Besides this you know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed;
the night is far gone, the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light;
let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy.
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (RSV)
Theme: Christ's day is dawning, so live as in the light.
Read: Romans 13:8-14; 1 John 1:1-2:11
Text: Romans 13:11-14
Songs: (from Book of Praise, Ango-Genevan Psalter)
Ps 91:1,2 (opening)
Ps 10:2,3,6 (after law)
Ps 42:5,7 (after offertory)
Ps 139:6,13 (after sermon)
Hy 15:1,3,4 (closing)
Date: Preached by Rev. Richard Pot, October 18, 1997
Location: Canadian Reformed Church of Orangeville, Ontario
Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,
"Would you do that if you knew the Lord Jesus was coming back tonight?" That question is probably a familiar one to many of you. Perhaps it's something you've heard from Dad and Mum's lips when you asked them "Can I go to watch this movie? or: Is it wrong to go to the bar? Is it wrong for a Christian to go here? How about doing this or that - is it wrong for me as a Christian to do that? What's wrong with it?" And then, perhaps you've had it too, the answer comes in the form of a question "Would you do that if you knew the Lord Jesus was coming back tonight? Imagine that Christ returned when you were at that place, or doing this activity, would he be pleased?"
Now what do we think about that question? Is it helpful? Is it Scriptural? See, what we're concerned with here is the matter of Christian lifestyle. How must you and I live as a Christian? In what ways must you and I be different from those around us in the world? What about this activity, what about this place - what can help me in deciding whether or not I should do this, whether or not I should go here? The matter of Christian lifestyle.
In our text, the apostle Paul is also concerned with the matter of Christian lifestyle. In the preceding chapters, from chapter 12:1 onwards, he's very much concerned with Christian lifestyle. He speaks about using your gifts in the church, he mentions praying, giving to the poor, practicing hospitality, living in harmony with one another, not taking revenge, obeying the government, even mentions paying your taxes, he speaks about showing love to one another. This is how a Christian must live. Christian lifestyle.
Then we come to our text. And in our text, Paul makes the matter of living a Christian lifestyle all the more urgent. "Besides this," he writes "you know what hour it is." "Besides this..." In other words, says Paul, this is how you should live, you should live a Christian lifestyle, especially because of the fact that Christ is returning. Christ's return should have an effect on the way you live. "The day of Christ's return is sure, says Paul in our text, it's soon, it's certain, and what you have to do is live as if He has returned. That day is coming: live as if it is already day already! Live in the light of eternity, live in the light of Christ's return.
That's how Paul approaches the matter of Christian lifestyle, and so I proclaim to you God's word under the theme:
Christ's day is dawning, so live as in the light.
1. Wake up!
2. Clean up!
3. Dress up!
1. Wake up!
"What's the time?" If somebody stops you on the street or on the mall, and asks you that, you can be sure of one thing. They don't know what the time is. "What's the time?" "Oh, you don't know what the time is? - well this is what time it is. "
That's a question that our text raises as well. 'What's the time?" You know the time, writes Paul. You know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep. You know what time it is. "What time is it?" As Christians walking down the streets of life, you should never be the one stopping others, and asking "Excuse me, what's the time?" No, you don't need to do that because you know the time. You know the time, because God has told you that in His Word.
What's the time? Well, you know that it's high time to wake up. It's not time for sleeping, it's time for waking up. Look, it's nearly day time. Yes, it's still dark, and the alarm-clock hasn't gone yet, but the night is nearly over. The darkness will soon give way to light, the sun is about to rise on a brand new day. And because the day is nearly dawning, you'd better wake up.
As believers, then, we must know the time. And we do. We know that this age is about to end, the age of sin and misery and bondage to evil will soon be over. That Christ will come, and so a new era, a new time will begin in which we will reign with Him. Although we still live in a time a darkness, a new day is dawning.
Now that's all very true. But it means, of course, that the present time, is a time of darkness. It's not day yet. It's still night. The night is far gone, writes Paul - but that means that it's still night time. But what does that mean, that it's a time of darkness, a time of night?
Even today we sometimes speak about someone having a dark history. Or a dark past. And by that we mean that in this person's past there are dark things, there are bad things which aren't too flattering for the person concerned. And we can also speak about a "dark day" in history, a day in which terrible or bad things happened.
