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The End is Near, Therefore…

Stonebrook Community Church http://www.stonebrook.org

 

Introduction

There are many apocalyptic movies that have come out in the last few decades, and even in the last few years. Interstellar. The Maze Runner. Oblivion. Planet of the Apes. And lots of ZOMBIE movies

With some variation, such movies point to the destruction of the world. The end of life as we know it.

We are fascinated by the END of TIME. And I am fascinated by our fascination. Why are we so interested in the end of the world? What is that topic so intriguing?

I wonder if one reason is because deep in our hearts, God has hardwired us to understand that this world is not all there is. We know that this world as it exists will not last forever. So we’re fascinated by looks into the future, even though we know it may be fiction. And perhaps we’re somewhat frightened.

What IS going to happen?

Then we have Christians— or so-called Christians—some well-meaning, who try to predict when the End is happening.Specific dates when Jesus Christ is coming back to earth.

It is tempting to take all these fictional movies and all the mis-guided efforts to predict the Coming of Jesus Christ and say oppositely, “Well, let’s forget all that. Let’s just ignore it all.”

We are in a series going through the Apostle Peter’s letter. Today, we’re Chapter 4. This is in the middle of a long section including parts of Chapters 2 through 5, that tell us how to live in the midst of suffering persecution.

And Chapter 4 points to the end of all things.

1 Peter 4:7 ESV  “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.”

If we know and believe the end of life as we know it is near, how does that affect what we do and how we live?

Peter tells us how.

 

Let’s pray.

Lord, you are coming back to this earth. You came once as the Lamb to bear the sins of the world. You are coming again as the Lion to rescue your people and bring Judgment to all who reject you 

This morning, Lord, help us to believe that you are coming. To not doubt. Help us to believe that day is near.

And help us to live accordingly. To live as if it’s true, that we truly will see you and stand before you. Help us to think and believe and live according to who you are, to what you have done, and to what you deserve. 

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

 

1 Peter 4:1-11

Vs. 1-2

1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,

2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.

What is Peter saying here?

First, he says, “therefore.” The “Therefore” is based on what he just said in Chapter 3, vs. 18-22.

Christ's suffering refers to his persecution to the point of death. He is urging something active, for he says, "Arm yourselves with the same way of thinking." Clearly he is not speaking of a general suffering, for every human being, saved or not, suffers in some way, and sometimes for doing evil.

So he is speaking of suffering unique to the persecuted Christian. 

Then he says, “whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.”

That’s a lot to take in on a Sunday morning when we haven’t had enough coffee yet!

Let me break it down:

“Whoever has suffered in the flesh.” This refers to those who have suffered in their bodies for the sake of Jesus Christ.

Christians in certain parts of the world TODAY are enduring such treatment. Syria, Nigeria, Sudan, India. Arrests, imprisonment, threats, even murder. 

There are lesser degrees of suffering we can endure, such as small, mean-spirited comments we might receive in the workplace. 

Peter says, those who have suffered “have ceased from sin.” Is he saying that persecuted Christians don’t sin anymore? No, of course not. 

I believe he is saying that the suffering Christian is no longer a slave to sin. Sin no longer masters him. (There may be some parallel here to Romans 6.)

One author said this:

“Following through with a decision to obey God, even when it will mean physical suffering, has a morally strengthening effect on our lives. It commits us more firmly than ever before to a pattern of action where obedience is even more important than our desire to avoid pain.”

Choosing to follow Christ when it will cost us greatly is perhaps the greatest decision of obedience a Christian can ever make. When this happens, the old life— the life we used to live as an unbeliever—is no longer of interest.

Peter is writing to Christians all over Asia Minor, and they are suffering for Jesus’ sake. He is telling them, “You are no longer controlled and mastered by sin. No, live the rest of your lives in the flesh, that is, “the body,” for the will of God.

 

Vs. 3

3 For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.

Peter says very plainly and simply: our evil behavior in the past suffices, that is, it is enough. So stop living that way (vs. 2). This is not a life lived in the will of God. This is a life that brings death, and no profit at all.

Peter lists six sins – probably not intended to be a comprehensive list. We could spend some time explaining each sin. But when you read the entire list, I think we can all get Peter’s point. He’s speaking of licentious, wild, unrestrained, immoral, lawless behavior. “Whatever feels good, do it!”

Stop living this way, Peter says. As a follower of Jesus now, you don’t have any part of such a lifestyle. 

