Romans 13:12-14, “12The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”
In high school, our high school football team traveled to a little town called Rankin in deep West Texas for a playoff game. I traveled with the team and filmed the games. Perched at the top of the stands on a Friday night, I could look behind me and see darkness. Rankin is a fairly small town in a very sparsely populated area, meaning that there were not many house lights or street lights. So when night descended, it was dark. It was a darkness that could be touched and pressed in on you. It was a darkness that hid those in it. And this is the picture of the opportunity to sin in the passage: it involves a darkness that hides our actions from others. Darkness provides the opportunity for sin to happen.
But Paul tells us that dawn is coming; the light is revealing and laying bare our sin. On the basis that the light of Christ reveals all (Luke 8:17), Paul gives the Roman Christians four commands.
Cast Off the Works of Darkness
There is a saying as old as grandmothers: “Nothing good happens after ten at night.” Why do bad things happen at night and in the darkness? Because the night and the darkness conceal sin and evil. Grandmothers, and everyone else, know this intuitively. But Paul commands us to cast off the works of darkness. These are those evil acts we commit when we know that the darkness of night will conceal our sin. We must examine ourselves to see which sins we commit in the night and the dark.
This night and dark can be figurative as well as literal. Do we count on the anonymity of our Twitter account? The secrecy of the private browser? The inability of others to see what we are really drinking in our tumbler? The ignorance of others to our identity when you travel in a new city?
We must, through the power of the Holy Spirit, cast off the works of darkness: “orgies and drunkenness,…sexual immorality and sensuality… quarreling and jealousy.” But how do we do this?
Put On the Armor of Light
Light reveals, whereas darkness conceals. The armor that God gives to us is the armor of light. It reveals the darkness of our hearts and then eradicates it. It also protects us from the darkness that encroaches upon our souls, both from Satan and our own sin nature. These attacks are multitudinous and constant, but through God, we have been given armor to fight against these attacks (Eph. 6:10-18). But Paul thankfully explains further how we are to put on the armor of light.
Put on Christ
We are to put on Christ as we put on the armor of light. The one who gives us light and who throws back the darkness of our souls is Christ. Through his death and resurrection, we no longer stumble in the darkness and misery of our sins, but we instead have Christ’s light given to us in His Spirit. This means that we acknowledge who Christ is and what he has done for us, and then we live in light of that. We live in the identity that Christ has given to us through his death and resurrection. This is what Christ has done for us.
Make No Provision for the Flesh
But we also have a responsibility. Every day we must fight against our flesh, our sinful nature. There is a constant temptation to yield to the desires of our flesh. Our sinful nature consistently desires to gratify itself through sinful means; we want the shortcut and the quick fix. Our flesh points us to these; we want sex but not marriage; we want growth but not discipline; we want blessings but not prayer. Every choice and decision we make is a fight between gratifying our desires and glorifying God.
These decisions must be seen as opportunities that God has given us as opportunities to make no provision for the flesh. This means that we must fight against our flesh and not even allow our flesh a foothold in our hearts.
Paul provides us with a blueprint for fighting against the darkness of our hearts. But at the end of the passage, he tells us: you have a responsibility in this fight. This is not a “let go and let God” endeavor. Instead, it is a call to endeavor in the power Christ has given us and the identity he has given us to push back the darkness and let Christ’s light shine.