Do You Know What Time It Is?
January 17, 2007
“This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out” (Romans 13:11 NLT).
All of us are slaves to time. We wear wristwatches with quarter-hour beepers to keep us on schedule. We have digital clocks in our car and alarm clocks on our nightstands. Many of us have Blackberries or Palm Pilots or some other high-tech computerized personal assistant. Lots of people keep a Daytimer nearby so their can keep track of their appointments and responsibilities.
I ate lunch with a man who put his cell phone on the table beside him when we sat down at the restaurant. And in case his phone didn’t work, he had a beeper and a pager attached to his belt. All to ensure that he stayed on schedule and didn’t miss any important messages. Not long ago, while waiting at an airport for my flight to leave, I decided to study the faces of the people hurrying past me. I was struck by something that wouldn’t have been true fifteen years ago. At lest half the people had cell phones clued to their faces, and some people who appeared to be talking to themselves had a Bluetooth for hands-free conversation.
Time is money. Researchers tell us that time is the new currency. Today time is more important than money. People will spend money to save time whereas an earlier generation raised during the Depression would spend time to save money. In a world where most of us feel stressed out, we value our free time more than a few extra dollars in our pocket.
How much time do you have left? No one knows for sure. I spoke with a friend whose cancer is in remission, but the doctors told him that his cancer would almost certainly come back. They planned to do a bone marrow transplant but they won’t unless the cancer does come back, which it probably will but they can’t be sure. So my friend doesn’t know whether he is living or dying or both.
How Much Time Do You Have Left?
Life is so uncertain. No one knows how long they have to live. However, the statisticians have figured out the average life expectancy for people of every age. There is a website called Death Clock that will tell you how long you will live according to the charts. It even gives you a projected date of death. I entered a few dates to see what it says about a few well-known people:
Tiger Woods–October 11, 2049
Tom Hanks–April 20, 2030
Arnold Schwarzenegger–May 11, 2021
Donald Trump–March 25, 2020
Paris Hilton–April 30, 2060
Billy Graham–August 18, 1992!
That means that Dr. Graham has outlived his projected date of death by almost fifteen years, for which we can be thankful.
Then I did it for myself. Here is what I discovered:
Ray Pritchard–July 8, 2025
That takes your breath away if you think about it. I realize that date is based only on certain mathematical calculations, but it is sobering to think that if it is correct, I have less than twenty years to live. Some may say this is morbid, but I think it’s the ultimate reality check. Psalm 90: 12 says, “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Martin Luther said we should live with the day of our death constantly before our eyes. It keeps us from the ultimate folly–thinking we will live forever and therefore giving us excuses to put off doing what we know we ought to do.
At least once a week I receive an email that has this statement at the bottom: “Life is short. Eternity is significant.” How true that is.
Our passage forces us to face this issue head-on. Paul challenges his readers to “understand the present time” (Romans 13:11 NIV). Do you know what time it is? It’s time to wake up! Why? “Because salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” (v. 11). That’s a reference to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Jesus is coming, and each day brings us closer to that great world-shattering event.
In light of that, Paul tells us to wake up, put off the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. The long night is fading away, the sun is peeking over the eastern horizon, Jesus is coming soon!
Christian, do you know what time it is? It’s time to wake up and get dressed!
In light of the return of Christ and the lateness of the hour, how should we then live? Our text suggests three answers to that question.
I. Something We Must Know
“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” (vv. 11-12a).
What “time” is Paul talking about in verse 11 and what “hour” does he mean? He means that this present age is sinful and dark and ultimately passing away (Galatians 1:4). It won’t last forever (1 John 2:17). Colossians 1:12-13 uses the image of darkness and light in many places to explain what happens when someone becomes a Christian. They are transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. Do you know what being saved is like? It’s like living in the darkness for twenty or thirty or forty years and suddenly the lights come on.
What time is it right now? Check your watch and see. Now read verse 11 again and answer the question.
What time is it? It’s time to wake up. You sleep at night. You don’t sleep during the day. All of us understand what that means. It’s hard to sleep during the day. It doesn’t feel right. It’s not natural. Day is for waking and working; night is for sleeping and dreaming.
