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"Time to Get Up! Get Dressed, Already!"

Dec.1/13 1st of Advent Romans 13:11-14 (Mt.24:36-44)


"What time is it?" (This is where you routinely check your watch at the start of the sermon!) No, really - what TIME is it? What's the "kairos", the significant moment, the unique opportunity? Yes it looks as if it's light out - daytime, in the physical sense - but spiritually speaking, is it really night-time?

Paul writes to the church at Rome in 13:11, "And do this, understanding the present time.The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber..." And in v12 "The night is nearly over; the day is almost here." The way he talks, it's as if it's night-time now, the "day" hasn't quite arrived yet. How is this so?

Christendom, the period when a significant portion of the population went to church, is gradually fading. At the same time, respect for Biblical teaching and values is diminishing; relativism is replacing absolute ideas of right and wrong. The new moral yardstick becomes whatever your neighbours will tolerate.

One example of night-time behaviour is the viewing of pornography. A speaker on a recent PromiseKeepers broadcast noted that when he was young, you had to go looking for porn, it wasn't readily available; but now, with the internet, IT comes looking for YOU.

Remember that warning from last week's message against being deceived? That we come from a long line of 'gullibles'? One night this week I was catching up on my Facebook buddies when I noticed one of my young female "churched" friends had commented on a video, apparently saying "beautiful body". I clicked the link but it led to a site with a warning the material was for those "over 18"; the grayed-out videos in the background looked sketchy. I closed the tab and next day messaged my friend wondering why she'd linked to an over-18 site and was the video really OK for me to watch. A bit later she replied saying she hadn't linked to any video like that, and it wasn't even in her timeline. A bit more checking revealed that the website had actually been taken down after just a short period of time: Facebook determined it was part of a scam, a forgery. My friend was not even responsible even though it had her name on it! And through the deception, I'd been tempted to enter a scummy website. How deviously the forces of darkness subtly hook their victims.

"What time is it?" Do you have a sense of your life quickly passing by, of opportunities lost, that you're missing out on some of the thrills you see other people pursuing? A popular acronym among the younger set these days is YOLO - "You Only Live Once." That leads to a tendency to grab what you can when you can, without necessarily considering the long-term consequences for the partying lifestyle. In today's passage the apostle Paul helps put our current moment in perspective, and teaches us to frame our choices in view of Jesus' future coming and presence with us even now.


What's the "bottom line" here? What's the COMMAND the Lord has for us through His servant? Paul's exhortation in these four verses is straightforward. V11 begins, "And do this, understanding the present time." What's the "this"? He's referring back to the preceding verses 8-10: "love your fellowman" and "love your neighbour as yourself." But love isn't just a warm fuzzy feeling: love is a verb, has implications for us to ACT in ways that show respect, consideration, and kindness toward our neighbour. Love limits us in our decisions. Love might even get in the way of a "YOLO" attitude if it means we're focussed on living selfishly, doing only what pleases US.

In v11B Paul commands, "Wake up from your slumber..." That means be aroused from one's sleep. How are we "asleep / slumbering"? Let's keep reading to see if he explains what he means in the context.

V12B "So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light." The command here is to put ASIDE the deeds of darkness - take them off, as if removing your bulky outer winter coat - and put ON the armour of light. Perhaps a better translation from the Greek would be to put on the WEAPONS of light - that's a bit more dynamic than "armour" and suits the actual term used better (Robertson's Word Pictures). The same word's used in 2Cor 6:7 "with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left;" and in Romans 6:13 "offer the parts of your body to [God] as instruments of righteousness." So we're not just talking passive "armour" here but actual dynamic "weapons of light".

Now as soon as you say "weapons of light", what does anyone who's grown up in the "Star Wars" generation immediately think of? A 'light saber'! A poll of 2000 moviegoers back in 2008 determined that the light saber was the most popular weapon ever in film history. Every Star Wars movie featured at least one light-saber duel.

What's a light saber represent for Christians, if not a tool for cutting off and instantly cauterizing someone's arm? What "weapons" do we make warfare with? Ephesians 6 suggests the shield of faith to extinguish the arrows the devil may hurl at us; but what's our "sword"? The "sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (Eph 6:17) Peter likens the word of the prophets to "a light shining in a dark place" (2Pet 1:19). Scripture is your light-saber! Memory verses are precious in spiritual warfare. In the military, soldiers in the field are expected to clean and oil their guns daily...Are you DAILY keeping your 'weapon of light' up, spending time in Scripture and prayer, sharpening your sword?

