Dear radio friends,
The Word of God to which we direct our attention today is found in Romans 13:13, 14. Here we read: “Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.”
This passage of the Holy Scriptures was used powerfully by God in the conversion of the great church father Augustine. There are certain verses of Scripture that, because they have been so influential in the history of God’s church, when you read those verses, that history is immediately called to mind. For instance, Martin Luther, in the great Reformation, and the verse Romans 1:17: “The just shall live by faith.” You cannot read that verse without remembering the great work of God in Martin Luther.
So also with our passage today in Romans 13:13 and 14. They remind us of the great church father Augustine. He lived about three hundred years after the death of the apostles. He was the most important of the early church fathers. John Calvin would return to the teachings of Augustine, the teachings of sovereign grace — that God alone saves the sinner by grace. Augustine taught those truths because he had experienced them in his own life.
Augustine was a brilliant man. He grew up unbelieving, although his mother Monica was a believer, and she never stopped praying for him, even when he lived a sinful life. Augustine later was to call himself “the son of his mother’s tears.” As a young man, he had become chained to fornication. He was enslaved in sexual sins. He lived with a mistress and had a son out of wedlock. He became a renowned philosopher of his day. And he looked upon Christianity with ridicule and contempt, as unsatisfactory.
To appease his mother, he went to church, in order that, in his judgment, he could condemn and show the folly of Christ crucified. But he found that, under the Word of God, his heart was pricked. A thorn, the thorn of God’s Word, was placed in his heart. He became troubled over his sins. But he could not break from those sins. He says to us in his Confessions, that he found himself praying, “Lord, give me chastity, but not yet.”
It was while he was in a moment when he was utterly distraught, weeping and feeling the strength of sin over his life, while he was in a garden, that he flung himself down. And he cried out, “How long, O Lord? What will be the end to my uncleanness?” As he sobbed, he heard on the other side of the garden wall a group of children playing in a game. In their game they said, “Pick up and read; pick up and read.”
Augustine interpreted it as a word of God to him. He returned to a spot where he had thrown down a copy of the New Testament Scriptures. He opened it. And in silence, he read the words, “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” He was reading Romans 13:13, 14.
He writes of his experience in these words: “No further would I read, nor did I need. For, instantly, as the sentence ended, by a light, as it were, of security infused into my soul, all the gloom of doubt vanished away.” Through that Word of God, a living Savior took control of Augustine’s heart. For the first time, it gave him to know the wonder of pardon and showed to him the beauty of Christ. And, by the grace of the cross, it broke a dominion of sin. May God use His Word the same way now in you and in me!
We read, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.”
These verses are like an alarm clock. As you would set an alarm clock in the morning and it goes off—“Beep, beep, beep”—urging you to get up and get dressed, so God: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”
In the context of Romans 13, God has said to us, “Do not sleep.” He has spoken to us of the fact that the world lives in spiritual darkness and wants us to drop off into spiritual sleep with them. They want us to go on dreaming, dreaming that there are no consequences for our actions, that there is nothing that is a big deal in this life, that life is simply for the taking and for ourselves, that living is all about money and gratifying every lust. Now comes the Word of God in the alarm clock. “Wake up — get dressed.” We read in verse 12, “Put on the armour of light.” Yes, put on armor. You are in a war. Do not go forth in your Christian life wearing pajamas of complacency. Put on the armor of the Lord Jesus Christ. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ. You are in the midst of a spiritual battle.
We are brought, then, to the command of God that we are to wake up and that we are not to go on sleeping with the world of darkness. Most of the world, says the Word of God, is sleep-walking. They are not with it. They do not live in the consciousness of the reality of God. They sleep. They spend all night watching television. They are saturated with the world. Their spirits and their eyes become narrower and narrower, smaller and smaller.
God says, Put on the armor of light. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Put on faith, hope, and love in Christ. That is the No-Doze to the sleeping drugs of the world. Do not sleep, but put on Christ, that is, put on faith in Christ, hope in Christ, love in Christ. Put them on every day and every hour.
The Bible, here, when it says, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ,” is calling us to a new and holy life, to a Christ-honoring life, a life that reveals Jesus Christ in all that we are and do, a life that reveals Christ in our home, in our work, and in our play.
