Anticipating the Return of Christ
INTRODUCTION: Something about the brevity of time introduces both urgency and simplicity into life.
During World War II, Sir Winston Churchill encouraged and supported the people of Britain through endless dark hours. On one occasion sensing the people were losing heart, Churchill stood in Parliament and said:
“This is not the end. This is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
In Matthew 24:6, 8 Jesus said the same thing to His disciples, “And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. All these are the beginning of sorrows.”
In I Peter 4:7, Peter writes, “But the end of all things is at hand…” We live in the very shadow of eternity.”
Living in the light of the Lord’s return does wonders for your perspective.
If you realize one day you will give an account for every idle word and action when you stand before the Lord Jesus, it does amazing things to your conduct.
If you realize at any moment you could die or Jesus could return, it would make you realize how many needless activities you get involved in on this earth.
Before Peter met the Saviour, his life consisted of boats, nets, fish, lots of things, supporting a family, lots of hard work,…and then he met the Master.
Consequently for Peter, life was not meant to be talked about, but lived out. If an urgent situation demanded action, Peter cut through the bureaucratic red tape and got down to business.
Remember, Peter is dealing with suffering saints, who can see no relief in sight. So, Peter gives some direct commands, notice them again as we read I Peter 4:7-11,
“But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. (8) And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. (9) Use hospitality one to another without grudging. (10) As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. (11) If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
This simple, direct, no beating around the bush, text offers four commands and one goal to those of us who live nearer than ever to Jesus Christ’s return.
FIRST, he commands us: “Use good judgment and stay calm in a spirit of prayer.” Verse 7, “Be sober, and watch unto prayer.” Be sober means to “Be of sound judgment; Be calm.” Today we might say, “Don’t panic; stay cool; don’t be filled with anxiety.” Face life realistically, God is in control.
This e-mail has made its rounds,
“Good Morning, this is God, I will be handling all of your problems today. I will not need your help. So, relax and have a great day! If the devil happens to deliver a situation to you that you cannot handle, DO NOT ATTEMPT to resolve it. Kindly put it in the SFJTD BOX – meaning – Something For Jesus To Do! Once the matter is placed into the box, do not hold onto it or attempt to remove it. Holding on or removal will delay the resolution to the problem. If it is a situation that you think you are capable of handling, please consult ME in prayer to be sure it is the proper resolution. Because I do not sleep nor do I slumber, there is no need for you to lose any sleep. Rest, my child. If you need to contact Me, I am only a prayer away. Love, Your Heavenly Father.”
“Sober” means to be in control of one’s passions, avoiding the extremes of wild speculation or morbid depression.
The sober-minded saint will have a purposeful life and not be drifting; he will exercise restraint and not be impulsive. He will have “sound judgment” not only about doctrine, but also about the practical affairs of life.
If you want to make the best use of “the rest of your time you have to live,” then live in the light of the return of Jesus Christ. The secret to maintaining that balance and calmness is PRAYER.
We don’t need to parade through town wearing a big signboard that says “REPENT! THE END IS NEAR!”
We don’t have to get up and make a spiritual idiot of ourselves before a watching world that already thinks we are crazy.
Peter says to “Be calm, in the spirit of prayer.” There is nothing, quite like prayer, to sharpen our awareness, to keep us alert, to make us more discerning, and yet to remind us who has the controls.
Prayer calms your anxious spirit.
Prayer reminds you God has everything in control.
The word “watch” means to “stand guard,” stay alert as you pray. The phrase “watch and pray” is found in Mark 13:33 where Jesus said, “Take ye heed, watch and pray; for ye know not when the time is.”
Jesus also used these words in the Garden of Gethsemane when He said unto Peter, “Simon, sleepest thou? Couldest not thou watch one hour? Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation, the spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.” That’s why Peter could add these words to his letter with a real sense of understanding.
Prayer allowed Jesus to submit to His arrest and crucifixion.
The lack of prayer made Peter deny ever knowing the Lord.
This kind of praying is nigh time praying.
Pray and beg God for the strength to withstand the evil in the daytime.
