PATHWAY TO HIS PRESENCE
John Wesley wrote a brilliant sermon, preached in England at Oxford, on July 25, 1741. He named it The Almost Christian. Its relevance stretches through the years to 2019, and it is just as meaningful today as it was 278 years ago. Wesley’s challenge is to question those who are not being Christian through and through. Are there those who are coming to church each Sunday to just “show up,” without any real heart change taking place? He describes the Almost Christian as a man or woman who looks like a Christian, talks and walks like a Christian, but whose actions don’t always show he is a Christian.
Christianity must impact every area of our lives. Instead of being an Almost Christian, we are to strive to be a sold-out Christian, allowing Jesus to make a noticeable difference in the way we act, think, and talk. The Almost Christian prays, reads the Bible, studies Scripture, and regularly attends worship. He visits the sick, does good works, and visits those in prison. So, what’s missing?
John Wesley shows his vulnerability when he says in this sermon that he used to be an Almost Christian. He was doing all the right things, the things that looked like Christianity, but his own heart had not felt the touch of the Master. That came as he began to understand a phrase that we sometimes sing: They will know we are Christians by our love.
The love of God became personal for him, melting away his devotion to legalism and bringing Wesley into a new peace. From that came the love of neighbor. John Wesley believed that the two go hand and hand.
Wesley had a head knowledge before he had a heart knowledge. When the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ moved from Wesley’s head to his heart, the word Almost was removed, and he realized he had now moved fully into a relationship with a personal Savior who died for him.
The scripture for Wesley’ sermon comes from Acts 26:28. Paul is in chains, and he stands before King Agrippa, king of Judea, telling the story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. He also tells of his conversion on the road to Damascus. Agrippa responds by saying, “Paul you make me almost want to be a Christian.” Hence, the sermon about being almost a Christian.
While searching for a bulletin cover for my sermon on The Almost Christian, our Administrative Assistant found a quote that stood out. It’s not from John Wesley, but it sounds like something he would say:
He who is almost persuaded is almost saved, but to be almost saved is to be entirely lost.
This has now become one of my most favorite quotes.
When I was a little girl, my sister and I often played in the sprinkler on hot days. Nothing made me happier than a summer afternoon with the sprinkler. But I had a fear of jumping over the middle part, that part that turned ‘round and ‘round. I ran to the edge of the sprinkler, squealed with delight, and ran back out. I did that over and over.
If someone had asked if I were a sprinkler jumper, I would have said, “Oh, yes.” And, I would have thought I was. But, I only went to the outskirts of the sprinkler. I only put my toes in the spray of water and then ran back out. On the outskirts of the sprinkler, I was safe. On the outskirts, I didn’t have any commitment. On the edge of the sprinkler I could jump in and out quickly and not stay long enough to get soaked by what the sprinkler had to offer. I just put my toes in and called that “jumping in.”
We want to ask ourselves if we have put our toes in the edge of Christianity and called that being a Christian.
There is for each of us a vibrant, life-changing transformation to be found in being saved. That’s when we move from being an Almost Christian to an Authentic Christian.
Are you almost saved?
The Rev. B.J. Funk is associate pastor of Central UMC in Fitzgerald. Email Rev. Funk at firstname.lastname@example.org.