Sunday Sermon: Now is the Time

(Holy Communion was celebrated)??

"Now is the Time"??

Romans 13.8-14

8Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9The 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, ???Love your neighbor as yourself.??? 10Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.??

11Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; 12the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; 13let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.??

Last week we looked at the way of the Cross, Jesus' invitation to follow Him by denying ourselves and taking up our crosses and entering into a life of redemption. But what I didn't say much about was the motivating factor behind any and all of this. What drives Jesus to go to the cross is Love. What we are being invited to through denying ourselves is a life of Love. Love enables us to take up the crosses in our lives and follow after God. But we must understand that love first. What motivates us in our spiritual lives must be the love of God and no other reasons, because in the end, the worst thing to discover would be that we did this for ourselves and not for God. It is our own selves that get in the way, another thing we learned last week.

In our text this morning, Paul has picked up on what life in the way of the Cross looks like. But the difference in Paul's words today is a sense of urgency. He begins by telling us that we should owe one another in love. Paul is concerned that we not be weighed down by many debts except for the debt of love that we owe each other. Because loving others is a way of life, Paul is instructing us to be singled in on this one most important aspect over all others. But he knows that we can't do this if we are weighed down by other debts in our lives. Now, he may or may not have been talking about financial debts, but its safe to say in either case that those types of burdens affect our relationships. So he says right off, owe no one anything. In short, he's saying to be free to love. This allows love to be done genuinely, with all attention and effort focused in on the object to be loved.??

A good example for me is when I was in seminary, I can remember the tension of being burdened by my studies and wanting to spend time with my wife. It meant a lot to Ashley for her and I to escape to shops and stores, browsing and looking, treating ourselves to little desserts between meals. But about halfway through our time together I would become useless???all because I was burdened by the amount of work I had to do later. It was a suffocating feeling to not have things behind me so that I could be free to give her the attention she not only needed but deserved. In the same way, Paul wants for us to be undistracted in our love for others.??

I was reading through Martin Luther's reflections on these passages, and I noticed that all his ideas revolved around the importance of truly loving other people the way we would want to be loved, like Paul mentions in vs.9???10. Luther saw this passage clearly as he looked at it through the lenses of Matthew 7.12,??

In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.??

I believe Luther is exactly right, that we should look at other people in moments of both relationship and need as if it is ourselves. If you were in a particular position, what do you realistically wish
someone would do for you? Look at your own life, with the resources at your disposal, and ask yourself "What would I want a stranger with my way of life to do for me if I was in need?"??

The biggest hindrance to following Jesus in His way is letting ourselves get in the way. But if we can just stop being our own biggest problem and tend the needs of other's problems, we can begin to see what it means to love one another. Until we see each other through the event of the Cross, we won't know what it really means to love one another. We have to see others redemptively, with eyes of forgiveness and love. If we can't do that, then the people we see we look at with fallen and broken eyes; eyes that are concerned with only what we can give, and not what God may be able to give through us. Before you judge another or before you attempt to truly see someone for who they are, put the cross between you and them an understand it to be a filter that clears away the brokenness and allows us to see others the way God does.??

This kind of vision and lifestyle is the reason for Paul's urgency as he shifts in vs.11???14. He talks about loving one another and then listen to the phrases he begins using:??

you know what time it is / it is now the moment / wake from sleep / salvation is nearer / the night is far gone / the day is near / lay aside / darkness / armor of light / live honorably / not in reveling / drunkenness / debauchery (i.e., indulgence) / licentiousness (i.e., promiscuousness) / quarreling / jealousy / put on Jesus / no provision for flesh/desire??

Paul is VERY descriptive here, and all of these images force the hearer to deal with these concepts in their own way. Each of us have associations with these things and the faithful person is the one who attends to each of these and begins to sort through life by allowing Jesus to shine as much light on these situations as possible.??

But Paul's plea is that NOW is the time. Now is the moment that we need to begin to deal with our lives, our selfishness, our un-answered questions, our faith, because without dealing with our lives, we cannot be there to help others with theirs. If now is the time then we MUST stand up to the darkness that hides us from the light and let Christ shine on us. The key to this entire text this morning rests in the last verse, v.14 in the second half, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. If you feed the darkness in your life, it grows. The trick to the spiritual life is the change the diet of our soul and starve out the cravings you have for the world. If we continue to feed the flesh, it will outgrow our soul and weigh down our spirit.??

Now is the time. This is the moment. Let your spirit feed on the things of God. The table is set for us this morning. Take, eat, drink. This is God's grace made available to you.??

_______??


Written with Essay on iPhone

Rev. Whit R. Martin??
Pastor, New Liberty United Methodist Church

Devotional Blog – http://devoblog.posterous.com

Sent from Whit's iPhone

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