Wake Up, Christians!

Delivered at Highlands UMC Dec., 2012

Romans 13:10-12

10Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

11 Besides 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 armour of light;

Do you remember the story of Rip van Winkle by Washington Irving?  Rip was a happy-go-lucky fellow who spent his time making toys for children and laying around sleeping.  One day he came upon some strange men, drank some of their liquid refreshment, fell asleep and awoke twenty years later.

We have arrived at the end of 2012, and unlike Rip we do not want to sleep through the next twenty years. But I have to ask, how many of you are ready for this year to be over. This election year was brutal.  We have seen a dwindling economy,  a dearth of jobs, natural disasters, and the world and the United States is in turmoil. But I am not here to give you a gloom and doom report.  Just the opposite!  I am here to tell you that as Christians we have a present help in times of trouble.

I’ve looked at your website and I’ve talked to Bryan about your church, and I know you are an active church dedicated to our Lord Jesus.  You offer Bible studies, you are plugged into the community, and it is obvious you are intentional about discipleship.  I love it.

What I would like to share with you in these last couple of days in 2012 are these three things that I pulled directly from today’s Scripture:

  1. When given a choice, always choose love
  2. Wake Up to new possibilities
  3. Dress for a new day is coming

When we lived in Richmond, VA there was a radio show called “Earl Pitts, Uhmerican.”  Earl began every rant with “you know what makes me sick, you know what makes me wanna throw up,” and then he would proceed to tell you.  At the end of every segment Pitts said, “Wake Up, Uhmerica.”

Could it be that it is time for us to begin to say, “Wake up, Christians.”  Church numbers are dwindling but there are still people who have yet to know Jesus as their Savior. Who will tell them?

When I read the book of Romans, I feel like I am receiving a lesson on the history of Christianity.  Paul recounts what life was like before Christ, and he instructs the converts that they are no longer under the law, but under grace.  But grace does not free them to continue in their sin.  As Paul says, God forbid. Rather, grace frees them to live in victory over their sin.

Our scripture today begins by telling us since love does no wrong to a neighbor, then love is the fulfilling of the law. Amen and amen. When the love of God begins to permeate our beings, then we will know we’ve moved beyond mere Christianity and into kingdom living.

Loving people who are like you is easy, but loving those who are different is not. Have you ever know someone who is just plain contentious?  If you say black, they say white, if you say straight, they say crooked. What about people who are contentious, or those who clearly don’t love you?  As disciples, how do we react?   

1 John2: 5 But if anyone obeys his Word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in Him. 6 Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.

So the key to loving all people is obedience to God’s Word.  Is it easy to love all people?  No.  But it is necessary. When we move into kingdom living, we are not made perfect but we are perfected in love.  Our humanity is covered by Christ’s divinity, and because of Christ we are able to choose love.

Paul goes on to say that we are to understand the present time.  During Paul’s time Christianity was facing very real obstacles. The Jewish Christians had reverted to a kind of hodgepodge of Christianity and Judaism.  They would only accept Gentile Christians if they agreed to circumcision.  So much for grace!

The Gentile Christians argued that God’s favor no longer fell upon the Jews so there was a real schism between the two groups. In reading the epistles, the early Church seemed to be in constant danger of eradication, if not from without then from within.

Today the problems Christians face may be different but they are no less threatening. Many people, even in North America, find the Church to be irrelevant.  Christians are depicted as weak, using religion as a crutch.  Some even go so far as to say God did not create us, but we created God so that we could have someone to blame when things go wrong.

We have lost many of our religious freedoms just in my lifetime.  As a child, we read scripture, prayed and pledged allegiance to our flag at the beginning of every school day.  And in atheist countries such as China and Muslim countries such as Iran, Christians are still being martyred or at the least imprisoned. 

As we struggle to increase church numbers, we are being told we must learn to do church differently.  Is that hard for you?  It is for me.  I don’t know how to do church differently.  I do not know how to remove the symbols of my faith so that the unchurched will feel more comfortable when they enter the doors to worship. People say the cross denotes pain, suffering and death, and it makes people feel bad to look upon such a cruel instrument.  They are right. The cross was a cruel instrument of death, but it was the cross that bridged the gap between death and life.  It seems to me that we dishonor Jesus when we eliminate the cross.

