Wake up now! 7 January 2024

Wake up now!
40 Days of Prayer
Romans 13

Series Big Idea: We are beginning the new year on our knees, joining other Alliance churches for 40 Days of Prayer.
Big Idea: We need to wake up, clean up, and grow up…now!
Wake up! Now! Did you get enough coffee this morning?!
We are beginning the new year on our knees, joining other Alliance churches for 40 Days of Prayer.
Imagine what would happen if we prayed together for the next 40 days and read through the Bible in 2024. Let’s do this! Who’s with me? If you’re looking for some new year’s resolutions (now that you’ve probably broken any you made!), these are two simple ones which will literally change your life. Guaranteed.
This year’s theme for 40 Days of Prayer and really the entire movement known as the Christian & Missionary Alliance—our tribe, our denomination—is
now. There is a measure of urgency related to how we are to live our lives. We need to be intentional, focused, and disciplined because life is short. I’m not saying we can’t have fun in the process, rest well, and play hard. But our days are numbered, opportunities vanish, and tomorrow is not guaranteed.
A Senegalese proverb says, “The opportunity that God sends does not wake up those that are asleep.”
Our text for today is the thirteenth chapter of Romans. If you have a Bible, please turn to Romans 13. It begins with words many find challenging in our day.
Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. (Romans 13:1)
Several weeks ago, we looked at Paul’s instructions on marriage where he wrote, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). We’re not fond of the word
submit, are we? Don’t worry, this isn’t a sermon on politics, but these instructions seem universal, so long as following them doesn’t violate the holy scriptures.
So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. 3 For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. (Romans 13:2-3)
This was written to people in the Roman Empire, not exactly a godly society.
The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. 5 So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience. (Romans 13:4-5)
Translation: obey the law…again, unless it violates God’s laws (see Acts 5:29).
There are three institutions God created for humanity—the family/home (Genesis 2:18-25), government (Genesis 9:1-17), and the church (Acts 2). All were created to be a blessing, yet all are capable of corruption and abuse. We’re all sinners and we need authority, we need to submit to others, we need accountability. In the case of government, even if you don’t like the person in office, we are to respect the office because God ordained government. It was His idea.
Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority. (Romans 13:6-7)
There’s a great scene in two of the gospels where religious leaders were trying to trap Jesus with this question:
Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
He saw through their duplicity and said to them,
“Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
He said to them, “Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” (Luke 20:22-25, NIV)
What is God’s? All of our heart, soul, mind and strength! Back to Romans 13…
Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. 9 For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law. (Romans 13:8-10)
Love. That’s the sign of spiritual maturity. That’s the sign of a true believer. That’s the sign of someone devoted to God.
Family, I’ve said this so many times that you may be sick of it, but the Great Commandments are to love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus said so. The writer of Romans said so.
We must be people of love…because we’re people who have been loved…by God. Hallelujah!
While I’m incredibly embarrassed at the unloving behavior of many so-called Christians, the reality is I don’t always look out for the best interest of another person. 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter of the Bible, is not always a description of my life. We need more of God’s love in our hearts so we can express more love to others.
Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. (Romans 13:8)
Going back to this verse for a moment, some godly leaders like J. Hudson Taylor and Charles Spurgeon believed this means we are to have no financial debts. I’m not sure I would go that far—never say never—but debt is definitely a burden and something to be avoided at (almost) all costs. Regardless of your financial debt, we are always indebted to love others.
Now we have the context for today’s central message.
This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. (Romans 13:11)
Wake up now! Be alert. Get ready. We just celebrated the first advent, the first coming of Jesus to our planet. He is returning…soon! Are you ready? Are your friends and family ready? Tomorrow is not promised. Today is the first day of the rest of your life…and it could be your last. If our purpose in life was merely to pray a prayer to get a get out of hell free card, there’s nothing left to do…but there is! Every follower of Jesus has been commissioned by Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20 to go and make disciples. We use the phrase “restoring God’s masterpieces” from Ephesians 2:10, but the application is identical. We need to wake up! We need to urge others to wake up, too…both believers and not-yet followers of Jesus.
