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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 8 am service, 2001-06-10

Text: 1 Peter 4:7-11

I thank God for the privilege of bringing His word to you this morning. The topic of our message is 'What Should Our Lifestyle Be In These Last Days?' Just two weeks ago, at our church camp in Mersing, our thoughts were focused on a similar theme: the theme of the Lord's soon return. Through the messages we were made aware that the signs of the End times are already appearing in the world.

I. The Signs of the Last Days

There are general signs such as the breakdown in the world's ecology and economics (famines, earthquakes, pestilences), the end-time apostasy and formation of the one-world church, and the breakdown in diplomatic relations. We learned about the specific signs such as the regathering of the Jews in Israel, the five wars that Israel has fought from 1967 to 1985, and the more recent developments in Israel which is the war that is now going on between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Our Lord Jesus Himself has given us the warning in Matthew 24:33 that when we see all these things, we should know that His coming is near, even at the doors. The end of all things is at hand. And it should certainly thrill our hearts to know that Christ is coming very soon! The purpose of our message this morning is not so much to trace these signs of the End times (although this is a very intriguing subject), but to learn how we ought to live now, in the light of the imminent coming of our Lord. What kind of lifestyle should we be pursuing, if Christ is coming? Should we continue to live the way we are living right now?

II. The Peril of Not Being Prepared

This is certainly an important matter for us to consider, especially since most people in the world today seem to be busy pursuing a lifestyle with no regard to the fact that the end of all things is near. Jesus Himself foretold that in the last days, people as usual will be eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage (Matthew 24:38). Many are quite caught up in making more money for themselves, or in making a name for themselves in this world. Preparing for the second coming of Christ is the furthest thought from their minds.

How utterly unprepared and shocked they will be when Christ comes. There will be many who will regret that they had not heeded the warnings from God's Word and the signs of the end times.

Dearly beloved, will you be among these regretting multitudes of people? Are you ready for the Lord's return? Perhaps some of us may say, 'Yes, I think I'm ready, because I am already a Christian. I have received the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Saviour.' If that is your response right now, that is well and good. That is the basic minimum preparation that anyone should make in view of the end times - make sure that you are saved! But is that all we need to do now?

III. The Need for an Appropriate Lifestyle

Did our Lord Himself not command His disciples to be watchful and wise servants, who will be found faithfully doing their Master's will when He returns? He expects us to exercise good stewardship of our time and talents. We should be making profitable and efficient use for the Lord.of whatever resources we have left. But are we doing that?

In Matthew 25 Jesus told His disciples the parable of the ten virgins, five or whom were wise and five, foolish. The wise virgins were ready to receive the bridegroom when he arrived at midnight, but the foolich virgins were not. Their last-minute preparations were to no avail, and so they missed the opportunity to partake of the marriage feast. What a terrible price to pay for not being prepared! Dearly beloved will you be like the foolish virgins in this parable? Are you too occupied with the pursuits of this world and with your own selfish ambitions to be ready for the Lord's return? Have you lost your first love for the Lord and fallen in love with the world?

Let us remember that all the things of this world will perish, and there is no point in investing our lives deeply in them. To build a personal empire of wealth and treasures in this world is like building elaborate sandcastles on the seashore which will be washed away by the waves. Let us be wise to invest our lives in the things of the Lord. And as the Lord�s coming draws nearer and nearer, let us become more fervent in our service for Him. Our lifestyle should reflect a decreasing attachment to the things of this world, and an increasing attachment to the things of the Lord. This is the main emphasis of our text of Scripture in 1 Peter 4:7-11.

As we study this passage of God's Word now, we will learn that our lifestyle in the end times should be characterized by at least three things: The first is with regard to our own mind and soul, the second is regarding our relationships with other Christians and the third is with regard to our stewardship of God's gifts to us. Let us look at the first

A. With Regard to Our Mind and Soul

This is stated in v.7 'But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.- You will notice that there are two injunctions in this verse - to be sober, and to watch unto prayer. Let us first consider what it means to:

1. Be Sober

To be sober is to have a sound and clear mind. A sober mind is not clouded by false perceptions of life. In contrast to that, when a person gets himself drunk or high on drugs, he is not sober. His perception of things around him is different and he lives in his own world, out of touch with reality.

