Robert Jeffress - It's Later Than You Think
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Nobody really looks forward to being jolted awake by the alarm clock in the morning. But when that alarm goes off, you know it's time to get up and get ready-fast! And in the same way, the alarm bells are already starting to ring for Christ's return. Today, I'll discuss what you and I should be doing right now to prepare for the second coming of Jesus Christ. My message is titled, "It's later than you think" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
There are a number of different ways to categorize people. Some people are hot-natured, others are cold-natured. You can differentiate people by their personality types. Some people are what we call melancholy. Some people are sanguine. You can distinguish people by their skin color, or by their spiritual gifts. But one way to differentiate between people is by their response to the alarm clock. And now there are some people that we call morning people. They're really the obnoxious ones. I mean they're the ones who when the alarm clock sounds, they bound out bed. Their best hours of the day are between 5 a.m. and 1 p.m. in the afternoon. By about 5 o'clock in the afternoon, they're wasted and have to go to bed, you know. But those are the morning people.
But then there are what we call the night people: the night crawlers. I mean they don't even get started until about 8 o'clock at night. And their most productive times are between about 8 p.m. And 1 a.m., but I tell you, when that alarm rings, they have a hard time getting any blanket victory. They don't feel like they're saved until their fifth cup of coffee after 11 a.m. in the morning. Those are the nighttime people. Now I'm not going to ask how many of you are night people, but I think you'll agree with me that if you happen to be a night person, you'll agree with me that there are some days that it's not difficult at all to get up for: the first day of your vacation, the first day of a new job, the day that you're getting married. There are some days that are so exciting in and of themselves that you get up immediately. You're able to shake off the lethargy of the night before.
Well in the passage we're going to look at today, Paul says there is one day coming - in fact, it's about to dawn - that is so exciting that it ought to cause us to awaken immediately: to get up, to get ready. And that day is the day of Christ's appearing. If you have your Bibles, I want you to turn to Romans chapter 13. Romans chapter 13. Now for those of you who are just joining us for this study, we're in the last section of the book of Romans. It's the section that deals with the practical aspects of righteousness. If we are in a right relationship with God, it certainly ought to impact our daily life. And Paul's been talking about our love that we ought to be extending to other Christians. He talks about how we ought to treat our enemies. He talks about how we respond to government. But then in verse 11 of Romans 13, he says we are to do all of these things knowing the time.
Well, what time is it Paul? What do you mean knowing the time? What time is it? Well Paul says the alarm has already sounded, and first of all that means it's time to get up. It's time to get up. Look at verse 11 of Romans 13, "And this do knowing the time that is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep. For now salvation is nearer to us than when we first believed". Paul wants us to know what time it is. Remember the sons of Issachar we talked about a few weeks ago? 1 Chronicles 12 verse 32 it says, "These descendants of Issachar, they were men who understood their times". They knew what time it was, and they knew what God's people should do. We need to know what time we are living in right now.
What time is it on God's clock? Well right now we are living in the time, first of all - write it down - when darkness prevails. When darkness prevails. Look at verse 12, "The night is almost gone, and the day is at hand". Paul is saying it's still night time. You know, when the alarm goes off, if you've got it set right, it probably goes off when it's still dark. It isn't full daylight yet. And it's the same way here. We need to realize that the darkness is still with us. The darkness is still prevailing. The day is at hand, but it hasn't quite yet arrived.
And folks, understanding that helps you make sense of the world in which we live. You know, Galatians 1:4 says that we are living in this present, evil age. Do you understand we're living in an era where satan is still in control of this world? Do you need a preacher to tell you that? Just look around you at what is happening. It is very clear that satan is in control. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 4:4, "He is the God of this world". Ephesians 2:2 says, "He is the prince of the power of the air". Now that doesn't mean that God is not sovereign. God is still in control, but he's given temporary control of this world to satan.
You've heard me say it before: satan is like a junkyard dog on a very long leash. His power to destroy is considerable, but it's also limited. Nevertheless, we are living in an evil age. It's an age in which darkness prevails. But Paul says something else about the time we're living in. We're living in a time when the daylight is about to unveil. Darkness prevails. The night is almost gone and the day is about to appear. What day is Paul talking about? The scripture uses the day to refer to the time of Christ's return.
Now stay with me on this. In many ways the day refers to all of the end time events. It telescopes all of the end time events together and sees them as one. We know on God's prophetic calendar the next event is going to be the rapture of the church, when all Christians are caught up to meet the Lord in the air: followed by the 7 years of tribulation we call the day of the Lord, the day of God's judgment: followed by the literal return of Jesus Christ to the earth. Paul uses the term "The day" to refer to all of those events. And so in Romans 13:11 Paul says "For now, salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. Because the day is just about here, salvation is nearer to us than it's ever been".
