It is already the hour for you to wake up from sleep, because now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.
Have you ever overslept? You know that feeling where you look at the clock on your bedside table and realize you’re already a half-hour late to that crucial meeting or final exam? Panic sets in and your entire day feels completely thrown off.
Did you know that it’s possible to be spiritually asleep? Elsewhere in his letters, Paul seems to use this language to describe those who are either physically or spiritually dead, but here in Romans 13, he seems to be addressing believers (“…nearer than when we first believed.”). Paul is worried that his readers will miss key encounters with the Spirit and power of God because of their spiritual complacency. This concern, of course, extends to us too.
Paul cautions the church in Rome because he can see a cycle forming. Spiritual complacency and sleepiness are not a singular issue but rather one that ripples outward. When you atrophy spiritually, it affects many of your decisions, which in turn further diminishes your spiritual strength. The cycle Paul is worried about in Romans 13 looks something like this: Spiritual apathy leads to compromising sin choices. These behaviors lead to a more spiritually numb life, which leads to more bad choices, and so goes the cycle.
Perhaps you’ve felt stuck in a pattern like this. It can feel like being trapped on a treadmill without control over the speed. Thankfully, Paul calls us all to a different, more fruitful way of living. “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14). The NIV translation reads, “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Breaking the cycle of spiritual sleep and unhealthy choices starts with a change in our understanding of who we are. We are meant to see ourselves under and in and through the life and work of Jesus Christ and His calling over us. With this shift of our internal compass and posture, we can combat the cycle of spiritual sleep and distance from God.
If you’re reading this and feel like you’ve overslept, the good news is that it’s never too late to break your cycle or get back on track. You are a new creation and have been “clothed with the Lord.” In that place of spiritual redemption, you can choose this day “to discard the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:12). It is never too late to make Jesus the fullness of your identity.
Take that step today.