Over and over in the Bible, Christians are exhorted to be on the alert, to wake up and warned against apathy, drowsiness and being unprepared. Christians are to live in light of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our love for our Lord and certainty of His return is to motivate our faithfulness to Him so that we are ready for His coming. Our readiness for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ will affect how we live in this world. If we are awake and ready for the return of the Lord we will not be like the poor deceived and deranged souls who believed the lies of Harold Camping about the day and hour of Christ’s return and many of them sold their belongings, emptied their bank accounts, quit their jobs, and got rid of their pets. No dear friends, instead we will be disciplined in our lives and diligent in the Lord’s work.
In Romans 13:11-14, the apostle Paul exhorted the Christians in Rome to wake up, clean up, and dress up because of the certainty of the return of Christ and their love for Him for saving them. We are to wake up, clean up, and dress up because of the return of Christ and our love for Him for saving us.
First, we are to wake up because the return of the Lord is nearer than when we first believed (Romans 13:11). God the Father has set the date for the return of Christ and He is the only one who knows when that day is. But this one thing is for sure – since the return of Christ is a certainty set on God’s calendar, each passing day brings us one day closer to that day. Just as our text says, “Salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.” The opportunity for us to express our love for our Lord through our faithfulness to Him is passing away with each passing day.
So what should we do to express our love for our Lord? The Bible says, “Do this....” Do what? Do Romans 12:1 – 13:10 which is summed up in loving the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength by presenting your bodies to Him as living sacrifices and loving your neighbor as yourselves by loving the brethren, loving others, loving your enemies, and by being the very best citizens this world has ever seen.
Why should we “do this”? We should do this, “knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep, for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.” We should love God and love others because the return of the Lord is closer now than ever. Because His return is drawing nearer and nearer we are to awaken from sleep. We are to wake up! Those who are asleep are not alert, they are not expectant, and they are not ready for the return of the Lord. It is our love for the Lord Jesus Christ and His coming that will wake us up. When we are excited about and anticipating the Lord’s coming we will wake up.
Second, we are to clean up because the return of the Lord is nearer than when we first believed (Romans 13:12-13). Romans 13:11 is speaking of our need to wake up because of the Lord’s certain return. Romans 13:12-13 are speaking of our need to clean up because of the Lord’s certain return so that we are prepared when He gets here. Have you ever noticed that getting out of bed before daybreak and getting ready for something or someone you are excited about is much easier than waking up and getting ready for something or someone you don’t really care about? We are to wake up and clean up because we are excited about the Lord’s coming and we do not want to disappoint Him. Jesus said that we are to be alert (awake) and ready for His coming (see Matthew 24:42 – 25:13).
Part of our cleaning up is taking off the garments in which we were sleeping – “Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness...” (Romans 13:12-13). Before we dress up we are to clean up because dressing up without cleaning up is disgusting. We are not to put on clean clothes over dirty clothes. We’ll talk more about dressing up in just a moment but for now we must understand that the logical order for dressing up is to clean up first. We get prepared for the Lord’s return by waking up and taking off the deeds of darkness. The deeds of darkness (garments of the night) are improper behavior such as carousing and drunkenness, sexual promiscuity and sensuality, and strife and jealousy.
To attempt to cover up the garments of darkness with the armor of light is to be like the devil who disguises himself as an angel of light. To still be wearing the garments of darkness means that the Christian still hasn’t woke up because he still hasn’t seen his need to clean up. We are to wake up and then clean up by laying aside the deeds of darkness.
Third, we are to dress up because the return of the Lord is nearer than when we first believed (Romans 13:14). We wake up, we clean up by taking off the deeds of darkness, and then we dress up by putting on the armor of light (Romans 13:12) or to put it another way, by putting on the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:14). To put on the Lord Jesus Christ means to become more like Him. To put on the Lord Jesus Christ means that we walk in truth and love and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lust.
We are not to provide our sinful natures with what it needs to succeed.