Excerpt (with graphic below)
We are finishing today what is a short series called, “We Are…”, where we have spent several weeks on reminding ourselves, or for the many of you who are new, just revealing to ourselves, what we’re all about as a church. One of these last several weeks we looked specifically at why we’re a Word-Centered church. An incredibly important thing, because the only way we will align ourselves with God, and not with the changing times or even mainstream Christian culture, which I sometimes call pop-Christian culture, the only way to make sure we’re aligning ourselves with God and nothing else, is by opening the Word of God and really seeing what it says. That’s why next week we’ll jump right into a book of the Bible, and I’m so excited to let you know, if you haven’t heard already, that we’re going to spend the next several months in the book of James. Now, if you’ve read James, I hope you are prayerfully expectant of God’s truth to change your life over this next series. If you’ve never read James, or studied it especially, it makes me want to cry thinking about how much God is going to rock your world while we go through it. Why I am I saying all this? Because James is so full of meat and insights and particularly pointed ways in which the Gospel really hits the ground in our lives. What type of life does the Gospel manifest in us? That’s what the book of James will show us. Please be praying, have in mind to be here and maybe invite a friend or two, especially for next week as we look at God’s purpose in trials. Introduction For today, we’re going to be looking at a text in 1 Peter chapter 4, if you want to go ahead and turn there. As you’re turning there, I want to ask you a question: How many of you, if you’re completely honest, will admit that you have a tendency toward laziness? I’ll raise my hand. So, some of you are honest. Even if you are a busy and disciplined person, it can still be true that you particularly enjoy doing nothing upon occasion. And there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. But even if laziness isn’t a tendency for you, perhaps complacency is, at least with certain things. It’s not that you don’t care about God at all, it’s just he might be on the backburner right now. It’s not that you don’t believe or love God, it’s just that I’m really busy right now. Peter is about to blow up our complacency, our indifference. Read with me, 1 Peter 4:7-11: The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 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. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. I consider these words a bit of a wake-up call for those of us who are complacent, who might be thinking we’re on a cruise ship of sorts heading toward heaven, who think that the main part that you play in God’s kingdom is in the past, as in now you’re saved and on your way to heaven, and it’s a wake up call to those of us who are distracted by temporary things at the cost of eternal things. I’m praying for all of us, this morning, that we wake up to the urgency of the need for the Gospel, and feeling that urgency, that we leverage EVERYTHING in our lives for the Kingdom of God. So, today, we see Our Motivation, Instructions, and Ultimate Goal for Leveraging EVERYTHING for the Kingdom. First, we see our motivation, the greatest incentive for waking up and not wasting a moment of our lives. Our Motivation: The end of all things is at hand (vs. 7a). Look with me at the beginning of Verse 7, it says exactly that: “The end of all things is at hand.” These are sobering words, to say the least. What Peter means is that all the major events in God’s plan for redeeming his people have happened, except for one. They are all in the past when Peter wrote these words, except for one. We have Creation, the Fall, Abraham, the Exodus, Israel, the exile to Babylon, Christ’s birth, his death, and his resurrection and ascension, and then the Holy Spirit coming into the world and indwelling Christians in Acts chapter 2. In fact, it was these last few events, specifically Christ’s death and resurrection, that inaugurated the last days. What does it mean that we are in the last days, really, ever since Christ ascended back into heaven? It means that everything is ready for Christ to return and for Christ to usher in the Kingdom of God fully. Everything truly is ready for Christ to come back, and because of that, it could happen at any moment. This is why, “The end of all things is at hand.” So, what does that mean for us? What does it mean that Jesus is coming back, and it could be at any moment? Well, it doesn’t mean that we should keep an eye on the sky, constantly looking outside for what’s to come, like maybe some of you do when there’s a tornado watch. I do that too, if I’m honest. But we shouldn’t do that with Christ’s coming. We shouldn’t be obsessed with trying to figure out when Jesus is coming back. Matthew 24:36 tells us that “no one knows the date or the hour.” And even a few verses later in Matthew 24:42, when it says “keep watch (or stay awake), for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming,” it’s not referring to trying to figure out when we’re close to it! Instead, Jesus is saying, be ready; live NOW as if he could come back at any moment, because he could! In fact the conclusion verse of this section of Matthew 24, verse 44, says this: “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Just think about this for a moment. He could come back today at 2:27pm. He could come back this week, he could come back in 1,000 years. What did this reality do to the mindset of the New Testament writers? The same thing it should do for us. Wake us up! We cannot waste a moment that we have on this earth. This reality creates in us an urgency for living our lives in obedience to God for the glory of God. Not wasting time with being distracted and captivated by the things of this world, but instead leveraging our time and resources to IMPACT the world. Knowing that this isn’t our home should cause us to make use of the time we have here. Martin Luther, who was one of the leaders of the Protestant Reformation, he was asked once what he would do if he found out that the end was coming that very day. He responded, this is pretty great: “I’d plant a tree and pay my taxes.” I don’t know if any of us would respond quite in that way, right? Planting a tree and paying taxes are likely the LAST things most of us would do if we were to find out the end was coming today. But Luther’s point was that he was living every day of his life in light of the end! He wouldn’t suddenly change