When I came to Iowa State as an 18-year old, I was very interested in partying. In getting drunk. Having wild fun. Vs. 3 describes some of my life. So I found a fraternity that enjoyed the same thing, and I joined. I spent my freshman year doing that. Some studying, and lots of wild living. 

When I was confronted with the gospel of Christ, one thing that held me back is that I didn’t want to repent of my party lifestyle. Well, more accurately, I didn’t want to give up my friends, for I knew if I turned to Christ and repented of my wild living, my friendships would change. For the main thing we had in common was partying. So if was to know Christ and to walk in him, I could no longer participate in the same things. 

But I resisted that.

When the Lord saved me in August 1978 right before the start of my sophomore year, I immediately quit living the old way. I have never been drunk since then. For a long time, I had hardly a drop of alcohol.

 For two reasons: I wanted to bring testimony to my friends about Christ, and if I was standing around with a beer in my hands while they were partying, as far as they would know, I was the same wild man I was before. 

I was afraid I would go back to my old lifestyle. I feared SIN. And I didn’t want to dishonor Christ. 

In fact, even today, nearly 37 years later, I still occasionally have some fear I could succumb to the old lifestyle. It’s not really much of a temptation that tugs at me, but I know the weakness of my flesh, and I fear sin. And I don’t want to get close to the old me.

So here in vs. 3, Peter is now saying, “You’ve had enough of your old ways. Stop doing that. Now live differently.”

 

Vs. 4-5

He continues on:

4 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you;

5 but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

Your friends and acquaintances notice you no longer live recklessly and wildly like they do. They notice. It’s impossible NOT to notice.

And not only do they notice, they malign you. They heap abuse on you. Slander you. Why do they care that you don’t live in the old, sinful lifestyle? Why don’t they say, “Hey, whatever makes you happy?”

This is important, so catch this. Someone said this: 

“The Christian's godly living is a condemnation of the values of a pagan society.” 

Even without the believer saying anything, his life brings conviction and guilt to evildoers who will hate him for it. Even if he is as gracious and kind as possible, those living wildly will heap abuse on the Christian. 

After the Lord saved me, and I started walking in righteousness, my old friends sometimes felt I was condemning them. Making them feel guilty. I don’t recall I ever spoke such words. In fact, generally I think I said too little. I left too much unspoken. So my silence on their behavior could be perceived as condemning. It would have been better for me to speak up more often. 

Yet overall, their guilt was, I believe, simply from being exposed to the growing Christlike behavior from me and two other Christian friends.

 

Then in verse 5:

“Those who slander you will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.”

Peter's words here bring support and warning. They give support to the believer, to ensure him that his godly living is the right path, for judgment is coming against evil, essentially saying, “Stand fast in your obedience. You're on the right path.”

And Peter's words provide the sternest of warnings to those who do evil and persecute God's people. Peter says the Lord is ready to judge.  He is READY. Judgment could come suddenly and without warning. 

Knowing that the Lord will bring justice someday will bring a measure of comfort and peace to the persecuted Christian. Now we should leave the judgment up to the Lord, not seeking revenge but instead doing good. The Lord will deal with the persecutor. You entrust that to him and simply do what is good and right. 

 

Vs. 6

6 For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.

This is a difficult verse, so we should carefully examine this verse and other Scriptures to ensure we understand what Peter meant.

Some people have taken this verse that the gospel is preached in hell, thus giving the unsaved another chance to repent. Yet other Scriptures tell us that our only chance for salvation is in this life. Not after we die.

Hebrews 9:27 NIV “…people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…”

There is no Purgatory. There is no second chance. No reincarnation.

I believe Peter is saying this:

“The gospel was once preached to people while they were alive but are now dead. And the gospel was preached to them so that even though they were under God’s judgment of death, they might find eternal life.”

 

We’ve looked at these first 6 verses. How do we respond?

If we’re living at all like Peter describes in vs. 3, the wild, reckless living, we should immediately repent. Turn to Jesus, repent of our evil ways, and believe in him.

Period. Don’t tangle with Christ who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

 

So what about for the rest of us? I suspect most of us are not in verse 3 category.

Here’s an application for us: Are there any actions or thought patterns even remotely connected that we need to repent of?

Music we’re listening to that is defiling our minds?
Movies, videos, TV shows that are slowly corrupting our souls?
Horror movies. Demonic shows.
Annette and I rarely watch an R-rated movie. And honestly, there are very few PG-13 movies we will watch. The sex. The language.

We simply don’t want to fill our minds with such things.

 

There are a number of websites you can use to evaluate movies. 

