The End Of All Things (1 Peter 4:7-11)

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Jesus is Coming. Look busy! 

It’s an uncomfortable phrase, because it feels disrespectful even as it seems like that might be how a lot of people think. But I think it raises a  question worth considering. If we thought Jesus was coming back really soon, would it change how we live?

I remember when my sister and I were old enough to be left at home, we would at times have to scramble when Mom and Dad were coming home. We lived at the end of a ½ mile lane in an old farmhouse for a while, and we would CRANK up our music when they were gone – until we saw them coming up the lane. Things changed in a hurry. When we were even older and they would be gone a couple days, it was clean up time about an hour before they got home.

Mom and Dad were returning, and we wanted to be sure we got the house in order in time.

1 Peter 4:7-11 The Voice (VOICE): "We are coming to the end (telos – completion) of all things…"

We hear a lot about End Times today, but biblically the “end of all things” is the completion of God’s plan for history. The end began with the arrival of Jesus. “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in man ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son”(Hebrews 1:1-2) at "the end of the ages" (Hebrews 9:26).  James said that "the coming of the Lord is at hand" (James 5:8); John wrote, in 1 John 2:18, "It is the last hour." We are certainly always closer, but Christians have been anticipating His inevitable return since He left.

For 2,000 years, we have lived in the age in which the end is near. So what should we be doing in light of this?

 “So be serious and stable, and keep your wits about you in order to be ready to pray with perseverance.” 

We shouldn't have to scramble to clean our spiritual house like my sister and I did our physical house; we shouldn’t be afraid of our Savior’s return, wondering what we need to turn off or hide something; we shouldn’t be panicked about how we are going to survive whatever is coming.

Instead, we are to exercise self-control and exhibit the peace of the Spirit as we purposefully pray. We should be calm and collected, knowing that God is in control.

The Bible warns that we will face trials or persecution in the last days, and the last 2,000 years have proven that to be true. The United States will inevitably move in that direction if the history of world cultures has anything to offer our understanding of the times in which we live. I think we would do well to pay attention to Peter here, as I’ve noticed how easily we panic when the going gets tough for us as Christians.

There is no doubt that the United States is trending away from affirmation of religious belief and in some sectors is even becoming increasingly hostile. But even in a worst case scenario where anti-Christian bigotry eventually moves toward real persecution, what should our response be?

Should we be scared and angry, or should we glorify God by revealing His power in us by our calm engagement, peace-filled presence, and our ongoing, persevering attitude of prayer, which involves surrendering our fears to God and trusting in His sovereignty? Panic is not a good look for people of faith.

Now, Paul had no problem maxing out his rights as a Roman citizen, so I don’t have a problem with Christians around the world maxing out their political rights for their freedom and safety. But no matter what, in every situation, followers of Jesus should be “serious, and keep our wits about us, and pray more perseverance,” not panic, despair, and yell more loudly.

But, even more importantly:

Most of all,love each other steadily and unselfishly, because love makes up for many faults. Show hospitality to each other without complaint. 10 Use whatever gift you’ve received for the good of one another so that you can show yourselves to be good stewards of God’s gifts of grace in all its varieties. 11 If you’re called upon to talk, speak as though God put the words in your mouth; if you’re called upon to serve others, serve as though you had the strength of God behind you. In these ways, God may be glorified in all you do through Jesus, to whom belongs glory and power, now and forever. Amen.

It seems to me that “prepping” has increasingly been made a priority, as if it's the most urgent need facing us if the world falls apart economically or if we are ever forced underground. It is not. [1]There is prudence in preparation – I’m not belittling those who prepare - but it is not the most important thing. If Peter were to host a seminar on How To Prepare For End Times, it wouldn’t involve a lot of practical things we hear like converting cash to gold or buying food that will last. It would be this: Learn how to pray, love, help each other, and use your gifts for the glory of God!”

This love "covers a multitude of sins" – not our sins, but the sins of others. Love forgives seventy times seventy. It is not constantly critical or constantly requiring perfection of the other. God’s agape love flowing throughus toothers covers a multitude of sins.  The Bible does not mess around on this point:

“We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.” (1 John 3:14

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and every one who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8)

Then we see that love is expressed in hospitality, not just for those we know, but those we don’t. [2]It’s not padding our social resume, or hanging out with cool people, and it’s not surrounding ourselves constantly with close friends.  The Greek word combines philos ("friendly love") with xenos ("a stranger").  Really, this is the ability to be hospitable to strangers[3]- and let me tell you, some of us are strange J

Hospitality is a legitimate and important ministry. We can get caught up in thinking of ministry as something that happens when we are in charge of something, or oversees, or when we are involved in an official ministry. But going out for lunch with someone you don’t know, or helping someone with food, money, time or lodging when they are in need is an opportunity for deep ministry.

