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Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1303

May 21, 2017 1 Peter 4:7-11

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)

 

 

“Exilic Attitude”

 

 

Our last three Sundays we have spent time in 1 Peter, a letter to exiles, exploring what Peter taught about living in exile. What kind of attitude and conduct should Christians have and how we might consider ourselves in a cultural and national exile as the church. Exile is characteristically a physical displacement, but we have also spoken about spiritual and emotional displacement. We notice that we don’t fit into our national picture like we once did. But we also recognize that even when we may have trusted that we “fit” into the formation and maintenance of these United States, we are still sojourners and pilgrims in this world. Paul reminds us that we are citizens in heaven and our real home will not be known until we see Jesus face to face and take our place in the room that he has prepared.

 

Until then, until Christ returns to take us home, we can learn from 1 Peter the exilic life of faith and hope. In chapter one we learned how we can take comfort in God’s word when we are displaced in any way. In chapter 2 we focused on being free in Christ our Lord. And last Sunday, 1 Peter 3 helped us see that our devotion is totally to Christ and part of that devotion is reflected in our preparation to give a defense of the hope that is within us.

 

Today we will spend our time in 1 Peter 4:7-11, in the ESV we read,

 

7The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: 11whoever 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.

 

 

  • The End At Hand (7The end of all things is at hand)

 

Peter begins verse 7 with “the end of all things is at hand”. I liken this to when Jesus came on the scene with his first sermon, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mat. 3:2). That is, the kingdom has arrived! It has arrived in the person of Jesus Christ. Peter is announcing that everything has come to completion – Christ has died and has risen, He has ascended and the Holy Spirit has come. Everything for salvation has already occurred and therefore Christ’s return is at hand, ready, any day, any time. It was true in Peter’s day and it has been true with every generation since. It is true for us today – the time is at hand. But Peter does not tell them or us to sell everything we have and move to the mountaintop to await Jesus’ coming. Instead, he continues to exhort the exiles to conduct themselves in a manner that reflects the hope we have within us. Christ may return at any time, so how shall we live? We are exiles in this world, so how shall we live?

In one sense the Bible tells us the answer throughout its pages. Love God and neighbor. Follow Jesus by taking up our cross daily. Obey God’s word. Make disciples of all nations. Worship the Lord. We are constantly learning our way in this world through God’s word. Exiles view the world, whether at home or displaced, through the command of God. We are, and have been for some time, seeking to discern how to live in a nation that has drastically changed over the last few decades. Part of it is technology, part of it is modernity in general, part of it is the growing opposition to the Christian faith in our “Christian” nation, but as we see more and more globally, believers have always been under threat in one form or another and much more severely than we have ever known.

 

At whatever level of opposition Christians may face, we all seek answers in how we shall live. One of the great Psalms of exile is Psalm 137, Israel laments it’s exile:

By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. 2 On the willows there we hung up our lyres. 3 For there our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” 4 How shall we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land?

 

Remembering home is a sad time when one is in exile. Those who drove Israel from their home required them, probably mockingly, to sing their songs of home. “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” That is the question. How shall we sing? Or we might ask, how shall we live? Israel realized they must sing, they had to sing in order to remember their home, to remember their God.


5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill! 6 Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy!

 

Home for Israel is the home of God. It is synonymous to remember God by remembering Jerusalem. For Israel, one of the ways to remember how to live for God is to sing the songs of God. We do the same thing. It is why we worship through song. Our songs remind us each Sunday that our home is with God. Our exile is over when we find our place with Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

One of my favorite phrases from The Message is paraphrased in Psalm 62:7-8, My help and glory are in God —granite-strength and safe-harbor-God— So trust him absolutely, people; lay your lives on the line for him. God is a safe place to be.

 

God is a safe place to be. You’ve heard that phrase that home is where the heart is, well, home is where God is. Exiles are most exiled when separated from God. No matter where we are or our condition related to our culture and nation, we are always closer to home the closer we are to God.

