WAKE UP! IT’S TIME TO WAKE UP
At least three times Paul tells us all to “Wake up.” Let me list these clear statements as we start the New Year, for we all need to know—it’s time to wake up.
“… it is high time to awaken out of sleep …” (Romans 13:11)
“… Awake, thou that sleepest …” (Ephesians 5:14)
“Awake to righteousness …” (I Corinthians 15:34)
Yes, it is a timely, well chosen figure of speech. And Paul makes no apology for repeatedly using it to give us all a soul-jarring wakeup call. He looked around and saw the need of wide-awake Christians.
It’s evident that he saw many believers as being half-asleep, so he strongly seeks to roust them and stir them. It’s also apparent he wants to remind all believers of every age of the need to present ourselves as people who know the need to behave ourselves and to conform to God’s ways, will, and word as we live in a godless world where people live with no sense of the purpose of life. So, consider it like a trumpet blast to encourage vigilance. Let us all arise as the new year begins!
Live, he insisted, with eternity in full view. He said, “If you listen to the cheap talk and allow the godless lifestyle around you to impact you, you will start thinking it’s normal and begin to act exactly like those people.” He said, “If we will never live again after we die, then we might as well go and have ourselves a good time: let us eat, drink, and be merry. What’s the difference? For tomorrow we die, and that ends everything!” (I Corinthians 15:32, TLB) He speaks with stirring words in the next verse, “Don’t be fooled by those who say such things. If you listen to them you will start acting like them.” (verse 33)
The challenging words he chose for the people of Ephesus provide powerful images: “arise from the dead”, “walk circumspectly”, “Redeeming the time” (Ephesians 5:14-16). G. K. Chesterton spoke of what gave birth to this substandard way of life, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.”
Paul openly admitted the Christian faith was a serious way of life that called for our total allegiance. It was demanding and different. It’s as Chesterton said, “found difficult and left untried.” We live in a day when far too often our faith is presented as without demands, easygoing, and without restrictions or sacrifice. When that is allowed, frankly, it is another kind of religion completely. J. I. Packer spoke of “casual Christianity,” and he called it a unique name, “hot-tub religion.”
Jesus preached there is a cross to bear. He said when that happens, three things will be the evident result. We will be given courage which will make us fearless, we will be given joy which will make us radiant, and we will not be surprised at how some react to us which will make us out of step and put us often out of step with others. We see that in Paul! The apostle, with God’s authority, becomes the spokesman for promoting an all-out commitment to give ourselves entirely to the Lord.
C. T. Studd seemed to understand New Testament teaching, “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.” That could be called “wide awake Christianity”—no one can sleepwalk in life with that understanding. Paul promised such people would experience something special, “Christ shall give them light.” “The pure in heart,” said Spurgeon, “shall see God. All others are blind as bats!” Add to it what a Puritan pastor said: when we discern God’s aim and join His activities, “our spirits are most satisfied and our lives will be most alive.” Then comes a full “realization that God wants us to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures and to live good, God-fearing lives day after day, looking forward to that wonderful time we’ve been expecting, when his glory shall be seen—the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:11-13, TLB) This is, of course, the very opposite of dull and drab religion. Sacrifice, yes! But, satisfaction, yes again! This kind of Christianity is the zest of life and the best of life. God-given enthusiasm finds opportunities and then makes the most of them.
It's true, making the most of today is the best way to be ready for tomorrow! Vance Havner said, “Set your watch with heaven and not the faulty timepieces of earth. Today is God’s time.” Spurgeon adds, “Now is the watchword of the wise.”
A. W. Tozer said it this way of life that challenges the mind, charms the heart, and brings the total life to “a burning focus, it is the reality that revolves around the Person of Christ.” In short, Christians who “wake up” will be characterized with wisdom and discernment—putting first things first. Add to that, they will put God’s call to character first, which produces a godly, Christ-like person. The words from the Living Bible are wonderful, allow me to quote them again, “enthusiasm for doing kind things and encouraging …” What a gracious personality—full of enthusiasm and encouraging! If every Christian were living like that, there would be so many attending, there would be no place to sit at church! The building would be overflowing. “True grace always produces vigilance rather than complacency; it always produces perseverance rather than indolence,” said the writer Jerry Bridges.
If someone were to say, “What time it is?” we would say with Paul, the apostle, as we start this new year—“It’s time to wake up, show up, and stand up to honor Christ.”
Yes, “it is high time to awake out of sleep” (Romans 13:11). That happened to a serious young man in the 1600’s. His name was George Fox, an itinerant evangelist who went from town to town in England wearing a leather suit, preaching like a prophet. He would stand and preach in marketplaces and anywhere he could find a crowd to listen. Here was his conviction and confession, “The Lord had said to me, if but one man or woman were raised up by His power to stand in the same spirit that the apostles and prophets were in, that man or woman would shake all the country for miles around.”
Now, you might ask—“What’s the point? You cited George Fox in the 1600’s, this is now!” The point is this: if God was looking for someone then (read II Chronicles 16:9), then He certainly is looking for someone today to wake up and shake up this nation! Who can deny that it is time? Who will wake up? And whom will God use to shake up all of us? Let’s wake up!