Sermon Info:

Responsive Reading: 1 Peter 4:1-11
Key Verse(s): 1 Peter 4:7,8
Background Scripture: Matthew 10:5-16

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Introduction

In the first of our key verses for today, we will see Peter state, “the end of all things is at hand.”  This is to say that the end of all things is really close.  When people speak about the end, the thought is often taken in three different ways.  Some hear talk about the end and take it very seriously.  Others will hear talk about the end and either pay it no attention or take it lightly and mock it.

7 But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. 8 And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”

KEY VERSE – 1 PETER 4:7-8 NKJV

Me?  I take a look around at the present condition of our world and I choose to take it seriously that the end of all things is at hand.  Again, gas prices and the cost of living is out of this world high.  Hatred and wickedness, again, abounds as our society and the world seemingly tolerates it.  While I preach earnestly about the condition of the world and others labor earnestly to do something about this world, few actually listen to the calls and work for change, growth, and progress — peace.

To be frank, we live in the midst of wickedness and trouble!  I am reminded of what John the Baptist and Jesus said when they describe the world that they live in as a brood of venomous vipers (Matt. 3:7; Matt. 12:34; Luke 3:7).  You see, we still live in a world that seeks to poison and kill its prey, especially we who are a child of God!  So how does the one who truly believes in the Lord go about living in the midst of wickedness and trouble?

The Midst of Wickedness

As you have heard me say as recently as last week’s message – The Rebuild: Time to Be Better – it can be easy for us to be fearful of the world we live in.  Yet, as we know, “God has not given us the spirit of fear but of love, power, and a sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7).”  So, we already know that in the midst of wickedness, we should stand steadfast with that spirit of power, love, and a sound mind — that spirit of hope.

Hard on the believer

You and I, along with those of Peter’s day, live in the church age; this is the age of the gospel being present and ministered throughout the world.  We minister the gospel in the world today because the Lord has commissioned us to do so.  The reason for the ministering of the gospel is because we know that the end of all things is at hand – the day of the Lord’s judgment is fast approaching.

The end of all things is something that has been prophesied about since God spoke of the serpent’s defeat in the garden (Gen. 3:14-15).  I would suggest to you that the end of all things was signaled at the cross when Jesus shed His blood for the world.  God was putting the world on notice that it is time to repent because my judgment is at the front door.  So, because the day of the Lord is fast approaching, we minister to the world to get ready.

Jesus, when He described the signs of the end being near to the disciples, He stated the difficulties that the believer would face while living in the midst of wickedness (Matt. 24:3-14).  Jesus first said that many would come in His name to deceive; there are many false teachers in our world today who go out and deceive many.

Jesus then said that there would be rumors of wars and great conflict between nations and kingdoms that will come to pass (they will happen) but that we should not fear.  We have seen so much conflict in our world and we are the children and grandchildren of those who lived through world wars.  Jesus also spoke of there being famines, pestilences, and earthquakes (natural disasters) in various places.  These are, again, things that are very common in the world today.

Lastly, Jesus spoke of the spiritual condition of the world as a sign of the end of the age being near.  Jesus said that believers would be hated and persecuted for His name’s sake.  Jesus then said that lawlessness would abound and love would grow cold.

How can I and you not take the signs of the time seriously?  Some will suggest that the world has always been this way but, to me, something seems different about these days.  These days are very troubling as lawlessness certainly abounds and little love is left in the world!  These days are hard on all people, but especially difficult on those who walk for the Lord.

Ministering in this world of wickedness

Again I say to you that we are living in the midst of wickedness – lawlessness abounds and love has grown cold!  The world is so lawless that, again, we don’t take seriously the day of the Lord being at hand!  To ignore or mock the Lord’s final judgment is to not take Him or His judgment seriously – that’s very troubling.

When Jesus sent His disciples out to minister for the first time, Jesus said to them that He was sending them out as sheep in the midst of wolves (Matt. 10:16).  Sheep are innocent and helpless creatures, especially when opposed to wolves.  Wolves are highly intelligent and incredibly dangerous predators that hunt its prey in packs.

I believe that this analogy speaks again to the kind of world we live and also minister in – it is dangerous and very troubling.  The image that we have of living in the midst of wickedness, according to scripture, is living among a brood of vipers on the hunting grounds of wolves.  So, how do we go about living in the midst of wickedness that is filled with venomous vipers and wolves?  Also, how do we minister in a world that would rather tolerate wickedness and lawlessness than fear the Lord?

Following the Mindset of Christ

In his first letter, Peter gives us the answer and I believe that it is one that we know very well.  Peter advised that we should arm ourselves with the same mind of Christ who suffered for us in His service of His Father (1 Pet. 4:1); Christ, who we should remember, was the Lamb of God who lived in this world – so He was a lamb living in the midst of wolves.  It is certainly best for us to look at the frame of mind that Christ had in His approach to living among the wolves and the vipers because Christ did it the right way.

Wise as serpents and harmless as doves

Jesus advised the disciples when He sent them out to be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves (Matt. 10:16).  Think about that:  we have to be wise as a serpent in a world filled with vipers, yet we have to be like a dove in a world filled with vicious wolves?  Let’s consider this for a moment because this speaks to the approach that Christ had in this world and we need to understand this approach.

Serpents, as dangerous as they are, are also considered to be one of the most cunning and clever creatures in the world; they know when to strike and when to avoid danger.  Considering that we live among a brood of vipers that seek to do nothing but kill and destroy, the believer must know when to move and when to be patient.  With this frame of mind, Jesus was always in the right place at the right time, with a word to share that fit the moment.

