February 12, 2023
This “wake up call” from Romans 13:11-14 which has also been our key verse for this sermon series comes in the midst of Paul’s teaching about mutual love and acceptance in the fellowship of faith. After all he has told us about serving the Lord, using our gifts, showing genuine love, paying our debts, submitting to authorities and loving our enemies, Paul now writes these words to remind his hearers of their common hope in the clear and revealing light of God’s salvation. I see four different pieces of advice given by the Apostle,
The first is to KEEP PERSPECTIVE
11 And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. Paul tells us that we must understand the present time. We need to know what is going on. Have you ever been awakened from a sound sleep? Perhaps you took a nap in the afternoon and you were awakened suddenly. At first you are dazed. You don’t know what day it is or what time it is. You weren’t sure whether it is morning, afternoon, or evening. Depending on how hard you were sleeping, it might take several minutes for you to regain perspective and to gain your bearings.
In a sense this is what Paul tells us we have to do. We must wake from our slumber and realize where we are. We are to recognize the present time. We need to understand that we live in a world that is often hostile to the things of God.
We also need to recognize that our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. I’m not sure whether Paul is telling us to realize that the second coming of Christ is nearer than it ever has been or whether he is simply trying to say, “life is short” and we had better stop wasting our time. Perhaps both would work well for us.
Notice something. Paul is not talking to non-believers, he is talking to the saints! Paul recognizes that many believers are living in a spiritual stupor. They are just going along without any real direction or purpose. It is almost like some believers are in a coma. Paul’s cry is for us to “Wake Up!”
Tim McGraw had an album and title cut was” Live Like You Were Dying”. The song is about a man who was in his early forties who gets news that he has a terminal illness. The rest of the song recounts that the man lived with a new sense of urgency. He went skydiving, mountain climbing and bull riding. He gave attention to the people he loved and basically changed all the things he used to think were important. The phrase repeated again and again is this one: “someday I hope you get the chance to living like you were dying.”
This is the same thing Paul is telling us. We should be living with a new urgency. We must remember that we are terminal and that Life has an IF in the middle of it. We understand that we could die or Jesus could return at any time. Paul suggests that those who understand this fact will change the way they live. He uses the metaphor of changing clothes. He says we need to change from the deeds of darkness to the armor of light.
Let me ask this question: If you knew that you had only a week to live would you live differently for Jesus Christ? If you knew that Christ would return to earth before this year was out would you have a different set of priorities for life? Would you, Give more attention to spending time with God?
Would you invest more heavily in Kingdom activities? Would you make it a point to talk to family and friends about God? Would you mend fences, and seek and extend forgiveness? Would you take more time to tell the people close to you that you love them? May I ask, “What makes you so confident that you have more time than this?” Any at moment in my week I have received the call of the loss of someone 18 months old to 90 years plus or anywhere inbetween.
Second, we have to GET DRESSED
Paul said, “The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” If you are like me, you are not really “up and going” in the morning until you are showered, dressed, and ready to go. If I am still in my pajamas I’m not ready, I’m just loafing. Too many believers are still in their pajamas. They have declared their faith, they are sure of their salvation, they are headed for Heaven, but they aren’t dressed and ready to go.
When we understand that we are living on borrowed time either because of the imminent (or any time now) return of Christ or because we realize that we are not guaranteed a single day, we won’t waste another moment. It is time to put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. It is time to “get in the game”.
