As we carry on in that wonderful series we're doing, looking at the believer's relationship to Jesus Christ, I want to draw your attention this morning to Romans chapter 13, Romans chapter 13, a wonderfully instructive and graphic portion of Scripture that is built around the idea of putting on the Lord Jesus Christ, as stated in verse 14. Let me read Romans 13 verses 11 through 14. "And this do, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep, for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone and the day is at hand. Let us therefore lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts."
Now this text is built around a rather graphic scenario. The apostle Paul frequently tapped into the imagery of the times and not uncommonly dealt with spiritual truth from the vantage point or the metaphorical side of the Roman soldier. And what you have behind this scene is that kind of scenario. A Roman solider drafted to be a part of the army had a tremendous responsibility that was basically built around life and death. He was engaged in warfare for the protection of his emperor and the protection of the subjects of the empire. He had a responsibility to lay his life on the line, protect his own life in order that he might protect the lives of those he represented and defended. Consequently he needed to be alert, he needed to be properly armed, he needed to be trained and he needed to be ready.
That is the picture behind this text. The picture here might be portrayed like this. Some Roman soldiers on the eve of battle, as soldiers are frequently wont to do, had engaged themselves in some drunken party, no doubt sexual promiscuity, maybe even a drinking bout in which they were trying to outdo the other to see who could imbibe the most and still be on his feet. And during the night they had engaged themselves in this drunken orgy and now the dawn was coming and the dawn meant battle. It was time, as they neared the dawn, to wake up and to throw off the party clothes and to get alert, to put on the armor for the inevitability of what was approaching. The text comes like the blast of a bugle while it is still darkest before the dawn that awakens these slumbering drunken soldiers out of their sin and sleep and calls them to throw off the deeds and the garments of the night and clothe themselves in that which is necessary for battle.
That is behind the imagery here. I should say that is the imagery behind the spiritual message here. And Paul here is speaking to the Christian along the same terms. He is saying it is time for you to put on the proper garment, the proper armor to face the inevitability of the hour in which we live. And the armor which you put on, the garment which you wear is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Again he is saying much of what he said to the Philippians when he talked about his passion to pursue the prize, which was Christ's likeness.
Now it is true that when we became soldiers, when we joined the army, we put on Christ in the sense that we were clothed with His righteousness. It is true that at the time of salvation God garmented you in the righteousness of Christ. Otherwise we would not be saved because if we were not covered in the righteousness of Christ, our own sin would be exposed, and God is of purer eyes than to behold evil, cannot look upon iniquity, cannot tolerate sin. Our sin has to be covered, dealt with, taken away and he does that in Christ, Christ bearing our sin. We then are made righteous in Him as He garments us with His own holiness, His own virtue, His own divine nature. So at the point of salvation we put on the righteousness of Christ. God graciously covered us with that, that's called justification. That is that which makes us right with God. Some people talk about that as being a positional truth. We have on the righteousness of Christ positionally.
But there's another dimension and that's the practical dimension, and that is that to which this addresses itself because it is written to Christians. You are already justified, you are in that sense forensically in the court, as it were, covered by the righteousness of Christ, but practically you need to put on Christ's righteousness as well. And that's the issue, not of justification but of sanctification. You must yield to the righteousness of Christ. You must appropriate it. That is to say you must put on Christ, put on His holiness, His virtue, His character. Putting on the Lord Jesus Christ then is a command to practical day-to-day sanctification. It's not related to looking backwards, we've already done that in the saving sense. This is in the sanctifying sense.
I think it can be illustrated from a text we studied rather recently in Titus chapter 2. It says in chapter 2 verse 11 of Titus that God's grace appeared, bringing salvation to all men. Salvation came, salvation transformed, justified, made us righteous before God, and then verse 12 says, it instructed us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly and righteously and godly in the present age. So salvation in its justifying work makes us righteous. In its sanctifying work it commands us to become righteous. We want to bring our practice into line with our position. We want to become who we are. We want to live up to our identity, to borrow Paul's concept in Ephesians 4. We want to walk worthy of the calling to which we have been called. We were saved, that is justified, granted the righteousness of Christ before God. And now we need to live saved lives, live righteous lives. And this particular text calls us to that kind of sanctified living. It is a command for us to become in practice what we are in position.
