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THE ALMOST CHRISTIAN – ADAPTED FROM A SERMON
BY THE REVEREND GEORGE WHITEFIELD, M.A.

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Morning, July 25, 2010

“Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” (Acts 26:28).


Most preaching in our day is very weak in comparison to the preaching of the 18th century. With hundreds of Bible-college and seminary-trained men today, we find very few who dare to break free from the herd and preach to lost sinners on Sunday – instead of giving insipid, verse-by-verse Bible studies aimed at so-called “Christians.”

I dare say that most of our preachers have even forgotten how to prepare an evangelistic sermon aimed at sinners. Or, maybe they never learned how in the first place! I know that the generation which is younger than me has little idea how to deliver one. How do you actually preach an evangelistic sermon? Many have no idea! Most of today’s sermons sound alike. They “teach” – but few know how to “preach” any more.

And the low level of preaching in our day is emptying the churches. Not one church in ten has an evening service nowadays. In 1958 every Baptist church (Northern Baptist, Southern Baptist, Regular Baptist, Independent Baptist) had an evening service. I know this by personal observation. I was there! All Baptist churches had Sunday evening services in 1958. What happened? It cannot be that television has drawn them away! In 1958 we were right in the middle of the “Golden Age of Television,” as it is now called. But today, with 150 or more channels to choose from, TV has truly become, as Newton Minow said, “a vast wasteland.” No, the reason people don’t come on Sunday night anymore isn’t because there is something juicy on TV! The reason is that pastors no longer preach strongly enough to draw a crowd!

How different it was with that great preacher George Whitefield (1714-1770)! When it was announced that he would speak, within a few hours thousands would gather, often standing in the snow at 5:00 in the morning, to hear him deliver a sermon. Mind you, there was never a choir, never an overhead projector, not even a microphone – and certainly no chairs to sit on! Yet they invariably came, by the tens of thousands, to hear this man George Whitefield deliver a fiery sermon.

Dr. J. C. Ryle gave one of the reasons for the popularity of his preaching: “Whitefield preached a singularly pure gospel. Few men ever gave their hearers so much wheat and so little chaff. He did not get into his pulpit to talk about [other things]. He was perpetually telling you about your sins, your heart, and Jesus Christ… ‘Oh, the righteousness of Jesus Christ!’ he would frequently say” (J. C. Ryle, “The New Birth”). Who preaches like that today? No wonder our churches are closed on Sunday nights!

Here is an abbreviated and edited version of George Whitefield’s sermon, “The Almost Christian,” which I give you as a specimen of true evangelistic preaching. But if you give it in your church, you must not simply read it. There must be some fire in it – as there was when Whitefield preached!

“Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” (Acts 26:28).

The Apostle Paul knew that Christ said His followers would be “brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake” (Luke 21:12). These rulers would never have heard the Gospel if the Apostles had not been arrested and brought before them, giving the Apostles an opportunity to preach to them Jesus and His resurrection.

When Paul was called to defend himself before Festus, a Gentile governor, and King Agrippa, he took the opportunity to defend himself – and also to preach the Gospel to them. And this he did with such power that Festus cried out, “Paul…much learning doth make thee mad” (Acts 26:24). The brave Apostle replied, “I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness” (Acts 26:25).

Seeing that King Agrippa was more interested in his sermon than Festus, Paul spoke directly to him: “The king knoweth of these things [that Christ suffered and rose from the dead, Acts 26:23]…for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him” (Acts 26:26). Then Paul spoke to King Agrippa strongly, saying, “King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest” (Acts 26:27). When Paul said that, the emotions of the king were so stirred that he cried out, “Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” (Acts 26:28).

Even today when the Gospel is preached with zeal and power, some people, like Festus are too proud and careless to receive the Gospel. They think that the preacher is “mad.” Others, like King Agrippa, are almost convinced to become Christians. They say in their hearts,

“Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” (Acts 26:28).

It is to you, who are almost convinced to become Christians, that I speak this morning. I think it is highly necessary to warn you of the danger of being “almost” a Christian. Therefore, from the words of the text, I will show you three things.

