Sunset through the apricot trees - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sometimes darkness clings

If you’ve followed Christ for any amount of time, you have probably encountered some aspects of spiritual warfare. As children of God, we have an enemy who hates us and wants to cause us pain, who wants to make us walk away from the plans God has for our lives. And there are times when we are more open and vulnerable to attack, but in those times God shows His strength through us, kind of like what I blogged about yesterday.

And while it is quite exciting to think that we have access to that kind of strength, we need to remember beyond anything else that we can’t beat the darkness by ourselves.

Sunset through the apricot trees - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sunset through the apricot trees – Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Romans 13:12.

The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living.

This is one of my favorite verses in Scripture. It doesn’t sound as dashing in the New Living Translation as it does in the New King James, honestly; the New King James makes it sound epic … like something out of Lord of the Rings. But this is probably more practical in actually understanding what Paul is talking about.

But even this translation is full of metaphor. Removing our dark deeds like dirty clothes? Putting on an armor? Sorry. I don’t think I have one of those lying around. If I did, I think I’d know about it, no matter how dirty my house might be.

So what on Earth is Paul saying? For the most practical explanation, though, I think the Message says it clearest:

Romans 13:11-14 (The Message)

But make sure that you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing! God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work he began when we first believed. We can’t afford to waste a minute, must not squander these precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight. Get out of bed and get dressed! Don’t loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!

Here’s the deal, Christians. We don’t have a lot of time left. God has been patient for a very long time and has extended chance after chance for the world to turn to Him. Even America. We have had countless chances to give up our futile pursuits of personal pleasure and self-entitlement. God’s patience will wear out soon.

But remember, Romans is written to Christians. Paul is talking to believers in this passage. Christians, we need to wake up. We need to pay attention to what God is doing around us. And we need to get rid of the darkness in our lives, no matter what form it takes. If it’s negativity, get rid of it. If it’s complaining or griping, get rid of it. If it’s impure thinking (the full range from sex to gossip), get rid of it.

Like every other morning, I’m talking to myself. I struggle when I’m exhausted. I can get easily discouraged by the darkness I see all around me, by people who should know better, by people who don’t know better, and by people who don’t care either way. And sometimes it feels like the darkness of our world is like a sticky black tar that clings to us, and nothing we do can get it to release us.

That’s where the metaphor comes in. I don’t have an armor lying around my house, but God has given me a metaphorical armor when He sent His Holy Spirit to live in me. When the darkness in this world gets to be too much, remember that we’re not fighting this battle alone. Stop focusing on the ground you’re losing and focus on the truth – God’s already won and you don’t have to give in to the darkness. If you’re a Christian, you’re already wearing an armor of light; you just may not be using it.

So … use it.

We don’t have any light in us without Christ. So how can we push the darkness back without Him? We can’t. So why are we trying? Why are we throwing Bible verses at people when our lives don’t match what Scripture says? Why are we doing good works when our hearts aren’t motivated by our faith?  Why are we trying to make a difference in the world on our own? It doesn’t work.

Stop trying to fight the darkness in your own strength. You will lose. And when you accept that, you can accept help. That’s how you use your armor of light. You ask God for help.

God gives us strength, not just to endure, not just to keep going, but to live and to live right. We don’t have to be negative. We don’t have to be discouraged. We don’t have to complain or gripe. We don’t have to subsist on impure thoughts and gossip and whatever else slows us down. God’s Spirit — our Armor — gives us the strength and the power to stand up against all that.

When the darkness clings to you, remember you have an armor of light. So start using it. And pay attention. Stop wasting time chasing things that don’t matter; stop wasting time focusing on what you don’t have or what you don’t know or what you can’t control. Plug in. Get busy. There’s lots to do and not much time left to do it, and it doesn’t matter where you are because the workers are few and there’s a lot of field to harvest.

So if you don’t have an armor, get one. And if you’ve got one, start using it before it’s too late.

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