Sunday June 23rd
You probably know that our daughter Jessica lives in California, in the area called Silicon Valley. Jessica is still a Jersey girl at heart but she has several “Valley Girl” friends. So when we went out to visit her in California, we got to meet one of the “Valley Girl” friends, and it just so happened that this girl had recently purchased two cute little dogs. When my wife asked her what their names were, the “Valley Girl” (her name is Tiffany) responded by saying that one dog was named Rolex and the other one was named Timex.
I said, "Those are some unique names. What kind of dogs are they?"
She looked at me like I was from Mars. Then she kind of made this gesture at me and said,
"HELLLOOOOOOO......! Obviously they're watch
Speaking of Valleys, Joel 3:14 says that there are “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.”
Maybe you’re in the valley of decision. Or maybe you know someone who’s in the place where they need to make some life-changing decisions. Today we’re going to look at the story of Felix the governor and the decision that he faced, or more accurately, the decision that he refused to face.
As Acts 24 begins, we see that after leaving Jerusalem under an armed guard, Paul was escorted to Caesarea where he was to be arraigned before Felix, the governor of the province. Verse one says,
1After five days the high priest Ananias came down with some elders, with an attorney named Tertullus, and they brought charges to the governor against Paul.
2After Paul had been summoned, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying to the governor, "Since we have through you attained much peace, and since by your providence reforms are being carried out for this nation,
3we acknowledge this in every way and everywhere, most excellent Felix, with all thankfulness.
4But, that I may not weary you any further, I beg you to grant us, by your kindness, a brief hearing.”
Tertullus doesn’t immediately begin making any charges against Paul, but instead he begins with a bunch of obvious flattery of the governor.
None of what he said was actually true by the way. Felix had brought neither peace nor prosperity. Actually there was constant turmoil throughout his governorship. But that doesn’t matter to Tertullus, because he’s just trying to butter up the Governor!
Now, using a mixture of outright lies and some half-truths, Tertullus begins to accuse Paul:
5"For we have found this man a real pest and a fellow who stirs up dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.
6And he even tried to desecrate the temple; and then we arrested him. We wanted to judge him according to our own Law.
7But Lysias the commander came along, and with much violence took him out of our hands,
8ordering his accusers to come before you. By examining him yourself concerning all these matters you will be able to ascertain the things of which we accuse him.”
9The Jews also joined in the attack, asserting that these things were so.
So the charges being brought against Paul were;
(1) He was a real pest
(2) He stirred up dissension among the Jews.
(3) He was a ringleader of the “sect of the Nazarene.”
Notice Tertullus’ choice of words; he defines Christianity as a “sect”, which is like a cult, and he uses the term “Nazarene” to avoid using Jesus’ name.
(4) He tried to desecrate the Jewish temple by taking a Gentile in there (that wasn’t true, but they had seen Paul near the temple with a Gentile from Ephesus and assumed that he took the man into the temple)
Tertullus claimed that Paul was in the process of being judged properly by their laws when the Roman centurion had intervened. But the truth is that they were actually trying to KILL Paul when the Romans got there!
Paul’s defense is recorded in verses 10-21:
When the governor had nodded for him to speak, Paul responded: "Knowing that for many years you have been a judge to this nation, I cheerfully make my defense,
11since you can take note of the fact that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship.
12Neither in the temple, nor in the synagogues, nor in the city itself did they find me carrying on a discussion with anyone or causing a riot.
13 Nor can they prove to you the charges of which they now accuse me.
14But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets;
15having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.
16In view of this, I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men.
17Now after several years I came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings;
18in which they found me occupied in the temple, having been purified, without any crowd or uproar But there were some Jews from Asia--
19who ought to have been present before you and to make accusation, if they should have anything against me.
20"Or else let these men themselves tell what misdeed they found when I stood before the Council,
21other than for this one statement which I shouted out while standing among them, 'For the resurrection of the dead I am on trial before you today.'"
Paul argues beginning in verse fourteen that the charges against him are religious, not criminal. “But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets.” Essentially Paul is saying, “I am guilty in their eyes of believing that the long-awaited Jewish Messiah has come. It’s true. I do believe that. His name is Jesus, and He’s been resurrected”
This statement puts Felix in the valley of decision. Not just regarding Paul’s guilt, but also regarding his own response to the truth that he’s just heard. But rather than making a decision, Felix procrastinates:
22But Felix, having a more exact knowledge about the Way, put them off, saying, "When Lysias the commander comes down, I will decide your case."
23Then he gave orders to the centurion for him to be kept in custody and yet have some freedom, and not to prevent any of his friends from ministering to him.
Felix postpones his decision, about Paul and Jesus, even though he knows what he needs to do. Verse 22 says that Felix had a “more accurate knowledge of the Way,” which means that Felix knew what Paul was saying was true and he knew that Tertullus’ charges against Paul were utter nonsense. Felix certainly couldn’t find Paul guilty of any offense against any Roman laws. He should have released him, but by postponing a verdict he hoped to both pacify the Jews who hated Paul, and perhaps get a bribe from Paul or his friends.
According to verse 24 there is another encounter,
“some days later Felix arrived with Drusilla, his wife who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus.”
Drusilla was a sixteen year old girl who Felix stole away from her first husband and made his third wife. Felix was a Gentile, but Drusilla had been raised as a Jew, even though she didn’t practice her faith. It seems as though Felix wanted her to listen to Paul and then tell him what she thought of his message.
But Verse 25 says that as Paul,
… was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, "Go away for the present, and when I find time I will summon you."
Paul lays out the key elements that we all face in the valley of decision, “righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come.”
One commentary says this was “undoubtedly was not what this couple in an illicit relationship wanted to hear. Paul first preached to them about righteousness, which could only be found through Christ. He also spoke them about self-control, something Felix was clearly lacking in.
Finally he emphasized the “judgment to come,” warning them that they would not escape divine accountability for the way that they were living their lives.”
Jesus had said in John 16:8 that when the Holy Spirit comes, “He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment…”
And here, the Holy Spirit is speaking through Paul.
But did Felix respond to the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking through Paul? No, he was simply afraid of the truth that he was hearing, and answered, “That’s enough for now! When I want to hear more, I’ll send for you!”
Felix didn’t say that he never wanted to hear the Gospel again; he just kept putting off his decision.
That’s what many people try to do.
Plus, we’re told in verse 26 that:
“At the same time too, he was hoping that money would be given him by Paul; therefore he also used to send for him quite often and converse with him.”
So although Felix sent for Paul, “quite often” it was in the hope “that money would be given him by Paul” not because he was ready receive Christ. How long did this procrastination go on?
Verse 27 tells us.
“But after two years Porcius Festus succeeded Felix; and Felix, wanting to do the Jews a favor, left Paul bound.”
Think about that - two years had gone by and Felix still hadn’t made a decision about releasing Paul or accepting Jesus!
Let’s compare Felix’s lack of a decision with the Philippian jailer that we saw back in Acts 16. When the earthquake came and opened the prison doors, his first thought was to kill himself, rather than risking punishment from the Romans for letting the prisoners escape. But when he realized that Paul and Silas were still there, “…he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
That’s the only question that needs to be answered in the Valley of Decision – How can I get saved?
Some people want to stay forever in the valley of decision. Others see the choice that is in front of them and realize that now is the time to decide.
Thank God that those of us here today are folks who went into the valley of decision and came out saying, “I have decided to follow Jesus!”