Let me invite you to take your copy of God’s Word and turn with me to Romans 13. This is the last week we’ll be in Romans 13 (I promise). In fact, we’re finally moving into the 4th quarter in this sermon series from the Book of Romans. The guys will appreciate this (ladies, maybe not so much). When college football players get to the beginning of the 4th quarter they all raise their hands in the air signaling the number four with their fingers. Everybody signal the 4th quarter, this morning. Go ahead, everybody’s doing it.
I don’t think it would be a stretch for me to say that we live in a fallen world today, right? It seems like every year, every month, every day the boundaries get pushed a little bit further and further out. The crimes become a little bit more shocking. The headlines seem to be more and more depressing. And that moral line that so many of us grew up with gets a little bit more blurred.
All around us, we have reminders that Jesus is setting the scene for His return. All you have to do is take a look at the news headlines of 2020. You have the COVID-19 pandemic, riots, hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires abound, and there’s significant movement of nations coming into alignment in the Middle East.
Let me tell you something. This might not be the message you wanted to hear this morning. This might not be the message of hope that you were expecting to get. But it’s only going to get worse. It’s not going to get better. The headlines are only getting more depressing. Violence is only going to increase. The moral line is just going to continue to get blurred. The outcome, the scenario for where our world is headed isn’t up. It’s further down. It’s just going to get worse, which makes today’s message all the more difficult.
I read an online article this week titled Young Adults Struggle with Morality. And it said this, “A nationwide survey by The Barna Group indicates that Americans have redefined what it means to do the right thing within their own lives.” The article continued by saying that researchers asked adults which, if any, of eight behaviors with moral overtones they’d engaged in during the past week. And a majority of adults had engaged in at least one of these eight behaviors during the past week.
And here’s some of the findings from their poll. 65% admitted to using profanity in public. 38% had engaged in sex outside of marriage. 37% had lied. 33% admitted to intentional exposure to pornography. 25% had gotten drunk.
The article concluded by saying, “We are witnessing the development and acceptance of a new moral code in America. Millennials have had little exposure to traditional moral teaching and limited accountability for such behavior. The moral code began to disintegrate when the generation before them – the Baby Busters – pushed the limits that had been challenged by their parents – the Baby Boomers. The result is that without much fanfare or visible leadership, the US has created a moral system based on convenience, feelings, and selfishness.
The consistent deterioration of the Bible as the source of moral truth has led to a nation where people have become independent judges of right and wrong, basing their choices on feelings and circumstances. It is not likely that America will ever return to a moral traditional code until the nation experiences significant pain from its moral choices.”
But despite all of that, you know what’s incredible? God still loves you. God still cares for you. God still wants a relationship with you. God sought you out when you were far from Him. God wanted you when you wanted nothing to do with Him. God desires a relationship with you in spite of all the bad things you’ve done, in spite of your natural state. Romans 13:11-14 is God’s wake-up call. It’s a wake-up call to the church, to humanity, and to America.
We’ve all been on vacation somewhere or stayed in a hotel and asked the front desk to give us a wake-up call, right? It’s such a convenient feature. You can have them call you. And they’ll wake you up. If you spent any time in the military, they’ll give you a free wake-up call too. Unfortunately, that one doesn’t come with a snooze button or a roll-over-and-they’ll-call-me-again in 15 minutes feature. Sometimes, when the wake-up call comes or Reveille is played it’s disorienting. It’s jarring. Because you’re still sleepy. You’re still tired. You’ve lost track of where you are.
Well, the same is true in the church. There are a lot of Christians who are sleeping. And when that wake-up call comes, when God tries to get our attention, and we start to wake up, it’s disorienting. It’s jarring. It’s confronting upon our senses. But what should our response be to the fact that Jesus could come at any moment?
If we’re asleep and there’s a wake-up call that’s about to come, what should our response be? Well, some people get so excited about the fact that Christ is going to return, they disregard all responsibilities. And they simply wait for His return to get them out of the mess that they’re in. They just give up. They say, “Man, the world is so messed up. The world is so beyond repair. It can’t be saved. So, I’m just going to give up. I’m just going to hide my head in the sand. I’m just going to sit passively by and wait for it all to go to hell (literally) so I can go to heaven.”