I. First, what is meant by an almost Christian.

An almost Christian is a person who halts between two opinions; who wavers between Christ and the world. The Apostle James describes him as,

“A double minded man” (James 1:8).

The almost Christian is a person who depends on outward religious observances. He says to himself, “I read the Bible. I go to church. Isn’t that enough?” He thinks that he is righteous. He thinks that he is better than other people he knows. But, at the same time, he is really a stranger to the inner religion of the heart. He has “a form of godliness, but [denies] the power thereof” (II Timothy 3:5). He goes on month after month, attending church, yet he is never converted, but only becomes worse as the months and years go by.

The almost Christian depends on being “good,” and is content with thinking he has done no harm to anyone. Yet he forgets that Christ said, “Cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30). He forgets that the barren fig tree was cursed and dried up from the roots, not for bearing bad fruit, but for bearing no fruit at all.

An almost Christian is honest and strict with himself; but both his honesty and strictness come from self-love. True, he does not outwardly sin, but it is not out of obedience to the laws of God, but either because his temperament does not like excessive sins, or because he does not want to lose his reputation, or make himself unfit for his professional business. It is true that he is no drunkard, but he also has no Christian self-denial. He is guided more by the world than by the Word of God. He does what best suits his own corrupt desires, not seeking to do the will of God, but only conforming to the outward demands of his religion.

Even though I have only given you an outline of the character of an almost Christian, I hope that you will see that it describes you in some of your characteristics. And I pray that you will join the Apostle in the words that follow the text, and desire that you will be not only “almost, [but] altogether” Christians (Acts 26:29).

II. Second, why so many are no more than almost Christians.

Why do some of you remain only nominal Christians, Christians in name only? Why do you remain no more than “almost Christians”?

1.  Because you have a false idea of what it is to be a Christian. Some of you think it means going to church. Some of you think it means believing certain things. A few, very few, know that it is a change of nature, a reception of divine life, a vital, living union with Jesus Christ; I mean the new birth in Christ. Yet you say with Nicodemus, “How can these things be?” (John 3:9). And because you have not sought, have not striven, to enter in (Luke 13:24) you remain only a nominal Christian, only an almost Christian.

2.  Another reason you remain only an almost Christian is that some of you have a servile, slavish fear of man – a fear of some person or persons that holds you in subjection, and keeps you a slave to sin, and keeps you away from Christ. Some of you fear what your parents would say if you began to strive to enter into Christ. Others of you fear what your friends would say. Some of you may even fear what other unconverted young people in the church would think of you if you became serious. Christ spoke of you when He said, “How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another?” (John 5:44). The Apostle James said, “Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4). No wonder you are only an almost Christian, since you love “the praise of men more than the praise of God”? (John 12:43). Thus many who pray and seek Christ never find Him, because they will not give up lost and worldly friends!

3.  Yet another reason some of you remain only almost Christians is because you love pleasure. You are “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” (II Timothy 3:4). But Christ said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself” (Luke 9:23). When you hear that, some of you go away sorrowful, because you have too great a love for sensual pleasures. There are some who think they can go to Heaven without striving against their carnal inclinations. And this is another reason why so many are only almost, and not altogether Christians.

4.  The last reason I will give, for so many remaining almost Christians, is an unstable and changeable temperament.
      We weep and wail over numbers of promising converts, who seem to be saved, but after a while fall away, and end up in the flesh, destitute of Christ. I tremble to repeat to them that dreadful threat, “If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him” (Hebrews 10:38), and again, “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance…” (Hebrews 6:4-6). Through an unstable, changeable temperament they seem to begin well, but draw back unto eternal damnation.

III. Third, the folly, the sheer insanity, of remaining no more than an almost Christian.

1.  The first proof I give is that you cannot receive salvation this way. Such people are almost Christians; but to almost hit the mark, is really to miss it. What will your Christian family say when you die? “He was almost saved!”

