Make No Provision for the Flesh: A Sermon Primer on Romans 13.11-14

In the context of spiritual warfare, Paul dropped one of the most powerful principles of spiritual warfare, but it can be easily overlooked.

What is spiritual warfare? This is where we wrestle with the spiritual forces of darkness. This wrestling match may either be a battle of the minds or a battle of the wills. A truth battle is where the enemy entices us to believe a lie and to act accordingly. Satan is the father of lies (see John 8.44), and he works to deceive. This is why we are told to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

 3For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. (2 Corinthians 10.3-6)

The battle of the will is where we wage war in our passions and desires. Here, we decide whether or not we will obey Jesus, and whether our desires and passions will be crucified or gratified. This is why the Bible tells us to walk in the Spirit and not gratify the desires of the flesh. Continue reading

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Put On The Armor of Light: A Sermon Primer on Romans 13.11-14

As I am preparing and studying to preach on Romans 13.11-14, I continue to be fascinated by various aspects of the verse. I have already explored the fact that Paul assumed that we “know the time” and how knowing what time it is impacts how we view the business of darkness in a previous post. But I want to explore a little bit more the contrast he made in verse 12.

11Besides 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. 12The 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. 13Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (Romans 13.11-14 ESV)

Paul contrasted “casting off the works of darkness” with “putting on the armor of light.” The choice to contrast “works of darkness” with a spiritual warfare term is surprising. I would have expected something along the lines of “works of the light” to contrast with “works of darkness.” Instead, Paul put “walking properly” into the context of spiritual warfare. Continue reading

Because We Know the Time: A Sermon Primer on Romans 13.11-14

Paul starts out this section in Romans with the phrase, “Besides this, you know the time” (Romans 13.11). He did not say that we should know the time, or that we should do some research so that we would know the time. He simply assumed that the readers of his letter, and us by extension, know the time.

What “time” was Paul writing about. There are two basic Greek words for time. Chronos time is actual time of day, whereas kairos time is the time of opportunity, or the right time, or a season, or the time when things are brought to a crisis. Obviously, Paul used kairos time in verse 11. The time, of which the believers in Rome knew, was the season when they were to wake from sleep, when salvation was nearer than when they first believed, and when the night was far gone and the day was at hand. All four of these statements help us understand what time it is and how knowing that changes how we live.

Since Paul contrasted “when we first believed” with “our salvation is nearer,” I do not think he was using the word “salvation” to speak of the moment a person is reborn by grace through faith. That kind of salvation happened (and continues to happen) when we first believe. So, I think Paul was using the word “salvation” in its more basic Greek form. The word means “deliverance from the molestation of enemies” (Thayer’s Greek Definitions). Our deliverance is nearer now than when we first put our faith in Christ. That final deliverance from the molestation of evil will come when Jesus returns and cast the spiritual forces of darkness into the final judgment. Continue reading

The Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids: A Sermon Primer on Romans 13.11-14

It is hard to read Paul’s words in Romans 13.11-14 about salvation being nearer to us than when we first believed and not think of the parable Jesus told in Matthew 25. He had just finished answering the disciple’s question, “what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age,” with an extensive 47 verse sermon (see Matthew 24.3-51). After his long version answer, he told three stories: the parable of the ten bridesmaids, the parable of the talents, and the parable of the sheep and the goats. The first parable goes like this.

1“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. 6But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. 8The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ 10And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. 11Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ 13Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. (Matthew 25.1-13 NRSV) Continue reading

What Can the Righteous Do? (Psalm 11)

The following sermon was preached at the First Baptist Church of Benbrook, TX on Sunday morning, September 11, 2011, the 10th Anniversary of 9/11. You can also listen to the sermon audio here.

On December 8, 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt stood before the joint houses of Congress and verbalized the grief of a nation with these famous words,

Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

He was describing, of course, the surprise bombing of Pearl Harbor, where four battleships, three cruisers, three destroyers, and 188 aircraft were destroyed. But more importantly, where 2402 service men were killed. And almost 70 years later, that phrase is written on the soul of every American, “a date which will live in infamy.”

The word “infamy” means “an evil reputation brought about by something shocking or brutal.” President Roosevelt was saying that the date “December 7th” would always evoke the memory of the brutal and shocking events of that historic day.

To borrow the words of FDR, September 11, 2001: a date which will live in infamy. Continue reading

Him Whom They Have Pierced: A Meditation on Zechariah 12.10-13.9

After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to two disciplines on the road to Emmaus. While their eyes were kept from recognizing Him, they talked about the recent events in Jerusalem, events that Jesus knew all too well. After hearing their confusion about the empty tomb, Jesus said to them,

“O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24.25-27)

The idea that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer was also repeated by the apostles Paul (Acts 17.3) and Peter (1 Peter 1.11).  The challenge for readers of the Bible, though, is finding in the Old Testament prophets specific prophecies about the necessary suffering of the coming Messiah. In fact, other than Isaiah 53, which does speak pointedly about the sufferings of the Messiah, one is hard pressed to name another prophetic passage that foretells the necessary and certain suffering of the Messiah.

