The Final Hours are “At Hand”

// May 16th, 2020 // Sermons

This entry is part 21 of 24 in the series 1 Peter Series

Good Morning!  How are you doing?…  You can listen online or download it and listen later…The Final Hours are “At Hand”  Or you could use this link to watch the whole service on YouTube:

No, seriously…how are you doing?  Call me, let me know what is happening in your life, how you are feeling and most importantly, how I can pray for you.

Many parents teach their kids simple prayers…before going to sleep, some pray: “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray thee, Lord, my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray thee, Lord, my soul to take.”

I remember Christian comedian Ken Davis saying, “No wonder kids are afraid to go to bed….if I should die before I wake” – nope there is no way I’m going to sleep!

If I should die before I wake…what if that prayer comes true for you this night?  What if you knew that this would be your final day on earth?  What would you do?  How would you live?

This is along the line of what must have been on Peter’s mind when he said, “The end of all things is at hand” (v. 7).  There are many different opinions of what he meant.  That phrase certainly includes the day each one of us dies.

When that day comes for you and for me, we will leave behind all that is of this earth.  Our hopes, our dreams, our thoughts, our plans, our earthly friendships, Facebook or otherwise – they are all gone.

Those who outlive us will go on without us as we go into our eternity with the Lord.  No doubt Peter means at least that much.  But his message clearly extends beyond this to also encompass the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.  When Jesus ascended to heaven after the resurrection, He promised to return to the earth.  And, when He does, the whole world order will come to an end.

The next question on most minds is, how close are we to the day of his return?  The NT tells us that the day of His return is not far away:

  • 13:12 – “The night is nearly over; the day is almost here”
  • 4:5 – “The Lord is at hand”
  • James 5:8 – “The Lord’s coming is near”

Time for God is not the same as time for us.  In God’s existence, our tomorrow has already happened.  He is not controlled by time and space like we are.  He is the Lord of time.  In Peter’s 2nd letter, he wrote, “…with the Lord one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day.”

When Peter says, “The end of all things is near/at hand,” he uses a word that means “approaching.”  Let me illustrate:  In the summer of 1986 we moved from Warman, Saskatchewan to Davis Bay, B.C.  Our older son, was 6 years old and I knew would have a tough time grasping our trip.  So, I meticulously told him that we drive for a long time, and spend the night in Calgary.  We would drive a 2nd day and spend the night in Salmon Arm.  And then, on the 3rd day, around supper time we would get to the ferry that would take us to our new home.  My heart sank when we got to Vanscoy – about 20 minutes out of Saskatoon, and he asked, “Are we at the ferry?”

With the phrase, “The end of all things are at hand” – you can almost imagine Peter addressing the people of his day who were hoping their time of persecution was soon over, so they ask, “Are we there yet?  Is Jesus coming soon?”

Since God does not see time the same way we do, we know that Christ’s coming was “soon” 2,000 years ago; and, it was soon, 1,000 years ago and 500 years ago, and 50 years ago, and five years ago.  Just think how close we must be now.

As we continue to travel on through life, the Lord’s coming is always close and coming closer at the same time.  The Garrington Statement of Faith reads:  We believe in the bodily, imminent return of the Lord Jesus Christ and the necessity for believers to be earnestly looking for their Lord’s return.

If that is what we believe then, how should we live?  The key word in our text is in v. 7:  Therefore.  This is the conclusion we have come to, an inference, a deduction.  Peter suggests, that if we really believe that Jesus Christ is coming and if we really believe that the climax of history is at our doorstep, then it ought to make a tremendous difference in the way we live.  There are four things that are very important for those living in the last days.

  1. Self-controlled Praying – v. 7

I want you to get this – the word that is translated “sober-minded” is the same word that is used for the man with the legion of demons in Mark 5:1-20 after Christ had healed him.  Once the demons are gone, he was literally in his “right mind.”

This describes a state of emotional control so that under pressure, you don’t give in to anger, fear or lose your cool.

In 1970, when Alvin Toffler wrote the best-seller Future Shock, he described the effect of rapid change in our society.  In our day, because of telecommunications and advancing technology, what used to take centuries, decades, years, now takes weeks, days, minutes and seconds.  The interesting part, is that Toffler wrote before the days of personal computers, the Internet, email and instant messaging.  With the speed of change in our day, you need to be clear/sober-minded to survive – so that you can see things in their proper perspective.

And Peter answers the “why” question; he says “so you can pray.”  If your life is on a constant run – you will find that you are always uptight, running from one thing to another, stressed to the max, easily distracted, bothered by everything, and controlled by your circumstances.

And a sad, but negative, by-product… you can’t pray!  Your mind won’t stop long enough.  You literally can’t pray.  When a person is wound up like a top, he/she can’t slow down or focus long enough to pray.

