The word for this week is 'ALMOST'.
That might sound somewhat peculiar for some in an article like this but I encourage you to read on because scripture gives us some counsel on the destructive nature associated with 'almost'.
The word 'almost' is used more than you and I may realize in our daily conversation. It is a term that most are familiar with.
Examples being--'that final shot was 'almost' a game winner.'
'that storm 'almost' missed that structure.'
'that train 'almost' hit that car.'
'that attempt to reach a secure handhold 'almost' made it.'
'that drive 'almost' made it over the water.'
'that effort was 'almost' successful.'
'he/she 'almost' made the cut.'
'they 'almost' made it.' ALMOST.
In life, there are many 'almost' experiences. Sometimes these experiences are measured in tenths of a second that separates first from fourth in competition. Sometimes they're missed by only a few inches which might as well be a mile.
There are two different people, both very powerful who carried a great deal of influence who were faced with life's most important decision and 'almost' made the right one. ALMOST.
The first was a king named Agrippa. We are introduced to him in Acts 25:13. The Apostle Paul has been arrested as a result of preaching of the gospel. While a captive for the cause of Christ, Paul takes advantage of the opportunity to share his life changing story with this king and his wife, among others who were gathered that day.
Paul shared his testimony with King Agrippa. That account included his life before meeting Jesus, how he came to meet Jesus and his life since. (By the way, that is all we need to do today in the world we live in.) After hearing Paul's story of being transformed by the grace of God, King Agrippa is faced with a choice. A choice that he 'almost' got right. ALMOST.
King Agrippa's response to the gospel story is found in Acts 26:28 when he said, "You almost persuade me to become a Christian." To which Paul responds in verse 29--"I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains."
Everyone faces the inner struggle of 'almost' before they come to be made 'altogether' in Christ.
The second of the two that we examine today is another very important person in history. He is more familiar to most. He was a powerful politician named Pilate. Pilate was the governor of Rome in the province during the time of Jesus' earthly ministry. Pilate would be the person that decided what would be done with Jesus that day. As a consequence, Pilate would determine what Jesus would do with him on yet another day, future when the tables would be turned and Jesus sat on the judgment seat and Pilate stood before Him. That sort of provides some clarity on who was really on trial that day.
Pilate is faced with life's most important decision; -'what am I to do with Jesus?" Pilate tried to 'pass the buck' to Herod but the decision would be his to make and his alone. The same is true of every individual when they are confronted with the question of 'who is this man? And what am I to do with Him?'
Listen to this excerpt from Max Lucado in his book, 'No Wonder They Call Him the Savior' where he writes, "Pilate almost performed what would have been history's greatest act of mercy. He almost pardoned the Prince of Peace. ALMOST. He had the power. He had the choice. He wore the signet ring. But other voices prevailed. And as a result, Pilate's pride prevailed. Pilate's fear prevailed. Pilate's power-hunger prevailed. Pilate could have heard the voice of Jesus. He could have heard the voice of his own wife, who sent him a warning. He could have heard his own voice. He could have heard other voices. But he didn't. He 'almost' did. But he didn't. Satan's voice prevailed. His voice often does. Have you heard his wooings?"
Pilate heard it and as a consequence Pilate 'almost' made it. Instead he learned the hard way that this stance of 'almost' is suicidal and potentially damning; forever! Pilate had the opportunity to grant mercy. He instead brought upon his own soul the misery of being separated from God. He did this. He chose this. The opportunity to be different and make a difference stood right in front of him as he stood face to face with Jesus. Pilate 'almost' made the right decision but didn't. In the end he died without grace and mercy.
Scripture tells us that Pilate made a public display of washing his hands that day after he passed sentence. And all of that was done in front of the crowd that day in a last ditch attempt to shift the blame and find some peace. Pilate tried his best but he could never wash away the stain of innocent blood that was on his hands instead of over the sin that filled his heart.
A friend shared with me many years ago this thought-- 'if you could somehow see Pilate today, in the holding place of hell, awaiting his final sentence at the Great White Throne judgment, he would still be trying to wash the blood of Jesus from his hands.' In torment, today and throughout eternity, Pilate will wish he could have that moment in time back. But he doesn't get that opportunity and neither do we once we pass from here to hereafter. Pilate's hands will never be clean and his heart will never be cleared of the sentence he brought on his own soul that day in Jerusalem while standing in the presence of the only One who could change his heart.
Truth is, until you get past the 'almost' part of life's most important decision, you will never be 'altogether' at peace with God. Jesus knew that. Paul knew that. Question is--do you?
From man's perspective--men might think 'almost' being saved is good enough OR 'almost' denying self to follow Christ is good enough. From God's perspective--God never 'almost' saves anyone. You either are or you aren't. You're in or you're out. You're either with Him or you're against Him. And in the minds of far too many today who are trying to straddle the fence of faith, that is just too narrow to accept and too costly to agree to.
And like Agrippa and Pilate, they 'almost' are persuaded to become a Christian. ALMOST, but lost.
I pray that you have moved from 'almost' to being 'altogether' in Jesus! If not, you may today in this moment of time by repenting of sin and confessing Jesus as Lord.
THAT IS THE ONLY WAY ANYONE CAN BE MADE ALTOGETHER AT PEACE WITH GOD!
If you know 'this and believe 'this', then share 'this' with someone this week who needs 'this'!
May His redeeming work in each of us compel us to share His story with someone so they can move from 'almost' to 'altogether', both here and hereafter.
All this basically comes down to a personal choice. Who do I want to spend the rest of my life with? Do I want to be in the presence of Jesus and people like Paul?
OR people like Judas and Pilate?
Choices; choices. We all make them and we all 'live with' the choices we make.
The choice to forsake sin and follow Christ is too important to 'almost' get right.
May peace with God bring the peace of God upon your soul today and give you a reason to rejoice!
God's best to you and yours this week!
1 Corinthians 15:58