We use one, www.parentpreviews.com By the title, parents can use it for their kids. But I use it for us. 

We say, “Oh, these things don’t affect me.” Really? How do you know? Honestly, even reading or watching the news can be defiling for me. 

The other night, a crime was being reported on the news. They were going into the gory details, and I muted it. I knew the details would stick in my mind and bring a measure of corruption. 

Do we have relationships that are bringing darkness to our hearts? Instead of US influencing them for Christ, THEY are influencing us towards darkness.

Here’s a check: Whatever our activities are— reading, listening, watching— would we be willing to watch it or read it or play those video games if a godly brother or sister was there with us?? That’s a check. Not to make us feel guilty, but to cause us to think, “Oh wait, this is not holy activity.”

Let’s not be naïve about the influences around us. It is strength, not weakness, to say, “I cannot be around these things. They are corrupting my soul and hurting my testimony to the world.” This takes courage and humility to say this.

We will give an account for this. If you are a believer, you will not be condemned. Christ has taken the punishment for your sins. But when you stand before the Lord, will your eyes be filled with tears over such activities that you persistently and naively pursued?

There is a war against our souls.

1 Peter 2:11 ESV  Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

Peter says, “You are sojourners. Strangers. You have a different homeland than this world. So abstain from all the evil desires in your flesh which wage war against your soul.”

There is a war going on against your soul, and it begins in your own sinful flesh. Too often we play around with sin as if it’s the family pet. In reality, it’s a wild LION ready to  rip us apart.

Kill the LION. Kill the LION. That we might live for what is good and holy, and so honor Christ. 

Colossians 3:5 ESV Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Put the evil desires to death. KILL them. SLAY them.

 

Vs. 7-11

The remainder of our section today (vs. 7-11) is a set of various commands. This section is the antithesis of the sins listed in vs. 1-6. And it shows an extreme difference in lifestyle. There is nothing similar between a pagan lifestyle and the Christian lifestyle.

This contrast ought to shock us. It ought to slap us on the face to wake us up. 

 

Vs. 7

7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.

Peter is telling us that the world will not continue on forever as it is. The end of our world as we know it is coming to a close. The kingdom of Jesus Christ is coming very soon. Do you believe this?

In light of this, live differently. Live self-controlled lives where you have curbed your sinful passions. Instead of “out of control,” you are “in control.”

Live sober-minded lives. Certainly physically sober, not under the influence of external stimulants. But also mentally and spiritually sober-minded. You have God’s mind on life, and you are thinking quite clearly.

Why live this way? For the sake of your prayers. We are alert and focused, and this is to help us in our prayers, both to pray enough and to pray for the right and most important things. For how can we ask the Lord for the very best if our minds are not clear?

Peter knew this lesson very powerfully, for he failed miserably at it in Jesus’ last hours, when they were in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Matthew 26:40–41 ESV  “And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, ‘So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’”

Too often we’re spiritually groggy. Perhaps not fallen asleep, but certainly groggy. We’re not alert enough to pray, and to pray as we ought to. 

 

So we can contrast vs. 1-6 with vs. 7. 

We are not to live wildly and let evil behavior dominate our thinking and behavior. Instead, we are to let the Second Coming of Christ deeply affect our thinking and behavior.

Peter says, “The end of all things is very near. All the earthly things you cling to will be gone soon. Be self-controlled. Be sober-minded. And pray, for there is a spiritual war going on.”

Why obey?

Let’s tie in here some of the reasons/motivations for obedience found earlier in the letter. 

Every chapter contains multiple reasons.

1:13
1:15-16
2:11-13
3:14-17

Peter is not calling us to obedience in order to gain righteousness from God. No, he is calling us to obedience because God through his Son has gracious granted us righteousness from God.

Through faith in Christ, we have been given life in God. So now, he says, walk in this new life. Stop living like the people in the world.

You are different. You have been called and chosen. You’ve been made holy.

Live this way. It’s the right way. The good way. The holy way. The pleasing way. The glorious way.

 

Vs. 8

8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

We are not simply to love those closest to us, such as our family. We are to love anyone in God’s family. And how are we to love?Earnestly. Deeply. Intensely.

The Greek word was used to describe the muscles of an athlete straining to reach the goal.

And Peter gets very specific: Love earnestly even those who SIN against you. Love covers over, it buries, many, many sins. We should bury sins against us like burying a dead body. Bury it deep, and don’t go digging it up again. 