Other believers are secure in their eternal destiny and they’re simply biding their time. And yet, the Scripture teaches that there are definite responsibilities that we have to attend to in light of the coming of the Lord. There are certain dangers that we need to be careful of. And there are certain things that we need to actively do.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.” Our breath, our lives are in God’s hands. Our lives are not our own. They’re on loan. They’re temporary. And guess what? They’re fading quickly. (Like I’m telling you anything you don’t already know…)
And when God gives this life to us, He gives it to us with the intent that we would invest it. We’re called to bring heaven to earth. We need to preach the gospel. We need to care for widows and orphans. We need to feed those without food. We need to house the homeless. We need to reach out in love to the refugee and the immigrant, to protect those who can’t protect themselves. This isn’t the government’s job. This is the Christians’ job – the Church’s job – to care for our neighbors, or cities, or state and our nation.
And Romans 13 gives us some instruction for what we’re supposed to be doing in these final days. Assuming 2020 is one of those birth pains the Scripture tells us about, and assuming this is God’s wake-up call to the church, we’re going to see three things in this text that God wants. He wants us to get up. He wants us to get out. And He wants us to get going.
Follow along with me as I read Romans 13:11-14, “11 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”
The first call we see is to get up. Look at verse 11 again with me. Paul says, “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep.” Keep in mind this text is addressed to believers. We need to get up. A spiritual alarm is being sounded. A bell is being rung across the globe to every believer in every single church. This is a wake-up call. The time has arrived. It’s time that we get up.
Let me ask you, what are the traits you look for in a good alarm clock? Do you look for one that’s really quiet and doesn’t make a lot of noise? (If you don’t want to wake up, that’s what you look for.) No, the traits of a good alarm clock are that it’s loud enough to wake you up, and strong enough to survive being pushed onto the floor or thrown across the room.
You don’t want one that’s like, “(Beep, beep, beep, softly) Hey, it’s time to get up. If you want to wake up, there’s some things you need to do today.” No, you want one that says, “(Honk, loudly) Get up! Wake up! It’s time to get to work. There’s a lot to do today. Stop being lazy.” But a lot of us are just content to hit snooze. Keep it going. Keep the sleep going.
There’s this game that Melissa and I used play in the morning. Do you remember having to wake your kids up? Something weird happens. When our kids are really young they want to wake us up super early. But as they get older, they never want to wake up. See if this doesn’t sound familiar.
We used to come in really nice and knock on their door and say, “Jordan… Parker…, it’s time to wake up. We gotta get ready for school.” And usually, their response was silence or roll over and put the pillow over their heads. Well, this game progresses. And over the next 15 to 30 minutes, it progresses a little bit more urgently with each call. Finally, it ends with, “Parker! Get out of bed! School is in 10 minutes!”
God’s call to the Church is increasing in urgency. The time is at hand. God has been calling us for a long time. And His voice has gotten louder. And He’s letting us know it’s almost time. You need to get up. 1 Corinthians 15:34 says, “Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning.” Ephesians 5:14 says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” We need to wake up from our spiritual sleep. We need to wake up from laziness. We need to wake up from apathy. We need to wake up to the urgency of the days in which we live.
Do you realize the urgency of the days in which we live? Do you realize that God has placed a call upon your life? Do you realize that God has put you where you are for such a time as this? The lateness of the time… The soon coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ… It’s urgent.
Paul writes something very similar in 1 Thessalonians 5 concerning the coming of the Lord. He says, “So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:6-11).
Folks, many believers are asleep today when they should be awake. Many believers in this church are asleep. You may be Christians. Don’t get me wrong. You’re going to heaven. Your salvation is secured. But you’re sleeping when you should be rising. We have to realize the urgency of the times.
Let me ask you, are you living your life as though you were asleep? Are you secure in your salvation? Do you know that you’re going to heaven but are you just kind of hiding your head in the ground? Are you just biding your time until the Lord returns? Do you have perspective that, “Well, the world is too far gone anyway? So, I might as well just sit back and wait for God to come back. He’ll sort it all out.”
Or are you doing what your Master told you to do? Are you investing yourself for God’s return? Maybe God has been whispering to you. Maybe you’re asleep and God has been calling you. And He’s been saying very gently, “Get up. It’s time to wake up. It’s time to get moving. I’ve got a plan for you. I’ve prepared something for you. I want you to do something. I want you to achieve something.”
And maybe up until now, you’ve just been rolling over in bed and putting your pillow over your head and saying, “Don’t talk to me, God. I’m trying to sleep. I’m too tired. I don’t have the energy to do what you want me to do. I don’t have the capacity. I don’t have the strength. I don’t have the knowledge. I just need to sleep.” And perhaps that voice has gotten louder and louder and louder. And maybe today is your wake-up call. Maybe the Holy Spirit is preparing you to get up.
