David Jeremiah - Live Like You Were Dying
In Romans 13:11 through 14 there is a signature passage, "And do this knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep, for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore, let us cast off the world of darkness. Let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lust". Using terse, blunt words, Paul offered four keys to help us live our lives in this time with urgency, and not get caught up in the seductiveness of our generation, but remain close to Christ, walking with him.
Let me give you those four things. First of all he says, "Watch vigilantly". Romans 13:11, "And do this," he said, "knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep, for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed". If you have read that in the Bible, you would discover that there are five references to time. Knowing the time, now is the high time, our salvation is nearer, the night is far spent, the day is at hand. It has always been important to understand the times. And the Bible tells us we should be interested in what's going on. We should look forward to what the Bible says is going to happen.
You hear the Lord Jesus scolding his critics, and he says to them, "You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you can't discern the signs of the times". Jesus said, "You're great weather people, but not very good prophecy people". In other words, they watched for the rain or for the setting of the sun, but they didn't watch for any spiritual signals. Today's technology lets us consult seven day forecasts with reasonable accuracy. Doctors can predict that certain diseases may occur, even before they manifest themselves, but all the while we are remarkably blind to the workings of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We're hypnotized by the rhythm of life, as if this moment has no bearing on eternity, and everything is going to continue to be the same as it always has been.
We need to get aware of what's goin' on, and don't just say, "Yeah, prophecy's good, Jesus is comin' back some day, so let's get on. What ballgame are we gonna watch tonight," you know? Some people laugh at the very thought of the Bible predicting the future. The scoffers who would come on the last day saying, "Where is the coming the Lord"? Since from the beginning, people have been talking about the coming of the Lord, and he hasn't come yet. No matter what others may ever think, no matter what theologians may write, no matter how much the skeptics doubt, ladies and gentlemen, the return of Christ to this earth is certain. It is going to happen. I can't tell you when. I'm not even going to attempt to do that. Not only is the Lord's coming certain, but according to Paul it is imminent.
"And do this," he wrote, "knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep, for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed". Listen to those words. When I use the word "imminent," I am not using a calendar word. I am not setting a date for the Lord's return. Imminence does not mean immediate. It simply means that something could happen at any moment and that nothing has to occur before that moment takes place. If you understand the proper meaning of that word, we will realize that the coming of Christ could've been just as imminent in the first century as it is today, as we learned from the pronouns that the men used. They thought Jesus was coming in their lifetime.
Now, the way Paul expressed this truth about our Lord's return in this passage causes some confusion. Did you hear the verse "For now our salvation is nearer than we first believed"? If you want a good answer for those who ask you when the Lord's comin' back, there it is. Somebody said, "Do you know when Jesus is comin' back"? Yeah, I do. It's sooner than when I first believed. He's comin' back sooner than when I became a Christian. You'll always be right if you say that. You don't have to worry about anybody contradicting you. That's a perfect answer, but what did Paul mean when he said, "Our salvation is nearer than when we believed"? I mean, after all, isn't our salvation in the past?
When Paul uses the word salvation here, he was seeing that concept in its completeness, in its fullness. For instance, the moment we say yes to Christ, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit and our sins are washed away and we are saved. The next thing that happens is we begin to grow and be conformed, spiritual molecule by spiritual molecule, to the image of Christ. We become more like Christ. We are being sanctified, that's what that means, to be made holy. And then ultimately, when we stand before the Lord someday, we'll be made perfect and set free of every sin. Here's a good way to remember this.
There's three tenses to salvation. Listen carefully. Past, I have been saved from the penalty of sin. Present, I am being saved from the power of sin. Future, I will be saved from the very presence of sin. Salvation, past, present, and future. I have been saved from the penalty of sin. I am being saved from the power of sin. Sanctification teaches us how to be victorious in our life. But ultimately one day when I stand before the Lord, there will be no sin in heaven. There will be no presence of sin. I will be saved from the presence of sin, and my salvation at that moment will be complete when Jesus takes me to himself.