The greatest way to love our neighbors is to be hope dealers, preaching the good news of Jesus in word and deed. It’s not even about getting them ready to die so much as it is about showing them how to live…the abundant life that Jesus offers…a life filled with faith, hope, and love. Easy? No. Comfortable? Hardly. Exciting? Absolutely! Satisfying? More than anything this world can offer.
The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. (Romans 13:12)
What a brilliant metaphor. Get rid of your sin and walk in the light. Confess and repent your junk and let God forgive and redeem.
We are to wake up…and clean up!
Let’s get a wardrobe makeover in 2024, getting rid of our sinful habits and prideful attitudes and put on the armor of God, the fruit of the Spirit, the robe of righteousness. Some of you trust God with what happens after you die, but you won’t let him be LORD before you die! It’s time to clean up, church! It’s time to stop acting like the world and live radical, alternative lives that ask people the reason for the hope we have. It’s about loving the unlovable, extending grace and forgiveness to the unworthy, and seeking first His Kingdom, not our own.
What’s your new year’s resolution? I hope it’s to join us in 40 Days of Prayer and reading through the Bible this year, but greater than those is to love well, to obey God, to live right.
Now we’re told to
grow up!
Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. (Romans 13:13)
Thanks quite a list. Note some are visible like wild parties, while others like jealousy is more a matter of the heart. It’s worth mentioning again sexual immorality or promiscuity refers to virtually any sexual activity outside of a marriage between a husband and wife. Yes, I know it’s old school, but it’s what honors God. If you are a follower of Jesus, your body is not yours. Your possessions are not yours. Your future is not yours.
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:18-20, NIV)
So we’re commanded to not participate in the darkness. What’s the alternative? Paul returns to a clothing metaphor.
Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires. (Romans 13:14)
Charles Spurgeon said, “The rags of sin must come off if we put on the robe of Christ.”
A few weeks ago, we looked at a similar passage with this “wake up now” message.
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.
14 This is why it is said:
            “Wake up, sleeper,
                        rise from the dead,
                        and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:8-14, NIV)
It’s easy for me to stand up here and say, “Love God, hate sin.” The truth is, most of us
want to do the right things. We want to obey God. We want to love well. But life gets in the way. We get tempted…through friends, co-workers, family, and media. We hear, “Everybody’s doing it,” whether explicitly or implicitly. By the way, not everyone is doing it!
The first step in doing anything begins in the mind. We need to “know the truth and the truth will set us free,” Jesus said in John 8:31. This is why we need to be in the scriptures. We need to read them, listen to them, study them, and most of all obey them.
The expression “sleeper” in the original Greek is someone who is “indifferent to their salvation,” one who “yields to sloth and sin.” (Blue Letter Bible) Does that describe you?
The late Keith Green penned these song lyrics a few decades ago:
Oh, can't you see it's such sin? The world is sleeping in the dark That the church just can't fight 'cause it's asleep in the light How can you be so dead when you've been so well fed? Jesus rose from the grave And you, you can't even getta out of bed
Family, we’re on a mission from God. Restoring masterpieces doesn’t just happen. It takes prayer, intentionality, time, and effort. Many of you are actively engaged in making disciples, engaging in spiritual conversations, extending hospitality, surrendering your time, talents, and treasures. Well done, good and faithful servants!
Some of you have been sitting on the sidelines. Maybe it’s indifference. Perhaps you’re asleep. It’s possible that you want to engage but don’t know where to start. Let me offer a few next steps.
-       Pray: online (Zoom), 9:30 AM Sundays, with 40 Days of Prayer devotional
       Study: The Bible Recap (how much time do you spend reading social media?)
       Give: take a faith-filled risk, up your giving (or start) and watch your investment grow
       Invite: Alpha beings 1/17
       Serve: graphics and communications, facilities, student ministries, Life Group hosts, Life Group leaders, musicians and tech, hospitality team, visitation
Wake up…now. Clean up…now. Grow up…now.
What if this is the year we pay attention, remain fully present in the moment, be intentional, and live with passion and purpose? Wake up!
What if this is the year we fully surrender, avoid temptation, embrace accountability, and say no to sin? Clean up!
What if this is the year we learn, study, pray, rest, sabbath? Grow up!
Our closing prayer today was written by Ciro Castro of The Alliance:
God, we pray for an awakening in our hearts. We pray for a deep hunger and a deep longing for You. We ask for a fresh anointing from You. We declare our lack of satisfaction in and rejection of the things that are causing us to drift off to sleep. Search us and know our hearts, God. Replace sloth with vigor, sin with holiness, and indifference with passion. Wake us up now. Amen.
You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

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