Amidst the bitter divisions eroding our churches today, both local and global, Paul’s words bring needed perspective. He gives us a way to name the present situation: it is still dark, still night. We still indulge in quarreling and jealousy. Paul intends to give us “night vision” to see and name this division as “darkness” so that instead of fighting with each other we can truly can unite against a common enemy
In parallel passages in Ephesians 6 and Romans 8 Paul names the enemy as “not flesh and blood,” but “principalities, powers, the world rules of this present darkness, the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
As Christians, we are never to consider other people as our enemies, no matter how bitter the divisions in the church or world may be, nor how painful our experiences. Rather, we are to fight against the destructive powers that enslave and divide people. That might be a history of mistrust and injustice, addictions, thirst for revenge, prejudice and fear, greed, and so forth. Paul calls these “the works of darkness,” It is often the petty display of these powers that erode our fellowship and our witness. That is why is so important to …
Third ACT APPROPRIATELY
Next Paul tells us that we should start living like we are children of the King. When we wake up, we get dressed. Paul tells us what to wear: “let us put on the armor of light If we truly have a taste of Heaven and understand that life if temporary, then we should change the way we live. First, we should live as in the daylight. In other words, we should live our lives like others are watching us. Or maybe we should say, we should be living like we were in church all the time. Most people talk or act differently when are in God’s house so to speak. But do you really think that God only sees us when we are in church? Most churches have church t-shirts just like this one that was gifted to me which is awesome. But I wonder if we understand (I hope) that when we are wearing these t-shirts what is done (whether good or bad) will reflect on the church and ultimately on the God we serve. If Paul was speaking to us he might say, “Live your life like you were wearing your church t-shirt all the time.”
Second, we should get rid of cancerous behaviors. I’m not talking about smoking cigarettes, poor diets and the lack of exercise. I’m talking about the things that act like a cancer in our soul. These are things that erode our testimony and our fellowship with God. Paul gives us a representative list 13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.
The first four sins are indicators of a wild lifestyle. These things are all characterized by unbridled indulgence. These are things usually done in the darkness or in secret. It seems even the people who embrace this kind of behavior seem to know that it is wrong and at best inappropriate. But notice especially the last two things: dissension and jealousy. These last two things are more surprising. Paul tells us to stop fighting and being filled with jealousy. Why are these two things included? It’s because they are indicators of a focus on petty things. These are unproductive endeavors. They distract us from the important matters of life. Our job is to get focused on what is truly important. We only have so much time and we ought not to waste it in evil. Instead we are to clothe ourselves in Christ. That sounds good but the question is, “What does it mean?”
1. It means to get to immerse ourselves in Christ. It means working hard to get to know Him through Bible Study, prayer, listening etc.
2. It means to try to live like Jesus would. The believer should always be asking: Is this something Jesus would do? Would Jesus get involved in the pursuits I am involved in?
3. It means trying to develop the character traits of Jesus. Ray Pritchard makes a list,
Put on his holiness.
Put on his humility.
Put on his compassion.
Put on his wisdom.
Put on his forgiveness.
Put on his righteousness.
Put on his patience.
Put on his love.
One writer said Clothe yourself with Jesus early in the morning and you will be well-dressed all day long. (Pritchard) which leads us to…
4th THINK CORRECTLY
Paul concludes saying, “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
I see two dimensions to this command. First, Paul may be saying, “Don’t waste your time on these things by even thinking about them.”, let’s just live the right way.
Second, Paul may be warning us of the fact that thinking often leads to acting. When we imagine things long enough, we wear down our resistance and find ourselves doing that which we thought we would never do. In this case Paul is telling us to keep a strong watch over our minds. We must decide right now that we are going to say “No” to sin. You can’t negotiate with temptation!
As believers we have an obligation to ourselves and to the Lord to guard our thinking. We need to remove ourselves from things that will get us thinking in the wrong way. We need to be careful where we go on the Internet, what we watch on TV, what movies we attend, what people we hang around with and what games we play.
Eugene Peterson’s THE MESSAGE really captures this whole passage well,
But make sure that you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing! God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work he began when we first believed. We can’t afford to waste a minute, must not squander these precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight. Get out of bed and get dressed! Don’t loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!
So awake sleeper. Are you still in your pajamas or are you dressed and ready for action? Are you still living like you are in the darkness or are you willing to live in the light? Our job is to remember that we are to live like those who are dying. . . . and help those around us live as well. In the hope that those who are dying might also entrust themselves to the Savior, so they might live even though they die. We must wake up. We cannot afford to be indifferent. This is our challenge. This is our privilege. This is our calling as children of God.