Martin Luther was quoted as saying, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”  It’s not easy to persevere and remain strong.  Complaining seems to come naturally.

But the moment we start to pray, you begin to experience hope – suddenly we can hear music a mile away.  The point Peter is making is – In light of the approaching end of this age, don’t panic—pray!  Keep your wits about you, so you can pray.  Pray at the start of your day—as soon as you wake up—before the pressure of the day wraps its arms around you.  Start the day with self-controlled prayer and you have a much better chance of staying self-controlled all day long.  Secondly,

  1. Love to Forgive – v. 8

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”  The word “earnestly/deeply” could also be translated “fervently.”

The word refers to an athlete straining his muscles, leaning forward to be the first to touch the tape or cross the line; an outfielder reaching over the wall to catch a fly ball; or, a team of Dale’s horses running at full gallop to bring his wagon across the line first.

Peter was talking about love that goes on and on and on.  It takes effort to show true godly love, because true love costs something.  Once you really get to know another person, you understand that real love means going to the wall for them, stretching to the limit, putting yourself in a place where you can be hurt.  In his book The Four Loves, C. S. Lewis describes it this way:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable.  Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken.  If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one.  Wrap it carefully with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in a casket of your own selfishness.  There it will not be broken.  It will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

You have to know that to love is to open yourself up to the possibility of being deeply hurt; that’s why Peter says, “Above all, love each other deeply.”  The reason for this command:  We are to love each other with a stretched-out love because “love covers a multitude of sins.”

Every time someone wrongs me I have two choices.  I can deal with it, forgive it, cover it and move on; or, I can drag make that person’s life miserable and by using hate, stir up all kinds of trouble.  Someone has said – This kind of love refuses to wash its dirty laundry in public!  The kind of love Peter is talking about, handles things privately, it goes out of its way to cover sin, to deal with wrong, discreetly.  It is the opposite of hatred that exposes weakness and humiliates the other person.  Love deals with sin publicly only as a last resort.

Peter talks about love, and then, forgiveness.  I found this quote:  Love has a short memory and sealed lips.  We need to hear this because people will fail us a “multitude” of times.

Love isn’t surprised when close friends fail, when promises aren’t kept, when someone writes an unkind letter, and when we are criticized without reason.  This kind of fervent love expects others will fail, will hurt us and treat us unfairly; but, it goes on loving anyway.

Marriage is a prime example of this.  When a bride and groom stand at the front, facing each other…they really don’t have a clue!  They are so happy, so hopeful, so full of optimism and joy, so ready to embark on their new life together – but they don’t have a clue!  How could they?  I didn’t have a clue, back in 1976 when Ruth and I got married.  I’m no expert on marriage, but I’m certain that if a marriage is going to succeed, love will have to cover a multitude of sins.

The same is true of the church.  No church can survive very long unless the members decide that love will cover a multitude of sins.  The same is true where you work.  You can’t stay at a job for any length of time unless love covers a multitude of sins.  In every part of life , because sin is everywhere, love must stretch out to cover sin.  Without “stretched-out” love, we haven’t got a chance to survive life together.

Too many people are overly sensitive, when it comes to church.  Too many people get their feelings hurt too easily.  Pastor Ray Pritchard said, “A touchy Christian is really a contradiction in terms.”  And, the worst part, while you stew because your feelings got hurt, the person who hurt you is out having a good time because he doesn’t even realize that he hurt your feelings.

So, how do you “cover” the sins of those who don’t know or don’t admit they did anything wrong?  Is it even right to talk about “covering” sins when there is no confession of sin and no repentance of sin?

  1. T. Kendall, the author of Total Forgiveness, makes the point that if you wait for others to repent and ask for forgiveness, much of the time you’ll wait forever. Very often the people who hurt you either don’t know it or don’t see it or pretend it never happened.

Kendall agrees with Peter and says we must forgive anyway.  We “cover/forgive” the sins of those who have hurt us.  Kendall lists six signs of true or total forgiveness:

  • Don’t tell others what someone did to you.
  • Don’t try to intimidate them.
  • Don’t try to make them feel guilty.
  • Let them save face.
  • Accept the fact that total forgiveness is yours to keep doing, indefinitely.
  • Pray that the offender will be blessed and set free.

This is a big part of your job description as a Christian.  You are to be a coverer of the sins of others.  Thirdly…

III. Sharing Rather than Grumbling – v. 9

“Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.”  The word hospitality means to show kindness to strangers.  This was vitally important in the early church because they didn’t have church buildings.  They met in their homes.

Traveling Bible teachers and evangelists would come into a town and would stay with a local family.  They had to because there was not Western Budget or Best Western.  The inns they did have were filthy and considered dangerous.  The early Christian church depended on hospitality, on open homes.  To welcome other believers into your home was a matter of honor.

