Romans Lesson 139 - What's in Your Wardrobe?
Stephen warns us in this message that sin never keeps its promise and lust never pays off in the end. So run from the deeds of darkness and don't leave a forwarding address!
“What’s in Your Wardrobe?”
We come to the end of our series I’ve entitled, “Livin’ Like You’re Leavin’”
Last Sunday I showed you my vase filled with marbles – each marble represented one month of my life – there were supposed to be over 300 in there, representing the months I had left – assuming that I would live to be 75 years of age. And I told you I was missing 79 of them. I can only assume somebody wants me out of here sooner and not later.
Well, I want you to know that a man in our church had delivered to my office this week a jar of those same green marbles – on the lid of the jar he had written, “God spoke to me and told me to give you those years back.”
Thank you so much. They are already in my vase, sitting on my window sill in my office here at church.
I have since installed a video surveillance camera – so I don’t lose my marbles faster than I have to.
I was also contacted by a singer-songwriter who happened to be visiting our services last Sunday, who sent me the lyrics to her song she wrote this past week, based on this theme.
Two people informed me they have written poems with this thought of Livin’ Like You’re Leavin’
This past week, our Student Ministries pastor gave me the lyrics to a Christian song with a slightly different title – sung by a Christian artist. The song is entitled, “Live Like I’m Leaving.”
But the theme is the same as our study in Romans 13.
The lyrics of the chorus go like this:
“Live like I’m leaving;
Like heaven is in view;
I want to live like I’m leaving;
I will be evidence of You.
Through the shadows of my past
Through tomorrow come what may.
I want to live like I’m leaving
Just like I’m leaving today.
Alexander, Koch, Silvey, Live Like I’m Leaving, (Cross Keys Publishing, 1995)
The poems I’ve received, and the lyrics to songs I have been sent, like this one, put it well.
This is the perspective of Paul on life . . . perspective on life which leads us to pursue purity in life.
Let’s go back once more to Romans 13, as we wrap up this series, and get a running start with Romans chapter 13, verse 11. And this do, knowing the time, that it 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. Let us therefore lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13. Let us behave properly as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. 14. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.
You could easily outline this paragraph with 3 exhortations to the believer:
Adapted/changed from Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, New Testament: Volume 1 (Victor, 2001), p. 558
The believer is challenged to wake up – don’t be complacent in your living – for any day now, the Lord is going to return.
In light of that, clean up your act . . . Christian, live a pure life . . .
And the only way you’re gonna be able to do that is to dress for battle.
I want to focus on that last exhortation.
Paul writes in verse 14, again using the same thought of telling us to put something on and put something away.
He writes, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”
It’s an imperative . . . which means you could put an exclamation point after it.
And look at the difference in our lives. Look at verse 13; “carousing, drunkenness, sexual promiscuity and sensuality, strife and jealousy.”
But now, you are robed in Jesus Christ.
Verse 13 is who you were. Verse 14 is who you are.
Now, what does Paul mean when he says we’re to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Roman believers would have immediately understood the metaphor of putting on Christ, as you would put on a robe.
The Rabbis were currently teaching, and had been teaching with this same metaphor. They used the illustration of putting on clothing as symbolic of moral and spiritual behavior. The Rabbis taught that true worshipers were to put on the cloak of the Shekinah glory – the glory of God.
Adapted from John MacArthur, Romans: Volume 2 (Moody Press, 1994), p. 256
In other words, the true worshiper of God was to live in a way that would reflect the God they worshipped.
Now you need to understand that believer is already robed with Christ – that occurred at salvation, where the believer was robed with the righteousness of Christ.
Paul wrote to the believers in Galatians 3:27 about this truth as he told them that all who “were immersed into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”
The prophet Isaiah used this same idea where he wrote, “I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, my soul will exult in my God; for He has clothed me with garments of salvation, he has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, like a bridegroom decks himself with a garland and as a bride adorns herself with jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10)
Every believer has been clothed with Christ – we call that a part of justification. Once for all time, clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
But there’s another aspect to this illustration. Clothing ourselves with Christ means that we are being sanctified daily.
