Wake Up

We need to more than we know.

Romans 13:11–14 (ESV)

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.

Everything in this passage is simple enough, except the command to wake up. As a sinner, I’ve been accused of a lot of things—and rightfully so. But being asleep? That’s a new one. What am I missing?

As usual, the context is the key. This passage changes the tone. Whereas previous passages commanded us to love our neighbors and even our enemies, this one tells us to cut out the orgies and drunkenness. What?! How can both of these commands be written to the same audience? Can the same people who struggle to love their enemies also struggle with sexual immorality?

Absolutely. That’s the multi-layered, multi-faceted nature of sin. Being charitable doesn’t suddenly make you immune to some unrelated sin. The “total” in “total depravity” refers to how thoroughly depravity runs through us. Don’t assume that your friends don’t have major struggles. People rarely share their deepest, darkest secrets.

But it’s even worse than that. Notice that Paul mentions quarreling and jealousy in the same breath with orgies and drunkenness. He puts them on the same level. Do you?

This passage isn’t just for some Christians; it’s for all. We call ourselves sinners (as I did above) but aren’t serious about it. Those of us who haven’t committed “marquee” sins pay lip service to being sinners, but we don’t really think we’re in the top tier. That’s wrong.

Have you ever heard someone say, “My pride caused my divorce.”? Of course not. Yet, pride is a major destroyer of marriage, maybe the leading one. No one talks about their pride, yet C.S. Lewis called pride “spiritual cancer.” “Pride is how the devil became the devil.”

And that’s just one example. We’ve memorized all the words to the gospel, but we don’t really get it. The sins that our society sneers at get all the attention, but the kingdom of heaven has other priorities.

We do need to wake up.

My favorite friends are the ones who use, “humility enforcement.” That is, they show me the disrespect that befits my station. This goes hand-in-hand with self-deprecating humor.

While this kind of talk is light-hearted, it’s still realistic. These friends take the words, “I’m a sinner,” seriously—and it shows.

It’s the nudge I need to wake me up.

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Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.