Living with the End in View
Romans 13:11-14 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.
Today is the beginning of the Season of Advent. For the next four Sundays we will prepare for Christmas by preparing to meet the Lord on the last day. Jesus once came in humility to save the world. On the last day He will come in glory. Those who have been saved by faith will continue to reign with Him in eternity. Those who have denied Him will be cast out forever.
I. These are the last times - Repent
In many places the Bible teaches that this world is coming to and end. This end of all that God created will be as spectacular as its beginning. Listen to Peterís words for one example: "Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?"1 Jesus compares the last times to the days of Noah when men were eating, drinking, marrying, and being given in marriage.2 His great concern is that people will be living without faith, carrying on with all the normal activities of life without trust in God. Paul also warns against this and bids all to wake up: "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."
Consider your life before you became a Christian. Consider your life when you, in a season of neglect, forget that you are a Christian! How does the day go? Morning comes. You awake from slumber and prepare for the day. There is no recognition of God, no prayer, no opening of Scripture. Breakfast is eaten; the paper is perused, and youíre off to work. Before noon youíve taken Godís name in vain a half of a dozen times. By afternoon youíve passed on some ugly gossip, youíve harbored hateful feelings for a family member, co-worker, or boss. On the way home you stop for gas and purchase five dollars worth of lottery tickets. Winning the lottery seems to be your only real hope in life. At the supper table you enjoy your meal without a thought of God. Evening comes and you scan the channels for something edifying to watch-- hereís some gratuitous violence, thereís some adultery and greed-- but thatís what everyone watches. Perhaps an alcoholic drink or a sleeping pill brings you a little relaxation and peace before you stumble off to bed. Passing thoughts come before sleep-- "I hope I can get to sleep soon... Iíve got a busy day tomorrow." Sixteen hours of life pass--no thought for God.
Do you think many people will be surprised on the last day? Jesus most certainly says so. Therefore throughout the Bible God gives us the opportunity now to repent, to receive Him by grace, to be ready for His final approach. There is going to be no new prophet like John the Baptist to lead us. There is not going to be another Nehemiah to rebuild the city of Jerusalem. Now is the time to repent of the godless life and to live under the mercy of God, who sent His Son Jesus to suffer death for us to forgive us of all our sins.
II. Put on the armor of light.
This is a beautiful opportunity. The world without God is dark and threatening. It is empty and going no where. That is why God long ago said to His own chosen people: "O house of Jacob come and let us walk in the light of the LORD... He will teach us His ways... The word of the LORD (shall come) from Jerusalem."3 Godís summons is not simply a call to straighten up-- as though we could by ourselves improve our life. That would never do. God is not interested in improvement. He wants a casting off of the works of darkness altogether. This can only happen when we submit to the light of Godís word.
This light exposes us. That is why adult sinners are hesitant to come into its shining brilliance. But what they really need to know is that it doesnít just expose our sin. Godís word truly expunges our sin. "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it."4 The light of Godís word repels sin from us. The physician places his or her implements in a sanitizing device that irradiates and rids them of any bacteria. Today cancer is sometimes destroyed using the power of radiation, which is a special kind of light. The laser has become a tool to repair even the flaws in the eye which is one of the most sensitive of all organs. Thus Godís word also is a healing, restoring power. Even as God called all things into existence through His word, so He also speaks His words with power to cleanse the heart, "Son, be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee."5
This is the basic Christian message: Wake up, repent, and be saved from your sins. But there is more to hear, especially as we regard the perils of these end-times.
III. Continue walking in the light.
Satan does not give up on the converted. He knows his own power of deceit to tempt the believer and potentially lead them away from Christ. This is why Paul urges us to move forward in Godís grace. I must admit that there was a time in my life when I sat at the edge of the kingdom. I knew I was saved. I knew that if I died I would go to heaven. But I also knew that God wanted more of me. I sat at the edge of the kingdom looking back on the world, wishing somehow I could have the best of both. I wondered as some of you probably have, "How bad can I be and still go to heaven?" The Holy Spirit understands this danger, He understands the weaknesses and temptations we have, and therefore He urges us on. With end-time troubles all around us it is not good to dabble with one foot in the kingdom and another in the world.
