Think back over this past week:
If you are like me, you’ll have to admit, “Not much.” It is so easy to forget the big picture. It is so easy to forget that Jesus is coming and that I should be living each day in light of that great future event.
Yet this is the constant emphasis of Scripture – Jesus is coming, live accordingly!
Again and again the Bible is saying the approaching day of the Lord should cause us to walk in holiness. It should stir us to godliness. It should motivate righteous living. The coming Day of the Lord is the crown of our theology, it is the study of the consummation of the purposes of God, and it should be often on our mind and compel Christ like love.
This is the primary point of the book of Revelation. God didn’t give it to us so we could create these nice timelines nor did he give it to us so that we would avoid it complaining it is too difficult or beyond comprehension. No! It I the place where we see the promise of our future salvation, the return of Jesus and the glorification of our bodies realized, and therefore are encouraged to a hopeful endurance. You see, if you study Revelation but don’t grow in practical godliness something is very wrong. Knowing how it ends should make a difference in the present. It is not simply something for later – it’s for right now!
This is the primary point of Romans 13:11-14 – it is a call for a totally new way of living in light of the imminence of the end. And thus we see that the main theme hasn’t changed! In 12:1 it was in light of God’s mercies live a totally new life! And now it is in light of the end live a totally new life! Paul is saying, “All that I have been saying about presenting your bodies to God as a living sacrifice and not being conformed to this world and being transformed by the renewing of your minds, and all that I’ve been saying about living in love, and submitting to God-ordained authorities, do all of this in light of the time in which we live. The day of the Lord is near.”
One of the features of the technological society is that we are slaves of time. I am willing to bet the very first thought on your mind every morning is, “What time is it?” I counted 11 clocks in my home. Clocks are on our wrists, our phones, our microwaves, our ovens, our cars – everywhere! It’s amazing how regimented modern life is. We can hardly conceive of a day that is not divided into hours and minutes.
This being the case it is refreshing to step into the world of the Bible which speaks not of seconds and minutes and hours but in terms of seasons, not the natural seasons of the year, but indefinite periods of time that were characterized by a particular task or calling. Thus we read in the OT about persons encamping here or there “for a season” or of the Psalmist praying to God “in the night season” or we read what Paul writes, “And do this, understanding the present time.” More literally, it is season. We focus on minor measurements of time but God focuses on epochs or eras.
Paul is saying we need to understand our place in history, we need to understand that we live in a special, critical, strategic period in the working out of God’s designs. We are living in the last epoch in this world’s history, the time in which the complex of consummating events is impending. We are living in the time between the first and second comings of Christ. He came the first time to bring salvation for all who will believe. He will come again in power and glory for judgment and consummation.
And notice that knowing the time is intricately linked with doing (v. 11). Time to get up, time to eat lunch, time to pick up the kids from School.
So what time is it?
Paul sounds a spiritual alarm. He piles up time phrases to give us a strong sense of urgency. Time is limited, opportunity is fleeting, life is short. The time to live for Christ is now!
Sleep refers to a lethargic, non-aggressive, lazy Christian life. It speaks of being apathetic and unresponsive to the things of eternal value that please God. Actually, quite literally Paul is exhorting believers to throw off the hypnotic state (Greek word same word we derive hypnotize from).
There are all kinds of sleep into which believers fall:
Therefore the Scripture constantly exhorts us, “Wake up!”
1 Peter 5:8
1 Thess. 5:6
The spiritual alarm clock is going off! Throw off sluggish, dulled, hypnotic almost trance like living. Arise, get into action! There is no time for indifference. Now is the time for spiritual vigilance and industriousness! Now is the time for spiritual fervor! The sun is up and the Master is calling us to work heartily for him. He is calling us to be living sacrifices, to love as he has loved us, to spread the gospel, to take heed of sin and be concerned things of eternal value.
Remember, that salvation is in three tenses:
Christianity begins with a decision (instantaneous justification and sanctification), but must result in a godly lifestyle (progressive sanctification) and ends in Christlikeness (glorification).
It is the future salvation that Paul is talking about – our ultimate or final salvation at the return of the Savior.
Each passing day brings us closer to that final day when all that we have anticipated in Christ will become a reality:
“Night” refers to this present evil age. The Bible often describes this sinful age and those who live in it as darkness. Satan and his demons are described as the powers of this dark world (Eph. 6:12). Satan’s rule is the domain of darkness (Col. 1:13). Unbelievers are “darkened in their understanding” (Eph. 4:18). Jesus said that men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil (John 3:19). Spiritually speaking, the world is in utter darkness. It is in darkness:
But what does say? Its time is nearly over! It is passing away! Its reign is about to expire. It is on its last gasp for the day is almost here! Jesus, the light of the world and the light of life, is coming and he will triumph over the darkness! The day of Christ’s return is on the threshold!
Of course it is precisely here that many like to doubt and mock us. It has been 1,900 years! Clearly Paul and the Bible was mistaken. But these texts do not mean that Jesus would return within a few years. Rather, it means they regarded the death and resurrection of Christ as the crucial events of history that began the last days. Since the next great event in God’s redemptive plan is the second coming, the night, no matter how long chronologically it may last, is nearly over. Jesus return is the next culminating event on God’s calendar and we must be watchful and alert!