Now, Paul is saying that that part of our salvation when we are freed from the very presence of sin, when we stand in the presence of the Lord, that part of our salvation is nearer than when we believed. He was saying, "He's coming back, and his coming is nearer than when you became a Christian". I mean, that might not mean anything to you, but it tells us this is a moving target. We don't know when it is. I think I'm gonna be around when it happens. I hope you are. I tell everybody, I'm lookin' for the upper taker, not the undertaker, right? Aren't you? I think we all agree about that. Yeah, we vote for the rapture, right? The whole purpose of the rapture is to inject into our spirit a sense of urgency to take it seriously.
This is not just about knowing more about what's gonna happen in the future. It's knowing what's gonna happen in the future so we can get our act together now, so we can start living with a little more concern about what's gonna happen. We're to watch vigilantly. And then the Bible says we're to war valiantly. Verse 12. I know watching can feel like a relatively passive thing, like watching paint dry, but Paul had other plans and other priorities in mind for his followers. He said, listen to this, "The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore, let us cast off the works of darkness and let us put on the armor of light".
What he is saying is, listen, the stuff is gonna happen we've been talkin' about, but don't get caught up out there. Remember, what that's teaching us is we gotta make some changes now. We've gotta look at our own lives and realize if Jesus came back tomorrow, what would you have to do today to be sure you wouldn't get embarrassed when he showed up? First of all, Paul told the Romans to put off darkness. "The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Cast off the works of darkness".
When Paul tells us to put off darkness, he chose a decisive verb. It means to deliberately, purposefully, significantly, and permanently put aside the things of darkness. Now I don't know if you ever discovered this, but darkness is a term used often in scripture to describe the life that we lived before Christ came into our lives. Ephesians 5:8, for instance, says this. "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord, so walk as children of light".
How many of you know that we become Christians, but we still struggle with sin? Because we used to have just an old nature and we couldn't do anything but sin. But when we became Christians, we got the Holy Spirit and we now have a new nature, and we have two natures within us. We still carry the desire often to sin, which is necessary for us to fight against. We have to work against the things that Satan wants to do to destroy us. And there's a wonderful little poem that I've quoted many times over the years of my ministry that more than anything else helps me to understand it. Here's how it goes. "Two natures beat within my breast. The one is foul, the one is blessed. The one I love, the one I hate, and the one I feed will dominate". Isn't that interesting? The nature that you feed.
So, Paul is saying if you're a Christian, you still have the old nature and you need to put off the darkness. You know there's no such thing as darkness, did you know that? Darkness is just the description of the absence of light. When light comes, darkness goes away. And then, that helps us to understand his next comment. He says, "Put off the darkness and put on the light". Paul's second command is even more positive. When we are told to put on the light, he is using the New Testament picture for walking in fellowship with Jesus.
John said, "If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin". Because Jesus is comin' back, get off your hands, quit bein' so cautious, and take some chances for the Lord. Ask some people if they know Jesus. We're to watch vigilantly. He's comin' back. We're to war valiantly against the evil in our system and live in the light, not in the darkness. Here's the third thing, we're to walk virtuously. "Let us walk properly," verse 13 says, "as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy".
And I hate to tell you this, but these words were addressed to Christians. He's not writing this to pagans, he's writing this to the Roman Christians. And he's saying to them, don't do these six things. These six listed sins here fall into two categories. The first three have to do with public disgrace, and the last three have to do with sins that can hide in the human heart before they are manifest in the light of day. All of them are understood to be sins of the night and opposed to what you are as a Christian. The things that he lists in this paragraph have no place in the life of a Christian. We can't just say, "Well, maybe they'll get it right".
We have to be willing to call things out when we see them that are wrong. We don't need to be mean-spirited about it, but if you have people that you know who aren't Christians and they wanna be included in the fellowship of the saints, they need to get their act together. They need to start living for God. What fellowship does light have with darkness? None. And we can't, we can't make an impact on this dark world if we're as dark as the world is. So you gotta win 'em to somethin', amen? So, 1 Thessalonians 5:5, Paul wrote to the Thessalonicans, he said, "You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night. We are not of the darkness".
