THE NIGHT IS ALMOST OVER!
11 And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.12 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.13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.
They interviewed on the radio a snow blower repairman in a small Minnesota town. Last week, when we had several days of snow, many people called and tried to get him to repair their snow blowers. Now he admitted he could repair up to five or eight snow blowers a day. But so many people called that had a twelve day waiting list. You have to wonder, what did all these people do all summer? Because they waited, however, it was too late. They couldn’t get their blower fixed on time.
It will be like that when Christ returns. He himself compared it to the flood. People will be going about their business: getting married, nursing children, whatever, and boom, he comes. Will it be too late? For many, yes. Why? Was it because Jesus didn’t warn us? He has been warning us for two thousand years. Then why will people not be ready? Some simply ignore Jesus. Others become lazy. Still others become distracted. To prepare us for that day, God uses the picture of the morning. The night of this sinful world is just about gone; the Day of our salvation is dawning. So let’s rub the sleep out of our eyes and get dressed.
I. We are cleansed by Christ.
“Wake up!” Paul says here. The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. How do you wake up in the morning? Do you need an alarm or are you one of those who simply get up without an alarm? Are you a chronic snoozer? I am convinced that one of the worse inventions is the snooze button. All you have to do is reach over, hit the snooze button, and you get seven more minutes of sleep. The bad thing is you can become so accustomed to snoozing your alarm that you can snooze yourself into being late.
Wake up! Paul says here. Stop snoozing the alarm. The night of this sinful world is just about over; the day of our salvation is near. Paul says that our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. For me, that is over 60 years ago when I was baptized. Obviously Christ is closer now. You can approach that in two ways. You could be scared like a fire alarm going off in your house at 4:30 in the morning. Or you could look at it positively. Think about it. The day we leave this sinful world and all its evil consequences is closer than ever before. This reminded me of when I was a child going to bed on Christmas Eve. My parents didn’t have to come into my room in the morning five times to wake me up like they had to on school mornings. With the excitement of Christmas, I got up before they did. There was no grogginess or sleep in my eyes; only wide eyes open to see all the wonderful things under the tree. That is how believers view the Day of Christ’s return. We look at it with the wide eyes of a child. Get excited. It is just about here.
The Apostle Paul serves as an example of that excitement. Sitting in jail, he didn’t know what was better, to die and be with Christ or to go on living and do more missionary work. This is what Jesus does to us. Without him, we would desperately cling to every second we have on earth. We would because the world is the best we will ever get. After this comes judgment. The believer would not mind if he or she has more time on earth, but for a different reason. There are many good things we can do that will please God and glorify his name. And we do enjoy the blessings God gives us now.
But why would it be better for Christ to come now and not later? I remember a shut in the church where I did my vicar year. He was nearly crippled. His back was scarred from decades working in a steel factory. He needed help from the bed to his chair. His wife died. In a visit shortly after her death, I saw this man fall to his knees, raise his hands up the sky and ask God with tears to take him to heaven right away.
That is why. You see, as humans we are cursed. That is why we suffer from heartache, from pain, from disease; why women experience pain in childbirth; why we die. The diagnosis is found in Genesis three where man brought sin into this world. All the terrible things we face we caused, including death. But in Christ we have hope that all of this will go away like a bad dream. It states clearly in Galatians, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’” Do you know who is being talked about in this passage? God diverted the curse from us to his Son, Jesus Christ. And he was cursed with hell and death. Now the curse is lifted from you. It is like a tornado that changes its path in a nick of time and passes by your home. We are no longer cursed. Instead, we have the hope of leaving behind this sinful world. As he promised, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” Listen to these words. This Jesus who became cursed and suffered hell and death in our place, will come back to life. He will go to heaven and he prepare a place for us there. Folks, we are kids going to bed the night before Christ. He is coming any minute. Who would want to sleep through that?
- Getting ready for the day.
So stop snoozing the alarm. Feel the wife’s elbow in your side. Rub the sleep away from your eyes. Get up. There is a routine we follow to get ready for the day: breakfast, maybe a cup of coffee, washing up if not taking a shower, shaving, and getting dressed. There is a routine to follow when it comes to getting ready for the coming of Christ. 12 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.13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.
The scene Paul depicts here was common in ancient Rome. At night party-goers would gather for a festival to Bacchus, the god of wine, which quickly led to drunkenness. Such drunkenness would easily lead to sex, fights, and jealousy. You can imagine the decent citizens hiding behind closed, locked doors and hearing this commotion, hoping for daylight to bring an end to it all.
And that is the picture Paul is painting here. Yes, Christ coming soon. Dawn is just breaking. But it is still dark, and he warns us about being influenced by the night. You are sitting in a room full of people. One keeps on yawning. Soon others yawn as well. Yawning is contagious. Most of the world is yawning. They don’t want the dawn to come when Christ returns. They prefer snooze away their time or live it up as though it will always remain night. We are tempted to do the same. They yawn and we want to yawn.
They say that the most inexpensive but effective security system you can install at your home is to turn on the outside light. Paul encourages us to turn on the light, to put on the armor of light. In the Greek this is a word used to describe a Greek soldier known as a hoplite and the armor or weapons he puts on includes everything from his sandals and greaves to spear and sword and breastplate and helmet and shield. But this word could also describe the tools one needs to work. Imagine the tools a carpenter needs throughout the day, so he makes sure they are in his tool box or belt or truck, or the truck full of tools the cable guy needs. Whether tools or armor, God gives us things to ward off the yawning temptations of the world. The most effective weapon we have is the light of God’s Word. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” God’s Word, the Bible, becomes a lamp to our feet and a light to our path, so that we may see. What are some of the other tools? Ephesians describes some: the shield of faith as we put our trust in God and his promises no matter what; the breastplate of righteousness as we hide behind Christ for forgiveness; the sword of God’s Word; and so on.
So, grab the tools you need for the day. But first, make sure you get dressed properly. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. This refers to baptism. “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” We traditionally dress an infant in a baptism gown, usually one that has been used in the family for years. But in baptism you receive a gown that isn’t packed into the box for the next baptism; we receive the gown of Christ we wear all the time. In your baptism you were joined with Christ in his death. In your baptism you were joined with Christ in his resurrection. In your baptism you are joined with Christ now. Try this in the morning. Just remind yourself that you were baptized. The next time you are tempted, remind yourself and the devil that you belong to God through baptism. The next time you find yourself in a compromising position, look to your baptism.
Have you noticed how it looks in the morning before the sun rises? The birds begin to chirp. Though the sun is not up yet, you sense its coming presence. There is that glow on the horizon. Stars start to dim. And have you noticed how fast the sun rises. In just moments the darkness gives way to light. That is how fast Christ is coming. The alarm is going off. Don’t be tempted to snooze it. Instead, let’s rub the sleep out of our eyes. Let’s get dressed, shedding the deeds of darkness and replacing them with our light of Christ. INJ Amen.