At first Paul is speaking generally, "Wake up... put on the armor of light." The unconverted have one great sin to be conquered in their lives: Godlessness. But now he gets specific. The believer continues to wage war against any number of potential sins. Paul lays out a list of sins that the Christian should avoid. This list presents three temptations with a pair of words each. It is meant to be an example of the challenges to our faith. "Revelry" and "drunkenness" might be interpreted in modern parlance with one word "party." "Lewdness" and "lust" refer to sexual immorality. Finally "strife" and "envy" refer to the selfishness of human nature that seeks its own-- the kind of attitude that creates a wake of turmoil throughout the course of life. You may not struggle with all of these at once, but Iím sure they represent problem areas in all of our lives in one way or another. How do we know when we are really sinning in these areas? It is precisely this difficulty that Satan loves to exploit. We know that all "partying" is not necessarily wrong. We know that drinking alcohol is not always a sin. When are my thoughts and words about the other sex sinful? God created us male and female and said it was good. And if I am a little pushy about some things isnít that what God desires? Shouldnít I push for those things that are good and profitable?
IV. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ
Here is where the wisdom faith comes to guide us. Paul says, "Let us walk properly, as in the day..." The word "properly" can also be translated "honestly." So he tells us to take an honest look at all our activities. Consider them, he says, in the light of putting on the Lord Jesus Christ. That is, you know when partying is not appropriate because you would be ashamed to have Christ there with you. You know when sensual pleasures are wrong because Christ would not approve those which are outside of marriage and outside of true love that puts others first. You know when your motives and agenda are contrary to Jesusí command "whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them."6
This putting on of Christ is not some additional law or effort which we must make. It is the result of our salvation. In Galatians 3.27 Paul says, "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." The same power of God to forgive sins in Jesus is also the power God gives us in Jesus to resist sin and temptation. At our baptism we were connected to Christ. In life we are privileged to remember "whose we are" in Christ.
There is an old tradition related to this "putting on the Lord Jesus Christ" and baptism. At baptism the pastor makes the sign of the cross both upon the forehead and upon the breast "in token that you are redeemed by Christ the crucified." The sign of the cross is the first and simplest outward reminder of the promise that has been given to us in baptism. We have put on Christ. We put on His grace, His love, His virtues, and His righteousness.
Listen to Lutherís words about this important reminder of "whose we are." Luther writes in the Small Catechism "How the Head of the Family Should Teach His Household to Pray Morning and Evening... In the morning when you get up, make the sign of the holy cross and say: ĎIn the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.í Then, kneeling or standing, repeat the Creed and the Lordís Prayer. If you choose, you may also say this little prayer: ĎI thank You, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray that You would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please You. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.í Then go joyfully to your work, singing a hymn, like that of the Ten Commandments, or whatever your devotion may suggest." He offers a similar pattern of prayer for the evening. Thus morning and evening the Christianís life is connected to Christ. This is the gift and the power from God to resist Satanís temptations. This is how God wants and enables us to live in these difficult end-times.
O Lord, in these end-times we thank You for Jesus, for His redemption and for the armor of light that He is for us. We pray defend us against all danger and guard and protect us from all evil. Amen.
(1) 2 Peter 3.11 (2) Matthew 24.38 (3) Isaiah 2.3,5 (4) John 1.5 (5) Matthew 9.2 (6) Matthew 7.12
Pastor Michael P. Walther
The First Sunday in Advent, November 28, 2004
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 1300 Belt Line Road, Collinsville, Illinois, 62234
618-344-3151 / fax 618-344-3378
Michael P. Walther, Copyright, 2004
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