We were justified . . . we are being sanctified.
And that’s Paul’s focus here.
That’s Paul’s idea here – choosing to put on Christ – means you are choosing not to wear the deeds of darkness – but to wear the deeds of light.
Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord . . . walk as children of light.” (Ephesians 5:8)
You are robed with Christ, now choose to wear Christ in the way you live. Which means you will choose not to wear the robes of darkness.
This morning before the sun came up, I stood in front of my closet and picked out my suit coat. I’ve got a half-dozen of them – they’re cheaper nowadays because not many men wear them anymore; to a funeral, job interview; never church.
I reached out and took this one. I made my decision. Do you know what I was also deciding? I was deciding not to wear any other jacket.
And because I put this jacket on, all morning long, this jacket has gone everywhere I’ve gone. It has participated in everything I’ve participated in. It’ll be with me all day. I chose that no other jacket would accompany me today but this one.
I won’t put another suit-coat on, on top of this one, will I?
I’m not gonna go back to the closet and say, “Okay, I’ll wear that one too, even though it’s not my color; that one makes me look older . . . ”
By wearing the Savior, we are choosing not to wear sin. You can’t wear both the Savior and sin at the same time.
But there’s more: by wearing the Savior, we are showing our desire to be like the Savior.
Which is another way of saying we want to grow up to look and sound and walk and act like Christ!
You know what little kids love to do? Play dress up!
They love to put on someone else’s clothes and play dress up.
I’ll never forget when our boys were around 5 years of age and their little sister was 3 and ½. I was in my office and I got a frantic call from Marsha, “Honey, I don’t know what to do.” “What’s wrong?” “Well, one of the boys is outside, jumping on the trampoline, wearing his sisters one-piece bathing suit . . . what do I do? He’s out there jumping around like Tarzan in his sisters swim-suit. What do I do?”
I said, “Get the camera. We can’t miss this opportunity for future blackmail.” She said, “Are you serious?” I said, “Absolutely – hurry!”
My son, who is now in Bible college still laughs with us over that event whenever it comes back to our minds – and it comes back often.
We happen to have picture of our kids dressed in their mother’s high heel shoes . . . not the same son, mind you.
A rainy afternoon usually meant “dress-up time.”
Have you ever seen your child wearing your shoes – pretending to walk like you? Pretending to be you?
So we wear the clothing of Christ – because we want to grow up to be like Him.
Here’s a question for you . . . “what’s in your wardrobe?”
That’s a lot more important than asking, “What’s in your wallet, right?”
What’s in your wardrobe?
Christian, what are you wearing? The deeds of darkness or the Lord of light!
Would you notice that Paul uses the full expression of our Savior’s name. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.
- The Lord – because we are declaring His deity; He is sovereign; He is ruler; He is master!
- Jesus – because we are declaring He is fully man – the God-man who personally pitched His tent among us
- Christ – because we are declaring He is the only true Savior . . . he is the true Messiah.
Put on the Lord Jesus Christ! Wear Him everywhere you go.
This is the principle of a lifestyle.
Next, in verse 14, we also have the prohibition of a lifestyle.
Make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill it’s lusts.
The principle of a lifestyle asks the question, “What’s in your wardrobe?”
The prohibition of a lifestyle asks the question, “What’s in your wastebasket?
In other words, “What are you putting on . . . and what are you throwing away?”
Make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill it’s lusts.
There are a couple of key words in this prohibition.
First, the word provision is from the Greek word pronoia which means to:
-perceive in advance,
-to note beforehand
-to care for
-take thought for.
Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Abridged by Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Eerdmans, 1985), p.644
Paul is painting a picture of us that we’d rather not see.
He’s suggesting that every believer – mind you – has the potential to plan evil things.
