We live in a world focused on convenience. Need something quickly? Go to a convenience store. Sure, you’ll pay a higher price for those cans of food, but you won’t have to wait as long as you would at the grocery store. And, they have individual cold drinks available, and most important, coffee ready for you 24 hours a day. Those canned goods you bought, more of them are coming with convenient, easy open pop top lids so you don’t have to search for a can opener. Popping the top on canned goods too much work? Run down the street and you can get fast food that will fill you up without even worrying about the nutritional value. Need to know where to find one of those places? Check out a search engine on your phone and you’ll find one in about 30 seconds – with driving directions included.
When we talk about convenience, we are usually thinking about making life easier and more effortless. It comes at a price, but if you if have enough money, you can buy convenience. The food may not taste as good, or be as nutritious, but it sure makes life easier. And that’s what we all want, right? A life that’s easier and requires less effort on our part. That desire has been around for a long time. It’s not a Christian desire, though, because our life requires much more than that. “As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, ‘That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.’” (Acts 24:25)
Felix understood a deep truth about the gospel. It’s not convenient. It doesn’t make life easier or more effortless. Paul’s message was frightening. He talked about righteousness – which I believe had something to do with our relationship with God; he talked about self-control – which most of us don’t have or we wouldn’t sin; and he talked about the judgment to come – which should frighten anyone. I think Felix knew that he had a failing grade on each of these. He was a Roman procurator. He was cruel in his actions. He was corrupt, looking for bribes – even hoping Paul would give him a bribe. He lived a loose life because he could. He was accountable to no one. Yet Paul’s message of grace and possible forgiveness was swallowed up by the threat of judgment because Felix understood the concept of a Holy God. He saw only his sins, missed the mercy and grace, and realized that judgment would come down hard on him. Instead of repenting, though, he dismissed Paul until it would be convenient to see him again. What Paul understood is that when people are running from God, convenient times never came.
I don’t talk a lot about judgment here, because I would rather that you see the love and forgiveness of our merciful God than focus on judgment. Still, God is merciful because we deserve judgment for our sins. The death of Jesus on the cross was a judgment on the world and Jesus paid the penalty for my sins. The choice is simple: I can accept God’s forgiveness offered through Jesus or I can try to live on my own without God and face judgment. Those are the two choices we have in life. There is no halfway house for people who want to hedge their bets. While God’s judgment is real, and should be terrifying, avoiding that judgment is only one reason to follow Jesus. I don’t speak of it often because I believe the joy of living a forgiven life is the best reason to follow Jesus. Jesus is more than eternal fire insurance; He is everlasting life assurance.
Father, the thought of judgment terrifies me. I know that I am safe from the judgment because of Jesus, but I pray for my friends who don’t have that knowledge. Let them experience the joy of life in Christ.