Wednesday, September 4, 2019


            Have you ever had someone try to persuade you to do something you were reluctant to do or even determined not to do? In my (much) younger days, I went to a theme park with some of my cousins. The guys wanted to ride a roller coaster that turned upside down, and I said, “absolutely not”. (It was relatively new at the time.) So, I removed myself from the line for that ride and told them to have fun. The next thing I knew, I was being lifted from my place outside the line back inside the line. Guess what I did. I rode the roller coaster. Did I enjoy it? Of course, I did! The only reason I didn’t want to ride it in the first place was because it was not familiar to me and I was afraid. I just needed a little persuasion.
            Riding or not riding the roller coaster really made no difference in the quality of my life, even though I still remember it after all those years. But being persuaded or not being persuaded to follow Christ will make all the difference for now and eternity.
            To persuade someone means to appeal to them by advising or urging them to do something or believe something. One who is persuaded by this urging becomes fully convinced and will carry out their belief until it is entirely accomplished. The proof of someone’s persuasion is in their actions, not just their words.
            On one occasion, the apostle Paul was taken from his prison cell to state his case before the Roman Governor Festus and King Agrippa who was visiting Festus. First, Paul acknowledged that he was happy to speak before King Agrippa because the king was well-versed in the Jewish law and was also knowledgeable of Jesus and His works, crucifixion and resurrection. After that Paul gave an account of his own life as a Pharisee and a persecutor of those who followed Jesus until he met Jesus personally. He told them of his conversion when Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus and changed his course. He also gave a testimony that Jesus is the Messiah they had been waiting for. “Then Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time [and with so little effort] you [almost] persuade me to become a Christian.”
My cousins’ “persuasion” to change my mind was physical. They actually lifted me back into the line with them. But we can’t do that in trying to persuade someone to follow Jesus. We cannot lift them into a place of full surrender. That is entirely up to the individual.
            Agrippa knew about Jesus firsthand. He knew the Jewish laws and traditions. He knew the prophecies about the Messiah. Now he had heard Paul’s testimony. And he was almost convinced to follow Christ, but he didn’t. ‘Almost’ is still a negative. Almost is very nearly, but not quite. If someone almost dies, they are still alive. If someone almost wins, they have still lost. It remains that they did not die or they did not win. The end result is not altered by ‘almost’. Being almost persuaded is not receiving the gospel. Having respect for those who follow Christ and acknowledging holy things as holy is not receiving the gospel of Jesus Christ. King Agrippa’s “almost persuaded” status left him just like he had been, or maybe a little worse because he had heard the truth and rejected it. He had a divided heart. It seems he believed mentally but not enough to change his course.  He wanted what he had in this world more than Jesus Christ. He received nothing because he did not surrender to Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God. We must be all for God, His Kingdom and His will. We cannot have a heart half-way for God. He will not accept it. We must give Him all. Those who are almost persuaded are still outside the kingdom of God.
Abraham was a different story. “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what He had promised, He was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.”  (Romans 4:20-22)
Abraham was fully, completely, entirely persuaded that what God said was true. He was certain that everything God said would be entirely accomplished, so he obeyed everything God told him to do. If you receive a box containing all the pieces to construct a bookshelf and you follow the directions on how to put it together, you will get a bookshelf just like the picture on the box it came in. You were promised the outcome and were given the instructions on what to do to get the promised results. But only if you are fully persuaded that whoever wrote those directions knows how to deliver what they promised will you actually follow the directions. Abraham believed, so he followed God’s instructions, and he saw the promise come to pass. If Abraham had not believed God’s Word to him and had not acted on it, God would not have bestowed on him the blessing of being “the father of many nations” and “the friend of God”. But Abraham was fully persuaded, and he fully followed God’s instructions, so he received exactly what God promised.
Abraham even believed for things he knew he would not see in his lifetime. Much of what God promised him was for his descendants. But there was no unbelief in him, and everything God promised him happened. God blessed Abraham immensely both physically and spiritually because of his faith and even declared him righteous by faith. Because Abraham was fully persuaded, it changed the course of his life and the course of many lives.
We find in the Bible that God has promised great things to those who believe Him enough to follow His directions and give their all to follow Him completely. But we must be fully persuaded. We cannot be persuaded “all except”. We may not understand it all, but faith means we believe God anyway. Abraham didn’t understand it all, either.
We are not fully persuaded if we have a divided heart. If we believe part of God’s Word, but not all of it, we have a double heart and try to take the place of God by determining which part is true and which is not. Those who are fully persuaded have an undivided heart and their actions prove their persuasion. Whatever God says is true and they believe truth whether they understand it perfectly or not.
When King Saul rebelled against God’s instructions, God rejected him. Saul obeyed part of what God told him to do, but not all of it. Saul himself decided to determine how the spoils of battle should best be used, putting his own judgment above God’s. So, God rejected him and chose David to succeed him on the throne of Israel. It didn’t happen immediately. Many years went by before it came to pass, but David believed what God had promised him. And quite some time after the death of Saul it happened. Warriors from each of the twelve tribes of Israel came to David to make him king over all Israel, “to turn over the kingdom of Saul to him.” These men are described like this: “All these, being men of war arrayed in battle formation, came to Hebron with a perfect (committed) heart to make David king over all Israel; and all the rest of Israel were also of one mind to make David king.” These men were trustworthy, men of honor without any sort of hidden agenda or double purpose.
God had already turned the kingdom over to David. The people were now confirming God’s choice and making His will their own. They joined the kingdom God had already declared many years before. They placed themselves under David’s command willingly and unconditionally. Although they came from many tribes, they gathered for one purpose – to acknowledge David as king. They were fully persuaded.
If we are fully persuaded to follow Jesus, we must come with an undivided heart; no hidden agenda, no double purpose. We must come fully surrendered to Jesus’ rule over us willingly and unconditionally, and acknowledging what God has already declared – Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords, now and forevermore! Everything is under subjection to Him, and the day is coming when “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Those who are only almost persuaded are still outside the kingdom. Those who are fully persuaded and have given their all to Jesus will receive His righteousness, wisdom, discernment, and an inheritance as His children. One day we will all bow and confess Jesus as Lord. Why not today?
Are You Fully Persuaded?