THE VICTORIOUS CHRISTIAN LIFE
Key Verse: 13:14
“Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.”
Happy New Year! We had heard powerful messages and heart moving testimonies in the conference last week. Many of us had made decision of faith to fix our eyes on Jesus and run the race of faith, depending on God Almighty only. Thank God for renewing our minds with the word of truth. Let me ask a question. Since we came back to our daily life, how have we lived out our decision of faith? Do we live a victorious Christian life? In this passage, Paul gives us secretes to live a victorious life in our real daily life. Paul encourages us to submit ourselves to the governing authorities and to love our neighbors as ourselves and also to clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ. God may bless us to wake up from our spiritual slumber, so that we may clothe ourselves with Jesus Christ and preach the gospel through 1:1 Bible Study.
First, subject to governing authorities (1-7).
Look at verse 1. “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Let me ask you a question. What comes to your mind when you hear the word “authority”? No one can deny that one of our sinful nature is rebelliousness. Regardless what kind of authorities, we just want to rebel without a cause. Here Paul tells believers to let themselves be subject to authorities. Simply Paul tells us to submit to the governing authorities. What a ridiculous direction it is for us who lives in 21th centuries! It is not 19th nor 20th centuries. Even young CBF members know how to say “No” and practice their freedom. There are many different forms of authorities we face every day such as the federal government, state government, city government, teachers in schools, and boss in our work places, parents in our home, and even big brothers and sisters. Why should we submit to such bossy leaders, unfair teachers, cranky bosses, demanding parents, or mean brother/sister? We are living in USA, the democratic country, so that we have all right to practice our freedom. Do you know that Paul was writing this letter to the believers in Rome? At that time, the top authority in Rome was Emperor Nero, one of the worst rulers of all time. Don’t you think that rebelling against the evil Emperor or resisting against such cruel master would be the right thing to do? But Look at verse 1. “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities.” Why should we Christians submit to the authorities?
First, it is because all authorities have been established by God. Look at verse 1b. “The authorities that exist have been established by God.” It means that all authorities are under God’s sovereign rule. Christians must acknowledge the governing authorities as God’s instruments on earth. Behind of all forms of governing authorities we have, there is God. God is sovereign ruler; God is in control. That is the reason why we submit to authorities. The book of Daniel clearly reveals God’s sovereign rule of nations and their rulers. Daniel stood before one of the greatest monarchs the world has ever seen, and said to him, "God changes times and seasons, God removes kings, and he sets up kings," (Dan 2:21a). Even Nebuchadnezzar, that mighty king, testified that God had taught him painful lessons; the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people(Dan 4:17). Isn't that remarkable? God sometimes deliberately picks a man that is not capable, the lowliest of men, and puts him into power.
As we learned from Romans 9, God even established Pharaoh to accomplish his purpose. Romans 9:17 “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Surely, God is ruling history, especially leaders of the nations. God has established authorities to accomplish his good, pleasing and perfect will. Therefore, we submit to authorities. However, submission is not easy, especially when those in authority are corrupt, immoral or abusive. Thank God for a stable and democratic government in America. It is not perfect government and I know that some of you did not like President Obama. Even though we disagree with him in many different issues, we have to submit to him because God put him in that position for his good purpose even if we don’t see it and don’t understand it right away.
Paul says in verse 2 that when we rebel against the authority, we are also rebelling against God who established such authority over us. Always we wonder why God set such arrogant person as our boss? Why did God let such mean sister born before me? Why did God put such stubborn leaders in our lives? Paul says that we need to focus our attention on God, rather than on the person over us. We submit not because those in authority are always right and perfect, but because we believe that God has put that person in our life for a reason. Through that person, God’s will is somehow being done in us. Sometimes through that person, God trains us to be humble and obedient; through that person, God makes us to grow as servants of God. Since we trust God, the sovereign ruler, we submit to the authorities.
The best example of submission is our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he is the Son of God and in very nature God, he submitted himself to the civil authorities as his submission to God. He accepted suffering and the most painful death by crucifixion because it was the will of God. When Jesus was on trial, the Roman governor Pilate thought he held Jesus’ life in his hand. He said to Jesus, “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above” (Jn19:10,11). Then Jesus went to the cross. As he breathed his last, he said, “Father, into your hand I commit my spirit” (Lk 23:46). Jesus’ submission was not merely to governing authorities; Jesus submission was to the will of God for world salvation. Paul encouraged Christians in Rome to submit to such terrible authorities. Why? Paul trusted God’s sovereignty and believed that Roman Empire was God’s instrument to preach the gospel to the world. When the Roman Empire conquered the world of the time, people only thought about the cruelty of the Roman authorities. Paul understood God’s plan for world salvation through Roman. So Paul eagerly wanted to visit Rome and teach the Bible there to fulfill God’s purpose. Therefore, God's people must firmly believe in the sovereignty of God; all authorities are established by God and for God.