Now if there ever was a dark day in the history of mankind, it was that day described in Genesis 3. The day of the fall of mankind. There was man, that highest creature in God's creation. That one about whom God had also said "It was very good." And then from this beautiful state, this state of perfection and glory, man plunged himself and the whole human race into sin and misery. In describing that dark day, the Canons of Dort says that man "deprived himself of these excellent gifts, and instead brought upon himself blindness, horrible darkness, vanity, and perverseness of judgment in his mind; malice, rebelliousness, and stubbornness in his will and heart; and impurity in all his affections" (COD3/4:1). blindness, horrible darkness. Similar is the Belgic Confession: "Since man became wicked and perverse, corrupt in all his ways, he has lost his excellent gifts which he had once received from God...For whatever light is in us has changed into darkness, as Scripture teaches, `The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it;' where the apostle John calls mankind darkness." (BCF14).
What's the time? It is night-time, it's a time of darkness. The sun may be shining outside, but in terms of world history, it is night. So even now it is a time of night, of darkness. You want proof? You can see the night-life all around you. And be sure: this nightlife is ugly, it's unpleasant. For we live in a time of sin and wickedness. Even Job saw this ever so clearly, when he said "The murderer rises in the dark, that he may kill the poor and needy; and in the night he is as a thief. The eye of the adulterer also waits for the twilight, saying, 'No eye will see me'; and he disguises his face. In the dark they dig through houses; by day they shut themselves up; they do not know the light." Yes, ever since that dark day in the history of mankind, ever since the fall into sin, it has been night. Mankind became a man of darkness, a man of the night. Murder and theft, adultery and abuse. And you don't need to go to Yonge St in Toronto at 2 in the morning to find this kind of nightlife. No, you can find it in Orangeville too. In fact, you can find it in your own heart. Hate and hurt, envy and lust. No wonder, no wonder at the very height of wickedness and sin, when the Lord Jesus Christ was betrayed by his own disciple Judas, the Bible records this: "So, after receiving the morsel, he immediately went out; and it was night (Jn 13:30)." Yes, how fitting. How fitting that as Judas goes out to do his dirty work, "it was night." How fitting, that when our Savior was about to be betrayed, it was night. And yes, how fitting, too, that as our Saviour bore in body and soul the wrath of God against the sin of the whole human race, on the cross, it was dark. Writes Mark: "And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour." And that same darkness, that same night casts its dark shadows over our lives too, yes we see it when I look in the mirror of God's law, then I see myself there in that mirror, a horrible black, yes darkness in my heart.
But there is hope! For just as God created light, and separated it from the darkness in the beginning of time, so in His work of re-creation, God brings light to the darkness. Yes, for God is light, and in him is no darkness at all (1Jn 1:5). And so our Lord Jesus Christ came into the world, proclaiming "I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness." Christ is the light of the world. And so he came to bring us out of darkness, into the light. (Lk 1:79) "I am the light of the world;" says Christ "he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (Jn 8:12). Christ has come, yes, he has opened our eyes, he has turned us from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God, so that we may receive forgiveness of sins! (Acts 26:18). Writes Peter: "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." (1Pet 2:9). Yes, in Christ there is salvation, the power of the night is over, there is light in the darkness.
But there is more. Christ is coming once again! The day of his coming is sure, it is soon. "The night is far gone, the day is at hand" says our text. "Salvation is nearer to us than when we first believed." That means, the day of salvation is coming. Yes, in Christ we have salvation, but the day of full salvation, of the salvation of our bodies, the day of the salvation of the entire creation, that full salvation is still to come (Heb 9:28; 1Pet 1:5). In fact, the day is at hand, that is, it is next on the agenda. No, we don't know when Christ will return. The Son of Man in his humiliation on earth didn't know that either. But we do know this: He is coming, and it's the next thing on the agenda. The next great act of God in history will be the return of Christ. We don't have to wait for any other special redemptive events first, for Christmas, for Easter, for Ascension Day, for Pentecost, not even for a Rapture or tribulation as some evangelicals would have us believe. Christ has come and reigns as King, and He will return. It's the next thing on the agenda.
What's the time? You know the time, congregation. Yes, it's night-time, but you also know this: The night is far gone! The day is at hand! As we read in 1 John 2:8 "the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining." The day of Christ's return is dawning!
