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Urgent Saints - 1 Peter 4:7-11

This is a sermon by Peter Birnie from the Riverside Church service on 25th July 2021.

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1 Peter 4 v 7-11 Urgent Saints

Intro:There are a whole load of T-shirts and mugs that you can buy which have this message on them; “Jesus is coming, look busy!” I think the people who wear those T-shirts are probably trying to make a joke at the expense of Christians but the reality is this – life goes past extremely quickly, whole decades can seem like last week. Very soon you are going to die and you are going to give an account of your life to the God who made you. But it might be even sooner than that, because the Jesus who said he would die and rise again did die and rise again - the same Jesus who said he was returning to his father to prepare a place for his people before coming back to get them and judge the world. As sure as Jesus rose from the dead, Jesus IS coming back – “The end of all things is near”. So here is the question; should you be looking busy?   

 

Peter’s answer in 1 Peter 4 v 7-11 is NO! Nobody should think that trying to look busy at the last minute will impress Jesus at all. Instead, Christians, that is people who know that they have sinned and have come to Jesus for full forgiveness and for the new life of following him that he gives freely, Christians (brand new people) are to get on with living brand new lives that will mean they are always ready for the moment when their heart beats for the last time or the moment the clouds peel back and King Jesus is seen in all his glory. Christians are to always be an urgent people – a people who know they are living for eternity, a people who know that the gospel has saved them, a people who know that only the gospel can save others too.   

And so I love this bit of the bible we are looking at today because it allows every single Christian from young to old, from shy to confident, from phonics level reading to phd level intellect, to see clearly what their everyday, practical Christian life should look like since the end of all things is near. If we take these few verses really seriously and ask God to help us by his holy Spirit to live in their shadow all the time then we will be a local church who can say to each other “Jesus is coming back – keep doing exactly what you are doing now.”   

 

So here are 3 things from these verses that can shape every minute of every one for your days for the rest of this part of your life, 3 things that young and old can easily remember (get 3 kids up to hold stuff); People who are expecting Jesus to return soon will PRAY, will LOVE, and will SERVE.

 

 

             1) People who are expecting Jesus to return soon will PRAY (v7)

 

People who care will pray. Urgent people will stick at the important job and amazing privilege of prayer. People who understand that Jesus really is coming back will keep coming back to God in prayer. They will keep praying because above all else they will want 2 things for themselves, their church family and the world around;

  • Number 1 they will want Christians to have the strength they need to keep trusting in God amidst difficulties and so they will pray for themselves and their brothers and sisters. They will be praying for perseverance as we seek to live different lives in a difficult place.  
  • Number 2 they will be praying that the people around them (family, friends, neighbours etc) will become Christians as the gospel is shared with them and lived out for them to see.

 

But sometimes even people who do care don’t pray and Peter understand this so he repeats some things he has said already in the letter.

He tells Christians again to be alert. We are to be alert to the reality that there is a very thin barrier between this life and the next one – when kids blow bubbles they always want to catch them on their hand and if you are alert and careful it is just about possible, but one wrong move and pop! Not one person here knows when the bubble of this life is going to burst and so recognising that should help Christians to shake off any complacency and pray with urgency for their church family and for their loved ones who are a bubble’s burst away from being judged by God without having Jesus’ blood on their side.

And again Peter tells the Christians to be sober. Don’t be drunk and woozy on the things the world offers. Don’t mess about with sin. If you stay alert and if you stay sober you will PRAY because you will live urgently knowing that the end of all things is near.

                  2) People who are expecting Jesus to return soon will LOVE (v8-9)

And you will LOVE. People have some weird ideas about what love is and what it looks like. And those ideas are mostly rooted in feelings rather than reality. If you don’t believe this then I dare you to post on facebook to your fat friend that they should eat less food so that they can be healthier and live longer. You will be labelled a hater even though your advice is actually good advice and would lead your friend to a better place in life. Our society cares much more about how they are made to feel rather than what is actually true. And this is because we don’t really understand love. But in the bible the God who is love, doesn’t leave us in the dark. In verses 8-10 there are 2 big outworkings of love that will mean the way we relate to each other in this church family is very different to the watching world.    