We do this by grace. Now it is true that, by grace, Christ is put on us. The Bible tells us that the robes of His perfect righteousness are placed over our nakedness as sinners, so that we as children of God are freely pardoned. And what a blessing that is! We do not need and must not carry that crushing weight of the guilt of our sins. We do not need to awake each day anew with a dread that our sins are unpardoned. We may awake with the glorious gospel over us that we are forgiven in the Lord Jesus Christ.
But, by grace, Christ is not only put on us, but the Holy Spirit renews us as well and places Christ within. So, when we are told to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, we are called to the activity of our faith, that we persistently and passionately live out of Him. It is Christ living in you, and you living out of Him, by faith. It is being intimately united to Him. It is imitating Jesus Christ.
To put on the Lord Jesus Christ means that you live a true, sincere walk of faith with Jesus Christ in this world. It is a real thing. It is not a make-believe thing. It is an inward thing, first of all, not an outward behavior. It is something that is genuine, not something that is just for show, or hypocritical. Putting on Christ is not the same as putting on a good front. We are all very good at that. We put on the appearance of what we should be. We are able to put a “put” on people. So then, before certain people and in certain places, we put on an appearance. We can hide what is going on deep down in our heart. We are putting on a front.
But that is not what it means to put on the Lord Jesus Christ. To put on the Lord Jesus Christ means that you have the knowledge of His grace and the knowledge of His mercy to you; that you desire, then, to be conformed to His holiness; that you are comforted in Him and in His pardon; that you are enthralled by His beauty, love, and mercy; that you want to be like Him, you want to reflect Him in all that you do. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Do not clothe yourself with the world’s darkness. Do not mimic the world. Do not grasp for more things of this world. Do not live your life out of the source of greed. Do not seek approval and worthiness from men. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ.
That means, go to the Bible. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ by immersing yourself daily in the Scriptures. That means, come under the true preaching of God’s Word. That is the way you put on the Lord Jesus Christ — by coming under the teaching, the preaching, of His Word in the church. That means that you bow in prayer. That means that you must surround yourself in your life with those who are reflecting Him, so that when the darkness begins to surround you and depression hits you at 11:00 in the morning and the kids are getting on your nerves or you are at work and pornography pops up on the Internet, you put on the Lord Jesus Christ. You know Him. You cling to Him. Put Him on!
You are depressed, sorrowing, and despairing and hear a voice within: “I’m worthless, I hate myself, I can’t.” Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Put on the Lord Jesus Christ when you feel waves of anger and bitterness and resentment rising up inside you. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ when you are tempted, when the hounds of the devil are chasing you, when sin follows you. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.
But you ask me, How do we do that? The Word of God is very specific and is very straightforward and is very practical. It tells us that this involves a great struggle. “And make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” How am I to put on the Lord Jesus Christ? By the Word of God? Yes. Under the preaching of the Word? Yes. Through prayer? Yes. By having godly friends? Yes! But all of this is of no avail to you if you still make provision for your flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof. God says that to put on the Lord Jesus Christ means that you must not make provision for your flesh.
To make provision for the flesh refers to making preparations or plans. Make no provision. That is like when you go camping or you go on a canoe trip. You make provisions, you figure out what you will need to fulfill your wants and desires. God says that the lusts of the flesh cry out to you: “Make provision for me. Feed me. Make plans for me.” The lusts of the flesh say to you: “What about me? Think about me.” For instance: One of the lusts of the flesh is resentment. Resentment says, “Feed me. Hold on to that grudge. Don’t let go of that grudge. Don’t forgive that person. Feed me.” Sexual lust says: “Feed me. Rush home at night so that you can watch me and be tantalized by me. Look at me.” Jealousy says: “Feed me. Look at her. She has what I should have. She has the looks that I should have.” Greed says: “You need more and more. Your house isn’t big enough. Your furniture is too old.”
Now the Word of God says, Don’t make provision for the flesh. Cut off the supply line that is feeding your flesh. Fight the sins of the flesh by cutting off the supply line. Starve it out, like an army would besiege a city and destroy it by cutting off their supply lines. Don’t keep your sin as a mistress to go back to. Tear up the magazine. Put a guard on your office computer. Make yourself accountable to others. Forgive your brother from the heart. Do not make provision for the flesh. Do not give forethought — do not think ahead — for the fleshly lusts.
