Our reading is taken from the New Testament this evening, from the Acts of the Apostles chapter 24. The message I want to bring to you this evening is about a man - and we've been thinking about three types of people in recent nights. We thought on the first evening of our mission about a man called Nicodemus who was a ruler of the Jews. Jesus came to him by night and told him: 'Ye must be born again'.
Maybe you're here this evening, and you heard that message. Then last evening we heard about a group of people who saw a disaster that happened in two different places, and thought it was because of the people's sinfulness. They came to the Lord Jesus Christ and asked: 'What have these people done that they should suffer in such a way?'. Jesus turned to them and said, twice: 'Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish'.
Maybe you were here on that night. Well, I have a very solemn message - and I believe it's from the Lord - from this passage of scripture. It's about a man who I've christened 'Foolish Felix'.
Acts 24 and verse 22. Paul has been standing, and he's been arguing the case for the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. He's standing in the court, and it says in verse 22: "And when Felix heard these things", what Paul had been saying, "having more perfect knowledge of that way, he deferred them, and said, When Lysias the chief captain shall come down, I will know the uttermost of your matter".
Now let's explain that for a moment. Felix has just been hearing Paul the apostle explain what the resurrection of Jesus Christ means - His death, His burial, His rising from the dead. It says this, that somehow he - Felix - had more perfect knowledge of these things - he already knew about the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. 'Knowledge of', it says, 'that way' - that's what the gospel was called in the early days, 'the way', because Jesus said: 'I am the way, the truth and the life' - that the way to heaven was through the Lord Jesus Christ.
Verse 23: "And he commanded a centurion to keep Paul, and to let him have liberty, and that he should forbid none of his acquaintance to minister or come unto him". So he put Paul under house arrest, and his friends and other Christians were allowed to come and visit him there. Verse 24: "And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. And as he 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. He hoped also that money should have been given him of Paul, that he might loose him: wherefore he sent for him the oftener, and communed with him. But after two years Porcius Festus came into Felix' room: and Felix, willing to show the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound".
Let's ask the Lord's help in a word of prayer: Our Father in heaven, we need Thee this evening, as has already been prayed in our gathering we need the power of the Holy Ghost of God. We need Thee to be here, our God. We need Thee to move from seat to seat and shine Thy light into the darkened hearts of men and women, to uncover sin, to bring conviction, and just as this man that we've been reading about trembled - oh God, we pray that men and women would tremble when they see the awesome need that they are in before God. But Lord, we don't want to leave it there, we want that men and women would have their eyes lifted by the Holy Ghost to see Christ and Him crucified for them - that they may be saved, that they may be born-again, that they may repent of their sin, and know what it is to have the peace of God in their hearts. Hear our prayer, and fill me with Thy Spirit I ask, in Jesus name. Amen.
A Welsh minister once stood in his pulpit, and before he entered into his message he addressed the audience with a question. He said: 'Now, I'm going to ask this question, and I don't know how to answer it'. He said: 'If an angel came down from heaven to earth, he couldn't answer it, and if a demon came up from the caverns of the damned in hell, he couldn't answer it either'. He said: 'Here is the question' - and I'm going to ask it to you this evening. Listen: 'How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?'. Have you heard it? Do you know what it means? How are we going to escape? What hope is there for you and for me if, when we hear the gospel of the Lord Jesus - that Jesus died in your place, that Jesus died for your sin - you hear that, and you say: 'Well, not now, or maybe when I get older and I've lived my life a little bit, or maybe when I'm lying on my deathbed, I'll think about it again - but not now'?
God says - can you answer Him? - how will you escape if you just lift up the carpet of your life and brush this matter under it? What will happen to you, my friend, if you put this thing of salvation and being born again and repenting at the back-burner of your mind and forget about it? What will happen?