Second, we submit because we don’t want to be punished by doing wrong. Do we need any more explanation about this? Look at verses 3-4. “For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” In these verses, Paul calls rulers and officials God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. It is because through them, God protects those who keep the law; through them, God punishes those who break the law. Therefore, when we follow the law; do what is right, we have nothing to fear. However when we do wrong and break the law, we have much fear. Have you ever experienced the fear when the police car approached behind you? You would be terrified and wonder whether you would be pulled over or not. However if you don’t speed, then you have nothing to fear whether there is a police vehicle or not. When you suddenly and unexpectedly meet your parents, teachers or shepherd, there is nothing to fear if you do what is right. It is absolutely necessary for us to submit to authorities if we want to be free from fear of the one in authority and to have peaceful sleep.
Third, we submit and do right because we live before God. Look at verse 5. “Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.” Here Paul teaches us that we should submit to the authorities and do things right, not just because we fear possible punishment from the government, but also because we fear God who sees our hearts. We should submit and live honest life whether others watch or not because we want to have a clear conscience before God. Look at verses 6-7. “This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” People obey the law just because they are afraid they are going to get caught. They keep the speed limit just because there is a police car in sight. They pay their incomes taxes just because they know the government now has tremendous computers that can review any number of records and might catch them. But we believers obey the law because we want to do right thing before God. We pay income taxes because we fear God and live before God. We submit to authorities not for man’s sake, but for God’s sake. In addition to taxes, we must show proper respect and give due honor for the governments provide protection, security and various common services. This is a heavy burden of responsibility. It is proper to pay taxes for their support.
However, we must not submit to governing authorities blindly. We must do so prayerfully. In Acts 4, the religious leaders commanded the disciples not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. Did the disciples obey them? In Acts4:19-20, Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes; to listen to you, or to him? You be the judge! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” When we are forced to give up our faith in God, we must stand up and obey God rather than the worldly authorities. In Daniel 3, three young men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, refused to worship the idols set up by the King Nebuchadnezzar though they submitted themselves to his authority. They said in Daniel 3:17-18, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the images of gold you have set up.” They submitted to the king’s authority but they obeyed God. Then God overruled the king’s order by saving them from the blazing furnace. This shows God is above the king. What a courageous faith they had. This is a clear guideline when we are challenged to worship the idols by the authorities. Other than that, we must submit ourselves to the governing authorities. Each family can have peace when children respect parental authorities. We should respect the authority of our boss in our working place. Students should respect the authority of their teachers in the classroom. We also should respect the spiritual authority in our church. We can summaries this part with 1Timonthy 2:1-3. Paul says, “… petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority…This is good and pleases God our Savior.”
Second, love fulfills the law (8-10).
How can we live victorious Christian life? “Love our neighbors, as ourselves.” In verses 8-10, he urges us to practice the love of God as shepherds for our people. Look at verse 8. “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” Here, what Paul really want to talk about is not money, but love. Of cause, if we borrow money, we must pay it back. But there is one debt that we can never able to pay off. That is the debts of love. We have debt of love from the Lord Jesus. This is how God loved us. Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” While we were still sinners–unlovely, useless, harmful and weak–Christ died for us. Christ poured out his precious blood without holding anything back to purchase our redemption. God accepts his blood as the full payment for our sins. We are no longer under condemnation, but God justified us to be righteous. God has made us his heirs and co-heirs with Christ, giving us the most glorious inheritance in the kingdom of God. What a wonderful and amazing love of God for us! Therefore, we should never stop loving others, continuing debt to love one another.
Look at verse 9-10. Loving neighbors is not just obeying the law, but also practicing Jesus’ love for sinners. In John 13:34 says, “A new command I give you; Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” The law says to us, “Do not harm our neighbors.” But when we love our neighbors, we do not harm our neighbors. More than that, we provide what they need; we share what we have with them; we support them; encourage them; bear them; and take care of them; and even we sacrifice our time and money for them. Love fulfills the law. As we learned from John 21, we can practice the love of Christ when we take care of one person with Bible study and prayer from a shepherd’s heart. That is why Jesus commanded Peter, “Feed my sheep! Feed my lamb!” after Peter confessed his love for him. Let’s practice the love of Jesus through serving one sheep.
