Friday, February 7, 2014

Behaving Properly (Romans 13:13-14)

“Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” (Romans 13:13–14, NASB95)

While chapter 12 dealt primarily with our behavior in regards to other believers, chapter 13 deals with our behavior in regards to all people. This included a look at how we respond to those in leadership over us and to those who are our neighbors or those who for any reason cross our paths in some way. We read that we are not to be lax in any of these nor are we to be lax in our anticipation of the soon coming of our Lord, realizing that we have been called to live in the Light and not listen to the voices of darkness.

“Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”” (John 8:12, NASB95)

“for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth),” (Ephesians 5:8–9, NASB95)

In these verses about living in the power and protection of the Light we understand that we are doing this in a world that largely only knows darkness, and we are to live not according to the world but according to the Word of God. It is from here that we move to the last two verses of chapter 13, where we are told to behave properly.

We are to behave properly as if everything we did were done in the daytime. This is a curious phrase, well unless you lived in an apartment as a young married couple which had those wonderful German cockroaches. You could see the evidence of them on the counters in the morning, but for the most part they were hidden during the day. But when it got dark or when they otherwise were in a dark place they were free to run amok across everything we owned, and should you turn the light on them at night, then…. This was a nasty season, and one I hope never to experience again. But the lessons about what happens in the dark definitely have been given new meaning.

But so it is with sin. We don’t generally want others to know that we are engaged in it unless we are around others engaged in the same thing. At one time there were many things considered morally offensive in our culture, that today have much less stigma surrounding them. And with the normalization of these once morally offensive activities, people have become more and more open about engaging in them themselves. These include changing the laws concerning abortion from the taking of an innocent life to a woman’s right to control her own body. It is more and more common and accepted today to just live together, and getting a divorce is a simple legal procedure. Infidelity in marriage is bragged about and seen openly in many public figures. The normalization of aberrant sexual identities and the growth of the LGBTQ community has changed such that people are bullied when they profess their opposing biblical understanding. 

Our culture is quickly losing its moral keel and the ship of America is being tossed by every wind, to the point that many who stand for biblical morality are now considered intolerant and offensive regardless of how they make that stand. Christians were once significant salt and light in our communities and our nation. The documents which had long governed our country are now being increasingly viewed as archaic and subject to change by unelected judges and our Federal government, which picks and chooses which laws it will or will not enforce. Where once these beliefs were foundational to our moral fiber as a country, those who hold them now are being viewed more and more as an annoyance and a hindrance.

The Bible tells us that we are not to be swayed by the world and the darkness which covers it. The world is not to be our determinant of how we live, but we are to live by the standard given to us by God. Living this way is what the Bible calls living properly. It is living properly with all people, keeping ourselves for the man or woman that God has for us whether we’ve found him or her yet or not. It is living filled by the Spirit and not controlled by substances such as alcohol or drugs. It is not bouncing around in our relationships and sleeping with anyone we wish and chasing after any pleasure that might be dangling out there. It is being faithful to our friends and family and not being given to fighting and arguing or chasing after what others around you might have.

Living in the Light is living faithful to our God and submitted to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We read that we are to put on Christ and to make no provision for the flesh. Speaking to those who have trusted Christ for their salvation, we have been given new life. We have been made spiritually alive. We are called to abide in Christ as He abides in us. We are called to live in dependence on Him.

One picture of living in dependence is putting on Christ. It is as if we get up in the morning and purposely choose how to get dressed such that we stop, look to Him, and purpose to follow after Him with our whole hearts being fully dressed in Him. In Ephesians 6 we read more about this as we are told how to prepare ourselves for this spiritual battle with darkness—a battle which even can rage in our minds. Here we are getting dressed in Christ according to our new identity and not in accordance to who we once were. We choose not to get dressed according to any desires we might have which are in conflict with this new identity. This tension is what Scripture refers to as a battle with the flesh. It is a conscious and purposeful choice we make on a daily and even moment by moment basis.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit….” (Ephesians 6:10–18, NASB95)

There are many temptations around us both within our hearts and minds as we walk through our days and in the world around us that we live in. But we are always to be mindful that how we live is a choice, and in the choice our God has made it so that we can go forward victoriously.

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NASB95)

Following is an amplified application of 1 Corinthians 10:13 that I prepared several years ago and to which I repeatedly come back (and have even used numerous times in these posts) when it comes to how I face these pressures.

There is no test, no trial, no temptation to sin, no pushing, pulling, prodding, or anything else that comes my way that makes me any different than anyone else. We all experience these things, maybe in different ways and at times to different degrees, but I am no different than anyone else.

BUT GOD…. He is always faithful in all things. With every trial, test, or temptation—no matter how big or how small; with all of these things He has set a limit to them. He will not allow anything into my life beyond which He also has not given the ability to victoriously endure. With every single test, trial, and temptation He has provided a way of escape, and He will keep me from being crushed, and He will bring me out standing on the other side. This is true whether that other side is realized in this life or ultimately in His presence. This is a certain fact.

Therefore, I will place my trust in Him and look not to the size of the situation, BUT to the size and faithfulness of my GOD.

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