Knowing the Urgency of Each Day
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Sunday, June 7, 2009 - 6:00 p.m.  Sermon #: 1278
Pastor Don Horban

Romans 13:11-14 - “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.”

We’ve been looking at the manifestation of the “renewed mind” as it expresses itself in this present world. In that sense, Romans 12:1-2 really present the summary of all the practical instruction of Romans 12 through 16. The motive of the renewed mind is the “mercies of God” (12:1). The method of the renewed mind is the Spirit and the Word. The acts of the renewed mind take place in our physical bodies.

These verses describe the changing of the times. They describe the passing of time all right, but on a much grander scale than we usually measure with clocks and calendars. They talk of the winding down of one age and the dawning of another. And, to Paul’s mind, this needs to be kept before the Church because, of course, there are no clocks and no calendars marking the change of these ages. No alarms sound. No digital read-outs light up. These changes aren’t marked on the pages of any calendars.

Today we will look at the first two verses (11-12). Then we will probably spend two Sundays studying the last two verses (13-14).


I say we need to know the “times” (plural) because there are two things happening at once. Paul draws together two ages that both press in on the Christian. And then he tells us something important about each of them. We’ll look at that in the second point.

The first age is one of darkness and night. Some of Paul’s most famous words imply the nature and force of this age - Romans 12:1-2 - “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. [2] Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Christians are to be renewed in their minds. Then Paul tells us why this is so necessary and also so difficult - “Do not be conformed to this world....”(2:12). But that’s really all Paul tells us about the times in Romans 12. He simply tells us this age is dark and evil and needs to be shunned rather than conformed to. In our text from Romans 13 he tells something else - not something negative, but something very positive. He tells us there is another age that is dawning - that is already here, though not in its fullest, final form - “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.....”

This, right now, is a time to “wake from sleep.” He tells us the “day is at hand”(12). That’s why we must wake up. You don’t sleep in the day. You sleep in the night. So there is something dangerous about this present time. We still live in a world of night and darkness and spiritual threat. But there is also something very positive to assert as well. There is the opening burst of the morning light. The main reality for the Christian isn’t the night, but the dawn. We know about the night, all right. But we are shaping our lives by the coming dawn. There is something dark in the night, but also something incredibly bright and hopeful in the dawn.

So this places all of us in an awkward situation. We are really the only people who experience it in the whole world. We live in the overlap of two ages. We live between the first coming of Christ and the second coming of Christ. But take note. Just to be very clear, we live in two ages but we don’t share two kingdoms. We can only have one king. Christ’s rule is always a monarchy. That’s what Lordship means. That’s why Paul will tell us in verses 13 and 14 that while we live in this age of darkness we must “put on the armor of light”(13), and “put on the Lord Jesus Christ”(14). There is going to be trouble for us. Paul tells us what the tele-evangelists won’t. This isn’t going to be easy. We live in the overlap of two ages, but we can’t plant our feet in both kingdoms. Hence, this is an age of both conflict and hope, a strange mix of sweet and sour.

2) WHAT IS IT ABOUT THESE TWO TIMES OR AGES THAT SHOULD MOTIVATE AND INSPIRE AND FORTIFY THE CHRISTIAN? - Romans 13:11-12 - “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.”

Working backwards, we see what we’re supposed to do in that last phrase - “Let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” That’s where Paul wants to end up. But how does he get there? Specifically, what is it about these two ages - these two times - that would lead us to live the way Paul challenges? I want to leave you with three truths about these times that inspire us all to “put on Christ” in deeper and fuller measure:

a) “The night is far gone; the day is at hand....”(12a) - It’s not repeated over and over in the Scriptures, but just hearing these words breathed once by the Holy Spirit is enough. Satan is powerful. He is still called the ruler of this world. But the secret is now out. He isn’t just active. He is spending himself. He is using his time up.

It’s no secret that the days are dark and the night is long. Watch the news. See the violence. Look at the shriveled, starving faces. See the pornography. Look deeply at all the hatred and abuse. That the night is dark is no secret. But what we need to hear from God’s Word is that “the night is far gone”(13:12a).

This kind of encouragement is exactly what we are urged to in the New Testament - Hebrews 10:23-25 - “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. [24] And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, [25] not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Of course we all know the Bible says things will get worse before they get better. But even here the news comes with hope because we’re also told why things get worse before they get better - Revelation 12:12 - “Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!"

b) “Salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed”(11b) - It’s obvious these words are addressed to believers, not unbelievers. So there’s something we’re all still waiting for in terms of our salvation. And, says Paul, this too is closer now than ever before.

What is it? What part of our salvation is still ahead, but nearer than it ever was before? We are as justified now as we ever will be - “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”(Romans 5:1). We are as sure of eternal life as we ever will be. In measure, we already possess it. We are as free from condemnation now as we ever will be - “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”(Romans 8:1). Wonderful words!

So, no, we aren’t waiting for any of those things. But we still wrestle with sin. I’m so tired of ever being drawn from my blessed Lord. I’m so weary of my own spiritual sloth and carelessness. More than anything, I’m tired of seeing Jesus “through a glass dimly.” I long to be face to face with Christ. I long to be done with sin. I long to be spiritually complete and spiritually home.

That’s the hope of these words, “For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed”(13:11). There has never been a time in the history of the universe when a living Christian had less time to wait for that glorious reality than now. God forgive us for not stirring up our minds around this truth!

c) “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep”(11a) - The contrast between being asleep and awake isn’t quite the same as it is between being dead and alive. The one sleeping isn’t dead. But there is a kind of limited consciousness in sleep. You may dream. Your dreams may even be very vivid and exciting. But the one who is sleeping doesn’t have a grasp on reality. Even if he’s entertained in his own mind, he’s out of touch with the real and the important.

Paul is saying the way you and I perceive what he’s saying about the ages of night and day - the way this registers with our understanding - shows whether we’re sleeping or awake. People who don’t light up their thoughts with this - who don’t think about it all the time - who don’t know what it is to have these truths the central feature of their lives - are just sleepwalkers in this world.

So Paul sees the clock ticking - he sees the sky growing red in the east. And he says, “There - look! If there was ever a time to wake up, it’s now!” There are different ways to sleep in church. You can do it while you listen to God’s Word. But I urge you not to do it this morning. There is such great news in this text. Don’t sleep through it.

More on this text in the next two weeks.