Yes, the day is dawning. And if we know the time, then it has consequences for our life. Yes, also for our Christian lifestyle. For if the day is dawning, then we must wake up! We must not be like those five foolish maidens, slumbering, sleeping, not ready for the arrival of the bridegroom (Mt 25:5 cf Mk 13:35). There's no time for snoozing. There's no time for sleeping. There's no time for living in darkness either, for enjoying the night-life. No, we are children of the day, we must be wake up. Writes Peter "The end of all things is at hand; therefore keep sane and sober for your prayers." (1Pet 4:7) Wake up! We live in the last stage of history. We know the time, it's nearly day time, and so we must wake up! We must live as in the day.
2. Clean up!
Now that we're awake, we must clean up. For if we belong to the day and not to the night, then we don't want to be found wearing night clothes! Not pyjamas, not clothes soaked with beer, not that skimpy bar outfit either! No, if it is nearly day time, if we must conduct ourselves becomingly, as in the day, then we don't want to be found asleep. We don't want to be found doing deeds of darkness.
Yes unbelievers think it will always be night. The night just rolls on, and they think it's going to keep on going. And so they enjoy it! They're right there in the night-life, delighting in all kinds of sins and wickedness, getting drunk out of their minds - but hey, it's dark isn't it? But those are the unbelievers - how can you be the same? Imagine. It's night time. The drunks are rolling home, driving crazily down Broadway, slurring drunken songs, with piles of empty beer cans rolling around in the back of the pickup. There's an immoral party in high gear in the basement, the music is cranked, and every so often a few couples disappear in search of forbidden pleasures. In another part of the house, someone is snoring away, enjoying the darkness, enjoying the night. Yes, these are all under the illusion, the wrong idea that the night will last forever.
But it is, it is an illusion. These people are in for a surprise when the day breaks. The darkness hides things. As long as it is night and decent people are asleep, their visits to bars, their deeds of darkness aren't really known. But woe to them when the light surprises them. Then their deeds are plain for all to see.
And that's why there's someone in the house who knows differently. He knows that the day is coming, that it will come sooner than anyone dares to believe. For, at the very moment when the day breaks, the king will come. And so this person does not join in the drunken riot, nor does he remain in bed. He gets up, in order to be ready for the king's coming. He cleans up, he gets rid of those filthy clothes which he was wearing, he does not want to be dressed in dirty garments when the king comes. When the day dawns. No way. And so he cleans up. He gets up, he gets ready, he cleans up, although everyone else is doing shameful deeds under the cover of darkness. In the words of our text: He casts off the works of darkness.
Well, what does that mean in practice? Well, it means that we must clean up! Those dirty clothes, those filthy garments which we were wearing when we were conceived and born, we must throw them out! That old nature, with its works of darkness, we must fight against it, we must resist it.
We must conduct ourselves becomingly, as in the day. That means that we must do nothing of which we might be ashamed. See it's easy to do things in the dark. All sorts of crimes get committed in the dark. All sorts of secret sins get committed in the dark, in private, sexual sins, sins against our body, sins against our mind. No-one will know. No one will know if we go a little too far as unmarried couple. No-one will know if we have a few too many beers, have a bit of a wild time - at least, our parents won't get to know about it. No one will know if I diddle the figures on my income tax return. No one will know if I stab my neighbour in the back while everyone is looking the other way. No one will know my secret thoughts of lust. Of hate. And you can add to this list for yourself. There may be things that you do that nobody else knows about. Not your parents. Maybe not your friends. But things that you know are not pleasing to the Lord. But then Paul says "let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day". Live as in the day! Do nothing of which you might be ashamed. Live lives of openness, where everything we do is obviously right and true. Yes the days are dark, but let's not hide under the cover of darkness. Let's do nothing of which we would be ashamed of if the daylight suddenly shine on the scene - as it will when Christ comes, and all will be obvious. Yes, throw off those filthy clothes, those clothes of darkness, those clothes of the night, yes: clean up!
And then Paul's not afraid to give some examples. Today it's not popular to say "don't do this or that." But even in an age of "dos" rather than "don'ts", Paul is not afraid to give some do nots. "Not in reveling and drunkenness." Yes, the Gentiles were known for their wild drinking parties, but then Paul says to the believers: Not you. Clean up. Then we shouldn't feel too comfortable about having a few too many. Then we should begin to squirm if we have no qualms about not being sober. For then the word of God comes also to us: Clean up! Take off those filthy clothes - you've been called out of darkness into the light. Cut out that kind of night-life, and live as in the light. Next Paul mentions "not in debauchery and licentiousness." Here we must think of all kinds of sexual immorality. And lets not think that such things don't happen in the church. Yes, we've been called out of darkness, but that doesn't mean we don't have to struggle against the darkness. Yes, anything you do in secret, even under the cover of darkness, anything displeasing to the Lord - imagine you were doing it in the light: live as in the light! And we're not just talking about actions here, but also about the things we say. Yes, even the things we think. Then the word of God comes also to us: Clean up! Take off those filthy clothes. Paul mentions also "quarreling and jealousy." Yes, even things such as jealousy and envy, the green sickness, matters of the heart, must be resisted. And these things can also be found in the church. And we shouldn't be surprised about that. No we shouldn't. Yes in Christ we are called saints, but we are saints who are sinners. And so each and every one of us must fight against the darkness, we must live as in the light. To each of us, the word of God comes also to us: Clean up! Take off those filthy clothes.
