The Day of Salvation
Then Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time [and with so little effort] you [almost] persuade me to become a Christian.” (Acts 26:28)
The sooner you come to Christ, the surer you are to come to Christ. If you are not saved today, you may be saved tomorrow, but you may not be saved. I believe there are scores of people who will be saved now or never. People think they can turn to Christ when they decide that they want to, but when the Spirit of God is moving on your heart, it is a solemn moment. To say yes, means life; to say no means death. To say yes, means heaven; to say no, means hell.
Often a man will be near the kingdom, and he will say, “ I am so interested now that I will certainly be just as interested tomorrow.” But the critical hour has come, and if he does not yield now, he will have no interest tomorrow.
I once received a message from a wealthy young fellow saying that he wished to see me that night at Mr. Moody’s meeting, I went and met him at the close of the meeting. He was on the verge of a decision. As we stood talking on the sidewalk, a bell rang out a late hour. I said to myself, “He is so near a decision, I can leave him safely until tomorrow morning.” So I said, “Good night, Will. I will be around you your room tomorrow morning at ten.”
It was one of the most fatal mistakes I have ever made, I was there at ten and he was there, but his convictions had all left him. He was as hard as stone. His opportunity had come and gone. You may be very near a decision at this moment, on the very borders of the kingdom, but if you say no, tomorrow will forever be too late. Who of us can tell who will be called out of the world into eternity in a moment?
You have a chance now. Don’t throw it away. The sooner you accept Christ, the surer you will be to receive him. Ask Him into your heart now. You can have the joy of salvation at this moment; why wait a week? You can be saved from a life of wretchedness at once; why bear it another hour? The sooner you come to Christ, the more you can do for Him, and the richer you will be throughout all eternity.
Come to Him today and begin to lay up treasures in the bank of heaven. The sooner you come to Christ, the surer it is that you will come. Come now. “The Holy Spirit says; ‘Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.”(Hebrews 3:7-8) “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.”(Proverbs 27:1) “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2)
In our text, Paul has been brought before Festus the governor and Agrippa the king to present his case of defense after being arrested. Acts tells us that as Paul tell his story of conversion and how he had met Christ, that there were two responses. Festus responds with these words:
While Paul was making this defense, Festus said loudly, “Paul, you are out of your mind! Your great education is turning you toward madness.” (Acts 26:24)
Indeed, this is often the response to the gospel. We can hardly imagine that God loves with the intensity that He does. Often we have seen or experienced the ugly of religion that cloaks and is used to justify unkind behavior and cruel acts and when we hear the gospel, we perceive it as madness. Festus, as governor had seen first hand the conflict between the Jewish leaders and the Christians. He no doubt saw it as just another religious division and strife. As governor he was taxed with keeping the peace in his region and he answered to Rome in the matter. For him, the arrest of Paul, and the discovery that a Roman citizen had been imprisoned without a trial was his priority. I think he was hoping that it would quietly go away and so he brought his friend Agrippa to hear Paul’s defense. He had no interest in being saved.
It is apparent that Agrippa, on the other hand, had interest in what Paul was saying. I am aware as a preacher, that not every sermon speaks to everybody. They only speak to those whose hearts are open; those who may be searching for answers; or those who have gathered desiring instructions. Such was the case with Paul’s audience. The same person spoke the same message and there was two entirely different responses. We can only attribute that to the person’s interest and the working of the Holy Spirit. This is why the Bible tells us that we ought to respond when the Holy Spirit is moving us.
It is apparent that the Holy Spirit was moving on Agrippa for his response to Paul tells us that he was on the verge of committing himself to Christ. The word he used is a bone-chilling word- “almost.” I heard a preacher some years ago say this, “Almost, but lost.” What a travesty for Agrippa to come within reach of being saved and then turning away. Could you imagine being in a flood, almost drowning and having someone throw you a lifeline. As you are trying to keep your head above water, the line comes within your grasp but you fail to seize it. Almost but not close enough and you miss your opportunity of being rescued. No doubt the rescuer would roll the line in and cast it out again but you have drifted to far for it to reach you. What a tragic end that would be. Here in this story, we find a man who heard the gospel, and was almost- hear that word- almost persuaded, but walked away still in his sins.
Jesus as He is telling the story of the seed points out that when the seed is sown, the ground is the key factor. It’s the same seed sown by the same sower. Where the seed landed was critical. Let’s look for a moment at His explanation of the parable.
“Listen then to the [meaning of the] parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom [regarding salvation] and does not understand and grasp it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. The one on whom seed was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and at once welcomes it with joy; yet he has no [substantial] root in himself, but is only temporary, and when pressure or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he stumbles and falls away [abandoning the One who is the source of salvation]. And the one on whom seed was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the worries and distractions of the world and the deceitfulness [the superficial pleasures and delight] of riches choke the word, and it yields no fruit. And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands and grasps it; he indeed bears fruit and yields, some a hundred times [as much as was sown], some sixty [times as much], and some thirty.” (Matthew 13:18-23)
Jesus tells us that those who hear the word but do not understand it, lose it for the evil one comes and snatches it away. He says that those who hear the word, initially welcomes it with joy- treats it like a fad- and when pressure comes- they revert back to their old ways. He says others hear the word but allow worries and distractions and deceitfulness to choke it out and it yields no fruit. Then there are those who hear the word, understands it, applies it and it brings forth fruit.
As a farm boy, I learned early on timing of planting and reaping was almost set in stone. Certain crops could only be planted at certain times and when they matured, there was a window to harvest them. If you planted, for example, too early, the frost would burn the plants and they would either die or produce very little harvest. If you planted too late, the growing season was over before they came to full maturity and what harvest they produced was small at best. The same thing with harvest. Picked too early, they were often too green to eat. Picked too late they were often beginning to spoil. Timing was of the essence.
I’m sure we all can look back over our lives and recall missed opportunities or times when we moved too soon. We all know there windows of opportunity that don’t last forever.
So it is with salvation. We can’t come to God whenever we choose. We can only come as we are called by the Holy Spirit. Some of us believe that we can choose the time to bring people to Christ but in truth we often miss our opportunities and our harvest spoils on the vines.
Whether it’s our response to salvation, or our response to answer the call to service in the kingdom of God, or whether it’s our response of the Holy Spirit to draw near to God, we ought to respond now. Far too often when we put off our response, we never act on it. And because we fail to act in that window of opportunity, we may miss it forever.
My constant prayer is that sinners respond the moment that the Holy Spirit draws them. I pray that every Christian responds to the stirring of the Holy Spirit to share the gospel with the one whom God has given them to opportunity to do so. I pray that every church will become aware of the urgency and the lateness of the hour and will stir themselves to enter the fields of harvest. I pray that none miss their window of opportunity.
In the passage of Hebrews, we hear the Holy Spirit say, “Today.” Do it now. Don’t put it off any longer. Fully surrender your life and being to Christ while you feel Him drawing you. Do that ministry, that work while you have the desire and the ability. Tell that person about Christ while they are interested and you have the courage. Take the step, make the decision, take the turn, make the change. Don’t procrastinate, don’t wait, don’t put it off. We only have today, we have no tomorrows for they never come.
My pastor friend from Kenya shared some years ago that the richest place on earth was the cemetery. “It is there,” he said, “that dreams, hopes, abilities, talents, and the like are buried. Many of them never used to benefit anyone. Lost to the individual and to the world forever.” He went on to say, “The greatest treasure that is buried there and lost is the person who never lived their life for Christ, the person who never served Christ, and the person who never used their talents for the kingdom of God.”
Why? Because they waited as Agrippa said, “For a more convenient time.”
Dr. John Thompson