By John Piper
“Salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11). Today is the 80th birthday of Dan Fuller, which doesn’t mean anything to most of you, but means a great deal to me because Dan Fuller was for me in 1968, ’69, ’70 and ’71 God’s instrument for turning my world upside down and opening my eyes to the Scriptures and the glory of God. So, I got on email yesterday, and I wrote him a long letter of appreciation and gratitude. And among the other things that I said, I said, “Dan, salvation is closer to you now than it was the day you believed, and every groan of your 80-year-old body is groaning closer to Jesus. Every heartbeat in your fragile old body is a heartbeat closer to the glory of Jesus Christ.”
We Christians also fight for faith. We fight for faith because the world and the flesh and the devil conspire to spiritually deaden us. They come at us with sleeping pills, with tranquilizers of relaxation, with the offer of a life filled by the hypnotic trance of digital amusements. And what Jesus wants us to see is that “faith and hope and love are the antidotes to the soporific effects of the world always trying to get you to go to sleep.” So how do we stay awake? And how do we fight to stay awake in the entertainment age? Here’s Pastor John, preaching in 2005 at an outdoor venue — a conference maybe. I’m not sure about the context, but you’ll hear the wind at times. Here is John Piper.
I hope he takes heart in his 80-year-old frame. And I hope you take heart from knowing your salvation — which is the completion of your redemption, with a new body and the end of battling with sin — is closer today than it was yesterday. And every groaning of your aching body means, “I’m one groan closer to the glory that is arriving.”
Sleepwalking and Skydiving
Then the third thing he says in verse 11, in the first half of the verse, is this: “The hour has come for you to wake from sleep” (Romans 13:11). And you remember what we said about that? Most of the world that is not treasuring Jesus Christ as its supreme treasure is sleepwalking. Even though their life is very glitzy, it’s just bombarded every day with advertisements to say, “Do this, and you will live,” when in fact, it’s the devil wringing his hand, saying, “Do this, and you will go sound asleep” — sound asleep to what that sun is really saying today.
How many people in Mounds View do not hear the glory of God being declared from the heavens? Why? Because they spent all night watching television. They’ve saturated their lives with an entertainment mentality, and their spiritual eyes have gotten smaller and smaller and smaller until most people without Christ can’t see anything glorious in spiritual reality. And Paul says, “The day has come. This is not a time for sleeping. This is not a time for sleepwalking.”
It’s not a time for being like skydivers — this is like a parable of the world without Christ. The skydivers are leaping out their planes, and they are watching the air go at 120 miles an hour through their fingers, and feeling this is the apex of the thrill of life. But there’s just one problem: they have no parachutes. And the gravity that is pulling them inexorably toward what will happen in about a minute or two is called the wrath of God. Because Jesus said in John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” And they think they’re so alive.
One of our great tasks is to so let the light of the gospel shine that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, eyes will wake up to the fact that day has come. Christ has come. The sun of righteousness has risen over Mounds View and over the Twin Cities. Wake up to the glory of your Savior, and believe him and enjoy him. Don’t be a sleepwalker. Don’t be a sleep-skydiver. It’s time to wake up. It’s time to get dressed. That’s what this text is about today. Get dressed. Take off your pajamas. Stop going to work in your pajamas.
Entering the War
So, we start now at verse 12. And what we’re finding here is that we’re being told what to wear as the light has come and what to do in this clothing. Romans 13:12: “The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then cast off the works of darkness.” You see the logic? “Because it is day, so then . . .” These are pajamas. Cast off the works of pajamas. One way to define sin is pajamas. You should be embarrassed to go around sinning. I mean, who would go to work in his pajamas? But people go to work in the works of darkness every day when it’s day. Wake up! It’s day. The King of kings has come.
So, “cast off [take off] the works of darkness and put on” — and then he chooses a word that is surprising. I didn’t expect him to choose this word. It’s a word that signals that the Christian life is not just wakeful; it’s war. You see that word? The day is at hand; so then, take off your pajamas — that is, the works of darkness — “and put on the armor of light.” I mean, I would expect it to say, “Put on a shirt or a cloak” or “Dress well for work” or something. And he says, “Put on the armor of light.”
“The Christian life is not just wakeful; it’s war.”
So, out of the blue comes — I mean, we don’t just go from pajamas to clothes to armor; we go straight from pajamas to armor. What does that say about life? It says life is war. The Christian life is a battle — though God has been so merciful to give us a foretaste of heaven today, and we may wonder, how can we even think in terms of life as being war and a battle and darkness to be overcome?
Armor of Light
So, put off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Now, here’s my question: What is the armor of light, and what does putting it on mean? But let’s make the question a little broader. Verse 12 and verse 14 both used the words “put on.” Notice verse 14: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” So, now you’ve got two “put-ons”: put on the armor of light when you take off your pajamas of sin, and put on the Lord Jesus Christ. So, my question really is, What’s the relationship between putting on the armor of light and putting on the Lord Jesus Christ? What do those two things mean? And I think the answer is given in 1 Thessalonians 5:7–8.
So, if you want to go there with me, you can, or you can just listen. I read this two weeks ago because 1 Thessalonians 5:7–8 is the closest comparison in all of Paul’s writings to what we have here in Romans 13:12–14. When I read it, you’ll hear the relationship. So listen carefully to 1 Thessalonians 5:7–8:
For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on [now there it is: we have armor, so we know we’re in the same sphere of thought] the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.
So, Paul mentions two pieces of armor: breastplate and helmet. We know there are more from Ephesians 6, but that’s all he’s dealing with here. We’ve got a breastplate to cover your heart and your will, and we’ve got a helmet to cover your brain, because those are the only three things the devil’s interested in. He wants your heart; he wants your will; he wants your brain — so get yourself covered good here and here. And he says there are three things that this armor stands for: faith, love, hope. Sound familiar? These three are the great ones — faith, hope, and love.
Staying Awake in a Sleepy World
So, now I come back to Romans 13:12, and see if this will help us. “So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” That is, let us put on faith, and let us put on hope, and let us put on love.
“Faith and hope and love are the antidotes to the soporific effects of the world.”
In this world of sleepwalking, the message is coming at you all day long — every day from television and from advertising and from all other kinds of things — to say, “Go to sleep, go to sleep, go to sleep with regard to God, with regard to Christ, with regard to the Bible.” And the less you want the Bible, the less you want Jesus, the less you want God, the more effective you know the sleeping pills of the world have been in your life. And what he’s saying here now is that faith and hope and love are the antidotes to the soporific effects of the world always trying to get you to go to sleep. So, combat that sleep-producing effect of the world by putting on faith and putting on hope and putting on love.