This is the Sermon for Exaudi Sunday -- May 12. 2013 at

Shaped by the Cross Lutheran Church
Laurie, Missouri



1 Peter 4:7-11

The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Sermon for Exaudi: the Sunday after the Ascension                                                                                                                                                                                                     5/12/13

How to Face the End


My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Our topic this morning is how to live by faith. That is how Christians live. Some who call themselves Christians do not live by faith – they live out their unbelief, and call it Christian living. Christians live by what they believe, more or less consistently. No one does it perfectly, but it is part of believing in Christ and trusting the Word of God that we measure reality around us by the Word of God first, and our sense impressions second, and that we make our choices in life with the Gospel in mind, and placing our hopes and trust in God and in our redemption and forgiveness. Again, no one on earth does this perfectly, but it is part of the life of a Christian to be consciously living in the light of the truths God has revealed to us.

One of the truths that God has revealed to us is that we are living in the final days of this creation. Peter tells us in the first words of the verse of our text that “the end of all things is at hand.” Many English translations translate this phrase to mean that the end is coming soon, or is nearby. Peter actually used a word that Jesus frequently used about the Kingdom of God. When Jesus said “The kingdom of God is at hand,” He meant that it was there already, among the people, with Him, by virtue of His presence. So, when I read Peter saying that “the end of all things is at hand”, I read Peter saying that it was already there, and they were involved in the end. And if they were involved, how much more are we? Our sermon theme this morning, then, is “How to Face the End”.

Peter wrote probably 1,960-some years ago. If they were caught up in the end of all things that long ago, our reason would tell us that it should be over by now! Thinking like that, others have jumped to the conclusion that Peter didn’t know what he was talking about, or that his ‘eschatological expectations’ were misinformed, and in error. In other words, Peter was wrong. The end was not nearby – and they were surely not wrapped up in the very endtimes.

If Peter was wrong, then so are we, if we take Peter seriously. But Peter was writing by inspiration, according to our faith, and so he could not be wrong. We must be living in the very end of time. The end of all things is very near, and we are, in fact, living in the midst of them. Think about it. What is the Last Day, according to Scriptures? It is Judgment Day. But Judgment Day was the day that God judged and punished our sins, and condemned us to hell for our rebellion. And that day was Good Friday. That was the day sentence was pronounced and the wrath of God was poured out on our sins.

Only we didn’t bear it. Jesus did. He was the One on whom the wrath of God was poured, on whom the sentence pronounced. He took our sins – He became sin for us who knew no sin of His own, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. He was punished and died in awful agony. Because He is true God, His suffering was not limited to that six hours on the cross – as awful as that six hours was – but as God lives outside of time and in eternity, Jesus suffered in eternity for our sins, as well.

Since the Day of Judgment has passed, we are living in the very midst of the end of all things. That final day, which everyone kind of thinks of as “Judgment Day” is the day that the judgment of God is made public. On that Day, the Day of the Resurrection of All Flesh, God will proclaim to all of mankind – and, indeed, all of creation – just exactly who are His children and who are His enemies. I dare say, there will be some surprises – but everyone will recognize by God’s power that the Judgment of God is right. And we who believe will finally witness with joy and great glory the end of all things of this creation completed.

But we are in the middle of that end of all things even now, although nothing seems to have changed. But everything has changed, and is changing! The truth is that the change is like melting butter in your microwave. Have you ever watched it? It sits there, seemingly unaffected by the microwaves for most of the time you are ‘nuking’ it. Then, all of a sudden, it just collapses into a puddle of melted butter. The end of all things is like that, in some sense.

It is not the things around that are supposed to change at this particular moment in history. We are supposed to change. God makes it happen by His Word preached, and by the Holy Spirit at work through the Word. He changes us – and then He exhorts us to recognize that change and to deliberately live it out and live in the light of what it means for all of creation. In other words, Peter is giving us direction as to how to face the end.

Peter writes, “therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint.

Since we are living in the midst of the end of all things, we should live deliberately, fully aware of that truth, and we should be living like we know what is real and what is not, what is important and what is not. We should not be blinded by the world’s values or agendas, but we should be of sound judgment. We are asked to live out the reality of the end of all things by facing the truth that these thing are about to end, and we can only use them as temporary and highly disposable things. Our treasures are not treasures – they are cheap baubles, soon to cease to exist altogether. Our wealth is a deceit of the world, good only for using in the passing world for God’s purposes. Our time is a phantom. We think we have years of it ahead, but we really only have now. Our concern is rightly what needs to be done now?

