BIBLICAL TEXT: 1 Peter 4:1-11 ESV
Supporting Scripture: Jer 1:4-10 ESV; Ps 116:10-19 ESV; John 15:9-17 ESV
The title of this sermon is “Living Near the End” because Peter tells us “the end of all things is at hand” 1 Peter 4: 7 ESV). Such strong language occurs elsewhere in this letter (1:5, 20) and throughout the New Testament (Rom 13:11 ESV; Phil 4:5 ESV; Heb 10:25 ESV; James 5:8 ESV) because the first followers of Jesus knew that with his death, resurrection and the outpouring of the Spirit we are in the last stage of God’s great saving plan.
The contemporary Church in Australia finds living on the edge of eternity to be almost impossible. Perhaps however but if we listen to Peter’s exhortations this can change.
EXPOSITION 1 Peter 4:1-11 ESV
vs.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, vs.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.
If “Christ” i.e. the Saviour God in human form has “suffered in the flesh” by dying for us has God in heaven has declared war against evil at a new level of spiritual intensity. As such what Peter has to say about our moral behaviour is militantly counter cultural. Like it or not, if you belong to Jesus you have enlisted in a spiritual army where survival depends on us “arming ourselves” with spiritual weapons (2 Cor 6:7 ESV; 2 Cor 10:3-5 ESV; Eph 6:11-17 ESV).
The most powerful of these weapons is to share Christ’s attitude to suffering. Remember Peter’s description in chapter 2:23, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”
Human beings naturally seek to maximise pleasure and minimise pain (Eph 5:29 ESV), but Jesus’ attitude to the cross revealed that the most important thing in life is doing the will of God. In expounding on the expression, “whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin” an early commentator says, “how could anyone who is affixed to wood or surrounded by blows from stones or exposed to the nibbling of beasts or set on flames of fire or flayed by the excruciating lash or weakened by any other kind of punishment think about committing sin, about bodily desire” (Bede).
Whilst we are unlikely to be tortured for Jesus like this any Christian who endures any form of pain while persisting in faith soon loses interest in shallow self-centredness and become more powerful in the things of the Lord. Such deep things can never remain hidden.
I ran into a German scholar in my hotel corridor in Jakarta a few weeks ago whose ministry is advocacy for persecuted Christians and whose academic interest is mission and martyrdom. I quickly asked him about his personal experience of trusting God through suffering. When he told me that at 20 he suffered from a medical condition that took away his ability to walk and that he had another problem which makes him chronically hypersensitive to the cold I knew he had been qualified by God to speak for hurting believers. Everyone has pains, but only those who trust the Lord with their pain grow in Christlikeness and put away the shallowness of fleshly temptations (Rom 6:1-10 ESV).
vs.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. vs.4 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you;
The new era which has broken into history in Christ has no place for living for things like food, drink, sex and partying, all of which dominated the pagan lifestyle in the first century and today. (I clearly remember as a teenager saying to one of my friends, “We live for the weekend.” i.e. its indulgences) In a culture which prides itself more and more in tolerating every deviancy, the Christian conviction such pursuits are “lawless idolatry” must come across as intolerant bigotry. If you openly maintain a biblical attitude towards sin you will be abused e.g. on social media.
vs.5 but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. vs.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
There’s a huge “but” at the start of this proclamation. God will have the last word for the standards by which the Lord judges have nothing to do with human opinion. In the End, no evil will be left unjudged, every deed will be accounted for (Matt 12:36 ESV; Matt 18:23 ESV; Rom 14:12 ESV; Heb 4:13 ESV). Even if looked at from the outside the suffering and death of Christians seems to put them in the same category as all other sinners, in eternity we will be “alive in the Spirit” like God himself in the glory of eternal life for the one criterion of judgment is our relationship with Jesus.
vs.7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.
That we are close to the End of this world is real to many believers today. When I sat next to a Tibetan refugee on a bus in Indonesia he told me 3 things that conveyed the powerful presence of the kingdom of God.
