14. Living on the Edge of Eternity

1 Peter: The Glory of Suffering  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  44:55
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14. Living on the Edge of Eternity

If we know that there will be an end-date to an activity, that knowledge will affect our actions, our decisions, on what we spend our time and money on, what sort of activities we engage in and commitments we make. If you know, for example, that you will be moving overseas in a few months, that reality will shape your purchasing decisions, it will affect your decisions as to what you need to do to get ready for the move, sort through clothing and other goods — what to purchase, what to live without temporarily, what to take with you, what to donate, what to sell or give away, what put in the bin.
Peter reminds us that we live on the edge of eternity, and how we ought to live in light of that reality.
Knowing that there is a day of judgment to come, and the new heavens and new earth coming where we will be with the Lord forever will and must colour our decisions as to how we live, how we treat one another here and now. The future will direct our present. The future for us as believers is the basis of how we live today .
Our passage today forms the other bookend to the section of this letter that started in 1 Peter 2:11-12

11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

1.The End is Coming (and is already here)! (4:7a)

2. Four Practical Ways To Live Out Christ’s Victory (4:7b-10)

3. Peter’s doxology (4:11b)

(outline: Jobes)

1. The End is Coming (and is already here)! (4:7a)

1 Peter 4:7 ESV
7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.

The end of all things is at hand

This ties-in with what we saw last week, that God’s judgment is coming. No one gets a pass on this! It involves all things and all people.

The foundation for the end is laid at the beginning

The victory at the end has never been in doubt due to the resurrection of Jesus Christ
We often think of “the end” as when Christ comes again in glory, to judge the living and the dead. But beginning of “the end” began that Resurrection Day when Christ was raised from the dead! We are, Scripturally speaking, in the “last days,” and have been for almost 2000 years! The outcome of all things is and has been assured because of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Peter’s point is that
Even if society judges the Christian gospel to be undesirable or irrelevant, everything will be judged in reference to the resurrected Christ, and that judgment is near because the resurrection has already happened. Therefore, the Christian is to live in light of the nearness of “the end” as it is defined by Christ’s resurrection. (Jobes)
How should we then live?

2. Four Practical Ways To Live Out Christ’s Victory (4:7b-10)

We must live in the of the reality that the outcome of all things has already been assured by that Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

a. Think rightly and be clear-minded so you can pray (4:7b)

Peter is telling us that we must be informed by the truth, and it will affect how we live. We all know this: getting facts straight helps us in our decision making, it can calm our spirit, it enables us not to make rash decisions or act improperly.
Peanuts strip from 1965:
This reminds us of Peter’s counsel in
1 Peter 1:13 ESV
13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Rather than acting out of turmoil and confusion concerning spiritual matters, Peter says they must think rightly and be clear-minded.
There is a risk to pilots and cave divers (like the ones in that rescue in Thailand) that they can become what is called spatially disoriented. If they don’t have an horizon to focus upon or a rope line to follow, giving them cues as to which way is up, they can be deceived by degrees, ending upside down and head in wrong directions, leading to potentially tragic ends. God’s Word provides us the “which way is up” for all things. And in living in an “upside-down” world, taking our reference cues from this world does lead to disastrous results.
Because the end of all things is near, Peter urges us to be oriented rightly. We are to be fully in control of our thoughts. We must, as believers, accurately perceive the reality that Christ’s resurrection has started to bring about, and that perspective is to motivate a sound and self-controlled way of life. This exhortation for a clear and sober mind stands in sharp contrast with the lifestyle from which Peter’s readers have come, as described in 4:3, where their minds were dulled by excessive drinking and sex and confused by debauchery and idolatry. (Jobes)
Knowing that the end is near, Peter calls us to be self-controlled, clear-headed and to pray. We are to be motivated to prayer and not to give in to a complacent fatalism (“Well, God’s going to do what God’s going to do”). Nor should the fact that the end is near move us to abandon our responsibilities and and relationships with each other and with our society. Instead, it should motivate a prayerful engagement with others, holding out to the world the claims of Christ and the good news of salvation from the impending wrath of God to come.
This prayer calls upon and submits to God in the light of reality seen from God’s perspective and thus obtains power and guidance in the situation, however evil the time may be.” (Davids, as quoted in Jobes)
Is Peter talking about praying individually or corporately? I think both.
Maintaining a vital prayer life is easier said than done. It is especially difficult to pray if others’ reactions to your faith generates a hostility jeopardizing your social standing, livelihood, and well-being — a situation that many of Peter’s readers apparently are facing. The jumble of conflicting emotions and thoughts that arise in that situation can obscure the reality of Jesus Christ’s victory, provoking in us behavior and decisions contrary to Peter’s command to return blessing for insult (3:9).
Prayer itself may be seen as futile or “not working” as hostilities continue and even worsen. If your Christian identity and righteous living is the source of the problems, the temptation could be strong to disassociate from the church and fellow Christians. In fact, Jesus himself predicted that when trials came, “the love of many [Christians] will grow cold” (Matt. 24:12). He used the same phrase (eis telos, 24:13) to teach that persistence in faith to the end is needed for salvation.
What will help you to pray more faithfully?
What will help us as a church to pray more faithfully?
I believe it is a clear-headed, sober understanding of the circumstances we face!
Far too often it is the church prayer meeting which is least well attended. There is little urgency because there is no recognition that the day of God’s judgment is drawing near. Prayer is given little priority because there are so many things to do in the busyness of our lives. As a result, our prayer meetings can be small and dull. — that is, if we are even meeting for prayer at all!
Peter’s teaching is designed to get the church prayer meeting back on its feet. He gives us an urgency by setting it in the context of the end and the fact of the impending day of God’s judgment and the limited opportunity for preaching the gospel before that day (4:5–7a).
We must assess our lives and priorities carefully, with this call for us to be self-controlled and sober-minded. Taking a sober view we know God’s help is vital for us individually and corporately. Therefore, the need is for us to have our lives controlled and ordered in such a way that prayer becomes a clear priority—evidenced in the commitment to pray together.
(MacLeay)