We are not. We are of the light, so reject public sins. Reject revelry and drunkenness and lewdness. There used to be a day when if you were a Christian, it meant something. I know there's a whole issue about lists of things, the dirty dozen, the terrible ten, nasty nine, all the things you're not supposed to do. You know? I grew up in the kind of environment where that was true. But we've swung the pendulum clear to the other end. We're not against anything anymore. You can be in any churches and just live like you never changed a thing when you became a Christian. Ladies and gentlemen, the Bible calls us to holiness. It calls us to a certain way to walk, certain way to live. We're not only to reject public sins, but we're to renounce the private ones as well.
And then, Paul says to these Christians, watch vigilantly, war valiantly, walk virtuously, and wait victoriously. "Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts". You can't have confidence if you're always making concessions to the enemy. "Oh, well, they won't understand". Well, that's all right. They don't have to understand. You know what we've learned as Christians over the years? My children went to secular school. David played football at a secular Junior College, and my son Daniel played in secular schools. And they were always the brunt of criticism, but you know what? When the people who criticized them got in any kind of trouble, those were the first people they wanted to talk to. Isn't that interesting?
When they see that you've got the guts to live a different kind of life and you don't party like everybody else and you just stand up and be who you are and don't be ashamed, walk with God, walk with honesty, walk in integrity. So listen. Listen to how Paul concludes this lesson. He says, "Put on Christ". He tells us that we're to put on the Lord Jesus Christ. How do you do that? What does it mean to put on Christ? Every day when you get up, you put him on. You say today, Lord, you and I are goin' into this dark world, and we're gonna make a difference with the people we're around. We're gonna show people the influence of Jesus Christ. Amen.
And then I love this one because this is so practical. We are to make no provision for the flesh. That means we're not to allow ourselves any possibility to gratify our desires. Believers who have been saved out of addictive lifestyles should weigh carefully Paul's words here. The strategy for victory is to avoid the situations that enabled your addiction. Don't put yourself in places where you'll be tempted. Be ruthless in putting those old habits to death. Do it pointedly, do it piteously, and do it permanently. Do not plan for sin. Don't give it any welcome. Don't offer it any opportunity. Kick the sin off your doorstep and it won't get in your house. Amen? There's an old saying that goes like this. Call upon God and row away from the rocks. The idea is to put yourself in the best situation to succeed, and move as far away as possible from the place of failure.
Now, I wanna tell you a story. There was this middle-aged man who was addicted to donuts. Every day he would buy donuts, and not just eat one or two. He would eat a lot of 'em. And he decided through his doctor's counsel that he needed to quit doing that. So he got off of donuts, and he started to lose weight, and he's looking good. Everybody was so proud of him. One day they went to work and he's sittin' in the rec room at his work, and he's got a box of donuts in there, and he's eatin' the donuts. And his buddies went in and, "Hey, what happened to you, man? You off the wagon"? He said, "No". He said, "This morning when I was havin' my prayer time, I told the Lord I had this kinda hunger for a donut, and if I drove by the donut shop and there was a parking place in front of the donut shop, that that would be his will for me to eat a donut".
And he said, "Sure enough, on the eighth time around the block, there it was"! So what is he saying? He's saying... what was he doin? He was makin' provision for the flesh, wasn't he? Don't put yourself, I mean, I know some people that they say, "When I go home, I go past this and that". Well, go home a different way! If you're fallin' in a hole on the same street every day, you probably wanna try another street. I know people that say, "Well, I get into the internet and all of a sud..." Well, stay off the internet. You know, there is life outside of the internet, did you know that?
So, I remember one time as a little boy, I don't know why I remember this. Probably 'cause my parents reminded me of it a lot when I was younger, but we used to go to a cottage when I was living in Toledo, Ohio, in a place called Pataski, Michigan. There was a women up there who had a beautiful home. We'd go up there. And one day I was up there with my parents, and the rest of the family went someplace, I think to the grocery store, and my mother said to me, "Whatever you do, David, you stay away from the lake. I don't want you messin' around down by the lake. I don't want you down there when nobody's here, so don't go near the water".
