Have you ever found that your first impression of the day determined the character of the rest of the day? You slept fitfully, or you had a terrible dream, or you over-slept and the day began with a jolt. For some reason, the next eighteen hours were completely destroyed before they ever began. You got out of the bed on the wrong side, and you were on that wrong side for the rest of the day. Sometimes you tried to find a solution to your negative attitude, but sometimes it just stuck with you.
We find here in Romans 13 that the Bible has some recommendations for us on this sort of thing. Other scriptures help us to sleep well, even when the world is falling in around us. And now that we are awake, the Bible gives us directions for the day. If we are able to establish a proper attitude and direction as we get out of bed, we will be headed in the right direction until we hit the pillow again in the evening.
“This is the day that the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24 is a wonderful verse, and it is true that every day is a new gift from God. But have you ever noticed that the context of that verse is a bit more specific than July 23, 2018? “I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation. The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the LORD’S doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” That wonderful verse is actually referring to the outworking of God’s decree of salvation. Directly understood, it is not speaking about everyday and this day; it is speaking about the last great day of the Lord – maybe we could call it “the great gettin’ up mornin’” But still, if we quoted and applied that verse to each and every morning, it would make us happier, more spiritually healthy, and more useful as servants of God.
For example, Nehemiah had spent a hard day supervising the reconstruction of the walls of Jerusalem. It had been a dusty, sweaty, nervous day, with construction problems, and the threat of enemy attack. But he said, “Brethren this is an holy day, a day for joy in the things of God.” And this day, our day, in the middle of July, is also an holy day, a day for joy in the Lord. But did you wake up this morning with wonderful thoughts of your Saviour? “Good morning, Lord, despite the heat, my aching back and the problems of next week; this looks like another pretty good day. Thank you!” There is an old saying which is appropriate here: “What is well begun is half done.”
What I’d like to do this morning is modify Paul’s thoughts just a little bit in order to reach a Biblical conclusion. Let’s say that these words apply to tomorrow – July 23, 2018. How should we begin that day; what steps should we take in starting the day off correctly? And then let’s put it into the context of a much larger day, the day we call “the rest of our earthly life.” Here is the saint of God, brought out of darkness into the Lord’s marvelous light. He is a new creature in Christ Jesus, with the rest of his life – a new day – before him. It offers new opportunities, new hopes, and ultimately the expectations of eternity. The sun is dawning in the east, and it looks like a beautiful day. How should we approach that day?
First, Paul says, “Get up.”
“And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep.” A few years ago, I realized that I was getting older – like some of you I have reached retirement age. I also noticed that was putting on a few pounds, and I didn’t have the strength I had 20 years ago. There wasn’t much I could do about my age, but some of the other things were related to my life-style. I don’t get a lot of exercise sitting at my desk with screen and keyboard in front of me. Mowing the grass and shoveling snow a few times doesn’t qualify as proper exercise. Years ago, when we were still in Canada my doctor told me to do isometric exercises, like putting my hands under my desk and trying to lift it, but if I accidentally lifted that desk-top, spilling the mess I have all over it, I’d probably have a heart attack. So I decided that I would have to take a brisk walk, which ultimately evolved into a gym membership. At ten minutes to 6, five days a week, my alarm goes off and I fall out of bed, headed toward the gym. I reward myself, by taking a book to read while I mindlessly use the elliptical cardio machine. And then after a few minutes in upper body exercises, I further reward myself with a cup of coffee once I get home. But the truth is, I must force myself to go to the gym. At 5:50 the alarm rings and says: “it is now high time to awake out of sleep” and to get to work.
Of course, when Paul says “sleep” he is not talking about physical slumber, eyes closed, snoring and drool. It’s not the same as Proverbs 6:9 – “How long wilt thou sleep O sluggard, when will ye arise out of sleep?” And it is certainly not to what Jesus referred in John 11 – “Lazarus sleepeth.” Paul is talking about those who are asleep to their responsibilities and the opportunities of the day. He is speaking of the sleep of indifference, unconcern and inattention.
Christians need to be awake to the fact of Jesus’ will soon return: “the night is far spent the day is at hand.” Friends, the world has been without the physical presence of Christ for nearly 2,000 years. How long shall the Lord wait before His triumphal return? “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
For the saint, the gloom of this life will soon burst into the glory of God. But, of course, for the world, the glitter of life will be blackened by the Tribulation. There are seven years coming up that will make the plagues of Egypt look like Disneyland. In the absence of thousands of saints, the ministry of Holy Spirit, as we know it, will come to an end. Men will sin with absolute freedom and the effects of that will be utter devastation. Furthermore, the Lord will pour His wrath down upon this planet. Now is the time for saints to awaken; get out of bed and shout“the King is Coming.”
And we need to awaken to the physical and spiritual needs of people around us. Even the Lord Jesus said that He had to work while it was still His day. And He told His disciples to look upon the fields which were already white unto harvest. How long should the farmer wait after his grain is ripe, before he begins to harvest? The parts of the world of which I am familiar, if he waits a week, he may loose everything to the weather. We have opportunities today that we may never see again even if we live to be a thousand. Awake out of your indifference and inactivity, says the Apostle. We’d better be coming up with some good excuses for the way that we’ve been wasting our time. And what about God’s money in our pockets? What about the people that the Lord has put within our sphere of influence? Are we hoarding what we know about the Word of God?