But say “hello” to our confusing friend, the prophet Zechariah.

Zechariah has been called one of the most messianic prophets of the Old Testament for good reason. He spoke vividly about the coming Messiah, both of His first coming and His second coming. He even speaks of the new covenant age of those who are redeemed by the work of the messiah but who live between His two comings. Continue reading

If The Foundations Are Destroyed: A Sermon Primer on Psalm 11.3

The setting of the 11th Psalm seems to be a crisis moment in the life of David. The wicked have loaded their bow and lie in wait to ambush him. This could apply to the period of his life when Saul was out to kill him (see 1 Samuel 19-31), to the period when his own son tried to force him off the throne (see 2 Samuel 15), or to various other attacks not mentioned in the biblical narrative.

But someone is suggesting to him to “flee like a bird to the mountain” because “the wicked bend the bow” against him (see Psalm 11.1-2). The reason David ought to flee?

If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? (Psalm 11.3)

This Hebrew word for “foundations” is a rarely used word in the Old Testament. It appears to be a metaphor for the order of society. It is translated as “pillars” in Psalm 75.3. It represents the “established institutions and the social and civil order of the community” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 5:132).

When the foundations of society are rocked by the attacks of wicked men, what are the righteous to do? Do they flee to the mountains? David answers the cry of despair with these words,

The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test, the children of man. The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence. Let him rain coals on the wicked; fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup. For the Lord is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face. (Psalm 11.4-7) Continue reading

What Can the Righteous Do?: A Sermon Primer on Psalm 11

The tenth anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 2001 will be this coming Sunday. If you were alive on that day, and over the age of 20, you remember exactly where you were when you watched the towers collapse in New York City. The following is a brief timeline of that morning’s events.

  • At 6:58 a.m., United Airlines Flight 175 left Boston bound for Los Angeles with fifty-six passengers, two pilots, and seven flight attendants.
  • One minute later, at 6:59 a.m., American Airlines Flight 11 departed Boston en route to Los Angeles with eighty-one passengers, two pilots, and nine flight attendants.
  • Two minutes later, at 7:01 a.m., United Airlines Flight 93 left Newark, New Jersey, headed to San Francisco with thirty-eight passengers, two pilots, and five flight attendants.
  • Nine minutes later, at 7:10 a.m., American Airlines Flight 77 took off from Dulles International Airport in Washington D.C. bound for Los Angeles with fifty-eight passengers, two pilots, and four flight attendants.
  • Thirty-five minutes later, at 7:45 a.m., American Flight 11 plunged into the north tower of the World Trade Center in Manhattan—a direct hit.
  • Eighteen minutes after the north tower was hit, at 8:03 a.m., United Flight 175 crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center.
  • Forty minutes after the south tower was hit, at 8:43 a.m., American Flight 77 crashed full throttle into the Pentagon, ripping open a hole at least two hundred feet wide on the west side. Flames exploded from the nerve center of our nation’s major military facility.
  • Seven minutes after the Pentagon was hit, at 8:50 a.m., the south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed.
  • Eight minutes later, at 8:58 a.m., an emergency dispatcher in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, received a cell phone call from a man who said he was a passenger locked in the bathroom of United Flight 93. The dispatcher quoted the man as saying, “We are being hijacked! We are being hijacked!” The man then said the plane was going down and reported some sort of explosion and white smoke coming from the plane. At that moment, the dispatcher lost contact.
  • Twelve minutes after that cell phone call, at 9:10 a.m., United Flight 93 from Newark to San Francisco crashed near Summerset, Pennsylvania, eighty miles southeast of Pittsburgh. Representative James Moran of Virginia, after a Marine Corps briefing, said that hijackers evidently planned to crash the plane into the presidential retreat at Camp David or the United States Capitol building.
  • At the same moment, 9:10 a.m., a portion of the Pentagon collapsed.
  • Only nineteen minutes after the Pentagon’s west side collapsed, at 9:29 a.m., the north tower of the World Trade Center collapsed.

The horrors of war are nothing new to humanity. In the beginning, Cain killed his brother, and the killing has not stopped. Wars and rumors of wars will be with us until our Lord returns (see Matthew 24.6). And just like wars have been with us for ages, so has the nagging question that comes with war: how do we respond?

In Psalm 11, King David pondered the same ageless question,

…for behold, the wicked bend the bow; they have fitted their arrow to the string to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart; if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?

The wicked have bent the bow, and our nation was shot in the dark and caught by surprise. The foundations of our civilization are wounded. So, what can the righteous do? What should the righteous do?

This will be the focus of this week’s posts and for Sunday’s sermon. I hope you will return as we seek to discover “How do the righteous respond when attacked?”