LIVE WITH URGENCY 1 PETER 4:7-11
I would like you to take your Bible and turn to 1 Peter 4. We will read verses 7-11 of 1 Peter 4. This morning, we are going to study Peter’s letter to a persecuted church, which needed encouragement in light of their troubles and the future judgment.
So Peter addressed the church about three facets of spiritual duty.
Before we look at the different aspects of spiritual duty, I would like to ask you a series of question.
Does your Christianity make a difference in your life and the decisions you make?
Would it make more difference if you were given only a month or six months or even a year to live?
If so, then how?
This morning and over the next several weeks, I am going to do a series “Living like You Were Dying.”
If I knew I only had a month or six months or a year to live, would I make dramatic changes in my Christian walk.
I pray that this is not the case, but I am afraid it would be true somewhat in all of us.
But this should not be the case.
We should live every day for the glory of God and as if today might be our last on earth because we are not guaranteed tomorrow.
Yet, I think most people including Christians live as if they are going to be around forever.
Now, I don’t want you to misunderstand me, I believe we ought to prepare for the future if the Lord so chooses to delay in His return or in calling us home.
Although he is no theologian, newspaper columnist Sydney J. Harris was on target when he wrote, “The art of living successfully consists of being able to hold two opposite ideas in tension at the same time: first, to make long-term plans as if we were going to live forever; and second, to conduct ourselves daily as if we were going to die tomorrow” (/Reader’s Digest /[5~/82]).
Well, this is what Peter is instructing us about this morning.
He desires for us to live with a sense of urgency.
The word urgency intrigued me so I looked it up in Webster’s Dictionary and found it to mean “the quality or state of being urgent; need for action, haste, etc.; stress or pressure, as of necessity. .
.calling for immediate action.”
Thanks to the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, everyone has heard of the “Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.”
But few have heard of Israel Bissel, a humble post rider on the Boston-New York route.
After the Battle of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, Bissel was ordered to raise the alarm in New Haven, Connecticut.
He reached Worchester, Mass., normally a day’s ride, in two hours.
There, according to tradition, his horse promptly dropped dead.
Pausing only to get another mount, Bissel pressed on and by April 22 was in New Haven—but he didn’t stop there!
He rode on to New York, arriving April 24, and then stayed in the saddle until he reached Philadelphia the next day.
Bissel’s 126 hour, 345 mile ride signaled American militia units throughout the Northeast to mobilize for war.
As Christians, we need to be mobilizing ourselves for duty.
I am here this morning to sound the alarm for us to live with a sense of urgency because we have no idea when our last day on earth will be.
Peter, in these verses, gives us the incentive for spiritual duty, instructions for spiritual duty, and the intention of spiritual duty.
THE INCENTIVE FOR OUR SPIRITUAL DUTY – 7a
*The end of all things is at hand.*
Peter, in this verse and the verses that follow, is making a connection to what has just proceeded.
He reminded his readers that Christ suffered in the flesh and Christians can expect the same for being a follower of Christ.
Therefore, they are not to live like the Gentiles and some of the pagans are maligning Christians and wondering why they do not participate in the same activities as they.
But Peter reminds them in verse 4 and 5 that they will have to give account on the Day of Judgment.
Christ will judge the living and the dead.
In light of the coming Christ, Peter said that the end of all things is at hand.
The end, in this context, does not refer to a termination or conclusion to the persecution that many of these believers were experiencing.
No, what Peter had in mind was the second coming of Christ.
The imminent return of Jesus is close.
You find this to be true in several passages of Scripture.
Many writers of the New Testament refer to the end of time.
For instance, Paul tells the Romans to understand their time in relation to the end, because, he adds, “Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed” (Rom.
The writer of Hebrews exhorts the readers of his epistle to meet together for encouragement; then he notes, “All the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb.
James points to the end of time and comforts his oppressed countrymen with these words: “You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.…
The Judge is standing at the door” (James 5:8–9).
And last, John alerts his readers to the fact that “this is the last hour” (I John 2:18).
The return of Christ is near.
*1 Peter 1:13 *says, /fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at *the revelation of Jesus Christ */(*1:5*;/ /*4:13*).
The end of the material universe as we know it is near.
*2 Peter 3:10*, /But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will/* */pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat,/* */and the earth and its works will be burned up/.
The final judgment of men* *is near.
*1 Peter 4:5 *says, /but they shall give account to Him who is ready/* */to judge the living and the dead/.
In the early church, believers expected the imminent return of Jesus.
I want to remind you that we live in a linear history.
What that means is the world that we live in had a beginning point and will one day have an ending point.
The goal or purpose for which God created the world will be fulfilled or complete.
So Peter says that day is at hand (near or approaching).
It could happen at any moment.
We must live with the attitude and anticipation that it could take place at anytime.
It could be this next hour, the next day or next month, etc. Yet, I want to say that many have been misguided about this event.
In fact, the believers in Thessalonica had become lazy and just sat waiting for the return of Christ.
In 1988, thousands of pastors in America received in the mail a booklet by Edgar Whisenant, “88 Reasons Why the Rapture could be in 1988.”
It had a lot of interesting arguments, but, needless to say, they were not accurate.
So, in 1989, he produced another booklet explaining why his calculations were off by one year and why the Lord would come back in 1989.
Needless to say, he did not write another booklet in 1990.
Neither the hour nor the day is known in which Christ will return again.
Jesus said, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority” (Acts 1:7).
We do not know when Christ will return, but we must be ready.
We must be prepared and alert.
Jesus said, “Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit.
Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks.
Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them.
(Luke 12:35–37) The apostle Paul asserted that the characteristic of every true Christian is a desire to please the Lord: “Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor.
So Peter moves from the incentive of performing our spiritual duty to some instructions about our spiritual duty.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR SPIRITUAL DUTY – 7b-11a
*Therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.
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.
Now, in these verses, Peter does not mention all of our spiritual duties, but these do cover our relationship with the Lord, our relationship with others, and our responsibility in the church.
In fact, these line up with how we are going to fulfill our mission of our church.
The first instruction involves prayer, which has to deal with our relationship to God.
In knowing that Christ is coming back and living with that anticipation, Peter said it will affect out prayer life.
Prayer is the means to access our spiritual resources.
Yet, this is one discipline that most Christians struggle with most.
Prayer acknowledges our weakness and dependence upon the Lord.
Not to pray means that we are self-sufficient and arrogant enough to be adequate in our own resources.
But how many of us have gotten is such a difficult situation that we could no longer depend upon ourselves.
So we turn to prayer.
Yet, prayer is a means God has provided for us to commune with him about our needs and inadequacies.
Therefore, Peter says when you pray, pray with self-control and be sober-minded.
The word rendered *be of sound judgment* derives from a term that literally means, “be in one’s right mind” (/sōphroneō/)—to be under control and not be carried away by an errant view of oneself (Rom.
23:7), or undue emotion, or uncontrolled passion.
Mark used it to describe the maniac Jesus freed from the legion of demons (Mark 5:15).