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THE VICTORIOUS LIFE Romans 13:1-14 Key Verse: 13:14 “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” In the previous passage, Paul urged us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God. In today‟s passage, Paul teaches us lessons in regard to our attitude toward authorities, fellow Christians and ourselves. He encourages us to clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us learn how to be victorious in our Christian lives through Paul‟s teaching. 1. Submit to the authorities (1-7) Look at verse 1. “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Fallen men want to exercise authority over others. Some people want to exercise their authority over their dogs. But they don‟t want to submit to other‟s authority. Especially the people of Israel regarded submission to the Roman authorities as surrendering to the evil of the world. But Paul wanted to lay down the principle of how to deal with the authorities. In verse 1, Paul counsels Christians to submit to the authorities absolutely. Let‟s think about why God‟s people should submit to the authorities. Paul‟s view of the state was that the authorities were established by God. Even pagan rulers have been established by God. For example, God told Pharaoh “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” (Ro 9:17) God raised up Pharaoh to train his people under slavery in order to mold them as holy nation people. When the Israelites were corrupted after deserting God and His word, God raised Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to destroy the city Jerusalem. The Israelites faced the darkest time in history in Babylon under pagan kings and culture. After 70 years of exile, when God wanted to return the Israelites from Babylonian captivity, God raised King Cyrus of Persia and destroyed Babylon. God moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to build a temple at Jerusalem in Judah. The rise and fall of the kingdoms is in God‟s hand. The best example of submission is our Lord Jesus Christ. When Jesus was on trial, the Roman governor Pilate thought that he held Jesus‟ life in his hand. He said to Jesus, “Don‟t you realize I have power either to free you or crucify you?” Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from 2 above” (Jn 19:10,11). Jesus obeyed Pilate‟s authority because it was the will of God. God is ruling history, especially the leaders of the nations. Likewise the Roman Empire was also established by God. Paul saw that the Roman Empire was in the hand of God. When the Roman Empire conquered the world of the time, people only thought about the cruelty of the Roman authorities. But behind the scenes, God was working for his own purpose. He was preparing to send the messengers of the gospel to the whole world through Roman roads, which extended from Rome to all other countries. Paul understood God‟s plan for world salvation through Roman roads. Verse 2 says. “Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” The major function of the government is to bring order to human society where people live together. In order to maintain the order, it punishes those who do wrong and commends those who do right. Look at verses 3-4. “For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God‟s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God‟s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” This is a practical reason for us to submit ourselves to the authorities. I have one question for you. “Were you peaceful when you violated the traffic law? How did you feel when the police car approached behind you blinking with loud siren? You would be terrified due to possible tickets.” It is absolutely necessary for us to submit to the authorities if we want to be free from fear of the one in authority and to have peaceful sleep. Our conscience will suffer greatly when we do wrong. The guilty conscience will torment our soul when we do wrong. It is easy for us to fear the authorities for no obvious reason. But we should not fear them. Instead we must pray for them to work hard doing what is right. Look at verse 6. “This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God‟s servant, who give their full time to governing.” This is from a material aspect. Usually we are not happy to pay taxes, but eager to get bountiful tax returns. But as Christians we must be willing to pay taxes. Jesus paid the temple tax of 4 drachma by letting Peter catch a fish in the lake. Verse 7 is from a moral respect. Paul exhorts Christians to submit to the authorities and do all the basic duties as citizens. When we live as law-abiding, exemplary citizens, we can enjoy the privilege to serve God freely. However, we must not submit to governing authorities blindly. We must do so prayerfully. There are times when Christians may be called to obey God, not the authorities. When Jewish Sanhedrin commanded Peter and John not to speak at all in the name of Jesus, they replied “Judge for yourselves whether it 3 is right in God‟s sight to obey you rather than God.” (Act 4:19) When we are forced to give up our faith in God, we must stand up and obey God rather than worldly authorities. God is above the king. We must obey God first and next submit ourselves to the governing authorities. We confront many forms of authorities while we live in this world such as family, working places, schools and church. We should respect the authorities. When we do so, we please God. 2. Love one another (8-10) Look at verse 8. “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.” There are two kinds of debts here. First one is debt like the credit card payment, school loans and house mortgages. We must pay all of our debts as responsible people of God. Second one is the continuing debt to love one another. There is one debt that we should never pay off. In this verse “debt to love” means an obligation to love others. This debt is owed to our Lord Jesus Christ. While we were still sinners- unlovely, useless, harmful and weak- Christ died for us. Christ poured out his precious blood without holding anything back to purchase our redemption. God accepted his blood as the full payment for our sins. This wonderful new life came to us by the one-sided love and