So guess what I did? I went down, and I was kinda lookin' and I think I was tryin to catch a fish off the dock, and I fell in. And before I could get back to the cabin, my parents returned and my mom was furious. "What in the world were you doing"? And she told me, I said, "It was an accident". She said, "Well, you got a swimming suit on, what do you mean it's an accident"? And she told me I said to her, "Well, I just took the swimming suit in case I got tempted". That's what I'm talkin' about. Don't put yourself in a place to be tempted. That's what Paul is saying. If you wanna make a difference, if you realize Jesus is comin' back and you don't wanna be embarrassed when he comes back, live your life in such a way that you will be proud to meet him when he comes, because you'll be walkin' in the light.
I read a book about habits, and this isn't even a Christian book. Listen to this, this is pretty close to scriptural truth. He said, "Every environment promotes some behaviors and prevents others. The key is to be in an environment that supports the results you want to achieve. The people who surround us fill our days with little cues and triggers that can make our habits easier to follow or harder to build. Are you fighting your environment to make change happen, or does your environment make your new behavior effortless"? If you're struggling with something that's getting you, even as a Christian, and you're finding you're not living victoriously and you're letting the devil get an advantage, maybe you should change your environment. Maybe you should get with different people.
If you're with people who do the things you used to do and you're trying not to do them, you are playing a game you can't win. The influence of so many peers on you will destroy you. Don't set yourself up by failure by staying in an environment that encourages you to do wrong. You get in an environment, you find friends, small groups are a part of that, that encourage you to do right and help you lift up your spirit and lift up your life. I'll never forget the first time I saw the film "The Passion of the Christ". We sat and watched the bloody, gory, graphic depiction of everything Jesus endured for our sake. My own prayer was, I will never forget it, was this. "Lord, help me to live my life from this moment onward in such a way that I never do anything to hurt you or break your heart, not after what you've done for me".
That should be something of our prayer. That's the power of the cross. When we become Christians, Christ comes to live in us and we learn to be uncomfortable with everything that grieves him. Just knowing, really knowing that Christ lives in you is the greatest motivation toward godliness that you will ever have, so in many ways, that knowing is the key to victory and spiritual challenges pale beneath that core. The epic war movie "Saving Private Ryan" tells the story of a rescue mission centering on young Private James Ryan during WWII. Most of you've seen it. When a senior official in Washington DC learns that three of James's brothers were killed in action, he orders a special mission to bring the young man home to his mother, the last of her sons. Unfortunately, James's unit is missing in action somewhere in France.
So Captain John Miller is tasked with assembling a squad and finding Private Ryan, a mission he accomplishes, but when young Private Ryan refuses to abandon his soldiers, Captain Miller and his squad are forced to defend him in the middle of a terrible battle against the enemy. James Ryan survives this battle, but Captain Miller and most of his squad are killed. At the end of the film, a mortally wounded Captain Miller pulls the stunned private forward and says with his final breath, "James, you earn this. You earn it with your life". And the scene flashes forward to the present where James Francis Ryan, now in his 80's, is paying homage to Captain Miller's grave at Omaha beach in Normandy.
Overcome with emotion, perhaps some guilt, James speaks to the grave marker as if he's addressing Captain Miller and the rest, and he says, "I hope I've earned what all of you have done for me". Of course, no one could ever merit such a great sacrifice, no matter what they did. Nobody could earn it. Thankfully no gift is ever earned, especially the gift of eternal life. That's the truth about salvation, we cannot earn our salvation either before or after. There's nothing you could ever do to pay God back for the sacrifice he made for you through the death of his Son. Here's what the Bible says in Ephesians 4:1. It says, "Live a life worthy of the calling you have received".
Live a life that's worthy of what Jesus did on the cross. Think often about his death and his sacrifice for you. Pray the prayer that I prayed, "Lord, I don't wanna ever do anything to hurt your heart after what you've done for me". I'm sure I will do it because I'm a sinful creature, but that's the message I wanna leave with you. Because of what Jesus has done for us, and because he's comin' back one day to get us in the rapture, let's avoid anything that will sully the splendor of that whole event. As followers of Christ, let us be alert and watchful and vigilant, with one eye on the headlines and the other on the eastern skies, and let us learn to live like we were dying. Because one day Jesus is coming to get us. Can I get a witness?