Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Sermon on Romans 13:11-14, for the 1st Sunday in Advent, "Armor of Light"

Sermon Outline:
·         Romans opens by talking about “time.” “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. The night is far gone; the day is at hand.” What kind of time is he talking about? This is the time of year, when we especially feel we don’t have enough of it. Ordinary time, measured in minutes, days, hours, years. Shopping, cleaning, preparing for the holidays, we become even more frantic about the shortness of our time. But the New Testament speaks of a second kind of time—what Paul means when he says, “you know the time.” It’s not a question of looking at your watch/ordinary time. The NT calls it kairos. Due time, the time of fulfillment, or God’s timing. God appoints a time for all things, and when the time is right, He carries out His intentions. His timing runs on a totally different scale than we measure by—because God is outside of ordinary time. Time is part of the universe He created for us, and it’s for our sake, not His. He does not need to “keep track” of time in the way we do.
·         And Paul is telling us that this kairos-time—God’s time—is upon us. Salvation is getting nearer than when you first believed. That’s not just a mundane reflection on the fact that days and years have passed since you first believed—but rather that God’s time is reaching its fulfillment. Just as we’re aware of our “ordinary time” always running out, so also the window of opportunity for humanity to believe and be saved, and for us to cast off works of darkness and put on the armor of light, is soon to be over. God, in His timing, has set a date for Jesus’ to return and to judge the whole world, whether they have believed in the name of Jesus, or not. That date is known to God alone, but we’re reminded of its continual advance. And this is marked not just by the passing of calendar days, but by the increase of the signs that Jesus said would mark the end. Like the changing of seasons, so also we see the earth giving way to greater and greater lawlessness and lovelessness. The time is already ripe.
·         In light of these things, how should we live? Romans describes it like waking a person who has overslept, and the night is far gone. It’s like he’s saying, “Don’t drag your feet and get up and out of bed!” We need to shake off the “sleepiness”—the dozing unawareness that the time is short, and God is calling all to repentance and forgiveness, before it’s too late. Both Jesus and the apostle Peter warned that scoffers will doubt His coming, and will go on living as though the world would last forever—and be caught unawares when the end comes suddenly. This is what it means to be “sleeping” instead of watchful.
·         Then “cast off the works of darkness.” We have heard the call to repent, and to awake, and so we must throw off our old sins, like so many dirty clothes and stained garments. To do this we must forsake whatever sins we thought were harmless in our drowsy contentment and sin-blindness. We must condemn our sins to die the death of repentance, and be drowned in baptism—crucified with Christ. His cross stands as the atoning sacrifice for all our sins, past, present, and future, and we must daily strip them off by confessing them. This means facing that our sin is wrong, and we must by no means cling to it. It means we must sever ourselves from sinful conduct and sinful thoughts—not keeping any “pet sins” for our own comfort.
·         The sins named here in pairs, are orgies and drunkenness, sexual immorality and sensuality, and quarrelling and jealousy. Each pair often go together, because they feed each other. Lack of self-control in drinking often leads to lowered inhibitions. Sin has a compounding and multiplying effect. When we indulge one pet sin, be it in the area of sexuality, over-drinking, feeding our sensual appetites, our anger, or jealousy—those sins will undoubtedly spill over into other areas of our life. When sex is not kept within the God-given bounds of marriage, it leads to unfaithfulness, jealousy, quarreling, betrayal, and broken trust. When we do not curb our anger or control our tongue, quarreling creates bitterness, hatred, and slander. We rarely see the “ugly side” of sin when we first entertain those sinful thoughts and desires—but only see the sweet and tempting “bait” that hides the hook.
·         By contrast to the works of darkness, God has a restored and righteous way of living, that begins with putting on that armor of light. What sort of protection does “armor of light” offer us? It guards against darkness—the sins of darkness we just named. When I think of darkness and light, I think of the power that light holds over darkness. The light pierces through the darkness, and even at a great distance, a tiny light beams through the blackness of night. And the closer you get to the light, the brighter it is, and the more the shadows fade away. Darkness is the absence of light. And so also evil is the absence of good, or the twisting and corruption of what is good. But now think of the armor of light. Can darkness pierce the light? Can a “shaft” of darkness cut through the light? No! Therefore the light is the best “armor” against the darkness, and so also for us, the best protection against our sins and temptations, is to put on the armor of light. And what is that? Paul repeats in v. 14, “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”
·         Christ Himself is our armor of light! He is the light of the world. The light no darkness can overcome. He is the light that came into the darkness and illumines the church. He gives light and life to every believer. And darkness must retreat and surrender at His coming. And that includes sin—yours and mine. Baptism and repentance is the drowning and crucifixion of our old sinful nature on the cross. It’s where the encrusted layers of sin fall off and Christ’s light bathes us with cleansing warmth, love, and life. When we awake from sleep, put off the works of darkness, and put on Christ, we arm ourselves against sin. And Christ’s light is the best armor against sin because it is impenetrable. There are no “chinks” in the armor, because that armor is Christ. When we put on Christ, He delivers us from every evil attack, and strengthens us against every temptation.
·         But how often we let our guard down, or slip back into the old comfortable rags of sin and darkness, instead of putting on Christ. This is why Paul warns that we don’t make provision for the flesh, to gratify it’s desires. Whenever we give our sinful flesh an opportunity—whenever idle hands and idle eyes start to drift towards trouble, and we don’t curb our actions, thoughts, or behavior, our sinful flesh jumps back into play. Our sinful flesh needs to be placed in submission to God’s good commands, and driven away from evil. If we fuel its desires by inviting temptation in, or watching whatever it is that most tempts us, then we should not be surprised when sin rushes back into our lives. One of the fundamental ways in which we learn to resist temptation is by fleeing from its first beginning. Keep out of situations that are ripe for temptation—whether that means not hanging around with a “bad crowd”, or whether it means guarding our eyes from things that would tempt us, or whether it means literally fleeing from a situation that you know is going to turn into sin. When we fall into sin, it’s not because Christ and His armor of light were inadequate to protect us from the assaults of sin—but rather because we were caught not wearing it.
·         Just like the metaphor of waking from sleep, casting off darkness, and putting on Christ echoes a person’s daily routine of waking up and getting dressed—so also “putting on Christ” and wearing His armor of light is our “daily wear”. In baptism you have put on Christ, been clothed with His righteousness. And this is not only for special occasions, or even just your “Sunday best”—but it is for you every day. Christ is near us, He is on us to drive away darkness, and to clothe us with His innocence and light. Sin is a wretched thing that won’t leave us be until we reach our graves—but rejoice to know that Christ forgives your sins, and that He dispenses that forgiveness to you daily in baptism, continually in His Word, and as often as you eat His body and drink His blood in the Lord’s Supper. Rejoice to know that just as closely as the sin that so easily entangles, God has joined Himself to you in Christ Jesus, baptized and clothed you with Him. God has given these objective and tangible means to arm ourselves against the works of darkness and leave them behind. Not by your own strength, but by the help and gifts that He supplies. His Spirit is ready to supply you with self-control and all the gifts of the Spirit that produce a life of holy and righteous conduct—walking properly, as in the daytime.
·         The light of Christ never ceases to shine, and it never fades in the face of the darkness of this world and its sin. The devil may rage, and wicked men may contrive to commit terrible evils, but Jesus’ light and radiance stand true, and cannot be driven back by the darkness. Even our own sin tries to block out the light from our eyes, but “the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4). When the darkness seems frightful, proclaim the light of Christ into all creation! Let the beams of His light banish the darkness. Christ’s light shines as the beacon, as the lighthouse in our life, but not just as a distant hope of salvation. But His light also approaches us and comes near when we receive Him by hearing the Word with faith, and His light begins to radiate in us. We have this sure and certain Light of Jesus Christ shining in our darkness, and we need never fear that it will be extinguished or overcome. So put on that armor of light, and put on the Lord Jesus Christ! Thanks be to God! Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
Read past sermons at:   http://thejoshuavictortheory.blogspot.com
Listen to audio at:   http://thejoshuavictortheory.podbean.com

