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(Romans 13:11-13) Children of the Light

(Romans 13:11-13) Children of the Light

Ref: Romans 13:11–13

Would you drive a race car without a seatbelt? Would you rappel without a harness? Would you skydive without a parachute? Not on your life! Well, this is your life -- your spiritual life -- so make sure you don't face it without first putting on the armor of Light.


“Children of the Light”

Romans 13:11-13


In our last session I introduced a series called, “Livin’ Like You’re Leavin’”

And I made the comment that it sounded like the title to some Southern Gospel song.

I had several people tell me afterward that they were sure there were songs out there with that title.

I did an internet search and didn’t find any . . . I did come up with a number of songs that had one or both the words, livin’ and leavin’ in them; one by:

  • Neil Young, “you’re leavin me just yet”
  • Van Halen, “they’re sayin’ that you’re leavin”
  • Franz Ferdinand, “you’re the reason I’m leavin”
  • I found some lyrics by Puff Daddy – trust me, I’m not getting any sermon titles from Puff Daddy, whoever he is – his lyrics read, “Don’t ask me how I’m livin’

I don’t want to know.

The closest thing I read, which in a rather despairing way, summarized the idea of our series is a song by Tim McGraw, that is evidently, a top song on the secular country stations around the country.

The lyrics talk about a terminally ill man who tells him that he’s dying and as a result he gonna start doing some things while he’s living.  Things like, sky divin’, rocky mountain climbin, riding a wild bull, loving, speaking and forgiving others more.

The reason why?  Because he was gonna start livin’ like he was dyin’.

There is some truth in that . . . even the world feels its truth.  Life is short, and it’s slipping away – faster and faster all the time.

I mentioned in the past my attempt to physically remind myself of this very truth.

David, the Psalmist, said that in order to have a wise heart, we ought to number our days (Psalm 90:12).

Literally, count the number of days you’ve lived and have yet to live. 

Assume the best – that you will live the average age span in this country – which is around 75 years of age.

How many days would you have left?

If you’re 25 years old, you have approximately 18,000 days left;

If you’re 35 years old, you have approximately 14,000 days left;

If you’re 45 years old, you have approximately 10,000 days left;

If you’re 55 years old, you have approximately 7,000 days left;

If you’re 65 years old, you have approximately 3600 days left;

If you’re 75 or older, you can smile real big.

One of our own church members, Mary Karpf, who lived to be 101 – we sang happy birthday to her when she turned 100 – she went to be with her Lord just a few days ago.

Most of us won’t live to be 101 . . . don’t count on it.

But what if you lived to be 75?  How long do you have?

I have up here on the pulpit a vase filled with green marbles.  Each green marble represents one month of my life that I have left, if I lived to be 75.  This vase sits on the window sill of my office here at church.

I have counted the remaining months left, and this is all I have – this is it – 328 months to go.

Each month I take a marble out and throw it away – an action that reminds me that it’s gone.  Did I invest it well or waste it?

Some of my staff have seen this and have told me – Stephen this is depressing.  I shared it with one of our pastors here, in fact, I figured out how many months he had left and when I told him, he immediately responded, “I want an extension.”

I brought this vase home with me yesterday to recount the marbles and make sure I had an accurate count.  I haven’t done that in a couple of years.  I was sure I forgot a month or two to take one out. 

I’ve already warned my staff not to take any out when I’m not around, to make me think I have less time left.  It would be a cruel trick.

Well I counted them . . . there should be 328 of them in here – there’s only 249.  I’m missing 79 marbles. 

Somebody wants me out of here . . . sooner than later. 

But then I thought, maybe this is a sign from the Lord – I’m teasing . . . but I went ahead and figured it out; 249 marbles would mean I have until the age of 68. 

If I lived to the age of 68, these are all the marbles I have left.

In a very real sense, I am in the process of losing my marbles!  In fact, I’m losing them faster than I thought!

And so are you.

But I want to be reminded!  I want to number my days and months and years so that I’ll have a heart of wisdom.

But listen . . . for the believer, the fear of dying is not an incentive to living right. 

The fact that you will live forever, in the presence of your Lord and Savior is the incentive;

  • the fact that we will give an account before Him is an incentive;
  • the fact that we have a permanent home in heaven is an incentive;
  • the fact that we love the Lord is our incentive;
  • the fact that we desire to please the Father is our incentive for living and pursuing a holy life.