"Make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." See, we're not only to take off those filthy clothes, but we're to stay far away from them. If you place yourself in a place or activity where you can admire those old clothes, yes even the filthy ones you've just tossed away, then you're making life awfully difficult for yourself. Don't do that, says Paul. Don't get yourself into positions where you're making easy for the darkness, making it easy for yourself to be led into temptation. "Make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." That means, that if you find that going to a bar leads you into bad situations, situations that make it easy for you to sin, then God's Word warns you not to go there. If you find that hanging around with a particular crowd of people leads you into bad situations, situations that make it easy for you to sin, then God's Word warns you to to hang around with them. If you find that spending time alone in certain places leads you into bad situations, situations that make it easy for you to sin, then God's Word warns you not to go there.
Clean up! Let us cast off the works of darkness, let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day. Yes, live openly, and do not be afraid of the light. Writes John "For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God (Jn 3:20-21). Writes Paul also: "Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them" (Eph 5:11).
For the day is dawning. No Christ's day has not yet come, but when it comes it will be bright, and then all the works of darkness will be clear for everyone to see. But already that day throws its light backwards onto our lives. And so we must live in that light.
3. Dress up!
Yet we must not only clean up, we must also dress up. For when we rip off those dirty clothes, then we'll need clean clothes to put on. And Paul makes it clear what we must put on. For we must not dig into the closet and come out with any of those filthy garments again. No, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, he writes. We could also translate that as: clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ. Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, by grace Christ Himself clothes us with His righteousness (Gal 3:27). We're dressed with white robes, as redeemed believers in Christ and so justified in the presence of God. No filthy rags.
But at the same time, we're also called to clothe ourselves with Christ. See, it's a command here. We have to do that. And so we must. For the day is dawning, and so we must put clean clothes on. We must put on the new nature. Paul writes about that in Colossians 3, where he instructs us "clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another ... forgiving each other." That's how we clothe ourselves with Christ. For then others can see what we wear. Other people should notice that - yes not notice first of all whether or not we're wearing brand-name clothes, but notice first of all that we're clothed with Christ. "Hey, this person is different. They live differently - notice that? They don't live in darkness, they live as in the light." Yes, brothers and sisters, clothe yourselves with Christ, who is the light of the world, for you've been called out of darkness into the light. Writes Paul: "For once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light." (Eph 5:8).
And it won't be easy. No it won't. And that's why Paul also speaks about being clothed with Christ as "putting on the armor of light." Armor. Yes, we read correctly. Armor. Soldiers wear armor. There's a war going on here. For we are called to give witness to the light, to fight against the darkness.
What's the Christian lifestyle about? It's about living in the light of eternity, in the light of Christ's return. And then we can ask "Would you do that if knew the Lord Jesus was coming back tonight?" But you can also ask yourself this: "You know the time, the day is dawning: Are you living as in the light? Are you awake, have you cleaned up, have you dressed up? Or are you living in the darkness? Are you wearing filthy clothes, are you enjoying the nightlife? Or are you perhaps sleeping, waiting to hit the snooze button a few times first. Wake up - later maybe, let me sleep a little longer, let me first enjoy the night-life.
But we're called to awake. To clean up. To dress up. And so we obey. For see, the night is nearly over. Christ's day is dawning. The day is at hand. Christ has come and made it sure, he has called us out of darkness with him. And so we follow. Wake up. Clean up. Dress up. For you must, you must live as in the light. Christ's day is dawning - so live as in the light.
For yes, that day will be a day of light, and then it will be light forever. We read in Revelation: "And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light shall the nations walk; and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory into it, and its gates shall never be shut by day--and there shall be no night there." (Rev 21:23-25; cf Isa 60:19-20) Yes when Christ comes, when the day dawns, we'll be living in the light eternally. We'd better get used to it.