Peter dropped a bombshell on the early church: “Everything’s about to end…” (I Pet. 4.7). For those early Christians, that meant death was close. Our natural reaction when facing imminent death is usually panic, followed by desperate attempts at self-preservation. History (even recent history) has shown us humanity’s trend when faced with potential calamity.
So, what does God expect us to do when we face the end? We’ll look at I Peter 4 for answers.
Be reasonable and self-controlled for the sake of our prayers (7). God can’t work with us when we’re freaking out.
Love each other with dedication (8). Love hides mistakes, and we’re full of them. When everything falls apart, we have to lean on each other.
Take care of each other without complaining (9).
Use your abilities to help each other (10-11). This could be through finance, words, or serving each other.
More could be said about this! The bottom line is that we can’t react like everyone else. When everything falls apart, we should stand out in a good way. We should be lights in a dark room. Our response to crisis could very well attract people stuck in darkness. We could not possibly help our fellow man more than by giving them the same hope we have!
Christians live on planet earth and aren’t immune to social issues. The vaccine is one of them. This article is NOT about vaccination specifically. I am not qualified to write about it, but this wouldn’t be an appropriate forum even if I was.
However, this issue has influenced the church in a few timeless ways: misapplying scripture, creating division, and engendering hostility.
Misapplying Scripture: Applying Romans 13 to this subject is not appropriate. Nothing about the passage sheds light on which governing authority we should follow. What if federal law contradicts state or local law? Which do we follow then? I Peter 2.13-14 does address varying levels of governing authority, but does not specify which takes precedence. Both passages demand submission to everyone who has authority over us because it’s what God wants. As it stands now, neither passage applies to this issue. We cannot use God’s word to enforce or condemn issues that have no bearing on salvation. When state or local law is in conflict with federal law (or vice versa) and the issue at hand isn’t a salvation issue, it falls under the jurisdiction of Romans 14.
Creating Division: Differences in opinion aren’t new to the church. No reasonable person will call this a salvation issue, so it does fall under the purview of Romans 14. We need to remember the commands in this passage: accept those who have different opinions (1), do not think poorly of those who disagree (3), do not judge someone who exercises preference (3), make decisions based on conviction (5), do not condemn each other over opinions (13), don’t let opinions destroy relationships (15), and don’t let your decision become a problem (16). What does this mean for us? Respect your Christian family’s decision, do not think less of them because of their decision, make the decision you feel is best for you, don’t condemn someone based on their decision, and don’t let an issue that has no bearing on our Christian lives become a source of division.
Hostility: The previous point addresses this somewhat, but sinful behavior has come out of this. Thinking less of a Christian who gets the vaccine is sinful. Thinking less of a Christian who doesn’t get the vaccine is sinful.
Nothing about this issue is new or different. Controversial opinions over military service, firearms, holiday observance, or vaccination are not handled any differently. God expects us to put these kinds of issues in their proper place: the back seat.
“We have to love each other, because love comes from God and everyone who has love belongs to God and knows him. Anyone who doesn’t love doesn’t know God, because God is love” (I Jn. 4.7-8).
“Love each other deeply with a pure heart” (I Pt. 1.22). “You must continue to love each other” (Heb. 13.1). “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faithfulness, love, endurance, and gentleness” (I Tim. 6.11).
How does Jesus feel about us? He created us, became human, and let us kill Him so He could make a new deal with us (Heb. 9.15-17). Most disregard Him, many are outright hostile. How could He love us at all? Because we know how most view God, it’s easy to lump ourselves into the same group as the hostiles.
Ephesians gives some awesome insight into how Jesus feels about his people.
1.3 – He gave us spiritual blessings through His sacrifice. 1.4 – He had us in mind before He even started creating things. 1.5 – He intended to make us part of His family. 1.6 – He gave us grace. 1.7 – He died to give us freedom. 1.7 – He gives us forgiveness. 1.9 – He told us what He wants. 1.11 – He is going to give us an inheritance. 1.11-14 – He knows His own, and He’s looking to get us back home.