That is the exact point of this paragraph in Romans 13.

The Apostle Paul, in verses 8-14 wants to communicate a perspective on living . . . and a challenge to our purity in living.

Our Perspective on Living

Let’s go back an begin reading with verse 8 of Romans chapter 13.  Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.  9.  For this, “you shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet, and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  10.  Love does no wrong to a neighbor, love therefore is the fulfillment of the law.

11.  And this do, knowing the time that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.  12.  The night is almost gone, and the day is at hand.

In other words, here’s your incentive for obeying the word and living in this way.

Paul says, “You need to take note of the time!”

When Paul uses the word “time” back in verse 11, he is not referring to chronological time (chronos) but to kairos, time as in an era, an epoch of time, an age. 

This term is frequently used in Scripture and what Paul is referring to is the particular era – this age – we could use it to refer to this dispensation of redemptive history. 
Adapted from John McArthur, Romans: Volume 2 (Moody Press, 1994), p. 258

Paul is saying that the era – the age – preceding the coming of the Lord is almost over.

You need to understand that for Paul and the other New Testament writers, they never anticipated a 2000 year pause between the first and second coming of the Lord.

Paul wrote to the Thessalonians about the rapture of the church - the catching up of the believers – he said that we wouldn’t go up before the resurrected bodies of the believers who’ve already passed away.  He writes, “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” (1 Thessalonians 4:17)

Paul was saying, “When the rapture of the church occurs, I’ll still be alive.”

Further, in 1 Corinthians 7:29 that time was short!

If they thought Jesus Christ was going to rapture the church 2,000 years ago, how much closer are we than ever before?!

In his second letter to the Corinthians he said that the Old Testament had been written for the New Testament believers instruction, “for upon us, the ends of the ages has come.” (2 Corinthians 10:11)

In other words, Paul believed that Christ’s temporary departure while the Holy Spirit empowered the church to announce the gospel to the rest of the world did not seem to imply a lengthy period of time.

Kenneth Boa & William Kruidenier, Holman New Testament Commentary: Romans (Holman reference, 2000), p. 411.

In Philippians 4:5 Paul wrote, “The Lord is at hand”

The writer of  Hebrews put it this way, “Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together (why) . . . but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:25)

James wrote in chapter 5:7, “Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord.”  Further along in verse 8, “You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.”  

Peter wrote in I Peter 4:7 & 8, “The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.  8. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”

The incentive for loving and forgiving and sound judgment and a wise spirit is related to the coming of Christ. 

John wrote in 1 John 2:18, “Children, it is the last hour.”      

Jesus Christ Himself said at the end of this book, “Yes, I am coming quickly.”

His coming for the church is imminent – that is, the next thing to occur on the prophetic calendar – the coming of the Lord for the church, could happen at any moment.

As far as Paul and Peter and John and the writer of Hebrews were concerned – they were expecting to be alive when it happened! 

Listen, if this was their perspective on living and if they were urgent and expectant, we should be urgent and expectant as well.
Ibid, p. 412

Do you know what it’s like to expect a package to arrive?

The more you want it to arrive, the more often you check the mailbox.  The slower the mailman seems to drive when you’re expecting the package!

Are you an expectant mother?  Can’t wait can you?!  (wait at least 30 more minutes if you don’t mind!) 

Check number on the screen –

“most of you know this number

is connected to our nursery –

that’s how many babies they have in one room –

we said the nursery was crowded; no, someone told me laughingly, that’s how many sermons we have left in Romans)

Take heart, Mom; you know you won’t have to carry that baby forever, praise God, but you’re still not exactly sure when the baby will announce, “This will be my birthday.”

The closer you get to the due-date, the more often you lay down at night and wonder if you’ll make it through the night.  Who knows, maybe you’ll be a new mom sometime tomorrow.

As far as the Apostles are concerned, we are to live as an expectant mother – maybe today . . . maybe tomorrow!  Who knows, maybe I’ll be in heaven sometime tomorrow.

Maybe sooner than we think!

One day, someday, will be the last day before Christ comes to take up His Bride.

Rapture or not, the truth remains for every one of us – one day, someday, will be our last day on earth.

