December 09, 2009
The Prince of Peace Brought a Sword
“Now as [Paul] reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, 'Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you'" (Acts 24:25).
Does the truth about God disturb us? It should. This is so because the truth about God will have to include an account of our rebellion against God, and this part of the story can't be anything but disturbing to anyone who loves God.
The “good news” of the gospel is not that we are fine in our present condition and that we simply need to accept our “authentic” selves.
No, it is rather the good news that pardon is available at the justice bar of God, a pardon that justice itself would have said was impossible. But the news of pardon can only be good news if we're first willing to accept the painful reality that we need to be pardoned! The gospel has to do with the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 26:18), and it is not so frivolous as to suggest that we can be forgiven without repentance (Acts 17:30). Repentance, the decisive turning away from our sins, is not a warm and fuzzy procedure. It is a soul‑wrenching process produced by a thing the Scriptures call “godly sorrow” (2 Corinthians 7:10,11).
Even if we were not deeply disturbed by the truth about what we've done to our God, how could we not be disturbed to hear of the price God had to pay to atone for what we've done? How can we deal with the gospel of Christ and not be “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37)? Either we are not listening or the preacher is not preaching. When Paul explained the truth to Felix, this Roman official was not moved out of his complacency enough to do anything about the truth, but Paul's presentation of the gospel was such that when Felix even listened to it seriously, he was “afraid” (Acts 24:25).
How different Paul's preaching must have been from what has become fashionable today! Malcolm Muggeridge was not exaggerating when he said, “The church, like most institutions of our society, is scared and is anxious to ingratiate itself with people, rather than to tell them the truth.” We preach the Prince of Peace, and it's entirely right that we emphasize the peace that He wants to give us. But this Prince brought a sword (Matthew 10:34), and among its other functions, this sword must sever us from our self‑righteous selves – a most disturbing thing indeed.
“If Christianity has never disturbed us, we have not yet learned what it is” (Sir William Temple).