Look at verse 12, again. Paul says, “The night is far gone…” What Paul is referring to here is the time until Christ’s return. Now, if the night was far gone when Paul wrote this, how much more so is it today? How much closer is God’s return, do you think? I don’t think we have to look that far. Again, just looking at the headlines. World economics are changing. Crime and violence are almost beyond control. Local governments are throwing in the towel. Cities around our country are bankrupt in every conceivable way: education, finance, morals… Natural disasters are increasing. Just in the last 20 years (2000-2020), there have been more than twice as many natural disasters than the previous 100 years.
In Luke 21:28, Jesus told His disciples, “When these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” I think these signs began a long time ago. Some of us didn’t look at them. We refused to acknowledge them. But I think now the alarm is ringing. And I think it’s time for us to look up because the Lord is coming. And we are to be about His business.
Our second point is that we need to get out. Specifically, we need to get out of our sin. Look at verses 12-13 again. Paul continues, “Therefore, let us cast off the works of darkness. And let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy…” (NKJV)
The phrase “cast off” is a Greek word that literally means to fling away as though it were an unclean thing. We recently acquired another dog (to my chagrin). Now we have two animals living at home. Needless to say, I have a lot of experience with unclean things. The dog we recently got is only 7 weeks old, so naturally we’re in the potty-training stage and the kitchen table has been moved out to make room for a portable pen.
While we’re home, we’re trying to take Stella (an Italian mastiff) out every 2-3 hours. But let’s be honest, it isn’t enough when we’re working and the boys are at school. So, it’s not uncommon to have to deal with a little poop in the kitchen. Not like on a regular basis, but enough that I don’t like it.
Now, I don’t walk up to the poop and carefully, gently pick it up and say, “Oh, so sweet. Stella left me a treat, a little surprise. I’m going to keep it. I’m going to put it in a jar. I’m going to name it. I’m going to put it on my counter. When Melissa gets home, she’s going to be so excited that Stella pooped. I can’t wait.”
No. I pick it up, and I throw it in the trash. I get an entire roll of paper towels. I’m like, I don’t care about the environment right now. I don’t want to touch that poop. I’m getting the whole roll. I’m going to scoop it up so I don’t have to touch a single bit of it. I don’t want to see it. I don’t want to smell it. I want it gone.
Why don’t we do the same with sin? Fling it off… Throw it away… Get rid of it – realizing the destruction it brings, the stench that it has, the pain that it causes. Why do so many of us pick it up so gently and say, “Oh, it’s kind of cute. I like my sin. I’m going to hold onto it. I’m going to put it in a jar, and put it in my closet just in case I want to come back to it.”?
We’re called to fling it off like clothes sprayed by a skunk. Throw it away once and for all. Get rid of it. And what is it we’re to cast off? Well, JB Phillips says, “The night is nearly over. The day is almost dawn. Let us, therefore, fling away the things that men do in the dark. Let us arm ourselves for the fight of the day. Let us live cleanly as in the daylight, not in the delights of partying or getting drunk or playing with sex nor in quarreling or jealousy. Let us be Christ’s men and women from head to foot and give no chances to the flesh to have its fling.”
There are three sets of two mentioned here, depending on your translation it’s: revelry and drunkenness, lewdness and lust, and strife and envy, or perhaps it’s more descriptive, orgies and drunkenness, and sexual immorality and sensuality, and quarreling and jealousy. In either case, I want us to notice two things.
First, when our parents said that nothing good ever happens after dark, they weren’t lying. They got that piece of advice directly from the Scriptures. The first two groups of activities are clear enough, I believe. The picture that I get in my head is Mardi Gras. If you’re from Louisiana, and more specifically, New Orleans, I’m sorry, but that celebration is the quintessential stereotype of this verse. There’s simply no place for that kind of activity in the life of someone who has been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ.
And if you’re wiping your brow and breathing a sigh of relief, then let me invite you to notice the second thing about this list. It also contains activities that many “good, decent Christian” folk find enticing. That’s right. Paul includes quarreling, bickering, self-centered arguing, jealousy and envy among sexual immorality. Positionally, we have been justified and declared holy by God. That was Paul’s argument for 11 chapters. But when Jesus returns, when salvation is at hand, He won’t come for His own in the realm of darkness. He’ll come for His own in the light. And that brings us to the last point.
Look at verse 12. He says, “put on the armor of light.” Why? Because there’s a war. You don’t put on armor unless there’s a war. You don’t put on a bulletproof vest unless you plan on getting shot at. Many believers are shocked to find that the Christian life isn’t a playground. It’s a battleground.
