Michael Youssef - From Valley to Victory - Part 17
In Romans 13:8, when the Apostle Paul said: "Let no debt remain outstanding," he's not meaning that we should never borrow or come into debt, but he's talking about incurring a debt that can never be repaid. I want to remind you of the context of Romans 12 and 13. In Romans 12, we saw the Apostle Paul saying that a genuine, Bible-believing Christian is a person who exhibits the love of Christ that has been poured into his and her heart. And we saw eight different expression of genuine love. Let me remind you: Love hates evil. Love gives honor. Love is passionate about God. Love hopes and perseveres in prayer. Love loves to give. Love feels deeply with others. Love refuses to get even. And love reverses the cultural norms. Did you get that?
All right, now, he immediately moves from this to Romans 13, and is really continuing that same theme, whether you know it or not, whether you noticed it or not. He's continuing with that same theme, that genuine love theme, and he says, "Genuine love on part of the believer is going to make him or her willingly obey the law of the land and pay their taxes". And secondly, love for God makes us pay our debts. Why? Because genuine love fulfills the law and redeems the time. Look at verses 1 to 7. Paul, he was living under the most horrendous, horrendous dictatorship of his day. It was the most vile dictatorship. He is saying that part of the believer's witness is to obey the law of the land and pay taxes. Jesus, in Matthew 22:21, he said: "'Give to Caesar's what belongs to Caesar,'" that's the taxes, "and give to God what belongs to God".
So, here we see that love, genuine love for God obeys the law of the land. In fact, the only time it was permissible for the 1st-century believers, the first church, the only time it was permissible for them to disobey the law of the land and to disobey the government is when Caesar demanded worship. At that point, they said, "No, God above Caesar". Say it with me: "God above Caesar". And they were willing to pay the consequences. Verses 1 to 7, Romans 13 tells us that we are basically foreigners in this land. If you're a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, you are a foreigner. You are the citizen of where? God bless you.
You see, we are representing our home country. But here's my understanding of this passage in the context of Western democracy in which we live, okay? Here's my understanding. Had Paul lived in Western democracy, he would have said the following: "Do you understand what privileged people you are? Do you understand that God gave you a unique opportunity to put people in power. Do you comprehend what an exquisite responsibility to have to be able to choose your government? Therefore, don't squander it. Therefore, don't take it for granted. And therefore, don't abuse it by not getting involved". Can I get a witness? I personally believe it is a sin not to vote. It is a sin not to participate in one of the greatest privileges that God gave us as citizens in this democracy.
Study the candidates. Find out where they stand. Ask them questions, and then vote intelligently. Having grown up under horrible dictatorship, where election, you have one candidate in office, it's a referendum and you vote either for this dictator, you can say, "Yes," or, "No". And if you voted, "No," these people are watching you, and they're gonna follow you and they're gonna harass you, and they make your life miserable. So, consequently, the results of always being 99.9%. That's what happens in dictatorship, and that's what breaks my heart. Most Americans take it for granted. That's the saddest part for me.
Now, having said that, I must hasten to say that we must vote for godly people who espouse godly policies, and yet our hope must never be placed on politicians. Our confidence must never be placed on those who are in power. Our total trust must never be in a man, any man but our complete confidence, trust, and hope must be placed on our King of kings, the Lord Jesus Christ. If you take your eyes off Jesus and place them on the government, I can tell you, you will be discouraged and you will be disappointed. I'm not gonna ask you to raise your hand, but I'm tempted. When was the last time you prayed for the leaders of our country?
Oh, listen, I read the other day that just before election time, every single prayer meeting around the nation is packed. Two weeks later, not so much. Everybody gone back to business as usual. Genuine love always obeys the law of the land. Genuine love must only be indebted, owe, indebtedness, here it said, "Indebtedness is not good," but here's an indebtedness that's really good, indebtedness to God and to others. I'm gonna make a statement. I know it's gonna startle some of you, not all of you, some of you. A genuine, Bible-believing Christian lives in a state of perpetual spiritual indebtedness. A genuine, Bible-believing Christian lives in perpetual spiritual indebtedness. I'm gonna explain that.