Why does Paul say that the long night is over and the day has come? Because the coming of the Lord is at hand. How near is it? Very near indeed. When Billy Graham preaches on the Second Coming, he often tells the story of a grandfather clock whose chimes rang every hour, once for one o’clock, twice for two o’clock, and so on. One night the clock malfunctioned, causing the chimes to ring thirteen times. A little boy heard it and raced through the house yelling “Get up, everyone get up! It’s later than it’s ever been.” How true that is. It’s later than it’s ever been, and in 2007 we’re closer to the coming of Christ than ever before.
That’s not just rhetoric. The situation in the world has become so unstable that catastrophe could happen at any moment. A week ago secret plans were leaked alleging that Israel plans a pre-emptive nuclear strike on Iran’s nuclear reactors. A recent survey reveals that 60% of Americans expect a major terrorist strike on our soil this year. An equal number expect terrorists to unleash a nuclear or biological weapon somewhere in the world. Before you write that off as uninformed public opinion, consider this fact. Since 1947, a magazine called the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has kept the “Doomsday Clock,” a symbolic clock to show how close we are to global catastrophe. As the situation in the world gets better or worse, the hands of the clock are set closer or further away from midnight. Since 2002 the clock has been set at seven minutes till midnight. This Wednesday the clock will be re-set for the first time in five years:
The major new step reflects growing concerns about a ’Second Nuclear Age’ marked by grave threats, including: nuclear ambitions in Iran and North Korea, unsecured nuclear materials in Russia and elsewhere, the continuing ’launch-ready’ status of 2,000 of the 25,000 nuclear weapons held by the U.S. and Russia, escalating terrorism, and new pressure from climate change for expanded civilian nuclear power that could increase proliferation risks.
Christian, do you know what time it is? It’s closer to midnight than we’ve ever been, and it’s also closer to the coming of Christ. The survey I mentioned earlier said that 25% of Americans believe there is a good chance that Jesus will come in 2007. That was on my mind last week when we were in the check-out line at Wal-Mart. I looked and saw a rack of tabloid magazines. One of them contained a list of predictions for 2007. In the lower right-hand corner it said, “Jesus Returns in Great Glory.” It even predicted that he would return in October. I think the writers don’t believe that. To them it’s just a gimmick. But for those who do believe the Bible, there is another side to all this. No matter what their intentions, that article reflects the instability of this world and the yearning for something better.
Christian, do you know what time it is? It’s later than it’s ever been.
II. Something We Must Put Off
“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” (vv. 12b-13).
Those who understand what time it is will put off the deeds of darkness. He compares that with the “armor of light”—a reference to the new life that Christ gives us. It’s like taking off your pajamas in the morning and putting on fresh clothes before you go to work.
Coming to Christ is like waking up after a long night’s sleep. Just as you don’t wear your pajamas to work, in the same way you don’t “wear” the dirty clothes of the old life. All that passed away the moment you became a believer.
Six Deeds of Darkness
Our text specifies six particular “deeds of darkness” that the believer should put off. The first is called “orgies.” That should be self-explanatory, but perhaps it will help to know that originally this word was used for public parties given in honor of someone who had won a great victory. Later the word referred to all-night parties that included drunkenness, sorcery, drug use, and every form of sexual immorality–including adultery, fornication, homosexuality, pedophilia and pornography. These things are forever “out of bounds” for the Christian.
The second deed of darkness is “drunkenness,” a sin that even the heathen abhorred because it showed a lack of self-control. How many people have fallen prey to the lie that they need alcohol to relax, or forget their problems, or loosen up? Alcohol is a tricky liar. Sometimes people drink because they feel they have to fit in or prove they belong to the group. I’ve even heard of Christians who drink in order to help them reach people for Christ. While we can’t make hard and fast rules about alcohol, we can say with absolute confidence that using alcohol as a narcotic or an artificial stimulant or in order to loosen your inhibitions is strictly forbidden by God.
Then Paul mentions “sexual immorality.” Actually, the Greek word means “beds,” which is why the King James Version used the term “chambering.” It refers to the immoral activity that takes place in the bedroom. This rules out all forms of sexual immorality, no matter how tame they may seem to be. Many things happen in the bedroom under cover of darkness that ought not to happen at all.
The fourth deed of darkness is called “sensuality.” Scholars call this one of the ugliest words in the Greek language. It refers to brazen, shameless sin. The word is aselgeia. The person who commits this sin has a seared conscience. He not only sins but he does it publicly and then brags about it. This term especially applies to those people who parade their immorality down main street, who in the name of “freedom” and “tolerance” brag about their perversion.