Paul writes in Romans 13:11, “Look at the time . . . surely it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep – passivity, disobedience, apathy, complacency – for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.

In the New Testament, salvation is in three tenses;

  • As it relates to the past, we have been saved from the penalty of sin;
  • As it relates to the present, we are being saved from the power of sin;
  • As it relates to the future, we will be saved from the presence of sin.

Every day we live, we’re one day closer to that future salvation.  Someone put it this way – every day we pitch our tent a day’s march closer to home.”

Adapted from John Phillips, Exploring Romans (Moody Press, 1969), p. 229

So, wake up!  Wake up . . . don’t be sleeping at your post.  Don’t waste your life away.

He’s almost here . . . wake up to your spiritual opportunity and discipline . . . wake up . . . the journey is almost over.

Live with a sense of longing for that day!

If you’ve had children, and you’ve traveled more than 30 minutes away from home, you’ve heard your child say from the back seat, “Are we there yet?” Are we there yet?  Huh, Mommy, are we there yet, Daddy?

I remember those days . . . “Are we there, yet? Are we there yet?”  Finally I’d say, “Yea, we’re there.”  It would get quiet for a minute and then you’d hear, “No we’re not!”  And I’d say, “You’re right!  You knew the answer all along!”

Don’t follow my example on this one.

The believer should live with the perspective on life that asks the Father, not with impatience, but with true longing, “Are we almost there . . . are we almost there?”

That was Paul’s perspective on living . . . he lived in light of leaving.  “The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation [and] instructing us to . . . live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and savior, Jesus Christ.”  (Titus 2:11-13)

Now notice verse 12 in Romans 13.  The night is almost gone, and the day is at hand.

In other words, the night of man’s spiritual darkness is almost over and daytime – the imminent return of Christ is just about to dawn.
Adapted from MacArthur, p. 261

This is our perspective on living.

And in light of that perspective, Paul will now speak about our purity while living.

Our Purity in Living

He informs us that there is something to put away and something to put on.

Notice verse 12b.  Let us, therefore lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.

Put away the deeds of darkness – which Paul will uncover in a moment.

And put on the armor of light.

This armor of light is a reference to the full armor of God  and also a reminder that we are at war.

These are terms of warfare.  We wear the armor delivered to us by faith in Jesus Christ.

Paul described the armor in Ephesians 6, “Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil . . . for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness . . . (that is, the strategies of Satan’s dark Kingdom that moves the world of unbeliever’s in their blindness to do his bidding) . . . later in verse 13, Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.

Charles Spurgeon delivered to his congregation in London, England.  “You may sleep, but you cannot induce the devil to close his eyes . . . you may see evangelicals asleep, but you will not find falsehood slumbering.  The prince of the power of the air keeps his servants well up to their work.  If we could with a glance see the activities of the servants of Satan, we should be astonished at our own sluggishness.
James Montgomery Boice, Romans: Volume 4 (Baker, 1995), p. 1710

At the height of the cold war, Robert McNamara, who was at the time the secretary of state, said that he always had to remember that “when we are sleeping the other two-thirds of the world was awake and up to some mischief.”

Here’s the armor to ward off both sluggishness and mischief:

Paul writes in Ephesians 6 that our loins are girded with truth – this piece of armor was more like a short apron which tied at the waist and came down to the thigh.  It was the central piece – in fact, the breastplate would attach to it and the sword would hang from it.  It all hinged upon the truth.

In a generation where truth is trumped by whatever you happen to feel is right for you, it is little wonder that the words of God are ignored and even Christians are falling prey to incredible error and false teaching.

The Apostle John focused so often on this piece of objective, inspired armor.  He began his second epistle by writing, “The elder to the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in truth; and not only I, but also all who know the truth, for the sake of the truth that abides in us . . . grace, mercy and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the son of the Father, in truth and love.  I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth. (2 John 1:1-4)

Five times in four verses – he refers to the truth.

He began his 3rd Epistle by writing, “I was very glad when brethren came and bore witness to your truth, that is, how you are walking in truth.  I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. (3 John 1:2-3)

This is the piece of armor that keeps keeps in place the breastplate of righteousness covering and protecting the heart.

The believer’s armor also includes shoes of the gospel.

