Saturday, November 28, 2015

Awake to Advent

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (Romans 13:8-end)

In this part of Romans, the "how should we then live" section, we have many new commandments, and the first one in this part is to, "Owe no man anything."  How many us can say that we owe no man anything?  Even though everything ultimately comes from God, the means of these graces in our lives are other people.  God gave us life, but our mothers gave birth to us.  Our fathers raised us.  Our friends and family weep with us, care for us, give us their time and money.  Strangers help us, too.  Our employers and governments do things for us.

So, we do owe people.  In fact, it seems we owe a lot of people a lot of things.  The text confirms this by saying, "Owe no man anything, except to love one another."  That's another way of saying, "owe no one anything except everything."  Because, how do we love one another?  By obeying God's commandments, and that includes the second table of the law, which is every way we interact with each other.  So, the seventh commandment against adultery includes any relation that would be called "marital" outside of an actual marriage.  Extra-marital behavior is abusive--physically, emotionally, spiritually--and injures all parties involved.  The opposite is also true: we are to love our spouses in a non-abusive way.  We are to respect our spouses and share the gospel with them.  We are to care for them emotionally, spiritually, physically.  Other bodily abuse is included in this commandment, including gluttony, harming your flesh, and drug use.  This is committing adultery against your own body, and likewise, encouraging others to do the same to theirs.

The commandments bleed into one another.  So, the sixth commandment takes the abuses of the seventh to the extreme: you shall not kill yourself as well as others.  You shall not destroy what God has made, and you shall not encourage others to do likewise.  This is not loving your neighbor.  The opposite is also true: you shall hold all life precious.  Not only shall you not encourage yourself and others to kill, but you will also encourage yourself and them to save life when they can.  This is loving your neighbor: encouraging them to hold all life dear.

Stealing is not limited to money or material goods.  You can steal someone's time, you can waste someone's time.  You can forge a relationship with someone and then walk away.  This breaks both the seventh and eighth commandments.  Of course it's not love to take someone's stuff, but to take part of their life in time is also abusive and unloving.  The opposite is also true: you are to give to the other.  Relationships in which each party only thinks about satisfying him-or-herself is also a relationship involving theft.  We are to live only for giving to the other person in the relationship, either inside or outside marriage.  This includes children to their parents and parents to their children.

The eighth commandment bleeds into the ninth.  Stealing the truth from someone--altering reality--is not loving.  It makes life harder for the other person.  Now the offended party must attempt to correct the falsehood, to bring reality back to normal, or live a life in which the lie is forever attached to the person lied about.  The opposite, to be honest with everyone, is to make people safe, to give them peace.

The tenth commandment against coveting includes all of the above but in the deeper realm of thought and intent.  How we act outwardly can be loving, but if we do not feel likewise in our hearts, we are still disobeying God.  And all violations of commandments to love our neighbors are also violations of the commandments to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

So, you see, there is no violation of God's commandments that doesn't harm anyone.  We hear all the time, "it's not harming anyone," but it is, if not physically then emotionally, psychologically, or spiritually.  And with our being able to communicate our thoughts and intents at the speed of light, we encourage many to do likewise by giving our testimony of sin.  To love is to fulfill the law of God.  To disobey is lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.  Therefore, sin is the opposite of love.

So, we owe everyone.  We don't love our neighbor.  We sin against our neighbor and God.  Can it get any worse?  Yes, Paul exhorts us to wake up to these truths before it is too late, for the time of salvation--or ruin--is coming rapidly upon us all.  There are two advents.  The first is when Jesus Christ came in the flesh 2000 years ago to shine a light in the darkness and draw all of his sheep to him.  The other is the second coming of Christ--judgment day.  We may see it come while we live, but we will all probably die first and then be transported forward in time to that day.  So, judgment day is closer than we think.  Are we awake to advent?

Have we cast off the works of darkness?  Have we put on the armor of light?  Do we walk honestly?  Or do we riot against God an our neighbor?  Do we abuse ourselves and others with drunkenness?  Drunkenness doesn't have to involve alcohol.  You can get drunk on many things, like power, sex, violence, death, deceiving, and desire. But it all amounts to an abundance of selfishness. And this selfishness is jealous of itself.  It hates its neighbor.  It would rather everyone be without than for it alone to be without.

Now that we are crushed, let's get out from under the weight that lies upon us.  The only way out is through the Lord Jesus Christ.  We put him on like a garment, because only he has fulfilled the law, and only through him will the Father say that we have fulfilled the law, too.  When Paul says, "put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof," he is not saying, "do these things and live," but, "Christ has done these things.  Put your faith in him and him alone, and his righteousness will be yours."  You will no longer make provision for the flesh, because Jesus is living in you and through you.  The sanctification process has begun, and our lives become more holy, our repentance more frequent.

Christ never owed anyone anything.  One of the the devil's temptations in the wilderness was that he would give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world, if Jesus would bow down and worship him.  Satan was attempting to cut a covenant between him and Christ, the result of which was Christ would owe Satan his allegiance.  Jesus rejected that temptation, like all others.  Likewise, Jesus obeyed the law in word, deed and thought.  He did not commit adultery, even imaginary, he did not kill, he did not steal, he did not lie, he did not even covet.  In other words he fulfilled the second table of the law by loving his neighbor.  He did no ill toward his neighbor.

He also never slept.  He physically slept, of course, but he was never asleep to what he had come to earth to do.  The primary purpose of the incarnation was the salvation of his people.  When we live in the night, our focus turns to worldly things and away from heavenly things.  Jesus Christ always walked in the daylight.  And so, we are to walk in the daylight by faith, so that we may reach our goal of glorification.  Only by faith in Christ can we walk honestly in the day and avoid the licentiousness of the night.

So put on Christ.  He died on the cross for all your sins, and the assurance of your salvation is that God raised Jesus from the dead, proving that he does not lie, so when God says that he has saved you, he has saved you.  Put on Christ like a new flesh.  The old flesh tempted you into darkness.  The new flesh is a suit of armor of light, the indestructible flesh of Jesus Christ.