“Almost” cannot avail;
   “Almost” is but to fail!
Sad, sad, that bitter wail,
   “Almost” – but lost.
(“Almost Persuaded” by Philip P. Bliss, 1838-1876).

2.  The second proof of the folly of being an almost Christian is the harm it does to others. An almost Christian is one of the most harmful creatures in the whole world. He is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He is a false prophet. Almost Christians “enter not into the kingdom of God themselves; and those that are entering in they hinder.” These are they that are greater enemies of Christ than atheists or Muslims, or even Mormons. Because nearly everyone will be aware of a Muslim, or a Mormon, or an atheist; but an almost Christian, through subtle hypocrisy, draws many after him who would never have followed a Muslim, Mormon or atheist. Therefore the almost Christian must expect to receive a greater damnation, a worse punishment in Hell than a Muslim, Mormon or atheist – because the almost Christian does far more to destroy God’s work than any cultist or atheist could ever do. The deepest pit in Hell is therefore reserved for the almost Christian.

3.  The third proof of the folly of remaining an almost Christian is that it is the greatest form of ingratitude toward our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
      Jesus came down from Heaven to save us. He was humiliated, scorned, sweat Blood in the agony of Gethsemane, was arrested, mocked, beaten half to death, and nailed to a cross, dying in our place. He shed His precious Blood to cleanse us. Oh, how can you say you love Him, when your heart is not fully with Him? How can you acknowledge that He suffered to save you from eternal misery and punishment and not give yourself completely to Him?
      Give Jesus your whole heart. Stop halting between two opinions. Why should you keep away from Christ any longer? Why should you be so in love with the slavery of sin that you will not turn away from the world, the flesh, and the Devil – which, like spiritual chains, bind your soul and hold it down, and keep it from fleeing to Christ? What are you afraid of? Why will you not give yourself completely to Christ? Do you think that being only half Christian will make you happy? Do you think that throwing yourself completely on Christ will make you miserable?
      It is a great delusion to think that wavering between Christ and the world can satisfy you. No – such wavering only keeps you from experiencing the great comfort Christ offers. Only when you give your heart wholly to Christ can you have peace with God.
      In closing, I exhort you to turn away from being an almost Christian. Flee from the wrath and judgment of God. Whatever it may cost you, flee to Christ. Then strive to give yourself more and more to Him. Be always praying, always preparing yourself for a fuller sight and greater enjoyment of Him, in whose presence there is fullness of joy, and at whose right hand there are pleasures evermore. Amen!


This sermon, “The Almost Christian,” was preached by George Whitefield during the First Great Awakening (1730-1760). I have edited and simplified it to make it more easy to understand by the less literate minds of modern men. May you read it again, and think about it deeply. May you turn away from being an “almost Christian.” May God Himself make you “altogether” a real Christian (Acts 26:29), that some day it may not be said of you,

“Almost persuaded,” harvest is past!
   “Almost persuaded,” doom comes at last!
“Almost” cannot avail;
   “Almost” is but to fail!
Sad, sad, that bitter wail,
   “Almost” – but lost.
(“Almost Persuaded” by Philip P. Bliss, 1838-1876).

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers’ sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on “Sermon Manuscripts.”

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Acts 26:19-29.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Almost Persuaded” (by Philip P. Bliss, 1838-1876).

THE OUTLINE OF

THE ALMOST CHRISTIAN – ADAPTED FROM A SERMON
BY THE REVEREND GEORGE WHITEFIELD, M.A.

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” (Acts 26:28).

(Luke 21:12; Acts 26:24, 25, 23, 26, 27, 28)

I.   First, what is meant by an almost Christian, James 1:8;
II Timothy 3:5; Matthew 25:30; Acts 26:29.

II.  Second, why so many are no more than almost Christians,
John 3:9; Luke 13:24; John 5:44; James 4:4; John 12:43;
II Timothy 3:4; Luke 9:23; Hebrews 10:38; 6:4-6.

III. Third, the folly, the sheer insanity, of remaining no more
than an almost Christian, Acts 26:29.