Now this confuses a lot of people. They say: what do you mean salvation is nearer than it's ever been? Does that mean we're not yet saved? Does it mean we can't know for sure whether we're truly saved until Christ comes back? No, that's not what it's saying. This is so key to understanding what God is doing in your life. Did you know there are three aspects to your salvation? If you're truly a Christian, you were saved, you are being saved, and one day you shall be saved. First of all, the Bible says when you trust in Christ as your Savior, you were saved. That refers to our justification. Write that down on your outline. Our justification. Justification is that one time act of God when at the moment we trust in Christ as our Savior, God justifies us. He declares us not guilty. Paul talks about it in Romans 5:1. He says, "Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ".
So that's the past tense of our salvation. You were justified. You were saved. But there is a present salvation going on in your life right now. You are being saved. That refers to, number two, our sanctification. Sanctification is the process by which we become more and more like Jesus Christ. For whom God foreknew, he predestined to become conformed to the image of his Son. It is a work that began the moment you were saved, and will continue until the time that you see Christ again. That is our sanctification. You were saved, you are being saved: the third facet of your salvation is still future. And that is our glorification. One day you shall be saved. The final act of God in your salvation is going to be when he gives you that brand new body. That body that is forever free from the power of sin and death. And that is the last chapter of your salvation that we're looking for.
And so Paul says when your salvation is nearer than it's ever been, he's talking about your glorification. That new body you'll receive at the rapture of the church. What do you mean, Paul, it is closer than it is ever been? You know the fact is we don't know when Christ is coming. We can't know the time, but we do know the times. And by looking at prophetic events we can know we're living in the time, the season, the era of Christ's return. He said it is closer today than it has ever been. And that's why Paul is saying in Romans 13:11, "The alarm has sounded. It is time to wake up". But, number two, it's time to do something else. Since the alarm has sounded, it is also time to get dressed. Look at verse 12, "The night is almost gone, and the day is at hand: therefore, let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light".
Now when you get up and finally get yourself out of bed, what's the first thing you do? Well you get dressed. And the reason you get dressed is the clothing you were wearing at night, or the lack of clothing you were wearing at night, may be suitable for the nighttime, but it's certainly not suitable for the day time.
Now, Paul is saying the same thing about our behavior. He uses clothing as a metaphor for behavior. Throughout the Bible righteousness, a right relationship with God is often compared to clothing. None of us has the right clothing so to speak to enter into heaven. Our righteousness - the best we can do - is like a filthy garment to God, the Bible says. We can never enter heaven in our own. But God makes us a deal. He said: you don't have enough righteousness, but I've got lots of righteousness. And if you will confess your sin and trust in Jesus to be your Savior, I will put his righteousness around you. I'll wrap you in his righteousness. And from that point on when I see you, I don't see your sin. I see the righteousness of my son.
Now at that point we can say: God, I don't care. If you don't take me the way I am, forget it. And we miss eternity with God in heaven. Or we can humble ourselves, and we can say: God, I believe what you've said: and in humility, I accept the gift of your righteousness by trusting in Christ. The Bible calls that imputed righteousness. Imputed righteousness is that foundational garment that all of us need to enter into heaven, but there's a second kind of righteousness. That is ethical righteousness. Ethical righteousness. That refers to our acts after we're Christian: our obedience to God: not to earn our salvation, but in light of what Christ has done for us.
Now look at Romans 13:12, "The night is almost gone, and the day is at hand: therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness, the behavior of darkness, and put on the armor of light". What kind of garments do we need to remove? Look at verse 13. He says, "Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, and not in strife and jealousy". Paul talks about three kinds of behavior every Christian needs to lay aside. In light of the fact that Christ is almost here, in light of the fact that we're going to stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ one day to be evaluated - there are three kinds of behavior we need to be done with. We need to lay aside. First of all, he talks about uncontrollable pleasure. He refers to carousing and drunkenness. These refer to activities of the night time.
One of the best things my parents ever said to me, I'll never forget it is, "Robert, remember this: rarely does anything good happen after midnight". That's what he's saying here. This is behavior that is suitable for the night time, but not for the day time. Secondly, he says we need to lay aside unrestrained immorality. He's talking about sexual promiscuity: sensual activities. Again, things that are done in secrecy in the cloak of darkness. And then thirdly he talks about unresolved anger. That is, strife and jealousy.