The Word of God is saying, then, do not let any thought take root that would supply the lusts of your flesh, but put Christ in the middle of your thinking. Do not let anything in your head that will awaken sinful desires leading to gratification. We all know how that works. When you begin to think about it, it awakens in us the desire for it.
So the Word of God in verse 13 of Romans 13 speaks of three categories of things that must not enter into our thinking. We must not give provision for our flesh.
First, not in rioting and drunkenness. That is, do not let any thought enter the brain to awaken the desire for substance abuse, whether that is alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, nicotine, or caffeine. Specifically, it means: When you are bored and lonely and discouraged and hopeless and feeling sorry for yourself, do not even ponder alcohol or drugs as a way to medicate yourself and to calm yourself and to satisfy yourself and to take away the ache of your soul. They will make you a sleep-walker. They will cut the nerves of care. They will stir up the works of darkness. Do not even think “Just a little — just once.”
Category two: Not in chambering (sleeping around) and wantonness (that is, lewd fornication). Do not give free access in your mind to sexual uncleanness, to adultery, to pornography. Do not itch the desires. Do not entertain the thoughts. Do not let pornography enter your mind.
Let us be specific again. You are frustrated as a husband? You are frustrated with your wife? Or are you frustrated as a wife with your husband? Do not think about another man. Do not think about another woman. Do not think of the embrace or the understanding of another woman or of another man. Do not give the thought, do not fantasize, do not enter the darkness where millions sleep the vile sleep of death. Do not have access to a computer alone.
Category three: Not in strife and envying. That is referring to quarreling and jealousy. Do not give place in your mind to the desire for preeminence. Do not begin to think in these terms: “What about me? That’s not fair to me? How hurt I was by what she said.” Do not do that. By thinking that way, you are making provision for jealousy and quarreling. You are breeding jealousy in your heart. If you have been wronged thirty years ago, forgive. If the wrong was of such a nature that you must go to that person and confront him, do so. If you have been slighted, if you have been overlooked in a promotion, if you have been belittled, if you have been misunderstood when you have done the best, do not carry the grudge. Do not carry it with you year after year after year, letting it lodge in your head. By carrying that grudge, you are making provision for your flesh. That grudge will awaken in you anger and bitterness and hatred and resentment and enmity. And it will lead to quarreling and yelling. Make no provision for your flesh.
But you say to me, “How in the world do we do that?” You say to me, “Keep it out of my head? The very effort to keep it out of my head puts it in my head. That’s the way it is. I say to my brain, ‘No,’ and my brain heard me. And the desires are awakened. And the brain begins to say, ‘I want, I want.’”
I dislike very much that slogan that says, “Just say No.” That does not work. I need something more. Because the moment I say No, my sinful will is awakened. The “No,” has awakened in me the desire. Oh wretched man that I am. Who shall deliver me?
Put on the Lord Jesus Christ. That means, plant the cross in your mind. Plant the cross in your soul. Plant the cross in your thoughts. It means: Put your mind before the Words of God; meditate upon those words; sing the psalms to your mind; call to mind His promises. It means that you go to Golgotha in your mind. You go to the hill where they crucified Him in your mind. And before that hill where they crucified Him, you say, “Shall I entertain this wickedness?” Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.
We must do that because this is the walk of love to which God has called us. We must do that because this is the life of one who is waiting for the Savior. We must walk honestly, says the apostle, as in the day. To walk as one who puts on Christ is the consistent walk of one who is saved. We are to live as one who is the child of the light in Jesus Christ. We must not live in such a way that we would be ashamed to stand before the Lord when He returns. But we must live as one whose life, right now, can bear exposure. Let us walk honestly as in the day. Walk honestly. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Oh, may the grace of God raise up our spirits. May it stir our spirits. Oh, may this Word of God be felt within our souls. Let us delight ourselves in Christ. Let His love satisfy us at all times. Let us adorn Christ in our daily living. Let us put on the Lord Jesus Christ in all that we do. God grant it.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy Holy Word. It is true. We pray for its blessing upon our hearts and souls. In Jesus’ name do we pray, Amen.