Summary: "What time is it for God’s people at this point in history?" That is the question the church must answer.
WHAT TIME IS IT?
INTRO: Many inventions have been contrived to provide the answer to this question. The sundial provided an answer only during the day. The hourglass could measure the hour—day or night—but not the minute. Finally, the clock provided the best answer, day or night: the hour, the minute, and the second.
Today we must ask that question in a different dimension. It is a spiritual question, a question for the church. What time is it for God’s people at this point in history?
This is a question that the Bible answers. Our passage has a contemporary ring about it, even though it came from the pen of Paul in the first century A.D. Romans 13:11-14 gives us three answers:
I. IT IS TIME TO WAKE UP.
Sleep may be either a blessing or a curse. At the end of long and laborious work, sleep is a great blessing. By it the body is restored and the spirit refreshed.
Sleep can also be a curse. When a person just stays in bed it is an expression of laziness. That was the case for the first generation church that Paul was writing about (v. 11).
Noted sleepers of the Bible are now classic for the tragic circumstances that resulted because of their sleeping. Samson slept a sleep of compromise. Called to deliver God’s people from the Philistines, he slept as he fraternized with the enemy. Jonah slept the sleep of an easy conscience in the hull of a ship. Called to preach to the people of Nineveh, he slept while the ship went in the opposite direction. Three disciples slept the sleep of indifference. Called to watch with their Lord for one hour, they knew not nor cared not that He prayed His prayer unto death. Five foolish maidens slept the sleep of unpreparedness. Called to join the wedding party, they were left behind with flickering lamps; they had not brought enough oil.
Similarly today I fear that God’s people are too often asleep. We engage in the luxury of spiritual slumber when there is no leisure for doing so. Asleep, we are unaware of the urgency of our world’s needs: hungry to be fed, peace to be made, ignorant to be taught, lost to be saved. Asleep, we are unconscious of our potential and our call to meet those needs. Asleep we are inactive in God’s work and uninvolved in what He is doing. Asleep we lag behind other movements who peddle their false-solutions, quack cures, and half-truths. We are letting technology solve the problem of outer space while we ignore the void of inner space.
To admit that we sleep is to acknowledge our need for a revival, an arousal. That is what a revival ought to be.
II. IT IS TIME TO GET UP.
According to this text, it is not enough simply to wake up. We must get up. Observe how this point is made. We are not only told that it is time to awake but that "it is high time to awake." Paul does not only say that the night is spent; he says the night is far spent. The passage shows urgency (v. 11). It is not as though the alarm clock is ringing at 7:00 A.M. when we need to be at work as 8:00 A.M.; it is as though it rings as 8:01 A.M. when we are already late.
We know quite well the difference between waking up and getting up. How tempting it is at times when the alarm rings and we are awakened, to shut it off and stay in bed. It does not matter that it is getting late. It is still a temptation, and sometimes we go back to sleep when we do not mean to.
A revival that only awakens has not served its function until it gets us up and involves us. Have there not been times when we have been awakened from spiritual slumber and failed to get up? The urgent need is that we get up and mobilize for the Master.
III. IT IS TIME TO DRESS UP.
A third answer can be given to our question; it is time to dress up. That is about the first task for any morning. Put on the clothes that are suitable for the day: work clothes for work, lounging clothes for lounging, church clothes for church.
This passage tells us about the appropriate wardrobe for this new day. First, some night clothes need to be cast aside: "cast off the works of darkness" (v. 12). Note some of the garments: "no orgies or drunkenness, no immorality or indecency, no fighting."
Perhaps these apply to some church members. Yet let us not feel smug because we have not slept in the clothes of drunkenness, or immorality. It is quite revealing that he put fighting and jealousy in the same list. None is more suited to daytime living than the others.