Unity In Times of DisagreementAfter spending thirteen weeks studying Romans 12-13 we have now reached the end of this important section of Paul’s letter to the Church in Rome. Paul comes to the end of Romans 13 and says, “And do this…” If you have been here for these studies then you don’t have to ask, “Do what?” For thirteen weeks Paul has been urging us to love. He has broken down the relationships that we share with people in society into brothers and sisters in Christ, outsiders, enemies, civil authorities, and our “neighbors.” In each and every area of life Paul has urged us to love with a special kind of love, “agape” love.

As Paul reaches the end of his lesson on loving those God has placed in our lives he says, “Do it!” To add urgency to the call Paul goes on to say, “…understanding the present time.” It is of utmost importance for us to understand the times in which we live at this present moment. Before we get too far into our study we need to take the time to read our Scripture for this morning. Turn with me to Romans 13:11-14 and let’s begin.

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. (Romans 13:11-14 NIV)

This is such a rich section of Paul’s letter. The main problem that we have this morning is not how to understand what God is saying to us through these verses, but how can we drink in the flood of truth that God has prepared for us. Absorbing these four verses in the time we have is like getting a drink from a fire hydrant. It is simply too much to take in at one time. So, I want to encourage you to continue your study of these important verses throughout the week.

I mentioned to you that it is important for us to understand the “times.” There are two Greek words that are used most often to describe “time” in the New Testament—“chronos” and “kairos.” “Chronos” is the Greek word from which we get our word, “chronology.” The other Greek word that is frequently used is “??????” (kairos). Some folks have drawn sharp distinctions between the two words, but I wouldn’t be too dogmatic about that. The word, “Kairos” means, “a measure of time, an era, age, or a time of opportunity.” If “time” was being used to convey the idea of an era or age, you would say something like, “During the time of King David.” “Kairos” can also be used to speak about an opportunity. God gives us opportunities each and every day and yet we need to know what time it is. In the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint, we read in Ecclesiastes 3.

1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: 2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, 3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, 5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, 6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, 7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, 8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 NIV)

There is a time for everything. The key for you and me is to know what time it is? This past week I had the opportunity to go and pray with someone before they went through a procedure at the hospital. On Wednesday I had another opportunity. I thought I was going to comfort someone, but once I got to their house I realized that it was an opportunity to celebrate instead of comfort.

I want to emphasize the “opportunity” aspect of “kairos” because many folks have jumped right over the opportunities that we have in this present time and focused on the end of time, on Christ’s return. Paul writes, 11 “And do this, understanding the present time.” (For other uses of the Greek word, “kairos,” see: Matthew 26:15; Mark 1:15; Luke 19:44; John 7:6; Romans 5:6; Galatians 6:9; Ephesians 6:18; 2 Timothy 4:6) I believe this is a huge part of our problem. We don’t understand the urgency and opportunity of our “present time,” and therefore Paul is urging us to “wake up.” We, as followers of Jesus, can become so focused on Christ’s return that we are lulled to sleep in this present time. Let’s read verse 11 together.

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. (Romans 13:11 NIV)

It’s time to wake up! I don’t think that I need to take too much time to convince you that the Church, the Body of Christ, is sleepwalking through this present time. I see lots of activity, but is it the work that we have been given to do? I see tons of church buildings, but is what takes place in church buildings any different than the buildings of the Masonic Lodge, Kiwanis’ Club, or Country Club?

I had a thought this past week while I was studying this Scripture that I want to share with you. The conclusion of my thought process disturbed me; maybe it will disturb you as well. Here we go. Our goal is to find the most pagan city in America, the city least impacted by the Gospel. We might look for cities with very few churches, no significant population of believers, no Christian radio stations, or no Christian bookstores. Once we identified that city then we could seek to understand all of the societal ills that plague the city. Poverty, pregnancies out of wedlock, abortion statistics, divorce rates, crime rates, illiteracy and dropout rates, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic abuse, etc. If we then took those statistics and compared them to the societal ills of the city which is the “Buckle of the Bible belt,” Oklahoma City, would there be any difference? I don’t have any data to back up my answer, but I can guess that the differences would be minimal. How can that be? The answer is quite simple—the Church is asleep. We are not doing what we have been called to do. We are not who we have been called to be in the world.

If I were to go pew by pew through this sanctuary today and ask each person gathered here, “Do you believe that Jesus is the long promised Messiah sent from God to save us from our sins, to save us from ourselves? Do you believe that it is only through a relationship with Jesus that we can truly experience transformation in life?” I bet the vast majority of us would say, “Absolutely!” If I followed those two questions with two more questions: “Have you shared that information with anyone during the past week? Have you shared the hope that you have found in Jesus with anyone during the past week?” The vast majority of us would say, “No.” How can that be?

What the followers of Jesus are doing today is equivalent to driving down the road, watching someone get hit by a car, and driving right by them without even stopping to help. The man hit by the car will die if we don’t stop to help. Why don’t we stop to help? Why won’t we tell a dying world about the Good News of Jesus?

It’s Time to Wake Up

Paul says that it is time to wake up. He doesn’t just say that because it is passionate rhetoric. Paul says, “Wake up…because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” That is a powerful statement. There is urgency in Paul’s pen because the clock is running, the sands of the hourglass are trickling on, time is slipping away. You and I can never reclaim the opportunities that God provided for you and me just this past week.

If you are a Christian then you need to know that you have less time to serve Him now than you did when you came into this sanctuary this morning. You may have been walking with the Lord for two weeks, two years, or twenty years, but your time to serve Him is less now than on that day when you surrendered your life to Him.

