Augustinus, a theologian from the middle ages is well known for being converted by the Word of God and his life taking a dramatic change. When he was young he led a really wild life. Searching for the truth he went from Carthage, Africa to Milan, the capital city of the Western Roman Empire. There he heard a childlike voice telling him in a sing-song voice, “take up and read”. He opened the New Testament that was there. The passage that he read by chance is today’s passage, Romans 13:13-14. Up until then no matter how much he tried by his own strength, he wasn’t able to attain a holy life. When he who was struggling painfully, read this passage, in an instant his heart became full of peace, the clouds of doubt completely disappeared. He awoke from a deep sleep, and was changed into a life of new life.
Today from this passage I would like to talk about three points about how Christians should live in the age of the end of the world.
I. Understanding the present time (vs. 11a)
First let’s look at “understanding the present time”. (11) Please look at verse 11.
In the New Testament two words are used for the word, “time”. One is “chronos“ and the other is “kairoi“. “Chronos“ is the time given equally to all people. As the time moves on we are born, grow up, become old, and die. As the hands on the clock more around, time moves on. In contrast, many people don’t know about the other word for time, “kairoi”. Christians only know this time. This time is the time of God. More clearly put, when Christ comes again, this is the end of the world. Verse 11 says, “salvation is nearer now”. This is the time of Christ’s coming, the time of the completion our salvation.
This world does not just continue to idle away. Eventually the end of times will come. At that time heaven will come and Christians will be set free from all darkness. .
At that time, all the tears from Christians, those who follow God, will be wiped away. There will be no more pain, mourning, crying, or agony. There will be need for police, rescue teams, hospitals, or rehabilitation centers. That is because we will be free from all pain and agony. In the center will be God’s lamb, Jesus. From there shining like crystal the river of life flows out, and that water of life heals all the nations. This is for us Christians the most wonderful time. Such a time will come.
In this age there is a lot of pain and agony. By the earthquake and national disasters how many people are in deep mourning over the loss of family and homes! How many people are in pain with their bodies aching here and there! How many people are troubled by troubles in human relationships! Marriage, raising children, and jobs wear us out and we loose hope. However, eventually we will be set free from troubles, agonies, mourning, and pain, and a time of perfect happiness and peace will come. That is when Christ comes again and the time when our salvation is completed.
Christians know about this time. They don’t know when it will come, but it “is nearer now”. (11) Paul wrote his letter about 2,000 years ago so compared with that time, the end times are greatly closer.
In Matt. 24 Jesus tells us what it will be like just before the end. At that time many anti-Christs will arise claiming to be the Christ and many people will be fooled by them. There will be endless wars. In various places famines and earthquakes will occur. Eventually the Anti-Christ will appear and many false prophets will appear, and those who believe in Christ will be severely persecuted. Unlawfulness will be the norm. Many people’s love with grow cold. “When you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.” (Matt. 24:33)
We are seeing many of these signs. Half a year ago the unprecedented huge earthquake occurred. The damage from tsunami and atomic electrical plant was huge and the area still can’t be restored. Also if we look at the whole world too, natural disasters are occurring everywhere, atrocious crimes continue one after another. I don’t think I am the only one that thinks society as a whole is getting strange. Surely the last days are nearing. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Matt. 24:35)
II. Wake up (vs. 11b)
In the end of verse 11, Paul tells us what we should do, “The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber.” (11) Because Christians know that the end of the world is nearing so they must wake up from their sleeping. “The hour has already come for you to wake up.” (11) What time is this? This is the time when Jesus’ second coming is nearing so we must wake up and be prepared.
In Matt. 25 is the story of the 5 foolish virgins and the 5 wise women. The 5 foolish virgins brought their lamps, but they didn’t prepare the oil for them. On the other hand, the wise virgins prepared oil along with their lamps. The bridegroom was late coming so the virgins all began to fall asleep. However, in the middle of the night the bridegroom appeared so they all woke up and prepared their lanterns, but the foolish virgins had the lamps, but they didn’t have any oil. They asked the wise virgins for oil, but wise virgins said they didn’t have any extra oil to give them. Therefore they went to the store to buy some, but just then the bridegroom came and those who had no oil missed going to the wedding banquet. They went to the banquet hall and asked to be let in, but they weren’t allowed in. We need to be awake, so that no matter when Jesus comes we are prepared and ready.
I experienced this when we had the blackouts after the huge earthquake. The first night that we were scheduled to have a blackout, I got the battery run camp lanterns out, but I didn’t have any batteries. I went to buy them, but no place had any batteries, not even the small shops. I looked everywhere, but there was no place that had them. We spent the evening by candle light, but I thought that I should have been better prepared.
We don’t know when Christ is coming. He will come when we expect him the least. If we knew when the thief was going to come, we would be awake and waiting for him. However, a thief doesn’t announce when he is coming. We must be prepared, because Jesus will come when we expect him the least.
III. Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ (vs. 12-14)
The third point is how we should prepare ourselves. We must take off our old clothes, and put on our new clothes. We must wear Christ. Please look at verses 12-14
Here Paul says, “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.” (12) Here “the deeds of darkness” (12) are carousing, drunkenness, sexual immorality, debauchery, dissension, and jealousy. “The deeds of darkness” are grouped into 3 groups.
Group 1 “carousing and drunkenness” (12) This refers to drinking alcohol and becoming obnoxiously noisy. The condition of a person who is carousing and is overly intoxicated is that his senses have become paralyzed. Christians must not become like this
Group 2 “sexual immorality and debauchery” (12) This refers to immoral sex. When Paul wrote the letter of Romans, he was probably at Corinth where this sin was widespread. Debauchery is immoral behavior or an occasion when someone behaves this way and they forget all shame.
Group 3 “dissension and jealousy” (12) This is fighting and conflict. Some commentaries say that this sin is easy for Christians who live pure lives, not drinking or taking part in immoral sex to commit.
In short, these acts are all acts of the sinful nature of the life style of the old man which “gratifies the desires of the flesh”. (14) These are called the “deeds of darkness”. (12) The list of such acts which gratify the desires of the flesh are also listed in Galatians 5:19.
However, Christians are to do away with such “deeds of darkness” (12) and must “put on the armor of light”. (12) Here it says, “So let us…put on the armor of light.” (12) because now is the time of spiritual war. When you go out to war, you have to put on appropriate attire. In other words, Christians need to put on “belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” (Ephesians 6:14-17)
Also this is to “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ”. (14) To “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ” (14) is to become one with Christ. It is to live a life that is fitting for a child of the light. Therefore, we are to “behave decently” (13) The early Christians were like this. They lived so much like Christ that when those around them looked at them, they saw Jesus in them.
David said, “I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure.” (Psalms 16:8,9) To always set the Lord before us, to live a life with God in the center is to “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ.” (14) This is what is needed now with the Lord’s second coming so close. This is what God desires of us.
Are you prepared in this way? Are you ready for Jesus whenever He comes? Usually when we go somewhere, we prepare well before going. Therefore, it is strange if we don’t prepare for Christ’s second coming when it is so close. We are not going on a 2 or 3 day trip, We are going on a trip for eternity. We don’t want to be wearing rags when He comes. We want to be wearing “the armor of light” (12). Therefore, we must clothe ourselves “with the Lord Jesus Christ.” (14) There is the prayer “Maranatha”. It means, “Come Lord Jesus”. Let’s always continue to pray “Maranatha” and prepare for the Lord’s second coming.