I read the story recently, it happened in 1962 and it was in a hotel in Seattle. The evangelist Billy Graham, I'm sure you all know him, he was there and he was lying sleeping. All of a sudden he awoke, he was in a terrible state and his mind was thinking about Marilyn Monroe, the film star. He was terribly burdened about that young girl's soul, she was living in so much sin - all the pressures of showbusiness and fame were upon her. First thing in the morning Billy Graham got some of his advisers and he said: 'Listen, God has really burden me about this girl. You're going to have to contact her aids and see if I can have a meeting with her, I really feel I must speak to her about her soul'. Sure enough, they lifted the phone and they rang through to her publicity offices and got in touch with some of her advisers, and they said: 'Well, I'm sorry, I know it's urgent and you want to speak her - but I can't fit you in for another two weeks. You're going to have to have to wait two weeks'. In two weeks time the headlines hit the world: 'Monroe Commits Suicide'.
Two weeks was too long. For some people two days is too long, my friend, for some people I have known: two hours was too long. What will happen? How will you escape? Forget about the person beside you for just one moment, and let's address you - the inner you that only you know, the hidden person, that little child within your soul that would cry within you because you know that you just have not found what you're looking for in your life. You wonder will you ever find it, you wonder will you ever find peace of mind and heart, and satisfaction and a fulfilled life - and you just don't know where you're going to find it! My friend, that question is directed to you.
Pilgrim's Progress is one of the most read books besides the Bible. It's probably the most loved book within the Christian church, apart from the Bible. John Bunyan, as he writes that book, he puts into caricatures his characters to be personalities that we meet in everyday life, especially within the church. There's one man called Christian - he's born-again, he's going to the Heavenly City. There's other people - Vanity Fair, the place of all the froth and bright lights of the world that makes people go away off the track of the way to Glory. There's one person by the name of Ignorance. John Bunyan - and I want you to picture it in your mind - he paints this portrait of this man Ignorance at the gate of the Heavenly City, and he's fumbling around with his hands trying to get money out of his pocket and his purse to buy a certificate that will let him into heaven. No matter how much he tries, he fumbles about, and he just can't bring himself to get what is needed to get in through those gates. All of a sudden the King of the city sends two Shining Ones down. The Shining Ones, each one of them lifts him by either arm, and it says that there was a gate that opened, a door at the side of the big hill, and it says that those two angels threw him into the side of the hill. Bunyan writes this: 'Then I saw that there was a way to Hell even from the gates of Heaven, as well as in the City of Destruction'.
Do you get what he's saying? This man, to put it in the words of a modern song, was knock, knock, knocking on heaven's door - he was almost there! He was there, it was from the very gate of heaven. I know I'm talking to some people, and you've been here the last two nights, and you have listened to the word of God - and I believe, perhaps, God has pricked your heart, and the dagger of the word of God has gone into your heart and moved you. You've went out of this building, and you've been troubled - I could see it in some of your faces, but my friend that will never save you! Your heart could be softened to butter, but my friend if you reject Christ you could be so near, yet so far!
The word of God tells us that this man Felix, his mind was informed about this matter. Didn't we say that? Look at verse 22, it said that he had knowledge of that way. Paul was talking about the resurrection, he was talking about salvation, but the writer says this man Felix already knew about the whole thing. How did he know? Do you know how he knew? The same way that some of you know: from the home. It could be a husband, it could be a wife - you see this man's wife, the passage says, was a Jewess. If you trace her lineage, her family tree, backward, you find out this: she knew about this matter, because her great-grandfather tried to kill the baby Jesus in Bethlehem. Do you remember King Herod? He sent those soldiers down to slaughter all the baby boys two and under, to make sure this King of kings would die. That was her great-grandfather, and then we read in the word of God about her great uncle - remember we thought about him last night? He was committing adultery with his brother's wife, John the Baptist told him about his sin - and he made sure that John the Baptist lost his head. That was her great uncle, then we read about her father - James the apostle, the head of the church in Jerusalem, he killed him.
