Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.” (Acts 26:28)

When Paul was a prisoner at Caesarea Maritama, he had several audiences with royalty. He was imprisoned due to false accusations by the Jewish religious elite—the Sanhedrin. As a former up-and-coming Pharisee, Paul previously saw himself destined to be part of this group.

But after his miraculous conversion by his encounter with the living Jesus on the road to Damascus, he now preached the gospel of Jesus Christ fully, frankly, and freely (Acts 23:1-11). Wherever he went, he preached Jesus as the only way to eternal salvation.

Of course, this didn’t sit well with the Jerusalem religious elite. So, they caused such an uproar—even threatening to kill Paul (Acts 23:12-35). To prevent a riot, the Romans came, arrested Paul, and escorted him to Caesarea.

As a prisoner, Paul was brought before several rulers. Governor Felix and his wife, Drusilla. Roman procurator of Judea, Porcius Festus. King Agrippa and his wife, Bernice. At each defense against the false charges brought against him, Paul seized the opportunity to share his conversion experience and preach the gospel of Jesus.

Religious Status

In such a royal setting, there came the day Paul presented his case before King Agrippa and Procurator Festus. The transition from religion to Christlikeness became obvious. Paul started by explaining his religious roots.

  • He was a part of the strictest, rules-following sect, the Pharisees (Acts 26:5)
  • He felt religiously compelled to violently oppose those who followed Jesus (Acts 26:9)
  • He imprisoned, murdered, and tortured Christ followers (Acts 26:10-11)
  • He was so “religiously angry” against them, he pursued them from city to city (Acts 26:11)

Formalized religion made Paul a monster. It politicized his passion. And it promoted and sanctioned horrible crimes. Even worse, it did absolutely nothing to secure his eternal future with God.

Genuine Conversion

Then came Paul’s encounter with the resurrected, living Jesus. This changed Paul like no formalized religion ever could. “I am Jesus who you are persecuting.” As opposed to yet another monstrous religion, Jesus changed Paul into an ambassador of love and peace. The gospel of Jesus Christ:

  • Declares Jesus loves us incredibly, died for our sins, and rose again just as He promised
  • Opens and turns peoples’ eyes from the darkness of sin to God’s marvelous light
  • Calls people to repentance from sin and leads them to genuine godliness
  • Frees people from the crippling power of Satan to the freedom of God’s grace and the victory of His power over sin, death, and Satan
  • Provides the forgiveness of sins and an eternal inheritance in heaven

When Agrippa and Festus heard Paul’s testimony, both had different yet eternally similar responses. Festus thought Paul was crazy with too much learning. But Agrippa’s response is sobering. “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.” Like Paul was selling a new formalized religion based on manmade rules and rituals. “You almost sold me on the idea, Paul!”

Religious Blindness

They both missed the point. Paul was promoting a personal relationship with a risen, living, vibrant Christ who promised the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to transform people from the inside out. Not a religion that started from the outside and maybe had some small morally-respectful effect inwardly.

People join formalized religions, like organized Christianity, for a variety of influential or societal reasons. Like joining a civic club. Increasing one’s social status. Joining a passionate peer group. Appearing to be religious or self-righteous. As a perceived escape ticket from hell. To please others who may have a vested interest. The list goes on and on.

Christlikeness

But Christlikeness is a personal commitment to Jesus Christ. It is the acceptance of Who He is and what He did on Calvary. In doing so, there is an appropriation of His infinite, redemptive blood. It is the recognition of His sovereign right and authority over everything and everyone. The submission to His indwelling Holy Spirit and an obedience to his Word. A wholehearted surrender to Him and journey toward His supernatural transformation into Christlikeness.

It’s so much more than simply joining a club. Christlikeness is the whole-hearted yielding to a complete overhaul of heart and mind—including your thoughts, values, decisions, disposition, agendas, desires, aspirations, everything (Romans 12:2). Old things are passed away, everything becomes subject to Christ’s newness (2 Corinthians 5:17).

It’s an all-in devotion to become more and more like Jesus every day until He returns or calls us home. Then, in His presence, we can finally proclaim, “I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness” (Psalm 17:15).

Concepts based on Nate’s new book, “Called to Christlikeness, not Christianity” (https://www.amazon.com/dp/1737682540)

image_pdfView as PDF & Print