  1. The New Testament writers speak of “time” in two ways. First is ordinary time, measured in minutes, hours, days, etc, called chronos in Greek. As in “chronological.” Ex. Matt. 2:16; Luke 1:57. Second is kairos, which Paul talks about in Romans 13. Kairos means the time of fulfillment, harvest time, the appointed time for something to happen, or “due time.” Kairos could be described as “God’s timing.”  See for ex. Mark 1:15; Luke 4:13. What things do we wait for in “God’s timing” (kairos)?
  2. Why is watchfulness vital for the waiting Christian? Romans 13:11-12; Mark 13:32-37. In this context, what does it mean to be caught “sleeping”? 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, esp. vs. 5-6.
  3. We are called to “cast off works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” What does armor of light protect us against? Contrast the power of light over darkness, with the reverse. Ephesians 6:10-13; John 1:4, 9.
  4. The works of darkness that Paul names in pairs in Romans 13 show lack of self-control (one of the fruits of the Spirit) over the use of alcohol, sexuality, our temper and feelings. What other negative effects result from these works of darkness? What does it look like by contrast, when Christians “walk properly” in holy and righteous conduct? What would that holy living look like in each instance?
  5. Notice that Romans 13:14 parallels 13:12, and that to put on the armor of light is to “put on Christ.” How do we put on Christ? Galatians 3:27; Colossians 3:10; Ephesians 4:24. How does Christ arm us against temptation, and deliver us from evil? How does He cleanse us from old ways and guilt? Ephesians 5:25-27.
  6. How do we avoid gratifying the flesh and making “provision” for its desires? What temptation is a particular weakness for you? How can you remove yourself from facing that temptation? How is Christ, our armor of light, our best and only hope for ultimately conquering sin?

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