God has called us as His spiritual soldiers – not just to hold ground but to gain ground. He’s called us to take enemy territory. He’s called us to take back our city. We shouldn’t be complacent as we see the crime rate rise. We shouldn’t be complacent as we see homelessness and poverty spread through our streets. We shouldn’t be complacent as babies are being murdered before they’re born.
We should be gaining ground. We should be going out into our city. We should be making change, not just sitting in our churches holding our bibles hoping that they don’t come for us. We should be gaining ground. We shouldn’t just be defenders. We need to be advancing the cause of Christ. We need to invade enemy territory. And sure. Some people might say, “Well, Pastor, the game’s won by the defense.” Okay, but if the offense doesn’t score a single point, the best you can do is tie at zero. We need to be advancing. We need to focus on our offense. We need to get going.
Keep in mind, many times the defender is at a disadvantage. They’re simply waiting around for the enemy’s next attack, hoping they can survive. In contrast, the one that’s advancing takes the initiative: where, when, and how to attack are options for the one on the move. Under the direction of our commander-in-chief, the Lord God Almighty, we have to seize the moment and invade enemy territory in this critical and strategic period of time. Or as in the case of Esther, for such a time as this.
Time is short, and eternal destinies literally are hanging in the balance. And Satan knows this is the critical and strategic period of time. We all know he’s dramatically stepping up his efforts. Again, look at the news. Shall we do any less? Shall we not respond in kind, a war over the souls of men and women who are either caught alive by God or caught alive by Satan?
Many believers are asleep. They don’t want to rock the boat. Others are running in retreat or even falling away from the Lord. We can’t retreat. The battle is too important. Winston Churchill said, “Victory is not won by evacuations.” Church, we cannot give up. Can we choose right here and now to not give up on our state? Can we choose right here and now to not give up on our country? Can we choose not to run away, but can we stand arm in arm, and recognize there’s a battle afoot? And the battle is not with flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces and principalities. The battle isn’t across the political aisle. And the battle definitely isn’t across the church aisle. The battle is with Satan.
The war is going to be won spiritually, not politically. The battle we fight is a battle that God has called us to. And it’s a battle that we can make a difference in. It’s a battle that can change the eternal destination of people from hell to heaven. That’s where the battle is.
Verse 14, Paul says, “Finally, put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Or literally, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ. Look, once you get up, the second most important thing to do is to put clothes on. Aren’t you thankful that all of us chose to put clothes on this morning when we woke up? Church would be really weird if we didn’t.
When I wake up in the morning, I put on my clothes. And I intend for them to be a part of me all day long to go where I go, to do what I do. And if, for some reason, those clothes come off of me, we have a problem.
Paul is saying, put on Jesus Christ when you get up in the morning. Make Him a part of your life today; going with you everywhere and acting through you in everything you do. Call upon His resources in your life. JB Phillips said, “Let us be Christ’s men and women from head to foot.” Literally, enter into His views and His interests. Imitate Him in all things. Have you put on Jesus Christ today? Have you entered into His views and interests? Are you imitating Him in all things? Or are you putting on the world? Are you entering into the world’s views and interests? Are you imitating the things the world does?
Let me tell you, the world is not the answer. Beauty is a $532 billion industry that ultimately won’t make you pretty. Education is a $1.3 trillion industry that ultimately won’t make you smart. Diet is a $72 billion industry that ultimately won’t make you lean. Pharmaceuticals is a $1.5 trillion industry that ultimately won’t make you healthy. Ultimately, the world can’t save you from yourself. God desires the world to look to us for change, not the other way around.
As we close, I read a story online titled “Fire means early wake up call for hotel guests.” A fire forced dozens of hotel guests to leave their rooms early Thursday morning. The fire started shortly before 4:30 in the morning at the Comfort Inn. Firefighters managed to contain the flames to a conference room, but smoke spread through all five floors of the 127-room hotel. No one was hurt.
It would be a shame if we had to wait for the fire to wake us up. God is calling us. Wake up. It’s time to get up. It’s time to get out. It’s time to get going. Let’s not wait for the judgment day. Let’s not wait for Christ’s return to wake up. Let’s realize the urgency of the hour. Let’s not waste our lives on the empty pursuit of pleasure and sinful activities like drunkenness, and sexual immorality, and gossip, and jealousy. Instead, let’s realize a battle is raging. May God help each of us to be Christ’s men and women from head to foot.