Young people, you especially need to carefully consider my words. When we are young we think we are going to live forever. We get so caught up in the things that are so important to our peers that we give little thought to the things that matter to God. We think, “When I get older then I will get serious about my relationship with God.” How do you know that you will get older? There are young people who die every day. There are young people who are vibrant and active and then suddenly they find out that they are suffering from some terminal disease or they have an accident that limits them. Young people you need to realize that now is the time to seek God with all of your heart. Now is the time to allow God to use you in the lives of those He has placed in your life. Now is the time…

We, as the Body of Christ, are being influenced by our culture rather than having an influence on our culture. We are being influenced by others rather than influencing those around us. Take a look at verse 12 with me.

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. (Romans 13:12 NIV)

The Day of the Lord

We live in a unique period of history—the time between Jesus’ death and resurrection and His return. During this time there is rebellion, darkness, sorrow, and sin of every sort that plagues us, but Paul says, “The day is almost here.” Throughout Scripture we find references to the “day of the Lord.” The “day of the Lord” is the day in which God comes in judgment to right all wrongs. In 2 Peter 3:10-14 we read,

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. 11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. 14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. (2 Peter 3:10-14 NIV)

Peter and Paul are in absolute agreement. Since the day of the Lord is almost here we should make every effort to live holy lives, to live in right relationships, to share the Good News with all of those around us.

Get Rid of the Deeds of Darkness

In verse 12 Paul says that we should put aside the “deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” You have to remember that Paul was writing this letter to the Church. They must have been as messed up as the American Church because Paul tells them to put aside the “deeds of darkness.” What does he mean by this phrase? Well, let’s read on.

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. (Romans 13:13 NIV)

We are not to be involved in orgies, drunkenness, sexual immorality of any kind, dissensions, or jealousy. We are to put aside these activities. The Greek word for “put aside” is “?????????” (apotithemi) and it means to “to put off or to put away.” Get rid of these practices. We may have been involved in these kinds of activities in the past, before we came to know Jesus, and that is understandable because these are the ways of the world. But now that we have died to ourselves and been given a new life in Jesus—we are to get rid of that lifestyle. Paul wrote to the Church in Ephesus and told them the same thing. He writes,

22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV)

Just down the road from the Church in Ephesus was a group of believers in the city of Colosse. Paul wrote to them as well. Listen to his words and see if you see any similarity between what Paul has already written.

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. (Colossians 3:5-10 NIV)

You know what is really interesting? All of these things that Paul says the people need to get rid of are written to folks who were in the church. How can the followers of Jesus be effective in society if we are living like those who don’t claim to know Jesus? Paul says that we are to get rid of these ways of living and live out our new lives that are rooted and grounded in Jesus and His character.

Put On The Armor of God

Rather than continuing to live the lives that we lived before we came to know Jesus we are to “put on the armor of life.” In verse 14, Paul says that we are “clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ.” Take a look at verse 14 with me.

14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature. (Romans 13:14 NIV)

The “armor of life” and “clothing ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ” are essential if we are to be the people of God. We treat this life and our call from God so casual, but the truth is that we are in a war against our flesh, the world, and the devil. Many followers of Jesus are losing the battle because they are not even aware that they are in a battle—they are sleepwalking through life. In Ephesians 6, Paul says to “put on the full armor of God.” Read along with me beginning in Ephesians 6:11.

11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:11-17 NIV)

We are to prepare for battle each and every day. We don’t do battle as the world does, but we have our battle attire that is necessary for us to live out our call from God.

If someone in full military uniform walked into our sanctuary this morning there would be no mistaking him right? If you see someone wearing scrubs with covers over their shoes, gloves on their hands, and a mask covering their face—you know that person works in a hospital environment. If an athlete comes into our sanctuary in shoulder pads, cleats, and a helmet then you know a football player is among us. How do you recognize one of the followers of Jesus? Well, it’s not the jewelry they wear, the Bible they carry, or their use of “christianese.” We are clothed in Christ. His attributes make up our character. His compassion is visible in the way we interact with others. His mercy is witnessed through us. His love is expressed in our daily lives. His holiness sets us apart from those around us. Our obedience to His call on our lives signifies our deadness to the attractions of this world. Our brokenness and tears for those who do not know Him are signs of His heart beating in our chests. Paul wrote to the folks in Ephesus and said,

22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV)

We are recreated to be like God in true right relationship, the very things that Paul has been outlining for us in Romans 12-13, and in holiness. God is not doing this work in us simply for us. He is doing a work in each of us as a living testimony to a lost world. When Paul wrote to Timothy he described the very thing we have been talking about. Read along with me from 1 Timothy 1:15-16.

15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:15-16 NIV)

Why was Paul shown mercy? Was it just so Paul might understand the mercy of God? Not at all. Paul says that he was shown mercy so that God could use him as an example for those who are lost and oblivious to God’s mercy. Paul received mercy so that others might know Paul’s story and in turn come to experience the mercy of the Savior as well. Paul was fully aware that God had called him to be an example, but he was not the only one who was called to be an example. Paul wrote to Timothy and urged him.

12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12 NIV)

It’s time to wake up and recognize that God has called you and me, those whom He has showered with mercy and grace, those He has rescued from destruction and redeemed, He has called us to be living examples of His love, mercy, and salvation to a lost world. We know in our hearts that this is true, but the bottom line for many believers is that they are content with their own salvation. It is time for the Church to wake up and suit up so that a dying world might come to know the freedom, joy, purpose, and salvation that is found in Jesus alone.

If you are here this morning and you do not know Jesus as Lord of your life then I want to urge you this morning to cry out to Him. He will come running to you in the blink of an eye my friends. If you are here this morning and you are a Christian, but you’ve not even given the lost people of this world a thought during the past week then I want to urge you to cry out to God and beg Him to break your heart for those who do not know Him.

Mike Hays
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
October 7, 2014

Wake Up! Suit Up!
Romans 13:11-14