First, he’d been converted from Buddhism, he was even for several years a monk. Second, some of his fellow workers had recently been jailed for 10-15 years for preaching the gospel in China, third that God was doing mighty healing miracles so entire villages in Nepal, where he is now living, were turning to Christ.
Since this present evil age (Gal 1:4 ESV) is coming to an end the followers of Jesus must be models of moral sanity (cf. 1:13).
Western culture is becoming progressively unhinged, Facebook recognises 71 types of gender, but some groups name more.
We are in the final days predicted by Jesus when “the love of many would grow cold” (Matt 24:12 ESV).
We must “Watch and pray” lest we “enter into temptation” for “the flesh is weak.” (Matt 26:41 ESV).
The greater the evil surrounding us the deeper the need for sound-minded prayers that God will answer.
The petition, “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is on heaven” (Mat 6:10 ESV), is something we must be praying daily. Every earnest believer should want the end of the world to come, quickly (Rev 22:20 ESV).
vs.8 Above all,keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
Love is the highest call of the Christian community for only such love will survive the end of “all things”. To love “earnestly” means to be stretched out in love in such a manner as to go beyond keeping a record of wrongs or reacting to the sins of others (Prov 10:12 ESV).
Love sees sin as sin but refuses to retaliate, it maturely/endlessly absorbs the cost of staying in a relationship (Matt 18:21-22 ESV). “Love bears all things,” (1 Cor 13:7 ESV) because love is the goal of everything God made.
vs.9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.
Hospitality literally means, “friendship with strangers” (philoxenoi). The gift of open hearts, homes and hands is a great gift. In places where Christians are persecuted (e.g. Syria, Iraq, Nigeria) the provision of a place of safety can mean the difference between life and death.
Irrelevant to us perhaps, but to provide shelter for persecuted brothers/sisters has often made one’s own family a target of persecution.
The NGO Welcoming Australia was started to make all newcomers to Australia feel at home. It’s hardly surprising that its founder is a Christian pastor because the disposition of befriending strangers breathes the Spirit of Christ.
vs.10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: vs.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.
As Western societies increasingly detest Christian morality the only churches which will survive as manifestly Christian will be those in which God is heard speaking and where the life of Jesus is revealed in sacrificial service.
Tragically but necessarily, in the economy of God, compromising congregations must die out. Many of which will be Anglican.
Only prophetically inspired messages can convey the urgency of the hour in which we live and the imminence of the final judgement close at hand.
In the extreme times in which we live there is no place for opinions or speculations about the things of the Lord. I was in the eastern states this last week and one word kept on being used about the weather conditions, it is a word better used of the moral/spiritual state of things across Australia, “catastrophic”.
Peter appropriately ends with a word of praise, “To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” As long as the Church remembers that the glory and honour and praise belong to God alone it will experience divine power to speak for God and to serve like Christ in the midst of its powerlessness.
Anyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus who feels at home in this world better check their spiritual pulse as to whether Christ really lives in them (2 Cor 13:5 ESV).
Our call is to live as lights for Jesus in the midst of a “warped and crooked generation” (Phil 2:15 ESV) but too many of the people of God have lost their saltiness or hidden their light under a measuring bowl (Matt 5:13-15 ESV).
The expression, “the local church is the hope of the world” (Hybels), is true only as long as we are centred in every way on Christ. Each of us must ask, “Is my life centred in every way in Christ?”
Is my use of time, talents and treasure centred in a sacrificial way on living for Jesus so that others might come to believe in him? Am I am clearly using the gifts of God in serving others and speaking to them in such a way as to bring God glory through Jesus?
The question, “Do you turn to Christ?”, asked at baptism and confirmation, demands a whole-hearted unambiguous answer, daily.
Let us pray for the strength God provides.
MESSAGE, DELIVERED: Date 28th Nov 2019 Location: ?
Author: Dr. John Yates
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