You better believe that she knew all about this Christianity. She knew about all these people who were turning the world upside-down. You're here this evening, and you know all about this thing - that's the tragedy! You know all about salvation because you were brought up from your mother's knee learning the word of God, you went to Sunday School, you went to children's meetings. Maybe you're a husband and you've heard the pleading words, and maybe you've even overheard at night while your wife has knelt at the bedside praying for your soul - yet you're outside of Christ! You're lost! No matter how near the gates of heaven you are, you could die in your sin tonight and end up in hell!
It says that Paul stood before this man, and the man knew the way because his wife had heard about it, and her family had been so involved in it. But also it says that Paul reasoned with him out of the word of God, verse 24 and verse 25, and he spoke to this great man about three things: about righteousness, temperance or self-control, and judgement. There are some of you here and some of you maybe know this book better than I know it myself. You've heard it more years then I have been living, and you've heard the message of righteousness - you know what that is. The holiness of God, the law of God, that portrays the character of God: that He is unapproachable, you can't touch His holiness, you can never get up to His standard - yet so many today are trying to climb it, like ten rungs of a ladder to get to heaven. That's not what it was for - it was given to you and given to me so that we might know that God is above us, that God is beyond us, that His holy nature is something that we can never achieve. We can never get to Him or live like Him!
Paul preached that to that man. He preached righteousness, and when he showed how holy God was, and that if God came near him that He would destroy him in His awesome holiness - do you know what that did? It uncovered his sin - we thought about that last evening, and that's an awful thing when God uncovers your sin. One of the top psychologists in America, Dr Carol Neringer (sp?), in 1993 wrote a book, and it was called this: 'Whatever Became of Sin?'. Here's what she says: 'Sin is a word that has dropped out of our language, as well as its notion and its concept. Now the world talks about mistakes, weaknesses, inherited tendencies, faults, and even errors - but never sin'.
Phyllis McGinley (sp?), an American poet and writer, says this: 'People are no longer sinful, they only are immature, underprivileged, frightened, or just sick'. You hear it everyday, don't you, on the news? It's always a mental illness, it's always something to do with the environment or how they were brought up as a child - maybe they didn't have a rattle in the pram, and that's the whole problem now! My friend, it is sin. God calls it sin.
As he stood - Paul, remember, was standing under the judgement of this man Felix - but, great Paul as he was, turned the tables and he started judging the man in front of him for his sin. He preached to him that if he didn't repent of his sin, if he didn't trust Christ and what Christ did at the cross where He shed His blood, where He took Felix's place, where He died in his stead - instead of him - took the punishment for him, and is able to change his unrighteousness into Christ's very goodness. There on the cross, where Jesus bled and died, where Jesus suffered - and you know all the physical sufferings of the Lord, how He was beaten, how He was spat upon, how He was mocked and bruised and whipped - 39 lashes He was given, and 40 killed a man! Before He even got to the cross, how weak He must have been in body. He was hanging there between heaven and earth but, my friend, there was something more going on than all that physical suffering - there was something invisible, there was something supernatural, for God was taking your sins - secret sins, known sins, sins that not even the nearest and dearest knows about - God lifted them all like an atomic bomb and poured them upon His Son. Do you know what He can do? In a straight swap He gives Him your sin, and He can give you His righteousness.
That's what Paul said when he preached righteousness. Then he preached to this man - this was Paul with the big hammer of the word of God, and let me say that he nailed the hammer right in, he didn't leave the job undone - and I hope to God I don't do that tonight. He talked to him about temperance, it basically means self-control - and do you know why he talked to this man about it? Because his wife Drusilla that we read about, the daughter of Herod Agrippa, was Felix's third wife! His third wife! He had been struck by her beauty, she was under 20 years of age, and he had stolen her from his own brother - away from her husband! We see Paul, and he's standing there, and he says to this big man: 'You can't even control yourself'.
Is that you? You know what I'm talking about. You know when Mum and Dad are asleep, and you've got the TV in your room, what you turn on and what you slobber over. Let's get real now - we're talking about sin, we're talking about the nature that's within us! We can't help ourselves, we can't stop! It something that's engrained within us! Paul stood there, and he threw it at this man, and he threw it at his wife - for whom, as a Jew, the ten commandments meant nothing for her.