Third, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ (11-14).
Look at verse 11. “And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” Do you understand the present time? Have you ever heard about the boiling frog story? It goes like this: if a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. Unlike the frog, we believers must be spiritually alert. Understanding the present time, we must jump out from the water of this sinful and adulterous world Otherwise, we will be cooked to death like the fog. Do you understand the present time?
First, it is time to wake up from our spiritual slumber; the night is nearly over and the day is almost here. The Second Coming of Jesus Christ in power and glory is nearer now than it has ever been before. So, it is time to wake up. God calls us to wake up in many ways; through messages, daily breads, conferences, and sometimes through troubles or accidents. It is for there is not much to carry the world mission command; “go and make disciples of all nations.” I became 47 years old. I do not have much time to do the work of God. Still the devil tries to deceive me that I will have a lot of time to serve God even after enjoying all pleasures of the world; there will be much time to serve God after graduation; there will be much time after you establish your courier; there will be much time after you establish house church. In fact, how much time have we got left? Who knows? We live in the end times. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here, no matter whether we are old or young. As we learned last week, we may not follow the pattern of this word, but be transformed by renewing our mind through the word of truth. Let us wake up from our spiritual slumber and do the work of God now. Let’s wake up!
Secondly it is time to put aside the deeds of darkness, but put on the armor of light. Look at verse 12-13. “The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. “Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy” We must put aside the deeds of darkness such as orgies, drunkenness, sexual immorality, debauchery, dissension and jealousy. If we spend our time in endless self-indulgence, we will never have time to do the work of God. Spending all night for games and movies, we will never be able to get up early for daily bread. Enjoying all kinds of pleasures of the world, we cannot practice the love of Christ which sacrifice ourselves for one sheep. It is time to give up! It is time to put aside the deed of darkness. As we learned from Hebrews 12. Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that easily entangles us. We must repent for seeking pleasure in this world, secretly loving it in the darkness. Instead, we must put on the armor of light. Simply speaking, it means to let Jesus dwell in our hearts through repentance. The light of Jesus will guard us from the darkness of the world.
Thirdly, it is time to clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ. Look at verses 14. “Rather clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” What does this mean to clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ? Many people are crazy about famous band clothing such as Gucci, Chanel, and Prada. What kind of clothes is this “the Lord Jesus Christ”? Is it expensive/famous? Now what kinds of clothes do you ware? We were like the prodigal son in Luke 15. After squandering all the money that he got from his father and going days without food, he finally came to his senses and decided to go back to his father. Amazingly, his father recognized him immediately even though he was dressed in filthy rags, covered with mud and dung. The father threw his arms around him and kissed him. And then he said to his servants, "Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet." This is what Jesus did to us. Jesus took away our filthy rags of sins, but clothed us in the best garments of righteousness, forgiveness and love. “Clothe with the Lord Jesus Christ” means to put on the righteousness of Jesus. Putting on Jesus’ righteousness, we can stand before God and serve the living God without fear. Putting on Jesus’ compassion, we can overcome our selfish heart and love one sheep with shepherd heart. Putting on Jesus’ humility, we can humbly serve such proud sinners. Putting on Jesus’ power, we overcome our weakness and live victorious life as a bible teacher/disciple maker/servant of God for this generation. What kind of clothes do you wear? May God help us to be clothed in Jesus! Seeking his glory instead of our own sinful desires, we may have Jesus in our hearts. So, the world may see Jesus in us.
Submitting authorities, loving neighbors, putting aside all the deeds of darkness, and clothing with Jesus -- Does it sound like victorious life? It sounds life humble servant’s life. But this is really victorious life that changes Rome. After much persecution from Roman government, Christianity became the authorized religion of Roman Empire in AD 380. So how was this possible? How could a nation which had so fiercely persecuted the church embrace it so readily? It wasn’t done through swords or revolutions. Rather it was done through love and exemplary life of early Christians. When early Christians fought spiritual battle with love and changed lives, even the mighty Roman Empire fell. With swords or revolutions, it is impossible to change America, not even one sheep. But when we clothe ourselves with Jesus Christ; when we practice the love of Chris, it is possible.
Today we learn how to live a victorious Christian life. We must submit to the authorities with faith in God’s sovereign rule. We must practice the love of God as shepherds for others. Let’s clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ.