Like You Mean Business
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 Isa 64:1 Oh, that You would rend the heavens! That You would come down! That the mountains might shake at Your presence- 2 As fire burns brushwood, As fire causes water to boil-To make Your name known to Your adversaries, That the nations may tremble at Your presence!
 3 When You did awesome things for which we did not look, You came down, The mountains shook at Your presence. 4 For since the beginning of the world Men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, Nor has the eye seen any God besides You, Who acts for the one who waits for Him.

 1Pe 4:7 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." 9 Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. 10 As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

 Joh 15:26 "But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. 27 "And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning. 16:1 "These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. 2 "They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. 3 "And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. 4 "But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them. And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.
This past Thursday the church observed Ascension Day. We talk about it every Sunday when we recite the Creed. “He ascended into heaven and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father from that position of authority , He will one day come to judge the quick and the dead.

These texts fit well with the Ascension, because the ascension,  “mission accomplished” for Jesus.  It was at His ascension that the Father handed all things, all authority over to Jesus. We read about it in the Book of Revelation.

 Re 5:6 And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth.
 7 Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.

Without the Ascension, this handoff of power and authority does not take place and the church would be without the Holy Spirit. We would be orphans. As Jesus said in Jn 16:7,

 Joh 16:7 "Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.

And, without the “ascension”, there is no “descension” no “rending of the heavens, to one day return to judge the living and the dead.  And so we pray with Isaiah “Oh that You would rend the heavens! That You would come down!” “Thy kingdom come! Even so, come Lord Jesus!
The affluent church has a very poor view of heaven. I have heard it said that the church is suffering from “affluenza” and I agree. Few people are praying with Isaiah for the Lord’s return. We love our material lives far too much here on earth. The fact is we have it far too easy on earth and because of our affluenza we have lost sight of heaven.

I wouldn’t wish slavery on anyone, but the African Americans who experienced the toil and cruelty of slavery had no trouble turning their thoughts to heaven, and they gave us those great Negro spirituals, like “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, coming for to carry me home,” and Dem Golden Slippers Oh my golden slippers am laid away “Cause I don’t ‘spect to wear ‘em til my wedding day.!

They, like the early church, had their eyes on heaven, anticipating and hoping for the Lord’s soon return. The great wedding day when the Lord will come for His bride. This attitude of the early church gave them a sense of urgency in all their kingdom activities.

But that was 2000 years ago! Were the apostles crying wolf? Did the Holy Spirit give them “bum” information? What did Peter mean when he said, “”But the end of all things is at hand?” The essence of the Greek phrase “at hand” is that something is near. It comes from a root word that speaks of “squeezing.”

That’s why I used the tube of toothpaste in the children’s message this morning. God’s hand was on the tube of toothpaste in Peter’s day and He could’ve squeezed it dry at any time, and He could squeeze it dry just as easily today! The end is at hand! It is in God’s hands, “no one knows when the tube will be squeezed dry but the Father!”

Why is He drawing it out so? Well why do you draw it out so when you empty your tube of toothpaste? If you’re like me, you do everything but stand on that tube till the very last bit is out. Well, think of the contents of that tube of toothpaste as unbelievers, people that need to come to repentance.

The Lord is not “slack” (He isn’t relieving His pressure on the tube) concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.  ( 2 Pet 3:9)

Slowly but surely the tube is getting near it’s end, but God will not lose one single soul. All 144,000 of them will be present with Him on the last day when Jesus comes again. The 144,000 spoken of in Revelation is not to be taken as a literal number. It is a figurative number for the complete church.

It is the 12 tribes of the OT times the 12 apostles of the New Testament (144) times the number of perfect completeness (10x10x10 or 1000) These are all the saints from the beginning of time who have put their trust in Jesus Christ for their salvation.
Rev. 14:5 says “they (the 144,000) are without fault before the throne of God.”  Who can that be? Only those who have put on Christ through God’s means of grace, and then remain in the faith, can stand before the throne without fault!

Don’t worry, God knows those who belong to Him, He sees the end picture and absolutely none will be lost. And so we can all boldly pray, “Come Lord Jesus .....split the sky! And work in His kingdom toward that end....namely living and proclaiming the Gospel.

One of the clues we have that the end is indeed near is the words of Jesus found in Mt 24:14,

 Mt 24:14 "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

Daniel also wrote about the end times when he said,

 Da 12:7....” and when He shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished.”

The power of God’s holy people is the gospel....(the power of God unto salvation Rom 1:16) When the gospel is fully scattered, and the last believer has received it...the end will come.  The question is....are you ready?

I would suggest a quick test for your readiness. Are you praying for the end? Are you praying that Jesus will come and make all things new? Anything less, and you are still too attached to this world....remember, you cannot serve God and mammon!

