Pastor Greenfield preached this message Sunday morning, March 5, 2007
If you had one month to live, how would that knowledge change your life? In this letter Peter writes to believers who were experiencing a fiery trial of their faith (1:6-7; 4:12-13) to encourage them to “stand firm in the true grace of God” (5:12). In 4:7 he says “the end of all things is near.” Too often believers either entirely ignore or are consumed solely with eschatology (what the Bible teaches about the end times). All throughout Scripture eschatology is given to encourage godly living.
After hearing Peter say “the end of all things is near” (4:7), we may expect a call to engage in some extraordinary act. Martin Luther (1483-1546) was once asked what he would do if he knew the end were today. He said, “I’d plant a tree and pay my taxes.” He meant this—I will live every day as if it were the end!
Peter tells believers “the end of all things is near”—that means it is imminent, it could happen now, at any time. Because Christ is coming, you must do God’s will! What does God want you to do?
Because Christ Is Coming You Must Pray! 4:7
Prayer is central to doing God’s will. It is essential for resisting temptation and sin (Matt 26:41), glorifying God (John 14:13), dealing with worry (Phil 4:6-7), obeying God (1 Thess 5:17), and for the rapid spread of the gospel (2 Thess 3:1ff).
Because prayer is so important, prayer requires a sound mind. Peter says you must have “sound judgment.” This word was used to describe the Gadarene demoniac after the Lord Jesus cast the demons out of him (Mark 5:15). To be of sound judgment is to be in your right mind, and is the opposite of ignorance and frivolity—you have a biblically serious approach to life because “the end is near.”
Praying with a sound mind involves having a “sober spirit.” When you are consumed and controlled by something you want, that is the thing that occupies your mind. It is so easy to be consumed by any number of things—good or bad—that it can be difficult to “wake up” or “get sober.” Detoxification is never easy or fun, but it is worth it. Peter also says to “be of sober spirit” because “your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (5:8). Satan looks for easy prey—if you’re alert and praying he will have a more difficult time.
The call to “be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer” is the same thing as being controlled by the Spirit (cf. Eph 5:18). Christ is coming, and it could be very soon! The end is near! Keep your head, have a right focus, have right priorities—prayer should be at the top! Peter points you to a second activity essential to doing God’s will because “the end of all things is near”:
Because Christ Is Coming You Must Love! 4:8-9
Jesus warned that at the end of the age the love of many will grow cold (Matt 24:12). Since “the end of all things is near,” we need to stoke the fires of Christian love and keep them hot! How important is it to love other believers?—“Above all.” You are commanded to love; this means biblical love is a decision of the will that does something. It does involve feelings, but is not just frothy emotion.
How should you love since the end is near?—“Fervently.” Your whole soul and being is in it, you are genuinely and fully committed to doing whatever it takes to help other believers. How should you fervently love one another since the end is near?
You must forgive—“love covers a multitude of sins” (4:8). This does not mean that love atones for sin (cf. 1:18-19; 2:24-25). Only Jesus Christ can do that. This refers to Proverbs 10:12 and means that love does not “stir up” sins or broadcast them. Biblical, Christ-like love forgives, willingly puts up with, and bears all things (Eph 4:32; 1 Cor 13:4-7). It does not hang someone out to dry. This does not ignore biblically dealing with sin (cf. Matt 18:15-18), but it involves the readiness to accept others rather than grow bitter and cause division.
You must fervently love others sacrificially—“be hospitable to one another without complaint” (1 Pet 4:9). In New Testament times hospitality was necessary for traveling missionaries (3 John 5-8) and the regular meeting of the church for worship (Rom 16:5). If a family wasn’t used to such a sacrificial upheaval of their home for the sake of others, they had to overcome whatever kept them from doing this to show fervent love. “Without complaint” shows that this can be difficult and challenging and involve serious sacrifices; but, in light of the fact that Christ is coming and the end is near, you must sacrificially love one another.
This is a radical idea in our prosperous society, but when you demonstrate such love for one another you show yourself to be a true follower of Christ (John 13:34-35). The last activity Peter says you must give yourself to because the end is near is this:
Because Christ Is Coming You Must Serve! 4:10-11
Peter clearly says that God has enabled you to serve others—“as each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (4:10). Every believer has at least one God-given ability to serve other believers in the local church. Believers have different gifts for the purpose of meeting the different needs of believers, just as Paul teaches (1 Cor 12:4-26).
God does not give these gifts to make you proud but so that you will serve and help other believers and strengthen them in the faith. They are given for ministry, not to enhance self-esteem. Note that Peter says you are a “steward”—the ability God has given you to serve other believers is more a responsibility than a privilege. When you use your gift to strengthen others, you are being a “good steward of the manifold grace of God.”
As you serve the Lord through the ability he has given you, you must rely on Christ as you minister to other believers (1 Pet 4:11). Here Peter classifies spiritual gifts into two classes. First, if you “speak”—teaching or preaching—you are “to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God.” You are not to rely on your own “words of wisdom” but teach and preach the whole counsel of God’s Word.
The second class of gifts involve “serving”—any number of ways you help other believers. If God has equipped you to “serve,” you are “to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies.” You are not to rely on your own strength or ability, but God’s, especially through prayer.
These gifts and abilities are given to Christians to serve Christians, and that happens in the area, realm, and context of the local church. When you serve others God’s way and in God’s power, this will result in glory given to God—“so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.”
What would you do if you knew the end would come in one month? How would you change your life? Why? What does that say about how you’re living now? You need to examine your life about:
- Heart issues that have clouded your consecration to Christ, especially in your praying
- The fervency of showing love toward other believers with the same forgiveness and sacrifice as Christ
- How faithfully you serve each other as God has enabled you for Christ’s glory
The end is near! Pray! Love! Serve!