Isn't it interesting that as Christians we say: well sexual immorality, that's terrible, but yeah, it's okay to go around resenting other Christians. It's okay going around having these outbursts of anger and spewing all over people. It's okay to harbor bitterness in your heart toward... No, God says. You need to lay that stuff aside too. Why? Because Christ is coming back. Lay aside those things. And then, secondly, he talks about what we need to put on. You don't just take off behavior - there's another set of clothes so to speak you need to put on.
Now if I've been Paul, and I've been writing this letter, I would have probably come up with a laundry list of behaviors Christians ought to put on: love, gentleness, self-control, peace all those sorts of things. Paul doesn't do that. Instead he simply says, verse 14, "Put on the Lord Jesus Christ". Put on the Lord Jesus Christ. That is, if you want to know how to behave, just look at Jesus. Behave like Jesus would. When you're standing in front of that magazine stand perusing the different covers and deciding where your eyes are going to land, what would Jesus do? When the name of one of your enemies pops up in a conversation, and your tempted to say something, what would Jesus do? That's what he's saying here. Put on Jesus Christ.
And then he adds the phrase, "Make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lust". He has two things in mind here. He says, first of all, don't rationalize sinful behavior. Don't rationalize your sin and not only that, give yourself a zero-tolerance level for sin. There's some of you right now who maybe are single adults, and you're saying in your dating life: well, you know, I can't be 100% pure, so I'll go this far in immoral activities, but I won't cross the line. I won't go any further than this. And then the line gets moved a little further, and a little further, and a little further. No, sin is addictive. Paul said, in light of the fact that Christ is about to appear, it's time to get up, it's time to get dressed: and thirdly, it's time to go to work. It's time to go to work.
I want you to hold your place here, and turn over to Ephesians chapter 5 for just a minute. Ephesians chapter 5. I heard about a person who said: I sleep fine at night, I sleep fine in the morning, I just toss and turn all afternoon. Well, you know, a lot of Christians are like that spiritually. They are in a spiritual stupor. They walk around spiritually asleep not having a clue as to what time it is. Look at how Paul addresses this in Ephesians 5:14-16, "For this reason", it says, "awake sleeper, and arise from the dead and Christ will shine on you. Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time because the day is evil". Understand what time it is. It's time to get busy because the day is just about here: the day of Christ appearing is just about here. It's time to get up.
You know it's interesting, Jesus said in John 9 verse 4 something that almost seemed opposite of what Paul said. Jesus said, "Work while it is day for the night is coming when no man can work". Now they weren't contradicting each other, they were looking at the same truth from the different perspective. Paul said, in light of the fact that Christ is about to appear, the day's about to come - go to work. Jesus was saying the fact that we've got opportunity now to do the works of God doesn't mean we'll always have those opportunities. Work while it's day for the night is coming when it will be too late to do any work.
Both are saying the same thing. It's right now time to go to work. It's time to lay aside that sinful behavior that causes you to feel separated from God. It's time to let go off those addictions that are destroying your life. It is time to end that relationship that is dragging you so far down. It's time to start having a time with God every day. A time that's going to be the priority for you for the rest of your life. It's time to start using that spiritual gift God has given you to do the one thing he's left you here on earth to do: and that is to make disciples for Christ. It's time to go to work. You know, I have that sense more right now than I've ever had in my life. There's something inside of me that says right now is the time to work.
Many of you know the name of Jonathan Edwards, a remarkable man. Before he was 20 years of age, he wrote a resolution that guided the rest of his life. He said, "Resolved never to lose one moment of time but to improve it in the most profitable way I can". Edwards once preached a sermon based on this passage, Ephesians 5, called the preciousness of time and the importance of redeeming it. And using this passage from Ephesians 5 he came up with three principles I want you to write down about time. He said, number one: consider you are accountable to God for your time. Consider that you're accountable to God for your time.
You realize one day when you and I stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ for God to evaluate our lives, we're going to give an account of everything he's entrusted to us including the time that he's given to us. Number two: consider how much time you have already lost. Spend some time thinking about the time you've wasted in your life. And then number three: consider how you may improve the present time without delay. Consider how you might improve the present time without delay. Here is the bad news: you can never reclaim time that you've lost. It's gone forever. But the good news is you can make changes in your life right now to maximize the time that you have left.
Lloyd Ogilvie used to tell the story about a father who would put his son to bed every night. And they would have the ritual of saying this prayer together. The little boy would pray the prayer: now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, and if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. One night the little boy prayed: now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, and if I wake before I die. He stopped and he said: daddy, I'm sorry I messed up. The dad said: oh no, son, you didn't mess up at all. You prayed the most profound prayer anyone could pray: if I wake before I die. Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to wake up. It's time to get up. It's time to get dressed. It's time to go to work because the dawn of Christ appearing is nearer than it's ever been.