b. Persist in a love for one another that “covers” sin (4:8)

1 Peter 4:8 ESV
8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
Jesus’ warned that the love of Christians may grow cold in times of trial. We are exhorted that because the end of all things is near, they must persist in their love for one another (4:8). (Jobes)
“Having an earnest love for one another” is, in Peter’s mind, above all … else. “Earnest” implies an intent that is steadfastly pursued. “Earnest love” speaks not so much of emotional intensity but is, in this context, a love that persists despite difficulties because it is a love that also “covers a multitude of sins.”
Peter is not making a theological statement about sins being forgiven (“covered”) by God. Nor is he saying that sin in the church should be ignored or denied (“covered up”). Peter is concerned with behaviors that could destroy the Christian community; such behaviors must be extinguished if the church is to survive. (Jobes)
This is vital if a church is undergoing persecution. The enemy seeks to divide and conquer. The pressures put upon us threaten to make us turn inward, acting out of selfish desires and self-interest rather than seeking the good of others ahead of our own. It retreats to a “me and mine” attitude. Friends may fail us, foes assail us.
The love that covers sins is the kind that does not respond in kind to behavior that destroys community / the bond of true fellowship in Christ that exists in the church. A love that covers sin exists when someone in loving forbearance breaks the cycle of acting on hard feelings and doing wrong. It is when a person who is under the control of godly love acts, conscientiously chooses to not react in a worldly way, but to show kindness and mercy to those who have wronged him. (Jobes)
The fundamental characteristic that enables a congregation to survive is the willingness and ability of its members to love in this way. Why was this such a paramount virtue? At the time Peter wrote, the Christian church was tiny, with perhaps only a handful of believers in towns widely separated across Asia Minor.
If relationships in these congregations were destroyed, the disaffected believers had nowhere to turn, and the witness to the gospel in that place was extinguished. As state pressure grew against the Christian church, the threat of destruction from without increasingly pressed upon the infant churches. How tragic if they were destroyed from within by their own inability to live in harmony with other believers! Such love in the church was the primary resource for the preservation of the Christian community as an alternate society. (Jobes)
Not everyone is loveable, and not everyone is lovable all the time. We find it all too easy to see a whole host of offenses, real and imagined, in other people, and only love will over come them and regard them as of no account because love covers over a multitude of sins. It is a verse we don’t take too seriously because:
1. We think narrowly in terms of sins committed against us, when it applies to all the things in other people that irk us.
2. We tend to assume that the biblical teaching is concerned only with formal forgiveness for wrongs committed. Doubtless this is included, but the scope is wider. What Peter says here is closer to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:5: “Love … keeps no record of wrongs.” It does not treasure up the memory of wrongs committed or offenses, but releases them and does not hold them against the person. (Of course, there is an important sense in which wrongs and failures have to be remembered. It would be irresponsible to assign a post in the church requiring dependability to somebody who had a record of being unreliable. To that extent we cannot ignore character flaws, but that is a different matter from our personal relationships in which we are to be accepting of other people despite their weaknesses and shortcomings.)
3. The practice of formal forgiveness has largely dropped out of our culture. People say “sorry” or “I apologize” when they make a mistake or cross us, and we say “it doesn’t matter” or “don’t mention it,” but seldom are we in a position where it seems appropriate to say “I forgive you.” What matters is that we should not hold other people’s offenses against them but should treat them with continuing love and care. (Marshall)

c. Be graciously hospitable to fellow believers without complaining (4:9)