What is that indebtedness? It's a indebtedness to God. It's an indebtedness to God, and it prompts us to love him with all of our hearts and keep on loving him, and then, as his love keeps pouring into us, we love our neighbors as ourselves. But if you try to pay this debt yourself, listen to me, I've tried it and failed miserably... if you say, "I am gonna love God with all my... I am going to do this, and I'm gonna do this," you will only make few payments, and then you become bankrupt. The moment you think that you can pay that debt yourself, that you can love God with your own strength without his help, without his pouring his love into you on a regular basis, on a daily basis, trust me, the picture's not very pretty because, at that moment, love will become less authentic.
It will be fake, and we see it all over the place. And this is a problem that I've seen through the years. There are some who confuse people pleasing with genuine, authentic, biblical love. People pleasers knock themselves out to please others. You see it in preachers. You see it in ministries even. You see it where they're knocking themselves out to please people, just wanna make them happy. They wanna please them. Why? Because they want to receive their applause. They do it because they wanna gain praise of people. But godly love is different because it is not emotional, surface-type of love. Godly love loves to serve without recognition. Godly love loves to exhort and warn. Godly love is willing to risk misunderstanding, being misunderstood. Godly love is always telling the truth, even when you know the person doesn't want to hear it. Godly love is fearless of criticism because godly love has only one source of strength, and that's God the Holy Spirit.
And when you are constantly receiving a continuous supply of love from the Lord that is poured into you, when you allow God to love through you, when you are constantly opening yourself up to the pouring out of the love of the Holy Spirit in your life, you will never ask foolish questions like, "Are the Ten Commandments relevant for today, or are they only for the Old Testament"? You'll never ask a foolish question like that. When you love God, you will love what God loves. When you love God, you are going to want to please God. When you love God, you want what God wants. And at that point, when that is taking place, you're not gonna be asking or even thinking, "Are the Ten Commandments relevant for today? Should we ditch the Ten Commandments now"? And this is people pleasing.
This is not biblical truth. Because living and loving your neighbor as yourself, you see, love fulfills all the commandments. It completes the commandments. Just like Jeremiah said, "It's written on our hearts. We live them". I can truly identify with Romans 13, verses 11 and 12. I truly identify with these two verses, that I always had this sense of urgency, and it's inexplicable. Many times, this sense of urgency has caused me to be less patient than I should have been. I know that. I'm not proud of that. That sense of urgency, and I wanting to conform to the character of Christ, that sense of urgency wanted me to reflect obedience to Christ.
And sometimes I went about in a hurried way, in a wrong way, but I always had been as urgent and loving and seeking the lost. That's always been a burden of my heart. I've always been an urgent in encouraging and exhorting believers to live a holy life and to conform to the image of Christ. I've always been urgent in redeeming the moments and the opportunities that God has given me. Sadly, we live in a time when Christians have lost this sense of urgency. Now, that word "time" here, "redeeming the time," he's not talking about chronological time. That's not what the word means. The word means, "a period of time," your time, your time, your time, your time, your time, your time, my time, this period of time in which we live, these opportunities that God presents to us that are so uniquely to each individual.
That's what the word "time" here means. Each of us must understand our time, and redeem the time, and redeem the opportunities that God presents to us in this time. Each of us must comprehend the uniqueness of the time and the opportunities in our lives that God presents us with. Each of us must seize the uniqueness of the time and the opportunities that he presents you. 1 Chronicles chapter 12, verse 32, that's always a verse that sticks in my spirit. It says: "The men of Issachar," that's one of the tribes of Israel. "The men of Issachar, understood the times". They understood the opportunities. They understood those moments that God presents that's so uniquely for that period of time and that period of life in our lives.
Sadly, the Pharisees and the religious leaders in Jesus's day, they did not understand the times and the privileged times in which they lived which they are seeing the Son of God with their own eyes. They did not understand the times. They did not comprehend the awesomeness of God's presence in their midst. They did not redeem the time and receive Jesus as their Messiah. They did not comprehend the times of the redemption that God has talked about in every book of the Old Testament, and they remained in their spiritual blindness.