Which is very realistic writing – it’s honest – it reveals something ugly about all of us.
The famous painter, John Sargent, once complained, “Every time I paint a portrait I lose a friend.”
The truth is, none of us like a very honest picture of ourselves.
But this is a true portrait. We know how to plan sin: which means none of us ever fall into sin by accident. We plan to sin . . . we sin on purpose.
- So, don’t hook up the cable movie channel . . . and then wonder why.
- Don’t plan to meet someone you shouldn’t . . . and then wonder why.
- Don’t ignore godly counsel . . . and then wonder why.
The devout Puritan preacher, Thomas Manton wrote, “Every corruption has a voice,” meaning that every sort of sin finds a way to bring itself to our minds and hearts.
MacArthur, p. 269
So don’t leave the door of your heart unlocked. If you do, you will make provision for sin.
But here’s the good news:
- you will never be trapped somewhere you never go.
- you can never be caught in a place you never visit.
That’s why Solomon warned his son of “those who leave the paths of uprightness, to walk in the ways of darkness . . . whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways – be warned – so that you will walk in the way of good men, and keep to the paths of the righteous.” (Proverbs 2:13, 15, 21)
The second key word is verse 14 is translated, “lusts; the lusts of the flesh.
The word epithumia is used for both good things and bad things. In the New Testament it is used to refer to
- A hungry person longing for food (Luke 15:16)
- A man desiring the office of elder (I Timothy 3:1)
- The angels longing to understand salvation
(1 Peter 1:12)
- The Old Testament prophets desire to see and hear the Messiah (Matthew 13:17)
Most often, the word is used to speak of evil desire.
- Men lusting after other women (Matthew 5:28)
- People consumed by materialism – a lust for things (Mark 4:19)
Furthermore, this word lust is used negatively in relation to:
- The lust of the body (Romans 6:12)
- The lust of the flesh (Ephesians 2:3)
- The lust of the heart (Romans 1:24)
- The lust of the eyes (I John 2:16)
- Worldly lusts (Titus 2:12)
- Defiling lusts in 2 peter 2:10
Adapted from the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, p. 340
This is just the beginning of the list.
It’s a word that shows us a portrait of what we are capable of doing and becoming.
No wonder Paul wrote to the Galatians and warned them to ‘Walk in the Spirit (by means of the Spirit’s enabling) and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16)
And here, Paul warns the Romans, the only way you won’t perform the deeds of darkness is to consciously robe yourself with the light (v. 12) and with the Lord (v. 14)
Let me get as practical as possible and ask some very personal questions?
Throughout your typical week:
What are you watching?
What are you reading?
What are you listening to?
What are you logging onto?
We cannot address the lusts of our flesh, in this generation, without squarely addressing the media and the internet and print.
Let me pick and choose my way through these questions – I’ll not even begin to address everything, but I hope to touch on some major things.
First of all, what are you watching?
Geoff Botkin in an address he made not too long ago, at the 2004 Vision Forum’s Independent Film Festival made the case that Christian aesthetics – a Biblical definition of what is good, true and beautiful, has been under attack since the 1920’s, when the movie industry began to grow.
He makes the comment that we as believers and especially parents need to wake up to: even the most shallow T.V. show teaches lessons – even the worst movie teaches, by its very nature of visual perception, a curriculum of values.
Geoff posed the question – how does society digress from enjoying and even demanding the movies of Shirley Temple to the movies of Sharon Stone . . . how do you go from Shirley Temple to Madonna, in less than 2 generations.
Part of the answer, Ladies and Gentlemen, is that your world is not in neutral . . . the doctrines of demon’s Paul called them, have an agenda. The prince of the power of the air is not napping; the ruler of this world system is not unsure of his strategies.
Why else would we be exhorted to wear the armor of light – to robe ourselves with Jesus Christ?
According to what we’ve just learned from the Apostle Paul, we are to anticipate and expect the darkness to entice the children of light.