Did you notice the qualifier with this instruction?  “Do it without grumbling.”  The word means to “mutter under your breath.”  Why would someone grumble about hospitality?  The early Christians saw their homes as not only a shelter for their families but also as a tool for ministry.  They understood that God had given them a place to live not just to get away from the world but also a means for ministering to others.

We need to notice that hospitality and entertaining are two different things.  Opening your home to close friends that’s a given.  But Peter is talking about using your home to minister to the whole body of Christ.  To brothers and sisters in Christ whom you do not know very well.  To missionaries, visiting speakers, families in need and children.

Biblically, our home has been given to us for two reasons:  First, as a shelter for our family and second, as a tool for ministry.  It was never meant to be a status symbol or a refuge where we can hide from the world.  Our homes were not intended to just be our castle where we entertain family and chosen friends, a museum/gallery to display our possessions and decorating skills, a playground for all our toys or a showroom for our furniture.  These are not wrong, but they do not touch the deepest reason God gives us homes.  He gave it to you to shelter your family and to minister to others.  I believe the essence of this text is:  Our homes are to be one of our best evangelism and Christian ministry tools.

Hospitality is one way to show fervent love for other believers.  It thrills me when I hear of people having spent time together in each other’s homes.  What Peter seems to be saying is, “As the end is getting closer, continue to encourage each other by opening your homes to each other. 

Peter’s final point deals with how we fit together in the local church. #4

  1. Bless Others with your Gifts – v. 10-11
  2. 10 in the NLT reads, “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” We can learn three things from that verse: 1) Every believer has a spiritual gift, 2) Your gift is different is not the same as anyone else’s, and 3) You are to use your gift to serve others.

In v. 11, Peter categorizes spiritual gifts into two groups—the speaking gifts and the helping gifts.  Speaking includes those who teach the Word of God, publicly or privately, to one, to a S.S. class, or to a church congregation meeting in a building or in their own homes.

Peter says, if you speak, speak as though God Himself were speaking through you.  One of the big temptations of any teacher is to share his opinion instead of God’s word – speak as if God is speaking through you.

Helping gifts include everything else in the church – cooking a meal for somebody, cleaning up after an event, counting the offering, stacking chairs, visiting the sick, calling a friend, writing a note of encouragement, giving money, praying, counseling, ushering, singing, or volunteering to drive someone to an appointment.  Whatever your gift is, do it in the mighty strength which God supplies.

There are many gifts because God’s grace is “diverse”.  The word used in the original was used of a fabric that had many colors.  So, it’s like Peter is trying to get us to see the many-colored grace of God.

We are made in a mold – we don’t look alive, we don’t come from the same place, we speak different languages, we have uniquely differing backgrounds and traditions – and it’s all good.  God’s grace is not in monotone. 

When you shine a bright light through a prism you get all the colors of the rainbow.  That’s what God’s grace is like.  When you shine His grace through the diversity of human life you get a variety of results.  Sure, some are polka-dotted and some with stripes…but the bottom line:  The church needs every gift you have.

God’s plan of progression:  The gift comes from God…to us…to others.

When we stand before the Lord someday for our final accounting, He will ask, “What did you do with what I gave you?”  He won’t ask your opinion of how somebody else has used their gift, but you will have to give an account of your own stewardship.

God gives the gift and God gives the strength.  Our part – take the gift God has given us and in His strength, use it to serve others.  That is the whole secret of the Christian life.  The end of v. 11 gives us the result – “…in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.”

  • What have you done with the gifts God has given you?
  • Who have you helped along the way?
  • Is our church better and stronger because of your service for God?
  • Are you wasting God’s gift or are you using it for His glory?

In WW II, a little French town had a statue of Jesus in their town square. The statue was damaged by some bombs – pieces were broken off.  They stored the pieces, and after the war, they began to rebuild the statue.  It has cracks now, but they appreciated it even more, except that they couldn’t find were the hands of Jesus.  This troubled them because the hands had the nail prints and that was significant to them.  They thought they would have to take the statue down, until one person placed a gold plaque at the bottom of the statue that read, “He has no hands but ours.”  We are the body of Christ in the world.

Peter says, “The end of all things is at hand.”  We are living in strange, even turbulent, days.  The world seems to be turned upside-down.  Some are afraid, some are cocky and arrogant, morals are in free-fall, and the future looks quite uncertain.  In these strange times:

  • Clear your mind for prayer.
  • Be quick to forgive.
  • As you see the end approaching, open your home to others.
  • As Christ’s return comes closer with each passing day, use your spiritual gifts to serve others.

With “the end” approaching, are you ready?

Let’s pray…

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