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The Procrastination Problem
We’re continuing our study through the book of Acts under the series entitled That Old Time Religion; so if you’ll begin finding chapter 24 verse 24 we’ll begin there in a moment.
The scene is Caesarea. Paul has been lied on and accused falsely, we find him in prison. He's brought before the governor, Felix; Felix is putting him on trial, trying to find out what to do with the Apostle Paul. Paul is facing this man who has great authority and great dignity. He was a nobleman. And so we're going to listen to Paul as he makes his defense.
Acts 24:24: "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 [that is, Paul] 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: whereof 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."
The thing I want to pay particular attention is in verse 25, the last part, "... Go thy way for this time: when I have a more convenient season, I will call for thee." That is, he's simply procrastinated; put off to what he hoped would be a more convenient season.
Now do we have trouble with procrastination? I do. Many of us can identify with the man who said, "Tomorrow, I'm going to stop procrastinating." Many of us kind of feel that way.
I was reading something the other day of a man who was going through his dresser drawer. And in his dresser drawer he found a ticket for a pair of shoes that he had taken to the shoe shop to have resoled. The ticket had a date that was ten years old. He said, "Well, I imagine they've thrown out my shoes, certainly after ten years I can't go and expect to reclaim these shoes." But on his way to work he saw the shoe shop. He just thought that he would wheel in and find out. So, sheepishly, he walked up to the counter and put the ticket down and he said, "Ah, I've come for my shoes." The man took the ticket, went into the back room, stayed there for about ten minutes, and came back out and said, "They'll be ready tomorrow".
Many of us have difficulty with procrastination. In some things it's a bad habit, but in some things it is a tragic habit because procrastination is the thief of time, it is the grave of opportunity, and it may be the road to hell.
There are four categories of persons who will hear me preach this message and refuse Jesus Christ. Out of the people who will hear me, there will be some people who will refuse Jesus Christ and be lost. You will hear or read this message, but you will refuse Jesus Christ.
First of all, there will be those who do not understand or who do not believe the gospel. And, therefore, because they do not understand it, they don't believe it, they will refuse Jesus Christ.
Another category of person is the out-and-out sinner. He may believe the gospel, but he's wed to his sin. And he says to God, "You're not big enough to make me change my ways. I choose my sin over You."
Another category of persons is the self-righteous person. He's not an out-and-out sinner. He thinks he's too good to be damned. Many people in America are egomaniacs who are strutting to hell, thinking that the gospel is for the thief, the murderer, the pervert, the adulterer, but not for them. They're good people, decent people; so they think.
But great majorities of the people who hear this message and refuse the Lord Jesus Christ are not those who misunderstand or don't believe. They're not out-and-out sinners. They're not even self-righteous who think that they don't need to be saved. They're procrastinators; people who understand that they do need to be saved, but simply think, not now. I will not be saved in this service. I will wait, sometime, somewhere, perhaps I will give my heart to Jesus Christ.
Paul has been put in prison for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. He comes before this man Felix; I want us to notice three things about this procrastinator.
First of all, I want us to notice the preaching that convicted this man. The Apostle Paul preached to him. The way that Paul preached to him is a way that preachers and all Christians ought to preach to sinners today. You'll find that in verses 24, 25. Listen to it. "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." Now, if you want to preach the faith in Christ, here's a good three-point outline and it came from the greatest gospel preacher who ever lived, the Apostle Paul.
"And as he [Paul; Here's the first point] he reasoned of righteousness [the second point], temperance [and the third point], and judgment to come, Felix trembled..." Now that's the way you preach the Lord Jesus Christ.
A lot of preaching and witnessing is not what it ought to be today. We have so-called "user-friendly" evangelism, and we're trying to make people feel at home and want the need of the gospel without preaching the way that Paul preached. We’ve never taught people that they're sinners. We've never taught them to tremble at Sinai, so no wonder they don't want to come to Calvary.
I was reading of a terrible accident in England. There was a barricade but people had run past the barricade into a watery ravine, and many people died. So there was a court hearing and the person who was to have put up the barricade was being charged with negligence homicide. He said, "No, I put a red flag there to warn the people that they should stop." And so the prosecution asked that the red flag be brought into court. And they brought the red flag into court and it was just a pale pink. It had been in the sun so long that it had faded and was a faint warning to few people. I'm afraid that a lot of preaching is, rather than being a red flag, it's just sort of a pale pink.