He didn’t just do nice things for us, though. Here’s how He feels about it:
1.5 – Love motivated Him. 1.5 – He wanted to do it. 1.7 – He’s generous with His grace. 1.8 – He’s generous with His grace. 1.9 – He wanted to do it.
We don’t deserve Him, but He loves us to death. We let Him down, but He gives us grace. He’d have every right to be exasperated with His imperfect family, but He’s not. People get on our nerves and societies fall apart, but we have the best family on the planet. Remember whose you are when you’re discouraged. No one wants you more than He does!
Those who lived on earth while Christ was here in the flesh would have described Him differently, depending on their experiences with Him.
Many of the wealthy people would have called Him a “demanding person” (Matt. 19.22).
The Pharisees, Sadducees, and most Roman officials would have labeled Him a “trouble maker.”
All of the folks who were healed by Jesus would say that He was a powerful man, but I believe that a great many would say that He truly cared for children.
He calls the peacemakers “children of God” at the beginning of His first recorded sermon (Matt. 5.9). He heals a boy with a particularly vicious demon inside him (Matt. 17). But in the next two chapters He will show this love toward innocent children in a way that can touch the heart.
In chapter eighteen, the disciples of Jesus ask an ignorant question, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
It’s after this question that Jesus places a child in front of them. This must have been a little confusing for the disciples, but a powerful point is made. Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”
In chapter nineteen, Jesus is teaching on the subject of divorce. It’s a lesson that didn’t sit very well with His listeners then, and it still doesn’t sit well with many people today. At some point in His lesson, women begin to bring their infants to Jesus so that He can bless them. This was a tradition done by Jewish people but the disciples started to rebuke the parents because they thought this was a job below their great leader. Again, Jesus shows us His love for children by saying, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” He then goes on to lay His hands on them and then leaves. Did He have more to say to the crowd that had gathered to listen to Him? Was He finished with His lesson? Apparently this visual illustration was a great way for our Lord to end.
The point is, Jesus loves children. Not just little children, but adult children, too. He compares the innocent nature of children to how we can be in the sight of God once we are added to the kingdom. It’s a beautiful picture and something we should all crave. Innocence. When Jesus lays “His hands on us” when we follow the plan of salvation, He has the power to change our sinful ways into something pure and holy. Jesus loves the little children, and the big children, of the world.
How many Christians are afraid of the judgment day? Maybe we are worried we haven’t done enough, or maybe we are thinking of a specific sin that would keep us from entering heaven? It is also a possibility that we may just be plain scared of everything that will take place on that day. 1 John 4:18 is one of the most comforting verses in Scripture. It tells us that if we are a faithful Christian there is no reason to be afraid.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” – 1 John 4:18
While this verse can very easily be taken out of context, the true meaning should give us hope and comfort. John tells us three important fact concerning the Christian and judgment day.
Love = No Fear
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” This love is strong enough to calm our fears concerning the day of judgment. But what is perfect love? When we hear the word perfect we think of taking something flawed and making it flawless in every way. Does this mean we need to have a love that is flawless in every way? This word perfect is teleos which is defined as “attaining an end or purpose; complete.” This word is best illustrated like this, if your flashlight batteries die and you need 2 AAA, it doesn’t matter if you have an unopened box of AA’s. The used AAA’s in your TV remote are perfect for the job.
Our love is complete and perfect when we abide in God. Love cannot cast out our fear of the judgement day if we are loving the wrong things. Our perfect and complete love can cast out fear when we abide in the ONE who is, and always will be, the author and perfecter of love. Perfect love that is found in the Christian who is wholeheartedly abiding in the Creator has no reason to be afraid of the judgment day.
Punishment = Fear
One of the worst phrases you can hear as a kid when you get in trouble is, “just wait till your father gets home.” The thought and anticipation of punishment brings about fear and dread. 1 John 4:18 says, “For fear has to do with punishment.” The fear we may feel concerning the judgment day stems from the punishment that might come upon us. And it is only right that we should fear the punishment of hell, a very real place that is saved for those who have chosen to do nothing about their sin problem. The thought of hell should scare us. It is a place that will forever torment the souls of those who are lost. Fear has to do with punishment, so will we be punished on the judgment day?
