Sermons & Sunday Schools

Three Marks of a Responsible Strong Christian Community in View of the End

In today’s sermon, Pastor Babij examines First Peter 4:7-11 and explains the three markers of a strong Christian community living responsibly in view of eternity:

1) They take the duties of prayer seriously
2) They practice the principles of love fervently
3) They see using God-given gifts to serve the body as a paramount necessity

Note: For the video recording, audio quality improves at 22:22.

Full Transcript:

We will look at 1 Peter 4:7-11. First, let’s pray:

Lord, Thank You for Your tremendous kindness to us. Here, in the United States, we still have a large abundance of freedom to live out our faith, worship publicly, and carry our Bibles. Lord, I pray that we would never take that for granted. We can wake up tomorrow, and that can be all changed. I pray, Lord, that while we have peace, we would not be doing our own thing for ourselves but growing in Godliness and Holiness by preparing for the day that suffering may be at a higher level than we have ever experienced before. Lord, we know this is what the epistle of 1 Peter is, which is a book to get us ready for times that will be difficult. I pray, Lord, that our faith would not be shaken, but that we would be strong servants of the Lord during those times. I pray, Lord, that You would bless our time in the word of God. I pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.

Remember, this is the last of 1 Peter. We went through the section of salvation and the importance of all Christians having a good understanding and grasp of their salvation in Jesus Christ. Secondly, it focused on submission and the different ways Christians are to submit coupled with the characteristics and attitudes appropriate for proper submission that is pleasing to the Lord. Our great example of that is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Now, this third section, which we have been in, is on suffering. It is being ever prepared for any kind of trial or suffering that may come our way as believers. On this Lord’s day, we will see the purpose of suffering as a saint. Once we are equipped with the mind of Christ, in our struggle and battle for the cause of righteousness, there are certain duties all believers must practice.

Then, the purpose of suffering as a saint is ultimately to bring glory to God in all our duties concerning our personal life and the community of believers. The first part of 1 Peter 4:7 says:

The end of all things is near…

The term near is used here in a perfect tense. When using the perfect tense, the writer is focusing on the completion of the action and views the results as certain and positive. Meaning, it refers to something that was once distant, but now is near. What is closer than ever before? Well, the second coming of Christ.

Remember, Christ already came as a man with a message, preaching the Gospel of the kingdom, and doing mighty works authenticating that He was from God and was God. Of course, Jesus came in human appearance as the Messiah. However, the first time as the suffering servant. The second time, He will come as the exalted King, but He is also coming prepared to pass judgement.

Thus, this statement, in the first part of 1 Peter 4:7, is a reminder that time is not circular, but linear. We are heading somewhere, and this present age is moving to an end. It is the hope of every Christian that Christ is coming again. It has been a fact of Scripture that the return of our Lord, Jesus Christ, remains a supreme motivator for consistent Christian living.

If you haven’t noticed, the theme of eschatological end has been a prominent subject in the Apostle Peters writing in both 1 Peter and 2 Peter. In 1 Peter 1:4, he talks about our inheritance:

to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you

To get that you must be in heaven, so that is reserved. Secondly, in 1 Peter 1:5, there’s salvation itself:

who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Meaning, our salvation, in its full completeness, is not yet revealed. However, we will have our full redemption, and we are sealed until the day of redemption. Then, in 1 Peter 1:7, it talks about the revelation of Jesus Christ:

so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ

Again, we are looking forward to that time. In continuation, 1 Peter 1:9:

obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.

The full salvation, which we will receive with resurrected bodies that is connected to our redeemed souls, will be something that we are looking forward to. 1 Peter 1:17 says:

If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth

Last week, in 1 Peter 4:5, we saw Christ as the judge:

but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

He is seated at the right hand of the Father, making intercession for the saints, but the next thing on His agenda would be to come and judge, which we are looking forward to. Then, in 1 Peter 5:10:

After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.