And in v13 Paul exhorts, "Let us behave decently, as in the daytime..." Let us "walk" honorably (Gk/NRSV). A very positive command. Is that so much to ask - "behave decently"? As he wrote to the Thessalonians, "You are all sons of the light and sons of the day.We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled...Since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled..." (1Thess 5:5-6,8) Belonging affects behaviour. The Life Application Bible notes, "When Christ returns, He wants to find his people clean on the inside as well as on the outside."


Unfortunately for believers, the temptation is always to ignore the COMMAND and to fall into COMPROMISE. So Paul 'spells out' some of what he means by "behaving decently" by examples of the opposite, what he refers to in v12 broadly as "deeds of darkness". Look again at v13: "Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy." There are a couple of categories here: coarse sins and 'respectable' sins; outward and obvious sins (like drunkenness and debauchery) AND inner, more hidden ones (dissension, jealousy). It's especially easy for a jealous person to deceive themself because it's hard for others to see whether you're jealous; but it's just as much a "deed of darkness".

Let's look at these one at a time. "Not in ORGIES" or reveling (NRSV): any of that go on around this time of year? Christmas parties / New Year's Eve? People may use such occasions as an excuse to do what they'd never try any other time. The lexicon describes this word in the Greek: "a nocturnal and riotous procession of half drunken and frolicsome fellows who after supper parade through the streets with torches and music in honour of Bacchus or some other deity, and sing and play before houses of male and female friends; hence used generally of feasts and drinking parties that are protracted till late at night and indulge in revelry."

Paul writes, "Not in orgies and DRUNKENNESS." The police will be out doing RIDE checks for good reason. Drivers can now have their licences confiscated for 3 days if they test for blood-alcohol levels at the "warn level" between .05 and .08. When people drink too much, even if they don't drive, they can still cause damage through their uncontrolled speech and abusive actions. In our generation, I'm sure Paul would add "drugs" here as substances that likewise impair function and downgrade behaviour.

V13 continues, "Not in SEXUAL IMMORALITY" - literally not "in beds" (koite): sleeping around, adultery, general extramarital sexual intercourse. Is that common in our culture? In what we watch? Often it has disastrous fallout that isn't so picturesque - broken marriages and families, young women's career plans dashed, even abortion. When men don't take responsibility for their behaviour, often single young moms turn to services like Room2Grow in Clinton. Linda Renkema (the staffer) was telling me this week of the growing demand and need to hire additional staff; as a Christian agency, they don't use government funding because then they might have to be willing to drive a pregnant woman to an abortion facility.

V13 again, "Not in...DEBAUCHERY." This word means "unbridled lust, excess" - not 'continent'. Overboard in your desires, consumptions. Someone who can't wait to get their "fix" through porn or sex or drugs or what have you: headed to get 'wasted'. In the grip of the enemy whose aim is to "steal, kill, and destroy" - as Jesus described Satan the "thief" in John 10:10.

But let's not minimize the sins that are less obvious, more refined and "respectable", less easy to spot. Paul adds "not in DISSENSION": strife, wrangling, quarreling (NLT). Do you ever "quarrel" around your place? When there's conflict - you want this and they want that - does it deteriorate into angry words and hurtful looks and gestures, slamming doors and stomping off in a huff, OR can you work through it respectfully? To have conflicting desires itself is not sinful: but what you do next can be a very dark deed. Sometimes talking it out with a neutral third party can help. Sometimes you just have to crucify your own selfishness and yield to the other's wishes!

Last in Paul's list: "Not in...JEALOUSY." What makes you envious? Did those "Black Friday" deals in the flyers or ads challenge your contentment? Sometimes the inner invisible attitude of jealousy or envy eventually expresses itself outwardly in strife, a sour demeanour, a short temper, or coolness in relationship. Back to the "do this" in v11: jealousy interferes with loving our fellowman, loving our neighbour as ourself.