Finally, we SERVE EACH OTHER FAITHFULLY (v. 10-11) with the gifts God has given us.

There are a variety of gifts given by the same Holy Spirit to each different believer, just as He wills (1 Cor. 12:11). They exist for the good of the church and the reputation of God. You aren’t given your gift for you;you have been given a gift for us to"serve one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God."[i] Here is a list of gifts present in the New Testament church:

  • Prophecy(boldly proclaiming God’s mind and purpose) 1 Corinthians 12, 14; Micah 3:8
  • Serving(a wide variety of ministries that “make the dust fly”)- 1 Peter 4; 1 Corinthians 12:5
  • Teaching- (explaining God’s truth)Romans 12; 1 Cor. 12; Ephesians 4
  • Working- (bringing energy to a project)1 Corinthians 12:6
  • Exhortation(motivational skills; encouragement)- Romans 12
  • Giving(joyful, sacrificial generosity)Romans 12
  • Mercy(compassion)- Romans 12
  • Intercession(prayer) Romans 8:26, 27
  • Wisdom(knowledge rightly applied to situations)James 1:5; Numbers 27
  • Words of Wisdom (giving insightful, practical knowledge)- 1 Corinthians 12
  • Words of Knowledge(giving insight into doctrine/spiritual truth)- 1 Corinthians 12
  • Faith(unwavering commitment)- 1 Corinthians 12
  • Healing(miraculous interventions for sickness)1 Corinthians 12
  • Miracles- (supernatural acts)1 Corinthians 12
  • Discerning spirits (insight into the “spirit” of a situation)- 1 Corinthians 12
  • Tongues(gifted in human or heavenly languages)- 1 Corinthians 12, 14
  • Interpretation of Tongues - (translating those languages)1 Cor. 12, 14
  • Apostle(founders of the church)- 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4
  • Leadership(church planters and church sustainers)- Romans 12
  • Pastor(“shepherds” who guide and lead)- Ephesians 4
  • Evangelist/Missionary(boldness in sharing the gospel)Acts 1:8; 5:32; 26:22; 1 John 5:6; Ephesians 4
  • Helps(helping/serving the poor and downtrodden) 1 Corinthians 12; 1 Timothy 3:8-13; Romans 16:1-4; 12
  • Administration(the ability to give oversight)1 Corinthians 12; 1 Samuel 11 and 16
  • Celibacy(living in abstinent sexual purity) 1 Corinthians 7:7
  • Marriage(committing to a covenant with integrity) 1 Corinthians 7:7
  • Hospitality(openness and friendliness) 1 Peter 4:9-10
  • Craftsmanship(building, construction)Exodus 31:3; 35:30-35
  • The Arts(music, poetry, prose, painting...) - Exodus 31:2-6; Exodus 35:25-26; Psalm 150:3-5 Luke 1:1-3
  • Voluntary Poverty (forgoing wealth without envy or jealousy)1 Corinthians 13:1-3
  • Business Sense (reward from hard work and investment) Ecclesiastes 3,5
  • Courage(as seen in Gideon) Judges 6
  • Strength(as seen in Samson) Judges 13
  • Architectural Engineering (planning; constructing; building)1 Chronicles 28

Whatever your gift, it is significant. The body of Christ needs you. You are to use your gift not to glorify yourself or other people, but to glorify -God. If you want to be ready for the end times, learn how to use your gifts toward the service of one another in the harmony of the Spirit of God.

Steven Cole recounts a story that I think offers a picture that captures the purpose of this passage well.

“In 1959, the Queen of England visited Chicago. Elaborate preparations were made for her visit. The waterfront was readied for docking her yacht. Litter baskets were painted. A red carpet was rolled out. Many hotels were alerted. But when they contacted the Drake, the manager explained, “We are making no plans for the Queen; our rooms are always ready for royalty.”

I like that goal.

“We are making no new plans for the arrival of the King; His house is always ready for Him.”

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[1]See this article from Focus On The Family, “A Biblical View Of Survivalists And Preppers.” https://www.focusonthefamily.com/family-q-and-a/faith/a-biblical-view-of-survivalists-and-preppers

[2]When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous (Luke 14:12-14).

[3]"without complaint".  Paul wrote, "Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world . . ." (Phil. 2:14-15).

[i]These are all gifts to help you serve the church and the world.