Tuesday, September 6, 2016

DON'T BE A FELIX! Reasons Why People Refuse the True Gospel of Jesus Christ.

"And as [Paul] reasoned of righteousness, temperance and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee" Acts 24:25 
With social networks, one can hardly miss anything.  I can definitely say that those who are active on Facebook and/or Twitter are the most updated ones. We know about almost everything through the news feed of our Facebook - even the rage of your neighbor with her husband.  And though we cannot always filter what we see on our screens, we can ignore some posts and give weight on some which we may feel is important.

How many times have you encountered the Gospel of Jesus Christ on your wall posts? How many times have you thought about it? Have you considered reading it closely and giving weight on it? Now that you're reading this, are you considering knowing the real gospel at all?

When Paul was sent to Felix, the governor of Caesarea, to face the charges of the chief priests and Jews, he boldly confessed and testified the lordship of Jesus Christ in his life... how God worked in his life and how he was changed.  Everyone listened intently; whether to bring judgment or witness the truth, they came to know about the Lord.  Felix's interest to please his Jewish wife spark curiosity in him to hear more from Paul.  And so he sent for Paul and heard him speak about his faith in Christ Jesus.  But when Paul talked about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, he was alarmed. Preposterously, he was alarmed yet sent Paul away!

Matthew Henry captured it so well when he commented on this verse, "Sinners often start up like a man roused from his sleep by a loud noise, but soon sink again into their usual drowsiness." Many a time, God sends warning to us, convicting us of our shameful ways, opening his arms to us for repentance. Yet just like Felix, many put the thought at the back seat of their minds and drive away, thinking, "there will be a more convenient time to think about those things, but just not this time". I wonder, what lingers someone not to take hold of his eternal destiny? Surprisingly, there are numerous "reasons" that I came across. I have enumerated some of the common ones to which I'm also responding with biblical verses to expose its unsubstantiated claims.

1. "I'm basically a good person." 

"God is good, and he won't punish me because basically, I'm good.
I do not murder.
I give alms to the poor.
And more importantly, I am not hurting anyone."

Must the accused determine his fate or the judge to give the sentence? They evaluate themselves with their standards and assume they have passed God's judgment. The Bible says,  "...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) and "-for there is no one who does not sin-" (2 Chronicles 6:36).  God's judgement to sin is death ("for the wages of sin is death..." (Romans 6:23a). Original sin (sinful nature) in itself is enough to condemn the whole human race, more so the sin we commit in our lifetime.

What is amusing though, everyone who claims to be good also admits not being able to perfectly achieve what God requires them to do.  Some even profess to be 'Christians'. But their idea of Jesus is not as a Messiah but a filler for their personal merit as payment for their ransom. So the concept of salvation becomes now, our Lord Jesus Christ partly contributing to our salvation instead of him entirely redeeming us from our sins.

What can I say? That is overboard blasphemous and heretical.

2. "What matters is I believe in God." 

"You believe that God is one; you do well.  Even the demons believe-- and shudder!" James 2:19. Unbelievers tend to claim that they believe in God... that believing is enough piety to save them from the fires of hell.

Believing is now then equated to faith, which is wrong. For believing and having faith [in God] are not one and the same in the definition that this claim pertains to. Believing in this manner of speaking simply accepts that God exists. Faith, on the other hand, is a conviction that produces action and confidence. James [chapter 2] explained two kinds of faith:

False Faith (2:14-20) - A person who claims to believe and yet is barren with the fruits of salvation was compared to a demon who also believes in God (and shudders in fear!). A false believer declares their belief in God yet has no interest or whatsoever to know God and be involved in His kingdom. Obviously, the person who closes his heart from the conviction he received and settled in saying 'believing God is all that matters', falls into this category.

Saving Faith - The faith that saves is the faith that works, not that one's works is essential to salvation but is the proof of one's salvation.  The person with this faith repents when convicted of his sin and produces a fruit which is a changed life in Christ. It perseveres to know God and His will, submits to His lordship, and trusts in the finished work of Christ for his salvation

3. "I'm happy with my faith."

I will put this in one category with a couple other statements: "We are loved in our church." and "I was born with this faith, I will die with it."

Being happy in this context, obviously, is based on a spur of a moment feeling. That passing happiness that makes someone feel good. The problem with this is, we cannot trust our feelings alone. Jeremiah 17:9 says "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure...", so trusting our "instincts" and "feelings" are dangerous. It is a fact that true worship of God leads to joy, peace and security in the hearts of men, but this kind of worship is founded in the knowledge of God.  It does not depend on people's treatment to someone or on the fleeting feeling you experience in the church. These experiences are all self-satisfying and do not progress them to excite in knowing God through His Word.

I have initially heard the 'living and dying' principle from my parents when I was sharing the gospel to them for the first time. Those people who stand on this principle seem to be sure of what they believe in.  Unfortunately, when asked about their theology, they will loftily say that they are content of their innocence like a child about their faith. They have probably heard Matthew 18:3 verse, "and truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.", and misinterpreted it.  This verse does not mean that God wants us to be ignorant and walk blindly in faith, rather it tells us to be like a little child who trusts his Father on everything. So should our trust be to our Father in heaven.

God wants us to be enlightened through His Word (Matthew 6:22), to know His Word (Matthew 22:29), and to grow in the grace and knowledge of Him (2 Peter 3:18).

4. "I'm not ready yet." 

This statement is probably the closest that is of Felix's, and which I consider the most boastful and foolish of all.  The hardened heart that despite knowing the truth chooses to live in sin and refuses to give up its pleasures.  It runs after the riches of this world and values power over an honourable reputation.  The person who thinks his life is his and that his tomorrow is certain.  

James 4:13-14b is a ready reminder for them, "Today or tomorrow, we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and make a profit.  You do not even know what will happen tomorrow!"

Overall, the misery is all the same. What goes to one, mirrors the other. Man's depravity escapes no one. Light has come to the world but people loved darkness rather than light because their works were evil (John 3:19).  It is not enough that you go to church every week. It is not enough that you read your Bible once in a while. It is not just about praying or having fellowship with others.  None of it can take away the filthiness of our sinful nature. We are all wretched until we hold fast to the pure doctrine of the Gospel of Christ through which we can only be truly united with our God. (Calvin)

Now this is the TRUE GOSPEL: 
Let's examine Romans 3:19-26

No one is declared righteous before God by observing the law. (verses 19-21)
There is a righteousness from God that is apart from law. (verse 21)
The righteousness from God is received through faith in Jesus Christ. (verse 22)
This righteousness is available to everyone on the same basis, because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (verses 22-23)
All who put their faith in Jesus Christ are justified freely by God's grace. (verse 24)
This justification is through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (verse 24)
God presented [Jesus] as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in His blood. (verse 25)
Reference: The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges

Now here's Paul Washer to explain it further. Spare 12 minutes of your time and consider your eternity. May the Lord open the eyes of your heart.

So "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart..." (Hebrews 3:15), lest you be like Felix whose convenient time never came.

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