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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Preached At:Langley Canadian Reformed Church
 Langley, B.C.
 
Title:What Time is It?
Text:1 Peter 4:7-11 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Christ's return
 
Preached:2005
Added:2006-07-17
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Suggested songs:

Psalm 34:1-3

Hymn 47:6

Psalm 146:1-3

Psalm 146:4-5

Hymn 52:1-3

Reading: 1 Peter 4

Text: 1 Peter 4:7-11
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,

If you were responsible for getting yourself or others to the worship service, I’m sure that you looked at your watch or the clock at least once. You were concerned about the time. Unlike many people in the world, we live in a culture where time matters. So, when the time rolls around, on the dot, the brothers in the consistory room say it’s time to go and we go. And unless you’re the minister, we don’t wait for you to show up. So, when you’re getting yourself or your family ready, you keep an eye on the time. The time determines how you’re going to act – whether quickly or slowly.

It’s the same in our text. This text centres on the time. What time is it? And how should we live as a result? In our previous sermons on 1 Peter, we’ve heard a lot about identity and how who we are in Christ relates to our lives as believers. We’ll see that the issue of identity comes up in this text too, but it’s not the central thought. Time is.

Peter is clear: this is the time when the end of all things is near. In other words, the return of the Lord Jesus, the moment when everything on this earth is finished, the time of judgment – all of that is just in front of our doorstep. Nobody knows when the moment will come except God the Father. We say that it’s imminent – it’s going to come at anytime.

And two commands flow out of knowing what time it is: be clear minded and self-controlled. That means: because the end is coming, don’t let anything cloud your head. Be sound, focussed, stable in mind and watch out for fuzzy-headedness, whether that comes from alcohol or anything else. This clear state of mind keeps one ready for the prayers that will naturally come from those who are eagerly waiting for the Lord Jesus to come back. That’s why verse 7 ends by saying, “so that you can pray.” This is all about the fruit of lives redeemed by Christ. Prayer is part of that fruit. And then Peter goes on in verse 8 and following to tell us exactly how this clear and sober state of mind can be expected to outwardly express itself. So, I preach God’s Word to you with this theme:

Because the end is near, be clear-headed and sober – for God’s glory!

This state of mind is expected to express itself with:

  1. Love for one another.
  2. Service to one another.

1. This state of mind is expected to express itself with the believers’ love for one another.

Love is such a basic element of the Christian life, that it’s no surprise to see it in our text. It’s also no surprise to see it connected with the words “above all.” Those words remind us of how the Lord Jesus summarized the law in Matthew 22. The first and greatest commandment is to love God deeply – the second is like it: love your neighbour as yourself. So, it’s no surprise when Peter puts “above all” before the command to love. It’s no surprise, but it’s still necessary. Believers so easily forget this very basic element of the Christian life. Too often, our actions are not motivated by love for those around us. For instance, when children, especially brothers and sisters, tell on one another. How often is that done because they love those they’re telling on? Perhaps sometimes if there’s some kind of danger. But more often, and I speak from experience, it’s because they have this desire to see justice poured out on the bottom of their brother or sister. See somebody else get it for once. Revenge. That happens when we’re young, but it can and does happen that this lack of love-motivation continues into adulthood. So, the reminder is needed.

And the reminder is not simply to love, but to love deeply. So, no plain vanilla love here. The kind of love the Spirit is referring to is deep, it’s constant, fervent. I think the best word to describe it is intense.

And if you want to know what this kind of love looks like, you don’t have to look very far in your Bibles. God has this kind of love for his people. Christ has this kind of love for us. This deep, intense love is about giving yourself entirely for another person. It’s about dying to yourself and putting others first. It’s about cherishing and holding others dear – it’s about wanting what is best for the other person. Seeing the other person flourish and live to God’s glory and under his blessing.

Why should believers love one another in this way? The reason is given in the second half of verse 8: “because love covers over a multitude of sins.” That’s essentially a quote from Proverbs 10:12. It means that when you love somebody, you’re willing to overlook a lot of the hurts and offenses that they might do towards you. When people love each other, they don’t let little things get in the way. So, for instance, wives don’t file for divorce over minor things like when their husbands leave the toilet seat up. Love overlooks a lot of little things that might otherwise aggravate and create hatred. And if that’s true for just plain love, how much more isn’t it going to be true for a deep, intense love? We’ve been forgiven so much by the Lord, how could we not, out of our deep, intense love for one another, simply overlook a lot of little things?

And that’s where the connection to the main command of our text is. For the original readers of Peter’s letter, they could easily become distracted because of their difficult situation. Remember: many of these people were suffering and they were persecuted. Many people don’t do well under pressure. Some do, but not many. In this kind of situation, they need encouragement to keep a clear head. Out of thankfulness and love, they need to be focussed on what Christ wants for their lives, expecting his imminent return. They need to focus on Christ’s command to love their neighbours, especially their brothers and sisters in the church. If they, by God’s grace, do that, then prayer is also going to be working the way that it should. Remember what it says in James: the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Well, turn that around: the prayer of an unrighteous (include unloving with that) person is weak and ineffective.

