by Rev. Ed Schneider
Acts 26:15-28 reads….
15 So I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. 17 I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now[a]send you, 18 to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’
19 “Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance. 21 For these reasons the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. 22 Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come— 23 that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.”
24 Now as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!”
25 But he said, “I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and reason. 26 For the king, before whom I also speak freely, knows these things; for I am convinced that none of these things escapes his attention, since this thing was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe.”
28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.”
As we read in the above section of the 26th chapter of Acts, Paul is bound up in chains. He is awaiting a decision concerning his punishment when he was visited by a few friends and associates who wanted to hear directly from him regarding his current situation. As the scene opens King Agrippa, Governor Festus, Bernice and a few others were listening to Paul’s version of what prompted his imprisonment. Paul shared with his associates that Jesus himself had charged him with his ministry of telling others what he had himself experienced about Jesus. Paul tells his visiting audience that he or anyone else is not to worry because Christ would protect him from ultimate hurt, harm, and danger while he went about telling folks to turn from the ways-of-evil to the ways of God. The Apostle Paul boldly proclaimed that the converted were to go about proving what their new life was all about by doing-good to all people under the banner of God.
After hearing the testimony of Paul, King Agrippa then asks Paul, “In such a short time do you think you can persuade me into becoming a Christian?” (Acts 26:28) Paul answers the King by saying, “Whether it takes a short time or a long time, I wish you and everyone else who hears me would become just like me.”
Beloved, that is where the trouble lies.
- What happens when Christianity is viewed by those joining its ranks as a merely good idea, even a great way of living their lives?
- What then is the effect on Christianity’s professed followers?
- What happens to the Church itself?
The unfortunate truth of far too many folks involved in the outer boundaries of Christian faith is that they are, just like Agrippa, “almost persuaded” to become a Christian. It probably would be helpful to understand just a couple of important concepts as we go about investigating the disease of the Christian “life-style.”
First, what is implied when I say, “life-style,” and secondly, what is the contrasting alternative?
When any person sees Christianity’s life-style as good and honorable they will most assuredly find the “common-good” of the basic tenants of our faith appealing, even compelling. The Christian life-style promotes things such as; being just, not stealing, and not taking advantage of the poor. The practice of not slandering your neighbor, or falsely accusing anyone of an offense, or even holding liars in disgrace as well as other things that the Christian life-style finds important. These same naïve and misguided folks will find the greatest of all Christian proclamations regarding loving one another very pleasant. They will search out ways of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and even giving generously to a cause that “touches” their heart.
Just like Agrippa’s profession to Paul, the marginally persuaded Christian will try to find a “form of godliness” they can outwardly support. This outwardly “form of godliness” can also be described as living the Christian “life-style” or being a “not quite there” Christians.
These types of Christians find themselves reliant on their public displays of sincerity. These generally fine individuals have all the outward signs of being someone who is willing to dive in the deep end of the pool of Christian life-application. They visit the House of God periodically, if not frequently. They pray with their families. They have been known to be substantial contributors of money. They are serious in their work for the church by sitting on a committee or two or three. Furthermore, these persons are often recognized as moralists. They don’t take the Lord’s name in vain, commit adultery or revel in sexual promiscuity. They abstain from gossip or speaking evil of others. They might even find gluttony, alcoholism, drug abuse or willingly trying to harm another something to personally avoid and actively discourage in others.
Beloved, if the above description does not accurately define the life of a Christian, then what does? In fact, most local church leadership would be ecstatic if they could wake up one morning to a sanctuary filled with these kinds of people. Verily, verily I say unto you, there is so much more than that which is described above. So much more that awaits the all-together…fully-immersed…all-the-way-in…totally committed and Divinely inspired Christian than merely the outward workings of an orchestrated Christian “life-style.”
The harsh truth is a good coach or mentor can train most people to act better. Far too many people use the “life-style” evaluator to judge the maturity of a Christian…and that is a sad…sad…thing, indeed. There is so much more depth in what it means to be part of the faithful “Followers of the Way.” Our Bibles tell us that those who are overwhelmed by God’s grace, those who have awakened to the life-changing conversion of Christ rather than the decision to adhere to the Christian “life-style,” love God with every part of their soul, their mind, and with all of their strength. This kind of love, this kind of devotion, this kind of Divinely inspired enthusiasm engages every aspect of the converted life. These uniquely positioned followers view well past the philosophy of Christian thought into a transformation of the very essence of their being. They long every day to find new and deeper ways of growing close to God. They find themselves compelled to an ever increasing degree of humility before God, and then by extension, also to the individuals society has placed at the bottom of the cultural food chain.
These “all-the-way-in” and “boldly inspired” believers throw away even the hint of wrath and evil separation from people who are outwardly different from themselves. Their practical display of patience seems to be remarkably expanding with an unexplainable ease. These “divinely transforming” souls are profoundly moved to express the joy in ultimate truth, eternal hope, “mustard seed” faith, and in personal suffering to extend the loving characteristics of God to both their own households and the communities in which they reside.
Beloved, it is an absolute shame that “life-style” Christians are missing much of the depth that God has awaiting them. Life-style Christians live on the edge of God’s grace without ever truly experiencing the incredible depth of what God is calling us to become. These well-intended folks are trapped on the outskirts of God’s kingdom. They play it safe in an effort to gain approval by God as well as those around them who are watching their movements.
One cannot be half-way pregnant or half-way “in love.” You either are or you are not. God’s call on a person’s life is the same. Christianity is not a choice it is a conversion of being. It is an absolute turning away from any sense of self that lingers in the heart, mind, soul, and strength of our very essence. God’s calling is not partial or part-time. It is complete. It is profound. It is foundational. It is not a “life-style” or even just “life-changing,” it is LIFE GIVING.
One who has been truly converted for Christ finds The Creator of all that is known and unknown prompting them to grow closer to that same “Creator” in every aspect of life. They discover new ways of thinking, a new set of habits learned, even an expansion of what it means to be actually alive. That is what an all-together…all-the-way-in…jumping into the deep end of the pool…intensely deep…joyfully passionate Christian is all about.