Summary: how God wants us to put on the clothing of Christ and armor of light in these dark times
December 2, 2001 Romans 13:11-14
11 And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
Fashions have changed dramatically throughout the past one hundred years, wouldn’t you say? I can remember back in the 80’s, when I was in high school, long hair was in fashion. Kids would wear their collars up. My classmate had pink pants. Another guy had what they called “parachute” pants. Looking back on those pictures, it is somewhat embarrassing to show people what I used to wear and look like, because fashions have changed. Fashions are hard to keep up with, because they change so often, and it costs so much money to keep up with current clothing.
But fashion can be important. If you wear the wrong clothing to an interview, you could lose an opportunity. If you wear the wrong clothing on a date, you may not be very impressive. If you wear the wrong clothing to go hunting, you may get too cold or too hot, or even get shot.
Fashion is important in Christianity as well. Paul talks about a specific kind of clothing that he wants Christians to wear, if they want to “fit into” the kingdom of God on Judgment Day.
Be a “Fashionable” Christian
The most important criteria to fashion is the culture you are living in. What you wear depends on where you live. When you go to your Christmas parties, you will naturally ask, “what will people be wearing?” One of the most embarrassing things for people is to stick out because they are either too formal or not formal enough. In a similar way, Paul wants Christians to be aware of what other people are “wearing.” He says that first of all a Christian should be understanding the present time.
It’s so easy for us to just live life and never reflect on what kind of “times” we are living in. When I was in high school, I only knew one kid with a computer. We would play a game that he would download from a tape recorder that we would play. Only one out of every ten kids owned a car. Even at the seminary, only one of my classmates owned a computer. Times have changed. When I went to the Tel-Tech conference back in July, it was very interesting for me to listen to the keynote speaker make mention of the tremendous changes that have taken place in these times. He predicted a time when people would all be carrying cell phones around - which would have little video cameras sticking out of them. He also said that we are caught in between a paper and a digital world. Instead of kids bringing notebooks to school they will be bringing portable computers and the like. These are the times we are living in.
But when Paul says to “understand the present time,” he isn’t talking about technology. He’s speaking from a spiritual perspective. Paul described the world of his time as living in orgies and drunkenness, in sexual immorality and debauchery, and in dissension and jealousy. That’s pretty bad, isn’t it. Orgies literally means excessive feasting. Debauchery literally means to live as if there was no law. The picture I get of Paul’s world was of people who lived to party, and people who were constantly trying to be rich and live in luxury by cutting others down and jealously seeking what others had.
Paul told the Roman Christians to “wake up from their slumber.” That word is “hypnos” - where we get the word hypnosis from - to walk around like a zombie - to not realize what is going on around them. It might sound incredulous that the Roman Christians were unaware of the orgies and drunkenness and sexual immorality, dissension and jealousy that was prevalent in Rome. But is it? The point that Paul is making is that it is easy for us to walk through this world not seeing evil for what it is. That’s why he uses “darkness” to describe these evil activities. The one characteristic of darkness is the fact that it is impossible to see in it. When the sun goes down at night, darkness slowly but surely creeps over the land - it isn’t a sudden thing. But pretty soon you find yourself needing to turn your headlights on. And that’s what’s so deceptive about evil in the world. Like a subtle turning of day to night, a blanket of darkness slowly descends on our world, making it more and more evil.