We are called to that already, but the full sense of it is in the future. From these passages, you see that imminence is stressed. Even though it has been two thousand years since the Apostle Peter penned these words, Jesus is coming soon. Even though God delays, He delays for one specific reason, which is recorded in 2 Peter 3:8-9:

But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. 9The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

The very reason the Lord is delaying His coming is for people to be saved and hear the Gospel. Everyone who needs to be saved, is not yet saved, so God is delaying His program for those people. He will bring those, who the Father offered to the Son, to saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Until then, we must be ready. We must press-on to live for the Lord. Matthew 24:44:

For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.

Living each day, in light of the Lord’s return, should most certainly impact our present Christian life. In Scripture, we will learn that we, as Christians, have urgent duties in view of the end of all things. We are not to sit back and wait. We are not to sit back at all. Actually, we are to stand up, get in the game, and do what you are supposed to be doing. In this passage, our duties are split up into two places: personal and community duties.

Today, let’s glean from our passage the three marks of a responsibly strong Christian community or church in view of the end, which is the purpose of suffering as a saint. First, this community of believers, or our church, should take the duties of prayer seriously. In 1 Peter 4:7, it says:

The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.

Before we look at what that mark is, there are two things that are prerequisites before we get to the actual intending purpose. The first prerequisite is to keep a cool head. Another way of saying be of sound judgement is to be clear minded, which points us to someone who keeps his head, despite dangers, fears, or worries, especially during times of trial and suffering.

Thinking clearly leads to good judgments. During times of pressure, thinking clearly also leads to good judgements. When people lose their head, the Bible is calling us to keep your head so that you do not get swayed in the wrong direction. As believers, living on this sin cursed planet, we should have a better understanding of life than a non-believer. We know what the plan of God is and what God is doing right now in the world, and we know where it is all heading. While we’re here, we are to keep a clear head.

Secondly, in 1 Peter 4:7, we are to have a sober spirit. Meaning, a balanced mind or someone who is self-controlled. This is the opposite of drunkenness or being controlled by outside substances or influences. Here, discipline in self-control is in view in order to exercise moderation. So, what is it that constitutes a spiritually sane, disciplined person?

Well, they see things in their proper order and proportions. They see what is and is not important. They are not swept away by sudden and passing enthusiasm, or any wind of doctrine that is sweeping through. They are not prone to unbalanced fanaticism. Also, they see the affairs of this life in light of eternity. Bottom line, in all they do, they give God his proper place. God is always first in someone who has a sound mind. According to 1 Peter 1:13, it says:

Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Spiritual sobriety will be important for two specific purposes: one, in 1 Peter 5:8, is for the purpose of resisting the enemy, which we did not get to yet. However, the one in 1 Peter 4:7, is for the purpose of prayer. We are to have a sound mind.

The intended purpose is for us to be growing in our knowledge and wisdom of Jesus Christ and the word of God, so that we are always aware of what God is doing and what God requires of us. We are not influenced, in our mind, by anything we put into our body or outside our body but are stable in our thinking by thinking Biblically, which is for the purpose of prayer. When we come to prayer, how are we praying?

When the church first began, there were several means of grace that were laid down for a body of believers to grow strong, stable, and mature. They included learning the Apostles doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread, and corporate prayers. Not just private prayers, but the gathering together of people to prayer. Bottom line, the purpose is that we come together with a clear mind of what God is doing and we pray specifically about the things before us.

Christians, having believed in Jesus Christ for salvation, have a new standing before God because of Jesus Christ and His sacrificial death. It is the standing, which we never had before, to be able to approach God at any time, any place, and anywhere. Once we repeated and believed, then we were granted the forgiveness of our sins. Then, what the Lord did for us on the Cross, came to be part of our inheritance.

Now, we are able to approach God in prayer, so prayer flows from the certainty that our creaturely helplessness and logical conviction of God alone can enable us and help us to do things. Psalms 73:25 says:

Whom have I in heaven but You?
And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.

It’s a desire where we know that God is a God who hears our prayers and answers us. So, what kind of prayers are we to pray? In our passage, it suggests that our prayers are to be in the church meeting and particular in our minds. When we gather, it’s the prayers that contribute to the building up of the personal relationship that we have in Jesus Christ, and the spiritual maturity we obtain by the spirit of God. We are to be praying for our sanctification.