Peter goes on to say that since the end of the world is at hand....therefore we ought to be serious and watchful in our prayers. What an understatement! For the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, the end brings unspeakable joy and eternal bliss. As David said in Ps 16, “The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places! Yes, I have a good inheritance!

Do you believe it or not? Jesus didn’t say, in my Father’s house are many shacks. He didn’t say,  I go to prepare a dump for you! He said mansions! Yes as a believer you have a good inheritance!

Not so for the unbeliever, all they have to look forward to is eternal torment in hell! Knowing this, therefore Peter says, we should be serious and vigilant in our prayers. That doesn’t mean that we must pray and worship with long faces....oh my, we know how to do that don’t we?

It simply means that we should worship and pray like we mean business! Imagine the Lord actually returning during our times of worship and prayer. What would He see? What would He hear? Would He see a people in joyful and hopeful anticipation of His Second coming, or a people just going through the gloomy motions. The holy church of Eeyor.....Oh, well I guess I’ll come to church.....I’ll mosey in whenever

Be serious.....mean business....pray and worship like you mean it! The time is at hand!  And above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins.

Peter has just told us that the end is near. He has told us what our spiritual response to that truth should be. (Worship and pray like we mean business) and now he tells us what our physical response ought to be. Live and love like we mean business! And number one on the list (Above all things)

Above our stock portfolio, above the budding sports careers of our five year olds, above American Idol, above the Green Bay Packers, above anything else you can name, we are to have fervent love for one another. That love is birthed out of a fervent love for Jesus.

That fervent love begins here at Living Word, in the local congregation and then it extends to the church universal. Where is your heart as it relates to love of the brethren. Is it distant? Aloof? Or on fire!

Here’s what’s happening in the church today. Oh, I’ll say hi to you at church, but don’t ask me to make room for you in my day planner. Is that descriptive of “fervent love?” Hardly. Fervent love is glowing, burning, warmth of affection! This kind of love should be like the burning embers of a fire.

Church ought to be like a glowing charcoal fire with Christ at the center. As we draw near to Him, we are ignited and warmed by His love for us, and we then ought to become a secondary source of warmth and love for each other. This will never happen to the briquette who chooses to stay outside. He will become isolated, cold, and eventually die.

Beloved, fight isolationism in the church! Look for ways to get involved with each other. Give priority to establishing  relationships and meeting the needs of those in the local congregation with Jesus Christ in the middle of all of it! Let’s make Living Word an irresistible fire of fervent fellowship.

 Joh 13:35 "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

Pray with one another, break bread with one another, fellowship with one another, share your material blessings with one another. This was the model of the early church and we read that as His church did these things, centered around Jesus Christ, that “the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.  

Peter continues: “Be hospitable!” Simply put this means be willing to receive fellow Christians as guests! I like the way the King James puts this. It says, “Use hospitality! It’s a tool given to the church and it’s a two way street!

Not only are we to be hospitable, but we are also to be willing to be a guest! (Just don’t turn the graciousness of your host into a (“guest that wouldn’t leave scenario!) Hospitality is a tool given to Christians to help build fervent love for one another.....use it!  But don’t abuse it.

Sometimes we think that we have to have the perfect meal or the perfect facilities in order to be hospitable, but Jesus made do with a little bread and a little fish, and whatever you have to offer your guests will be just fine....especially if it is offered in the name of Jesus.

 Finally Peter reminds us to minister our gifts to one another. Make no mistake about it. Every person who has ever been baptized in the name of the Triune God has spiritual gifts. It’s part of the package that Jesus won for you at Calvary and delivered to you in baptism.

 Eph 4:7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift.
 8 Therefore He says: "When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men."

At this point we could go over the litany of spiritual gifts as mentioned in the Bible, but let’s just look at the two broad categories listed by Peter. Speaking and ministering.

One category is speaking the oracles of God....speaking His truth, and the second category is applying that truth to ourselves and others. The question we all need to ask ourselves in light of the fact that the “end is at hand” is, “How then shall we apply this truth, How them shall we live?”

God in His great wisdom has gifted His church with those who proclaim His truth, and then gifts us in ways to respond to that truth. As you hear the Word of God and respond to it with action, your spiritual gifts will come to the surface.

God has given His church the Holy Spirit in order for us to be occupied with these things until the toothpaste runs out!  The end is at hand my friend,  therefore mean business in your prayer and worship, (for starters I would encourage you to make every effort to arrive at church early, and to attend Sunday night prayer.)

Secondly, make a commitment to start meaning business in your fervent love for one another!
Start looking for ways to express this love. The end is at hand, the toothpaste is running out.  It’s time for us to mean business in all we say and do for the Lord!