Get It In Gear!
Understand, Act, Think
We are a society that is enslaved to time. There are many companies who have as their sole purpose, to make time saving devices. We have laptop and tablet computers, cell phones, pagers, PDAs or a host of calendar planners all to help us keep on schedule. It makes you wonder how in the world anyone accomplished anything in years past. Many of us feel like we have too much to do and too little time to do it.
Part of the reason for this is that we are trying to do too much. We are pulled in so many directions that we aimlessly move from one demand to another. The key principle in most management seminars is to determine the things that are most important and then put your focus on these things.
This is the same thing the Apostle Paul seems to be saying tt the end of Romans 13. 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,
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. 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.
I see four different pieces of advice given by the Apostle,
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 hostile to the things of God. We are living in Satan’s domain. The values of our society are not the values of the Kingdom of God. We need to understand that this world is not our home.
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.
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 has a CD out where the album and title cut is” 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. 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 the Father?
Would you invest more heavily in Kingdom activities?
Would you make it a point to talk to unsaved family and friends?
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?” Just this last week I conducted a funeral for a 41 year old woman. One minute she was fine and filled with life. The next minute she was slumped over in her car and gone. That could happen to you or to me. It could happen to the people you love. Even today the trumpet of God might sound and the Lord would return for His people. It is time to live like you were dying.
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”.
Next Paul tells us that we should start living like we are children of the King.
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.
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. Even most pagans clean up their language when they are in the church. Most people understand that there is a standard of decency when you are in God’s house. The question I have is this: Do you really think that God only sees us when we are in church?
We’ve had a lot of fun talking about the t-shirts many people have with the church name and web address on them. People understand (I hope) that when they are wearing these t-shirts what is done (whether good or bad) will reflect on the church and ultimately on the Lord. 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: “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. Debauchery could also be translated “shamelessness”. 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.
Notice 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 playing with the Devil.
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 to tapes 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 beauty.
Put on his humility.
Put on his purity.
Put on his compassion.
Put on his wisdom.
Put on his forgiveness.
Put on his righteousness.
Put on his zeal.
Put on his patience.
Put on his love.
Clothe yourself with Jesus early in the morning and you will be well-dressed all day long. (Pritchard)
Paul concludes saying, “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.” Instead of wasting our time thinking of sinful things, fantasizing about sin, and imagining ways to justify our behavior, 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. We must not indulge the sinful nature!
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!
This morning we have been talking about what it means to truly live like a believer: it means getting off the bench and getting into the game of life. It means no longer being an observer and instead being a person who participates in the building of God’s Kingdom.
May I ask a personal question? Where are you in terms of your Christian life? Are you on the bench (or in the stands watching) or are you in the game? Are you still in your pajamas or are you dressed and ready for action? Are you a critic or a “player”? Are you still living like you are in the darkness or are you willing to live in the light?
John MacArthur writes,
We must wake up. The down-grade is a dangerous place to be. We cannot afford to be indifferent. We cannot continue our mad pursuit of pleasure and self-gratification. We are called to fight a spiritual battle, and we cannot win by appeasing the enemy. A weak church must be made strong, and a needy world must be confronted with the message of salvation, and there may be little time left.
This is our challenge. This is our privilege. This is our calling as children of God.
May I make one further observation and clarification? There are some who might walk away from the message and conclude they are being challenged to work harder for salvation. Nothing could be further from the truth. If we were able to live exemplary lives we still could not be good enough to earn Heaven. The only way we can find new life, the only way we can be sure of Heaven, the only way we can ever hope to live the life that God desires, is to receive what God has provided.
The message of salvation is simple: We are sinful people and we can never change that about us. God, understanding our nature and our experience, sent Jesus to show us the truth and to pay the price for our sin. His death was in our place. The Bible tells us that when Jesus rose from the dead He opened the door of Heaven to anyone who was willing to follow and trust Him. Before we can live for Christ, He has to live in us. That process begins when we stop trying to earn our way and instead put our confidence and trust in Him. The first stop toward getting in the game is not trying harder. The first step is to stop running and turn toward Jesus.
Does it sound overwhelming? It’s not. Coming to Jesus is something you can do right now. At this moment you can say, “Yes, I receive Jesus as my Savior and I want to follow Him as my King, Master, Lord and ruler of my life.” The person who says that sincerely is the one who has become a child of God. At this point (to continue a sports metaphor) you are on the field. The next step is to get into the game. To use another metaphor, when you receive Christ as Savior you have awakened. The next step is to get out of your P.J.’s and begin living life as someone who understands the big picture. Our job is to remember that we are to live like those who are dying. . . . and to remember that those around us are dying as well. It is time to put on our shirts and let everyone know that we represent King Jesus. And we do this in the hope that those who are dying might also entrust themselves to the Savior, so they might live even though they die.