Romans is the one of the most often quoted and highly read books in the entire Bible. While it touches on several topics, the primary theme of the letter is salvation. As we have studied through this great work over the course of the past year, we've explored the doctrine of salvation in depth. We have covered a lot of material so far, and still have a few more chapters to go. I thought it might be fun to begin our message today with a pop quiz that briefly reviews some of the important concepts we've already covered in this series.
What is the message of salvation? The Gospel
What groups of people are in need salvation? The unrighteous, the self-righteous, the presumptuous, and the guilty - all people
How does a person receive salvation? Through faith in Jesus Christ
What are the steps in the salvation process? Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification
What happens during justification? God forgives a person of their sins and guilt, pardons their penalty, and declares them to be righteous.
What is sanctification? A life-long process, beginning with regeneration, in which a person increasingly grows and is molded by God into the image of Christ.
What are the components of regeneration? Death to sin, freedom from sin, and life to God
What is glorification? The exchange of the believer's present earthly body for an incorruptible heavenly body in which they will live eternally with Christ.
What activities has God done to make salvation possible? Election, Predestination, and Calling
How does God desire for His children to live out their salvation? Through service to Him and other people, by displaying Christ-like characteristics, by being good citizens and respecting legitimate authority, etc.
So how did you do on the quiz? I hope you remembered many of the answers that we've learned over past several months. This morning we will continue to discover what God's expectations are for believers. After a person gets saved, how are they supposed to live? What are some practical ways for Christians to demonstrate their salvation to others? Today we will talk about "Loving as in the Light".
I. LOVE ONE ANOTHER (Romans 13:8-10)
In a recent 2011 book titled "Three Felonies a Day", author Harvey Silvergate explains that the average U.S. citizen unknowingly violates federal law on multiple occasions each day. There are laws and regulations that target almost every detail of our lives - including the minutest things. Many of these are written so vaguely or broadly that almost any behavior could be construed as criminal. Knowing and obeying all of these laws is all but impossible for any person, no matter how well-intentioned they might be.
In the Old Testament, there are over 600 laws or commandments. They apply to many different areas of life. Some are focused on moral behavior, others on ceremonial practices, and still others on civil issues. For the average person among us, just remembering this many laws is a stretch. Beyond retaining a mental awareness of them, continuously keeping them all without making a single error is impossible. Scripture clearly teaches that all people have broken the commandments of God. It further stays that even one violation renders a person guilty of all. Therefore, every person is a sinner and is subject to God's justice.
Jesus stated that He came to fulfill the law. While on earth He perfectly kept every commandment, revealing God's true intent for them rather than simply their letter. By living a sinless life Jesus did something that none of us could ever do. As a guiltless and unblemished sacrifice, Jesus' death was acceptable to God in order to accomplish the salvation of mankind. When we accept Him as our Lord and Savior, God forgives our disobedience and guilt. He replaces our unrighteousness with Christ's righteousness, which frees us from the requirements of the law and liberates to live in the wonders of grace.
Therefore, rather than trying to remember and uphold hundreds of different commandments, we are instructed in this text to follow just one - to love our neighbor as ourselves. After all, if we truly love one another we won't sleep with their spouse, we won't kill them, we won't steal from them, nor will we covet their possessions. Love does not harm others, but rather seeks for their good. Like Jesus, we too can fulfill the law by loving one another as ourselves. Obviously our fulfillment is not to the same extent as His was, yet by loving others we can reveal the true nature of God to this generation and point them to Christ.
Many religions emphasize to their followers what they can't do. Don't do this, don't do that... No one likes to be told what not to do. But pure, simple New Testament Christianity is more focused upon what we should be doing. We should strive to love one another - both friends and enemies alike, whether deserved or undeserved - all for the glory of God. There is simply no better or more accurate way to display the reality of God to the world than by loving our neighbors as ourselves.
II. LIVE AS IN THE LIGHT (Romans 13:11-14)
In these verses Paul depicts the current age as one of abject spiritual darkness. We are living in a world shrouded by the blackness of night. The lack of visibility prevents us from truly seeing ourselves as the LORD sees us. We perceive ourselves to be much cleaner and more holy than we truly are. The veil of darkness misleads us into thinking that we can practice sin and disobedience without anyone else finding out - including God. It even prevents people from seeing or perceiving many clear evidences of God in this life. Even for the most sincere seekers, the darkness can cause us to stumble and run into obstacles that obstruct our path. The fact is that most of us are spiritually asleep, blissfully unaware of or unconcerned about the sinful activities that are rampant during the gloomy night.
But we are warned that the day is drawing near. This era of spiritual darkness will soon end, and the dawn of a new day will soon begin. When the sun rises and the light of God begins to shine, that which has been concealed by the blackness up until now will be clearly seen. The wicked deeds that have taken place in secrecy during the lengthy night will be finally be exposed. The wretched condition of our own sinful lives will be revealed. Nothing will be hidden - the truth will be made evident to all.
Though this new day has yet to arrive, we as Christians are advised to awake from our sleep and to live as if the light has already come. Even now God can see through the spiritual darkness of this present world. The light of the coming day will reveal to us what God already sees and knows. Our sinful behaviors might be hidden from each other, but the LORD is well aware of them all. We are foolish to believe otherwise. Nothing is hidden from Him. As such, we need to put away our fleshly lusts and instead put on the armor of light. This covering will allow us to shine the light of Christ even in the midst of this long, dark night.
Though our eternal salvation is made secured by God's grace through our faith in Christ, the Bible does teach that will we each stand before the Lord and give an account of our works. It is on this basis that we will be rewarded for the things we've done in this present life. Knowingly this, it seems prudent that we should strive for godliness and righteousness. We should consider our thoughts and deeds to be on public display before everyone, because someday they will be. It boils down to this... either we can repent of our sins and live as in the light right now, or we can continue to practice the deeds of darkness and be exposed as sinners later. But know this... if we wait until the morning light to seek salvation, it will be too late.
Love is like the switch that turns on the light. It is like a flame that glows in the darkness. In order to live in the light, we must love one another. Apart from love, we will continually grope in the darkness. The Bible teaches that God is love. Therefore, if love produces the light and God is love, then we can conclude He is the source of the light. This is why Jesus preached that He was the "Light of the World." As the redeemed children of God, we have been saved so that we might love others and by so doing live as in the light.