Sovereign King Church

Putting on Christ - Declaration of (in) Dependence Part 35

Have you ever noticed how the clothes you wear have the power to influence your mood or even influence the mood of the people around you?  For example, you may have gone to an interview before with your best suit on or your sharpest looking outfit with the expressed purpose of making a good impression.  Perhaps those clothes gave you confidence or perhaps they made you feel itchy but either way, you wore them because you wanted to make a certain impression to someone.

Now, sometimes what we wear or don’t wear is dictated for us.  For example, from 1993 until 2003, I wore a tie every single work day.  I haven’t seen too many of those on me lately.  But when I was a teacher and a sales guy and an office manager, wearing a tie or a suit was essential business attire.  Now, I don’t know about many of you folks, but I give what I wear each day about 15 seconds worth of thought – maybe 30 at best.  Unless there is an event that calls for something specific, the requirements for me are cleanliness (most of the time) and comfortability.

I’m aware not every one is like me or is afforded the luxury of wearing what they want every day.  Some folks take great pains to look put together for their day to either send a specific impression or to just make themselves feel better.  Either way, every one has some routine, habit, pattern, or ritual about the picking out and putting on of their clothes each day.

Well, this week in the book of Romans, Paul is, believe it not, going to address what you put on every day but with a twist.  In the midst of a whole slew of exhortations and commands, Paul is going to command you to put on Jesus Christ, just like you put on your clothes every day.  And we are going to find out that despite God’s promise to never leave us or forsake us, we still need to put on Christ in order to live this life of faith in which we are called.  With that in mind, let’s ask this Big Picture Question this week.

Big Picture Question:  What does it mean to put on the Lord Jesus Christ?

As always, before we try to answer that question, we need to remind ourselves of the context in which this week’s passage falls.  Paul is the middle of making some incredibly practical applications and exhortations about what it means for the believer in Jesus to offer their body as a living sacrifice as a spiritual act of worship.  According to Paul, offering your body as a living sacrifice

  • Means loving people genuinely, hating evil, and loving good.
  • It means blessing those who curse you and loving your enemies.
  • It means meeting each other’s needs within the church and showing hospitality to those who are in need within the larger community.
  • It means being submissive to the authorities that God has placed over you.

13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Now what we have here is one of the few sections in the NT that repeats a large number of the 10 commandments.  Aside from Jesus’ preaching at the Sermon on the Mount, we don’t see much of the 10 commandments in the NT.  Perhaps that’s because the 10 commandments were assumed in the life of the believer or perhaps it’s because the NT is the inspired commentary on the Law and the 10 commandments.  Either way, Paul feels it’s necessary to remind us of the importance of living out these commands of the law now by the power and grace of Jesus Christ.  We get these commands:

  • Do not commit adultery.
  • Do not murder.
  • Do not steal
  • Do not covet

Now I don’t want to just read these commandments and let them fall on your ears like so many other readings of the 10 commandments have done.  Think about how each of those commandments reflect God’s character for a moment.

Why does God care if a husband and wife are faithful?  I mean, why can’t you just have that person at home and that person on the side?  Because God is always faithful.  He never strays from His love of you and His care for you, and He wants you to reflect that in your marriages.

Why does God care if you kill or murder someone whether it be physically or mentally?  Because death is a result of sin and death is the curse of the fall into sin.  The life of the believer in Christ is evidence of God’s undoing that curse of sin.  Murder, whether it be mentally or physically, is a willful return to the curse of sin.  Murder is saying, “Jesus is irrelevant.  Let’s indulge in a sinful, hurting world instead of undoing sin and hurt.

Why does God care if you steal?  Well, any time we steal, whether it be money, time, or fame, we are saying, “Hey God, you are unwise.  You have not properly cared for me.  You are stingy, God.  You should be more generous.”  Hearing those words spoken out loud show their ridiculousness.

Why does God care if you covet?  As you can imagine, coveting is much like stealing yet much more nefarious – I love using that word.  Coveting is stealing someone else’s possession in your mind.  Why would God care about that as long as you don’t actually steal anything?  Well when you covet, you’re stealing and you think you are getting away with it.  Mentally, you are saying, “I’m going to steal this from another person and God will never know (insert Dr. Evil laugh).

Obeying each and every one of those commands shows in them a faithfulness to God and a loving attitude and care towards your neighbor.  That’s why Paul goes on to say You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself and if you are seeking to love your neighbor as you seek to love yourself (and we all love ourselves folks; don’t kid yourself) then you will be fulfilling the law.  Now verses 9-10 are not new.  They are basically quoting Jesus from Matthew 22 when a bunch of Pharisees asked Jesus what the greatest law was.  He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”  The “shalls” in this passage speak to the way in which we are to love God and our neighbors:  we are to love them with every part of us as if we were seeking their welfare in the same way that we seek ours.  These commandments coupled with the command to love our neighbor as we love ourselves should show immediately both the depth of sin in our souls and the great amount help that is going to be needed to obey them.