In the book of Acts, the practice of corporate prayer became a significant part of worship, in which these new believers were eagerly desiring to participate in prayer together. In Acts 2:42, it says:

They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Meaning, the public meeting together with prayer, so Friday nights are times where we can publicly meet together and pray for all kinds of things. If a church body lags in the common purpose of prayer, where the spiritual life line of communication with God is broken, then the forces of opposition weaken and eventually destroy a body.

Prayer is where we get our power and stability from, which is from the Lord. We lift our prayers up to Him, and we expect our Lord to answer our prayers. Of course, according to His will. We know that when we offer our prayer, God may say no, which is an answer. Sometimes He says, “go.” Sometimes He says, “wait.” Sometimes He says, “not now.” As we lift things up to the Lord in prayer, we discern those things.

Regular, continual prayer shows where one’s priorities and where one congregation’s priorities, concerns, and passions truly are. If nobody wants to pray, then we’re doing it for the flesh or whatever reasons, but not doing it for the end result, which is to bring glory to God. Now, what is prayer?

Simply, prayer is talking with God. It is the interaction of the soul with God, not in contemplation or meditation, but in direct address to Him. We are talking to the Lord. Also, prayer may be oral, mental, occasional, constant, a sudden crying, or formal and planned prayer.

When you read through Scripture, you’ll find that people beseech the Lord. They poured out their soul before the Lord. They prayed and cried to heaven before the Lord. They sought God and made supplications day and night before the Lord. They drew near to God before the Lord. They bowed their knees before the Lord. See, prayer was something that was very important in the life of believers all the way from the beginning.

Also, prayer presupposes a belief in the personality of God. It’s His ability and willingness to hold communication with us, who are His children. When He does that, we know that God hears us and will answer us. We pray that He answers us according to His will. For our prayers to be acceptable to God, they must be sincere and offered in faith. Bottom line, we are to have a continuous, inner channel of communication with God. Prayer is worship to the Lord, in which He deserves our adoration coupled with a thankful heart.

Not many would deny that prayer is important, but practically, many are atheists when it comes to prayer. When prayer times come around, they are not there. When they live their daily life, they don’t pray very much, or pray only when they feel like they are in trouble. Those are not the times that believers should be praying. They may be one of the times, but we should be praying about everything all the time.

Every day, we should be praying. On normal days, we should seek God about everything. If you are a part of God’s family, I urge you to become men, women, boys, and girls in prayer. Learn to walk in the spirit, and to lift up your hearts continually to Him in prayer. Practicing the presence of God in your daily life is what we are called to do, especially in light of times that are coming that may be hard. No matter what happens, we must be depending on God and trust Him in all things.

Leading to a second mark, which is to practice the principles of love fervently. If you notice in 1 Peter 4:8, there are two things that accompany community relations. One, as a congregation, we must show accepting love. 1 Peter 4:8 says:

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.

This is the third time that Peter brings up this crowning virtue of all other virtues, which is love. 1 Peter 1:22, he said:

Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart

If we are able to love people in this way, then we would have no need to be exhorted to love in a fervent way. For the most part, the love that we did have, or that we thought was love, was driven by selfishness, superstition, social disorders, personal excesses, and sensuality.

Since, we have come into the family of God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, so we have a new capacity to love people like God loves us. We learn our love from God. In 1 Peter 4:8, “above all” means that it is a very important thing. In the community of believers, it is to be a love that is fervent. It should be like a horse at a full gallop, where the muscles are taught, strenuous, and staining every ounce of energy to get where it is going.

Meaning, our love must be energetic by exhorting ourselves to the fullest extent. From this passage, it doesn’t look like Christian love is too sentimental. Here, it is a deliberate effort that demands a persons mental and spiritual energy. Now, why are we to love with such urgency?

Well, in 1 Peter 4:8, love covers a multitude of sins. It is not that love is blind, condones, or hushes up sin before God and men. Love does confront sin in order to protect character and help someone walk in holiness. Here, the reference is not to sins in their Godward relation, but to sins and failure in our human relations. This section of Scripture speaks of relationships between believers and believers.