It is all too easy to get out of touch with reality today, with the tremendous influence of the mass media and the entertainment industry. With the addition of cable vision and more TV channels, many Singaporeans are now glued to their TV sets during their free time. While television does provide us with useful knowledge and information, there are also adverse effects that it can have on our minds - especially to put us out of touch with reality. The advertisements are designed to convince viewers that they need some new product they do not have yet - some of which they really do not need at all. Many shows that are aired on TV and the mass media are the creations of man's own imaginations. They are mainly fictitious portrayals of life presented by skilled actors and special effects. But they can make the viewer so engrossed with the storyline that for a while he is lost to unreality. Let us therefore be careful about getting too involved and engrossed with the many new television shows and channels available.

And now there are forms of entertainment that uses 'Virtual reality' where the viewer becomes an active participant in the show or game. I am referring to the high-tech video games and interactive computer and internet games that are on now the market. The frightening thing is that there is a lot of violence and occult elements in many of these games.

In one game called Carmaggedon, the player is supposed to drive a virtual car to knock down virtual people. By the time he reaches the highest level of the game, he would have run over and killed 33,000 pedestrians!

These games are also very addictive, and according to some studies, one out of every four people who play these games get addicted to them. I have already heard many cases of students getting addicted to them and showing changes in their behaviour. They become so desensitized to violence and bloodshed that they even begin to show violent behaviour and treat people roughly.

Let us be careful of any kind of game or entertainment that can have an adverse influence on the mind and that draw us away from reality, so that we will be able to remain sober. We are living today in an environment that is intoxicated with too much entertainment, pleasure, and futile pursuits. Therefore we really have to struggle hard against the tide to keep ourselves sober-minded. And it is so important for us to maintain a sober mind, a mind that sees the true worth of all things clearly so that we will live in reality. Only then will all the things that we do be directed toward real and useful purposes.

But then comes the question: How can we maintain a sober mind? By ourselves, it is almost impossible to win in this ongoing battle for the mind, because of the overwhelming influences of the world. But with God's help, we can do it. That may be the reason why the injunction to be sober in v.7 is immediately followed up with an injunction to: 

2. Watch unto Prayer

What does this mean? To watch unto prayer is to be spiritually alert and awake. As we live closer to the time of Christ's return, we must not be in a state of spiritual stupor or slumber. When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, He came to His disciples expecting to find them awake and praying for Him, but instead He found them all asleep! Then He chided them, 'What, could ye not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.' (Matthew 26:40,41).

Brethren, when Jesus returns from Heaven soon, will He also find us in a state of slumber? How shameful it would be for us if He were to find us in this state! 

Dearly beloved, how long has it been since you last had real quality quiet time with the Lord? How long has it been since you last experienced God's presence in your life in a wonderful way? How long has it been since your Bible study was a great delight to you and were discovering marvelous gems from God's Word that thrilled your soul? How long has it been since you were moved to tears by the thought of the grace of the Lord to you, a sinner? If it has been a long time and cannot even remember when it was, it is certainly high time for you to wake up from your spiritual slumber, and to watch unto prayer! 

This is not the time to be spiritually asleep, but the time to be fully revived. This is the time for us all to lay aside every sin and anything in our lives that may hinder our spiritual growth, and run the race that is set before us. This is the time for us to draw closer to God, and to seek His face. Please do not say to yourself that this can wait a little longer, since after all, the Lord has been so patient and with His children. It is true that the Lord is longsuffering toward us, but that does not give us an excuse to try His patience further, and expect Him to wait a little longer. According to Romans 2:4, the goodness, forebearance and longsuffering of God must lead us to swift repentance.

Let us begin today to change our lifestyle. Ask the Lord right now to help you to change to a lifestyle that is characterized by sober-mindedness and a fully alert and revived spiritual life! And, that is not all that should change in our lifestyle. We go on now to look at the change that should take place:

B. With Regard to Our Relationship with Other Christians

This is stated in vv.8, 9 'And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. Use hospitality one to another without grudging.' The point we want to highlight is that we should actively cultivate good and strong relationships among Christians within the body of Christ. The term 'charity' in v.8 means love - a brotherly, unconditional love. Such love is not just an emotion or feeling, but a choice we make which leads to action. For example the use of hospitality that is mentioned in v.9 is one way of showing love to one another.

Why is such love for one another needed for life in the End times? One possible reason is that there is added strength in unity.

As the pressures of the last days upon believers to conform to the world and its values get stronger and stronger, God's people should unite in order to keep one another going and persevering. To live the Christian life without fellowship with like-minded believers will be extremely difficult. When you try to live your Christian life alone, you face tremendous odds. The pressures of your work, and your family, and influence of your non-Christian colleagues will come upon you. And without the support of other Christians to refresh your spirit, your resistance can easily get worn down by these things. Therefore, we need each other's encouragement and help to resist the sins and ungodly trends of the world today, and even to resist the devil.