It is time to wake up, time to get going, time to look around and see all the opportunities about you to glorify God.
How much time do you have left? Who knows?! We live on the edge of eternity. If you are going to love, now is the time to do it! If you are going to be a living sacrifice, now is the time to do it. You can’t wait for tomorrow. Start now. The night is nearly over, the day is at hand!
Remember we said there is a strong link between knowing the time and acting appropriately. We have just learned what the present time is. What must we do? How should we live? How should our understanding of the future impact the here and now?
Paul spells out the evil we are to renounce with three couplets of sinful behavior. These are not comprehensive but representative.
The word translated “orgies” means binge party – an occasion for excessive eating or drinking with sexual sins like adultery, fornication, homosexuality often following.
So really it covers a whole spectrum of things and means “don’t devote your life to endless self-indulgence, good times, parties. That is a wasted life. You’ve only got so many precious moments to live for the Lord.
1 Peter 4:3-5, “3 For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.4 They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. 5 But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.”
Sexual immorality refers to any sex outside of marriage. The second word means unrestrained, brazen lust. With these two phrases Paul covers the whole range of immorality: fornication, adultery, homosexuality, pornography. God has given the marriage relationship s as the proper place for sexual relations. To engage in any sexual activity outside of marriage is to participate in the deeds of darkness.
1 Thess. 4:3ff
These are sins that tear apart relationships and community. It is amazing to me how many people seem to get kicks out of being the cause of dissension. They can’t seem to enjoy themselves unless they get people fighting. Unfortunately the church is far more tolerant of these sins but they are opposed to the second greatest commandment.
Armor of light reminds us that as Christians we are soldiers in a conflict against Satan and temptation. Actually, “armor” is derived from the heavily armed foot soldiers of ancient Greece known as hoplites. They were the best fighters in the Mediterranean world.
So with us! It is so easy to forget this but we are in a spiritual conflict that is very real and dangerous so we need to put on the armor of light. We need to be aware of the enemy’s schemes. We need to vigorously embrace righteous living. We must turn from temptation and sin and put on Christ.
And perhaps you say, “I thought I was already in Christ? And Doesn’t Galatians say to be a Christian is to have already put on Christ? Why does Paul tell us to put on Christ?”
It means we should conduct ourselves accordingly! It means we should every moment make a conscious effort to wear the Lord Jesus Christ. What should you put on when you wake up in the morning? What should you wear to work? What should you wear to school? What should you wear to the store, on vacation or while you are just hanging around the house? Put on Jesus! Put on his holiness, beauty, humility, purity, compassion, wisdom, forgiveness, righteousness, zeal, patience, and love.
What is more, do not allow any opportunity whatsoever for gratifying the evil desires of the sinful nature.
This is such an important word because sin seldom just happens. Most of the time it is premeditated. Sin is a link in a chain of events. When we surrender to the sinful nature it is often not a sudden collapse but rather the culmination of a process.
I am reminded of the story of an alcoholic who explained his frequent downfall saying, ““When I pass by that tavern on my way home from work, I go in, and then I later find myself with a hangover.” When questioned by the evangelist, the alcoholic admitted that the tavern was not on his way home from work at all. He had to go several miles out of his way to pass by it. This man, like us, made provision for the lusts of his flesh, and so he fell.
Deny sin any opportunity of expression. Don’t give any thought to it. The critical nature of the day in which we live demands that we separate ourselves unmistakably from all that belongs to darkness.
This passage at the end of chapter 13 was used by God to awaken the soul of one of his greatest saints. Augustine, in his youth, had rejected the Christian faith taught to him by his mother, Monica and, as a young man in his early twenties, gave himself to a life of sexual sin. He fathered illegitimate children and turned himself over to sensuous pursuits and riotous living even living with a mistress for some years.
He had come under conviction of sin and wanted to be saved and was one day weeping over his spiritual condition as he sat in the garden of a friend when he heard a child singing, “Take up and read! Take up and read!” He picked up a scroll that lay nearby and his eyes fell on the words of Romans 13:13-14. At that point he said, ““Instantly, as the sentence ended—by a light, as it were, of security infused into my heart—all the gloom of doubt vanished away.”
Allow me to read v. 11 as it would read if written to one unconverted: "It is high time that you should awake out of sleep, for now is your damnation nearer than when you first heard the gospel and rejected it."
May God help you to realize that Jesus Christ has offered an atoning sacrifice for sinners and that forgiveness of sins is available for those who, by the Holy Spirit, are nudged to faith in Jesus Christ. May God so touch your heart that you come to him and experience the forgiveness of sins and justification of life. Let’s stand for the benediction.
And Christian, may the reality of the approaching day of the Lord weigh upon us every day, so that we walk in holiness before Him as Lord!
Do not live as if Christ hasn’t come, as if the resurrection hasn’t taken place. We have tasted of the kingdom of God, we have tasted the power of Christ in our lives, so let’s stop doing the things that belong to the dark and vigorously embrace holiness and righteousness.