Put on the Lord Jesus Christ
Topic: Biblical Verse: Romans 13:11–13:14
Midweek Advent Worship
December 1, 2010
“Put on the Lord Jesus Christ”
He was a brilliant student who was recognized early on for his potential. Because his parents were of limited financial means, a wealthy man provided the necessary funds for him to go away to school, and when he finished he became a teacher in a major city. His mother was a practicing and faithful Christian; his father was a non-believer until shortly before his death. Although his mother was a Christian, for whatever reason this young man was not baptized .For many years he lived with a woman who bore him a son, but whom he never married. After launching out on his own, he became caught up in a popular cult, but became disillusioned with this and continued his search for truth and meaning in life. He applied for a more prestigious teaching situation in another city, got the job, and became a success professionally and financially. It was during this period, when he was at the height of his career but still struggling to make sense of himself and the God whom his mother and others pointed him to, that he had a transforming experience. As he himself describes it:
“…weeping in the bitter contrition of my heart. Suddenly a voice reaches my ears from a nearby house. It is the voice of a boy or a girl (I don’t know which) and in a kind of singsong voice the words are constantly repeated: “Take it and read it. Take it and read it.” At once my face changed, and I began to think carefully of whether the singing of words like these came into any kind of game which children play, and I could not remember that I had ever heard anything like it before. I checked the force of my tears and rose to my feet, being quite certain that I must interpret this as a divine command to me to open the book and read the first passage which I should come upon… So I went eagerly back to the place where Alypius [a friend] was sitting, since it was there that I had left the book… I snatched up the book, opened it, and read in silence the passage upon which my eyes first fell: ‘Not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires.’ I had no wish to read further; there was no need to. For immediately I had reached the end of this sentence it was as though my heart was filled with a light of confidence and all the shadows of my doubt were swept away” (The Confessions of St. Augustine, Book VIII, Chapter 12).
This individual was St. Augustine, bishop of Hippo, in north Africa. He lived 1600 years ago, and perhaps more than any individual aside from the apostle Paul helped to shape Western Christianity. And the very Word of God that so arrested and transformed him is the Word of God before us this evening, from Paul’s letter to the Romans. As we wait and watch for Christ’s coming again – his second Advent, we are called to vigilant watchfulness. With each passing day, his second coming draws closer. This present darkness is passing away and new light is dawning – the light of Christ. How then are we to live? Not much has changed since St. Augustine’s time. We are still tempted by things like drunkenness, immorality, quarreling, and jealousy, perhaps now more than ever. Being tempted is one thing; giving in to the temptation is another. “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ,” Paul tells us. This is strong Baptismal imagery, and the good apostle reminds us that in holy Baptism we are clothed with Christ’s own righteousness that covers all our sins; all the temptations that we have gratified and made provision for, sometimes gladly and willingly – all these are covered with the garment of grace, the robe of Christ’s own righteousness given to us in Baptism. We need that righteousness because we don’t have any of our own to rely on. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), God’s Word tells us. It is only in our Advent Savior, Jesus Christ, that we have hope and confidence on that great and final day.
When the world last saw Jesus publicly, he was seen as a common criminal, crucified along with two others. When the world next sees Jesus publicly, it will be a very different picture. No longer will he be that suffering Savior, wounded and bleeding on the cross. No, he will be clothed with majesty and glory that surpasses the sun for brilliance when he comes to judge the world in righteousness. And so with that great vision before us and the grace of Christ Jesus beneath us “let us live honorably as in the day” making the most of the time that the Lord God gives to us, doing on earth those things which prepare us for heaven.
And so we pray: Amen. Come quickly, Lord Jesus. Amen.