Now, as for the harmless dove.  Doves have always been seen as peaceful – soft and gentle, innocent, and harmless.  When you see a dove, the last thing you are filled with is fear, right?  In a world filled with dangerous wolves and vipers, the harmless dove would be an image of relief.

Now, I want you to pay close attention to the fact that Peter was combining both of these natures together into one – the mindset of Christ.  We cannot just be the cunning serpent because the serpent’s mindset only seeks to consume and devour.  We also cannot be just the soft and gentle dove because we would eventually be overcome and destroyed.  So, we must combine these two natures of being wise and humble.  By combining these two natures, we will know when to move and how to move in this world.

Live for the will of God

Now, Christ had this mindset as He was on a mission to carry out the will of His Father.  God desired and still desires for mankind to know His mercy, salvation, and glory.

For us, to carry out the will of the Lord while being in the midst of wickedness is not an easy task.  Yes, we must do it with the wisdom of a serpent and the harmlessness of a dove, but Peter also shared some helpful advice with us that we should listen to.  Peter wrote that the believer should no longer live in the flesh for the lusts of men, but rather, for the will of God (1 Pet. 4:2).

To say that one should “no longer live in the flesh” would mean that one was once wicked.  Peter writes that some of us may have spent our days walking in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, and abominable idolatries (1 Pet. 4:3-4).  Yes, this is true, all of us who genuinely believe today were most certainly living in sin (wickedness).

However, the child of God, is no longer one of those that make up the midst of wickedness.  We live surrounded by wickedness but we are not one of the wicked ones.  Therefore, now is not the time for the child of God to conform and run with those living in wickedness!  No, we should be carrying out the Lord’s will in sharing the message of repentance and salvation in the midst of wickedness because every second that passes by is a second closer to God’s judgment.

Be prayerful in the midst of wickedness

In our key verse, Peter touched on this thought when he wrote, “the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers.”  Let’s put emphasis on the words “be serious” in this statement from Peter.

You see, unlike those who take lightly the days we live in, we should be the ones who take these days seriously and with great concern for the hearts (souls) of those around us.  Peter, again, had the day of judgment in mind when he wrote this as we see him say, “They (those living in wickedness) will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead (1 Pet. 4:5).”

Many people are sadly losing their soul while living in the midst of wickedness because they aren’t taking God’s judgment seriously.  So, we should minister with conviction in order to save a soul.  Again, let us consider Jesus, the Lamb of God, as He certainly took it very seriously to let the world know about God’s judgment.

Though He was hated and people sought His life, He never relented.  To remain strong in the midst of wickedness, Jesus would fast and often pray to the Father to help Him in carrying out His will.  With all that we are up against in this world, we too should be both watchful and prayerful as Peter advised.  Be prayerful so that you withstand all that may bring harm upon you physically, mentally, emotionally, and definitely spiritually. Being prayerful will help us to endure and persevere while living in this world of wickedness and it will also help us to do the Lord’s will.

Moving with fervent love

Lastly, with the mind of Christ in his mind, Peter advised us to move with fervent love.  This will certainly sound crazy, even to the one of faith, because how can love work in a world of vipers and wolves?  Our problem is that we underestimate the power of love – especially fervent love.  If love does not work, that would be to say that the Lord does not work because God is love.

When He was surrounded by the brood of vipers and the wolves that sought to antagonize Him and even destroy Him, Jesus moved with love and saved many souls.  The vipers and wolves view love as a weakness, but as Paul said, love never fails (1 Cor. 13:8).

Prophecies, Paul said, will eventually be fulfilled and be no more.  Speaking in tongues will eventually be nore more.  Knowledge, Paul said, would eventually pass away because this world is temporary.  However, love will never cease – it will be eternal – which is why love is the greatest of them all (1 Cor. 13:8-13).

As Peter said, the fervent love of others will “cover a multitude of sins.”  This is a thought that we see repeatedly mentioned throughout scripture.  Solomon wrote that hatred stirs up strife while love, on the other hand, covers sin (Prov. 10:12).  James echoed this same thought when he wrote that one who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sin (Jas. 5:20).

You see, this is the point for us, the true believers – saving a soul from death in the midst of wickedness!  This is why you hear me often share the message of having fervent love for one another.  We know what fervent love is able to do because of Jesus!  Jesus, the Lamb of God, is the manifestation, the expression, and the proof that love can save!

Though we were once lost in the midst of wickedness, through His love, Jesus found us and freed us from the bondage of sin (Eph. 2:1-5)! Paul said to the Ephesians, “you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world … But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”

Doing Good in the Midst of Wickedness

It may seem difficult to live and then minister in the midst of this world of wickedness but Jesus has shown us how and Peter has reminded us how to do so!

With a mind that is for Christ, we should be the light in the darkness!  With a mind that is of Christ we should run against wickedness with all hope and righteousness for the world to see.  The writer of Hebrews said it best when they encouraged us to stir up love and good works, and exhort one another as we see the Day approaching (Heb. 10:24-25) – the Day referring to the Day of the Lord – His final judgment.

To add to the thought of stirring each other up to carry forth the good work of God while we are in this world, we will see Peter encourage the believer to be hospitable to one another without grumbling.  The last thing that we ought to be to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ is an adversary!

Peter encourages us to be as good stewards of the manifold grace of God (1 Pet. 4:10).  We do this by, again, being wise as serpents and as harmless as doves.  We do this by living for the will of the Lord and carrying out His will in fervent love.  Peter encouraged us to minister with the ability that the Lord supplies us with (1 Pet. 4:11).

Doing these things will glorify the Lord in the midst of wickedness for the whole world to see.  Let us not be afraid of the time that we live in because we have been made and readied for these times.  I tell you today that we are going to make it through the midst; we are going to overcome.  God has said that we will overcome all things through our faith in Him.

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