Then Paul mentions “quarreling.” This speaks of unhealthy competition, a desire to be number one at all costs. The final deed of darkness is “jealousy,” which is another word for envy—anger at the success of others or anger at your failures when compared with others. These two sins of the hearts–hidden though they may be–have no place in the Christian life. They belong to the darkness you left behind the moment you came to Christ.
The night is fading away, and with it the need to wear the rags of the old life. Christian, it’s time to change your clothes. Throw away those deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light!
III. Something We Must Put On
“Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (v. 14).
What do well-dressed Christians wear? They wear the Lord Jesus Christ. What should you wear to work tomorrow morning? After you put on your outward clothes, make sure you put on Jesus! What should you wear to class this week? The answer is Jesus! How about what you wear to the store or to the prom or on vacation or while you are just hanging around the house? Put on Jesus! He’s always appropriate for every occasion.
Put on his holiness.
Put on his beauty.
Put on his humility.
Put on his purity.
Put on his compassion.
Put on his wisdom.
Put on his forgiveness.
Put on his righteousness.
Put on his zeal.
Put on his patience.
Put on his love.
Clothe yourself with Jesus early in the morning and you will be well-dressed all day long.
But there is one thing you need to know. Christ must be in you before he can be on you. He must live in your heart as Lord and Savior before you can take him with you to work. It’s not enough to know about Jesus; you must know him in your heart and trust him as your Savior and Lord.
Do you know Jesus? Does he live in your heart? Have you trusted him as your Lord and Savior or are you still trusting in the filthy rags of your own good works to take you to heaven? Without Jesus you can never get rid of the deeds of darkness that cling to you. Until he comes in you will live in your sin because you have no other choice. But when Christ comes in, everything changes.
“I’ve Known Jesus All My Life”
Every Thursday night I lead a men’s Bible study in Tupelo. Last week a retired pastor joined our group. At one point we discussed how Christ came to break Satan’s hold on us caused by our fear of death. Down deep in the human heart there is a fear of death that Satan uses to keep us enslaved. He plays upon our fear of death to keep us in the chains of sin. That’s why the Bible says the sting of death is sin (I Corinthians 15:56). When the unsaved die, they die with their sins still upon them, like a heavy burden, a vast weight bearing them down to hell. Often they die miserable, angry, frustrated, and fearful because they don’t know what to do with their sins.
Reflecting on the many funerals he had conducted, the retired pastor remarked that when a loved one dies, you can tell the Christians from the non-Christians because the non-Christians have a “restlessness” about them, but there is peace in the heart of those who believe in Jesus. That comment was very timely because a man who had attended the Bible study died a couple of weeks ago. He had been diagnosed a month or two before with cancer–and now he is gone. One of his close friends said, “He wasn’t afraid to die. He was ready when the Lord called him home.” That’s the difference that Jesus makes. What do people do who don’t know the Lord? Death is hard enough to face if you are a Christian, but it is intolerable without the Lord. And yet every day countless thousands march into eternity with the leaden weight of sin hanging around their necks.
Years ago I visited a woman who was over ninety years ago and facing serious surgery. On the day before the surgery I visited her hospital room and found her sitting up in bed reading Romans 8. So I took the Bible and began reading some of those soul-stirring verses at the end of the chapter:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death or life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:35, 37-39 NIV).
When I finished, I prayed with her and got up to leave. As I did, she said, “I’m not sure what the doctors are going to do tomorrow. I guess they will just go in there and do whatever they want.” Then she added, “But it doesn’t matter. I’ve known Jesus all my life. I accepted him as my Savior when I was 10 years old. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love him.”
Christian, do you know what time it is?
It’s later than it’s ever been.
The death clock is ticking for all of us.
Christian, do you know what time it is?
It’s the dawning of a new day.
It’s time to put off the deeds of darkness.
It’s time to put on the armor of light.
It’s time to take Jesus with you everywhere you go.
It’s time to get serious about your faith.
It’s time to stop sleepwalking though life.
Look! Do you see the first rays of dawn? The night is almost over, the sun is rising. Jesus is coming soon.
Have patience, child of God. Your Savior is on the way.
Take hope, defeated Christian. The Lord is at hand.
Be encouraged, suffering believer. The trumpet will soon sound.
Keep believing, struggling saints. Your salvation is nearer than when you first believed.
Christian, do you know what time it is? It’s time to wake up and get dressed!