In the past, Tim Challies posted an article titled The Most Terrifying Thing God Can Do. It’s a terrifying article. It crushed me reading it and apparently it did for many others as well. I saw this article referred to and re-posted numerous times.
The most terrifying thing God can do is to turn an unsaved person over to his sin. Having just gone through Romans 1 in my Sunday School class, I was starkly reminded again of God giving them over to their sin. It’s stated three times at the end of the chapter. This again clutched my heart with terror and grief. Sin is such a powerful drug, a terrifying trap.
After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.” (Acts 24:24-25)
It is stated earlier that Felix was thoroughly familiar with “The Way”. (v. 22). Whether it was because Felix had been governor in the area for almost a decade, or because his wife was Jewish, or both, Felix was familiar with the facts about Jesus and his “sect” as Paul’s accuser Tertullus put it. Felix was secure in his knowledge of Christianity in the intellectual realms, enough to feel confident to make a decision regarding the case.
But when the case got personal, really personal, Felix became alarmed. He told Paul to go away and when it was a more convenient time, Felix would think about it. The Greek word for time used in this verse means “a suitable time” or “the right moment”. But there will never be a more convenient right moment.
As James Montgomery Boice said of Felix’s procrastination, if you put it off, the same sinful nature that made you put it off today will make you put it off tomorrow. Nothing will be different. In addition, you’ve begun a habit of procrastination which will only deepen and entrench. Tomorrow it will be worse for you. Now is the acceptable time (2 Corinthians 6:2).
Notice Felix’s alarm at being told of sin and judgment. In the Greek the meaning of terror is ‘being in the grip of a great Godly terror’. The word is used 5 times in the New Testament.
–When the women who brought spices to the tomb after Jesus’ death saw the gleaming angels, they were terrified. –When they were gathered and Jesus appeared to His disciples they became terrified. –Cornelius’ terror at seeing a holy angel in a God-given vision. –In Revelation when a great earthquake occurred and a tenth of Jerusalem fell, the people became terrified and gave God in heaven glory. –Felix, upon hearing Paul speak of sin and judgment.
You see, in each of the four cases, apart from Felix, the people became terrified upon directly seeing a slice of heaven. Or in the case of the earthquake they knew it was a mighty work of God Himself. And just as seeing a holy angel of God or experiencing God’s hand directly, Felix was experiencing heaven. It wasn’t just Paul speaking some words articulately and Felix becoming annoyed or a bit worried. It was the Holy Spirit opening the depths of Felix’s soul to see his own sin compared to heaven. It was a deep, spiritual terror. Paul’s words and their effect should have brought about the same reaction from Felix as Peter seeing Jesus as Lord of creation with the heavy, full nets of fish in Luke 5:8. Peter fell at Jesus feet, saying “Go away from me, I am a sinful man!” Felix said, “Uh, come back later, this is inconvenient for me.”
When Felix was confronted with his sin and positionally saw how far he was from Jesus, he should have done the same as Peter. Yet though the Lord graciously offered Felix the opportunity to see his sin in light of God’s glory, and though Felix did see it and became abjectly afraid, he procrastinated.
This is a decision. Jesus said whoever is not with Him is against Him. (Matthew 12:30).
So don’t let anyone sway you from evangelizing this way, talking of sin, self-control, righteousness, and the coming judgment. “Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” doesn’t have the same potential spiritual terror to pierce the soul as “You’re dead in your sins and Jesus is coming to judge you.”
There is no record in the Bible as to whether Felix found “a more convenient time” and reconciled to God. Probably not, seeing as the next verse records that Felix kept Paul in prison to see if Paul would cough up some money for a bribe. In this case, it IS worse for Felix. All that intellectual knowledge will put him in a worse position at the judgment.
For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. (2 Peter 2:21)
It’s Thanksgiving soon. I can think of no better gift than salvation to be thankful for. A close second is the Holy Spirit as a gift and a deposit inside us, illuminating the wonders of the Holy Bible to our mind and growing us in sanctification. Or perhaps Jesus forgiving our sins after salvation, or maybe it’s His chastisement which refines us into sterling silver and gold. Or maybe seeing the world, on our walk after the meal, and giving God the glory for His beautiful earth. Or His eternal, boundless grace. There is so MUCH to be thankful for, if you are a Christian. Offer the Gospel to someone today, maybe by next year at this time they will be praising God in gratitude for their reconciliation, and blessedly, Thanksgiving will have taken on a whole new meaning for them.
How do I even think of the Immeasurable and Infinite God, pouring Himself into a human flesh with all its limitations, and living for three decades on this earth? I can’t, it defies the imagination. Even more so, His sacrifice of becoming flesh so He could die for our sins is for all time. He will never go back to being Spirit, but is the once for all sacrifice (Hebrews 10:10) and will remain glorified flesh forever. (Luke 24:36-43).
We are saved to sin no more. We are saved to worship God rightly. We are saved to love Jesus. What are we saved from? God’s wrath for our sin, which is a crime against Him.
Without Jesus, I’d probably be dead by now. I was without hope. Being without hope is a very dangerous place to be. Quiet despair ain’t easy to live with. But He saved me and gave me ALL HOPE, faith, Himself, a future, a robe, a crown, and His love. Repent and receive the same!
The greatest gift that God gave the world is His Son Jesus. Non-believer, you might not accept this, as I didn’t long ago. But it’s true. It is true. Jesus is a gift to you. Repent now and see that it is true.