And there's a sense of great urgency in this text. It has three commands, very simple ones: Wake up, throw off, put on. It's very simple, very direct, and yet very, very essential for every Christian's experience.
Let's take the first command: Wake up. Verse 11, "And this do, knowing the time that it is already the hour for you to wake up from sleep, for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone and the day is at hand." It is time to wake up. That is a familiar term to any of us. My dear wife recited that very phrase to me this morning at about six o'clock as she leaned over me and said, "It is time to wake up." Immediate action is called for; it's time for us to act. This is no time for sleep, this is no time for slumber; there are pressing things at hand. Time to wake up; that's the spiritual command here. It's not time for sleep. It's time to be awake. It's not time for the drunken stupor and slumber that was effected in your sin last night. It's no longer time for the deeds of darkness in which you may be engaged in your night life. It's time to wake up.
Now what does that say to us spiritually? Well it's a call to understand that there's something we're supposed to be busy doing. It's a call to take a look at priorities. It's a call to see what you're doing with your life. This is not the time for sleeping and slumbering and loafing. This is the time to be alert; time to wake up, time to get your priorities right. There are some pressing demanding things at hand in the light of the imminency of the dawn.
In verse 11 he says, "Now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed." What does he mean by this? There are three components in salvation, three dimensions: Past, present and future. Past salvation has already occurred. That occurred, of course, when you put your trust in Jesus Christ. Present salvation is going on all the time as we are being kept saved, as God continually forgives our sin so that there is nothing accumulated against our account before God that could damn us. He ever lives to make intercession for us. He keeps on forgiving, as 1 John says. So there is a past aspect and a present continual aspect of salvation and there is a future aspect of salvation; that is the salvation of our body in Romans 8, when we are fully redeemed and fully delivered. The first is justification, the middle is sanctification and the future is glorification.
So what he is saying is you're nearer to your glorification than you've ever been. We as Christians are nearer to the return of Jesus Christ than when we believed. And we're 2,000 years or so nearer than when this was written. And if there was a sense of urgency then, there should certainly be a greater sense of urgency now. Paul is making reference to the return of Christ for His own and to the return of Christ with regard to judgment. He looks at the...the Second Coming of Jesus Christ from both sides frequently in his writings sometimes referring to the rapture of the church and most often referring to the judgment of the ungodly. But in light of the fact that we are soon to be taken to be with Christ and that will initiate the Day of the Lord in which the ungodly will be destroyed and damned forever, it is time to get your priorities right. It's time to wake up. This is no time to be slumbering and sleeping. This is a time for alertness. The same Jesus who is taken up from you, the angel said, shall so come in like manner as you've seen Him go. In other words, you've got to live in the light of the return of Jesus Christ.
The period of man's day is ending; the period of God's day is coming. The millennial kingdom of Jesus Christ is coming and before it the Day of the Lord judgment and before it the rapture of the church. And only God knows how much time. It's not given to us to know. But I'll tell you this: This morning is a monumental moment because right now you are nearer to it than you have ever been in your entire life. It is next in God's redemptive plan. People say to me, "What has to happen prophetically before the rapture?" The answer is nothing. The trumpet, and when it blows we're out of here. The Day of the Lord follows immediately with preliminary judgment and then the full judgment of the Day of the Lord. It is the next event on God's calendar. Paul said, "Knowing the terror of the Lord we persuade men." He also said, "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ to receive the reward for whatever we've done in our body, whether it's good or worthless."
In other words, it's a time for Christians to be evaluated and rewarded and a time for unbelievers to be judged and damned. And the urgency of that moment should compel us to wake up and get out of the night of this era of man's day into the sobriety, the sober-minded establishment of the priorities that matter eternally. How far gone is the night? As the prophet Isaiah notes, "Watchmen, watchmen, how far gone is the night?” Only God knows. But the next event is the return of Jesus Christ, the taking away of His church and then our work is done. Then the ministry we would have is done and then the judgment begins to fall. This is intended here to have a two-fold effect on us, to make us urgent in our service to Christ and urgent in our evangelism of the lost. And I really believe it's the key to holy living. People who don't live in the light of the return of Christ don't have the most compelling motivation. We must live in the light that Jesus Christ could come at any moment.
