November 27, 2016 [Advent 1]  Romans 13:11-14  J.D.Roekle

 

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. 12 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. 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. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

 

Advent Reminds Us to Wake Up!

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

          It is estimated that at any given time, up to nearly 60% of the world’s population is sleeping.  The percentage of people who are spiritually asleep is estimated to be even larger.  We’re talking about people who are not awake to salvation through Christ alone. God has made us watchmen who are to alert this sleeping population that they need to wake up from their spiritual slumber before it is too late. 

          But the words in our text are not being addressed to people who don’t believe in Christ.  No, they are being addressed to believers.  To Christians like you and me.  To people who have already been awakened from their spiritual slumber.  That happened when you first came to faith through the Spirit’s power.  It was then that you were converted from darkness to light; from the power of Satan to the power of God.  At one time, you were asleep, being secure in your sins.  Now you are awake, and are called on to live in the light of Christ and his will. 

          And so the call to “wake up” here serves as an encouragement and a warning to us. We need to hear it because we are still sinners.  Sinners tend to fall asleep.  And so we begin this season of Advent with the reminder to: Wake Up! 

 

          While some may want to paint a rosy picture, the realities are harsh.  We are living in the night of this world.  Not only are we surrounded by people who don’t confess Christ, we are surrounded by a world which sets itself up as an enemy of Christ and of the will of God.  What causes a man to walk up to a police officer and shoot him at point blank range, execution style?  Why does a person purposely drive a speeding vehicle off the road or into a lake?  What is it that causes so many to do harm to their own bodies by shooting up heroin? 

          The reality is that we are living in the night of this world.  The night is ruled by sin and death.  The prince of this world has a firm grip of those living in spiritual darkness. 

          The good news is the fact that the night is nearly over.  And we want to live every day with that in mind.  After all, it is easy to be lulled to sleep by this world.  To be lulled to sleep thinking that we’ve got plenty of time!  The younger we are the more we are tempted to think that.  But the temptation even comes when we are older and things seem to be going smoothly.  Darkness has a way of covering up the truth.  The truth is that one way or the other, our time here on earth could come to an end at any time.  Our time here is limited.

          The end of the night signals something else.  The day is almost here.  We’re talking about the day of Christ’s return.  That’s good news for us, isn’t it?!  But the fact that Christ is coming back soon should impact us.

          While we are living in the night, how often does the night affect us?  It’s very alluring.  After all, we are still sinners.  Sinners who are attracted to the darkness of sin that is masked in attractive ways.  Paul outlines 3 pairs of activities which we will want to stay away from: orgies and drunkenness; sexual immorality and debauchery; dissension and jealousy

Think about how these are all connected.  One leads to the other, which leads to the other.  God gives us many blessings to enjoy.  But God doesn’t want us to abuse those blessings.  He also doesn’t want us to be overindulgent in them.  Overindulgence feeds the sinful nature.  And what does an overindulgence lead to?  It leads to doing anything you want!  Our sinful nature says: “Have sex with anyone you want regardless of whether you are married to them or not.  A one night stand is just fine.”  And then what happens?  Households are divided, relationships are destroyed, marriages are broken. 

          Is any one of us immune from any of this?  Don’t forget about Paul’s warning to the Corinthians (1 Cor.10:12):  “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”  Don’t underestimate your sinful nature.  You can and do certainly fall.  And maybe you don’t have a tendency to fall to the temptations and sins that Paul outlines here to the Romans.  But be warned that the allure of the night is always lurking.  Always trying to draw you in.  Always trying to get you to fall.  There are perhaps other sins you are particularly vulnerable to.

          And sometimes you do fall.  Sometimes you fall hard.  When that happens, the key is not to ignore it.  The key is not to think of it as no big deal.  The key is to let the light expose it for what it is: sin that damages your relationship with God. 

          As you have it exposed by the light of God’s Word, don’t deny it or try to defend it.  Confess it.  Confess how deeply you have hurt God and how deeply you have hurt others including yourself. 

          Then, let the same light that exposed your sin also enlighten you with God’s promises.  Through Jesus, your sins are forgiven.  Jesus never gave into the allure of the night of sin.  But Jesus did allow the night to swallow him up into death so that we wouldn’t be swallowed up in hell by our sins.  The fact that Jesus lives again proves to us that our sins are indeed forgiven. 

          As the Day approaches, may this always be your approach on life.  Live in daily contrition and repentance.  Daily turn from your sin and receiving the assurance of the forgiveness of your sins in Christ. And then go on in the peace of Jesus, living a life for Jesus.  

          As you do, think of what is happening.  You are following Paul’s instructions here: “Let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.”  Paul is describing really the same thing, only he’s describing opposite side of the same coin, and he explains it in terms of clothing.

          That’s something we can all understand.  He tells us to take off those dirty clothes of ours.  Those “deeds of darkness.”  We are not to spend our days thinking about how we can indulge ourselves; how we can make our greedy or lustful or selfish hearts happy. 

          Rather, we are to put on different clothes.  We are to put on our Jesus clothes.  Remember, that when Christ first made you his child, he changed your clothes.  Taking off the filthy clothes of sin you were wearing, he gave you a spotless white robe of his righteousness. 

          Now, you are encouraged to do that daily.  In fact, he equips you for battle since he knows that there are enemies who oppose you.  He tells you to put on the armor of light.  And you’ll need every bit of it.  You’ll need it, because you cannot rely on yourself.  You need to rely on God and his protection.  You need to rely on Christ and his Word.  Only with God can you defend yourself from Satan, the world, and your own self accusing you. 

          All of this will finally prepare you for when The Day does arrive.  When you die or when Christ returns.  Paul reminds us: “Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”  That is true with every minute that passes.  We are inching closer and closer to the end. 

          And again, that’s a good thing.  After all, it means our final salvation is coming.  The time when we are no longer living in the night of this sinful world.  The time is coming when Satan will no longer be able to tempt us.  The time is coming when we will no longer be at war with our own sinful natures.  Yes, the time is coming when we will be delivered to the Daytime where night will no longer exist.  And that time is closer than we may think.  Stay awake and alert! Amen.