1 Peter 4:9 ESV
9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.
In other places in Scripture, hospitality is to be shown to those who come from outside of our congregation. Here, though, this is a hospitality that we are to show to one another in our congregation.
In the circumstances in which Peter is writing, he may be expecting his readers to open their homes for the purpose of Christian worship and fellowship, since at that time the local church had to meet in the homes of its members. This form of hospitality could be quite costly if it marked the family as a target for anti-Christian persecution. Furthermore, to welcome all Christian believers into one’s home without grumbling requires one to maintain a certain openheartedness toward all. The exercise of love that Peter says is above all would be necessary if the local church was to have a place for all believers to gather together. (Jobes)
The challenge for us is to show greater love. It is easy to love others who are generally fairly lovable, for those who are familiar. Yet so often love stops there and is unprepared to stretch further. Unspoken limits are set beyond which we dare not go. We may withdraw or look down on those who have stumbled into sin and we set severe limits into how we use our time, money and homes. We may be afraid to bring others into our circle of friendship and fellowship of Christ.
Sometimes we may be tempted to turn inward in tough times and consider it asking too much of us to serve others the umpteenth time. Maybe we’ve set up a ledger book in our heads and hearts keeping track of our being put-upon.
The result can be a cold-hearted and grumbling community—a travesty of the church that Peter has in mind in these verses.
We will be challenged in a few weeks when we start our new worship service at the beginning of the year. You will be worshiping with some folks you might not know. That’s OK. Jesus knows them, and He knows you. Maybe things might be a bit awkward because there are people from the other service that you might have a “history” with that you will now have to encounter. Because of Jesus’ love for you, you can love them, too. Will you? I’m not talking about that hypothetical love we Christians we are to show to other believers. I’m talking about real, down to earth, right here and now love of the brothers and sisters in our whole congregation. We will need to consider what loving each other at full stretch might mean within our congregation as we offer both forgiveness and friendship.
(MacLeay)

d. Serve one another with the gifts of grace you have received (4:10-11a)

1 Peter 4:10–11 ESV
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.
Peter’s emphasis is on others within the Christian community benefiting from what each has received from God. If we are in Christ, we have been gifts by Him to utilise for the benefit of the body of Christ. This includes the spiritual gifts that Paul mentions, but also everything else we have been given in the way of our talents and resources.
We are stewards of God’s grace. We have been entrusted by our Master with these gifts and graces, and are responsible to ensure that they are properly and fully used for the ends and purposes for which our Master has given them. He will require an accounting from us on how we’ve conducted ourselves in this stewardship!
Those who speak —This is important to remember, for time so f persecution we may be tempted to go silent to attempt avoiding trouble. But we have a stewardship of the Gospel ,and it must be proclaimed to the nations! Those who teach about Christ and offer counsel in his name must understand themselves to be representing God’s words to the community. Therefore, those who speak must understand that they are engaged in serious business that restrains them from positing merely their own human speculation. Instead, they must speak in accordance with the revelation that God has given in the OT and through the apostles of Christ. (Jobes)
Whoever serves--
God also provides the strength for our service. God supplies strength for the task at hand for those who serve others in the Christian community. We must offering what we can to meet the needs of others within the community, trusting our gracious Father in all circumstances, but especially when we see that things are pretty dire.

3. Peter’s Doxology (4:11b)

1 Peter 4:11 ESV
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.
Even though we may feel powerless within the hostile situations we face, the doxology reminds us that all power belongs to the God we serve in the name of Christ.
‘The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever’ (Westminster Shorter Catechism). This passage today helps to orient the direction of our lives correctly. The overriding aim of the whole of Christian living is that God’s name be glorified now and in the future (2:12; 4:11).
We have few enough years to live for Christ in this world. Let us not delay to make the most of this magnificent life we have been redeemed, called, and empowered to live, to the glory of God, the honor of Christ, and the amazement of men. If you love others the way that Peter tells you to love them here, you cover a multitude of sins; you use your gifts with a view to blessing and helping others and you will amaze a large number of people. Can we do much better than we have so far done? Of course we can. (Rayburn)
But we can only do so in the empowering grace of God! We must continually call upon Him, constantly turning away fro self to Him to find the strength to wrestle-down every thought that panics us, distrusting Christ and His Word. We must have that grace to drive in the knife to kill our sin of unforgiveness and a grumbling spirit. We must have His grace to learn to love one another earnestly, in order that in everything God my be glorified through Jesus Christ. We must call upon Him now, and call upon Him always!

14. Living on the Edge of Eternity

Works Cited or Consulted
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