Would you please notice in verse 12 that this urgency is compelling based upon one word, at least, he says, "The night is almost gone." The Authorized Version: "The night is far spent and the day is at hand." The night is almost gone. What that tells me, at least, is that when Paul wrote this some 2,000 years ago, we were past the half-way point. In other words, there was less left than had already passed of time, or he wouldn't have said, "It's almost gone." It's far spent. Most of man's time is gone. And Paul was past the mid-point even then and we're another 2,000 years past it. Man's day is ending and God's day is coming and that means judgment.
Sometimes kind people say to me, "You... You're too busy." And I can't really find any way to slow down in the light of the time in which we live, you understand? In fact, somebody told me last week that I looked sick. They said you might need to rest. I've never felt better. I feel healthy. Somebody suggested to me that I shouldn't be writing so many books, it's too much effort. And my response is I'm not writing enough, I don't have that much time. I don't know how much time God's going to give this world and I live in the light of the fact that it could be over any day. I mean, if you knew Jesus was coming to take you away and to start judgment next Sunday, would it alter your week? I think it would alter your week, I think significantly. In fact, right now you'd probably leave on the spot. And I'd be talking to nobody. It would have a dramatic effect on how you live your life. And that's really the only way to live. Oh there are things in life we must do by way of necessity but our lives need to be filled with the comprehension of the priorities. This is not a time to get caught up and engulfed in the night of the world. This is a time to realize the night is almost gone and the day is on the brink.
Night, by the way, represents the present era. It represents man's day. And it is also the symbol of sin and the symbol of evil, and the symbol of ungodliness. I would add to that, night is also a time of illusion. Ugliness and beauty are indistinguishable in the night. Gold and rocks are indistinguishable in the night. Friend and foe are indistinguishable in the night. All of those blend together when night drops the curtain. Are not most people mistaking ugliness for beauty, rocks for gold and foes for friends? It is clear that the world can't discern real value, real beauty and who really is a friend. They have accepted the counterfeit for the real and the false for the true. And again, night is filled with danger, isn't it, whether to a traveler crossing a dark piece of land, to a ship feeling her way along a rock-bound coast. Dark is danger.
He that walks in darkness, the Bible says, doesn't know where he's going because darkness has blinded his eyes. For vast tracks of time darkness has covered the earth and gross darkness has covered the people. It is the night of Satan's reign, it is the night of the power of darkness, the night of creation’s travail and anguish and the absence of Jesus. It is in this night that we live but it is in this night that we must not sleep. It is time to wake up, the day is imminent. The day is at hand. And that refers certainly to the day of Christ's return, the Day of the Lord and the day of the establishment of His kingdom.
In 2 Thessalonians 2 there is a very similar warning in the first twelve verses. We are near the day. It hasn't come. There are some things that are going to indicate it. But we need to have our priorities right in the meantime.
We live in very, very serious times, closer to the return of Christ than we have ever been. Jesus said in Matthew 16 to the Jewish leaders. He said, you... you look at the sky and you say such and such about the weather, and you look at the sky the next day and you say such and such about the weather. He says, "You pride yourselves on your ability to discern the weather but you cannot understand the signs of the times."
People, this is not a time for being engulfed in the darkness. This is a time for understanding the urgency of the hour in which we live. It is a time, verse 11, to awaken from sleep. It is a time for spiritual alertness and vigilance and readiness and a time to get your priorities in place. It is a time to wake up.
Just out of curiosity I looked up the word "sleep" because I thought it would be kind of interesting to get a dictionary definition of it. The dictionary defines sleep as, "a state of inactivity with a loss of consciousness and a decrease in responsiveness to events taking place." Now that well describes some people listening to this sermon. And it well describes many Christians who are definitely in a state of inactivity with a loss of consciousness and a decrease in responsiveness to what is really happening. Someone said years ago, "Some people make things happen, some things watch things happen and most people don't know what's happening." They are spiritual Rip Van Winkles; they just sleep through it all. Not a time for that.