When we truly love one another, we forgive people’s offenses and sins against us, which is how you cover it. It is by truly forgiving people. We can say we forgive, but in our heart, we have not forgiven. In other words, we may have forgiven, but not in our heart. However, the Bible is saying that this fervent love is love that forgives from the heart.

When we truly love people, in Christ, then we will forgive or cover people’s offense and sins against us. All you have to do is read the great love chapter, in 1 Corinthians 13, and find out that love is really important. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 says:

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

All those things listed tell us very clearly how important it is to love properly within the congregation. Love keeps everything together and is void of bitterness, anger, indifference, and refusal in the heart to forgive. Love refuses to deliberately expose sins it encounters to the eye of all. It prefers to refrain, and it discourages all need to talk about those sins with other people.

Yes, we are to use Matthew 18, but notice the loving steps in Matthew 18:15-17:

If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16“But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. 17“If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

When someone deliberately exposes sin to humiliate or injure someone, that is hate. Only when Christians become mean and ugly do they favor the devil by dragging each other’s failings out into the public arena. We must remember that we are all weak and failing. We have all done things and have sinned in certain ways that we’re not proud of.

We don’t want to be caught in any habitual sin practice. However, Christians are sensitive to their sins and to the sins of other people. Sometimes, they realize what sin does to people, and we want to rescue them from that effect. One way to do it is by a love that covers a multitude of sins.

This is all through your life. We cannot have this little list of offenses in our heart. That little black book needs to go into the garbage or into the fire. We cannot keep anything, in our heart, against people. Otherwise, we will never do anything God wants us to do. We cannot go forward because we have this stuff going on inside of us.

We must remember that we are all weak and failing, and if we love a person, it is easy to forgive. Love makes patience easy. When we love this way, we can accept others faults and foolishness, and even endure their unkindness. How precious and broad is God’s fervent love toward us?

God forgives, and He doesn’t bring it up against us again, which is the kind of forgiveness He has. When you look back at Abraham, the founder of Israel, he was tagged the friend of God, yet at one time, he was the worshiper of idols. Moses was a murderer, but later became one of God’s chosen and delivered Israel from the slavery of Egypt. Rahab was a harlot, who believed God by hiding the spies. Later, she is rescued and found among the members of the hall of fame in Hebrews 11.

Even Peter, who writes this epistle, openly denied the Lord, Jesus Christ, and cursed Him. Only to return and become God’s choicest spokesmen for the infant church. Only forgiveness can produce people like that, so we must all be careful that we do not put perfectionistic expectations on each other. The direction of the Christian life is not perfection, but a life of growing in Holiness and Godliness. Proverbs 10:12 says:

Hatred stirs up strife,
But love covers all transgressions.

Notice how hatred and love have a result. Hatred stirs the pot, makes things more confusing, and less to have any kind of reconciliation. However, when love covers or forgives, it forgives all transgressions. There is nothing that Christian love cannot forgive. Therefore, when we take on this attitude, we are honoring the Lord in that way, and we are not holding offenses against anyone.

Thus, this is not just formal forgiveness, but accepting people. This is not holding other people’s offenses against them despite their weakness, spiritual immaturity, and shortcomings. Mark this down: fervent love is the most important key that knocks down all kinds of walls between Christians. Then, it allows us to minister to each other and with each other, in the body of Christ, to get God’s work done unhindered.

Leading to another thing, which is that we must shoulder hospitality. 1 Peter 4:9 says:

Be hospitable to one another without complaint.

Back then, there were no hotels. All Christians had to make sure that their homes were open and ready for hospitality. The church body must be ready to provide a meal, lodging, and the necessary items to traveling Christian preachers, teachers, and missionaries along with traveling family and friends. In other words, a network of housing for suitably, sponsored travelers.

This is not just for everybody, but for a specific group depending on what you can do. Hospitality could become a very exasperating chore. There is an attitude that must accompany all of our hospitality, which should be without complaint. Meaning, without outward complaint or under the breath mummering and grumbling.