We are the generation that wants MORE out of life. At the Canadian Foodgrains Bank information meeting in Neustadt this past week, several local representatives were commenting how the members are getting older, it's hard to get younger volunteers to come on board. Driving back with my over-90-aged father afterwards, we were talking about the crumbling bridge in Montreal and aging water lines and infrastructure in cities, and grim prospect of paying for upkeep on these things. I asked him, "How did your generation do it, Dad? How could you afford to be the 'Builders'?" Part of his reply was that people got by with living on less - for example, some hired men would work all winter for room and board and not much more, just a pair of boots and a set of coveralls. In comparison with that, what excuse have we to be envious of what others have? Have you any right to be jealous?


So we've looked at the COMMAND (to love others and behave decently) and the COMPROMISE (carousing, sex, strife, etc.). There's a definite contrast there, a choice between two options: why choose "day" over "night"? What incentive is there to opt for "daytime behaviour" rather than the "deeds of darkness"? What would COMPEL us - doesn't the media portray orgies, drinking, sex, getting "wasted" as more "fun"?

Paul suggests a couple of compelling factors. First, a COMING JUDGE. V11 "Our salvation is nearer now" / v12 "the day is almost here." What's he referring to? What "day"? It's the day when Jesus returns as judge. In today's alternative lesson, Matthew 24(37,39,44), three times Jesus refers to "the coming of the Son of Man" - "that day" (v36). Paul expands on this in some of his other letters. In 2Thessalonians 2(1f) "the day of the Lord" is clearly "the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ". 1Thess 4:16 "For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first." We will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, to receive what's due "for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad" (2Cor 5:10). The Day will bring it to light, whether our works are precious metal or burnable stubble (1Cor 3:13). Likewise the apostle Peter tells us that since we're looking forward to "the day of God", "make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him" (2Pet 3:14).

So a Coming Judge is one compelling factor, the prospect of reward. But that's in the future. Another factor is already here, who we are now - CLOTHED IN CHRIST. If we trust in Jesus and repent and yield our life and receive Him as Lord and Saviour, He comes to live inside us by the Holy Spirit. Those who belong to Christ have the Spirit of Christ living in them (Romans 8:9ff). In this passage Paul uses another analogy: v14 "Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature." Winter is here and the cooler temperatures prompt us to "bundle up" in bulky coats and even snowsuits; for outdoor sports there's often very little of the actual body left exposed. So in your imagination picture yourself putting on Jesus as a snowsuit, you're completely "in Him".

Colossians 3(9f) "...you have taken off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self [NOTE THE PAST TENSE - ALREADY DONE], which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator." Ephesians 4(24) "[you were taught]...to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." (Note: youth at catechism Thursday - contrast between diagram of the person as commandment-breaker vs who God created us to be) So this "clothing in Christ" has already happened for those who belong to Him; the Holy Spirit's changing us daily into greater Christlikeness. Have you noticed another Christian lately doing something that "looked like Jesus"? How are you "modeling" Him? (As if I'D ever make it onto a fashion runway!) Here's your chance to be a 'model', and show off the skill and beautiful creation of the Designer.


This choosing to love and "behave decently" rather than indulge in the "deeds of darkness" is a daily battle. V14 reminds us, "clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature." "Do not think about" is literally "do not make forethought for" the desires of the flesh. Don't let yourself be premeditating on what could murder your Christian experience (righteousness) and reputation. Put on Christ and don't be toying with those little daydream notions that might lead to getting some forbidden "fix".

I was listening in the car this week to a Promise Keepers mp3 called "A Game Plan for Purity". In it, Nate Larkin shares how for years he was a pastor but also a sex addict. Eventually his wife found out, and that was the end of being a pastor. He repented and went into business, but now discovers he's ministering to other men who also struggle with pornography or various sexual addictions. Part of his recovery involved finding a sponsor to whom he could be accountable. The sponsor told Nate he wanted him to call him every day and tell him 4 things, in order: "What are you feeling? What are you thinking? What are you doing? And, what are you thinking of doing?" Nate explains that in the back of our mind there's what he calls the "inner addict" that's always making plans for what would potentially be the next "disaster". To confess what we're "thinking of doing" exposes the foolish plans of our "inner addict" that could be so destructive if left unacknowledged and unconfronted.

"Clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ" - and don't let dark deeds sabotage your recovery! Let's pray.