What about the Bible?  I do not want to substitute the Word of God with books that explain the Word of God. I do not want to water down the truth contained therein to appease those who reject the truth. What is next?  Will churches abandon serving Communion because it represents the blood and body of Christ?  As Paul would say, God forbid.

I do not know how to do church differently. But what I do know is that we must be the church wherever we are. When we serve at a soup kitchen, do we perform such service as an obligation, or do we throw ourselves into what we are doing with a spirit of joy? When we see someone in need, do we hope someone else will stop and help so that we don’t have to, or do we give of ourselves, even if it is inconvenient?

Wake up, Christians, not necessarily to a new way of doing church but to a new way of being church.

Paul says to wake up for the night is almost over and the day is coming. During Paul’s lifetime, Christians were expectantly waiting the return of the Lord Jesus.  So when he says your salvation is closer than ever before, he is referring to the coming of Jesus. After 2000 years the church has lost the urgency of being ready for Christ’s return.  But Paul says, Wake Up.

How do you wake up in the morning?  Do you have an internal alarm or do you need a physical alarm?  Do you need someone to jostle you out of bed?  Can you string a few words together to create a sentence or must you have a strong pot of coffee first to get your intellectual juices flowing.

If it is so hard to wake up physically, then how much more difficult is it to wake up spiritually?  We don’t have an alarm clock to remind us that it is time to become alert, nor do we have the equivalent of spiritual coffee.  So how do we wake up spiritually?

We must become disciplined in the word and in prayer in order to awaken to our responsibility and to grow the fruits of the spirit in our lives. Paul reminds us that when we accept the grace of God into our lives, we undergo a transformation.  Where we once lived in the night, we now live in and reflect the light of Christ. 

Dave and Kim Power have a ministry in Memphis, TN called The Powerlife Project.  They say this about transformation. 

Christianity is transformation from unrighteous to righteous, from takers to givers, from hearers to doers, from people of the world to people of God, from self-centered to Christ-centered, from lovers of the flesh to lovers of the Spirit, from independent to interdependent, from inevitable death to everlasting life. Transformation is an ever changing process that shapes the life of a Christian, a congregation, and a city. Transformation begins in the life of an individual person (man, woman, boy, or girl) who becomes a Christian. But how does this happen? It happens through a life-long process of discipleship – becoming fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ.

In his book, The Incredible Christian, A.W. Tozer says this:

The paradoxical character of the Christian is revealed constantly… He fears God but is not afraid of Him. In God’s presence he feels overwhelmed and undone, but there is no place he would rather be.

When the night is over, we take off our nightclothes and dress for the activities of the coming day.  As disciples we are told to put on the whole armor of God.  Ephesians 6 even lays out our clothing for us.  We put on the helmet of salvation, we put on the breastplate of righteousness found only in Jesus, we gird our loins with the truth of the gospel, we pick up the shield of faith which can deflect slings and arrows from any direction, we are supplied with the sword of the Spirit, the living, breathing Word of God, and we go out with new shoes that leave footprints of peace wherever we go.

Back in the 70’s, track suits were all the rage.  This was not clothing designed for exercise, but simply for running errands or being comfortable.  But I have noticed a trend that to me seems rather peculiar.  I first noticed it while traveling.  I grabbed some clothes and went downstairs for my “free” breakfast and there were some folks there in their pajamas.  I thought it was interesting, but was not really surprised until one day I stopped in a Kroger early in the day and there was a woman clearly wearing pajamas.

Should Jesus return during my lifetime, I don’t want to be wearing pajamas when He  comes back to claim His own.  I want to be found sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ, I want to be serving in my church, and I want to be helping the poor and the downtrodden.

A new year is upon us.  We are being given a chance to start afresh, because that’s is what new years do, they enable us to leave our baggage in the previous year and begin with a new, fresh perspective.

Isaiah 60:1 says

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.” 

Eph 5:8 says

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.

Eph 6:13 says

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

The night is nearly over, but the day is almost here. Perhaps we should begin greeting each other with Wake up, Christiansand the response would be “We are Awake.”  So how about it church?  Wake up, Christians!  We are Awake!

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.


May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace so that you may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Go in peace.

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