Now if we were with Paul that day we would have perhaps coached Paul, and we would have said, 'Now, Paul, be a little user-friendly. This is your chance, Paul. This man is a big shot. You'd better flatter him, Paul. You'd better tone down the message, Paul. You better be careful. Paul, you're an educated man. Tickle his ears and talk to him about philosophy. Paul, you're a world traveler. Talk to him about some of the sights that you've seen." But Paul preached a three-point message, and I want us to see what Paul preached.
I want us, first of all, to see the standard that Paul revealed, which was righteousness. Paul preached to that man about righteousness. What he was doing was showing to Felix, the worthiness of his own self-righteousness. You see there was another man. Go back to chapter 24. Tertullus, who began to butter Felix up because he wanted Felix to do certain things for him, when he was called. "And when he was called forth, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying [now he's talking to Felix], Seeing that by thee [Felix] we enjoy great quietness, and that very worthy deeds are done unto this nation by thy providence. We accept it always, and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness."
Can you see him buttering up Felix? Now that's one man. "Paul, why don't you do this? Paul, why don't you tell him how good and how great he is?" Paul doesn't do that; Paul speaks to him about the righteousness that God requires.
Paul, knowing the Old Testament, knew Proverbs 21:2: "Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord pondereth the hearts." Paul knew Proverbs 20:6: "Most men will proclaim everyone his own goodness, but a faithful man, who can find?" Paul certainly knew Isaiah 64:6: "But we're all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags, and we do all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away."
What Paul said when he preached to this man was: "Felix, you may have done many great and noble and wonderful things in your own sight, but your goodness, your righteousness is as filthy rags in the sight of Almighty God. Felix, God demands perfection, God demands righteousness. And God has provided righteousness, and that righteousness is available in the Lord Jesus Christ."
That same Apostle Paul would write in 2 Corinthians 5:21: "For he hath made him [that is, Jesus] to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." I'm sure that as Paul preached to Felix, he explained that to him, how Jesus Christ took our sins that we might take His righteousness. And he would say to Felix, "Felix, your only hope is for you to have the imputed righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ."
How to be righteous is found in Romans 4:5: "But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith has counted for righteousness." If we'll put our faith where God put our sin, on the Lord Jesus Christ, God will look at our faith and God will say, "That man, that woman, that boy, that girl I count as righteous. Not because of their self-righteousness, but because of the death of Jesus Christ on the cross." The first point in Paul's gospel message was righteousness. That was the standard that Paul revealed.
Here's the second thing: the sin that Paul revealed. Not only did Paul talk to him about God's standard of righteousness, but Paul also talked to this man about his sin, about temperance. The word temperance means self control. And Felix was a man that was out of control.
The Bible says that his wife was Drusilla. Who was Drusilla? She was a world-renown beauty at that time. She was married at 15 years of age. But Felix had persuaded her to leave her first husband and come and live with him. He was a sensuous man living in immorality. On top of that, he was a politician who was guilty of bribery.
He has Paul, the notable prisoner before him; the Bible tells us that he brought Paul in hoping that Paul would give him some money. If Paul had bribed him, if Paul had given him a large sum of money then he was going to release Paul. So we see this man while he was sitting on a throne, while this man was important, inwardly he was out of control.
Paul spoke to him about temperance, and Paul said, "In your moral life and in your professional life you are a sinner and your hands are filthy with the sins of the flesh." Now Paul, standing before Felix, was bound in chains of iron, but Felix is bound in chains of sin. And Paul didn't butter him up, but Paul spoke to him not only about righteousness, but about sin.
Then not only did Paul speak to him about these things, but Paul preached to him about judgment to come. Paul became the prosecutor, Paul said, "Sir, you're coming to judgment. You may be living high, wide, and handsome right now, but you are coming to judgment."
That same Paul would write in Romans 14:12: "So then every one of us shall give an account of himself unto God." I want everybody that has breath in his lungs, every one whose heart is beating, every one whose ears are open, and every one whose mind is working to listen. You are going to stand before God one of these days. Saved or lost, you're going to stand before God. "As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me and every tongue shall confess to God." Paul spoke to this man about judgment to come.
The problem with this man is that he somehow felt that because he was not being judged right now that perhaps he had escaped judgment. One of the most frightening verses in the Bible is Romans 2:5, which says, "But after thy hardness and impenitent heart, treasureth up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and the perdition of ungodly men and the revelation of the righteous judgment of God:” You're treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath and the revelation of the righteous judgment of God.
Here was a man living in sin, and the pleasures of sin are but for a season. The wages of sin are for all eternity. And the Bible tells us in verse 25 that Felix trembled. It must have been some kind of a sermon. I can see that little, old, squinty-eyed, hump-back Jew, Paul, standing there in chains. He's speaking to this man of righteousness. He's speaking to this man of temperance. He's speaking to this man of judgment. And the Holy Spirit of God fell upon Felix and he literally trembled.
