1 Thessalonians 5:6-8 “So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate and the hope of salvation as a helmet”
Not everyone who belongs to the darkness is a grand, public, disgusting, dangerous sinner. Many are simply spiritually asleep. Like so many of our neighbors, they raise their children to be friendly and respectful. They work hard and have successful careers. They volunteer in the community. They vote conscientiously. They offer to watch your dog when you go on vacation. Everyone considers them to be good folk.
But spiritually, they are asleep at the wheel. The very ordinariness of their lives has lulled them into a false sense of security. So caught up with raising their family, making a living, saving for retirement, and making the community a better place, they have no sense of the fact that they are rushing headlong toward a fatal crash with God’s justice on the Day of Judgment.
Others are more intentional about living a life that suits their spiritual darkness. “Those who get drunk, get drunk at night.” When a person gets literally drunk, what happens? All the inhibitions come down. Lips starts flapping and saying things they shouldn’t. People don’t restrain themselves sexually. Some lose control of their tempers. Even more self-destructive behavior may follow.
What happens when the spiritually darkened no longer believe God’s word? Their inhibitions begin to drop, don’t they? It’s easier to rationalize their self-gratifying behavior. It’s easier to ignore their conscience. Sexual perversion seems defensible, even “natural.” Dishonesty in the workplace is just “taking care of yourself.” All kinds of self-destructive behavior may follow, with no fear of reprisal.
But why should the apostle Paul remind us of all this? Aren’t we the sons of light? Yes, but isn’t it easy for us find the monotonous grind of ordinary life spiritually deadening? Don’t you find the urgency of 101 little daily responsibilities spiritually distracting? In the parable of the sower Jesus warns about ending up like the seed that fell among the thorns. The cares, worries, and pleasures of this life choked that seed of faith and made it unfruitful. How many pet sins or secret desires wouldn’t we be happy to stop resisting? How much easier to give in to a state of spiritual inebriation.
To combat such temptation, Paul encourages, “But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate and the hope of salvation as a helmet.” There are two places we need to be careful to protect. First put on a breastplate. What does a breastplate cover? It protects your heart, doesn’t it? If we want to live self-controlled lives, we need to protect our hearts from things that try to take Jesus’ place there.
And what is that breastplate made out of? Faith and love. As long as we are tending to the things that nurture our trust and love for Jesus, reviewing and remembering his promises, receiving his forgiveness and grace, the light of faith keeps burning in our hearts. Jesus remains our heart’s one true love. The temptations of the darkness can’t compete for our affection.
The other thing we need to protect is our head. Our minds are another key battleground for our spiritual lives. If the darkness can lead us into some false belief, we become vulnerable to its temptations.
Against this we put on the hope of salvation as a helmet. When our minds are occupied with God’s saving work, when we are getting to know our Savior better, we are safe from temptation. And do you notice that the protective gear has to do with gospel things? When head and heart are right, a right life will surely follow.
We can see what others can’t. Doesn’t it make more sense to follow the light than follow the blind?