SUNDAY NIGHT CROSSTRAINING NOTES
Hearing the Voice of the Spirit as we Prepare for a New Year
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Sunday, December 2, 2012 - 6:00 p.m.  Sermon #: 1608
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.”

What marvelous, searching, life-directing words. And there is good reason to look at them this time of year. Not counting today, there are only four more Sunday’s before this year is irretrievably past. Even though we live eternally, your earthly life is absolutely unrepeatable. We start to think about the passing of time as the pages of the calender roll by. We think about a season of time coming to a close and a season of time just popping up with newness and freshness. One period ending. Another beginning.

That’s what these words in our text are all about. Only they carry much deeper meaning. They don’t describe one year moving on to another. They push the envelope further. They describe the passing of time all right, but on a much grander scale. 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 calendars change pages. The biggest changes come the most subtly.

Because this is so, it is easy to miss the changing of the times that Paul describes. People don’t see it coming. Imagine - people all over the world will mark the passing from December, 2012 to January, 2013 (which, in substance, is really no change at all) who will never even momentarily consider the passing of the age of sin and darkness and the dawning of God’s eternal kingdom.

We will spend three weeks unpacking the importance of this text. And then we’ll spend one week in the book of Ephesians. These words from Paul define the Christian mind-set. More than anything else, Christians are time people. All sorts of people - Christians, Jews, Muslims, and atheists - all sorts of people live with an appreciation of ethics and morality. Almost everyone believes in the superiority of love to hate and goodness to evil. But Christian people mandate their lives by God’s view of history and time. They direct their lives by God’s end of the story.

We can easily see how important all this is to Paul by the way he shapes his words. He’s going to tell these Christians how they should be living in this world. You can see all that in verses 13-14 - “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.”

But why are they to live so? What motivates and propels such a life-style? Christians know the times. They see one age, with all its wickedness, pain, and thrills, coming to a close. The curtain is coming down on it. No one else notices this at all. But Christians do. And they also hear something stirring in the breeze. They don’t see the full strength of sunrise yet, but they see the sky turning red with the dawn. And they aim their lives at the dawn, because where dawn is, sunrise is absolutely certain - “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....”(Romans 13:11-12a).



If those words are true words, there is nothing more beautiful to know. And God’s Word says they are true. Today we will look at the first two verses (11-12). Then we will spend two Sundays studying the last two verses (13-14).

1) WE NEED TO KNOW THE NATURE OF THE TIMES WE’RE LIVING IN

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 difficult - “Do not be conformed to this world....”(2:12). There it is. When Paul says “Do not be conformed to this world....” he clearly means there is another world that should shape us. There is this present world and there is another that isn’t fully manifested yet. That future age is the one that should shape us and drive us. This one is dark and warped and futile. Very few people in this age see their world like that. It all seems so normal. It’s all they’ve ever known. That’s why it takes renewed minds to assess the times properly.

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 it 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. And because this age is the night 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. There is something dark in the night, but also something incredibly bright and hopeful in the dawn.

Paul calls upon Christians to think this through. We’re to process these words through to some kind of conclusion. We’re to make their meaning hang on in our minds. This is where we are and this is how we live. We live in the overlap of two ages. We live between the first coming of Christ and the second coming of Christ. This is the key. We live after the coming of God’s kingdom has manifested itself in Christ Jesus. Yet, the presence of sin and darkness and pain haven’t ceased.

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). We live in the overlap of two ages, but we can’t plant our feet in both kingdoms. Hence, this is an age of conflict and hope, a strange mix of sweet and sour.

But all of this is really not Paul’s main point. This just sets the stage for what Paul wants to drive home for deeper Christian meditation.

2) WHAT IS IT ABOUT THESE TWO TIMES OR AGES THAT SHOULD MOTIVATE AND INSPIRE AND FORTIFY THE CHRISTIAN?

Now we come to the real nub of the text:

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 is spending himself. He is using his wicked might up. His is not an almighty power. It is a depleting power.

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.”

Hear God’s Word this Lord’s Day. I don’t know how long the night will last. I don’t know why it takes so long - except that our loving Father awaits repentance from the stubborn. But we need to whisper into each other’s ears, “The age of sin and misery is almost spent! You can see the glow of the Almighty, Risen Christ on the horizon of history. It is time to lift up your heads!”

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.”

To all who know the strain that comes with pain, suffering, persecution - to all who have felt the sting of bereavement - who have stood by the grave of a loved one gone too soon, and who long for that day when death itself is bound and cast into the lake of fire - this is the word of hope - “the night is far spent - the day is at hand!”




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!"

He knows the night is far gone. He knows the sky grows red with the mighty power of Christ’s dawn. That’s what causes his fury. And his greatest misery and frustration is our greatest hope and joy. Once you see the dawn - as we saw it in Christ’s incarnation, His death, and His glorious resurrection - then, no matter how dark the night still seems, you can’t stop the brightness of day from following the dawn. The promise of His second coming will shine in full strength and end all trace of night!

But there’s still more:

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).

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 know what the hymn writer meant in saying “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it! Prone to leave the God I love!”

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!

I said there were three truths under this second point. Here is the final one in closing:

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 think about 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 that today. There is such great news in this text. Don’t sleep through it.

More on this text in the next two weeks.