Sunday, July 08, 2007

How Should We Live in Light of the Coming End (Part 1 of 5)

This five-part series is the full manuscript of a sermon I will preach this Sunday at a church, here, in Southern California. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I will preach little more than half of this text.

Richard Baxter, the great theologian and Puritan preacher of 17th Century England, said this about his own preaching. "I preached as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men." This is how I feel this morning. So important, so urgent is the call within the passage we will study this morning, that I have asked God to allow me to preach as if it would be my last sermon, as if I was I dying man preaching to dying men.

I don’t care if your ears are tickled. In fact, I pray they are not, this morning. I don’t care if you walk away with a warm fuzzy feeling this morning. Do I want you to be encouraged? Of course I do. And I believe you will be. But of far greater importance to me this morning is that you come away from our time in the Word of God not only understanding it, but also determined to walk in obedience to its commands and precepts. Otherwise, we will utterly waste our time; and the confidence I have in each one of you is that none of you want to waste a moment of time.

So, with that in mind, allow me to further set the tone for our time in God’s Word, by asking the following questions. Are you expecting the Lord to return at any moment?

Are you living your life as one who expects to be in heaven, soon; or as someone who fully expects to live a very long life, here, on earth? Do you agree with the apostle Paul when he wrote, “We are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8)?

What would you really prefer: to be here, or to be in the presence of the Lord? Would a Christ-less heaven matter to you? In other words, if you could be assured of heaven without the certainty of Jesus being there, would you still want to go?

What are you doing to prepare for the Lord’s imminent return? Are you working hard to receive and enjoy as much out of this life as possible—somehow thinking that you will miss something if you don’t? Or are you devoting your time, energy, and resources preparing yourself to stand in the presence of the Lord; and, just as important, are you warning and encouraging others to do the same?

When did you last think of such things? Have you ever thought of such things? Well, we’re going to this morning. Peter gives us no choice but to consider these things, and others, as we read and study 1 Peter 4:7-11.

What we see in the first six verses of 1 Peter 4 is an urgent call for Christians to have a proper attitude toward suffering. In verses 1-2, Peter commands Christians to be armed with a proper attitude toward suffering. In verses 3-6, Peter explains that the Christian’s motivation to effectively endure suffering includes a recollection of a sinful past; the reality of the present opposition toward the Christian faith; and the future relief from what living blasphemers (if they do not repent) and dead sinners face—the wrath-filled judgment of God.

Peter then begins verse 7 with a seemingly insignificant word—so insignificant it does not appear in most English translations (even the good ones). But it is an important word. It’s the Greek word de. This little connecting word, which properly translated in the present context would read “moreover,” directly connects Christ’s victorious suffering to the Christian’s rightful willingness to suffer for Christ. We can begin verse 7 this way. "Moreover, since every Christian should anticipate the Lord’s return, because of His victorious suffering on the cross and glorious resurrection, such anticipation should have a significant impact on the way we, as Christians, live our lives."

This morning we are going to study 1 Peter 4:7-11 and try to answer the following question: How should we live in light of the coming end? God’s Word, which is always profitable, gives us three areas of thought and conduct which will help us answer the question.

In the first part of verse 7, we are given a Christian perspective. In the second part of verse 7, through the first part of verse 11, we are made aware of our Christian duty. And in the second part of verse 11, we are reminded of our Christian goal. If we live with the right Christian perspective, fulfill our Christian duty, and keep our eyes focused on our ultimate Christian goal, we can live as people ready for the coming end.

To be continued.....

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