Romans 13:11-14

“The
King is coming, the King is coming,” we shout and sing during this season
of Advent. “The King is here,” we proclaim. “The King died on a
cross,” we remember. The King calls us to do the same. The cross is a vivid
picture of dying to self and living a new life in Christ. In this passage, we
are called to this new life – to be clothed in Christ – to “put
on the Lord Jesus Christ.”

But
what does this look like? The one clothed in Christ is alert, awake, careful,
expectant (v. 11), wearing “the armor of light”(v.12), walking properly
(v.13), and disciplined (v. 14). Clearly, the military metaphors convey a battle
that will not be easy. The world around us constantly beckons us in the opposite
direction of self-indulgence and self-gratification. The one clothed in Christ
is disciplined. This means, they will always be going against the grain. Dallas
Willard describes such a person as standing “out in a group with all the
obtrusiveness of a sore thumb . . . for he or she will not be living on the same
terms as the others.”2 The one clothed in Christ is
a person of character and integrity on the job and at home. They value family
life over promotions and self-glorification; they care more about prayer than
work or leisure; they do what is right rather than whatever gets them what they
want. This is never easy.

I
remember when my 2 year old son followed me into the lazy river when we were on
vacation one year. I stepped into the water and he jumped in (without a floatation
device). The current was pulling me away from him as I watched him jump. I shouted
at other family members and pushed with all my might against the current to rescue
my son. Instantly, he was safe in my arms. Going against the grain is never easy,
but always worth it. This is what it is like for the one who is clothed in Christ.

This
passage marks a turning point – a critical choice to “throw off”
laziness and sleep and live a new and disciplined life. Can you imagine a professional
ballerina lying on the couch eating bon bons for days prior to her performance?
Or a star basketball player refusing to practice just weeks before the final game
of the season? Or a lawyer napping when he is supposed to be preparing his closing
arguments for the most important case of his career? Or a surgeon indulging in
substance abuse just prior to performing brain surgery? Ridiculous? Absolutely.
Just as these professionals “clothe” themselves in preparation for their
tasks, we too must clothe ourselves as followers of our Lord.

How
can this be done? There are some practical steps that we can take to clothe ourselves.
1. Begin the day by praying a prayer of surrender, perhaps the Lord’s prayer,
the 23rd Psalm, or Ephesians 6:10-20. 2. Offer up prayers of surrender throughout
the day – when the phone rings, someone knocks at the door, you must deal
with someone at work, you talk with your children, spouse, parent, or roommate.
3. Read and memorize scripture – recite it throughout the day; place index
cards in key places with scripture or insight. 4. Practice other spiritual disciplines
such as meditation, fasting, study, simplicity, solitude, submission, service,
worship.3 5. Read books on spiritual growth such as Richard
Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, Dallas Willard’s Renovation of the
Heart
, The Breaking of the Outer Man and the Release of the Spirit
by Watchman Nee or countless others. 6. Establish an accountability relationship
where confession, confrontation, and mutual love and support abound. 7. Rest in
God’s grace and trust that he will keep you as you clothe yourself by placing
yourself in his presence through these disciplines.

The
King is here and he died so that he might live through you and me. In this season
of Advent, as we celebrate the birth of our Lord, will you clothe yourself in
Christ so that the King might reign in you?

——————
2.
Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ.
(Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2002), 48.
3. Richard Foster, Celebration
of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. San Francisco: Harper and Row,
1988.
_____________

Sermon
brief provided by: Paula Fontana Qualls, Professor of Religion,
Gardner-Webb University, Boiling Springs, NC

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When his son, Leka, was three years old, his father, King Zog of Albania, fled
before the advancing Italian army. That was in 1939. After his father died, Leka
regarded himself as the rightful king of Albania. In 1993, after Communism had
fallen, King Leka tried to return to Albania. But the police threw him out of
the country. He was traveling on an old royal passport. The authorities said
his passport was not in order, and they expelled him.

Jesus Christ is the King of the kings of the earth (Revelation 1:5) and when
He returns to earth to claim his kingdom, nobody is going to throw Him out!

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