SUNDAY NIGHT CROSSTRAINING NOTES
Casting Off the Works of Darkness and Putting on Christ
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Sunday, June 28, 2009 - 6:00 p.m.  Sermon #: 1283
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.”

Today our study examines what Christians do when they know the time. What changes do they make when they know the night is “far gone” and the “day is at hand?” How shall we respond to the fading darkness and the dawning day? The first phrase sets the time - “The night is far gone; the day is at hand.” This is the reminder to set the alarm clock or the day-timer. The time is important and the response is urgent. The rest of the passage tells us what we must do.

1) WE MUST PUT ON THE ARMOR OF LIGHT, WHICH IS ANOTHER WAY OF SAYING WE MUST PUT ON CHRIST

Both verses 12 and 14 state the same exhortation in different words. You can see the similar form when you put them together - “....So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light....[14].... But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”

So both verses give something we must not do and something we must do. Both contain a negative and a positive. I know it’s a bit involved, but this is so important to see. The way you “cast off the works of darkness” is by “putting on the armor of light”(12). And the way you “make no provision for the flesh is by “putting on the Lord Jesus Christ”(14). So the first thing we need to nail down is what is Paul telling us to do when he tells us to put on the armor of light or to put on the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to be clear about this. There is no help in putting on a vague Christ or paper armor. What are we talking about here and how exactly do we do it so it makes a difference in our lives?

The most helpful passage to help shed light on this is 1 Thessalonians 5:5-9 - “For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. [6] So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. [7] For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. [8] 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. [9] For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ....”

Even a casual reading reveals the very same ideas being presented as in our Romans 13 text. So many things are exactly the same. But one thing is different and helpful because it is expanded and explained. The important verse is verse 8 - “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.” And immediately we think of Paul’s words from Romans 13 about armor.

Put this together like an investigator tracking clues at a crime scene. There is much to be learned for the careful and thoughtful. From Romans 13 we learn when Christians know the time they put on the armor of light, which is the same as putting on Christ. Then, in 1 Thessalonians 5 we learn that putting on the armor of light is putting on the breastplate of faith and love and the helmet of hope. So, putting it all together, Paul says putting on Christ is putting on faith in Christ, and love for Christ, and hope in Christ. And he also tells us these pieces of the armor of light cover the chest and the head - a breastplate and a helmet (1 Thessalonians 5:8).

Paul chooses this metaphor carefully. This dark world is constantly aiming its destructive darts at your heart and your head - at your heart, with its emotions and desires, and your mind, with its perception and remembrance of truth. That is the method of this media saturated age. But we all know you can’t turn off thoughts like a light-switch. Sometimes the more you try not to think of something the more life you give to that unwanted thought. So Paul says you counter these things with more than will-power. You must resist these thoughts and affections, true enough, but there is something more offered for our help.

We are to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ”(Romans 13:14). And Paul tells us this must be more than a slogan. We are to “put on Christ” with all the care and attention we give to putting on our clothes. That’s why Paul chooses this image. There you go to Tommy Bahama or Banana Republic, or whatever your choice is. We all willingly part with more money than we all know any of those clothes is worth. Why are we such suckers? Because we care greatly about what we’re putting on. We care to the point of idolatry.

This is the image Paul chooses when he tells us to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Putting on Christ is the only way to “cast off the works of darkness”(12). It is the only way to “make no provision for the flesh”(14). So how shall we “put on the Lord Jesus Christ?” Look one more time at 1 Thessalonians 5:8 - “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.”

a) Putting on Christ means putting on faith in Christ. So I know “putting on Christ” means filling my mind with His Word. Faith comes by “hearing” and hearing comes by the Word of God. Faith follows what you hear. If you spend more time listening to the TSX report and reading the Financial Post than the New Testament you will have more faith in your wealth than the living Christ. And that’s a great disaster because this dark world, says Paul, is “far gone” - meaning, almost over.

b) Putting on Christ means putting on love for Christ. And we start to see how love for Christ is formed. It doesn’t just happen. Love for Christ is “put on” in the sense that it is the hard won fruit of pondering what you have heard about Christ. It is getting still each day and allowing precious truth to thicken like a rich stew on a slow simmer.

