In what manner are we to love others? Answer: with urgency, understanding the present time. The hour has come to wake up from your slumber (v11). Then, the phrase that might sound a bit odd — our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. What does this mean? I thought once saved, we are saved. Why does it sound like salvation is something that happens sometime in the future? Phil 1:6 talks about God who began the work will carry it to completion. And this completion or fulfillment of our salvation occurs when Christ returns. That is what v11 is talking about. The second coming of Jesus is when Jesus returns to set things right, not just in a spiritual sense but in terms of physical reality. The world as we know it will end and He will become a new reigning King over heaven on earth, or the new heaven and the new earth. At that time, even our physical bodies will be resurrected so Jesus’ resurrection is a foretaste, a forerunner to every believer being raised in bodily resurrection.
And in regard to this return of Christ event, Paul reminds us that our complete salvation, body and soul, is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over. The day is almost here. In other words, Christ’s is going to return sooner than we think.
There have been many movies that try to predict the end of the world. And there is the movie 2012 and others. And many prophets in the Pentecostal circles are saying that things on a world scale are going to worsen this year going into next year. And they say, the end is really near. You turn on the Christian radio station and these days even many Calvary Chapel preachers are saying the same thing.
So what are we to do when we hear such things? One comment I can make is that the Bible is clear that nobody knows the precise day of Christ’s return so there is no sense trying to figure out exactly when the world will end.
Yet, it would be helpful to keep in mind that time is running out. Time is running out for all of humanity. The world will end someday. Some think it is going to be next year. Others don’t think about it at all. Wherever you may find yourself regarding eschatology or end times, we cannot dismiss the fact that time is running out for us as individuals.
Jesus may return and all of us will face him simultaneously. Or, each of us will pass away and face him as individuals. Either way, time is running out.
The fact that time is running out and we will soon enough face Jesus has a direct effect on how we live today.
12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. [And given this fact, how should we live?] 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 orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.
Jesus is coming so it’s time to shape up. We shouldn’t live casually and say, whoops, I sinned, there I go again. We shouldn’t live carelessly. Because Jesus is coming.
When I was growing up, I loved it when my parents went to Friday Bible study. I was not happy because I wanted them to be nourished by the Word of God. No, I was happy because I was stuck in my room trying to study and on Bible study nights, I could sneak downstairs to watch TV. TGIF – thank God it’s Friday. There was even a line up of sitcoms that I enjoyed that used those acronyms from 8-10pm on Friday nights. And on the Fridays where I could watch my favorite shows, I was agreeing with TGIF, yes, thank you God for sending my parents to Bible study and please help them to stay later so that I can watch more TV.
I lived however I wanted for those few hours. I did whatever I wanted. But I would always watch the clock and listen for the slamming of the car door from our driveway because I knew my parents would come home around 11pm. And from the moment that I heard the car door slam, I knew I had roughly 30 seconds to wipe down the TV because our TV was a huge monstrosity of a TV and the back of the TV got very hot after a few hours. So I had to wipe it down quickly to try to cool it off. Then I had to run to the kitchen to get a glass of water so that my parents would think I am downstairs just to take a break from my studies.
The fact that my dad came home caused me to clean up my act. Because eventually, I knew that my night of doing whatever I wanted would come to an end.
And even if you don’t consider the possibility of Jesus’ imminent return, how might our lives be different if you knew that your time individually is running out?
If you went to the doctor and got the news that you have a terminal case of cancer and had 3 months to live, I doubt that you would continue living as you have been. You would make drastic changes.
Life is short. And life is like those hour glasses. The sands of time are slipping away. And time seems to speed up with age. When we are young, we just want to grow up. Treat me like an adult. Give me my freedom.
When I was courting Jackie for marriage, that year or year and a half felt like an eternity. I was ready to marry her after the first date. Let’s seal the deal. That was 11 years ago. It feels like yesterday. In a blink of an eye, 11 years went by. 3 kids.
