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  LIGHT UP MY LIFE ROMANS 13:1-14: “Besides this you know what [a critical] hour this is, how it is high time now for you to wake up out of your sleep (rouse to reality). For salvation (final deliverance) is nearer to us now than when we first believed (adhered to, trusted in, and relied on Christ, the Messiah).” (v11)

Did you hear that, the time and hour we are living in today is very critical and as such it is high time for each true and real child of God to wake up and out of our spiritual sleep and face reality. Now is the time for final salvation or deliverance because it is now nearer to us than in the generations past or in other words it is nearer now when the safety of life on earth is under such dangerous treat as it was in the time of the bang, in the time of the flood and in the time of Babel; times on earth when the life or existence of true humans was at the verge of being extinct out of the face of the earth but Christ assures us and said fear not, I am with you alway. A new week at the start of a new year; a time to look forward and not back. A time for a true change of mindset and perhaps, our challenge as Christians is always to remain vigilant and ensure that we are focussed upon God’s will in and through our lives. Here in House of Joseph, my home and a house of prayer, it’s our habit to pause briefly at the start of the day and light up a divine candle and say a simple prayer. It reminds us of our dependence upon God in all circumstances of life realising that God first. Leaving the Christmas and New Year holidays behind, I feel in need of a fresh impetus to remind me of my commitment to live everyday with Lord Jesus. I am all too ready to get on with life and lose sight of God. Simply to accept things for how they are rather than ask God how I am to respond in the times on which I live. This prayer provokes me to remember who I am and who I serve and whose own I am. I trust it will be of great encouragement and value to you as you step into a new year knowing who you are, who you serve and whose you are! Lord let this divine candle of light which You are, enlighten me in my difficulties and in my decisions! Lord let it be Your fire for me, to burn out of me all pride, selfishness and impurity. Let it be Your flame Lord, to bring Your warmth into hearts that deserves it towards families, neighbours and all those who meet and are against me. Lord let You become the God hearth in the life of my community bringing welcome and warmth to friend and stranger alike. Help me to continue my prayer in everything I do this day and always. Through the grace, mercy and safekeeping of You our Lord Jesus Christ!

  HAVE THIS MIND IN YOU Romans 13:1-14:

The contents of Romans 13 are as follows: 1. The duty of subjection to governors as seen in verses 1-7. 2. Exhortations to mutual love as seen in verses 8-10. 3. To temperance and sobriety as seen in verses 11-14. Romans 13:1-7: The grace of the gospel teaches us submission and quiet, in an environment where pride and the carnal mind only see causes for murmuring, complaint and discontent. Whatever the persons in authority over us themselves may be, yet the just power they have, must be submitted to and obeyed. In the general course of human affairs, rulers are not a terror to honest, quiet, and good subjects, but to evil-doers. Such is the power of sin and corruption, that many will be kept back from crimes only by the fear of punishment. Thou hast the benefit of the government, therefore do what thou canst to preserve it, and nothing to disturb it. This directs private persons to behave quietly and peaceably where God has set them as seen in 1 Timothy 2:1, 2 “First of all, then, I admonish and urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be offered on behalf of all men, 2 For kings and all who are in positions of authority or high responsibility, that [outwardly] we may pass a quiet and undisturbed life [and inwardly] a peaceable one in all godliness and reverence and seriousness in every way”. Christians must not use or be involved in any trick or fraud. They should know that all smuggling, dealing in contraband goods, withholding or evading duties and taxes, is rebellion against the express command of God. Thus honest neighbours are robbed, who will have to pay the more; and the crimes of smugglers, and others who join with them, are abetted or get off scot free. It is painful that some professors of the gospel should countenance, give appearance of or encourage such dishonest practices. The lesson acquired here is that all Christians should learn and practise true godliness, in a manner that the godly in the land will always be found to be quiet and peaceable in the land, irrespective of how others are behaving or conducting themselves. Romans 13:8-10: Christians must avoid useless expense, and be careful not to contract any debts they have not the power to discharge. They are also to stand aloof from all venturesome speculations and rash engagements, and whatever may expose them to the danger of not rendering to all their due. Do not keep in any one's debt. Give everyone his own. Do not spend that on yourselves, which you owe to others. But many, who are very sensible of the trouble, think little of the sin, of being in debt. Love to others includes all the duties of the second table. The last five of the Ten Commandments are all summed up in this royal law, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself; with the same sincerity that thou lovest thyself, though not in the same measure and degree. He that loves his neighbour as himself, will desire the welfare of his neighbour. On this is built that golden rule, of doing as we would be done by. Love is a living, active principle of obedience to the whole law. Let us not only avoid injuries to the persons, connexions, property, and characters of men; but do no kind or degree of evil to any man, and study to be useful in every station of life. Romans 13:11-14: Four things are here taught, as a Christian's directory for his day's work. When to awake; Now; and to awake out of the sleep of carnal security, sloth, and negligence; out of the sleep of spiritual death, and out of the sleep of spiritual deadness. Considering the time; a busy time; a perilous time. Also the salvation is nigh at hand. Let us mind our way, and mend our pace; we are nearer our journey's end. Also to make ourselves ready. The night is far spent; the day is at hand; therefore it is time to dress ourselves. Observe what we must put off; which are clothes worn in the night. Cast off the sinful works of darkness. Observe what we must put on; how we should dress our souls. Put on the armour of light. A Christian must reckon himself undressed, if unarmed. The graces of the Spirit are this armour, to secure the soul from Satan's temptations, and the assaults of this present evil world. Put on Christ; that includes all. Put on righteousness of Christ, for justification or in other words, put on righteousness so that you will be justified. Put on the Spirit and Grace of Christ, for sanctification. The Lord Jesus Christ must be put on as Lord to rule you as Jesus to save you; and in both, as Christ anointed and appointed by the Father to this ruling, saving work. And how to walk! When we are up and ready, we are not to sit still, but to appear abroad; let us walk. Christianity teaches us how to walk so as to please God, who ever sees us. Walk honestly as in the day; avoiding the works of darkness. Where there are riot and drunkenness, there usually are chambering and wantonness, and strife and envy. Solomon puts these all together as seen in Proverbs 23:29-35 saying, “29 Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness and dimness of eyes? 30 Those who tarry long at the wine, those who go to seek and try mixed wine. 31 Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the wineglass, when it goes down smoothly. 