Then he talked about judgement, and that's the consequences of our sin. My friend, the word of God says this: 'He hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness', His righteousness, 'by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead'. Do you know how you can be sure that one day you will be judged for your sin? Because God the Father raised the Judge from the dead. If He did that, you can be sure that He'll not miss the appointment with you for you judgement. Isn't this terrible? You can understand why this man was standing there, a stoical Roman, standing there tight-lips were all gone, hard look had all gone - and, like one in the Old Testament, Belshazzar, he stood there before God and the writing was on the wall, and God was saying: 'Thou art weighed and found wanting'. His knees shook, his loins were loosed, in the face of a holy God - and he trembled!
Not only was he informed, but his heart was moved. There are some of you this evening, and when I'm talking about your sin your heart is moved, isn't it? Isn't it? God is speaking to some of your hearts, and you wish you could shut Him out, but you can't. You wish you could plug your ears. You maybe smile and grin about it, and try to wipe it away and pretend to others that there's nothing going on in here - but God knows better, and perhaps you have to nearly hold your hand to stop it shaking, because of the fear of your sin! Maybe you tremble, maybe you fidget, maybe there's a trickle of a tear coming down now. Maybe you've gone home after the previous meetings and you've put your head on the pillow, and you just can't forget about all this - it's going round, and you wish you'd never went to the meeting, and if you can help you'll never go to this meeting again! 'It's torturing me, my sin, things that I thought I'd forgotten in the past that are coming back to haunt me out of the cupboard'.
Do you know what the frightening thing about it is? You notice that it doesn't say that Drusilla trembled. You see if you're trembling tonight, whether in soul or body, listen: thank the Lord for it. Thank the Lord that your heart is soft enough! But I fear, I fear in the sight of God that there may be folk here and they'll go out of this meeting the way they came in - untouched because their hearts are hardened to the Gospel. They're in an awful state! An awful state!
Drusilla stood there and took it all and went out with not a thought. Their minds were informed, and their heart was moved, but listen to this: their will was disobedient - and yours might be. This man turned, and he was under conviction, he was moved because of his sin, because of what Jesus did for him in taking his place at the cross, he was moved and touched like some of you - but he turned round to Paul and he said, verse 26: 'When I have a convenient season'. You've heard it, haven't you? 'Don't call us, we'll call you'. My friend, whatever you do this evening out of this meeting, whatever you do don't say: 'Maybe some day' - for this man said it, and we have no record within the word of God that he went back upon it. What he did was so foolish, because he should have listened to God. This could be your attitude to God's word: 'I'll put it off, I'll do something about it later, some other time in my life - it's just not convenient for me. I'd have to throw up all my career prospects', maybe the job that you're in, maybe the woman that you're fiddling about with and nobody knows, maybe it's a habit that you have, and you think: 'This would destroy all my plans'. 'God commandeth all men everywhere to repent' - now! Don't put it off, for we do not know, the word of God says, what a day will bring forth!
This man, he was trembling in his soul, but he chose to try and gain the whole world - and he lost his own soul! Do you see what he did? The very last verse tells us: he kept Paul in prison for fear of the Jews. Maybe you're here this evening, and it'll be your friends that will keep you in hell. It'll be your friends who will keep you in the drink, in the bookies, in the wild lifestyle, in the self-righteous religiosity of church-going every week - a form of godliness but denying the power thereof, you've never been born-again. My friend, so many people could testify to you this evening of a moment when they trembled - they were like Felix, they were under conviction, but the conviction passed away and they missed their opportunity - why? Because they didn't strike when the iron was hot!
