Summary: While knowing what your gift might be is helpful; God gets the glory when we use it. Because the end is near, bend your ear and hear these four calls of commitment.
Jumping in to Ministry
Rev. Brian Bill
After watching the game last Sunday afternoon, I realized that the end is near for the beloved Packers. I received an email from a Bears backer that went like this: “…May I suggest a couple of topic ideas for next week’s sermon? ‘Not putting the cart before the horse,’ or ‘humility.’” Another member, who is theologically astute and a bit more gracious, wrote: “It kind of feels like being in captivity in Babylon but without any prophecy from Jeremiah saying it’s going to end.” And it has not ended for me. I still needed to do ten pushups in front of the high school as part of a wager and thought I could get out of it until Bill Reynolds saw me last night at the Band Showdown and made me drop to the ground. It was kind of hard to say no because he was in uniform. On Sunday night someone dropped off an old Packer Hat with a note that said, “This hat is from Christopher’s brief Packer days, when he was young and foolish.” When I came into work on Tuesday this paper bag was taped to my office door. It’s hard to read but the words “shame mask” appear at the top and “Brett who?” at the bottom. I can tell you that eating green and gold socks left a lot to be desired.
Indeed, the end sure does seem near for the dear Packers. And it’s probably the end of my Packer backer talk from the pulpit…at least until next year. Last week I mentioned the persecution I experience but it’s obvious that I bring it all on myself. In the book of 1 Peter we read of Christians who were being persecuted for their faith. Look at 1 Peter 4:12: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.” And verse 16: “However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.”
I’d like us to begin this morning with some words that are both encouraging and challenging in 1 Peter 4:7: “The end of all things is near…” This has nothing to do with a football team but is a sober reminder that things are coming to a conclusion in God’s redemptive history. Jesus will return and we better be ready. Some of us are so weighed down with worry and so tied to our troubles that we don’t even think about the coming of Christ. Jesus warned us about this in Luke 21:34: “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.” While I believe the return of Christ is close, even if He does not return in our lifetimes, each of us is near the end of our own lives, relatively speaking. James 4:14: “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”
Five years ago this week our entire country was well aware that the end of all things was very near. We were terrified by the terrorist attacks and wondered when the next one would come. Americans filled churches, started reading their Bibles, and seemed to genuinely want to change. Unfortunately, a recent Barna survey shows “that despite an intense surge in religious activity and expression in the weeks immediately following 9/11, the faith of Americans is virtually indistinguishable today compared to pre-attack conditions” (www.barna.org). The leader of the study put it this way: “Spiritually speaking, it’s as if nothing significant ever happened.”
Whether the rapture happens this afternoon, terrorists strike tonight, or we die in an accident tomorrow, our time here is short. Because of that, we must live with a sense of sober urgency. It’s time for the church to wake from its slumber and to be done with a casual and convenient Christianity! 1 Thessalonians 5:6 says: “So then, let us not be like the others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.” In light of the brevity of life, how then should believers live? Peter asks a similar question in 2 Peter 3:10-11: “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar…Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives.”
Let’s come back to 1 Peter 4:7 and notice the word “therefore.” Because the end of all things is near, we can’t just keep living like we’ve been living. Robert McCheyne, the 19th Century Scottish minister, once said: “Let nothing dim the eye that is looking upon eternal realities.” Since the end is near, what are the most important things we should be doing? If you knew you only had a month to live, how would you spend your time? In our passage for today Peter reduces the Christian life to four clarion calls. We could say it this way: Since the end is near, bend your ear and hear these four calls of commitment. We’ll go through the first three rather rapidly and spend the majority of our time on the fourth one.