Great saints have learned something important here. You can lose all the benefit of everything you hear, not because you weren’t truly listening. You were listening. But you can still lose all the benefit of what the Holy Spirit wants to do with that truth simply by turning immediately to something trivial after you’ve listened to the truth about Christ. You can’t deeply ponder Christ at the mall. You can’t deeply ponder Christ by soaking your life in sports. You can’t teach your children to deeply ponder Christ by buying them all the things they want. Listen carefully to the words we read every time we dedicate a child in this church. These words aren’t chosen lightly: Deuteronomy 6:6-7 - “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. [7] You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

These are the words addressed to the adults. This is how the adults keep their lives focused on God so they can help their children focus their lives on God. These words aren’t about the church service. They’re about what a family does with what it gets at the church service. These words describe how families discuss the application of God’s ways to what happens to come on the TV, or the last movie they went to, or the kind of CD’s they’re buying, or the magazines they’re bringing home. And Paul says this is a big part of learning to put on the breastplate of love for Christ. Learn to have eyes that see how lovely and great and relevant and wonderful beyond telling He truly is! Compare and speak with wonder about how empty and trite everything else is when measured by the glory of Christ. Make these comparisons and connections happen in your brain so they can happen in your children’s brains.

c) Finally, Paul says putting on Christ means putting on hope in Christ’s promise and future. We are to put on the helmet of the “hope of salvation”(1 Thessalonians 5:8). This is the greatest protection for keeping the works of darkness out of your mind. Fix your mind daily (hourly?) on the hope of Christ’s return. Kill the lies of Satan by turning from the pull of immediate gratification or accumulation by facing your life away from the fading night and toward the eternal day. Know the promises of Christ. Treasure your certain future to the extent that you begin to inhabit it right now.

So let’s all begin again right here and now. “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and (and then) make no provision for the flesh”(14). If you don’t love and treasure Christ you will find every command an imposition, every sacrifice a burden, and every call to holiness legalistic. The key is putting on faith in Christ through knowing His words, putting on love for Christ through pondering the greatness of what you know of Him, and putting on hope in Christ by capturing every vain thought that would steal your mind from anchoring itself on Christ’s promised, eternal future for His disciples.

This is a great picture Paul has been painting. Put Christ on each day. That means keep Him as close as the clothes next to your body. Keep the eye of your being trained on Christ always. Don’t drift in and out of attentiveness to Christ. Nothing is more important than faith, hope, and love in clear apprehension of Christ - Matthew 6:22 - “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light...” This is not a verse about professing Christ. It is a verse about prizing Christ in everything else and above everything else. This is life in focus.

2) MAKE NO PROVISION FOR THE FLESH, TO GRATIFY ITS DESIRES

This is Paul’s command in verse 14b - “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” It’s not enough just to forsake sins of the flesh. We’re not to make room for the desire for the sins of the flesh. We’re not to unwittingly provide for the life of these desires in our minds.

Paul calls these sins “works of darkness” in verse 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.” He puts them in pairs and he puts them in plurals. He calls them works of darkness because they are the things we usually deny and try to cover up. They’re the kinds of things people do in the dark of denial and secrecy. Even if we reluctantly admit them we usually justify our actions to others, sometimes to God, and almost always to ourselves. For all these reasons Paul doesn’t call them works of light, but works of darkness.

While not intended as an exhaustive list, these three pairs cover a wide swath. “Orgies and drunkenness” indicates what we would be inclined in our day to describe as the actions stemming from all forms of “substance abuse.” Because Satan’s chief weapon is deception in the mind, anything that clouds or potentially clouds alert, unchained thinking plays into his hands.

“Sexual immorality and sensuality” includes sexual expression lacking the restraint and beauty of Christ’s rule. It includes pornography, homosexuality, sexual expression outside of marriage and before marriage. Christians now live with the technology in our homes on which 25% of search engine hits land on pornographic sites. This is exactly what Paul means by the “works of darkness” that Christians will have to “cast off’ and “make no provision for.”

“Quarreling and jealousy” are the sins that break up the community of Christ in the last days. Any thought that keeps replaying a wrong received, any unwillingness to accept and love with a love that genuinely labors and prays for the best for the one who wronged me, or any position or ministry exercised by someone I hate that causes me to wince - all these are the works of darkness that people must cast off when they know what time it is.

But it’s not enough not to do these sins. Paul probes deeper than that - “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires”(14). This is what putting on Christ entails and I must not make it less than this. Don’t let any thought even enter your head that leads you to think about these things. As we would say, “Don’t go there.”