But then he makes a horrible mistake. He says, "Paul, enough now, go your way, when I have a more convenient season, I'll call for you."
So we see the preaching that convicted him. But I want us to see, secondly, the pressures that confronted him. Because the same pressures that confronted Felix so long ago is the pressure that is confronting us as we listen to this message.
You see, the devil never gives up anybody without a fight. And when the Word is preached, the devil puts a demon on our shoulder to whisper into our ear three things that will try to keep us from giving our heart to Jesus Christ and to cause us to procrastinate.
The first is the world. I mean, here was a man, Felix, he had a soft job, he had a place of prominence and power and prestige. For him to be saved, this pompous man would have to lay his pride in the dust and have to humble himself but the world with all of its pressure said, "Don't make a fool of yourself."
When I finish preaching, I'm going to give an invitation. I'm going to ask you to get up out of your seat, come down here in front of all of these people, and acknowledge that you're a sinner, that you need Jesus Christ, and that you trust Jesus and Him alone to save you. Now the people of this world say, "Don't make a fool of yourself, don't humble yourself, maintain your dignity." The same world fought against Felix.
Let’s look at what else fought against him, not only the world, but the flesh. The flesh is that inward tendency that we have toward sin. Remember, he was living with a sensuous woman. He had an evil lifestyle. He had a soft job. Bribes are coming to him at every hand. And so his flesh says, "Hey, don't give this up."
Not only was there the world and the flesh that warred against him. There was the devil himself. Whenever a man gets under conviction, the demons of hell begin to counterattack.
There's an old parable, an imaginary story about a convocation of demons who got together to connive, to plan how to damn the world. One demon said, "Well, the way to damn the world and send men to hell is to tell them there is no God." But the devil, the chief of the demons, said, "Well, a few will believe that, but the evidence for God is overwhelming." So that didn't receive much applause in this council room of hell.
Another said, "Well, let's admit, that there is a God, but let's say that the Bible is not His Word. Let's cast down upon the Word of God." The devil said, "Well, that's maybe a better plan; some will buy into that, but the Bible is so full of fulfilled prophecy and it is so wonderfully put together. That's not a good enough plan because the Bible is so self authenticating.
Another demon said, "Well, then let's tell them that Jesus Christ is not the Messiah, the Son of God; that will certainly damn people if they don't believe that He is the Messiah, the Son of God. But He's shown to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead, and there are so many evidences. He's shown to be alive by many infallible proofs."
Another demon, who was particularly wicked, stood up and said, "I have a plan. Listen to me. Let's agree that God exists, and let's tell people He exists. Let's even go so far as to tell them that the Bible is the Word of God, and not fight against that. Why, let's even allow them to believe that Jesus is the Messiah. But let's just whisper into their ears that they have plenty of time to put it off."
That's exactly what Felix did. When this demon, according to this story, said that, a wicked laughter rang through the regions of darkness.
Perhaps more people have been sent to hell by procrastination than any other sin.
Here's the third thing I want us to see. I want us to see the presumption that condemned this man. I want us to see how he presumed. Some of us may presume the same way. Look again in verse 25: "And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way. When I have a convenient season, I will call for thee." That was his presumption. He presumed that he would have a convenient season and that one day, perhaps it would be the right time for him to hear about salvation.
Tradition tells us that Felix committed suicide in a beautiful lake in northern Italy. He made three terrible miscalculations.
Number one: That convenience will come. Some think, perhaps one of these days it'll be more convenient to come to the Lord. You know, tomorrow promises much, but it never gets here. How ignorant to look for a more convenient season. Put this Scripture down: Hebrews 3, verse 15: "While it is said, today if you will hear his voice, harden not your heart."
When does God want you to be saved, today, not tomorrow. Listen to God's Word. Today is the only time on God's calendar. Tomorrow never gets here. Yesterday is gone. Proverbs 27:1: "Boast not thyself of tomorrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth."
This may well be the last sermon I will ever preach. It may well be the last sermon that you will ever hear. How foolish to boast yourself of tomorrow because if we do, we'll lose today.
Why would we want to lose one more day not knowing the Lord Jesus Christ? I've said, I'd be a Christian if there were no heaven, just to know Jesus Christ in my heart.
Secondly, you may be facing sudden death. You don't know when you're going to die. I don't know how you feel tonight, but don't get the idea that you have plenty of time. You may not; the Bible says, "Boast not thyself of tomorrow...."