Why? There is always the chance that guests might overstay their welcome and abuse their welcome. Thus, hospitality must be shouldered cheerfully. When we do that, we are shouldering the burdens that may come with being hospitable, but also displaying the character of Christ.

Thirdly, it is a mark of a responsibly strong church in view of the end to use their spiritual gifts to serve the body as a paramount necessity. In other words, we must share our god given gifts with the church, not just for us. The use of spiritual gifts is to serve one another. It is faithfulness in the stewardship of God given gifts, not just elders and deacons, but church ministries depend on God’s distribution of spiritual gifts rather than natural abilities.

God bestows these gifts in the measure and manner in which they are to be used, and they are to be used to serve others and to build up the body of Christ. In 1 Peter 4:10, it says:

As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

In that passage, it says very clearly that each one of us has been given, at a conversion, a spiritual gift. Therefore, we need to know what that gift is; then, we need to use it in the body. We have no privilege to sit down on our own.

In the text, the theological concept of spiritual gifts comes from several Greek words, but primarily from charisma, which means in endowment of God’s grace and something given out of grace, not a debt. It is a spiritual working of gifts, or a gift of God. God gives these gifts to the church, which are to be used by the church.

There are several Scriptural observations that come concerning spiritual gifts. First, each believer has a spiritual gift and possibly more than one. Also, spiritual gifts are received at the moment of conversion. Although all gifts are needed in the church, some are more important than others. However, gifts do not confer status, but confer responsibility.

Then, some gifts are permanently given whereas others are temporary. Also, the believer controls the use of his or her gifts. Therefore, they are the one responsible for the use or nonuse of that gift. Furthermore, we see that these spiritual gifts are like natural abilities. They can be developed and matured like natural abilities. In addition, spiritual gifts are not abilities to work with some particular age group or place of service.

In our Scripture, there are two categories of gifts. There are the speaking gifts as it says in the first part of 1 Peter 4:11:

Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God…

Some of these speaking gifts are prophecy – or preaching, proclaiming scripture, teaching, exhortation, knowledge, and wisdom. Then, there are also serving gifts in 1 Peter 4:11:

…whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies…

Service is giving, leading, mercy, faith, and helps. We must depend on God for the use of these gifts. In 1 Peter 4:11, anyone who has the gift of speaking must speak the utterances of God. Meaning, the speaker must speak as one who utters God’s word.

Now, this can be taken as a warning for the speaker not to give their own ideas or opinions as opposed to the divine word. In fact, the speaker’s words must be the Scripture. One must depend on the revelation of God to speak. The speaker must speak the divine word, and he must do it with weight, dignity, and respect, which should accompany speaking on behalf of God.

We can come up here and there could be a lot of things we can say that are good. However, they are not profitable like the word of God, so it is better not to waste your time. Let’s get right into the text, see what it says, so that we can be living it out.

Here, the word of God is also translated as oracles, sayings, or messages, which originate from God himself. They are God breathed, and used of laws, promises, inspired utterances, and salvation history. In other words, if we are going to speak, on behalf of God, make sure it is God’s word.

Just because you have the gift of gab, it doesn’t mean that you speak God’s word. A lot of people talk a lot, or too much, but they say nothing. You must get your information from the word of God and give it out. I always tell people that the Bible is a pretty big book, and it is going to take our whole life to learn a part of this book even if we are diligent.

We must learn the Bible, and as we learn the Bible, we can give it out to people and know what it says. We can also know when someone is saying something that is completely wrong, and we have that discernment that comes from Scripture. Thus, if we have a speaking gift, we must depend on the revelation of God’s word to speak correctly.

Next, in the service gifts, whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength in which God supplies. In other words, God may be giving a different measure of strength to one person, or a greater or lesser measure to someone else. We cannot make that comparison since only God does that.

However, if you have a spiritual gift, God will give you the strength to use that gift. That strength comes with it, and it is up to Him to what extent. Believe me, I am tired all the time, but when God gives you the strength and you know what you are supposed to do, you get up and do it, and He energizes you to do the work He is calling you to do. Then, when you hit the pillow, you sleep at night.

