A Follow-up to Falling Asleep
Last Sunday we went over a passage from Romans 13 that described the overarching theme of love in how we are to live in the world: towards those inside and outside the Church. As Christians, we are to do all things in love, as the “fulfillment of the law”(v10), even in feeding our enemies (12:10), submitting to governing authorities (13:1), and paying taxes (13:7)! We are to consider Jesus Christ’s imminent return as an impetus to motivate our daily actions. As Paul reminded the Corinthians, in 1 Corinthians 7:31, “For this world in its present form is passing away.” So I love the imagery Paul uses to help us consider our place in the world around us in Romans 13:11 "And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”
There is the spiritual sense of God “awakening” the dead heart to respond to Christ, such as in Ephesians 5:14, “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” But in the other sense, it is possible for believers within churches to still live like they’re asleep! If you are drawn to Jesus in His totality, understanding Him for how He’s revealed Himself, and have “counted the cost” at what it means to follow him (Luke 14:26-33), then you are also called to grow into Him, being saved (sanctification) by growing more and more Christ-like! One more way it this is directed is by Jesus’ words, also towards the church: “Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.” (Revelation 3:2-3)
I believe that these exhortations to “wake up”, are akin to realizing our identity as His Children, disciples, and ambassadors, and being engaged IN that identity! It is fulfilling the roles in our job description! One of these job descriptions is given in John 13:13, right after washing his disciples’ feet: "You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:13-17) If Jesus modeled leadership for all of us by washing His disciples’ feet, should we be willing to do any less? John prefaced this chapter by describing the Son of God’s actions as “showing us the full extent of His love”!
Discipleship to Christ is designed by God to be counter-cultural, and in that we shine His light into the world in this manner: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:35) My fear for the church, as a pastor, is that we have let the surrounding culture’s definition of love, and the surrounding examples of that, influence us more than the scriptural and our Savior’s definitions & examples! Society is crumbling because the Church is hiding, even in places of religious freedom! Our loving intentions always been misunderstood throughout Church history, but one of the shocking tragedies of our day is that bold believers are not standing up to defend ourselves!
I’ve used this passage many times, but will share it again, from 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”. Our call to “wake up” considering this present time, is to be ever vigilant in the understanding that our time is very limited, and our influence is contingent on the premise that we stay true to the marching orders He has given! Soldiers found to have fallen asleep in Rome’s day were right in fearing for their very lives. Our scriptures remind us of that very thing regarding the corporate influence of the Church, through loving each other and boldly engaging our world with the life-giving Gospel message. Insofar as it depends on us, will we be faithful to the end? Or will we compromise on so many little things that we no longer look different to the world…or worse…no longer care!?
Our Lord was faithful to His words to the 7 churches in Revelation, and those that were not careful to heed the warning were swept up and lost their light of influence in their respective cities. As we approach the traditional times of Palm Sunday and Easter, we have numerous opportunities to share and speak into others’ lives the very Gospel hope that we have within us. May we not be found slumbering!
I would personally like to invite you to a 2-part production at our Church, done on Palm Sunday and Easter (4/5 & 4/12 @ 9:30am), where I will play the part of John the apostle, called “St. John in Exile”. Please join us if you are able, and contemplate our Risen Savior!