There is one verse that shows us how valuable the bond of fellowship is to resist the devil: 1 Peter 5:8 tells us to, 'Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:' It is interesting to note that the verbs 'be sober, be vigilant' and the pronoun 'your' are all plural, implying that we must be sober and vigilant together, looking out and watching out for one another. But the word 'whom', is singular. This implies that the devil devours individual believers when they are alone.

A story is told of three bulls that were good friends that they were always together. There was a lion that wanted to kill them for meat, but the lion knew that it had no chance of defeating them because they were together. So it devised a clever plan. The lion made friends with one bull and told him that the other two bulls were saying evil things about him behind its back. The bull believed the lion and refused to talk anymore with the other two bulls. The lion did the same thing to the other two bulls. Because they did not want to talk to each other anymore, the three bulls soon separated from one another and grazed in different fields. The lion promptly killed and ate them all, one by one! When they were together, the three bulls could easily withstand the lion, but when alone, each bull, was really no match for him!

In the same way, Satan knows that Christians will become weak when they are separated from one another and he may try to sow discord among brethren to do this. Whenever there is a disagreement among them, he may take advantage of this to break up the good fellowship we enjoy with one another. But we must not be ignorant of his devices and must counteract them by learning to forgive one another.

And therefore, v.8 of our text mentions that charity shall cover the multitude of sins. Through Christian love, we can forbear each other's faults, and forgive each other's sins, and so protect our good relationships from deteriorating. There will always be occasions in the body of Christ when fellow Christians may find it hard to get along with each other because of certain personality traits. But with the Love of God that we have, we can overcome these conflicts. And it is important that we do, because life in the End times calls for the preservation of our relationships with other brethren. Remember that we need the strengthening effect of Christian fellowship to survive the trends of the last days.

Now there may be many in our midst who may not yet be benefiting from Christian fellowship. You come to church Sunday after Sunday but still do not know anyone in the church. Let me take this opportunity to encourage you to get to know other believers here. Introduce yourself to them, and begin to develop good relationships. I know one brother in our church who did not know anyone for 5 years although he attended our church faithfully. And then one day someone sitting next to him decided to speak to him after the service, and soon he became an active member of one of our fellowship groups. Let us all therefore strive to cultivate a lifestyle of fellowshipping with other Christians. You will find it to be a refreshing experience that will also help you live for the Lord in these last days!

Now besides having a lifestyle characterized by sobermindedness, a fully revived spiritual life and good fellowship with other Christians, our lifestyle requires one more characteristic that we need, and that is:

C. With Regard to Our Stewardship of God's Gifts (vv.10-11)

This is stated in vv.10,11 'As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.' In a world, where people are striving to get as much gains for themselves, we who are Christians should be striving to give as much as we can to others. We are to be givers rather than getters. And we can give to others, because everyone of us has received blessings and gifts from God. These gifts come in all kinds of forms - abilities, talents, privileges, wealth and health - that is why they are called 'the manifold grace of God'

The main idea of these verses is that of sharing whatever God has blessed us with with others in order to build up and strengthen one another. Dearly beloved, each of us has been blessed differently by God - some with the ability to speak well, others with the ability to serve well, and yet others with more than enough material blessings. Let us use these all these gifts for God's glory.

Serve within one of the church's present ministries - Sunday School (There is a teacher's training course), Vacation Bible School this week (last year someone baked trays of cakes or pastries to provide refreshments), BASC and the Berean fellowship on Saturdays, Music ministry - learn to play the piano for fellowship meetings and church worship service. Mission trips - Medical trip next month to Batam with Rev Colin Wong. If you have the means, contribute to the support of our missionaries in Saipan, Cambodia, Batam, Myanmar or Thailand. There is so much that needs to be done and so little time left to do them. In all these things your aim is to cultivate a lifestyle of good stewardship of whatever God has given to you and to do it all for His glory.

To summarise what we have learnt from God's Word this morning, the characteristics of the lifestyle we should cultivate in these last days encompass three distinct areas: For ourselves - Sobermindedness and Spiritual alertness; For our relationships with other Christians - Good fellowship; and For our stewardship of God's Gifts - the diligent use of these gifts to bless others and to bring glory to the Lord.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25