At the beginning of each NFL season, football teams strive to have the best season they can possibly have. There are fitness camps, minicamps, OTA’s (organized team activities), practices, preseason games, and finally—the first game of the season.
Each year, teams pursue the ultimate goal of winning the Super Bowl. In 2007, the New England Patriots began their season by crushing the New York Jets. Before long the patriots were 2-0, 3-0, and 4-0. After eight games, not only were the Patriots undefeated, but they had also beaten their opponents by an average margin of twenty-six points!
The more New England won, the more sports analyst talked about this team possibly being the greatest team ever assembled. They continued their tear through the schedule: 12-0, 13-0, 14-0. Teams had gone undefeated before, but never had teams obliterated their competition the way that this team did. The New England Patriots finished the regular season 16-0 and entered the playoffs without even one blemish on their record.
In the divisional round, they faced the Jacksonville Jaguars then the San Diego Chargers in the conference championship; winning both games by an average of ten points. Finally, they made it to the Super Bowl to face the New York Giants. New England had already beaten New York twice: once in a preseason game and again just four weeks earlier. At this point in the season, the New England Patriots were an undisputed 18-0 and considered by some to be the greatest team of all time. But on February 3, 2008, the “unthinkable” happened—the Patriots lost in the Super Bowl! The New York Giants played a nearly flawless game to beat the “seemingly unbeatable” New England Patriots. After the Super Bowl, one sports anchor said this of the New England Patriots, “They were almost the greatest team of all time, but it turns out they weren’t even the best team in this game.”
The New England Patriots were almost Super Bowl champions, almost undefeated, and almost the greatest. But in the end, almost is never enough!
In Acts 26 Paul had been arrested for sharing the gospel. Paul was then given the opportunity to plead his case before the authorities. He told how the gospel changed his life and that he wanted to see other lives changed as well.
King Agrippa, the royalty who would determine Paul’s fate, seemed incredibly moved by such an account. Paul even asked, “King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.” Paul was convinced that the king believed his story and that he himself may become a Christian. However, the reply that King Agrippa gave must have been heartbreaking for Paul to hear. The king said to Paul, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.”
Almost is never good enough! If my wife were to ask me if I loved her and I answered, “Almost” that would not go over very well. The same is true when it comes to being a Christian. Ninety-nine percent simply is not good enough! In his book, The 17 Essential Qualities of a Team Player, John Maxwell writes: “If 99.9 percent were good enough, then… 22,000 checks would be deducted from the wrong bank accounts in the next 60 minutes and 12 babies would be given to the wrong parents today alone.” There are no 99.9% Christians—it’s all or nothing. To be almost saved is to be totally lost!
There are many good people who are almost saved, but lost. They are depending on religion, or their own good works, or anything other than Jesus Christ to get them into Heaven. Popular religions will tell you there are many ways to get into Heaven, but the Bible says, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under Heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). Without putting our faith in Jesus Christ—there is no way to be saved.
I’m afraid that many people today are depending on their own good works in order to attain salvation. No one ever went to Heaven because they were a good person; in fact, the Bible says there are none good enough to reach Heaven. Romans 3:10, 23 says, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one. For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”
No one ever went to Heaven because they attended church, took the sacraments, or participated in good works. The Bible says in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” The message of salvation is not “do”—the message of salvation is the word done. There is nothing more we can “do” in order to attain salvation, because Jesus Christ already completed the task when He died on the cross for our sins.
As sinners, we deserve the punishment of eternal separation from God in a place called Hell. None of us deserve Heaven, but Jesus Christ made a way for us to be saved from our sins when He died for us. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). All we have to do, in order to be saved, is to accept His free gift of eternal life. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). That is perhaps the greatest part of the gospel message—anyone can be saved!
So what about you? Are you sure that you’re saved? If not, you’re probably almost saved. But from the life of King Agrippa, we know that to be almost saved is to be lost.
As a kid, I remember watching a show called Gilligan’s Island. Countless times, I remember the passengers of the S. S. Minnow almost being rescued. Seemingly every show, their rescue was so close, and yet so far. Someday you will stand before God. When that day comes, will you stand there saved or almost saved? Remember, to be almost saved is to be completely lost.