the way he lived for a day, because he was already living as if Jesus could come back any day. So the question for us, in light of the end of all things coming at any moment, the question is this: HOW do we leverage everything for the Kingdom, not wasting a moment of time or the tiniest bit of energy or resources? How do we leverage everything for the kingdom? That’s the question we’re going to answer today, in particular as we look at what Peter writes next. So we’ve seen the motivation, which is huge. Why leverage everything for the Kingdom? Because Jesus is coming back, our time and our resources are limited. Next, HOW do we leverage everything for the Kingdom? That’s what Peter answers next, and you’d think that maybe he’d say something pretty radical, even by our standards. The end is near, therefore go crazy and live on the streets and eat locusts and wild honey like John the Baptist, but he doesn’t say that. Let’s read again verse 7 through the first part of verse 11: The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies…” So how do we leverage all things for the Kingdom? What’s the strategy, according to Peter? 1st: Our Strategy: (vv. 7b-11a) 1. Keep a clear head (vs. 7b). Peter says, because the end of all things is at hand, “Therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded.” These two words are virtually synonymous. They mean basically the same thing. Self-controlled means having the right state of mind, or, honestly, being sane! Seeing things clearly! Then, sober-minded means being clear-headed, and obviously sober can also refer to not being drunk. So the way I like to summarize these two together is simply by saying, “Keep a clear head.” That’s the first “how” of leveraging everything for the kingdom. We keep a clear head, meaning we have in mind the reality of our situation. What is that reality? That life is short! That the end of all things is at hand! Truly knowing and believing this will inevitably change the way we live our lives. But what happens so easily is we get distracted by the things of the world. The very world that we are to be distinct from, looking so different and holy, and the very world that we’re to reach with the Gospel, is the world that so captivates us, that takes our attention away from Christ, and even fogs our mind as to what really matters in this life. In a world that is fallen, we struggle even to think sanely, because truth seems to evade us completely. In fact, Romans 1 says that part of the path of unrighteousness is suppressing truth. We only consider truth to be truth when it is convenient for us! We can see that with all this talk about politics on social media right now if you’ve been keeping up with it at all. On both sides of the aisle, and even in the middle, everyone claims to have the facts. The problem? Those facts contradict, at least apparently. It feels unreal living in a world where truth is manipulated, and even suppressed without even knowing it. How can we be sober-minded and clear-headed in this world? A simple answer, one that we talk about often. The Word of God. This urgency that comes with realizing that the end of all things is at hand brings us to a desperate need for truth that can be trusted, truth that we KNOW is truth. We have it right here. Without being clear-headed, sober-minded, having a worldview molded by the Word of God, we will never live with urgency. We will never live like God intends us to live. Instead, we will grow comfortable in our earthly bodies, and in our worldly cultures, all the while missing out on our true identities as sojourners, exiles, people that are not yet in their true home. Even our prayers will reflect our worldly minds instead of the mind of God. And this is exactly why Peter brings up our prayers. Vs. 7: “Be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.” This sober-mindedness allows us to pray within reality, pray having in mind what is actually going on, not from man’s perspective, but from God’s! Having a clear head, seeing truth as it is, particularly that God is bringing all of history to a close, will provoke us to depend on God, and pray to him. Without that clear head, we won’t pray, or at least we won’t pray with God’s goals in mind. So, So, keep a clear head, for the sake of your prayers, even. Then 2ndly: 2. Love each other deeply (vs. 8). How do we leverage everything, especially our time, for the Kingdom? We love each other deeply. Verse 8- “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” One of the most central tenets of the Christian faith in the Scriptures is that we are people of love who serve a God of love. 1 Peter 1:22- “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” The Greatest Commandments that Jesus gave when asked what the most important parts of the Law were: Love God with everything, and love each other as yourself. This is a deep, earnest, meaningful, continuous love. Not a pretend love! And this love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Corinthians 13 also gives us the unique picture of Christian love, and I want you to think about if this is you, particularly in the Body of Christ. Do you love the other people in this room like this: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” If we think about the urgency of the times and what it has to do with love, I think there’s an obvious conclusion we come to: we don’t have time for grudges. We don’t have time for holding things against each other. We only have so much time to build each other up in love and challenge each other to follow Christ more and more. We cannot let ANYTHING get in the way of our earnest and deep love for each other. Christ brings us together. In our Foster Care Training over the last month, our trainer explained the unusually strong bond between siblings who couldn’t be more different from each other, and yet they’re so close because they’ve been through the same trauma, whether it be neglect or abuse or whatever. These siblings are drawn so strongly together because of having gone through the same thing. As Christians, we’ve been through a far more impactful event than any of the best or worst experiences a human can go through. We were estranged from God because of our rebellion. We were the objects of God’s wrath, having dramatically sinned against him. And yet, even with our rebellion, God loved us. He loved us enough to send his son Jesus Christ to die on the cross bearing our sin and our rebellion, taking our place on that Cross, and then rising again from the dead three days later, winning for us victory over death itself. For those of us who have turned from our sin and believed in Jesus Christ, placing our faith in Him, we’ve been through something that so marginalizes our differences that it’s, in some ways, as if they’re not even there. We love each other because Christ first loved us. We love each other despite our faults, because Christ first loved us despite our faults. Don’t let petty things keep you from loving the other people in this room. We don’t have time to mess with grudges or even personality clashes. We don’t all have to be best friends, but the love of God for us compels us to love each other. The third answer to the question, HOW do we leverage everything for the Kingdom? 