Saturday, November 27, 2010

A, Advent 1 - Romans 13:11-14 "The Armour of Light"

Light and darkness, there is arguably no greater extreme. When one speaks of these opposites, one might be speaking of the realms of good and evil, spiritual differences. Or practically speaking, one might consider physical light and darkness too. Either way, there’s nothing darker than darkness, or brighter than light.

One thing for sure, our eyes can’t deal with a sudden change between these extremes. Picture miners coming out of the mine after a period of time being trapped in darkness! Their eyes are covered, because they’ve become intolerant to the light.

Or perhaps you’ve had a light shone in your face, a torch, or the oncoming high beam of a car or truck blinds you, making it difficult to see the source of the light or where you’re going.

Although, when the light is gone it’s still hard to see. The intensity of the beam’s element for only a moment has burnt itself into your retinas. So all you see is hazy glow where the light’s element once hit your eye. But in your eye’s confusion from the sudden flash of light, now what was hard to see in the dark is completely hidden from your eye seeing it. The light has left you blinded in the night.

Without light there is darkness, when light appears darkness disappears. When we’re in our home or familiar surroundings we might be able to walk in the dark. Why? Because despite the darkness, our mind and senses see for us, and enable us to move around what we know!

But we all know what it’s like moving around in the dark in an unfamiliar place. Like when you’re on holidays or staying with someone and nature calls in the middle of the night. You grope around the place in the dark; arms outstretch, feeling for obstacles, hoping you don’t knock something over or break it or one of your toes on the furniture!

Light and darkness are extremes we humans don’t handle well. Turning on the light and opening the blinds makes one retreat into the darkness under the doona like a worm exposed in the earth. Alternatively, the sudden loss of light exposes us to danger and causes us to seek a light source so we can see again, like a moth flying towards the light.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans we hear …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 armour of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarrelling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (Romans 13:11–14 ESV)

Here Paul calls the hearer to “walk properly as in the daytime”. For the Romans and for us there’s no difference; we all walk in darkness, we’re all walking through the valley of the shadow of death. But as we walk in this darkness, we’re called to cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light!

Now it might be easy to walk when it’s light, but to walk in the darkness as if it were light calls for confidence. But confidence in what?

The darkness in which we walk today is one that hides the truth. This truth is good and bad, the truth of good and evil. Knowing this truth is one which impacts us eternally. And so when Paul calls us to put on the armour of light, it not just armour to stop our toes being stubbed and it’s not just a torch to show us the way to the toilet in the wee early hours of the morning.

So how do we have confidence in this age where truth seems to be whatever one wants to believe? Well we’re called to pull back the doonas of doubt and see that the darkness is passing and the rays of righteousness are just over the horizon. Our confidence is not a confidence in ourselves but rather we’re called to see with the eyes of faith, with the armour of light.

But being so use to the darkness we don’t want to see or be seen in the reveal all light of righteousness.

Rather, some of us would rather it remain dark so we might illuminate our own torches of righteousness. We seek to stand out from those in the darkness with our own illuminating works, clarifying our own understanding of truth and salvation, and enlightening ourselves with euphoric emotional events.

Or if we’re not illuminating our own way, the other human reaction is to try and withdraw into the darkness so the light can’t shine on us. When one is overcome with the reality of their own darkness within, the thought of light on the subject seems to drive the person further away from the light of reality.

But the reality is, when the person who is hiding in the darkness has the light of Christ, the armour of light put on, the darkness that debilitates and deceives is dispelled by light.

When we bump around in the dark knowing we are hurting ourselves and making a mess, a light being switched on in the darkness of our lives shows us the way removing the fear of the future.

The deception of darkness is that the revelation of light, especially the light of the Gospel, will only create more darkness, but this couldn’t be further from the truth!

When we come out of the darkness into the light, it reveals what needs to be cleaned up. The very thing the darkness hides. Therefore, being led further and further into the light of Christ, calls for the daily drowning of sin; washing in repentance and forgiveness of sin.

As God leads us further in to the light of his presence, sure we see clearer and clearer the dirtiness of who we are, but the light of forgiveness continues to shine brighter and brighter too. And furthermore, we’re led to know and trust the armour of light more and more, in which God is continually clothing us. So even though we are still standing in the dark we can walk properly as if it were day.

On the other hand, those who have sought their own righteousness through creating and being their own light, are called to see their own light as nothing; perhaps even a deception of darkness away from the only true source of eternal light.

English theologian Charles Spurgeon in his writings Lectures to my Students makes this powerful observation regarding the light of faith…

Be content to be nothing, for that is what you are. When your own emptiness is painfully forced upon your consciousness, chide yourself that you ever dreamed of being full, except in the Lord. … Continue, with double earnestness to serve your Lord when no visible result is before you. Any simpleton can follow the narrow path in the light: faith’s rare wisdom enables us to march on in the dark with infallible accuracy, since she places her hand in that of her Great Guide. Between this and heaven there may be rougher weather yet, but it is all provided for by our covenant Head. (Spurgeon, “Lectures to my Students” p.265ff)

This Advent the Lord encourages you to see not only the arrival of a new day, week, Christmas, and the New Year. But to see with the eyes of faith, in these days of darkness! Where many are choosing to turn back to the deeds of death, God calls you to put on the Armour of Light, to put on Christ Jesus.

In these days when there seems to be no foreseeable happenings in your lives do not cast away your confidence, your Armour of Light! The rewards are hidden but they are promised by God himself for those who trust him.

Cast the burden of the present, along with the sin of the past and the fear of the future, upon the Lord, who does not forsake his saints. Live by the day—ay, by the hour. (ibid. p. 265ff)

Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, your flesh, to gratify its desires. Put on the Armour of Light. Amen.