And what is the gospel – the truth about Christ!

There will always be other gospels . . . some, Paul implied to the Galatian’s, are  gospels delivered by angels.  But they are false.

It’s interesting to me that both Islam and Mormonism – 2 of the fastest growing religions in the world – both have a system of beliefs which they claim were delivered to mankind by angels.

Ladies and Gentlemen, if you are going to stand in this dark age – this dark era, you must be wearing your armor – shoes of the gospel in which you take your stand.  Paul wrote to the Corinthians, about the gospel delivered to them by Paul, who was given it, not by an angel, but by the resurrected Christ.  And Paul wrote, “This is the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand. (I Corinthians 15:1)

Wear the armor – it also includes a shield of faith – a helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.

You’re in a war . . . don’t forget who you are.

When our twin sons were around 6 years old, I had taken them with me to the airport to pick up my mother-in-law who was coming to visit.  As we were waiting, soldiers, dressed in full battle gear – fatigues, helmets, guns, boots, everything, disembarked from the same plane that she was on.  They were an intimidating, striking sight – we just stood there as they walked by - my boys were awestruck.  We were standing right by the door, and they filed right past us.  One of my sons looked up and me and said, “Dad, there’s those army men.”  One of the soldiers walking past heard him, stopped, looked down at him and said, “Boy, we’re not army, we’re marines.”  Whose kid is this?

Paul says, in effect, “This is who you are . . . know who you’re fighting with and know what you’re fighting for – know what your uniforms stands for . . . who your commander is.”

You’re in a war . . . put your armor on.

Paul uses the phrase, “armor of light” to categorically describe the believer.

The world is darkness . . . the believer is light.

Paul wrote to the Ephesians and reminded them, You used to be darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; so, walk as children of light. (Ephesians 4:23-24)

We’re like little light bulbs moving through our dark world.

Imagine that. 

Is it any wonder then that the believer shouldn’t act like darkness?

How does darkness act . . . what are the deeds of darkness?

Obviously the list could be really very long, but Paul mentions these six sins.  Notice verse 13.  Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy.

You read a list like this and you might be tempted to think, why would Paul ever need to warn the believer of these kinds of sins?   Why would Paul need to warn the Roman believers of such wicked acts?  The question you should really ask is why does Paul include himself in the warning?
R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (Augsburg, 1936), p. 807

Maybe what we ought to do today, in humility is join the ranks of an honest believer and circle the words, let us lay aside the deeds of darkness” (v. 12); verse 13, “let us behave properly as in the day . . .”

The honest believer knows he can behave horribly.  He is aware of his own potential for sinful thinking and acting. 

And it doesn’t do the believer any good to think he or she is above or beyond any sin.

In fact, the believer that thinks that way is already in great danger, for the Bible says to take heed while you stand, lest you fall. (I Corinthians 10:12)

That’s why Paul writes this to the believer – this isn’t an epistle to the Roman senate, this is a letter to the Roman church.

And the Bible has a way of exposing who we really are!

We read the Bible and discover the Bible is reading us.

We talk about discovering the word – well, when you do you will find that the word discovers you.

That’s why an honest look at the word reveals that we are capable of sinning horribly.

That’s why Paul warns the Colossian believers as well, to “put away anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.  Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices.” (Colossians 3:8-9)

The tense of the verb indicated they were to continually put away those actions.

When we choose not to put them away and sin, one author wrote, “We put our dirty rotten clothing on, as it were, covering over the armor of light and disallowing the world to see the distinctiveness of who we are as children of the light.”
Adapted from MacArthur, p. 264

The writer of Hebrews also tells the believer to “lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us.” (Hebrews 12:1) 

Peter tells us to “put aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and slander.” (2 Peter 2:1)

James adds that the believer is to “put aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, and in humility receive the word…” (James 1:21)

And now Paul says the same thing to the believers living in Rome, Italy. 

We are capable of doing all of the above –

  • but because we belong to the God of light;
  • and we have been brought into the kingdom of deliverance and light;
  • and since we are now the children of light living out the gospel of light in a world of darkness that desperately needs the light;
  • and because at any moment the Lord of light will come for us,

There are some things we shouldn’t be doing:

Six sins are listed – in 3 pairings, since they are similar and usually go together:

  1. Carousing.  This comes from the Greek word komos and it referred to reveling, literally, orgying. 

The followers of the god Bacchus, the Roman god of wine and intoxication, had a festival on March 16 and 17. The Bacchanalia, were orgies in honor of him. By the time of Paul, these wicked celebrations had become notorious for their open public sexual perversion.

