In 1871 P.P. Bliss wrote and composed the haunting song, “Almost Persuaded.” Based on King Agrippa’s response to Paul’s preaching in Acts 26:28, the song vividly depicts the tragic consequences of a soul who delays obedience to the gospel until it is finally too late. “Almost Persuaded” has been sung many thousands of times in churches around the world, especially as an invitation song to encourage obedience to God. Its sad ending reminds us that to be “almost persuaded” is to be almost saved, and to be almost saved is to be totally lost.
Perceiving the truth is one thing, but being persuaded is another. Persuasion is an essential part of the salvation process. It involves convincing or producing within the hearer a conviction that leads to an affirmative response to the gospel. Persuasion is where the “rubber meets the road” in salvation, because this is where positive responses are produced. If a person is not persuaded, or convicted, he will not be saved.
Paul spent many hours and many days persuading people to believe and obey the gospel, (cf. Acts 28:23; 19:8). “Knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men,” (2 Cor. 5:11). He did not shy away from every legitimate effort to convince people to obey the gospel. He wanted them to do more than perceive it, he desperately wanted them to be persuaded by it. He understood that if they were not fully persuaded, they would never actually change their life and be saved. In like manner today, it’s not enough to simply grasp the gospel in our heads, we have to get it into our hearts.
While perception appeals to the mind, persuasion may be thought of as an appeal to the heart. It involves the emotions as well as the intellect. A person may intellectually understand the facts of the gospel, yet never be effectively convicted. And without such conviction, there can be no saving faith, because faith is the conviction of things not seen, (Heb. 11:1). Being persuaded is being “pricked in the heart” (Acts 2:37), an absolute precursor to obedience. It is the determination to end delay: “Seems now some soul to say, go Spirit, go thy way; some more convenient day on thee I’ll call.”
In the church, we need to be much more earnest and effective in our efforts to persuade others. We need to be bringing all guns to bear. We need to understand the urgency of the situation, and overcome our natural, conservative fears and reservations. When the invitation song is being sung, do we really understand the importance of what is occurring? “Jesus invites you here, angels are lingering near, prayers rise from hearts so dear, oh wonderer come!” What are we urging, encouraging? Is it not that honest hearers of the truth will actually be persuaded thereby—and that before it is too late?
The power of God’s word to persuade people is well documented, having been demonstrated time and time again. People are persuaded by healthy fear, including the fear of falling “into the hands of the living God,” (Heb. 10:31). They are persuaded by love, which casts out all unhealthy fear, (1 Jn. 4:18). Most often, they are persuaded by some combination of fear and love. They are like the unbelieving husband who is finally persuaded by the working of God’s word in the life of his wife, “beholding her chaste behavior coupled with fear,” (1 Pet. 3:1).
Are we really trying our best to persuade others? If we were, we would be sharpening our persuasive skills at every opportunity. I have shared the following list of suggestions before, but here they are again for anyone interested in improving the ability to persuade others to obey the Lord: 1) Love your neighbor; 2) Recognize the lost condition of others, and what it means to be lost; 3) Pray for opportunities to persuade others; 4) Overcome hesitancy and fear; 5) Seize the chance to try; 6) Think about your choice of words in advance; 7) Be careful about jesting; Be serious; 8) Do not be afraid to show emotions; 9) Explain why you care; and 10) Never give up!
The hymn, Almost Persuaded, ends with these terrifying words: “Almost persuaded, harvest is past. Almost persuaded, doom comes at last. Almost cannot avail. Almost is but to fail. Sad, sad that bitter wail, Almost but lost!” Sometimes I almost dislike using this as an invitation song, because I don’t want things to end this way. But the reality of it is, this is exactly what will happen if we refuse to be fully persuaded by the saving gospel of Jesus Christ, (Rom. 1:16). Let’s examine our hearts and allow them to be pricked and persuaded by the precious word of God, so that our lives can blossom into service and obedience for the Master. When it comes to being persuaded, let’s never settle for “almost.”
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.