Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Gospel According to Paul

“Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus.  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.’  At the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him.” (Acts 24:24-26 NIV)

I have written on occasion about the trend in many churches and among many Christians to downplay sin and repentance in proclaiming the gospel.  Instead, the emphasis is heavy on the grace of God, which, of course, is crucial to the gospel, but not the only element.  In this passage, Luke summarizes what Paul shared with Felix and his wife regarding faith in Christ into three points: righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come.  

I think most of us would not be surprised by the first and the last, but self-control?  This is a part of faith in Christ?  It would seem so.  And for good reason.  

Jesus said that to follow Him we must die to ourselves (Matthew 16:24), which means putting to death those things in our lives not pleasing to Him. There are many things—lust, greed, selfishness, etc.—that come naturally to us.  As Paul indicates in his letter to the Roman believers (7:19-20), dying to self is a monumental struggle, but struggle we must. This is where self-control comes in.  We cannot please God and do just what comes naturally to us or feels good.  All you have to do is look around and see the disaster and tragedy that results from a lack of self-control.  Binge drinking leading to rape, violence, and death.  Jealousy leading to stalking and murder.  Greed leading to oppression of workers. Lust leading children to become victims of sex trafficking.  And the list could go on and on.  

Self-control is to be a part of every believer’s life.  It is a fruit produced within us by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).  It is absolutely necessary for us to attain the righteousness of which Paul spoke to Felix. So to proclaim a gospel that says one can follow Jesus and continue to live however he or she pleases is to go against one of the main elements of the good news.  

Today, recognize accepting God’s grace through Jesus means dying to your own natural desires, which by necessity requires self-control.  But do not fear; along with receiving the Holy Spirit comes the power to control those self-centered impulses.  The key is allowing the Spirit to exert that power.  For that is the difference between being righteous and living as we please.  

© Jim Musser 2014

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