32 At the last it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder. 33 [Under the influence of wine] your eyes will behold strange things [and loose women] and your mind will utter things turned the wrong way [untrue, incorrect, and petulant]. 34 Yes, you will be [as unsteady] as he who lies down in the midst of the sea, and [as open to disaster] as he who lies upon the top of a mast. 35 You will say, They struck me, but I was not hurt! They beat me [as with a hammer], but I did not feel it! When shall I awake? I will crave and seek more wine again [and escape reality]”. See what provision to make! Under situations like this our great care must be to provide for our souls: but must we take no care about our bodies? Yes; but two things are forbidden. Perplexing ourselves with anxious, encumbering care; and indulging ourselves in irregular desires. Natural wants are to be answered, but evil appetites must be checked and denied. To ask meat for our necessities, is our duty, we are taught to pray for our daily bread; but to ask meat for our lusts, is provoking God, as seen in Psalm 78:18 “18 And they tempted God in their hearts by asking for food according to their [selfish] desire and appetite.” Do you see that we just have to be very careful in the things we ask of God making sure we are aware of the things forbidden, not being anxious and encumbering, not indulging in irregular desires. Yes it is true that we must obey nature but we should also realize that nature itself has its limits which we must not exceed, telling us that when we exceed nature’s limits it becomes evil appetite which we must put in check and deny. We must be able to differentiate between necessities and lust! Now let us read Romans 13:1-14: Let every person be loyally subject to the governing (civil) authorities. For there is no authority except from God [by His permission, His sanction], and those that exist do so by God’s appointment. 2 Therefore he who resists and sets himself up against the authorities resists what God has appointed and arranged [in divine order]. And those who resist will bring down judgment upon themselves [receiving the penalty due them]. 3 For civil authorities are not a terror to [people of] good conduct, but to [those of] bad behavior. Would you have no dread of him who is in authority? Then do what is right and you will receive his approval and commendation. 4 For he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, [you should dread him and] be afraid, for he does not bear and wear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant to execute His wrath (punishment, vengeance) on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be subject, not only to avoid God’s wrath and escape punishment, but also as a matter of principle and for the sake of conscience. 6 For this same reason you pay taxes, for [the civil authorities] are official servants under God, devoting themselves to attending to this very service. 7 Render to all men their dues. [Pay] taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, and honor to whom honor is due. 8 Keep out of debt and owe no man anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor [who practices loving others] has fulfilled the Law [relating to one’s fellowmen, meeting all its requirements]. 9 The commandments, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet (have an evil desire), and any other commandment, are summed up in the single command, You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself. 10 Love does no wrong to one’s neighbor [it never hurts anybody]. Therefore love meets all the requirements and is the fulfilling of the Law. 11 Besides this you know what [a critical] hour this is, how it is high time now for you to wake up out of your sleep (rouse to reality). For salvation (final deliverance) is nearer to us now than when we first believed (adhered to, trusted in, and relied on Christ, the Messiah). 12 The night is far gone and the day is almost here. Let us then drop (fling away) the works and deeds of darkness and put on the [full] armor of light. 13 Let us live and conduct ourselves honorably and becomingly as in the [open light of] day, not in reveling (carousing) and drunkenness, not in immorality and debauchery (sensuality and licentiousness), not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah), and make no provision for [indulging] the flesh [put a stop to thinking about the evil cravings of your physical nature] to [gratify its] desires (lusts).

