Friday, May 26, 2017

Romans 13:11-14 - 'Last Days' Living

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.

So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Would you do anything any differently if you KNEW today was your last day on earth?
  • Call your friends and family? 
  • Pray?
  • Mend a broken relationship?
I have NO DOUBT that our lives would take a decidedly DIFFERENT direction if we knew TODAY was our last day on earth.

On his deathbed and reflecting on his last moments on earth, John Bacon, eminent 18th-century artist, said, "What I was as an artist seemed to be of some importance while I lived, but what I am as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is the only thing of importance to me now."

Indeed. The only thing that matters in these “Last Days” is knowing Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

Regarding the Last Days, both the Old and New Testaments are filled with scores of prophecies of the 2nd Coming of Christ. There are 1,845 references in the OT that speak of it, and a total of 17 OT books give it prominence.

Of the 260 chapters in the entire NT, there are 318 references to the second coming of Christ – that’s one out of every 30 verses. 23 of the 27 NT books refer to this event. For every prophecy of His 1st coming, there are 8 that speak of his 2nd.

  • He is described as coming back PERSONALLY in 1 Thessalonians 4:16; 
  • He’s coming LITERALLY and VISIBLY according to Acts 1, John 3, and Revelation 1. 
  • He is coming in GREAT GLORY according to three chapters of Matthew (16, 24, and 25.) 
  • In POWER, Matthew 24; 
  • He is coming QUICKLY, Revelation 22 and Matthew 28; 
IF the Bible is true – and we believe it is – then the 2nd coming of Christ IS an UNDENIABLE FACT.

We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He came the first time – history proves it. History confirms that the hundreds of prophecies of the OT predicting His 1st coming came true that night 2000 years ago in a lonely Bethlehem cattle stall. With such trustworthy testimony as that offered by the Bible, when it describes the 2nd Coming with 8 times the number of verses, then it’s a pretty safe bet, Jesus IS coming again!

Does it really matter?

Should it make any difference in us knowing that Christ is coming again??

What impact would it have on each of us if it was the burning conviction of our hearts that Jesus was coming soon?

Would it affect our worship, choices, or attitudes?? Would it change our relationships and priorities??

I believe so… and so does Paul. In fact, Paul tells us there are 4 things we will do IF we truly believe Jesus is coming again.

1. First, according to verse 11, if we TRULY believe Jesus is coming again, we will Watch Vigilantly. Watch vigilantly. Notice v. 11, “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.”
Repeatedly Jesus told His disciples to ‘watch.’ Paul is impressing us with the need for discernment. We need to be AWARE of the times. We need to be FILLED WITH URGENCY - realizing the desperate need to prepare those we love for eternity.

Saints of all ages have looked for the Lord to return in their lifetime. In most of church history there have been events that have caused people to believe that THEIRS was the generation when Jesus would return.

For those who lived during Napoleon’s meteoric rise to power – I’m sure many wondered if THAT was a sign.

When ungodly and hateful men like Hitler, Mussolini, and Pol Pot stole the headlines, I am SURE Christians everywhere wondered if THIS was “it.”

But with each of those evil personalities, there were pieces of the puzzle that were missing.

My, how things have changed?!? There is probably no prophetic truth that is not flashing out its warning lights to our generation. Take, for example, the return of the Jews to the Promised Land. Or the hostilities between the Arab nations and Israel and the worldwide sympathy being shown those Muslim nations.

Consider the spread of post-modernism and the rising hostility of unbelievers towards Christians in the West.

Consider the apostasy of the modern church… and how the crystal-clear message of the gospel has been blurred by popular-entertainment-driven mega-churches insisting on a non-confrontational gospel.

Consider the fact that science is exploring ways to genetically engineer babies so parents can choose the sex of their child - even hair and eye color.

It would behoove us to WATCH VIGILANTLY for the coming of the Lord!

Paul is describing a church that is asleep. He says, “the hour has come for you to wake from sleep!” What does a sleeping church look like??

  • When warnings of judgment go unheeded by those who claim to believe, THAT church is asleep. 
  • When family and friends are going to hell and we do nothing to stop it – THAT church is asleep. 
  • When there is little to no difference between the world and the average Christian– THAT church is asleep. 
The church is sluggish because it is more concerned with entertainment than evangelism. Buildings, programs, and being liked by the world are the things that matter today. We don’t want to hear about the need to be ready for eternity – we want to feel good! We want sermons that improve our self-image. We want to be COMFORTABLE. We want to go to “the Big SHOW” at church on Sunday without it having any bearing on how we live Monday through Saturday.

Yeah - I said it. It’s time we WOKE UP!

2. But not only are we to Watch Vigilantly, Paul tells us to War Valiantly. Paul says, “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.”

Given the lateness of the hour, we are to rise up and engage the enemy – but the only way to be ready for that battle is to have on the armor of light. TWO things are to be done simultaneously according to Paul.

We must CAST OFF the works of darkness – anything that identified us with our old lifestyle, the old habits, the old passions and desires – we are to get rid of it.

THEN we are to PUT ON the ‘armor of light.’ In ONE decisive act, we are to put away the old life and take up the new.

That requires a definite commitment on our part. A commitment MOST aren’t willing to make. And what’s sad is the fact that we don’t think we HAVE to.

