Getting married can be done on a whim or it can be done carefully. My wife and I were talking about our wedding preparations and we were reminiscing about how many folks came together to make our wedding day very special. We put a lot of planning into the event, not only because we knew that it was a big step in our life together, but also because we were both college students and our budget was limited. We got help from family, but we wanted the day not to be about frills and money spent, but about love and the start of a life together. I believe that our wedding day accomplished that. We saw a member of Kimberly’s family reconcile with the rest of the family after years of estrangement. We have other great memories of that day, too – memories that 15 years later are still talked about by family and friends alike. It was a wonderful day. But there’s a better day coming. And it, too, requires our preparation. But not in the way we might think.
Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts. – Romans 13:11-14, NASB
We don’t know when Jesus will return. We know He will, but the when is not for us to know until He shows up. Still, what we can say with certainty is that each second that ticks by is a second closer to that special day. And that’s what Paul is getting at here. Every day we walk in the faith is another day closer to His return. And because we don’t know exactly when He will return, we must prepare for it like it could be now. In that day our salvation will be complete. In that day we will be reunited with our Savior. But there’s something He expects of us. He expects us to act in a certain way.
Note that Paul tells us to lay aside deeds of darkness, lusts of the flesh, carousing and drunkenness, sexual promiscuity, sensuality, strife, and jealousy. These are things that do not belong among God’s people and His Word is full of reminders that these are the sorts of things God does not treat lightly. These are things that represent our old selves, the way we were before being saved. We don’t have to be this way any longer. Through the help of the Holy Spirit, we can be better. And that’s what Jesus expects of us. That’s what He wants.
We are given some figurative language as to how to behave. We are told to put on the armor of light. We are told to behave properly. We are told to put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Think about those things. Still kind of abstract, right? Let me use a modern analogy. When we see a US Marine Corps drill instructor, we have certain expectations about how that person should look and act. The uniform is supposed to be crisp and perfect. The D.I. should carry himself or herself with bearing and poise. We would not expect crude or immature behavior out of one wearing such a uniform. So when a D.I. puts on that hat that marks out a drill instructor, we expect a certain level of behavior from that person. The same is true for us as Christians.
We are told to put on Christ. When we do, there is an expectation of acting as He would act. Now, we won’t be perfect. But we must try our best. We are to represent Him to the world around us. We are to show love, kindness, gentleness, integrity, honor, faith, and righteousness to those around us. Why? Because we don’t know when He’ll be back. Think of it this way… when I was in school, it was not unusual for me and my friends to wait until the last minute to prepare for an announced test. So if we knew a test was on Wednesday, there was a good bet it wasn’t going to be until Tuesday night that we studied for it. Teachers know how the game is played. And they have a weapon in their arsenal: the pop quiz. For teachers who make effective use of this weapon, we knew we had to keep up with the course. That meant doing our homework and our studying regularly rather than cramming at the last minute. Ultimately, when we approached a course this way, we learned the material better and we got more out of the course. Paul is looking at our lives the same way. If we knew when Christ would return, we might be tempted to live however we want until right before He came back. We’d treat that day like an announced test. But better for us (and for those around us) if we understood that Christ’s return was like the biggest pop quiz ever. We don’t know when, we just know it’s coming. So we prepare for it each and every day. Our earthly lives are better, they reflect our Savior better, and they serve as an example for others to see why we’re different and why Christ matters. That’s what Paul is getting at here.
So we have a choice to make. We can choose to try and guess when he’s coming back (or when we’re departing this life) and cram like for a major test, or we can steadily prepare each day. The latter is the smarter option, because we can’t predict the future. However, it’s our call. Christ wants us to prepare each day. He wants us to remember that every day that passes is another day closer to the completion of our salvation. It is another day closer to redemption, to perfection, to His victorious reign. And as we prepare, as we put on Christ each day, that preparation reminds us that we are drawing closer, that the promise given through Christ is closer. We are nearer than when we first believed. And that should give us great joy and comfort, for our Savior will deliver on His promise. So let us prepare for it.