Benjamin Stein, who served as a speech-writer for Nixon and Ford, entered Hollywood and acted in around 40 movies. In the 70’s he began, as an insider, evaluating the themes of the cinema, and has done so for many years.
He began evaluating thousands of scripts and eventually came up with at least 11 characteristics that dominate television programs/sitcoms and cinema:
- Sexual relations comes before marriage
- Children are wiser than parents
- Successful businessmen are evil
- Clergy are uninformed and ineffective
- Social workers are noble
- Homosexuality is genetic
- The military are psychotic sadists
- Fathers are stupid
- Criminals are the result of poverty or racism
- Profanity is a part of honest reality
- Women who reject motherhood are heroic
Adapted and paraphrased from a lecture by Geoff Botkin, Hollywood Versus Christian Culture, Vision Forum Ministries
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the predominant curriculum of a world, dominated by the lusts of the flesh.
You cannot allow yourself to spend time being educated by an anti-biblical movie, that moves your emotions and shapes your perspective, and then wonder why the truths of scripture seem so narrow – and why some Christians, including your pastor – seem so uptight.
Maybe you’ve already bought into one of the 11 things I read a moment ago.
- Maybe you’re wondering why two people who love each other can’t be intimate with each other – surely that’s a beautiful thing.
- Maybe you’re wonder why certain criminals shouldn’t get away with their crimes – surely they were disadvantaged.
- Maybe you’re thinking that children ought to determine their own rules – surely they have a lot to teach parents.
- Maybe you’re wondering why pornography is such a big deal – the truth is God made our bodies and He must have made them to be seen.
I have personally heard every one of those arguments from people who claim to be Christians, who had obviously been influenced by the curriculum of this world system.
What are you watching?
Secondly, what are you reading?
Is it the curriculum of worldly aesthetics – anti-truth, anti-beauty, anti-goodness?
It’s interesting to me that in describing the deeds of darkness, Paul hammers on the subject of immorality.
Here’s a book published not too long ago that reveals the disintegration of truth, as it relates to marital fidelity.
The book is called, Affair: How to Manage Every Aspect of Your Extramarital relationship with Passion, Discretion, and Dignity.
I learned about book as I was reading one or’s comments on our cultural immorality.
This pastor quoted the publisher’s review that said, “[this is] “thoughtful, detailed discussion of every aspect of considering, preparing for, beginning, and conducting a successful and emotionally fulfilling extramarital [relationship].”
Even though I as reading a quote form a pastor who said he’d leafed through the book, I still found it a little hard to believe . . . so I went on Amazon.com to see for myself and sure enough, there it was.
I pulled it up and clicked to open the table of contents:
Chapters were entitled with,
-getting ready to meet that special someone
-guidelines for pre-extramarital courtship
-situations that serve as an appropriate basis for
having an affair
I scrolled down to the reviews from readers who were gushing in their praise.
One wrote, “This book was a lifesaver for me. It helped me find and keep my special friend to help me through until my children are older.”
Another wrote, “I wish I had known this information some time back. I could have avoided a considerable amount of emotional pain by not selecting the "wrong" type of person…”
Another obviously experienced adulterer wrote, “[this book is] filled with common sense; this will greatly help those wanting affection from outside their marriage. If an affair is something that a person cannot avoid, then this is THE guide to have.”
I couldn’t help but think of THIS guide (the Bible), which says that unrepentant adulterers will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
What’s in your wardrobe?
Which is another way of asking, “What are you watching . . . what are you reading?
One more question:
3rd, what are you logging on to?
What about the internet.
Any medium can have powerful potential for the spread of the gospel, but also the spread of anti-gospel –
The truth of Christ.
The lie of anti-Christ.
Perhaps the most powerful and far reaching tool today is the world-wide web.