Some of you may remember the little ditty I used when preaching on Spiritual gifts written by Mel Johnson called Getting it Together. If your spiritual gift is shelved, not being regularly used, or not used at all, then that puts the local church at a disadvantage. Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen to us. Let’s make sure we know what it is, and that we start serving and using the gift to build up the body of Christ, especially since that is what it’s for. If you are not using it, then that could be a problem, and I pray that it wouldn’t remain a problem. The ditty went something like this:

Fred Somebody, Thomas Everybody, Peter Anybody, and Joe Nobody were neighbors, but they were not like you, I’m sure. They were odd people and most difficult to understand. The way they lived was a shame.
All four belong to the same church, but you would not have enjoyed worshiping with them. Everybody went fishing on Sunday or stayed home to visit with friends. Anybody wanted to worship but was afraid Somebody wouldn’t speak to him. So guess who went to church? Yep – Nobody.
Nobody was the only decent one of the four. Nobody did the visitations. Nobody worked on the church building. Once, they needed a Sunday school teacher. Everybody thought Anybody would do it, while Anybody thought Somebody would do it. You know who did it? That’s exactly right – Nobody.
It happened that a fifth neighbor, and unbeliever moved into the area. Everybody thought Somebody should try to win him for Christ. Anybody could have made the effort, but you probably know who finally won him – Nobody.

The moral of the story is: each of us is personably responsible for doing God’s work. We all do this by using our spiritual gifts regularly in our own local church body, so let’s not assume somebody, everybody, or anybody is doing it. Then, what will happen is that it will end up being done by nobody.

So, we are responsible. To every Christian, God has assigned a function in the body of Christ. There are no exceptions. Every member has a function within the body that God has assigned for him or her to fulfill, which is the desire of God for a congregation that is growing to be strong, in light of the Lord’s coming.

The end purpose of why Christians are to fervently pray, practice unfailing and accepting love, and be sure to keep in use their spiritual gift is to give glory to God. 1 Peter 4:11:

…so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

This would be the end of all things, and the purpose of our living is that we would definitely give glory to God. In spiritual gifts, what are the purposes of these things? It’s threefold: to give God glory, common good of the body, and for the edification of the church.

No gifts are for personal use, and it is for the body. If you don’t use it, then I need your gift and for you to function in your gift. You need my gift. All of our gifts are different, but God has given you at least one of them, so use them. Now, why is it so important to bring glory to God?

As we use our gifts, God should be seen at work through His church. He needs to be seen through us, so that, in Christ, God gets all the glory. It is not the praise of the speakers and servers. No matter how much influence or exposure they are given by God, there are no persons that should be idolized. There are no personality cults in Gods church. All the glory must go to God.

Yes, we are to show affections and real gratitude to those who are faithfully serving, but all the credit, all the recognition, all the glory, and all the honor must go to God. At the end, we must praise God. When God gets the glory, honored, and lifted up, that is when the Gospel is ready to go out to people, and people are going to hear. Then, some seed will fall on good ground, some will fall on fertile ground, and some will get saved and bear fruit.

These are the three marks of a responsibly strong church in view of the end. They take the duties of prayer seriously, they practice the principles of love fervently, they use their spiritual gifts to serve the body, and to bring glory to God as a paramount necessity. Let’s pray:

Lord, Thank You for listening to us and hearing us. I praise You, Lord, for the guidance You give us in the word of God. I pray, Lord, in each one of these things, we can think about ourselves, and examine ourselves to see if we are doing them. Lord, we want to be strong in the Lord. We want You to be glorified. We want Your work to go forward. Lord, these are the ways it does go forward, so I pray, Lord, that You would give us the giftedness that we need to carry on all the work You have given us here. I pray, Lord, that we would use our gifts to edify and build up the church. That we would be serious about coming before You and seeking Your face in prayer. I pray, Lord, that we would also be fervently loving one another, so that there is nothing going on in our heart that will prevent us from serving with someone else as a believer. I pray, Lord, that You would take all these things, work them into our lives and congregation, and do it for the glory and honor of Your great name. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.