3. Leverage your possessions and finances (vs. 9). Verse 9: “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” Now what Peter is referencing here was particularly helpful back in the 1st century, because travelling was not common, and it was also incredibly expensive. So, particularly for the spreading of the Gospel to different areas, hospitality was incredibly important for Christians. They needed places to stay when they were visiting different cities and regions. They didn’t have Holiday Inn Express back then. Without hospitality from fellow Christians, this Gospel work really couldn’t happen. This wasn’t only true for Christians who were travelling, but even for many of the main gatherings to happen in their own cities, guess what? People had to be hospitable and open up their homes! They didn’t have church buildings in the first century, so they met in people’s homes. Having in mind that the end is coming, that Christ is coming back, and even simply that we only have a certain amount of time on this planet even if we die before Christ comes back—having all that in mind, we must leverage what God has given us for His Kingdom! This includes our own homes, and all other material possessions we have. Ask yourself this question: how can I leverage what God has given me, specifically these possessions that, really, he’s let me borrow, for the kingdom? It could be as simple as having people over, and investing into people’s lives in that way, or as complex as opening up your home to orphans via adoption. Or, even more specifically, your money! How can you best leverage the money God has given you for His Kingdom. Because, yet again, we don’t have much time! I know 80-90 years feels like a long time, but it’s not! Not to mention there is no guarantee that we have that long! Even with this Body, Raintree, as a whole– we want to make use of the physical things that God has given us. This building is used for Parents’ Day Out three days a week, Weddings, obviously small group bible studies throughout the week, and our main gathering times Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. But we also have in mind to leverage our yearly budget as effectively as possible for the Kingdom. Many of you have seen this, as we’ve shown it to you once or twice over the last year, but I thought today would be a good day to give it to you again, especially for those of you who are new. In your bulletin is a Great Commission Budget Plan. We are prayerfully aiming in this direction in the future, likely over the next 5-10 years.
We want to leverage EVERYTHING for the Kingdom. And, as believers, we’re to do this GLADly, which is why in verse 9 it specifically says to show hospitality without grumbling! Why would we grumble in the first place? Well, let’s be honest. It’s hard to sacrifice posessions, to open up our homes. It’s inconvenient to have to clean up. For some, maybe that’s the only time you clean up. No shame! It’s hard to sacrifice money, especially if we have to give up some modern comfort. But yet again, the point comes up. The driving incentive behind all of this: the end of all things is at hand. We do not have the time to just sit around and be comfortable. So, we leverage our possessions and finances. Lastly, how do we leverage everything for the Kingdom?
4. Use God’s gifts to serve (vs. 10-11a).
Verses 10-11: As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies…”
We see implied here that every Christian has a spiritual gift of some type that God wants them to use to serve the Body. In fact, part of being good stewards of God’s grace is making sure that we DO use these gifts to serve one another. Being a steward means that we’re managing or administrating our gift. And Peter here puts the gifts under two different categories: speaking gifts and serving gifts. All the speaking gifts, like teaching and prophecy, are to be done as if speaking the very words of God. And those with gifts of serving, like hospitality or mercy, the very strength by which we serve with those gifts is the strength God supplies.
Now we talked a lot about spiritual gifts three weeks ago on week 2 of this mini-series. So, if you weren’t here on January 8th, I want to encourage you to go online and maybe read or listen to that message, as we laid out in detail the need for all these spiritual gifts that God has given. For our purposes today, though, I want to move to Our Goal in leveraging everything for the Kingdom. We’ve seen the Motivation, the Strategy, these four specific things that Peter lays out, and now we see the ultimate goal:
Our Ultimate Goal: the glory of God in everything (vs. 11b).
Look at the second half of verse 11. What is our ultimate goal in all of this, in trying to leverage everything in our lives for God’s Kingdom: “in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
This is basically a mini-doxology of sorts. A doxology is just a formal praise of God. “To him belong glory and dominion (which means power and might, like ruling power), it all belongs to him forever and ever. Amen.”
Keeping his unmatched glory and worth at the forefront of our minds is what it means to be sober-minded, clear headed. Being captivated by his majesty and the seemingly inexplicable love He has for us tiny human beings is the very fuel and supply we have in loving each other. Seeing how much bigger he is than anything else the world has to offer will help us to see our material possessions in accurate light, and just how small and insignificant our comfort really is. God is bigger than we can possibly imagine, and living in obedience to him, leveraging every moment we have for his glory, is the greatest purpose for which we can live.
There’s no greater joy than glorifying God with our lives, pointing to his holiness, his majesty, his splendor, power, greatness, and his infinite worth. As a church, we don’t want to build a Raintree kingdom or a Pastor Ryan kingdom or any other kingdom; we desire to build God’s Kingdom.