Prayer at night that calls upon God to give strength for the work we do for him in the day time.
SECOND, he commands us: “Stay fervent in love for one another.” Verse 8, “And above all things, have FERVENT love among yourselves; for love shall cover the multitude of sins.”
The word “fervent” speaks of determination, or intensity. It is used to describe athletes straining to reach the tape at the finish line, or stretching high enough to clear the high bar.
Here Peter tells us we are to stretch out ourselves in love. Christian love is something at which we have to work. If there is ever a time when we need to stay close, it is today. This is the time to stick together.
Don’t waste precious time criticizing other Christians.
Don’t waste time criticizing another church or some pastor.
Don’t waste your time in brother or sister smashing; spend your time building up one another, stretch yourself in love.
Notice how the verse begins, “ABOVE ALL,” meaning above all else. How about expressing that love in a very tangible way this week?
Maybe someone needs a call to say you have missed them.
Maybe someone needs a visit to say you are thinking of them.
Maybe someone needs a letter of encouragement. I so appreciate those kinds of letters from time to time.
If there’s ever a time to stretch out our love one to another, it’s during the end times, it’s NOW! What stands out most in our church ought to be HOW WE LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
And what is it that reveals this love? Forgiveness!!! When Peter says that “love covers a multitude of sins” he’s alluding to the principle found in the following verses:
Proverbs 10:12, “Hatred stirs up strife: but love covereth all sins.”
I Corinthians 13:7, “Love beareth (literally covers) all things…”
James 5:20 “…he which converteth the sinner from the error of his ways shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.”
Love does not CONDONE sin. If we love somebody, we will be grieved to see him or her sin and hurt themselves and others.
Rather, love COVERS sin in that love motivates us to hide the sin from others and not spread it abroad.
No one can hide his sins from God, but believers ought to try, in love, to cover each other’s sins at least from the eyes of the unsaved, who would love nothing better than to spread something bad about a Christian.
Nothing is a more compelling witness than the love and unity Christians exhibit toward one another.
Nothing is more encouraging than to know something about another individual and to keep your mouth shut about it.
Nothing is more disturbing or destructive to the body of believers than to see strife in the church.
Don’t think the unsaved aren’t watching when we BASH and SMASH our brothers and sisters in Christ.
They love it when we can’t get along with each other. It makes news. They love to quote one Christian who is after another Christian.
Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian nationalist leader, once said, “I like your Christ, but I don’t like your Christians…they are so unlike your Christ.” What a rebuke. I deeply regret that his words are so often true! And what is Christ like? He is characterized by love and forgiveness. How important that we stretch fervently to love and forgive each other. And that we should start right now.
THIRD, he commands us: “Be hospitable toward one another.” Verse 9, “Use hospitality one to another without grudging.” Please underscore several words.
1. The words “one another” are the same words Peter used in verse 8 and 10. They are the same words used in the New Testament some 49 times. They refer to all who are in the body of Christ, even the unlovely and unfriendly.
2. Notice that little phrase tacked onto the end of verse 9 “without grudging.” It means without complaining. What do you complain about when it comes to hospitality?
Do you complain about the time and trouble it takes? Do you complain about the energy it requires to invite someone into your home and entertain them and the expense you incur and the mess they leave for you to clean up?
Hospitality takes effort and planning, and it interrupts your privacy. But hospitality is never a problem when love opens the DOOR. Someone said, “True love is a splendid host.”
Push back the walls of family love until they include the neighbor.
Push back the walls of family love until they include the stranger.
Push back the walls until they comprehend the foe.
There is something about hospitality that disarms an enemy.
Are you hospitable, I mean, really hospitable? Let’s get down to where the rubber meets the road on this point.
Have you ever thought of opening your home to a traveling preacher, evangelist or college music team? If not, why not sign up to open your home? I believe this would do wonders for your home.
Have you ever thought of opening your home to members of our church, inviting several at a time, just to get to know them over coffee and ice cream? If not, why not start this week? I believe it would do wonders for our ministry.