  Introduction:

In Romans 13, Paul continues to define the victorious Christian life in very practical ways. Some of these things, frankly, we chafe against, such as submission to authority. Why? Chafe is being in a state of annoyance because the flesh is filled with pride and doesn’t easily give up. But He’s showing us a better way; that which is more glorious, more powerful, more beautiful, more honourable – more like Christ. These last chapters in the book of Romans are all based on the first verses from chapter 12 where Paul describes the Christian who has surpassing victory. 12“1 I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].” Do you have new ideals and new attitudes? When you offer your life to God as a living sacrifice, He’s going to do something with it; He’s going to transform your life. How? By renewing your mind and giving you a new heart. When you came to Christ, you came out of the world, but you brought a lot of the world with you and that lots of the world that you came along with to God, that’s what God wants to transform in you, in other words, that associated worldliness in you, is what God wants to remove from you so that you will begin to conform to the image of Christ. The point is that a lot of our thinking is off base or is very worldly and we need to think like Christ so as to have sound judgment. And to us I mentioned sometime ago that the best way to have sound judgment is to have a plumb line by which you can compare our thinking to that which is “true to plumb.” Amos 7:8 says “8 And the Lord said to me, Amos, what do you see? And I said, A plumb line. Then said the Lord, Behold, I am setting a plumb line as a standard in the midst of My people Israel. I will not pass by and spare them any more [the door of mercy is shut].” That plumb line is Christ Himself, His character, His heart, His ways, His thoughts, His ideals, His attitude, His Mindset. Set your life next to this plumb line, God is saying, and measure your faith against Christ and see that God wants to transform in you. We need more faith. Reading and studying God’s word and becoming a near embodiment of God’s word is what helps an individual to start developing the mindset of God and practice it in living with his fellow men in the society. In chapter 13, Paul continues to define that victorious Christian life in very practical ways. Some of these things, frankly, we chafe against. Why? Because the flesh is filled with pride and doesn’t easily give up. But He’s showing us a better way; that which is more glorious, more powerful, more beautiful, more honourable –more like Christ. I. Respect Authority: • A lot of people have real issues with authority. They lack respect because they are not taught to do so. This often starts at a young age and if this isn’t settled, the individual will struggle with it all their lives because the wrong or disrespectful lifestyle has mastered the individual and any attempt to correct the individual seem as if you are insulting him or her. • Why do people chafe or get annoyed at authority? Because of the flesh. It insists on being in control; it’s independent and stubborn and it can’t stand the thought of being told what to do. In other words, it’s pride. A. Respect the authority of government: • This is a real problem for a lot of people. They don’t agree with the government, so why should they be in submission or respect that government? After all, isn’t our government just run by a bunch of politicians? Illus – One day a Pope and a politician both died and showed up at the pearly gates… Illus – Speaking of politicians, they’ve come up with some of the most bizarre laws you can imagine and some of them are still on the books today; like – in Quitman Georgia, chickens are not allowed to cross the road; in Indiana it’s illegal to attend a public event or use public transport within four hours of eating onions or garlic; in Idaho it’s illegal for a man to give his fiancée a box of candy that weighs more than 50 pounds. In Washington you can be arrested or fined if you get caught harassing Bigfoot. Bigfoot is an Ape-like creature. But in Nigeria do we have things that are illegal? • We have to remember that the government in power at the time Paul wrote this letter was ugly Rome with its boot on the neck of Israel. Paul didn’t say, “Be in subjection as long as you’re in agreement.” • Some people believe they’re above the laws. They look at the law sort of like we should have “diplomatic immunity.” After all, aren’t we “ambassadors” for Christ? Don’t ambassadors get diplomatic immunity? These are some of the kind of mindset that people seem to have when Paul was writing. • No, Paul is making a point that the principle of government authority comes from God. “There is no authority except from God,” Paul wrote. But do men know this? • When Lord Jesus stood before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, He did not answer Pilate’s questions. John 19:10-11 says “10 So Pilate said to Him, Will You not speak [even] to me? Do You not know that I have power (authority) to release You and I have power to crucify You? 11 Jesus answered, You would not have any power or authority whatsoever against (over) Me if it were not given you from above. For this reason the sin and guilt of the one who delivered Me over to you is greater. • The point Paul is making is that God wants to transform us by renewing our mind; that means we need to set our thoughts against the plumb line of God. Measure your faith against the character of Christ. • But what if governing authorities and God’s word don’t agree? Is there a spiritual principle that gives us wisdom to decide what to do? • Yes, here’s the principle; choose the highest good; choose that which honours God most. That principle points us to Christ which is the only place where we can find the highest good. When Christ indwells you, He begins to teach you how to set your thoughts to harmonize with Christ thoughts; this is the transformation! • When Peter and John were arrested for preaching the gospel, they were commanded by the Jewish leaders not to speak or teach at all in the name of Lord Jesus…as seen in Acts 4:19 “19 But Peter and John replied to them, Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you and obey you rather than God, you must decide (judge).” Illus – When Jordi was pregnant with our third child said a narrator, she woke up one day in excruciating pain. I called the hospital, they said get her here in the hospital immediately…that is a decision, deciding means judging...here Jordi could say, no don’t take me to the hospital, now how do we know the one that we should do that is good.

