December 21, 2018

Advent 1 - Romans 13:11-14

Living in Christ’s Advent Light

Romans 13:11-14 Besides this, knowing the time, it is already the hour for you to wake up from sleep, for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over, and the daylight is near, so let us discard the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk with decency, as in the daylight: not in carousing and drunkenness; not in sexual impurity and promiscuity; not in quarreling and jealousy.14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no plans to satisfy the fleshly desires. 

The theme of light and darkness, and day and night, is very common throughout the Bible. In fact, from the very beginning of creation, we see God’s work set in contrast to darkness. But, this theme gets even more interesting when you dig deeper into specifics. For example, in John 9:4 Jesus warned about working “while it is day, because the night is coming when no one can work.” In that context Jesus described the coming judgment of God as night – or the ending of a day.

However, in this section from Romans, Paul frames the very same thought, God’s coming judgment, as a time to wake up – a time when the night is over. The key to understanding how this theme is presented in different ways, lies within the context of the section. In John 9, Jesus was speaking from the perspective of unbelief. He was describing that the ministry of God’s Word, “working during the day,” was so important because each person’s time of grace is limited. From the perspective of unbelievers, the Lord’s Final Day is darkness.

However, here in Romans the context is about our current Christian lives. From that perspective, Christ’s return is like the light shining forth through the darkness. We are to wake up from the darkness of unbelief and sin and live by faith in Christ in the daylight. Luther’s explanation to the Third Article, based on the work of the Holy Spirit, describes it like this: “...the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.”

Twice, the word “enlighten” is used to speak of the work of faith created by the Holy Spirit. This word hearkens back to this age-old picture in the Bible of the difference between light and dark and day and night. Faith in Jesus is the light that illuminates the sinful heart. It eradicates the creeping darkness of unbelief and sin – exposing it for what it is and destroying it completely.

It’s no surprise, then, that this same theme is common during Advent – the first coming of Jesus. Talk about a light indeed! The Old Testament believers had waited for millennia for God’s promise of a coming Savior. There were many dark times in their history – times when it seemed like all was lost. Even God’s own servants, the prophets, had dark days where they doubted whether or not there were any who still believed. Yet, as faint as it was, a light started to shine and continued to grow. Herod tried to snuff this light out – but couldn’t prevail. The Pharisees and Sadducees tried to drown out the noise of this Light’s preaching, and like Herod, even tried to kill it. But, they only made the Lights’ influence brighter in the hearts of the people. That Light was Jesus, born as a Savior to the entire world – and it’s His coming that we celebrate during Advent.

Our verses today point us to the same Light – this time for our lives today. The same Holy Spirit teaches us that the enlightenment of faith is never separate from how that faith is manifested in our lives. We can learn from those who came before us but their stories mean nothing if we fail to believe in Jesus. The end of our text describes: …so let us discard the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk with decency, as in the daylight: not in carousing and drunkenness; not in sexual impurity and promiscuity; not in quarreling and jealousy.14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no plans to satisfy the fleshly desires. 

What’s ironic today, and even more so sad, is that God’s path is often perceived as being in the darkness. It’s not that people see God’s will as wicked or evil, instead they consider it to be outdated – thing of the past. We hear a lot today about enlightened thinking – attitudes and beliefs that go beyond traditional, religious-based living. We’re told to accept all lifestyles, tolerate all opinions, and embrace all differences – even if doing so betrays God’s Word. This is what enlightened thinking means to the world. Those who resist such beliefs are said to be living in darker times.

Our Advent message today is such a needed reminder for our lives. Living in the day, as God describes it, does not involve embracing sin and unbelief. Paul writes that instead we “discard” those things – fully recognizing and trusting that Jesus Christ has conquered them in our stead. In their place, God calls for decency, peace, and no intention to satisfy the flesh. This is what living in the Advent light means. From God’s perspective, the truly enlightened path is according to righteousness in His Word. In a similar manner, the writer of Hebrews states, Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:1 NKJ)   

Again, it’s the light of Jesus our Savior that beckons us to “lay aside the sins which so easily ensnare us.” To do that is not outdated or irrelevant. God tells us it’s one of the very reasons that He sent His Son to earth as our Savior. Jesus came to establish and perfect our faith as the solid certainty that our transgressions have been atoned for by God. This isn’t just about sins in our modern, 21st century American culture. We might say matters of sexuality, pride, materialism, immorality, greed, and so on. No, the light reveals even the sins that we Christians try to keep secret and hidden – gossip, self-righteousness, hypocrisy, and failures to follow in Christ’s steps. The Advent light of Christ tells us that now is the time to discard, to lay aside, those sins in repentance. The light has arrived – everything is revealed. God calls us to wake up from our fleshly slumber and live in the name of our Jesus.  

In terms of preparation, our text speaks of it in what we wear. First, it says to put on the armor of light and then to put on the Lord Jesus. If you’re like me – the less prepared I am when I wake up the more prone I am to make a mistake in my wardrobe. There has been more than one day where I come home from a long day only to finally notice that my shirt is backwards, or inside out, or had a big food stain on the front – all because I was in a rush at the beginning of the day.

God says what we wear on that Final Day matters. Living in the light involves a wardrobe. It’s putting on Jesus by faith. In Galatians, Paul wrote, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ (Gal. 3:27).” Baptism is one of God’s gifts to equip us with the proper wardrobe of salvation. Now, God’s promise is that when He examines our lives in the light of His holiness, He sees the works of Jesus. That’s exactly what we need – without Jesus we are found wanting. But, let us remember, what the light exposes goes back to how prepared your heart is. Do you believe in Jesus or is it just another matter of religion that you’ve put off until later? Now is the time – Now the light of Advent has come.

Baptism has clothed you with Christ. For many of us – our baptism day was “when we first believed.” Like the Romans – our salvation is now nearer than that first day. Are you ready for the Advent light of Jesus? Clothed in His righteousness – you are. Equipped by faith, you can live in His light, even if it reveals all things about your life – good and bad.

Advent is a season of joy and hope. Jesus and His Word, the Light of Advent, is where our joy and hope come from. Joy for today in sins forgiven. Hope for the future in heaven.


No comments:

Post a Comment