01/09/S – Righteousness, Self-control, and the Judgement to Come

1 Chronicles 3:1-4:4; Acts 24:24-27; Psalms 5:1-6; Proverbs 2:16-22

NT: “Several days later, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and listened to him on the subject of faith in Christ Jesus. Now as he spoke about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix became afraid and replied, “Leave for now, but when I have an opportunity I’ll call for you.” At the same time he was also hoping that Paul would offer him money. So he sent for him quite often and conversed with him. After two years had passed, Porcius Festus succeeded Felix, and because Felix wanted to do the Jews a favor, he left Paul in prison.” (‭‭Acts‬ ‭24:24-27‬ ‭CSB)

For two years, Paul was a prisoner of Rome in Caesarea, a city on the Mediterranean coast that served as the Roman capital of Judea. Antonius Felix was the Roman procurator of Judea (the position previously held by Pontius Pilate). Felix was known as a cruel, unscrupulous leader who was accessible to bribery and not opposed to bloodshed. Drusilla was the daughter of Herod Agrippa, great-granddaughter to Herod the Great, and niece to Herod Antipas. Drusilla was legally married to King Aziz of Emesa, a pagan priest-king that converted to Judaism in order to marry her. Felix, after seeing Drusilla, was smitten by her beauty and sent Simon, a Jewish necromancer to coax her away from her husband. Drusilla left her husband and illegally married Felix. These were the two people that sent for Paul and listened to him talk about faith in Christ. Felix probably sent for him in hopes of receiving a bribe. Drusilla was probably curious – especially given her family’s history with Jesus and His followers. What they didn’t expect was what Paul would say and how his words would affect them.

Paul spoke to them about righteousness, self-control, and the judgement to come. Righteousness is a heavy requirement. All have fallen short of the righteousness of God, and all of our self-righteousness is like filthy rags to God. Jesus taught to be accepted in the kingdom of God, our righteousness had to exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees – men whose occupation was to enforce the Law’s righteous requirements on the people. Felix and Drusilla were far from righteous, and they knew it. Self-control is our ability to resist lusts, temptations, and desires in order to live righteously. Self-control is something that everyone lacks to some degree. We are all slaves to our flesh and slaves to sin- and no matter how much self-will we have, there are lusts and cravings that we do not have the power to deny. Though Felix and Drusilla may have had power and authority over others, they lacked the power to control themselves. One day a holy reckoning will occur, when all unrighteousness will be judged by the Holy God and His Son Jesus Christ. Unless we are found to be holy and righteous like God is holy and righteous, we will be swept up in God’s holy refinement and purification of creation. Felix and Drusilla were guilty, and as they stood there before Paul the prisoner as convicted sinners, Felix shook with fear.

Felix’s reaction to Paul’s convicting words was the same reaction many have. Even though Felix was convicted to the point of trembling in fear, he resisted the opportunity to repent and be reconciled to God. Instead, he sent Paul away until the opportunity was more agreeable with him. God does not force Himself on us. Though He may convict us strongly, the decision to repent and follow Him is completely ours. God desires men and women who willfully place their faith in Him and follow Him. It is not enough to simply recognize our failings and feel bad for our sin. It is not enough to try and cover up our guilt through doing good. The only way to truly be saved… to truly be made righteous… to truly be given the grace of self-control, is to willfully repent of our sin, turn to Jesus, place our faith in His holiness, death, and resurrection and follow Him. The longer we save that act for a more opportune time, the more hardened we become and the less likely it is that we will repent. A wonderful opportunity has been extended to all of us to be reconciled to God and made righteous by God. What a waste to throw that away.

Psalms: “Listen to my words, Lord; consider my sighing. Pay attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for I pray to you. In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I plead my case to you and watch expectantly. For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil cannot dwell with you. The boastful cannot stand in your sight; you hate all evildoers. You destroy those who tell lies; the Lord abhors violent and treacherous people.” (‭‭Psalms‬ ‭5:1-6‬ ‭CSB)

King David was a man who was familiar with God’s standard of righteousness. God is completely holy in His righteousness and any fraction of sin cannot exist in His presence. As Felix discovered, the boastful… the evil… the wicked cannot stand in His sight. Therefore, David was a man who feared the Lord – just as Paul was a man who feared the Lord. David’s priority was to come before the Lord every morning and submit his life, with all of its challenges, trials, and imperfections, to God in prayer. And he trusted God to preserve him and justly convict the ungodly.

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