Today my dad, Mike Cleveland, was preaching. Thus, I once again have the actual sermon:
First Scripture Reading: Colossians 3:12-16 12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
Let’s sing together.
Second Scripture Reading: Jonah 1:1-6: 1 Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” 3 But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. 4 But the LORD sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken up. 5 Then the mariners were afraid; and every man cried out to his god, and threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten the load. But Jonah had gone down into the lowest parts of the ship, had lain down, and was fast asleep. 6 So the captain came to him, and said to him, “What do you mean, sleeper? Arise, call on your God; perhaps your God will consider us, so that we may not perish.” Jonah 1:1-6 (NKJV)
Let’s pray together:
We’re in Romans chapter 13 this morning. By way of introduction, you may have heard of a man by the name of Augustine, one of the early church fathers. But did you know that before he became a believer he lived a life of impurity and drunkenness. One day he was walking along in a garden and he saw a book laying on the ground, he opened it up and began to read the first words that met his eye, Romans 13:11-14: “Not in drunkenness and lust…but put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” He said he felt immediately the power of those words, and resolved to turn from his lifestyle and become a follower of Christ. Later he went on to become a pastor and has greatly influenced the church ever since. That’s the power of God’s Word, and specifically of the very passage that we are studying today. We can have confidence that God will continue to convert people through His Word.
We finished up last time with the truth that “Love Fulfills the Law” and with God’s command that we love each other, now he says 11 And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. 12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. Romans 13:11-14
And here God tells us four things about our day’s work:
- When we are to wake up,
- How we are to dress,
- How we are to walk,
- What we are to make provision for.
So let’s look at our passage using those helps today: the first one is when we are to wake up. Vs. 11 says “Now it is high time to awake.” We heard when we were little, “it’s high time to get out of that bed.” He means to wake out of the sleep of sin. This is a call to urgency in living the Christian life. It’s as if God were saying to us, “Hurry, wake up, turn from sin and live for Jesus, for your eternity is almost here.” And so it’s a call to being fervent, and urgent and serious about the condition of our soul, and about matters of eternity, and about living for God and ministering. For our time is almost up!
This call is repeated several places in the Bible. Take just a minute and let’s look at a couple of Scriptures together, and see if you sense the urgency in each of these:
Ecclesiastes 9:10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.
2 Corinthians 6:2 “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.
James 4:14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. 7 funerals! Fog!
And 1 Peter 4:7 “But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers.”
There is an attitude that Paul is warning about in Romans 13, an attitude that “time goes on forever, and let’s just take life easy, eat-drink-be merry, I’ll repent tomorrow”, and this passage calls us to wake up. God says “it’s high time to wake up”—vs. 11.
Now it’s really important to understand that Paul is talking here to Christians, to believers, and that’s why he uses the analogy of sleeping vs. waking. If he were speaking to unbelievers he would use a different analogy, he would use dead and living. As unbelievers we are “dead in sins and trespasses”. Spiritual death is where someone has no interest in God or the Bible or church, or hearing sermons or repenting of sin or eternal life. They find life in things of this world, temporary things, things that are passing away (their jobs, their business, sports events, entertainment, etc). and God must supernaturally give them life and raise them up. Jesus says: “He who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” John 5:24 (NKJV)
But this is not the analogy that Paul uses, no he is speaking to believers, to Christians who already have life, but they are sleeping, taking life easy, living for themselves and missing opportunities of ministry…just floating downstream with the crowd, slumbering along. And so Paul says, “it is high time to wake up.” Is God possibly saying that to some of us here today? Is He saying to us today what the ships’ captain said to Jonah: “what do you mean, sleeper? Arise, call on your God.” Paul says it again in 1 Corinthians 15:34 “Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.”
And he gives us reasons to wake up in verses 11 and 12: “our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the Day is at hand.” He is talking about both the coming of Jesus from heaven, and the end of our lives in death, either way, we have but a few days remaining. Even if we have 40-60 years, they are but a vapor, a morning mist. It’s time to wake up and live for God and minister to people, and pray for the lost and witness. It’s now time to wake up.