 

Now Peter gives us a few specifics about staying close to God and we are going to look at three: prayer, love, and gifts for God’s glory.

 

 

 

  • A Prayerful People (therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.)

 

The end of all things is near, therefore...control yourself and think straight for the sake of your prayers. This assumes exiles are a prayerful people. Keep your wits about you so that you can pray sensibly and wisely. Look how Peter writes this, the end is at hand, therefore...because the end is near we need to pray. In fact, the end at hand is an encouraging word to prayer! Jesus has completed everything, fulfilled the purpose of God for salvation. Thank God for that. Because of that, we pray. We pray wisely, not haphazardly and without sober thinking. Prayer should be attentive. By that I mean to say that we pay close attention to what is going on in the world and in the Word so that we can pray over all things with the wisdom of God’s word.

We can let the scriptures feed our prayers. This is why I encourage you to read scripture as a part of your prayers. When you have the time and place to sit, kneel, or bow before the Lord, read the a Psalm or some other scripture of your liking and let that text inform how you pray for that time. This will allow us even more to pray in self-controlled and sober-minded ways.

 

 

  • Above All – Love (8Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.)

 

Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus set this command above all others when asked what is the greatest commandment. Paul spoke about love as a more excellent way above all spiritual gifts. John writes that God is love in 1 John. God’s love is most deeply expressed in John 3:16. There is an overwhelming revelation of God’s steadfast love throughout the Old Testament. Turn with me to Psalm 136,

 

Each verse can be divided into two parts, a statement about God or His work, followed by the refrain of His steadfast love.

 

Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

4 to him who alone does great wonders,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
5 to him who by understanding made the heavens,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
6 to him who spread out the earth above the waters,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
7 to him who made the great lights,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
8 the sun to rule over the day,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
9 the moon and stars to rule over the night,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;

 

 

Above all, love. The Psalm demonstrates how God’s love is above all things: creation, exodus, salvation, and His provision.

 

Paul says the same as Peter when Paul shares the attributes we should put on our lives:

 

 

Colossians 3:12-17 12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

 

Peter’s point is that we learn the art of love above all because love is the basis of God’s activity toward us and our response to God and one another – love.

 

  • Gifts Given for the Glory of God (10As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: 11whoever 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.)

     

Exiles are encouraged to pray, love, and to serve from the gifts God has given. First let’s understand that God has given gifts. God has given graces. Secondly, each one, every one, has received a gift or gifts or varied graces. Third, every gift is exercised completely by the strength that God supplies. There is nothing we do on our own. God is the source of our gifts and the power to exercise them. Here, Peter only mentions two in particular, speaking and service. Of course those terms could include anything that involves our voices, from singing to preaching. Service could include anything that we do for someone else as a servant or also, for God. But the real purpose of this section is the main goal which is to bring glory to God. Good song? Thank the Lord. Good sermon? Thank the Lord. Good casserole dish? Thank the Lord.

 

None of this is new for us. We have always known that we are to pray and love and serve, but perhaps the message to consider is in the context of exile, if we had not considered that before, that we are encouraged to do in exile what we would be doing at home. We do in displaced positions the same things we do in the normal life as a Christian. For a long time now the church in America has been trying to figure out its role and identity in a culture that has moved severely away from the Christian values once practiced by most Americans. If anything, exile drives God’s people to deeper love and deeper prayer and greater service and all to the glory of God. It is true that we sometimes grow complacent in service and love and prayer and other disciplines of the faith. It sometimes takes a crisis or a challenge for us to take seriously what God has called us to be and do. Exile is such a crisis. The time is now to be self-controlled and sober-minded in prayer. The time is now to be loving above all else. The time is now to serve one another and God by His strength for the sake of God’s glory. Yes, the end of all things is at hand, the end has been at hand since Peter first penned these words, and the task before us is no different than it was 2,000 years ago – pray, love, serve and do it all to God’s glory. Amen.