"For now is our salvation nearer than when we first believed,"
closer than ever to the return of Jesus Christ, closer than ever to the end of the age. This becomes an incentive to holy living, an incentive to ministry, an incentive to evangelism. Time to wake up.
Secondly, the command is to throw off, to throw off. Verse 12, end of the verse, "Let us therefore throw off, cast aside the deeds of darkness." Stop at that point.
Now if the dawn is breaking and it's nearer and it's coming and it's imminent and with it is the battle, then the soldier better get out of his pajamas. Put off, lay aside what? The deeds of darkness. What does that mean? Sins, basically, sins. You are children of light, it says in Ephesians 5:8, so walk as children of light and don't behave in a way that is characteristic of the darkness. First John 1:5, "God is light. In Him there is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth." We have no part with the darkness.
The idea here is of the soldier who has partied himself into oblivion and he's sound asleep and he's still in his party clothes or his night garment and it's now time to wake up and put off the clothes he wore in the wild orgy of the night. It's time to face the priority of what he is as a soldier and what awaits him in reality. It's a time to put aside the clothing of debauchery, no place for moral or spiritual slumber during the night of the world's sin. We have a specific task in the dawn of redemption; take off your pajamas, as it were, take off your party clothes, get serious. Put off the works of darkness.
What are they? Well he gives us some in verse 13, look at them: "Carousing and drunkenness, sexual promiscuity, sensuality, strife and jealousy." Carousing, kōmos, is just that, wild rioting. Originally that word apparently had reference to a group of friends who accompany a victor. Somebody won a race at the games and got his laurel wreath and all of his buddies came around and they just celebrated and whooped and hollered and danced their way along the street as they were celebrating his victory. It then came to mean a noisy group of street carousers, half-drunk people parading in the night through the town with torches and music and dancing in honor of Bacchus or some other deity, Bacchus the god of wine. It finally came to mean just drinking and sex parties, typical sins of the darkness. That's got no place in your life. Have nothing to do with that. Put that stuff out of your life. Get serious about holy things. The "putting off" is a cleansing act. It's repentance, it's purification, it's purging.
Secondly, he mentions drunkenness, which has the idea of a drinking bout. Soldiers, being the macho men that they are, no doubt wanted to compete with one another to see who could chug-a-lug the greatest volume and still be standing and thus they engaged in intentional drunkenness. But all drunkenness is an offense to God.
Then he says "put away sexual promiscuity," or immorality, literally koitē. The word means a bed. Put away going to bed illicitly; the forbidden bed, adultery, fornication, another typical pagan preoccupation. Put away sensuality. That's that word aselgeia, the word that means shamelessness where it's descriptive of the idea of a lustful greed, almost an animal appetite, a sheer self-indulgence in the passions of the flesh that is without any shame, without any remorse, no thought of decency, no thought of honor, no thought of reputation, flaunted debauchery, abandonment to senseless, shameless vice. Very often the word is translated lasciviousness; that's what it means.
And then he mentions two other things, strife, which has the idea of fighting, contending, a spirit of antagonistic competitiveness coming from the desire for singular power or prestige or prominence or possessions, an unwillingness to take second place, a lack of humility, unwilling to be a servant, a kind of an egomania. And, of course, with it comes its partner, jealousy, which is to envy someone else.
All these are the typical passions of the night. This is a representative list, not an exclusive one. They are the deeds of the darkness. They are motivated by the prince of the darkness. They are passions that violate and abuse God's purpose and intention for us to move toward righteousness. He didn't save us for this. Salvation didn't instruct us to be carousing drunks, sexually involved, sensually compelled, engaging in strife and jealousy. No, salvation instructed us to be godly and righteous, to live sensibly.
Through the night the soldiers in the classic military camp of Rome, knowing that there was battle the next day and they could die in it, I suppose gave themselves over to a wild party, sex and drinking, competing against one another. And as the hours before dawn have come, they have fallen into the deep sleep of drunkenness and now the bugle blows and it's time to wake up and understand what they're all about and it's time to throw off the filthy garments of the night of sin.
