Romans 13: 11-14 (Advent 1, 2013)
“The Light of Christ Awakens Us!”
“The night is nearly over; the day is almost here.” Paul spoke to his fellow believers as though Judgment Day were coming any moment. He and his close companions believed it was to come within their own lifetime. We do well to adopt his same mindset. He pictures it with the analogy of night and day, darkness and light.This world is filled with darkness, filled with people who are asleep spiritually. Only the light of Christ will scatter that darkness and continue to make us alert and ready for heaven.Paul tells us to Wake Up! Advent reminds us that Jesus came once before. He arrived as a baby. He hid his glory in his humanity. We will once again kneel again in humble joy to crown him as our new born Savior. Advent is also a reminder that Jesus is coming back, not as a baby, but as Judge and as the Lord of Glory. “Every eye will see him, even those who pierced him” (Revelation 1: 7). Wake Up! Our Salvation is nearer now than when we first believed!
- His Advent Scatters the Darkness
The Mediterranean World was filled with indecent life styles. The new Christians living in Rome had begun to learn that the things they were accustomed to doing and seeing were things no longer appropriate for their lives with Christ. Still, that culture lived and breathed all around them: “orgies and drunkenness, sexual immorality and debauchery, dissension and jealousy.” Paul explained that these deeds of darkness should never be part of our lives. We should live as though it were always day. Jesus said: “Men loved the darkness instead of the light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”
We do not do any of those things, do we? It is tempting to point a collective finger at the world in disgust for the ways God’s laws are broken. As in Paul’s day, we certainly can say that unbelief and its wicked behavior doesn’t even wait to do it in secrete places. Immorality runs loose and boldly parades itself on advertisements, in our entertainment venues, and even among the company we often keep. There is very little shame about much of anything anymore. Unbridled darkness is very real.
Did you blush when you heard the list of things Paul warned us against? In the previous verses he even names a few familiar phrases: “do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not covet.” It is always good for our spiritual health to remember that Jesus applies the commandments to our hearts: sinful thoughts, hateful grudges, sins of habit and sins of choice, the evil we have done, and the good we have failed to do – sin’s darkness begins in our hearts.
Christ’s Advent scatters our darkness. Paul’s telling phrase says it well: “do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful heart.” And we say, “Boy, does Paul have me pegged! How did he know I do that? I am constantly thinking about how I can gratify my own sinful desires.” Often those sins are carried out by the people of the darkness. Paul is also warning against the awful things we do in secret when we think no one is watching. Those sins are damning enough. The truth of God’s light also uncovers the darkness no one but God can see: the darkness of our sinful hearts.
Paul’s words of Light in Christ awaken us to see our salvation. He says that it is nearer than when we first believed. Christ had completed everything he had come to accomplish the first go around. His light shined every time he kept his Father’s will completely. His light shined when he put his love into action upon the people he met each day. His light shined on Good Friday when his blood washed away the darkness of our guilt. His light scattered our darkness when the Spirit opened our eyes of faith at the Font. His Light guides our paths in righteousness. His Word leads us away from the desires of flesh to the things that please God.
“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death, for what the law was powerless to do … God did by sending his Son in order as an atoning sacrifice … and that the requirements of the law might be fully met in us (8: 1-4). ”
Christ has scattered our darkness by shedding his light of salvation from Calvary and from an open tomb. His righteousness has been given to us. His truth has redesigned us to be children of light, not darkness. His salvation is our eternal wellness before his Father. Because of his resurrection and ascension, Jesus is promising a return to bring us to glory. When he appeared on the road to Emmaus his followers encouraged him “Stay with us for it evening and the day is almost over.” With hearts and eyes opened they later realized they had spent the Day with the Risen Lord.
- His Advent Shines in Our Hearts
In that light, Paul says: “Let us behave decently, as in the day time, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus. Paul uses the exact same image when he speaks of baptism to the Galatians Christians: “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ.” (Galatians 3: 26-27) Our baptism is the robe of righteousness we wear all the days of our life. That robe covers the darkness of our sins. With that robe on we need not hide from the Light of Christ. We can stand in his presence with joy, and with the confidence of knowing that we belong to him and to the light.
Confession and repentance is the Spirit’s way of stealing that darkness away. Basking in Christ’s Advent light of forgiveness of sins brightens the hearts of his people. Paul points to Jesus as the Light that shines in our hearts. We do blush to hear such crass concepts come from Paul’s pen, but now also because we what is pleasing to God in Christ. We are ushered boldly to do in the light the things God does through us in that light.
So Jesus explains to Nicodemus: Light has come - not only to expose the deeds of darkness, but also to expose the work of God in his children: “whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be plainly seen that what he has done has been done through God.” (John3: 21). That begins in the heart. His Advent light shines there. Paul speaks to us as children of our Father. He speaks that way because that is what God’s light made us to be. He cleansed our sin-filled hearts with his blood and with his holy living. He shed his light of love into our minds and hearts. He scattered the darkness with that ever beaming brightness that is his truth.
Paul gave the full armor outfit to the Ephesians: “the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, feet fitted with the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit which is the word of God.” Armed with his Word in the morning, noon and night, we are ready to defend against the flaming arrows of the devil. Armed with his light we are equipped to scatter the darkness of temptation and fear.Armed with his truthful sword we are enabled to “let our light shine before men that they may see our good deeds and praise our father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5: 16).
Christian light is Christ-like love. Love seeks the good of others. Love offers deeds of sacrifice and helpfulness. Love speaks the forgiveness of sins to those who are crushed by the darkness of their guilt. Love offers the Word of God as light on the path for those who will hear and listen to it. Love continues to prepare each other for the Day when his light will cast Judgment between faith and unbelief. Christ-like love is evidence that his Light has scattered our darkness of sin and enlightened our hearts of faith.
“His brightness ends the darkness that kept the earth in fear.
True God and yet true man, He came to save his people from this dark night of sin” (CW47:4).