grace of Jesus Christ. Our God is abounding in love. We are the debtors to God‟s immeasurable love. Loving one another is not an option but a new command that Jesus gave to us. Jesus said in Jn 13:34 “A new command I give you; Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Jesus loved his disciples to the end though they were not lovely. Jesus loved all kinds of people. Later, his disciples loved one another. Love begins from our closest neighbour, our roommate. If we cannot love our roommate, we cannot love anyone. Many common lives are going on in and around our church. It is time for us to practice the love of God toward others. We can never pay this back as long as we live. But we must do our best to practice the love of God. We can practice this love when we take care of one person with Bible study and prayer from a shepherd‟s heart. This love can change the world we live in. Verse 10b says “Love does no harm to its neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” 3. Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ (11-14) Look at verse 11,12. “And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is 4 almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” The Second coming of Jesus Christ in power and glory is nearer than it has ever been before. Jesus warned us that the day would come suddenly like a thief in the night when no one expected it. Jesus may come in this afternoon. 1Thessalonians 4:16-17 say “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a loud commands, with the voice of archangel and with the trumphet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” Christ will come again to judge the world and even the saints by their fruits. The time of his coming is getting nearer and nearer. Understanding the present time, we must wake up from our spiritual sleep and struggle hard to live as God‟s people. The word “night” is the symbol of darkness. In darkness, many people do evil and shameful things. But we are sons of the light and sons of the day. Here, the words “armor of light” describe the act of a soldier who resists his enemy. The Oxford dictionary defines the word „armor‟ as follow: protective metal covering formerly worn in fight. But this armor is the armor of light. The armor of light protects us from devil‟s schemes, dark world and spiritual forces of evil. When we lived in the darkness, we enjoyed dark pleasures. What the deeds of darkness? Look at verse 13. “Let us behave decently, as in the day time, not orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality, and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.” These acts did not come from God. These are the work of the devil, angel of darkness. These days many young people have deep love of darkness. They indulge in wild parties in outspoken despair, and in drunkenness and indomitable desire for sexual immorality and rock-parties. They also become slaves of jealousy. They really don‟t like other‟s success or promising future. By doing so, they become the children of darkness. Look at verse 14. “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” As we know, we really want to live a victorious life of faith and render glory to God. Also, we want to live a decent life in Christ. Then, How can we do that? Paul said, “Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul compares Jesus Christ to a clothing that Christians should wear everyday. We wear our different clothes according to changing seasons. However, there is a spiritual clothe that we need to wear in all seasons. He is the Lord Jesus Christ. What does it mean that we clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ? When we repent the deeds of darkness, Jesus imputes his grace and perfect righteousness to us. Only Jesus‟ precious blood can wash away all our sins, guilt and shame. Only Jesus‟ righteousness qualifies us to serve God‟s work 5 and to enter the kingdom of God. Every morning we must come to Jesus, put aside our sinful self and clothe ourselves with Jesus‟ grace of forgiveness of sins and his perfect righteousness. Next, we must live our lives in imitation of Jesus not according to the desires of the sinful nature. Instead of imitating worldly people‟s lives, we must imitate Jesus. When we imitate Jesus in our daily lives, we can grow in his image, in his likeness until we become like him. Paul said in Gal 2:20 “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” We belong to Christ and Christ lives in us and wants to rule our hearts with his grace and truth. Still living in this world, often we are ruled by our situations. Our personal situations are always hard to bear. But when Christ lives in us, he drives out all kinds of fears from our hearts and leads us into the paths of peace. Often we are ruled by our sinful desires and emotions. But when we surrender ourselves to Jesus and imitate his wonderful life based on his life-giving words, he frees us from our sinful self and blesses us to grow in his image, in his likeness until we become like him and live our lives as he lived. By the grace of God, I attended South America intercontinental conference 2007 in Mexico. It enlightened my soul with abounding grace of Jesus. I received one word of God through Jn 10:11 which says “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” The good shepherd goes in front of sheep showing them the example of his life. The image of good shepherd was imprinted in my heart as a spiritual direction. May I clothe myself with the image of good shepherd Jesus until I grow like Him. One hymn song „More like the Master‟ depicts our earnest desire to grow like Jesus. “More like the Master, I would live and grow, More of His love to others I would show; More self-denial, like His in Galilee, More like the Master I long to ever be...” May we have great desire to imitate Jesus and his divine characters. May we clothe ourselves with the grace of Jesus‟ forgiveness and grow in the image of Jesus. Conclusion: Through today‟s passage, we learned 3 secrets how to live a victorious life. These are to submit ourselves to authorities, to love one another and to clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ. May we obey God‟s word by faith.
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