The End is Near

20 Aug

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Peter has given us instructions to arm ourselves with the mind of Christ. He has told us that living the Christian life is hard but our actions reveal whom we truly belong to. Peter has spent a lot of time discussing how to act in the face of adversity and he continues this line of thought, but he adds another element that we are to be concerned about.

Take a good look at 1 Peter 4:7-11.

Peter tells us the end is near. Remember Chicken Little? The little chicken of the fairy tale is concerned because she gets hit in the head with an acorn and thinks the sky is falling. There are several versions to the fairly tale, some with not so nice endings that include all of the characters (Henny Penny, Cocky Locky, Ducky Lucky, etc.) getting eaten by Foxy Loxy. In the happy ending version, the moral of the story is to have courage. When Peter says the end is near, I believe he is telling us to have courage. He says, “Be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.”  Because the end is near. When some people hear that statement, they think of a guy with a sign walking the streets.  They believe he has lost his mind or is some kind of religious fanatic. The end is near so we need to “be of sound judgment and sober spirit.” This is the opposite of how we were, this is how we are to be. Sound judgment comes from the word that means in your right mind or having a clear mind. It is the same word to describe the man that Jesus healed of demon possession in Luke 8:35, “They came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting down at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind.”

We are also to have a “sober spirit.” Three times in this letter Peter uses the word sober. In light of the context of this letter, you can certainly apply it to not being drunk.  Remember, that is how we used to be. Sober also provides us with the idea that we are to be self-controlled. We are to, “Be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.”  As we study Peter’s letter, we have to keep in mind what is going on in the world. Christians are facing all kinds of trials, afflictions, persecutions, and suffering. The end is near and we need to pray. I wonder how many people pray only when they think the end is near? I wonder how many people begin to pray when that loved one gets sick. I wonder how many people begin to pray after that child wanders. A clear mind and a spirit of self control equip us to pray.

Peter reminds us that the end is near, and now he moves to a manifestation of love. In 1:22 Peter said, “Fervently love one another from the heart.” Now Peter says in v. 8, “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” Jesus taught that love was of utmost importance.  In Matt. 22:35-40 Jesus said, “One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And He said to him, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” In 1 Cor. 13, Paul uses the word love 9 times in 13 verses. Love is a fruit of the Spirit according to Gal. 5:22. Peter says, “Keep fervent in your love.” Fervent means constant. It describes a word that means stretched out or extended. Our love for one another keeps stretching both in endurance and in depth. Paul told us in Eph. 3:17-19, “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” We are able to love because Christ first loved us.  (1 Jo. 4:19) What does love do? Love covers a multitude of sins. We aren’t loving when we delight in revealing the sins of others. Cover in this verse has the idea of a veil. Love means that we are kind to others’ imperfections. When we truly love someone, we don’t see his or her shortcomings. A picture of this covering is founding Genesis. Noah had planted a vineyard and had drank wine from the vineyard and got drunk and removed his clothing. “Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside.  But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it upon both their shoulders and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were turned away, so that they did not see their father’s nakedness.”  (Gen. 9:22-23) Love covers a multitude of sin. Peter is not saying that you can do anything you want and justify it by quoting this verse. When we love one another, it makes it easier to forgive one another.

Not only does love cover a multitude of sin, but love causes us to, “Be hospitable, one to another without complaint.” In our culture today, we don’t employ this much anymore, but in Peter’s day, it was extremely important. The inns of Peter’s day were few and far between. Those that were around were often unsavory in reputation. Opening up your home to a traveling evangelist or teacher was how they were able to do ministry. The expansion of the church was connected with the hospitality of the people in the church. In the didache, a first century Christian writing, hospitality is defined like this, “But concerning the apostles and prophets, so do ye according to the ordinance of the Gospel.  Let every apostle, when he cometh to you, be received as the Lord; but he shall not abide more than a single day, or if there be need, a second likewise; but if he abide three days, he is a false prophet.  And when he departeth let the apostle receive nothing save bread, until he findeth shelter; but if he ask money, he is a false prophet.” We shouldn’t view hospitality in the same legalistic dogmatic way, but this gives you an idea of the importance of opening up your home to another Christian. In Rom. 12:13 Paul encourages us to, “Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality.” This instruction is directed at Christians. Don’t complain about it either. Complain in this verse is the same word as murmur. Hospitality means we are to give a cordial and generous reception to our guests.

The end is near, we should manifest Christ’s love, and we should use the gifts God gave you. Peter says, in vs. 10-11, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” Peter divides gifts into two broad categories: speaking and serving. You need to really get a couple of things. First, everyone has received a gift. This refers to every gift God has given you. It includes those special talents that come from God, but it particularly includes those gifts that come from the Holy Spirit. What’s the difference you might ask? All of us have natural abilities, strengths and weaknesses. We have folks that can decorate cakes, that are very artistic, that can make a boring floor come alive with tile, and make beautiful clothing. These are God given abilities. Second, you are to, “Employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” “Employ it in serving” comes from the word where we get deacon which means to serve. Whatever we do, whatever gifts God has given us, we are to serve one another. We are stewards of our gifts. A steward is responsible for the use of something and will be required to give an account of the way that gift was used.

Peter gives two broad categories of these gifts: speaking and serving. On the serving side, Peter seems to give a high priority to hospitality since he mentions it by name. Gifts of the Spirit are to focus on serving God by serving others. This seems to be lost today as people seek to “find their gift.” Some would believe they are entitled to be used by the church in the area they have been gifted. It gives them a sense of identity and turns those gifts into commodities. The idea that these gifts have been given for the service of the Lord have been lost. Why are we to use our gifts to serve Christ? “So that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever.” In all we do, we should glorify the Lord. The gifts God has given us are to be used in serving others for the glory of God.

The end is near so we should be manifesting Christ’s love by using the gifts God gave us. Are you doing that? Do you know where God has gifted you? Are you serving Him or are you neglecting the gifts God has entrusted you?

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