And if you knew that you were to die tonight – no doubts, and no questions asked – what would you do today? If this was your last day on earth – because there was going to be no earth tomorrow – Where would you begin? I hope to think that it would be with prayer. Partying and having a good time would surely take a back seat to humbling yourself before God, asking God to forgive you, asking God to guide you, asking God to bless and save all of those around you. Peter tells you to face the truth, the sobering reality that we are in the midst of the end of all things, so that you will keep your wits about you, face the reality of the situation, and pray. The real challenge about it is that we cannot maintain that excitement of expectation all that long at one time. Even if you could see it coming, physically, after a while it would just become another fact of life and we would lose our passion about it until the very end. Peter wrote that it is ‘the very end’, now!

Now think about it, if you knew that it was the end for everyone else, you would desperately try to rescue your loved ones. You might reach out for your friends. I hope you would want to gather with God’s people here and encourage one another as we awaited welcoming our Lord. Well, that very reasonable behavior is what Peter encourages in our text. We don’t panic, as all of the ‘end-of-the-world’, doomsday movies predict everyone would do. We know what is happening, and what is coming, and how we are going to deal with it, survive it, and come out on the other end. We have no reason for panic.

But we do have reason to prepare, and encourage one another as we see the end approach, and use the time remaining to give it one last great effort to accomplish what God has given us to do, love one another and share the good news of the hope of salvation within us with those who are also facing the end, however unknowingly.

Again, Peter writes, “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” That is the exhortation both because of the human nature’s trouble with holding on to love, and because we all need it. Anger and hatred are so natural and easy. That is the flesh, sinful. But we are commanded to “love one another”. Love teaches us to forgive, just as you put up with things from your family that you would never tolerate in a stranger. If you love someone, you are patient, kind, forgiving. Surely you would not let some irritation of the moment be the cause of the destruction of someone you love. You would forgive them, and help them.

God encourages us, through Peter, to “keep fervent in our love for one another”. “Keep fervent”, Peter says, “because love covers a multitude of sins.” It covers my sins, when for the sake of love, you overlook my casual weaknesses and occasional blunders and forgive me, when you think I need forgiveness. It works just like how the love of Jesus Christ covers your sins. He counts you as holy and perfect, in spite of your many obvious imperfections, and without regard for the sins you commit daily.

Then, part of that sound judgment includes this “hospitality” Peter speaks about, “Be hospitable to one another without complaint.” In the ancient world, hospitality meant more than simply “making nice” with someone. When someone came into your home, or under your hospitality, their comfort, their well-being, even their protection from evil befalling them became your duty while they were with you. That is why Lot offered His daughters to the men of Sodom rather than allow them to disgrace or abuse the angelic visitors. As much as he loved his daughters, he could not allow those under his hospitality to suffer shame or worse.

We are to “be hospitable to one another without complaint”. We are to take one another in, shelter one another, protect one another. We are family, and the world out there, however it make appear to us at the moment, is the servant of our mortal enemy. We need one another to watch our backs in these last and dangerous days.

And because it is almost the end of time, or, rather, we are living in the midst of the very end of time, Peter exhorts us to do what God gives us to do by His power – and to do everything we do as though we are doing it for God and as though time were running out very quickly. “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Our goal is that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. He has purchased us at a tremendous price. He has sought us out and called each one of us by name. He has made us to be His people, and forgiven us all of our sins. We are His glory, and we show that glory forth when we live as His people, talk as His people, pray as His people, love as His people – that is, when we love as He loved us, and when we trust Him implicitly. These things are all part of that sound judgment and sober spirit Peter mentioned at first. We live as those who know that the end is not just near, but happening around us.

What God gives you – time, talents, gifts and abilities, or wealth – He gives you for the purpose of serving your neighbor in these last and perilous days. Serving one another, and serving those who are our neighbors, is how we serve God. We speak His truth as though it was the very Word of God entrusted to us - because it is! We serve one another as though that was the purpose for our strength and our talents - because it is! We use what God has entrusted to us as steward s of God’s things, God’s talents – “Talent on loan from God,” as Rush Limbaugh says – not as though our talents and our wealth were things we have created in and of ourselves for our personal enrichment and influence, but as though it were something entrusted to us to earn a profit for our Master - because it is! We are made Christ’s people by God and gifted with all that we have and all that we can do to serve God by helping one another make it to the finish line, to be faithful into death so that we may receive that crown of life and to give God the profit of souls won by hearing the good news of His love and grace and salvation.

The final ingredient is not named explicitly, but it is part of that sound judgment. It is not the last thing, actually, but the first thing – I have just saved speaking about it to the end. It is to trust God. Trust His love. Trust His forgiveness. Trust Him that everything is in His hands for good and for blessing and for salvation. Your sins are forgiven, and God tells us quite directly that He loves us! That faith is what enables us to live out the rest of this deliberate Christianity.

There is an urgency about all of this because “the end of all things is at hand”. We are living as the world is ending. What we leave undone will be unfinished when it over. If we believe God’s Word, we cannot live otherwise that to live in the light of this truth. This text is all about living the life appointed for Christ’s people - in other words, it is about how to face the end.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

(Let the people say Amen)


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