Without a doubt it can be used to spread the gospel. We partner with the Bible Broadcasting Network which is using the internet to spread the gospel now into many languages, including Mandarin – throughout China. People log onto their site and listen, via internet. They are experiencing more than 1 million hits a week – just from China. They are receiving dozens of emails every week from new Chinese believers who have heard the gospel of Christ and believed in Christ.
What a great use of the internet!
BBN has even trained some of their staff here in America to go into chat rooms and begin to interact with people – all sorts of chat rooms. In fact, on one occasion one of them went into a chat room for atheists and typed in, “I know God is alive – I just talked to Him.” The chatting really picked up steam.
But, with all the potential of the internet for the spread of light – it is an incredible messenger of darkness.
Over a year ago now, ABC News primetime conducted an extensive poll and found that the number of adults who visit adult-only websites in a typical week now exceed 11 million people. Mind you, these were the 11 million people who admitted it.
The evidence speaks of vastly greater numbers simply by virtue of the number of pornographic web-sites that seems to be growing exponentially. I read recently in the Leadership Journal for pastors that;
In 1998 there were 71,000 adult only web-sites;
Three years later there were 311,000;
Three years later there are now more than 1.3 million
Leadership Magazine, Winter/2006, p. l 35
This doesn’t include sites for internet gambling, false religions, the occult, and a host of other dangerous traps.
I do not believe I am exaggerating when I say that the internet can be the single most dangerous trap today for the believer.
The truth is temptation always comes packaged with a promise. That’s why it appeals to our lusts. A beer commercial never shows you someone throwing up at the party; those adult web-sites don’t show pictures of incurable diseases and their symptoms.
Sin is promoted as beautiful, together, satisfactory. It’s promoted as something you’re entitled to – something you have a right to – something you deserve.
So don’t hesitate . . . buy now!
The trouble is, when you finally have it in your hands, you discover you are trapped in its hands.
When you finally have sin cornered, you discover it has cornered you.
I read just yesterday, and I couldn’t help but laugh . . . I read that in New York City, there are 8 million cats. I knew there was something about New York I didn’t like.
Since New York City is basically cement and concrete, when you have a pet die, you can’t just go out in the back yard and bury it. In fact, the city authorities decided that for $50 dollars they would dispose of your deceased pet for you. One lady I read about was rather clever. She placed an ad in the newspaper that said, “When your pet dies, I will come and take care of the carcass for you, for only 25 dollars!” This lady would go to the local Salvation Army and buy an old suitcase for a couple bucks. Then, when someone would call about their pet, she would go to the home and put the carcass in the suitcase. Then, in the evening, she would take a ride on the subway and set the suitcase down and act like she wasn’t watching. Sure enough, at some stop, when the doors opened, a thief would rush by, and steal her suitcase. She would say, “Stop . . . Thief.”
What a surprise for the thief! I’ve stolen something good! And it’s a dead cat!
The truth is, we Christians, can become like New York thieves . . . grabbing something we believe will bring us happiness and when we open the package it is nothing more than decay and death.
Sin never keeps its promise. Lust never pays off.
Listen, Paul says, “Run from the deeds of darkness – and don’t leave a forwarding address.”
Strap on the armor of light . . . put on the clothing of Christ – there’s not much time left – don’t wait another moment.
I received an email from a man who responded to last Sunday’s illustration; Tim wrote, “I took your example of the marbles in the vase and modified it a bit. I put a vase on my desk at home with only one marble in it. When I look at that single marble . . . it reminds me that today could be my last month, week, day, hour, and even my last breath on this earth.”
That’s livin’ like you’re leavin’?
Consider this final thought.
Paul wrote the Corinthian believers and said, in effect, one day soon, you will put on the clothing of immortality. Don’t forget . . . one day, your glorified body will be robed with immortality. (I Corinthians 15:53)
Imagine that . . . a new wardrobe still ahead!
Let’s be livin’ in light of the wonderful truth that we are leavin’ – headed for the presence of our wonderful Savior – the Lord Jesus Christ.
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