Like a lot of modern, socially responsible churches, I read of one that organized a basketball team to play in the local church league. During one hotly contested game a key player for the team crashed to the floor, smashing his head. Immediately he went into a coma and stayed comatose for 12 years. Of course, the church wouldn’t consider excommunicating him for his lack of church attendance. That young man didn’t tithe, pray for the pastor, support missions, or invite a single friend to church. But he was still a church member in good standing. He was just like thousands of others, still on church membership roles, but doing nothing to serve the Lord.
Awake out of sleep, for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.
After awakening, one of the first things we all do is to GET DRESSED, and Paul recommends the same.
“The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.” On Sunday night, I put out my exercise clothes, so I know where to find them. But in order to do put them on I have to cast off my pajamas. Similarly, in order to serve the Lord of Light, it is necessary to cast off the works of darkness. They say that nearly everyone at some point has dreamed about leaving his house still dressed in his pj’s or worse. Wouldn’t that be embarrassing if it was true? The only place where pajamas seem to be acceptable is at Walmart. Even at the gym, pj’s are out of place.
Shouldn’t the Christian be similarly embarrassed to walk about in robes of unrighteousness? We all have a few of insidious little sins. We have a hint of pride and envy, greed and discontentment – or perhaps much more than just a hint. How often do we get unjustly angry, or peevish and petulant? Every morning we need to get out of bed and strip off those sweaty bed-clothes of sin. We can’t put on the good things until we’ve taken off the not so good.
Some people have trouble deciding what to wear. For me, there is hardly anything to think about. As I say, my small exercise wardrobe is laid out so I don’t have to think about it in the morning. And when it comes to my daytime clothes I have a system. After my shirt is washed, I put it at far end of the shirt row in my closet. Often before going to bed I take the first shirt at the near end of the closet and pull it out. Then I find a pair of pants to match the shirt and put them both out for me to wear in the morning. I do the same thing with my four suits, rotating them each Sunday, and finding the next long sleeve shirt that matches well enough to that suit. In this way my attire keeps rotating in a fairly organized manner. I don’t really have OCD, but let’s just say that I am accutely organized. But more importantly, I don’t have to think about what it is that I’m suppose to wear. As far as adding new things to the system, my ladies do almost all of that for me. I don’t spend a lot of time making decisions about clothes.
And in like manner I try to let the Lord decide a few other things about my spiritual attire as well. For example, my earthly dad, was proud of his English/Scottish heritage. He liked to associate with people from the Old Country – the British Isles. And when we moved to Denver, he joined a pipe and drum corp. That was despite the fact that he didn’t play any kind of instrument other than the radio. The man just enjoyed those people. And he enjoyed wearing his kilt and sporran with the tartan of the Canadian Royal Highlanders. What if I decided to follow my father’s fashion and wore a kilt to church this morning? Would anyone be offended?
All right then what should I wear? And what would the Lord have us to wear? I think we can dogmatically declare that Lord wants us wear clothing appropriate to our gender. We might argue about what is truly masculine and what is truly feminine. But clearly, men are expected to wear men’s attire and ladies should be as feminine as possible. And we are both commanded to dress modestly. I believe we should dress in a manner worthy of the Lord when we come to the House of God. And that means wearing the best that we have. And just as clearly, it is a shame for a man to have long hair like a woman. The only exception is if that hair is on his face, which might even be longer than his wife’s hair.
So come on Christian, and put on the garments of the Lord Jesus. There are the garments of the Christian warfare as described in Ephesians 6. “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Did you know that Paul talks about these military garments in three different places? That fact ought to raise an eyebrow or two. The prominence of the subject ought to emphasize its importance. We are better off wearing our best physical rags just so long as our soul is wearing the panoply of God.
But even more important than these – there is the Lord Jesus himself. “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” This means, put on the Lord Jesus as you would a new suit or a cloak of perfection. It means crucify yourself – assimilate and walk in the ways of Christ. It is talking about letting the Lord Jesus be the pattern and the guide of your character. “Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.” There’s another old fictional saying: “Clothes make the man,” but it is true here. Wearing the righteousness of Christ makes us Christians, and that righteousness is the gift of God. There is no tweed coat or button or sign or bumper sticker that can make anyone a Christian. And yet, what the genuine Christians wears can make or break his service for the Lord.
Finally, Paul urges that once we’re up and dressed its time to GET GOING.
“Let us WALK honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.” A good Christian life is anything but stationary. You are either going forward for the Lord, or you are standing in His way. We are either missionaries, or a kind of mission field. We are either magnets or blocks of iron. We are either trees of righteousness producing fruit for the glory of God, or we are chopped cordwood for the fire. We are to be servants of righteous – servants excited about serving the Saviour.
It is a fact that a great many “isms” have won world-wide battles only because they were led by a few excited fanatics. Communism swept China and other nations led by only a few.. And we are seeing the same sort of thing in America with various forms of Islam. Its true in regard to society’s acceptance of homosexuality. Excitement about anything is very easily spread – even when the excitement is evil and only a few are involved. This makes our excitement and service for the Lord all the more important – more important than anything else – politics, sports, philately. Our Saviour deserves our lives and our effort. He wants us to put on His uniform and enter the fray. (This will be our subject during the next service.)
I’m not going to remind you of the intricacies of a life for God. But I will remind you of some of the qualities of that life. Philippians 2:5 – “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” Colossians 2:6-7 – “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.” “As Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of Father, even so we should walk in newness of life.” “Walk in love, as Christ also loved us and hath given us a command that we should follow him.” And the Lord Jesus added, “I’ve given you an example that ye should do as I have done unto you.”
We need to make a life-study of following Christ. We need to get out of bed in the morning as Christ Jesus would do if He were living among us today. We need to dress like a follower of Christ and to walk as a Christian. Isn’t it high to time to awake out of sleep? Paul certainly thought so.