The iron is hot for some of you now, and if you don't strike now you'll miss it! Some of them, I believe, are in hell - and, oh, they can remember, as one will remember that rejects Christ and has been in a Gospel meeting, they can remember the mission that they were at! The children's meeting! They're reciting the verses - they can remember the work colleague, or the parent, or the husband or wife, that told them that they needed to be saved. If they could give anything to get back into this scene of time upon the earth to just live that moment again, to trust Christ! If they could just feel the feeling of conviction of their sins, but they can't feel it any more - it's gone! They've missed their opportunity! They've wasted it!
My friend, listen: now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation, the Holy Ghost says to you: 'Today, if you hear His voice, harden not your heart'. There's an awful story in the book of Hosea about a tribe of the Israelites called Ephriam - and do you know what they did? They did what so many in the world are doing, they ran after other things - idols. You know you don't have to be in the jungle in the Amazon to bow down to a piece of wood. You see, whatever takes God's place in your life is an idol. Do you know what God said about Ephriam? 'Ephriam is joined to idols, let her go'.
Imagine if God said in the courts of heaven for you: 'Do you see that boy? Do you see that man? That woman? They're joined to their sin and they won't let go, leave them alone. They're not going to turn, they're not going to give up, let them alone'. D. L. Moody, the great evangelist, spoke to a young boy in his Sunday School class about trusting Christ. The boy said: 'Sir, I'm going west. I'm going where the careers are, where the prospects are, there's nothing here', he says, 'When I get there and get settled down into a business, I'll trust Christ then'. Moody tapped him on the shoulder one day when he met him in town, and he said: 'Sir, have you trusted Christ yet'. 'No!', he said, 'I'm ready to go, I've my bags packed. Tomorrow I'm going on that train, I'm going west, I'm going to live my life. Then when I get settled, yes, then I'll do it'.
Moody heard a few weeks later that that young man had fallen very ill. He went to his bedside where he was under the fever, and he knelt down, and he said: 'Now, son, will you not trust Christ?'. A different tone came from the young man, he turned and he said: 'Leave me alone! I don't want to hear about it again! Leave me alone!'. Moody said that in his soul he felt a snap, like the breaking of a string, and he knew that something had happened. A little time later Moody was in his bed, and there was a knock at the door, and then there was a stone being thrown up at the window to try and waken him. He opened the window and he looked down, and there was this young woman, and she was crying: 'Mr Moody! Mr Moody! He's sick, he's sick, he's dying!'. Moody looked down and he said: 'I'm sorry my dear, but your husband has made his final refusal'. 'But Mr Moody, you have to come and speak to him, and read with him and pray with him again - give him another chance!'. So he went, and as he walked up those stairs, as he walked across the landing to the open door, all he could hear was the whine of a dying cry: 'Too late! Too late!'.
Seek ye the Lord while He may be found. Now, let's have every head bowed. If you're saved this evening be praying. God may have spoken to your heart, you've come into this meeting and you're without Christ. You've maybe been in it before, maybe this is your first night at the mission: God has spoken to you, my friend, Christ is saying to you: 'Trust Me tonight, for you may never have another chance'. All you need to do is ask Him, where you are, by faith: 'Lord, I know I have sinned. Lord, I turn from my sin, leave it, and turn to Thee. I trust what Thy Son did for me at Calvary, and His blood, to save me. Lord, save me and take my life and make it Thine. Amen'.
If you have trusted Christ this evening, would you tell us please? I have some books if you want to read about this. I'll be here if you want to talk to me, but please do talk to me about your soul if you want to do that. If you even just want to sit where you are, not to draw attention to yourself at the door, do so and I'll come in and speak to you. But, my friend, please do not leave without trusting Christ.
Our Father, we thank Thee for this time. We thank Thee for Thy word, and we pray that the Holy Spirit of the living God may strive with the unbeliever, may convict the backslider, and may do the work that only He can do this evening. We thank Thee for this time, and ask Thy blessing upon us as we part. In the precious name of our dying Saviour, who has risen from the dead, conquered death and hell, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Kilkeel Baptist Church, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the tape, titled "Foolish Felix" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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