The two best words in the Bible might just be “But God…”
Imagine the little church at Damascus. “Saul of Tarsus is coming! He will persecute us! He’ll bring us to Jerusalem to kill us!” Acts 9:1
Imagine Peter in jail. “I’ve been here for so long! My trial is tomorrow! Is the church even praying for me?” Acts 12:5-7
Imagine Hagar and Ishmael waiting to die in the desert. “I can’t even look! My precious boy! They sent us away!” Genesis 21:15-16
Imagine the believers at the cross. “Jesus has died! He is in the tomb! All is lost!” John 19:30
But God… Matthew 28:6!
The other best words in the Bible? John 3:16
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Bible trivia: When a name is used twice in a row it is an expression of intimacy, communicating great emotion.
Abraham! Abraham! Genesis 22:11.
Jacob, Jacob. Genesis 46:2.
Moses, Moses! Exodus 3:4.
Samuel! Samuel!1 Samuel 3:10.
Martha, Martha. Luke 10:41.
Simon, Simon. Luke 22:31.
Jerusalem, Jerusalem Matthew 23:37.
Saul, Saul. Acts 9:4
My God! My God! Matthew 27:46; Psalm 22:1.
Now think of the other time a name is used twice, this time not from God or Jesus to a beloved person, but from people who thought they had beloved intimacy with Jesus- but didn’t.
Lord, Lord. Matthew 7:21-23.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’
That verse takes my breath away in its devastating truth. Many in this case means in Greek a high number, great in extent. If many will say to Him Lord, Lord, pleading an intimacy that had never existed, we know that on this day there are many who claim an intimacy with Jesus they do not have. They think they do, but they don’t. They’ll find out later. It’s the unsettling truth that we live with now, and will sadly watch later as the bitter truth emerges.
This should enhance our gratitude to Jesus all the more. Prayers of thanks to Jesus for His cross, His resurrection, His salvation, and His assurance are not inappropriate at any time.
If you are unsure whether you say ‘Abba, Father’ and will be received, or wonder if you will be one who says Lord, Lord later and be rejected, then I recommend these resources to you:
In 2013 I watched a movie called End of the Spear, about missionaries making first contact with the Stone Age Huaorani tribe of Ecuador not far from the Shell oil company corporate base in Shell-Mera Ecuador. It’s a good movie and I recommend it. The missionaries made the contact in 1956 in the Amazon basin. I got curious and looked up where Mera is, and it is only 5 miles from Puyo.
I was in Puyo, I was in the Amazon.
This is why I am so fascinated by Providence. Little did I know that the incident the modern movie depicts was in 1956 a famous event in Christianity- and still is. When the five missionaries who were killed by an aggressive tribe in the jungle in the middle of the last century in a different hemisphere, that a mere four decades later there I would be at that nearly exact place, sitting at a cafe on the main street unaware of my own lostness and need for those same missionaries who had arrived years before.
I was unaware and unaffected by the drama of courage and salvation that had taken place and had opened up so many hearts. And how Jesus knew that a few years after that, I would become one of His children, my very own heart He opened up to His grace.
He knew I’d come to understand the debt I owe to those missionaries who in the great relay race over centuries, kept the faith alive for all peoples and tribes and tongues to hear the words of life, the baton of belief passed from hand to hand and mouth to ear, so that one day I might partake of the great truth. All I knew back in 1996 was that there were too many Jesus statues in Puyo.
With a magnificence as great as His grace and the power of the Gospel word, we should rightly celebrate His work in the world in awe and in gratitude. Even on the days when you feel useless for Christ, know and understand that the seeds of faith are powerful and everything you do and say in His name adds to His tapestry of faith, and makes a difference. Providence is an amazing thing- because Jesus is always at work.
Christianity is a dichotomy. A dichotomy is defined as “a division or contrast between two things that are or are represented as being opposed or entirely different.”
With Christianity, you’re in or you’re out
You’re in Christ or you’re in satan
You’re saved or you’re lost
You are on this side of the narrow gate or that side
You believe in Christ or you don’t
You’ve repented or you haven’t
You’re justified or not
Eternity is heaven or hell
It’s a black and white situation
Some people like to tap dance along the fence, not deciding one way or another. They put off salvation. They decline to think of spiritual things, but they acknowledge God and His creation and the presence of sin. They just don’t do anything about it. They are tap dancing along the fence, not on this side nor that side.
There is no Switzerland when it comes to your soul. There is no neutral ground, no safe spot from which to simply watch the proceedings.
Isaiah 49:8 says
Thus says the Lord: “In a time of favor I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you; I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages,”
And Paul quotes that Old Testament verse in 2 Corinthians 6:2 I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation”
If the Holy Spirit has convicted you of your sin, do not delay in responding. We never know the number of our days. The Lord could require your life from you this very evening. (Luke 12:20).
The more you delay in responding to the Holy Spirit’s livening of your conscience and sorrowing of your soul over your sin is to harden yourself to further ministrations. Failure to respond, or a delay in responding, is an answer. It’s a “no.”
People who tap dance along the top of the fence are taking a terrible risk. One day, they will stumble and fall.
Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday end a week of Christ’s Passion. It’s a week whereby He made a way for sinners to come to the Father- through Him (and Him only). Get off the fence and come to Jesus through His narrow gate.
and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15).