For a period of time God will speak to you, and I'm talking about every one of you, young or old, doesn't matter. For a period of time God will speak to you. For a period of time God is gonna pursue you. For a period of time God will present you with certain opportunities with your name written all over it. It's not for your neighbor. It's not for your friend. It's not for your brother or sister. It's for you. For a period of time God will be calling upon you. For a period of time God will open some doors just for you that no one can shut. But if you persist... here's the warning. If you persist on going in your happy, merry way, that door is gonna shut. That voice is gonna be so faint that you will not be able to hear it. It'll be a whisper, and you're no longer hearing the voice of God.
Those opportunities will cease to exist. It's never been a secret to this congregation for 31 years, I've never made a secret of the fact that the cry of my heart, and it's a singular cry, is that I want to take as many people to heaven with me as I can. I want to take as many people to heaven. There are a lot of good things that needs to be done, a lot of good deeds that can be done, but none more important in my life than the Great Commission of Jesus Christ. It is my daily cry to God to give me men and women, boys and girls who discern the times we live in. It is the cry of my heart that God will give me men and women who are willing to redeem the times in which we live, men and women who recognize the urgency for salvation and the opportunities for reaching the lost, men and women who walk with me through these open doors.
Verse 11, Romans 13: "It is time to wake up from this sleep. Night has almost gone; and the day is at hand". The day of your meeting the Lord Jesus Christ in the cloud could be today. The clouds will be the moment you either go see Jesus, or Jesus comes to meet all of us. It doesn't matter. The day is gonna come sooner or later, and the more you're prepared, the better off you are. It could be today that some of you will go to heaven. It could be today that Jesus comes back from heaven. Either way, how should you live? And what would you say to him when you see him face to face? What are you gonna say to him? Are you going to say, "Lord, I just didn't get around to doing what you asked me to do. Lord, you know, my intentions were good. Lord, I got so busy with life that I didn't get around witnessing to others".
Have you ever seen people who are physically fully awake but they're really asleep? In the animal kingdom, that is normal. In fact, I'm told that horses can nap and sleep while they're standing. Or like the bats that nap hanging by their feet. The Bible tells us, "Spiritual drowsiness..." Listen to me, I'm coming close to the end. "Spiritual drowsiness will rule supreme just prior to the return of the Lord". Think about this. Think about this. Judging from what I'm seeing, I think Jesus's return must be really close. The Bible said that the signs of spiritual sleepiness are as follows: The love of many will grow cold.
People won't be able to stand hearing the truth, and they will run after people who tickle their ear. They're not gonna want to hear the truth, because the truth convicts and they don't wanna be convicted. Turning away from biblical truth will be rampant and fashionable at the end times, getting so bogged down with world affairs, many will become spiritually numb. Here are the symptoms of spiritual sleep, listen carefully: living for self, self-indulgence, spiritual drunkenness with the world's wine, little concern of what concerns the Lord, dividing and creating doubt in believer's lives, and sowing the seed of discontent, loving in words only that have no depth, paying lip service to God and presuming upon his grace.
Beloved, these are the deeds of darkness. These are the deeds of darkness. Remember, you belong to the day. Shake off the nighttime and the night sleep. You belong to the light. Shake off the night life. You belong to watching and waiting, so open yourself up to the Holy Spirit. The time is urgent. The word "put on" here, it says, "Put on Christ," is like, you got up this morning and you put on your clothes, dress, suit, whatever you put on. That's what you put on. And when you put on your clothes and when you go outside, wherever you go, your clothes go with you, right?
I mean, I don't leave my clothes over there. They go with me. That's what he means by putting on Christ because Christ is with you wherever you go, whatever circumstance you find yourself in, whatever situation, whatever temptation you face, wherever you go, Christ, put on Christ. That's what he really means here. Beloved, the day is drawing near faster and sooner than many of us think when the clouds will roll like a scroll and the trumpet will sound and the shout of the archangel, and then our Lord, beloved Jesus, will appear in person. That day is coming, and it may be nearer than we think.