Summary: This sermon reveals how easy it is to say one is a Christian but at the end of the day our fruits will either confirm or deny what we confess.
“Close [enough] Only Counts in Horse Shoes and With Hand Grenades.” How many have you heard or used that statement before? I remember hearing that a lot as I was growing up. For instance, I was often instructed to pick up every piece of trash, stick and stone from the yard before mowing so as not to damage the lawn mower, house or vehicles in the driveway. Without fail, just as I would go to get the lawn mower out of the garage, my step-father would ask me if I got EVERY PIECE OF TRASH, EVERY STICK AND EVERY STONE picked up. I would often reply, “Close enough!” and he would reply “Close enough only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades!” and then he would make me walk the yard again until I was able to say that indeed every piece of trash, every stick and every stone had been picked up. I never knew what that saying meant when it was said to me repeatedly. It was only when I got older that I began to understand that it meant that you do not have to hit the mark perfectly with a horse shoe or hand grenade to get the job done but when it comes to trash, sticks and stones in the yard “close enough” just doesn’t cut it! Today we are going to look at the testimony of two individuals in the Scripture that were “CLOSE BUT NOT CLOSE ENOUGH” when it comes to salvation in Jesus Christ. We will find that they had ACCESS TO THE GOSPEL OF JESUS, KNOWLEDGE OF THE GOSPEL OF JESUS, FRIENDLINESS TOWARDS/TOLERANCE FOR THE GOSPEL OF JESUS, but WERE NOT SAVED BY THE GOSPEL OF JESUS.
ACTS 24:22-27, 26:19-29
CONTEXT: Paul has been radically saved by Jesus and is busy in the ministry that the Lord had given to him among the Gentiles. He is preaching the Gospel, planting churches and encouraging the believers. Because Paul was preaching that Jesus is the only way of salvation many of the Jewish religious and societal leaders were offended and sought, with all their might, to shut him up and shut his ministry down. Ultimately, the leaders of the day had Paul arrested and because he perceived that his life was in jeopardy he made an appeal that his case be heard before Caesar. Paul had this right because he was born a Roman citizen. Because he had made this appeal, Paul was handed off to the differing heads of authority until ultimately he was taken to Rome where he would plead his case before Caesar. It was in this time of being “handed off” to these differing heads of authority that Paul encounters two men—Felix and Agrippa.
FIRST, THEY BOTH HAD ACCESS TO THE GOSPEL OF JESUS. The SPIRITUAL CLIMATE AND CULTUER OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE was much like ours today. As a culture they TOLERATED ALL RELIGIOUS AND SPIRITUAL BELIEFS. The #1 goal of the Roman Empire was to ensure the PAX ROMANA, which is the peace of Rome. The leadership of the empire knew that one of the ways to insure their existence, as an empire was to make sure that everybody was happy and at peace. Therefore, Rome was an empire where anything goes; what is right for you does not necessarily have to be right for me and that is fine; truth is relative; all religions were affirmed; and on and on we could go. The culture was such that as long as what was going on was not causing a disruption among the people then Rome was fine with it. Rome did not respond to Jesus when He was ministering among the people and proclaiming the Good News. They could have cared less about the message or the Messenger. They responded to the uproar that ensued because of the religious leaders’ objection to Jesus’ message and ministry. Paul is not under arrest in the eyes of the Romans because he is preaching Jesus; he is under arrest because his preaching of Jesus offended a few (see ACTS 24:2b-5). THE GOSPEL OFFENDED A SMALL PORTION OF THE POPULATION AND BECAUSE THEY WERE OFFENDED THEY WANTED TO MESSAGE SILENCED AND WOULD EVEN CALL UPON THE POLITICAL LEADERS IF NECESSARY. Is it not the same today? The claim is that we are a tolerant culture/society/nation but when a small percentage of people get offended by or are opposed to Christianity they take their claims to the highest courts and officials seeking to have laws established and rules enforced that reveals that those who wave the “tolerant flag” are some of the most intolerant of all. Both Felix and Agrippa lived in a world where they had access to the Gospel.
SECOND, THEY BOTH HAD KNOWLEDGE OF THE GOSPEL OF JESUS. Furthermore, both Felix and Agrippa had knowledge of the Gospel. Paul did not waste the opportunity that was before him even though the circumstances surrounding him at the time were not ideal. Felix, along with his wife Drusilla, entered into several days of conversing with Paul about things like righteousness, judgment and the “Way” (aka Christianity). It is no doubt that during these conversations Paul was adamant about proclaiming Jesus to Felix and Drusilla. They had knowledge of the Gospel.