Thousands of Americans die suddenly every day by disease, disaster or by design of their own hands. If you have a watch, listen to it tick. With every tick of your watch a person dies, one person a second; 60 a minute; 3,600 an hour; 86,000 souls a day, 30 million a year are dying, and one of those ticks is ours.
When we were in our mother's womb, our heart began to beat. Then we were born and our mother held us, pushed our little beating up against her heart. That heart continued to beat until we got strong enough to go outdoors and to run and play, and our little heart got stronger and stronger as it was beating. We became a teenager; we saw that girl and our heart just began to get so excited about the things that thrill teenagers. We became a man/woman and our heart is pumping strong. We had children of our own and our heart continues to pump. We're getting older now and we go see the doctor, we say, "Doctor, my heart's got kind of a little funny thing in it." He listens to it. He says, "Well, I think I'll put a pacemaker in you." Thank you, doctor. It begins to beat again regularly, but one of these days, you say to your wife, "Honey, I don't feel....." and it stops. At that moment you are in heaven or hell. But, we may not be an old man and it'll stop like that. We may be on the way home from church.
The Bible says, "Boast not thyself of tomorrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth."
What a fool a man is, a woman is to put off Jesus Christ. Matthew 24:42 says, "Watch therefore, for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come." Matthew 24, verse 44 says, "Therefore, be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of man cometh." It's never the wrong time to do the right thing.
Some of us may be looking for a more convenient time. Here was a man who was trembling. He had heard the voice of God. That's the reason the Bible says in Hebrews 3, "Today, if you'll hear God's voice, don't harden your heart."
Anything you do long enough you get pretty good at! The more you do it, the more proficient you become at it. You can become very proficient at rejecting the Lord Jesus Christ. You can harden your heart against God. Every time you hear a preacher tear his heart out and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, and you postpone giving your heart to Jesus Christ, your heart is just a little harder.
Tomorrow you will have more sin to repent of, less time to repent in, and a harder heart to repent with. Don't ever put off giving your heart to the Lord Jesus Christ. Don't presume that conviction will continue. There can come a time that your heart will get so hard that God will give you up. Hosea 4:17 says, "Ephraim is joined to his idols; let him alone."
Some may also presume that conflicts will cease, that one of these days it will be easier to give your heart to Jesus. Listen to this pastor; there'll only be more sin tomorrow to repent of, less time to repent in, and tomorrow sin will have a stronger hold and your heart will be harder.
Let me tell you this story and I'm going to be finished. The man who preceded Dr. Criswell at the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, was George W. Truitt. George Truitt was one of the best known preachers of his day. One of the things that gave George Truitt the great power in the pulpit was his heart. He had a great heart; I mean, God just filled Truitt when he preached, and many would come to Christ. The thing that helped mold Truitt's heart was something that happened to Truitt when he was just a boy.
They were having a revival in their church. And Truitt had prayed about being a soul winner, he had a friend that he went by to invite to come to the revival, the friend said, "Not tonight, George. I'll come later. Invite me again."
George went by the next day to invite this friend to the revival meeting. The boy said to George, "No, not tonight. Ask me again." He went by the third time, and his mother said, "Well, he's not feeling well, I've put him in bed. Truitt went back the next night, and his mother said, "The doctor is here, the doctor says that he's dying. If you want to see him alive, you may go into the room."
Truitt said he went into the room where his friend was. He'd asked him again and again and again, and the boy said, "Not now, later." George Truitt could see his lips moving. Truitt tried to talk to him, it didn't look like the boy understood, but his lips were moving. George Truitt put his ear down to hear what his little friend was saying. Now, remember, Truitt's just a boy. He put his ear down to hear what his friend was saying. "Not now, George, not now, and the boy died.
Do you know what the Holy Spirit is saying to you today? "Today, if you'll hear God's voice, harden not your heart." Do you know what the devil is saying to you? "Not now, not now, later." And with every bit of fiber in my being, I want you to say, "Today, I'll give my heart to Jesus." The Holy Spirit says today. The voice of reason says today. The voice of experience says today. The Word of God says, "Today, if you'll hear God's voice, don't harden your heart."
Listen one more time. Righteousness, the only righteousness that we can ever have is the righteousness that Jesus Christ supplies for us. Temperance. The only way that our life will ever come under control is for us to give our heart to Jesus Christ. Judgment. The only way that we can escape judgment and go to heaven is for us to give our heart to Jesus Christ. Don't presume upon tomorrow. Don't presume that you'll have plenty of time. Give your heart to Jesus now..
Lord give us all a greater burden for the lost, and help us to quit procrastinating in this matter of witnessing. For we pray in the name of Jesus. Amen and amen.