A couple of weeks ago, I forgave my wife for something small, but then a week or two later, I realized I had let it crawl back out of its grave. That same small sin that I supposedly forgave was alive and well. I had to “Re-Bury” it, if you will. I think it’s dead now.

Love covers over a multitude of sin. Love is not walking around BITTER. Suspicious. Critical. Love is not avoiding someone because of a sin they committed. It’s tempting to do, but that’s not love like Christ’s.

 

Vs. 9

9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.

Literally, the word hospitality here in the Greek means, “A lover of strangers.” Love people you don’t know. 

Here apparently Peter broadens that out to include the family of God, for he says, “Show hospitality to one another.”

Sometimes we can show hospitality, but we may be tempted to do it with a grumbling spirit, complaining about the time, money, and inconvenience. So Peter tells us to do it without grumbling.

This week, Annette and I hosted a pastor from Minneapolis. It was a last minute phone call, where he and his son and the son’s friend needed a place to stay for two nights. We love this pastor, so it was a joy to serve.

But there’s a temptation to grumble. “This is inconvenient. I have to do extra work.”

And this week we have new neighbors moving in. Peter calls on us to show hospitality. 

There is also a hospitality we can do to one another when we gather on Sundays. To meet new faces. To greet one another warmly. To meet needs and serve when we see a need here.

Do we do that, or do we avoid it? Do we do it cheerfully?

You might not feel like this is your personality. Too shy, too something. It may not be your gift. Peter gives no limitations. To be like Christ is to be hospitable without grumbling. 

 

Vs. 10-11

10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:

11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever.  Amen.

Both here and in 1 Corinthians 12, we are told that every believer in Jesus Christ has been given one or more spiritual gifts. There is a major purpose to those gifts: To help strengthen the Body of Christ. That is, to help other Christians grow in their walk with Jesus. And using it well, Peter says, brings glory to God through Jesus Christ.

One author said this:

“A spiritual gift is any talent or ability which is empowered by the Holy Spirit and able to be used in the ministry of the church.”

Peter says, “We are stewards” of those gifts. A steward is a manager. He is entrusted with something, and he is to use and care for it. Every believer in Jesus is a steward of the gifts God has given him or her.

Peter gives us two categories, if we can call them that. Serving gifts. Perhaps we could call this more of the task-oriented gifts. Speaking gifts. Teaching. Encouraging. Evangelizing. 

Am I using the spiritual gift God has given me? Or am I flippantly ignoring and abusing them? Either glory or shame results, depending on my stewardship.

When I serve, I should do it in the strength that God supplies. In other words, my service shouldn’t look like ordinary service that even a non-Christian would do in normal human strength. My service should look different in God’s power. 

A power displayed in a humility. Graciousness, with no strings attached, like, “I’m serving you, and I don't expect repayment from you.” Wholeheartedly, giving all the energy required, not reluctantly or with irritability.

This week, when we hosted this pastor from Minneapolis, it was a joy to serve. But it took God’s strength. We had to change our schedules. We had to get the house and beds ready.

The Lord called on us to serve with HIS strength. To be in prayer. To seek the Lord.

When I speak, such as teaching, encouraging a friend who is down, comforting a fellow Christian who is experiencing pain, I should do it as if I was speaking as God’s mouthpiece. 

How is that? 

Reverently, with a sacredness about it. Not flippant, sarcastic speech. 
Not crude talk or joking. Not careless speech. But as I were uttering words from God Himself. Wisely. Prayerfully. Considering God’s Word in full wisdom and insight. This teaching this morning, I am to be very reverent about it.

Or, several conversations with others from our church this week. I am not to go into them casually, with little thought. Words I speak can make a difference, for good or bad.

For these reasons and more, Peter calls us to use our gifts for the strengthening of the Body of Christ, his beloved, chosen people. And to do it to bring honor and praise to God.

 

Summary

The end is near. How will we live? Will we have the courage to say NO to sin?

Will we believe that we have been purchased by the precious blood of Christ? And then will we realize such a glorious price paid for us compels us to live for the one who bought us?

There is and ought to be an extreme, radical difference in the lifestyle of the Christian compared to our old lives and compared to the world we once followed.

 

Let’s pray.

Glorious Father in Heaven, there is no one like you.

You are Supreme. Glorious. Holy. Infinite. And Eternal.

In your mercy, you sent you Son into this world once to die and rise again, and so give us the opportunity to live eternally.

Help us to walk in that new life. Help us to see the futility and stupidity of our old ways.

And help us to see the Glory and Joy and Hope and Promise in walking with you now in righteousness.