So, verse 8 gives us this general principle about love. Verse 9 focusses on a concrete expression of this love when it says, “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” This still seems relevant today, but it was even more relevant in the days the New Testament was written. Back then, there were no Best Western or Best Middle Easterns or whatever. Sure, there were inns, but these were very rough places. You’d only stay in a place like that if you weren’t afraid of somebody trying to rob, rape, or murder you in the night. So, the best and safest thing to do would be to have a network of friends or family that you could stay with. And for believers, other believers would also form part of that network. That’s why there’s this command for hospitality.

Literally, this hospitality means “friendliness to strangers.” So, you wouldn’t even necessarily know the people who come to your door. But if they say they’re believers, then you know that you’re really family, even if you don’t know one another personally. Notice that Peter again uses the words “to one another.” We find them throughout this text – it’s about how believers relate to one another in light of the time. So, the command here is not a general command about hospitality – it’s specifically about showing hospitality to other believers.

And it’s to be done without grumbling. Maybe you’ve heard the term onomatopoeia. That’s when a word sounds like what it’s trying to say. So, for instance, we say that bees buzz. In our text the Greek word for grumbling is gongusmos. It’s a good Greek example of onomatopoeia. Gongusmos is the low, mumbling noise that somebody makes when they do something grudgingly. There’s often willingness to show hospitality, but a lot of times it comes with this low, mumbling, grumbling, gongusmos. That gets to the heart of the matter. God doesn’t just want outward actions. He expects to see hearts filled with love and motivated by a genuine eagerness to be there for others.

That’s something concrete we can take into our church life as well. Sure, we have the host family and they’re expected to take care of the visitors. But that doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to invite strangers over yourself. Think about it: what kind of church do we want to known as being? Do we want to be known as a friendly, hospitable church? Or do we want to be known as the place where you get lost in the crowd, a place where you stand around after church and nobody talks to you? And ultimately, this is not about our church, but about Christ. It’s about our being clear-minded and focussed on him – not being carried away with ourselves and our lives. But focussing on him, knowing that he’s returning quickly, we’re eager to show hospitality in sincerity, from the heart. This is the way we want him to find us when he comes back.

The ultimate result of this is captured at the end of verse 11: “…so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” When we’re clear-minded, focussed, and sober – when this gets expressed by our sincere and intense love for one another, then more glory is given to God and to Christ. You can be sure that there’ll be personal benefits too, but the main thing is that God gets lifted up more. And that’s what we want, right? God created us. He saved us through Christ. He renews us through the Holy Spirit. And so we do want to praise him, thank him, and love him for his work in us and for us!

Let’s hear more about how we can do that with our second point:

2. This state of mind is expected to express itself with the believers’ service to one another.

Like in the first part of our text, verse 10 gives us a general principle. “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others…” The principle, then, is to use the gifts that we’ve been given. This is something that applies equally and in the same way to God’s people through the ages. We can apply this directly to our lives today.

Before going further, let’s note one thing that’s assumed in our text: it’s that each believer has received at least one gift. That means that each of us has something special – it might be the same gift that somebody else has, but the point is: every believer has at least one gift. To follow the teaching of our text, it’s pretty important that we take a close look at ourselves and discover the gift that the Spirit’s given us. For some of us, this is a no-brainer, but for others, we might have to take a closer look and do some thinking about it. And when you’re younger, it might not always be right away clear. You may have to do a lot of thinking and praying to get a handle on the gift or gifts that the Lord has given you.

Once you’ve got a handle on what your gift or gifts are, then the calling is there to serve others with it. Don’t serve yourself and your position. Don’t build up yourself with what you’ve been given. But you use your gift to build up and encourage others. Why? Because the gift that you’ve been given is from God. You’re a steward of this gift. That’s what our text says in the last part of verse 10. The NIV says, “faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” We can translate that more clearly by saying, “serving each other with your gifts as good stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” A steward is somebody who’s been entrusted with something. He’s like a manager of something that doesn’t belong to him. We’ve been given these gifts by God – they really belong to him. Here’s where the identity thing comes up again. Our gifts are not homegrown – they’ve been transplanted in us, so to speak. That makes us managers of these gifts – we have to be clear about that.

When our text talks about “God’s grace in its various forms,” that means that these gifts we’ve been given are different ways that God has blessed us, even though we don’t deserve it. Every believer has the Holy Spirit. In every believer, the Holy Spirit works to conceive a gift. Believers can’t credit themselves for their gifts – they can only give more praise and glory to God for what they have. In other words, our gifts, no matter what they are, are no reason for us to have pride. Instead, our gifts drive us to thankfulness to the Giver.