Verse 8 says this; “Above all, love each other deeply because love covers over a multitude of sins.” Loving your church family will mean being quick to forgive them when they get it wrong. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we pretend the hurt didn’t happen, but it does mean that we deal with the hurt in a way that fosters unity and affection. In the essentials course, Lee McMunn used the example of borrowing a friends mobile phone and then breaking it. When your friend says, “Don’t worry, I forgive you” and then takes care of repairing the phone themself, then their loving attitude has covered over the sin, their love for you has kept the consequences as small as possible.

Their love for you deals with the hurt you have caused to them. That is forgiveness and it comes straight from the God of grace, straight from the cross of Jesus Christ. A verse from Proverbs I often use when trying to get my children to forgive rather than tell tales is Proverbs 19v11 which says “it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense”. Forgiveness is a glorious thing because it points to Jesus – it points to the truth that a Christian’s sin has been dealt with already and this is so helpful when we feel hurt and let down by a brother or a sister.

And in verse 9 loving your church family means being really hospitable to the point where a normal person would grumble but you won’t because Jesus lives in you! Hospitality is a very practical duty – it covers the normal things like inviting people into your home to be cared for and fed and encouraged, giving people lifts to church and events, working hard on the refreshment team pre and post-covid, providing people with meals when they have had a new baby or are stuggling with illness and bereavement, as well as other practical things like allowing others to borrow your car, offering to free people up for ministry by babysitting, getting stuck in when someone needs help moving house, offering helpful advice.

Hospitality has a massive practical scope so if you are a person in the church family who has always imagined that you can’t do it then I reckon you have been thinking too much about offering a wonderful roast dinner on Cath Kidston crockery at exactly 1.30pm on a Sunday afternoon. Hospitality is not an option for a Christian. Hospitality is practical care for someone because you love them because God loves you.

                 3) People who are expecting Jesus to return soon will SERVE (v10-11)

It should be so obvious already that the sort of life God wants Christians to live while waiting for Jesus to return is a life that is realistic and achievable – God does not expect every Christian to be a Billy Graham or a Corrie Ten Boom. Every single one of us here can pray, every single one of us can forgive others, every single one of us can learn to be hospitable. In verses 10-11 Peter hammers this point home and in doing so he tells every single one of us how important we are to our local church family;

V10 “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

Every Christian in CC Riverside must be deliberate about serving. Peter unpacks this further in verse 11 by highlighting the 2 main areas that all service breaks down into; our words, and our deeds. And the wonderful thing about both of these main areas of service is that God himself provides all that we as individuals need to be able to do what God asks us to do;

“If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength that God provides.”

This is brilliant news. God gives us his words so that the preachers and the Home group leaders and the kids and youth workers and… well everyone as Christians have got exactly what they need to say to one another. Speak the bible!

And God by his Spirit gives each one of us the strength we need to do the really hard job of serving - meeting one another’s needs. Think of serving in church a bit like being a waiter or waitress at the busiest soup kitchen you have ever seen. It isn’t a glamourous job, you don’t get much thanks, the work is demanding and unrelenting, the hours are long, there are crashes and stresses and pressures everywhere BUT it is worth it because you are playing your important part in what is being achieved. And what is achieved in church is this; “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.”

 

I think in summary what God’s word is saying to each one of us as individuals this morning is that Jesus is soon coming back and so our prayers, our love, our presence, our words, our service are vital for the good of our church family because Jesus lives in his people. So don’t get tired of living lives of love but instead do so all the more urgently – because a local church filled with prayer and love and service is one walking in the footsteps of its saviour who washed his peoples feet and bled for their sin. And that is a local church that can be excited about the return of Jesus, and that can prepare the people around with the gospel so that they can look forward to it as well. The end of all things is near.

 

 

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