Punishment equals fear, but there’s good news for those in Christ. We have NO reason to fear the judgment. The judgment day will be a day of reward for faithful Christians. There is no fear of punishment because God has promised us a place in heaven with Him.
Fear = Imperfect Love
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”
If we are afraid of the judgment this could mean several things about our Christianity:
Fear shows us that we have room to grow (Our love hasn’t reached its designed end with God)
Fear can reveal a possible lack of faith (maybe we are afraid because we doubt the words we read in 1 John 1, or revelation 21?)
Fear exposes the sin in our lives (if there is sin in our lives that is continuous and habitual we SHOULD be afraid)
With these facts in mind we should take this verse and use it to shape our attitude concerning that day. Let the love of God change the way we live. Let the love of God influence our decisions and actions. Let the perfected love of God give us confidence on the day of judgment.
(Today, I’m pinch-hitting for Carl, who’s on his honeymoon this week. This is the wedding sermon portion of the ceremony performed last Friday in Summerville, GA. It was a beautiful wedding venue and occasion).
A. One Of The Most Unsung Love Stories In The Bible Is Isaac & Rebekah
B. Their Romance & Relationship Is Revealed In Gen 24
1. What impresses me most re: them is how they did so much right
a. Rebekah is a very beautiful & pure young woman (16)
b. She was a hard worker (16-20) & she had a wonderful attitude (58)
c. She had a good relationship w/her family & his
2. Isaac had a good head on his shoulders, he was a man of faith & family
a. & it apparently was love at first sight for Isaac (24:67)
b. He was successful in his life's work (26:12-14)
c. He was a patient & peace-loving man (26:20)
3. In a day when God permitted a man to have more than one wife, &
his father Abraham did & his sons Jacob & Esau did
a. Isaac was a one-woman-man
4. It was a beautiful lifelong love story
a. It was a story of devotion & affection
D. Their Story Is Not Unlike Yours
1. I think Emily has the attributes of Rebekah we just saw
2. Carl is a lot like Isaac in the ways we observed
3. & your devotion & affection is so much like theirs, too
E. & To All Of Us Who Have Come To Witness This Joyful Occasion,
There Are Other Parallels For Us To Consider:
1. Many had invested so much into the moment the young couple met
a. In Gen. 24, there was Abraham, his servant, & Rebekah's family
b. They had invested their prayers, possessions & plans for these 2
2. God was at the heart of both families' lives
a. "God" is found 7 Xs in Gen 24, "LORD" is found 16 Xs
1. Both families invoke His name a similar number of Xs
2. Their faith was strong, & they conveyed that deep faith to I & R
a. The moments before Isaac met Rebekah, he was worshipping (24:62)
b. She was willing to leave her home to go to Isaac's home out of her trust in God's providence & guidance in her life
3. Their families encouraged them to serve & obey the Lord
a. Abraham wanted his son to have a wife God would be pleased with
b. Rebekah's brother & parents saw God's will in this & encouraged her to marry Isaac
F. For A Few Minutes, I Want To Share With You Both Some Of TheBlessings & Promises Shared With Isaac & Rebekah
I. YOU WILL LIVE LIFE TOGETHER BEFORE THE LIVING ONE WHO SEES
A. When Isaac Met Rebekah, He Was Standing At Beer-Lahai-Roi
1. It was the well at the place Hagar called "El-Roi," "A God whosees" (16:14)
2. In 25:11, we read that the newly weds lived in this place
B. May I Encourage You To Remember That Today & Every Day For theRest Of Your Lives, You Will Be Living Before The God Who Sees
1. Let that bring you comfort & hope, to encourage you
2. He will see your ups & downs; Your victories & defeats
3. There will be times when His presence & help are undoubtable
a. Other times, you may be tempted to wonder
C. He Will Walk With You Both Throughout Your Lives
1. Give Him 1st place, the most honored & cherished seat at the table ofyour marriage
2. Pr 15:3--The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil & the good
a. It's not just a warning vs. sin; It's a promise as you do good
II. GOD WANTS TO HEAR YOU PRAY FOR YOUR SPOUSE
A. There Came A Time Of Stress & Adversity In Their Marriage
1. You're aware that you'll face moments like those, too
B. It's Beautiful To See How Isaac Responds To This
1. 25:21--Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife
2. Of all the good Isaac did in his life, nothing was better than this
C. There Will Be Moments When Your Problems May Threaten To Cause AWedge Between You Two
1. The best thing you will ever do in these Xs is to pray for each other, motivated by your love & care for each other
2. You will always need God's help; Let nothing keep you from praying to Him together
3. & let nothing keep you from faithfully praying to God for each other
4. 1 Pt 3:7--You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered
a. When Peter says "your prayers," it's plural (God's encouraging bothof you to pray for each other)
5. When you do, God will hear as He heard Isaac's prayer for Rebekah
III. ALWAYS KEEP THE LINES OF COMMUNICATION OPEN
A. I've Heard Sermons And Bible Classes Re: The Danger Of Showing Favoritism With Your Children & This Couple Is Used As Exhibit A
1. But after the deception of Jacob & Esau's anger & grudge, Rebekah comes to Isaac & freely shares her concerns w/Isaac (27:48)
a. Isaac listens & the 2 of them work together to resolve the problem
B. Don't Wait For Problems To Arise Before You Start Communicating
1. But certainly, when problems arise, be sure that you communicate freely, lovingly, & persistently
2. Companionship is re: needing each other & leaning on each other
C. Carl, Nourish & Cherish Emily; Love Her As X Loved The Church (Ep 5:25-28)
1. Emily, love your husband so as to honor God's word (Ti 2:4-5)
2. & realize the vital role communication plays in conveying your love
IV. FIND LOVE & COMFORT FROM ONE ANOTHER
A. Their Marriage Came At The Time Isaac Lost His Mother
1. But the Bible tells us re: how they shared love & comfort w/one another (Gen 24:67)
2. God has given you such a blessing in your marriage
B. Never Miss An Opportunity To Express It To Each Other
1. Like Solomon said
a. Song 4:10--How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride! How much better is your love than wine,
b. Or Song 7:6--How beautiful and how delightful you are, My love, with all your charms!
2. & like his bride said to him
a. Song 1:16--How handsome you are, my beloved, And so pleasant!
b. Song 2:3--Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest, So is my beloved among the young men. In his shade I took great delight and sat down, And his fruit was sweet to my taste.
C. Of Course, Do More Than Say It; Show It--Never Miss An Opportunity
1. It will keep you on the sunny side of life on the stormiest days
Have you ever been to a “show and tell”? Maybe it was in school and the teacher asked you to get up in front of the class and show a particular object and explain and talk a little bit about it. I remember as a child dragging my giant yellow dump truck to class and showing everyone how the scoop on the back worked. I was very proud of it and after the class I sat on the truck and rode it down the hill in the parking lot.
Jeremiah’s “show and tell” was not nearly as lighthearted. Instead of bringing a toy truck to show the people, he brought a sword and began to shave his face with it. The hair that he shaved off was what has been left alive by the people. The point of him dividing it into thirds was to make a point. That one third are the ones that survived the siege. Then the few that survive will be taken off but taken care of by God. In Zechariah 13 we find out that the fire of destruction took care of the first third. This wasn’t a fire that was meant to refine them.
When we look at accounts like these it should make us think. Why was that account there? It’s definitely for our learning, but what is it that we need to take away? I believe at least two lessons can be learned from this. The first is that God will keep His word. If God says that He is going to punish the wicked for their wickedness, then He will most definitely do so. The second lesson to be learned is that in all of this, we can clearly see God’s love. Did God have to take care of the remnant? We know from previous scripture that God wanted to destroy them all at one point and start over. God still cares for His people and He still saw them through their trials, despite what they had done to Him. As His children today we need to realize that even though God may not necessarily strike us down on the spot for rejecting Him, He still takes it just as seriously. God still feels the same about selfishness and a self-serving lifestyle. It’s an ongoing battle to put away those human desires that pull us away from God but it’s a supernatural force that allows us to remain close to Him.
