Sunday, November 01, 2009

Prepare For The End

This sermon was preached on November 1, 2009

Prepare For The End

Intro.: Can you think of an event that you knew was coming, but you just did not want to wait for?  Wedding, Birthday, Surgery.
  1. You may not even want it – surgery may be one example.
  2. When you know something is coming – you prepare for it. You buy what will be needed. You dress appropriately. You tell your friends that it is coming.
  3. As believers we have just such an event in our future – the return of Christ.
  4. Most discussions that I have been a part of focus on how and when he will return – but scripture makes it clear that this is something we need to leave in God's hands.
  5. What God lets us know is how we are to prepare for His return.
  6. Let's look at one passage that gives us instructions for preparing for His return

Read: I Peter 4:7-11


T.S. Peter provides four key behaviors that allow us to prepare for Christ's return.
  1. Prepare to pray
    1. When touch times come – prayer is the proper response.
    2. But Peter does not tell his readers to pray – what he does do is assume that they will be a praying people. There is no reason to command them to pray – they are already doing it.
    3. Rather, Peter tells his listeners how to pray. There are two standards that Peter provides. The first is to “be serious”. The second standard is “be watchful”. But both words have a similar meaning. Depending on your translation, you might find either of these two words or phrases reading, “be self-controlled”, “clear minded”, “clear headed”, or “sober minded”.
    4. What Peter is getting at is that we don't need anything to get in the way our prayer life. It might be those things that we normally called addictions – it could be alcohol, drugs, gambling, or any of the other addictions that seem to drive our society. Or it could be anything that takes us away from the one who saved us.

(Ill.) In 1982, the US Supreme Court ruled on a case that impacts our local governments even today. It was in that year that the court decided that governments had the right to open their meetings with prayer. The ruling was based on the fact that prayer established a solemn atmosphere and serious tone to the board meetings.

    1. Whether we are in a government meeting, in church, with our family, or alone, when we come to God in prayer it be with the respect, with the attitude, with the clear mindedness due the God we approach.
  1. Love

(Ill.) In 1970, one of the most vocal and most appreciated Christian writers was a man by the name of Francis Shaeffer. Francis Shaeffer ran a retreat center in Switzerland committed to training young men and women to think about their faith. One of his most famous books of the era was The Church At The End Of The Twentieth Century. At some time after the publication this book, the final chapter was extracted and published as a small 35 page booklet entitled The Mark Of A Christian. His answer – LOVE.

    1. Love is what Peter expects to see among Christians. He is not, at least here, telling them to love those around them – neighbors, co-workers, friends, etc. He is telling the church to love each other.
    2. The word is agape – its God's kind of unconditional, no-holds barred kind of love. There is no higher kind of love. But Peter does not stop there. He adds another word. Some translations leave it out – but those that do translate it as fervent or earnest. Our love for each other is not to be just a discussion about God's love, but we are to have an earnest, fervent love. The Holman Christian Standard Bible says it is to be at full strength.
    3. But why? Peter gives them an answer, because “love covers and a multitude of sins.” It was not an original thought. Peter was quoting Solomon who understood the principle - “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.”
    4. There is a important point here – that much of what we find rooted in our faith in Christ has roots even further back in history – what God expects from us, he expected from all men in all times.
  1. Hospitable

(Ill.) Someone has said, hospitality is making your guests feel at home, even if you wish they were.

    1. But for the Christian hospitality is Love put into practice. Love is something we have, it something we talk about – but it is something we also practice.
    2. For the Christian, hospitality was defined by Christ:

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’[1]

(Ill.) The Greek word for hospitality literally means “love of stranger”

    1. Paul reminds us that as we practice hospitality we may find ourselves entertaining angels.
    2. Peter, here, is reminding us that the same hospitality that we would show to strangers, we need to show to each other. We remember to overlook faults, we remember that the people we live with here at church are just as broken as those outside the church. Peter calls on us to show the same forgiveness, the same kindness, the same love that we would show to those outside the church to those who are part of the body of Christ.
  1. Use your gifts
    1. The final command is for us to use our gifts “as stewards of God's grace.”
    2. Each of us has been given gifts – talents, blessings, abilities
    3. We sometimes call these abilities natural abilities – but they really are abilities that God has given us. Each of us has different abilities – you would not want me to join the choir or be in charge of a building project. But most of you would not want to be asked to preach – I found that out the hard way.
    4. But whatever those talents – there are some things that are true for all of us.
      1. They are God given – wherever we use them, however we use them, they are God's gifts to us.
      2. We are to use them as stewards of God – if God game them, then we need to use them to His glory. We need to exercise the same stewardship with our gifts as we do our money.

(Ill.) A concert violinist had a brother who was a bricklayer. One day a woman gushed to the bricklayer, “It must be wonderful to be in a family with such a famous violinist.” Then, not wanting to insult the bricklayer, she said, “Of course we don’t all have the same talents, and even in a family, some just seem to have more talent than others.” The bricklayer said, “You’re telling me! That violinist brother of mine doesn’t know a thing about laying bricks. And if he couldn’t make some money playing that fiddle of his, he couldn’t hire a guy with know-how like mine to build a house. If he had to build a house himself he’d be ruined.” If you want to build a house, you don’t want a violinist. And if you’re going to lead an orchestra, you don’t want a bricklayer. No two of us are exactly alike. None of us has every gift and ability. Our responsibility is to exercise the gifts we have, not the ones we wish we had. And when it comes to making decisions about your own life and the direction it should take, focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses. Know yourself. Know what you do well, and then go with your strengths and shore up your weaknesses.[2]



[1]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Mt 25:35-40). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2]AMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.

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