  B. Do what is good:

B. Do what is good: • God continues to transform our mind, renewing our thoughts; so that we begin to know how to do good “He who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God,” Paul said. • In other words, respect authority because God is asking you to respect authority. Do it for Him. Illus – This is a powerful perspective in parenting. I wanted my kids to understand that I was doing what God asked me to do when I set up rules and boundaries, and then I would ask, “What is God asking you to do?” • “Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good,” God is saying. Illus – Would this be a good time to bring up driving and obeying traffic laws? Probably not. But in truth, if someone has a Christian bumper sticker or fish symbol on their car and then drives aggressively, does not that reflect poorly on our faith? Fish symbol as a sticker represents ‘Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour’, which we normally have drawn as a Christian sticker. So from this illustration, one who have a Christian sticker on the bumper of his or her car and drives recklessly and aggressively, does he or she has fear of authority? So you see we claim to be Christians yet we don’t obey the command of the Lord Jesus to be meek and gentle! Illus – Like the time I got pulled over in Beaverton said a narrator (I was on my way to pick up my poor, sick child at school) and of course he had asked me what I did for work. Beaverton in the USA is unique for its wineries and historic international restaurants, so the only thing that could make this man to pull over is wine, and observe that his child had wanted to know what he does for work! Are we what we claim we are? Do we do what is good? Just walk along some streets in the morning between ten, eleven and see people consuming beer drink or alcohol! C. Give honour to whom honour is due: • Verse 7 – render to all what is due them. Without regard to whether they deserve it, whatever is due them, render it to them. • Pay Tax to whom tax is due. No one actually likes paying taxes, but Paul connects it to our faith. “Behold, I set a plumb line in your midst.” Illus – Someone once calculated that the Jews at that time would have paid about 49% of their income in taxes. Today, depending on income, a person in the US could pay 55% in total taxes. Although in Denmark, a person may pay up to 68% in taxes. Here in Nigeria we operate the PAYE; that is pay as you earn, which is about 25%. Illus – We are not surprised that no one likes to pay taxes; we just wish they would spend it more carefully. But all you have to do is travel around the world to appreciate our roads, police, and fire services. Speaking of driving, a driver in Finland was recently fined $60,000 for speeding. Switzerland dished out a $1 million ticket for speeding. In Nigeria is there any fine for speeding? • Jesus Himself paid the Temple tax even though those who ran the Temple were corrupt. There is an interesting story about this in the gospel of Matthew… Matthew 17:24-27 “24 When they arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the half shekel [the temple tax] went up to Peter and said, Does not your Teacher pay the half shekel? 25 He answered, Yes. And when he came home, Jesus spoke to him [about it] first, saying, What do you think, Simon? From whom do earthly rulers collect duties or tribute—from their own sons or from others [a]not of their own family? 26 And when Peter said, From other people [b]not of their own family, Jesus said to him, Then the sons are exempt. 27 However, in order not to give offense and cause them to stumble [that is, to cause them [c]to judge unfavorably and unjustly] go down to the sea and throw in a hook. Take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find there a shekel. Take it and give it to them to pay the temple tax for Me and for yourself.” • On another occasion the Jewish leaders sought to trap Lord Jesus by asking if it was lawful to pay tax unto Caesar… as seen in Matthew 22:20-21 Matthew 22:20-21, “20 And Jesus said to them, Whose likeness and title are these? 21 They said, Caesar’s. Then He said to them, Pay therefore to Caesar the things that are due to Caesar, and pay to God the things that are due to God.” • In a similar way, God’s image and inscription is on our lives. Render unto God the things that are God’s. Give honour to whom honour is due. • Although, when you pay a tax, you give a percentage, but with God, you surrender all. Matthew 22:36-37, “36 Teacher, which [e]kind of commandment is great and important (the principal kind) in the Law? [Some commandments are light—which are heavy?] 37 And He replied to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (intellect).” Illus – In Russia, I was witnessing to a man I became quite close to, but he resisted said the narrator. One day over breakfast he said, “Why doesn’t God leave me alone to mind my own business?” “Because He made you,” I answered, “you’re living on the earth He created, He gave you breath, and He made you in His image and gave you a will so that you might freely choose Him.” Most of us do not know that this is a duty we owe God, to completely surrender ourselves to Him because He owns us. II. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ: • This last section is summarized in verse 14, “14 But clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah), and make no provision for [indulging] the flesh [put a stop to thinking about the evil cravings of your physical nature] to [gratify its] desires (lusts).” • When you put on the Lord Jesus Christ, you’re being transformed, you’re being made new. We brought a lot of stuff with us from the world and Paul is just calling it out and taking names. A. Love does no wrong: • Verse 8 – Owe nothing except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbour has fulfilled the law. • We owe each other the debt of love, Paul is saying. And then he quotes the same verses Lord Jesus quoted. Lord Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; and the second greatest is like it, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” • He then went on to say that on these two commandments hang the entire law and prophets. In other words, the entire Old Testament can be summarized in these two commandments. • We often think of the law in the negative, what thou shalt not do, but the greatest aspect of the law is on about what we must do and that is to love. • But also, love does no wrong, Paul said. If you are not to return evil for evil, if you are to bless those who persecute you, if your enemy is hungry and you are to feed him, how much more then should we bless those who are not our enemies? • Verse 10 – love is therefore the fulfilment of the law. In other words, it’s simple. You don’t need 10,000 laws all parsed and put in the right order, God is love and when you love, you’ve become like Him, you’ve fulfilled His desire for your life. B. Live in the light: • Verse 11 – Time is short, Paul is saying, and it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep. • Offer your life as a living sacrifice, be transformed by the renewing of your mind, love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; love your neighbour as yourself – and become spiritually alive. Illus – If you missed it, we had an amazing night of worship on crossover night and I was so excited to see the youth group upfront, worshiping God – on fire for God. Ephesians 5:14-16, “14 Therefore He says, Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall shine (make day dawn) upon you and give you light. 15 Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people), 16 Making the very most of the time [buying up each opportunity], because the days are evil.” • Put off the deeds of darkness, Paul is saying. People are saved out of the world and bring a lot of the world with them. Lay aside those things and put on Christ. • When you live in the light, you feel His pleasure. Illus – When the Olympic runner, Eric Little, was asked why he ran, he answered, “God made me fast and when I run I feel His pleasure.”

  Conclusion:

We should show respect to those elected, regardless of their political party. And we should not seek to oppose the order of society in any anarchic sense but we absolutely must fulfil our obligation as Christians to engage with politics and campaign over issues where the marginalised and the vulnerable and the poor suffer more than they should. We should love one another and extend compassion and respect and kindness to one another. And all of that is done in the context of the return of Jesus Christ who is the Sovereign Lord of all the earth and will come again in judgment and glory. And there is clearly a sense of urgency for us in this because the return of Christ will surely happen and it is nearer now than when we first believed. We must be sure that we are ready for the return of Christ and that our lives exemplify a deep spirituality and belief so that we won’t be found wanting on that Day. Now is the time for us to wake from our sleep…
Lord God, I choose to set aside the deeds of darkness and in each new day clothe myself with Lord Jesus Christ. Help me Lord Jesus to remain clothed in You all the days of my life. In Your name Lord Jesus I pray. Amen!