Think about this: if we were truly awake to the times, and to our temporary condition, we should start our day saying “God, please keep me from sin, help me watch and pray. And please bring somebody that I can minister to today. Do you ever wake up and pray for opportunities to show the love of Jesus to somebody, to give the gospel to somebody. If you’ll pray for that every day, God will open many doors for you. It’s time to wake up.
Number 2, how are we to dress ourselves? Vs. 12 says, “Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.”
A.First, we must put off our night clothes, our clothes of darkness. Darkness is ignorance of God, secrecy in sin, unbelief and rebellion. It’s that sin that keeps coming back. Maybe nobody knows about it but we do and God does, and God says cast off the works of darkness. Rid our lives of them. God said the same thing in Isaiah 30: “You will throw them away as an unclean thing; You will say to them, “Get away!” Isaiah 30:22 “lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” James 1:21
B.Secondly, we are to put on our light clothes. Well this tells us something: it tells us that Christians are soldiers, we’re in the Lord’s army, and we have enemies all around us. The world, the flesh, the devil. And who would think of going into battle naked? We’d be ripped to pieces. We are to put on the armor of light, transparency, openness.
Well what is the Christian’s armor? What are we to put on? Well we can read about it in Ephesians chapter 6, the armor of God. But if you want to make it really simple, just compare the end of Romans 13 verse 12 with the beginning of verse 14. End of verse 12: “let us put on the armor of light”, beginning of vs. 14: “Let us put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Conclusion? Jesus is our armor. He is our Defense. He is our Shield and great Defender. Our armor. He protects us from the evil one so that we become more than conquerors through Him who loves us.
Think of this way: when we were unbelievers we had no protection. We were open and exposed to all the attacks of Satan, all the desires of our own flesh, we were sitting ducks. But then we heard the message of the cross, of the love of God, that we’ve been forgiven through Jesus’ death, and justified through His resurrection, and we turn from sin and receive Christ as Lord and Savior. Well now we have protection. We have armor. Psalm 119:114 You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word.
So we’ve seen when we are to awake, how we are to clothe ourselves, now let’s see how we are to walk. Vs. 13 makes it clear that we are to walk properly so as to please God with how we live. That means we are to walk honestly, decently, to be careful how we live. We are to “walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;” Colossians 1:10. Paul prayed that the Thessalonians would “walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” 1 Thessalonians 2:12 (NKJV)
And he tells us how we’re not to walk in vs. 13: “not in revelry and drunkenness (that means partying, using substances, etc.), not in lewdness and lust (that’s sexual impurity), not in strife and envy.” Notice how these go together. Partying leads to inappropriate behavior, which leads to conflict, strife and fighting, etc. They all go together.
You see the word picture that Paul paints for us here, is of a soldier who decides to take a night off and go to a party. And he begins drinking, has too much, and falls to the temptation of lewd behavior and commits sexual immorality. And now things are all out of sort for him and strife and contention arise, and he fights with people at the party, until he finally falls into a drunken stupor and sleeps the night away. And his commanding officer gets word of it, and he comes to him and says “wake up, the night is nearly gone, the day is here, put off your party clothes put on your armor man. Live right, you’re a soldier now act like it.
A believer in Jesus should avoid these things like the plague. Because:
5 You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. 1 Thessalonians 5:5-7 (NKJV)
So we’ve seen when we are to awake, how we are to dress, how we are to walk, and finally what are to make provision for.
