In the middle of winter most of us look forward to the arrival of Spring and the return of the robins. Harry M. Woods penned the words of his famous song, “When the Red, Red Robin” in 1926. It was an instant hit. It became the signature song for singer and actress Lillian Roth; it was recorded by Doris Day, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby. It is still being sung today. It was the song that inspired the original owner of the Red Robin Restaurant chain.
When the red, red robin comes bob, bob, bobbin’ along, along
There’ll be no more sobbin’ when he starts throbbin’ his old sweet song
“Wake up, Wake up, you sleepy-head,
Get up, get out of bed
Cheer up, cheer up the sun is red;
Live, love, laugh and be happy.”
The words remind us that the long, dark days of winter are followed by the bright, clear and cheerful days of Spring.
The Scriptures speak of waking up from a life of spiritual darkness and sleepiness, stupor, fuzzy-headedness and sadness brought on by sin. In Romans 13:11-14 we read:
“The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (New International Version, 1983).
Three types of sin are particularly on the mind of the apostle Paul as he discusses the darkness and sleepiness of sin:
1. Sins of Drinking and Partying (“Not in orgies and drunkenness”). Much shame and embarassment often follow over-indulgence in alcohol. Wild parties may be the accepted thing in some circles but for Christians self-control and sobriety are the standards of decency. We need to keep our heads clear at all times so we can make careful decisions about matters of right and wrong. We need to be in control of our faculties to make those decisions. When one is drunk he cannot make good choices, he cannot guard his tongue, he loses control of his inhibitions. One who has had too much to drink cannot be a godly person. One who joins in the atmosphere of loud music and ungodly conversations that lead to lust and immorality cannot be a godly person. That is why the Bible puts drunknness and orgies among those sins which will prevent one from entering the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:20).
2. Sins of Illicit Sex (“Not in sexual immorality and debauchery”). The world around us is gender-confused, marriages are wrecked by adultery; couples co-habit in casual sex without commitment of matrimony. Well known university campuses, such as Yale, Harvard, Brown, Duke and Northwestern (among others) celebrate “Sex Week” and offer courses on pornography, promiscuity and sleaze –– all in the name of “academic freedom”. We need to “wake up! ” to remember that God’s plan for sexual intimacy is between a man and a woman within the bounds of marriage. Outside those bonds, sexual relationships are sinful. Let us recall the warning of 1 Corinthians 5:11––6:20: “Now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater, or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler….Flee from sexual immorality….Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”
3. Sins of Disrupted Relationships (“Not in dissension and jealousy”) God’s will is that we live in peace with others. Peace in our families; peace in the church; peace on the job; peace in the neighborhood. Attitudes of anger, a lack of forgiveness, self-centeredness and pride will show up in hostility, bitter words and broken relationships. We are especially vulnerable to sinful behavior when we are angry. That is why the Scripture tells us: “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:26-27). Anger is like a retractable knife: used correctly it can be helpful, but used recklessly it can work all kinds of havoc in a home, a congregation, or society. The best advise is to keep the blade retracted until its purpose is to accomplish something good; then put it back in its sheath as quickly as possible before you or others get hurt by it. The devil is ready to pounce into the heart of anyone who stays mad, who holds grudges and refuses to forgive.
In contrast with these three types of sin which are the “deeds of darkness,” the apostle Paul says: “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14). He speaks of “putting on” the character of Christ as one puts on clothes before leaving for work or school in the morning. How many of us plan ahead to decide what we are going to wear in the morning? If it’s important to dress properly before leaving the house, it is even more important to dress spiritually as well! One initially puts Christ on when he is baptized (immersed) into Christ and receives the forgiveness of all his past sins (Galatians 3:26-27). On a daily basis, however, we need to begin each day by putting on Christ in prayer, reading God’s word and re-commiting our lives to Him. And what are some of those characteristics of Jesus Christ we need to wear in order to properly face the world? Love, Kindness, Humility, Service, Forgiveness, Faith in God, and a Desire to say “no” to sinful temptations and “yes” to Obeying what God has commanded.
Herein lies the keys to happiness and the good life. A life that is even better than the life Henry M. Woods sang about : “Cheer up, cheer up, the sun is red; live, love, laugh and be happy.” For the Christian, cheerfulness is knowing that “our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11)