But Paul teaches us a new wrinkle in this somewhat familiar truth in verse 8.  He commands us to owe no one anything but love.  Love is what we owe to God and one another.  Now I have to be really careful here as a pastor and I’ll tell you why.  If I use the language of owing something, I’m quilting you into something.  If I guilt you into love because you owe it as a debt, it is no longer love.  But Paul clearly says that there is a debt of love.  Dr. John Townsend describes the dilemma this way in his book, “Where is God?”  “It is impossible to should love.  That is an oxymoron.  Basically, when we feel we have to love someone, we have erased the possibility of love.”  Love is a desire and a choice.  Make it a “have to” and it is no longer love.

So what is Paul saying?  Well, before we go any further we have to understand that this is one of those highly contested verses in terms of translation.  Some folks think it should be translated “Owe no man anything.” Which makes getting a car loan a sin but that wouldn’t be consistent with the rules of loaning and repayment found within scripture.  Some folks split the two commands making it “Owe no man anything (period) and then add “Only love one another” which separates the two ideas offering no connection.  Those translations are possible but they don’t emphasize well enough the intention of the language.  Verse 8 really translates along these lines “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another.”

Folks, right now, there are people in your life that you are willfully choosing to withhold and withdraw love and affection.  Maybe you are doing to protect yourself or maybe your doing to punish them.  It’s not love though.  Paul says you have a continuing debt to love one another.  You see, you will never get to the point where you can say that you have loved other people enough, and choosing not to love incurs a debt.  God commands us to love Him and to demonstrate our love of Him by loving our neighbors – in fact Paul describes it in this way:  Love does no wrong to a neighbor.  We don’t add to the love of God love for us by loving either Him or our neighbor.  But we are to love our neighbors seeking only to do them good and not wrong.

What we are doing is reflecting the nature of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant.  Practically, any one who claims to be a believer in Christ Jesus, should look around this room, should look around their workplace, should look around their neighborhood, should look around their home and think, “I owe each and every person here a debt of love.  How can I love them better?  How can I love them like Jesus has loved me?  God, how can you help me love them?”

Right now, you can’t turn on the radio or the TV without hearing commercials about debt consolidation or eliminating debt.  The idea is, “How can I most quickly pay off this debt and be debt free.”  Paul would say, “You are never debt free when it comes to love.  You never get to pay it off.  Christ gave of Himself so that you could reflect His love in loving those around you.” Listen to the urgency in Paul’s verse in verse 11

11 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand.

Paul quite clearly says to each and every one of us:  wake up.  Now is the time for you to wake up and realize what is at hand.  Salvation here implies the return of Jesus Christ – the ultimate realization of our salvation.  Let me go old school here for a moment:  Jesus is returning.  He will bring salvation and life to those who have faith in Him, and He will bring judgment and death to those who have not.  Metaphorically, the night is gone and the day is at hand.  Your expressions of love and mercy to your neighbor are extensions of the invitation of Jesus Christ to those who do not know Him.  The paying of your debt of love is the sharing of the Gospel to those who do not yet know Jesus Christ and a demonstration of Jesus’ love to those who do.

Now why would Paul tell the Romans, and subsequently you as well, to wake up?  Because quite simply, we’ve forgotten.  Other things have our attention.  Have you ever been separated from a loved one for a significant amount of time?  Do you remember what it was like to long for their return?  I’ve told this story before but never grow tired of it.  I remember waiting for Amy to return from England when we were engaged.  She was gone for 4 months and I was a depressed puppy.  At any point in the journey I could tell you how many days until she would return.  This was when there was no cell phone, no email…just snail mail and dialing 13 digit numbers over and over again at 5am just to get 5 mins to talk.  There was no one any more ready for her return than I.

That is the sense of expectancy for the return of Jesus that we are called to have.  But nearly every moment of every day in this world seeks to drag you away from the central task of loving others with the goal of proclaiming Jesus Christ with the expectation of His return.  Every thing from cleaning the house to paying the bills to picking the kids up from school to facebook to taking out the trash to doing the laundry seeks to distract you from loving others in the name of Christ in the hopeful expectation of His return.

Now some of those things are completely fine and even essential to our day to day living.  You have to do laundry.  You have to educate your children.  You have to eventually clean your house.  You have to pay your taxes.  And in the course of most of our days, it so easy to set our focus on the performing of the thousands of tasks that are our responsibly and not setting our mind to loving our neighbors in the name of Christ in expectation of His return.

When trying to get the kids out the door and into the van, it’s difficult to have any time built in to speak to your neighbor.  When picking your children up from school, the ocus is either getting home or to the next errand and not to love and serve the principal and teachers.  In the grocery store, what’s your primary concern?  Making sure your kids don’t make too much noise or being nice to the other customers or getting to know the cashiers.  We have our salvation for which we are thankful but the worries of this world drown us out so getting around to weeping for people who don’t have salvation is often far from our minds.  Where our personal sacrifice meets the loving of our neighbor is where we find out just how much we have been personally impacted by Jesus Christ.  When we realize that much of our life is carving out comfort for our little corner, Paul says to us, “Wake up.”  Look what Paul calls this reorienting of our life…

So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.