When someone fades into my lane or is driving erratically with phone unashamedly in hand, I channel my inner Jeremy Clarkson with an encouraging, “Maniac!” There’s no denying that distracted driving is irresponsible and grossly negligent, but my attitude is far from where it needs to be. There’s little room for patience or grace with that mentality.
Shortly after soldiers drive stakes through his wrists and feet, Jesus says, “Father, forgive them because they don’t know what they’re doing” (Luke 23.34). Some early witnesses omit this verse, but the majority of witnesses include it. When reading these words it’s easy to think, “Jesus is so nice that He asks the Father to forgive people who are hurting Him.” It’s a nice gesture, or an example of how forgiving we need to be.
Jesus did not ask God to forgive those soldiers. He demanded it! Αφες (afes: forgive) is an imperative. This was so much more than a nice gesture. As one who had the power to forgive sins (Matthew 9.6),He told the Father to forgive them.
If anyone had the right to ban someone eternally, it was Jesus. We are going to be mistreated, and most can recall examples right away. How do we respond to people who mistreat us? II Corinthians 10.1 describes Jesus as gentle. That word means, “the quality of making allowances despite facts that might suggest reason for a different reaction” (Bauer επιείκεια).
He set the bar to maximum height. Are we willing to reach it? That mentality can only be achieved by having genuine love for everyone. “Let us continue to love each other, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God, but anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (I Jn. 4.7f).
In the first chapter of Genesis we read that God made man dominion over every creature He had made. Then in James 3:7 the inspired writer says, “For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind.” When we think about the implications of that and then apply it to the world of the Old Testament it becomes even more impressive. The first humans lived with all kinds of beasts, including the dinosaurs. Whatever image comes to mind when you think of those extinct reptiles, it’s probably not that of a tame animal. God gives us a curious glimpse into the past where humans and dinosaurs not only coexisted, but we managed to tame them. In Ecclesiastes, the preacher concludes his sermon in chapter 12 by saying we must prepare ourselves for the day we meet our Creator. The spirit that He made will one day return back to Him. Solomon then says, “fear God.”
The correlation between “spirit” and “fear” is also seen in the New Testament. Paul writes to a fearful and wavering Timothy, “God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power, love, and a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). The message in the Old and New Testament then is, “fear nothing but God.” When Adam and Eve were in the garden they feared nothing because that’s not the spirit that God gave them. He gave us one of power, because of the God we serve. He is our Father and He has all the power. He gave us a spirit of love. We aren’t animals. We aren’t lions who display great power but lack the ability to love. We were made in the image of God and that means we have both a spirit, which is our life force, and a soul— our eternal life force. On top of all this God gave us the spirit of a sound mind. The Greek word used there means a mind that is calm. Even in the face of calamity and craziness, we can be calm. Why? Because we are God’s children and God is in control. One day every faithful Christian will get back that perfect spirit given to His original creations. Spirits without fear.
Peter is still casting nets, not using His keys and feeding His sheep.
James and John, the sons of thunder, are all wet.
Saul of Tarsus kept holding coats and chasing down Christians.
Thomas drowned in his doubt.
The thief on the cross is hung out to dry.
John Mark might as well have stayed AWOL.
Hebrews 11, what with Noah (the drunk), Abraham (the liar), Moses (the murderer), Rahab (the harlot), etc., is never written.
At least five of the seven churches of Asia are in the dark.
All humanity is hopeless (Rom. 3:23).
He is neither faithful nor just (1 John 1:9).
He never would have died on the cross (1 Tim. 2:6).
That is not to say that God “winks” at ignorance (Acts 17:30), indulges willful sin (Rom. 6:1-2; Heb. 10:26ff), or encourages walking in darkness (1 John 1:6ff). But, God is the God of the second (third, fourth, etc.) chance. He is perfectly patient (2 Pet. 3:9) and fully forgiving (Heb. 7:25). Perhaps our world is open to the Christ of the Bible now more than ever!