

II.    The “almost” Christian.

    A.    They know everything they need to know....  King Agrippa.

        1.    He was an expert in Jewish customs and questions.

        2.    He knew enough about the Scriptures to have some understanding.

        3.    Paul suspected he, at least, believed the prophets.

    B.    They are “good” people: Honest and trust-able in their dealings.  High regard for the truth, typically they do not lie.  Willing to help others.  Avoid what is forbidden (and even dislike the forbidden).  Avoid excess.  Hard working, do good when they can.  Faithful in religious duties and involvement.  Uses prayer.

***** Good is good, it is not saved.  Neither those who give intellectual agreement with the gospel or those who are devout in religious practices are saved.  The intellectual cannot devise salvation by his own wisdom.  The religious cannot gain salvation by his own moral merit. *****

“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder.” [James 2:19]

“Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, [23] but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentile.” [1 Corinthians 1:22 – 23]

III.    The “sincere fraud.”

    A.    The “sincere fraud” will abstain from evil and actively pursue doing good.

        1.    Motivated by fear (an attempt to avoid punishment) not love.

        2.    This person is commonly known as a “hypocrite” (lit. “actor”).

    B.    Some have a “sincere” desire to serve God.

        1.    They really do want to please God.

        2.    Fact: They know about God but they do not know God.

“Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. [22] Many will say to me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' [23] Then I will tell them plainly, `I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” [Matthew 7:21 – 23]

        3.    Fact: They are building on the wrong foundation. 

“Why do you call me, `Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? [47] I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. [48] He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. [49] But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.” [Luke6:46 – 49]

***** In other words, obedience is on their terms.  Like going to a buffet.  You chose what you want and leave the rest behind. *****

John Wesley noted “Sincerity is the moving principle of the one who is ALMOST Christian.”

Reality, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

    C.    There is even good designs and good desires.

        1.    There is trouble with “good” because it is not saved.

        2.    (Ill.) Four frogs are sitting on a log, 2 want to jump off.  How many are on the log? (Answer: four because wanting to jump and jumping are different things).  Four frogs are sitting on a log.  Two decide to jump off.  How many are on the log? (Answer: four because deciding to jump and jumping are different things.)

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” [1 Corinthians 4:20]

IV.    The “real” Christian

(Remember you are or you are not.)

    A.    The real Christian is “broken.”

        1.    Another word for this is “conviction.”

“(Because) our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.”
[1 Thessalonians 1:5a]

            a.    Broken carries the idea that we are completely helpless before God.

            b.    Broken understands that the only thing between us and the hell we deserve is God’s desire to be merciful.  We call that mercy His grace.

        2.    It is a work of the Holy Spirit.

“When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.” [John 16:8]

            a.    Broken means we understand our sin, our failed righteousness, and our rightfully deserving judgement.

            b.    Broken identifies with Jesus.

“And when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." [25] In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." [26] For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.” [1 Corinthians 11:24 – 26]

    B.    The real Christian lives by the law of love.

“Jesus replied: " `Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' [38] This is the first and greatest commandment. [39] And the second is like it: `Love your neighbor as yourself.” [Matthew 22:37 – 39]

        1.    Love the Lord.

            a.    Love is whole hearted, it fills the mind and soul.

            b.    Love is one of those things you know because it fills the mind and thought.

*****God becomes the priority, the things of God are more important than our priorities. *****

        2.    Love others.

    C.    The real Christian has faith that transfers trust.

        1.    The new covenant (broken body and shed blood of Jesus) changes us.

            a.    One idea is repentance: changed mind and changed behavior.

            b.    Another idea is “adoption.”

“Because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. [15] For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." [16] The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. [17] Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” [Romans 8:14 – 17]
        2.    The “abba” faith of a child, completely dependent on the Father.

“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness: I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.  On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” [“Solid Rock” by Edward Mote]

IV.    A real Christian is one inwardly and outwardly.   

“Who may ascend the hill of the LORD?  Who may stand in his holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.” [Psalm 24:3 – 4]

    A.    Clean hands: outward life.

        1.    It is easy to pretend inward purity without outward purity.

            a.    We claim a good heart while our deeds displease God.

            b.    Basically this person is a self-deceived open-sinner.

            c.    It is unprofitable, it does us no good, and is down right impossible.

        2.    The “clean hands” is a changed life.

            a.    The soul has not been lifted up to a false god, one of our making (as when we create God in our own image and call him God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit).

            b.    The behavior is in line with the belief.

    B.    A pure heart: inward life.

        1.    It is easy to pretend outward purity without inward purity.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. [28] In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” [Matthew 23:27 – 28]

            a.    Life or defilement comes from inside.

“Nothing outside a man can make him `unclean' by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him `unclean.”
[Mark 7:15]

            b.    The pure heart is the source.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” [Proverbs 4:23]

        2.    With a pure heart, there will be consistency.

            a.    It doesn’t necessarily eliminate mistakes, misunderstanding, and mis-speaks.

            b.    It does keep us on track.

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