After I became a Christian, I wrestled with my calling. I knew I was going to be a pastor early on but I didn’t know when and how. So those 18 years of Christian life felt like 40 years of wandering in the desert while I was waiting on God. God was working on my character, teaching me to be patient. And I would say to God, where are you leading me? Now I am a pastor. And it feels like yesterday when I was in your shoes and giving my life to Christ in 1993 as a sophomore in college. 18 years pass by in a blink of an eye.
Life will go by in an instant. I am approaching middle age. That means I am halfway dead. And my prayer is that the next 18 years of walking with Jesus would be better and sweeter than the first 18 years.
For you college and grad students, I want to ask, have you prayed about your calling? When you became a Christian, did you ever wonder if the goal that you were pursuing before Christ is the same one that He wants you to pursue after you met Christ?
For the rest of us, it could be that you wanted to be a politician before you met Christ and you became a Christian and God confirms that desire to govern and work for the common good. Then, you will have a sense of peace about your future direction.
But maybe you never really asked God to clarify your calling. You were on a path before and you became Christian and you stayed on the same path without ever praying about it. Or you may have tried to pray, but all you could hear were the voices of parental expectations, or voices of comfort or voices of practicality. And the whispers of God were drowned out by these other voices.
We all have one life to live. Don’t assume that the goals you are pursuing currently are what God intends for you to pursue in the long run. I am telling you this now because I don’t want you to be 80 years old and look back on your life with regret because you didn’t do what God asked you to do. It takes courage to give God a clean slate and say, Jesus, I am going to follow you wherever you lead. But this is what it means to surrender our lives to the Lord. Jesus is both our Savior and our Lord.
For you students, I encourage you to wrestle with God, esp. during these pivotal years in your late teens to twenties. I think that decade is the most crucial decade in one’s life. Because this is the decade you are setting the trajectory for the rest of your life. You need to be praying throughout these years. Ask others to pray for you and we’d be happy to pray for you.
For those of you who are already established in your career, maybe you find yourselves just going through the motions. You know something needs to change but you are scared.
Take some risks. Maybe you have to take a lower paying job to reduce stress and create more room in your life. Or if you are a college minister, maybe you should pray that a position would open up on campus. Jesus is bigger than a salary or a bank account. If you take a step of faith, He will provide. Trust him to care for your financial needs.
As we get older, we will realize that our most precious commodity is not money or achievements or degrees or material possessions. It is time. How will you invest your life?
Being a politician, a head of state, a president, is an all-consuming occupation. These people give their full-time to governing. What about you and I? How will the bulk of your life and mine be invested?
Nobody knows what direction God is calling you to go. Others can offer some advice, but it’s your life. It’s between you and God. Pray, get right with him, and ask him to lead.
And as you are praying about your future, take into account these verses about Jesus’ imminent return. The night is nearly over. The day is almost here.
In conclusion, I want to summarize the 3 main points.
1) Give to the worldly authorities what you owe them. Pay your taxes. Submit to the government as long as it does not conflict directly with your faith in Christ.
2) Using that same principle, if you pay taxes to the government because you owe them, how much more ought you and I to give to Christ what we owe to Him. We are indebted to him and no one else and this is a continuing debt that will never be paid off. Pay back what you can to Christ by loving others.
3) Give to Christ what you owe to Him, meaning, love others, with a sense of urgency because Jesus is coming back soon. Time is running out.
And I want to end with the last verse of the chapter.
14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
May this be our prayer for one another. Time is running out. Jesus is coming back. Therefore, in light of this truth, we must refuse to gratify the desires of the sinful nature, we crucify our desires, we die to ourselves, we put off the sinful nature and so when people look at us, what do they see? Not Ray or Daniel or John, but Christ. Clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ. Put off the sinful nature and put on Christ. And when we do so, we become accurate reflections of the love, compassion, humility of Christ. And it is my prayer that through our lives, Jesus may receive all the glory.