And there's a third component, "Put on." At the end of verse 12 it says, "Put on the armor of light," and then verse 13, "Behave properly as in the day." Put on your day clothes and act like you should act when everybody can see you. Put on the armor of light. Clothe yourselves. Light represents purity, light represents holiness, light represents righteousness, virtue. Seeing you know these things are coming to pass, Peter said, "What kind of person should you be in all godliness, holiness, righteousness?" Put on your hoplon, your armor. You're going into battle, this is serious. Put on the breastplate of righteousness, put on the helmet of the hope of salvation, put on the shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace, take the shield of faith, get the sword of the Spirit, get your armor on, you're about to do battle. Function, verse 13, walk becomingly as in the day. Conduct should be holy. Live like the spiritual soldier of God you are. Be properly adorned in holy array, in full view of everyone. Be the soldier you were saved to be and act like it.
And then, a most compelling statement of all in verse 14 describes what it means to put on the armor of light, "Put on the Lord Jesus Christ." Be like Him. Put Him on. He clothes you positionally. He clothes you in justification. Let Him clothe you...clothe you practically in sanctification. Become like Jesus Christ. Pursue that goal, that one thing I do that Paul said, pressing toward the mark which is Christ's likeness. We say we abide in Him, we ought to walk the way He walked, John said. Put on Christ. Beloved, that's the issue of the Christian life right there. Put on Christ. We've talked about it now for a number of weeks. We're living in the darkest part of the night which comes just before the dawn. We're nearer to Christ's return than anybody in human history has ever been. How near, only God knows. This is not a time to be fooling around with the sins of the night, this is a time to set them aside, establish your priorities and put on the Lord Jesus Christ. And then verse 14 says, "Make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lust." Don't respond at all to the flesh, no matter what it is, whether it's sexual passion or materialism, whatever it is, make no provision for it. This is not a time to be indulging one’s self in things which pander the flesh. This is a time for serious living. This is a time when dawn is coming, and dawn means judgment for us and for the ungodly. It's a time to put on Christ.
This is the answer. This is the consummate thing in Christian life. As you gaze into His glory and pour yourself into the Word of God and see Christ revealed, as you spend time with Him in prayer, He will transform you by His Holy Spirit into His own image and you'll be putting on the Lord Jesus Christ. That is how you will be the kind of believer who fulfills the law, which is the issue back in verses 8 to 10.
When Augustine, the great Christian thinker theologian, wrote his Confessions, he talked about the despair of his life. He was in heart distress, he says, because he couldn't live the way he wanted to live. And he kept crying out to God, "How long, how long, how long? Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, but why not now?" Like, "God, what is wrong, why can't I live the way I'm supposed to live?" He writes it when he was speaking and thinking and weeping like this. He was wracking his mind to find some solution to his dilemma. And he went and found a friend of his named Alypius, and he was sitting reading a part of Paul's writings. And in his distress Augustine snatched it out of his friend's hand. And his eyes fell on these words, "Let us not walk in revelry or drunkenness, in immorality or shamelessness, contention and strife," this very passage, "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts." He said then these words, "I neither wished nor needed to read further. With the end of that sentence, as though the light of assurance had poured into my heart, all the shades of doubt were scattered. I put my finger in the page and closed the book."
That was it. Put on Christ. Become like Christ. Let's bow in prayer.
Some years ago I wrote some words that I found again this week that expressed this thought in a poetic way. Let this be our prayer this morning.
"O to be like Thee, dear Jesus, my plea.
Just to know Thou art formed fully in me.
On with Thy beauty, Lord, off with my sin.
Fixed on Thy glory, Thy likeness to win.
Oh to be like Thee, Thine image display.
This is the Spirit's work day after day.
Glory to glory, transformed by His grace,
Till in Thy presence I stand face to face.
Oh to be like Thee, Thou lover of men,
Gracious and gentle, compassionate friend.
Merciful Savior such kindness and care
Are only mine when Thy likeness I share.
To be like Thee, Jesus, to be like Thee, Jesus,
For this I live, to this I'll die,
It is my hope, my prayer, my cry."
Father, this is our prayer that we might put on the Lord Jesus and make no provision for the flesh. May this people wake up, grip the priorities of spiritual life in light of the time in which we live. May they throw off the sin, the defiling garments of the night and put on Christ, and in His power bring many to righteousness and win great spiritual triumphs as Your soldiers. We'll thank You in the Savior's name. Amen.