Have you ever thought of opening up your home to your neighbors to invite them over for a meal, to get to know them and eventually present the gospel to them? If not, why not do more than think about it? Plan to do it. Who knows, but that neighbor is waiting and ready, not only for an invitation, but also for the gospel.
Over the years, starting with my parents, our home has been opened to preachers, college presidents, traveling college teams, missionaries, and evangelists. We have often said they have been more of a blessing to us than we were to them. It has also been a blessing for our children to meet so many of the Lord’s servants over the years.
FOURTH, he commands us: “Keep serving one another.” Verses 10-11a, “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. (11) If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth…”
As believers, everyone has at least one gift. Spiritual gifts are special abilities God has given the body of Christ with which we minister until He returns.
Each gift we have needs to be used in serving one another. Follow me as we read several passages that speak of these gifts, and as we do, examine your own life in the light of them. Here are some for example:
In I Corinthians 12:28-30 we read, “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. (29) Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? (30) Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?”
In Romans 12:6-8 we read, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; (7) Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; (8) Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.”
Make a list of these gifts and then ask yourself, “Where do I best fit in this list?” If you don’t find your gift right away,
Keep looking, keep praying about receiving insight.
Ask other Christians, what they think your gifts are.
When your gift has been identified, put it into action, start serving others.
But notice the warning at the end of verse 11, “if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth…”
When we serve, we shouldn’t be doing so for the applause we desire, but for the “Glory that God will receive.”
All these gifts have one thing in common. They come alive in serving other people. Think of it this way – when we employ our spiritual gifts:
Other are encouraged, and
Others gain fresh hope.
FIFTH, there is a goal to pursue. Verse 11 ends with a purpose clause that reveals the logical reason we should obey these four commands.
Why stay calm and pray?
Why be fervent in love, proving that love with forgiveness?
Why demonstrate hospitality to the saints?
Why serve one another?
Here it is, “…that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever, and ever, Amen.” In everything, God gets the glory.
How many church conflicts could be solved if God’s glory were everyone’s goal?
How many egos would be put in their place if God’s glory, not human glory was at stake?
How many programs would be run in the power of prevailing prayer instead of wasting so much time in the human energy of committee meetings, if God’s glory were at stake?.
When we keep HIS GLORY uppermost in our minds, it’s amazing how much else falls into place.
Since He gets the glory, we’re more comfortable leaving the results with him in His time.
Since He gets the glory, our umbrella of love expands to cover the sins and faults of others.
Since He gets the glory, it’s easier for us to show hospitality to others, for we are ultimately serving Him.
Since He gets the glory, exercising our spiritual gifts is not a pain, but a privilege.
Folks, the benefits are endless when the glory goes to God!
Let me bring this message to a close by bringing you back to a comment I made at the beginning. TIME IS SHORT. You and I don’t have forever to put things into action.
Whatever it takes to remind us of the urgency of the hour, let’s do it! Remember time is short.
Paul said in Ephesians 5:14-16, “Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise. Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”
Need a little encouragement to get started NOW? Here is a tremendous promise from Hebrews 6:10, “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have showed toward His name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.”
Your effort is not in vain.
Your love will not be overlooked.
Your ministry whatever it includes, will be rewarded.
In the process, keep your eyes on the “Great Shepherd” and your heart open to His people. Remember, He gets all the Glory!
If God has spoken to your heart after reading the sermon “Anticipating the Return of Christ” right now talk to God about what He has spoken to you.
Do you have the assurance that one day you will go to heaven? If you have no assurance that you know Jesus Christ, then I trust you will decide to accept Him as your personal Savior. The Bible tells us in
Acts 16:31, “…Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…”
Romans 10:13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
This prayer is here for those who need to ask Jesus to be their personal Savior: “I do want to go to Heaven. I know I am a sinner, and I do believe Jesus Christ died for me. I realize I cannot buy this great salvation, nor can I earn it. Knowing Jesus died on the cross and arose from the grave to pay my sin debt and to purchase my salvation, I do now trust Him as my Savior, and from this moment on I am completely depending on Him for my salvation.”
If you made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, please let me know. Please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you some literature that will help you in your Christian life.
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