No doubt believers in Rome had a past life in the carousing of Rome in March.  Much like believers today living with the memories of some Spring break from college days or a trip to Mardi Gra or a fling in Vegas or some sweat-shop in San Francisco . . .  these are 21st century seasons and places that mirror the 1st century festival of Bacchus where immorality comes out in the open. 

Paul pulls no punches – these are the activities of the children of darkness – not children of the light.

  1. Paul goes on to add, not surprisingly, drunkenness.  The world is aided in its inhibitions sexually by the use of alcohol.

A few weekends ago, I mentioned we were at the Charlotte Arena for a 5 hour concert of gospel music – led by gospel quartets and trios and soloists.

It  took us 2 hours to get out of downtown Charlotte after the concert which lasted just past midnight as the new year began.

2 hours of sitting in traffic, as all the new year parties emptied out of buildings and into the streets.  At one point I passed a building where there were about 100 police in riot gear – holding shields as revelers poured out of a downtown building and into the street.  The people were shouting and laughing and most of them, obviously intoxicated – and I couldn’t help but think how interesting it is that the children of darkness who party away have to be controlled by riot police. 

And we, 10,000 strong, just a block away, having our version of a party – had no need of intoxicating help to make it enjoyable; and we didn’t need riot police to control us after the party was over.

What a distinction between the children of darkness and the children of light.

It goes all the way back to the 1st century.

  1. The third and fourth sins Paul emphasizes are sexual promiscuity and sensuality (v. 13b)

These specifically refer to sexual relations outside the bonds of marriage.

Sensuality could better be translated “shameless” in the context of this pairing.  The Greek word aselgeia refers to somone not only captivated by lust and sexual immorality, but to someone who is lost to shame.  While most people try to hid their immorality, this person doesn’t even try.  He flaunts his sexual sin, he boasts of his exploits, he doesn’t care who he destroys or hurts, he doesn’t give any thought to who might see him  . . . he is shameless in his sin.

The is perhaps the digression of darkness – Paul seems to be implying a downward digression as it relates to sexual sins.

First a person joins a party . . . then they get drunk . . . then they commit some sort of immoral act and ultimately don’t care they did and seek another opportunity to sin again and tell you all about it!

  1. The last two sins the children of light are to put away are strife and jealousy.

Another progression that Paul may have in mind is the outward acts that ultimately form deep within the heart of man.

Both actions and attitudes are included in this list.

The word strife refers to someone who doesn’t want to be passed over, or ignored.  Their personal power and prestige are utmost in their minds.  This is Diotrephes in the church who loved the pre-eminence (3 John 1:9).

Add to that sin the jealousy of the human heart that not only wants to be first but looks with jealous eyes on every blessing someone else in the church might have.

Let’s not be so quick to comment on sexual sin and overlook the hidden sins of the proud heart that demand to be first and pre-eminent and blessed above all others.

Well, how do we avoid reverting back to the deeds of darkness . . . what if we already have?

The answer is clarified even further in the next verse – which we’ll save for next time . . . but in the meantime, let me summarize the gist of Paul’s exhortation and warning and encouragement.

There are three things to remember:

1)  Remember you don’t belong in the dark!  That’s why you’re so miserable hanging around the children and deeds of darkness.  You are a child of the light!  What fellowship has light with darkness?

2)  Remember Christ is coming back.  It could be this afternoon – right in the middle of the Carolina victory over the Chicago Bears.

3)  Remember, we’re in a war.

You must never go out for a moment without your armor on.

Would you drive in a NASCAR race with without a seatbelt?

Would you rappel down a mountain without a harness?

Would you skydive without a parachute?

Not on your life?

Well, this is your life – don’t risk it – as for me, I’ve got 328 months to go . . . by the grace of God, I want to walk in the truth all the way to the tape.

So let’s wake up!  Don’t waste another month – don’t waste another moment!

We are children of the light, heading for the kingdom of everlasting light and life.

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