In this passage, the apostle Peter issues a call to Christians everywhere to live in such a way that their prayers are unleashed by self-control and sober minded thoughtfulness; they are to overcome sin by loving one another vigorously as they invite and welcome even the dirtiest of society into relationship without complaining; they are to be faithful stewards of God’s gracious gifts as they speak for God, serve in God’s strength and bring attention to God in Christ as the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Here is how Peter says it…
1 PETER 4:7 – 11
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.
When I think about Peter’s call to live, love and serve in the way he describes it, I honestly begin to feel a little uncomfortable. My life is not always characterized by self-control or sober mindedness. Sometimes the chaos of my own inconsistency and the lure of the pleasures of this world wreak havoc on my prayer life.
I have my days where I just want to hide out in the corner of my garage in my own little bubble away from all of society. Sometimes, I even catch myself complaining about other people and the last thing I want to do is use my talents to serve one more person who probably is not going to return the same reciprocal investment into me.
Do you ever find yourself in some these really dark places? Ever find yourself fighting a losing battle with the chaos and the pleasures of this world; struggling to even pray on a daily basis? Ever give in to the temptation to stop lovingly inviting and welcoming even the dirtiest of society into relationship with you? How often have you complained about other people’s shortcomings while refusing to invest the time, talent and treasure into others, that God has called you to, while you hide out in your own little bubble?
What do you do when you slip into these sinful rhythms? What’s the remedy for this kind of sin? Peter’s shot in the arm is a reminder that the end is near. How about that? The end is near! That’s the shot in the arm that Peter gives right up front to those of us who are in the emergency room struggling to live, love and serve.
1: REALIZE THAT THE END IS NEAR (V. 7)
Peter’s exact words are, 7The end of all things is at hand. Why would Peter start out this way? Why would Peter draw our attention to the end being near as the first shot in the arm to heal the sickness of sin that has infected our ability to live, love and serve as God has called us to?
I think the reason that Peter starts here, at the end, is because he doesn’t just have a vision of judgement day for God’s enemies, like many of us are so prone to jump to, but I actually think that Peter has a vision of the gospel in mind when he states that the end of all things is at hand.
Quite simply, Peter knows that the end is near because the cross has won our citizenship in Heaven; the empty tomb has defeated our enemies (Satan, Sin, Death); and Christ is returning soon to take his bride home to eternal perfection and peace. So, when Peter says that the end of all things is near, he’s saying that the gospel of the crucified, risen and returning Savior is the shot that we need to cure our sin-sickness. So, with that in mind, how are we to live? We are to live like Christ.
2: LEARN TO LIVE LIKE CHRIST (V. 7)
Peter says it this way, 7The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be self-controlled and sober minded for the sake of your prayers. In light of Christ’s finished work at the cross, the empty tomb and his promised return, we are not just called but we are enabled to live a prayerful life that is overflowing with self-control and sober mindedness. A lack of self-control, a life of undisciplined chaos, a mind that is intoxicated with the wants and the desires of this life, destroys the regular disciplined rhythms of a peace-filled prayer life.
When you study the life of Christ you see him constantly resisting the chaos and the worldly desires as he pulls away from the crowds for periodic times of refreshing prayer; even in the garden of Gethsemane on the night before his crucifixion, he is kneeling down in sweet fellowship and communion with his Father. To live like Christ is to unleash the power of unshackled prayer in the midst of a chaotic and intoxicated world. And not only that, but we are called and enabled to love like Christ.
3: LEARN TO LOVE LIKE CHRIST (VV. 8 – 9)
Peter says it this way when he says, 8Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. It is no secret that loving people is hard, but Peter is saying here that if we know that Christ’s work at the cross and the empty tomb actually assures us of his impending rescue into eternal peace once and for all, then we are free to love like Christ.
We are free to cover a multitude of sins as we vigorously love the worst of society and even our enemies by not just inviting them but also welcoming them into relationship without complaining. Is not this what Christ has actually done for each of us? Did he not come to you and I when we were his enemies, when we were filthy in our sin, when we were cheating on him with other lovers? Did he not go to the cross with joy in his heart as the ultimate expression of his love that would cover the multitude of our sins? Did he not invite and welcome us in?
What better motivation do we need for loving others like Christ has loved us? It is the cross, the empty tomb and the promised return of Christ that will enable you and I to overcome a multitude of sin as we love the worst of society and even our enemies by inviting and welcoming them into relationship with us. And once we are in loving relationship with others we are called and enabled to serve them like Christ.
4: LEARN TO SERVE LIKE CHRIST (VV. 10 – 11)
Peter says it this way when he says, 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.
Serving people can get tiring but I know a Savior who tied a towel around his waste at the cross and he served us by washing us with his blood. Jesus destroyed our enemies at the empty tomb when we were too weak to resist the onslaught of accusations, temptations and doom of death. Jesus gave us the promise of his return to keep us steady and hope-filled in the face of the horrors of this life.
Because of the cross, the empty tomb and the promised return of Christ, you and I can serve the most unlovable and even our enemies with the gifts and the talents that God has given us. We can pour ourselves out in faith in the crucified, risen and returning Savior as we give away our time, our talent and our treasure for the sake of building the Kingdom of God. We can serve like Christ as we speak for Christ in the power of the risen Christ so that all the world may know that he is the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
When you and I feel weary and alone; when you and I are struggling with sin; when Satan accuses and condemns; when the stench of death frightens us and taunts us; when it feels like the horrors of this life will never end; when our prayer lives get interrupted by the chaos and the intoxicating lure of sin; when unlovable people sin against us and wound us deeply; when you and I survey the world we live in as outcasts who have been chosen by God and scattered throughout the world… we can trust that the cross and the empty tomb and the promised return of our Savior marks the impending end of this pain-filled, sin-soaked, life.
You and I can live like Christ, love like Christ and serve like Christ because the shadow of the bloody cross and the doorway of the empty tomb and the promise of Heaven are all we need to live, love and serve like Christ knowing the end of all things is near. – Amen!
1 Unless otherwise specified, all Bible references in this paper are to the English Standard Version Bible, The New Classic Reference Edition (ESV) (Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, 2001).