Paul is speaking to a problem that has been around as long as the church. The problem of duplicity – of wanting the benefits that come from being saved – wanting heaven – wanting God’s blessing and peace – but NOT wanting to turn away from the things associated with the OLD life. We can’t have it both ways. If we are going to be ready for the return of Christ, we must make a break with the old life. It’s time that we gave our whole heart to living for the Lord.

Imagine a young man who has joined the military and has reported for duty. He comes in wearing civilian clothes. But once he signs the necessary papers, he is told to take OFF those things that identified him as a civilian – everything – right down to his socks and shoes.

THEN he is told to PUT ON a uniform that identifies him as a member of the military. He is NOW the property of the US GOVERNMENT… he is to clothe himself appropriately – and the next day he must be ready for an inspection.

Imagine all the recruits loitering around, some laughing, others struggling to be ready, when in comes the company commander for their first inspection.

  • All of the soldiers stand at attention. 
  • Hats on their heads, boots spit-shined, 
  • unis starched and pressed. 
But one guy is there still in his sport-coat and khakis.

What do you think would happen to him?? The commander would eat his lunch, THAT’S what would happen!!

He must put off the rudiments of civilian life – he has a NEW Commander!

That’s exactly what Paul is describing here. When a person becomes a Child of God, he must put off deliberately and decisively the “works of darkness.” With the help of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, he is to distance himself from those things he used to do. He is to put on the armor of God – he is to do the things that identify him as a follower of Christ.

Part of the problem facing the modern church and ONE of the reasons we have become so ineffective is that we AREN’T convinced we have to make a clean break with our former lives to serve the Lord. We have a “come as you are, LEAVE as you are” attitude. We’ve led people to believe that it doesn’t really matter how you live once you go out those doors. But I’ve got news for you – it ABSOLUTELY matters. And if you are one of those who thinks it doesn’t, you aren’t ready for the second coming of Christ.

3. But not only are we to Watch Vigilantly and War Valiantly, we must also WALK VIRTUOUSLY if we would be ready for the 2nd coming. Paul says, “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.”

There is a right way and a wrong way to walk according to Paul. Obviously, he is referring to your outward life – the things you do - the way you live. And the RIGHT way to walk is “properly, as in the daytime.”

He said something similar to the Thessalonians when he wrote, “You are the children of light, and the children of the day: we are NOT of the night, nor of darkness.” People use the cover of darkness to keep others from seeing the bad things they are doing.

But the CHRISTIAN is to live in such a way that he has nothing to hide ⇒ not from the church … not even from the Lord.

We shouldn’t be doing ANYTHING that would make us look over our shoulder in fear that someone might see us. Our lives should be an open book!

The word “properly,” literally means “becomingly.” We are to live in a way that doesn’t discredit our testimonies. Should we share the gospel with a friend, should we offer biblical advice, there ought not be ANYTHING in our lives that would cause them to think we are hypocrites.

  • At work? Our words and actions should reflect our love for Christ. 
  • At home? Our words and actions should reflect our love for Christ.
  • Privately and publicly – our actions should reflect our love for Christ.
Does THAT describe YOU?? There are times in our lives when we are timid about sharing our faith. Maybe we are afraid of saying the wrong thing – of making a person feel like we are judging them. But how often is our fear of sharing based on our hypocrisy?? Are we afraid that if we say something about Jesus, that they will mock us for not living the life ourselves??

Paul describes the sins of our former lives and tells us that we can’t keep reaching back to those things.

When you look back over your life, if you are honest with yourself, you can see a lot of things you are ashamed of.

Things you did BEFORE you were saved…

And yes, things you’ve done AFTER you were saved.

You are ashamed of those failures. But hopefully you can say, “I don’t do those things any longer.” And the further you get FROM those things, the more meaningful and powerful your testimony becomes.

Walk virtuously. Live in such a way that your testimony has credibility.

4. And then finally, not only are we to watch vigilantly, war valiantly, and walk virtuously, Paul tells us to Wait - WAIT Victoriously. Notice v. 14, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”
In Discipleship Journal, Carole Mayhall tells of a woman who went to a gym and hired a personal trainer to help her lose weight.

The trainer made her stand in front of a full-length mirror. On the mirror he drew an outline of her body that was much slimmer… fit… and told her, "This is what I want you to look like by the end of this program."

Days of intense dieting and exercise followed, and every week the woman would stand in front of the mirror discouraged because her bulging outline didn't fit the trainer’s ideal.

But she kept at it, and finally one day she conformed to the vision her trainer had for her.

Paul is OUR personal trainer. He is standing us in front of the mirror of God’s Word. In this mirror we see Jesus in all his perfection. We get discouraged when we are confronted with the reality of how much WE don’t resemble the Lord. But then he challenges us to live the life… to into His Word, pray, serve, be faithful, love and forgive. And before you know it, you see progress.

Salvation is only the beginning. Every day we need to strive to look a little more like Christ. Waiting for the Lord to come back doesn’t imply that we sit down and do nothing. NOT AT ALL! Every day we are to surrender to the Spirit’s control, forsake the world and the things in it, live out our faith as if we have nothing to hide. And in time, we will look like Him!

I wonder, friend, are you living as if Jesus Christ is coming again?? Can people SEE God at work in your life – the change that has come over you?

OR have you been one of those who hasn’t taken it seriously? Do they see someone whose life doesn’t match his words? Right now, you feel convicted. Right now, you know there are some things – some attitudes and activities you should forsake.

Why not pray about it right now?