************ Sermon on Romans 13:14 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 11, 2001
"Clothe Yourselves With the Lord Jesus Christ"
I Union With Christ
Topic: Union with ChristThose rescue modules provide a good illustration of life "in Christ." Only those who are "in Christ" are saved from sin. "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus," says the Spirit-inspired Apostle in another chapter (Rom 8:1).
Title: Deep Sea Rescue Device
A recent news report highlighted a rescue device used on deep-sea oil-rig platforms around the world. In case of fire or hurricane, rig workers scramble into a bullet shaped "bus" and strap themselves into their seats. When the entrance is shut and sealed, the vehicle is released down a chute and shot like a bullet away from the platform. The seat belts protect the occupants from the impact with the water. The capsule then bobs in the sea until rescuers come to pick it up.
If a fire were to destroy a rig, or a hurricane were to topple if over, only those workers inside the rescue module are kept safe.
B We've been reminded today that we are "in Christ." In our celebration of the Lord's Supper we've had communion with Christ Himself; we've been reminded that in union with Christ all the precious benefits of His sacrifice upon the cross are ours.
C To be "in Christ" is the most important thing in a believer's life. And, to be without Christ is the most horrible thing imaginable. Let me try to illustrate this. The Romans sometimes compelled a captive to be joined face-to-face with a dead body, and to bear it about until the horrible rot and stench destroyed the life of the living victim. The ancient poet Virgil describes this cruel punishment:
The living and the dead
at his command
Were coupled face to face,
and hand to hand;
Till choked with stench,
in loathed embraces tied,
The lingering wretches
pined away and died.
Without Christ we are shackled to a dead corpse – our sin. Only in Christ are we set free from certain death; only in Christ can we find life.
Believers, then, as we've been reminded of today, are "in Christ."
D As Scripture makes clear, this calls for a response, a response of gratitude. In response to God's mercies to you "in Christ" you are to "clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ" (vs 14).
How do we do that? How do we, out of gratitude, clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ? Paul tells us to put on the love of Christ and the holiness of Christ. He want us to think of love and holiness as part of our wardrobe – something like a pants and shirt or a skirt and blouse.
When we think about it, love and holiness are an essential part of Christ's wardrobe. Christ wrapped Himself in love. He came to earth in love, He ministered in love, He died in love. He spent time and energy on unlovable people. Christ also wrapped Himself in holiness. He came to earth without sin and the effects of sin. He lived a sinless and perfect life. He never once sinned against God in either thought or word or deed.. In our place He lived the perfect life God wants us to live.
Now, out of gratitude, we are asked to clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ. We are asked to wrap ourselves in His love and His holiness.
A The first article of Christ's clothing that we, out of gratitude, are to put on is love.
Listen to what the Spirit of the Lord says, "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another" (vs 8a). We know from elsewhere in Scripture this does not mean we may not have mortgages, car and business loans, and the like (cf Ex 22:25; Ps 37:26; Mt 5:42; Lk 6:35). But Scripture here does condemn a failure to pay back loans and to make good on debts. "The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously," says the Psalmist (Ps 37:21). Few things bring greater dishonor upon the Christian community than the refusal to pay debts. In other words, those within the church must pay off all their debts.
The one exception to this is the debt of love. It is the one debt that remains due our neighbor regardless of how much love we may show him; it is the one debt we can never discharge. Not that long ago "The Banner" carried a news item about a church in Michigan that had a mortgage burning ceremony. This church was celebrating that it had paid off its debt of money to the bank. However, there can never be a mortgage-burning ceremony when it comes to the debt of love, because love is a debt from which we are never relieved.
B Some people misunderstand the Bible's teaching on Christian love. They wrongly think that love has replaced the law and it is love, not the law, which is the rule for Christian behavior. But love does not replace the law; it fulfills the law. In love the law receives the full or complete measure of what it requires. In love the law is like a cup filled to the brim, even to the point of over-flowing.
"He who loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law," says Scripture (vs 8b). This means we have not yet done what God commands if we refrain from murder, adultery, covetousness, and lies. The law is fulfilled by love. It is not enough to refrain from stealing what belongs to another. We must learn to share in love what God has entrusted to us.
(Rom 13:9) The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
It should be obvious that law and love go together. There is no place in the Christian life for loveless law. Neither, of course, is there room in the Christian life for lawless love.
C The law is not only fulfilled in or by love. We, as God's people, also know that it was given in love. God's laws were not written to hamper our freedom and to cramp our style. Rather, they were written by a loving heavenly Father Who cares about us His children. It is the same way with parental rules and guidelines. Too many teenagers think that parental rules are given to hamper freedom and cramp styles. Yet, Christian parents establish some rules for their young people to follow because they love them, and not because they want to make life miserable.
Topic: LawLikewise, the rules or laws of God were given out of love and, they are fulfilled by love.
Subtopic: Purpose of
Title: Rules are Meant for Our Protection
I read the other day about the employees of a hotel located directly on the white sands of the Gulf of Mexico. These employees spent their work breaks going barefoot in the sand. The problem was the inn required all of its employees to wear shoes at all times during work hours. The employees responded in one of two ways to this rule. The majority thought the rule restricted their freedom. The rooms had shag carpeting, delightful to bare toes, and just a few steps away lay the beach. To them, the rule to wear shoes was nothing more than employer harassment. But a minority of the employees looked at the rule differently. They knew that late night parties would sometimes produce small pieces of broken glass. They knew that occasionally a hair pin or a safety pin would be found hidden in the deep shag piles. They knew that hitting bare toes on the steel frame while making a bed was very painful. So this minority saw the rule as protection, not restriction.