Romans 13:14 …make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. This word “provision” means “forethought”. It has to do with keeping something handy in case we need it later. It’s keeping a bottle in the desk drawer in case we need it. It’s keeping access to impure content on the Internet because we use the Internet to do our work. That is making provision for our flesh, to fulfill the its’ lusts. Galatians 5:16 “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”
And we are told not make provision for the flesh, but instead to put on the Lord Jesus Christ. And this is one of the most beautiful teachings in all of Scripture. But it sounds rather strange doesn’t it? How do you put on a Person? Well this is actually a term used in theatres where the actor was to put on the clothing and assume the identity, of the one he was portraying. And so we are to take on the identity and the character of Jesus, to literally show Jesus to the world by the way we live so that when people look at us they see Christ. Think about these words, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”
There is a wonderful illustration of this, if you would look with me in the Book of Genesis chapter 3. After Adam and Eve sinned they discovered they were naked, and they ran from God and hid. Verse 7 says “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.” So they were awakened to their condition, and they went to work trying to cover themselves. Think of all the effort they went to to make those fig leaves, to try to cover their nakedness, and to make themselves fit for God’s presence.
And that’s what people have done for thousands of years. They become aware of the wrongs that they’ve done and they start working to cover over their sin and shame, so that by their own efforts they might make themselves acceptable to God. Isn’t that every other religion than Christianity? You keep certain laws, you reform your life, you do good works, and your sins will be covered and God will accept you. But Adam and Eve, that isn’t the way: “He who covers his sins will not prosper, But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.” Proverbs 28:13 (NKJV)
So notice what God did. After He stated their punishment (always consequences), in verse 21 it says, “Also for Adam and his wife the LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.” Where did the skins come from? God put to death a substitute, an animal, maybe a lamb in their place and covered them with the skins of that animal, and now they were wearing the sacrifice.
Can you imagine it? There’s guilty Adam and Eve, hiding over there in the bushes. They’ve tried to cover their nakedness, their sin and shame. But here comes the holy God, and they know He’d be right to put them to death immediately. But as He comes to them He begins to cover them with skins, and they are no longer naked. And I can imagine Adam saying “But God I’ve transgressed your commandment, I’ve turned my back on you, I and violated the terms of living.” And God says, “but my grace is sufficient for you, and I’ve now covered your sin and your shame.” And putting this humanly, when God looked at them now, He remembered that blood had been shed for their sin, and they were covered and acceptable in His sight now.
This is how someone becomes a Christian: he takes off the fig leaves of his own works that he was trusting in to cover himself, his own efforts, his own righteousness, and he puts his trust in God, and he puts on the Lord Jesus Christ as His righteousness, as that which makes Him acceptable to God. Isaiah 61:10 My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
But someone says, “I don’t deserve that covering, maybe it’s not for me, maybe it won’t fit. I’ve been doing the opposite of what this passage says to do: I’ve been sleeping my life away, I’ve done the deeds of darkness, have walked crooked not straight, and have made provision for my flesh. And God says again, “my grace is sufficient for you too” here, no matter what you have done, put on the Lord Jesus and you’ll be covered.
Charles Spurgeon said, “God accepts weary sinners, reprobates, profligates, harlots, robbers, thieves, adulterers, fornicators, drunkards, swearers because the Bible says “Whoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” Spurgeon’s Collected Sermons (Met. Tabern. Pul.) – –
In other words, when it comes to putting on the Lord Jesus, “one size fits all”, for whoever believes will have every sin forgiven, every crime cleared; every iniquity blotted out; will be saved in the Lord Jesus Christ, and will stand in heaven safe and secure. Just exactly like Jacob, who put on the clothing of his older brother, and received the blessing of the father.
But remember something: Romans 13 is not talking about putting on the Lord Jesus for salvation, Paul is writing to believers, those who have already put on Christ for salvation. What he is talking about is putting on the character of Christ, imitating His life, showing Jesus to others. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ as to His thoughts and His ways. As Jesus was kind and loving, so we are to be kind and loving. As Jesus was humble and meek, so we are to be humble and meek. As Jesus spoke the truth powerfully, so we are to speak the truth at all times to each other. How do we put on the Lord Jesus as Christians:
Colossians 3:12-14 12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.
You are Loved!