Waiting expectantly for Jesus’ return is loving your neighbor but it is also, casting off the works of darkness and putting on the armor of light.  This is serious language for serious times.  This is Paul’s straightforward command of walking in repentance, turning away from sin, and striving to live a Godly life.  And just in case we don’t know what sins Paul is talking about, he gives us a list of them to which we should avoid and repent.   What we have here is the extreme of several good things.  That’s what sin does.  It takes a healthy thing and distorts it by taking it to extremes.

Sex, completely healthy in the marital realm, gets turned into orgies when tainted with sin.  Alcohol completely healthy and even commended in scripture gets turned into drunkenness when tainted when sin.  Pleasure gets turned into sexual immorality and sensuality when tainted with sin.  Relationships get turned into quarreling and jealousy when tainted with sin.

Well, you might say, “Okay, I know I shouldn’t get drunk, quarrel and be jealous, but at least none of us have to worry about orgies.”  Not so fast.  If you are married and engage in any pornographic activity watching other people have sex, you are involved in an orgy.  If you are married and engage in any flirting or fantasizing with another person you have involved you and your spouse in an orgy.  The marital relationship is about the fidelity of two people to each other.  Two becoming one, forsaking all others and clinging to one another.

How about drunkenness?  The Bible commends the use of alcohol on Proverbs 31:6 and I Timothy 5:23.  It is a good thing however that can be easily abused and requires the same amount of self control that sex and relationships require.  Now the amazing thing is I know a bunch of people who drink but I’ve hardly met any one who has gotten drunk.  Everyone says, “No I wasn’t drunk.  I can handle my drinks.”  Good I hope you can.  But if alcohol is the only way you can relax or calm down or take a break mentally, then that is drunkenness.  Paul would say cast that behavior off.

How bout quarreling and jealousy?  Quarreling and jealousy are when you can’t see beyond your own desires.  Are you guys familiar with Winston Churchill’s famous speech following Operation Dynamo?  In it he said, “We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”  If you take that attitude and apply it to your personal life, what you get is quarreling and jealousy.   When you look around at the people in your life (your parents, your children, your spouses, your employees, your co-workers, your bosses, your neighbors) and you think, “First and foremost, I’m going to protect myself,” then you get quarrels and jealousy.  Basically, whenever you miss out on loving others as you love yourself, quarreling and jealousy are all that remain.

These will be the things to completely take you away from you preparedness for Jesus’ return.  Sexual sin, drunkenness, quarreling and jealously are all selfish, self-pleasuring sins that reflect a worship of self and a complete lack of love for one’s neighbor.

Our only hope is of course Jesus Christ and the Gospel.  Listen to verse 14.

14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Folks, putting on Jesus Christ and making no provision for the flesh are inseparable.  You will not do one without the other.  Since putting on Christ is so essential, let’s clarify a few things.  The putting on of Christ is not speaking of salvation.  We saw a minute ago that salvation is brought by Jesus Christ.  Our salvation is Jesus’ possession.  No, the putting on of Christ uses the same imagery of putting on your clothes.  In fact, some translators write this verse as “Clothe yourself with Christ.”

It is the same idea used in I Peter 5:5-8 Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful.

Do you notice the similarities between the I Peter passage and Romans 13?  Clothing yourself with Jesus and righteousness shows a vigilance for the present time with a look to the future.

The proper question is to ask, “How exactly do I put on Christ?  Well, what have we been called to in these verse?  Love in verses 8-10 and Holiness in verses 10-13.  The work of Jesus Christ of course clothes you with both the love of God and the Holiness of Jesus Christ.  Learning to walk in those garments is the hard part in this life.

  • The putting on of Christ is not an exertion of the will but it involves that.
  • The putting on of Christ is not being self-disciplined but it involves that.
  • The putting on of Christ is the daily act of finding your ever need met in Jesus Christ and His incredible sufficiency.
  • The putting on of Christ is the daily act of finding yourself unwise and God only wise.
  • The putting on of Christ is the daily act of finding guidance not in the counsel of others or your self but in the counsel of scriptures.
  • The putting on of Christ is the daily act of finding your hope not in yourself or in your own efforts but in the efforts of Christ.

In doing that, then and only then can we make no provision for the flesh and obey the commands that we have seen in this passage.  John Piper explains this extremely well:  The word “provision” means literally “forethought,” and the whole sentence would go like this: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and don’t let any thought in your head that would lead to a sinful desire—not just to the gratification of the sinful desire, but even the desire itself.”  Paul is warning you and me against even thinking about of sinning.

You know the word here for provision only appears elsewhere in the NT in Acts 24:2, and is translated as “providence.” So there is providential forethought, if you daily put on Christ in your thoughts by meditating on Him in prayer and study, you will not then be making plans to sin.  You won’t leave the door open to sin.  You will see your life transformed as you clothe yourself with Christ.

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