D The love that fulfills the law is a love that loves your neighbor "as yourself" (vs 9b). Many times we overlook the phrase "as yourself." It implies that it is natural and normal to love oneself. And, it is unnatural and abnormal for us not to love ourselves. "After all, " says Paul, "no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church" (Eph 5:29). And, when we do love our neighbor as our self, we do not thereby cease to love ourselves. In fact, says Paul, "He who loves his wife loves himself" (Eph 5:28). Love of oneself, then, is not to be equated with selfishness or egotism. But, we are selfish and egotistic when we do not love our neighbor as our self, when we are so absorbed with our own self that we have no regard for others.
E The demand to love our neighbor is completely unconditional. The Lord does not say, "Love your neighbor if he loves you in return." Nor does He say, "Love your neighbor only when he repents of the wrong he has done you." Rather, the Lord says, "Love your neighbor as yourself." Period. No ifs, no buts, no maybes. Our love for each other, like God's love for us, is to be completely unconditional. There is nothing in us and of us that makes us worthy objects of God's love; yet, He loves us anyway.
Topic: LoveThat's the way it ought to be with our love for each other. Even when our "neighbor" keeps striking out, stinging us, hurting us, we can't stop showing love in return. Regardless of the poison of his nature, we cannot, will not, and must not change ours.
Once upon a time, according to an ancient parable, a holy man was engaged in his morning meditation under a tree whose roots stretched out over the riverbank. During his meditation he noticed that the river was rising, and a scorpion caught in the roots was about to drown. He crawled out on the roots and reached down to free the scorpion, but every time he did so, the scorpion struck out at him. An observer came along and said to the holy man, "Don't you know that's a scorpion, and it's in the nature of a scorpion to want to sting?" To which the holy man replied, "That may well be, but it is my nature to love, and must I change my nature because the scorpion does not change his?"
Dear people, we've been reminded in the Lord's Supper today that we are "in Christ." In response, you are to "clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ" by putting on love. "Live a life of love," says Paul, "just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" (Eph 5:2).
A The second article of Christ's clothing that we, out of gratitude, are to put on is holiness.
In talking about holiness the Apostle talks about daytime and nighttime, light and darkness.
Daytime, of course, is a time for work and school and play. Daytime activities generally are good and wholesome activities. The opposite, as you know, is nighttime. For ordinary people, nighttime is a time for sleep. But for others, it is a time for drinking, gambling, prostitution, and the like; for them, nighttime is the time to do those activities that cannot stand the bright light of day.
B People who are clothed with the Lord Jesus Christ "behave decently, as in the daytime" (vs 13). They live as daytime people. They strive to be obedient to God's law and live a righteous and holy life.
Daytime people live by the Spirit. Their lives are filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (cf Gal 5:22f).
Furthermore, daytime people "put on the armor of light" (vs 12). They stand firm in the faith with the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the Gospel, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. They pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests (cf Eph 6:10-18).
C People who are clothed with the Lord Jesus Christ, says Paul, put aside the deeds of darkness: orgies, drunkenness, sexual immorality, debauchery, dissension, jealousy. These six deeds of darkness were normal features of the Roman night life most citizens participated in. But the Christian who is "in Christ" strives for a lifestyle that is clearly different from what is going on in the world. As daytime people, people who are "in Christ," people who strive to be "clothed with the Lord Jesus Christ," we must have nothing to do with the deeds of darkness. We must "not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature."
Let me give you a beautiful illustration of someone who changed from a nighttime to a daytime person:
In the summer of A.D. 386 Aurelius Augustinus sat weeping in the garden of a friend. He wanted desperately to begin a new life; yet, he was not willing to make a break with the women, wine, and song that were a part of his old life. As he sat there weeping and struggling, he heard a child in a neighboring house singing in Latin, "Take up and read! take up and read!" Taking up the scroll which lay at his friend's side, his eyes fell on the words of our passage from Romans 13.
"No further would I read," he tells us, "nor had I any need; instantly, at the end of this sentence, a clear light flooded my heart and all the darkness of doubt vanished away." The Spirit of God used these verses to convert him, to make him into one of the Lord's daytime people. We know him as St. Augustine, one of the greatest of leaders in the early church.
In response to God's mercies to you "in Christ" as displayed in the Lord's Supper, you are to "clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus." Believers are to put on Christ's love and holiness in the same way as they put on clothing every morning.
Topic: ChristNo real-life picture of Jesus exists either. Yet, the likeness of the Son should be seen in the lives of His true followers – followers who, responding to the grace of God in Christ, clothe themselves with the Lord's love and holiness.
Subtopic: Image of
On a wall near the main entrance to the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, is a portrait with the following inscription: "James Butler Bonham--no picture of him exists. This portrait is of his nephew, Major James Bonham, deceased, who greatly resembled his uncle. It is placed here by the family that people may know the appearance of the man who died for freedom."
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