Monday, November 26, 2012

Almost a Christian

I was invited to preach at Chriesman United Methodist Church yesterday.  I had been reading Wesley's 2nd sermon about being almost a Christian and knew what I wanted to say.  I met with Dr. Jordan, my minister, and he gave me a lesson on how to preach with illustrations.  I made a point of adding them herein.  I got off script, and spoke about each.  Holy Spirit helped me with this one and I think it went well.  Good lesson and it definitely speaks to me!

Almost a Christian

Acts 26: 28-29 “Agrippa says to Paul, “Are you so quickly persuading me to become a Christian?” Paul replies “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that not only you but also all who are listening to me today might become such as I am.”

So what does it mean to become a Christian?  We are all familiar with John 3:16 that says God gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.  So of course, a Christian is someone who has given his life to Christ, believes that Jesus was the son of God, who died for our sins, so that we may have eternal life with Him.

My question for you today is this:  Is that all there is to it?

We believe that when someone truly accepts Christ as his/her personal savior, than we become spiritually reborn, forgiven of our sins, and able to have a personal relationship with God.  But what does that mean?  How is this expressed in our everyday lives?  What does it mean to become such as Paul became?

Illustration:  I remember time when my wife Tracey and I were at our lowest point.  It was in the spring of 2002.  Baby, Autism, depression, I wondered, “Is this all there is?”  She said, we are going to church.  We did, and I learned that I was not what I thought I was.  Christian in beliefs, but not in service.  Christian by word, not by deed.  Saved, but stuck in my ways, no personal relationship with God, I guess you could say I was a baby Christian.  I had been born again, but I hadn’t progressed beyond that point. 

How many people are stuck where I was?  Christians, but not fully experiencing the great love of Christ, of having a real and personal relationship with God? 

Of course there is another type of person.  A good person, who has never accepted Christ as their savior.

Most people in the world today are not evil.  They go about their busy lives, helping others when they can, seeking justice when it’s not too difficult, most don’t steal, commit crimes, or are out to hurt others.  Good people, but being good doesn’t make them a Christian.  There are even some really good people who work daily to feed the hungry and help those in need as part of their everyday lives, but they don’t know Christ.  Indeed this is what Christians are called to do, so they are not far off the mark, but they are still only almost Christians.
Who could not study the life of the Buddha or Ghandi and not be impressed with their righteous ideas of treating others with respect and dignity?  Great human beings, but not Christians. 

You know these two types of people, the baby or almost Christians and the good, non-believers, both may work hard to do good works for others.  They may seem to be Godly people in their actions and their lives.  The Christian may even attend church, partake of Communion, and even try to lead others to Christ.  They may have a prayer life and practice the forms of religion.  But they are missing out on the greatest aspect of being a Christian.  A personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  John Wesley, the founder of Methodism said, “They need sincerity and the faith to truly accept Christ in their lives.  Sincerity is the inward principle of belief in Christ.  It is from this faith, this true belief, that our Christian actions flow.  For indeed, if we don’t have this crucial faith in Christ, we are just good people, maybe we are only almost Christians. 

Illustration:  John Wesley’s life:  Raised in the Anglican Church, became a minister, came to America, failed, ran out of town, escaped back to England.  He doubted his Faith, his calling, He did not have a personal relationship with God, and he referred to himself as an almost Christian.  Then he went to Aldersgate, heard the word, felt God’s touch, and came to understand that God wants more for us.  He wants a personal relationship with each one of us.  That when Jesus suffered and died on that cross, he died for each one of us, individually.  In other words, if you had been the only one who would have accepted him as your savior, he loved you enough to die for you.  This realization of God’s overwhelming, divine, and personal love for us is the key to growing in the faith. 

We all need to first accept Christ as our personal savior, then we need to accept the personal relationship God offers us in our lives. To become an authentic, fully developed Christian.  We are all in the process of being sanctified by the Lord.  That is growing in the faith to gain in understanding of God in our lives both inwardly in our souls, and outwardly in our lives. 

We, as Christians should truly know the love of God.  We are taught the greatest commandment by Jesus when he said, “Love God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”  Such a love fills our hearts with affection for all mankind, and fills our souls to capacity in our love for Jesus.  Such a Christian has a spirit that continually rejoices in God the Savior.  He delights in the Lord, in the Lord’s creation, and his/her desire is to serve god in all aspects of their lives.  This person is a servant to all, not seeking personal glory, but seeking to extend the kingdom of God.  Wesley said this kind of Christian dwells “in love, dwells in God, and God in him.”

The second greatest commandment according to Christ is to love thy neighbor as yourself. So who are our neighbors?  Every person in the world for every child is God’s child.  This includes our enemies, the enemies of God, and any who stand against us.  We are called to love even those who are hard to love.  We are to love them as Christ loved us. Paul explained this type of love for us.  He described it as a love that is “long suffering and kind.”  It does not envy others, it is not rash or hasty, and does not judge others.  It is not puffed up with pride, but makes us the least of mankind, a servant to all.  This person seeks to do good to all others that they might be saved.  We are called to reflect Christ to all we meet wherever we may go.  Love is not wrathful, thinks of no evil, and rejoices in the truth.  This kind of love covers all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things in the name of the Lord.

That my friends is the new law of Christ.  Love God, love each other.  Finally the authentic Christian is to have faith that Jesus is the savior of mankind, to trust in a personal relationship with God, and to witness through our actions, not just our words.

Authentic Christians, according to Wesley, not only believe that the Holy Scripture and the Articles of our Faith are true, but also have a sure trust and confidence to be saved by Christ.  That we are reconciled through the blood of the lamb at Calvary. 

So the big question today is, are you a non believing good person who needs to accept Christ today, or are you a baby Christian who needs to grow in the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit, or are you an authentic Christian who reflects Christ throughout his/her life? Ask yourself:  Do I practice justice, mercy, and truth as God would have me do it?  Do I act like a Chrsitian but do not have true faith?  Do I look for ways to do good and help others?  Do I keep the word of God and do as Jesus instructed not to judge, but to love others and to represent Christ on earth to them, so that they might come to know the power and saving grace of God?  Do I do all these things with the sincere desire to please God in every aspect of my life?

Have you gone that far in your walk with Christ? Have you been good at being almost a Christian?  Has God seen true sincerity and faith in you?  Where do you devote your time and your money?  Do you reflect Christ to a hurting world where ever you go and whatever you do?

If you need to accept Christ as your savior, want to rededicate your life to Him, or simply want to speak to me about a personal relationship with him, I invite you to come down during the last hymn, or you can simply pray and worship where you are.  I pray that we may all experience what it means to be a true and authentic Christian, justified by his Free grace, forgiven our sins, and knowing eternal peace and joy rejoicing in the Glory of our God, so that he may fill our hearts with the Holy Spirit and lead us where he would have us go.  Amen.

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