These gifts come to us through our communion with Christ – through the Holy Spirit. It’s all God’s work in us. And motivated by thankfulness and love, we want to use these gifts for others living in communion with Christ. Think of what we confess in Lord’s Day 21 about the communion of saints, “that everyone is duty bound to use his gifts readily and cheerfully for the benefit and well-being of the other members.” We share in Christ’s gifts through the Spirit and then we’re going to be sharing with those who share with us in Christ. It’s just a natural thing to do!

And when we see that, then again we see the connection to the main thrust of our text: be clear-minded and sober. Get rid of fuzzy-headedness and have a clear focus so that you can see your gifts and recognize the possibilities of using them for the benefit of your brothers and sisters – all for God’s glory.

That’s the general principle in the second half of our text. That general principle gets a specific application in verse 11. The Spirit through Peter speaks about two groups of gifts. Most gifts in Scripture fall into these two general categories. The first gift regards speaking. In the New Testament, these gifts include apostleship, prophecy, teaching, tongues and exhortation. Now, some of these gifts have faded away. Tongues, for instance, are no longer necessary when we have the full written revelation of Scripture. Apostleship too, is no longer a feature of church life. Other gifts remain. Prophecy, in the sense of receiving direct revelation from God apart from the written word, is no longer around. But it is still around in the sense of all Christians being prophets who are called to confess Christ’s Name. This is something we’re all called to do, but some people have more of a gift for speaking in this way than others do. We’re all called to admonish and encourage one another, but others are more gifted at speaking persuasively and compassionately. These speaking gifts can also include preaching. Not all of us are called to be preachers. But for some, this is God’s gift to them.

Here I want to make a special point of addressing the young men in the congregation. Perhaps you have the gift of speaking in such a way that the Lord may be leading you to become a minister. I want to encourage you to look at yourself very closely to see if that gift is in you. If it is and others recognize it too, you have a responsibility to pursue and develop that gift. That’s no guarantee that you will become a minister. But perhaps the Lord is leading your life in that direction. Think about it.

The whole point is that those who have speaking gifts should use them carefully. At the end of the first part of verse 11 it says, “he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.” That doesn’t mean that he actually is speaking the words of God – as if he is a new source of revelation. This just means that the person with a gift for speaking should be very careful with his gift, that what he or she says fits with what God has said. In this way, God will use those words to point other believers to himself. God will use those words to further his purposes in the lives of believers.

The other group of gifts regards serving. In the New Testament, these gifts include giving, leading, mercy, contributing to the needs of others, healing, and miracles. And again, some of these gifts faded away after the apostolic era and others remain. I’m sure that we see many of these serving gifts in this church. Those who have these gifts of service have to use them in a way that points to God, just like with those have speaking gifts. The way they do that is by depending on the strength that God supplies. The image here is of God being the director, executive producer, and everything else that goes on behind the scenes of a play. Literally, our text says that God is the choreographer. So, who gets the praise for what takes place on stage? Not so much the actor, but the one whose creative genius is at work behind the scenes.

And again, this is where there is a connection to the main thought of our text. We have to be able to see clearly who’s really at work here. We have to think and see clearly and soberly so that the gifts we have are used and that they’re used in the right way so that God gets praised as we wait for Christ to return at any moment. Because you know as well as I do that gifts can be used in the wrong way. People can use their gifts to build up themselves and their reputation. Empowered by the Spirit, when we have a clear-mind with no fuzzy thinking, that self-centredness is going to be prevented. The result is prayer and more glory to God – the fruit of righteousness.

That’s why verse 11 ends with all those high and lofty words about praise and glory. The intended result will be that God and Christ will be praised for ever and ever. Because of Christ’s work for us, through Christ’s work in us by the Spirit, there is more glory for him. And to show his certainty that this will happen, Peter concludes with an “Amen.”

If you think about it, it’s almost strange isn’t it? Speaking through Peter, the Spirit tells us that the end is near and then he tells us to get busy. We would expect him to say, “The end is near, so hold tight and wait. Don’t do anything till he comes back – he’ll be here any minute to rescue you.” But instead, he wants us to be active. He’s working in us to be active. His imminent return doesn’t mean that we become lazy and complacent. Instead, through God’s grace and power alone, believers work even harder in view of the time. For everybody, there’ll be some measure of surprise when the Lord returns – but the difference will be that for us – it will be a pleasant surprise! Not like finding a thief in your house when you come back at half past midnight. More like finding your wife or husband waiting for you with a smile on their face. When he comes back, we’ll rejoice and give him the glory because then, finally, we’ll be able to enjoy to the full the promises of God in Christ our Lord. It’s almost time – so let’s live like it…AMEN.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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