2017-9-03 The End Is Near

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          September 3, 2017

“The End Is Near”
Text: 1 Peter 4:7-11

We who wear the Name of Christ may perceive a not-at-Home feeling in our souls.  This is a right perception, for as long as we tarry on this earth, we are not yet Home (2 Corinthians 5:6).  We, because we wear the Name of Jesus Christ, may expect to suffer merely for wearing His Name.  Hence, 1 Peter is a vital letter for our Christian discipleship—for it speaks to these and many other matters highly pertinent just now.  This week, the Lord, through Peter, encourages and instructs us in view of the fact that soon, and very soon, we are going to see the King (cf. A. Crouch).  Let us hear God’s Word, in order that we see how to order our lives in view of this glorious fact.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

The passages opens with a bald statement, “The end of all things is near.”  This is a Scripture fact—pure and simple.  Jesus, ten verses from the end of the Bible, assures us, “Behold, I am coming soon” (Revelation 22:12).  The hour of His return indeed is nearer than when we first believed (Romans 13:11).  Yet Peter wrote these words fifty years short of two thousand years ago—and still Jesus has not come.  Rest assured, even in view of this, that Peter was right that Jesus is coming soon—and we are right today to confess the same.  Peter, in his second general letter to the Church, tells that us God, though apparently slow in dispatching Jesus to return here, is not slack concerning His promise, but is patient toward humanity—not wishing any to perish, but each to come to repentance unto life (2 Peter 3:8-9).

The fact that the end of all things near should encourage us in our suffering (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:17).  Suffering, in view of eternity, is neither long nor heavy.  It certainly seems this as we carry our assigned crosses for the glory of the Lord.  Yet when we view our suffering in the light of eternity—not to mention in light of Christ’s own suffering—we then see our suffering in its right perspective.

Not only does the nearness of Jesus’ coming encourage us in suffering, but also it spurs us forward in practical holiness.  Let us, therefore, live in the light, as those of the day, and not in darkness, as those of the night.  Let us, as Paul exhorts in his letter to the Roman Christian households, clothe ourselves in the Lord Jesus Christ, and let us make no provision for the flesh, to gratify the lusts thereof (Romans 13:14).  In short, let us be on our best conduct when He comes—and let us be otherwise vigilant for His coming.

In view of the end’s nearness, then, the Holy Spirit through Peter gives us guidance for our conduct.  First, God calls us to be sane (or sensible, or self-controlled, depending upon one’s translation of the Greek verb sophroneo [swfronew]).  He would not have us tossed about by every wind of doctrine, especially every wind of doctrine concerning eschatology—of the doctrine of last things.  Nor would God have us dismayed at every circumstantial vicissitude.  He remains in control, ruling and overruling Satan’s malicious designs and bounding them in such a way that—for the redeemed of God in Christ—even these things work for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).  Moreover, God would not have us so pathologically preoccupied with doctrinal and circumstantial winds that we become bereft of healthy mental function and process.

Second, be sober-minded, especially at prayer.  Too often today we are too cavalier at prayer.  We approach God too often in manners too whimsical or too familiar—with manners and matters too shallow.  True, God is our Heavenly Father, Who draws us precious close to Himself, and we may cry, through the Spirit, “Abba, Father.”  Yet too often we presume upon this to approach Him in ways unworthy of His greatness.  Rather, let us be sober-minded at prayer—both in view of our God to Whom we pray and in view of the weighty matters we place before Him.

Third, love one another—and that earnestly.  Some would treat this as mere avoidance of active malice.  While this is good, it remains yet insufficient.  By God’s grace, we are to feel and, where appropriate, express genuine affection toward our fellow believer.  We do this in appropriate heartfelt, warm ways—and the Church prospers and the world notices when we do this.

Fourth, be hospitable one to another.  This was a critical injunction in New Testament times, for many a Christian in Peter’s day was deprived of property and exiled from his or her homeland.  Hence, Christian hospitality was necessary in such a circumstance.  Now, and here, hospitality a means to encourage and otherwise bless your fellow Christian believer.  This generally happens in homes, but I suppose it can happen in any place you generally occupy in the culture (such as my office either here or when I was an adjunct professor).  Our society has less social capital than formerly, and, as a result, hospitality may be more important to discharge than in bygone years.[1]  As we have opportunity, then, let’s be hospitable one to another.

Fifth, use your gifts to glorify God and to bless the Church.  It matters not if these gifts be deemed ordinary or extraordinary.  Let us use our gifts well in Christ’s Church.  Two gifts receive specific mention (or three, if you count hospitality, cf. supra).  The first, speech, concerns itself especially with the things of God.  We can think of the exercise of this gift in a public sense, such as preaching, teaching, and the like.  We also can think of this in less public terms, such as interpersonal evangelism, discipleship, and the like.  The exercise of the gift of speech, especially considered in this way, assumes paramount control of the tongue—a member notoriously difficult to control (James 3:2-12).  The second gift, service, is akin to what our beloved brother Norm Roberts, now on high, called the gift of helps.  This doing of deeds, and giving of resources to bless others, we do in the strength that God supplies.  Moreover, we do these—as we do everything else—to one of our chief ends, namely, that God may be glorified.

The hastening end of all things often causes consternation, even panic, in the unbeliever if he thinks hard enough.  This fact need not cause panic in the Christian believer.  On the contrary, the consummation of history and of God’s eternal plan is great joy and comfort to the Christian.  Therefore, as we look to the soon return of Jesus Christ, let us live, by God’s grace, in accord with what we heard today.  Let us do this, moreover, for His glory—as we would seek His glory in all things.

AMEN.

[1] Robert Putnam’s book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2000) is a seminal work on the theme of loss of American social capital.

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