Scripture: 1 Peter 4:7-16 NAS:
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 who belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever, Amen. Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. By no means let any of you suffer as a murderer, or thief, or evil doer, or troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God.
LIVING IN THE “LAST DAYS”
Spiritually speaking, many people I’ve come in contact with, have no perception of the times we are living in. The message has been preached so much, many have become hardened by even the mention of the words–”END TIMES” or “LAST DAYS”.
What are the Last Days? When did they begin? When will they end?
ALL good questions. Let’s search the Word of God for His answers, not mine:
Acts 2:17-21 (Amplified Bible).
“And it shall come to past in the LAST DAYS, God declares, that I will pour out My Spirit upon all mankind, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy and your young men shall see visions (divinely granted appearances), and your old men shall dream [divinely suggested] dreams.  Yes, and on My menservants also on My maidservants in those days I will pour out My Spirit, and they shall prophesy [telling forth the divine counsels and predicting future events pertaining especially to God's kingdom].  And I will show wonders in the sky above and signs on the earth beneath, blood and fire and smoking vapor;  The sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the obvious day of the Lord comes–that great and notable and conspicuous and renowned [day].  And it shall be whoever shall call upon the name of the Lord [invoking, adoring, and worshiping the Lord--Christ] SHALL BE SAVED.”
THE “LAST DAYS”…
The “last days” is a period of time that began at Pentecost and will end at the second coming of Christ Jesus. In my humble opinion, based on the signs mentioned in the bible, are coming closer together…we are living near the end of the last days.
The “Last Days” Church On Display
The condition of the last days church is outlined in Revelation 3:7-22–a divided church, whose condition is characterized by the churches at Philadelphia and Laodicea.
1. The Church at Philadelphia: A church marked by faithfulness, unashamed boldness and good works–a church that is spared from the hour of tribulation that will come upon the whole world.
2. The Church at Laodicea: A church marked by laziness, spiritual poverty, lukewarmness–a church that is so distasteful to the Lord, He wants to “spew”, “spit” them out of His mouth with force. The Message bible really paints an ‘ugly’ picture: “I will vomit them out of My mouth”–and all this will occur if the church doesn’t repent.
HERE’S THE QUESTION. ”WHERE ARE WE? WHICH CATEGORY DO WE FALL UNDER? HOW DOES GOD VIEW OUR SPIRITUAL CONDITION?”
RELIGIOUS BELIEFS AND BEHAVIOR IN AMERICA:
George Barna is the founder of The Barna Group; a market research firm specializing in studying the religious beliefs and behavior of Americans, and the intersection of faith and culture. “Overall, Barna said, the survey revealed “a nation that is comfortable with religion but not particularly committed to spiritual growth.”
He commented: “Most people who are aligned with a Christian church really make a rather minimal investment in religious activity…most people describe themselves as religious, describe their faith as being very important in their daily life, but make only a half-hearted effort to truly master the foundations of their chosen faith and living a life that is determined by that faith.”
In a typical week…
“In a typical week, 41% of the adults attending Christian churches are not “born again”…and most of these people have been attending Christian churches for years and years without understanding the foundations of Christian faith with personal implications.
Barna suggested that our nation seemed stuck in a ‘bog of oozing mud…of spiritual complacency’. Americans seem to have become almost inoculated with spiritual events, outreach efforts and the quest for personal growth.
The changes that are needed…
Barna’s research study points out: “…the need for behavior modeling, strategic ministry and a more urgent reliance, not on the pastorate, but upon God to change the people.
Now there’s a topic of prayer to consider in the body of Christ. Like the churches of Laodicea and Sardis, as described in Revelation 3, the lack of commitment, their complacency, their lack of commitment and their spiritual deadness is distasteful to the Lord.
The Bottom Line…
It is NOT how many do we have coming through the church doors all week-long, but how many people are actually ready to go if Jesus should rapture His Bride, the church? What I found in my detective work, was some startling statistics from the Barna Research Study that should grab your heart as it did mine:
85% percent of Americans claim to be Christian while only 41% percent claim to be “Born Again”.
49% are actually committed to Christian faith and 37% read the Bible outside of church.
42% percent attend church; 49% have a private time of prayer and devotion.
20% did volunteer work at church and 19% attend Sunday School.
Now the next statistic not only grabbed my heart, but also put a lump in my throat:
According to the same research study, “America loses 48 churches every week, that’s 2,496 in a year”!
SPIRITUAL CHARACTERISTICS WE ALL NEED IN DEVELOPING OUR COMMITMENT – 1 Peter 4:7-16 NAS:
1. ”Be clear minded”; “SOUND JUDGEMENT” - (verse 7 a).
Literally, God’s meaning is to have a correct understanding of what being a Christian is all about; having a thorough and correct understanding of God’s Word.
In the Last Days…
There will be days of religious deception…spiritual illusion, deceiving spirits, doctrines of devils, abandonment of sound doctrine, an increased activity of the “spirit of antichrist”.
2. ”Alert”; “self-controlled”; a “sober spirit” in the practice of prayer” – (verse 7 b).
The average Christian prays about 45 seconds a day, over a meal.
Ephesians 4:14 says, “As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming”;
The apostle Paul is telling the church, don’t stunt your growth by your spiritual immaturity–not searching and knowing the TRUTH contained in God’s Word.
3. ”Fervent charity” – (verses 8-9).
“Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another”. Peter is telling us ‘point blank’…above everything, above all…keep fervent or, “have a red-hot, burning, glowing” (Greek translation) love for your brother and sister in Christ Jesus. Remain motivated in your good works by LOVE! Real bible faith is not what you believe, but what you do, motivated by LOVE.
4. ”Proper use of ministry gifts” – (verses 10-11).
I just finished a home bible study on the Spiritual Gifts given to all who accept Christ as their Savior (1 Corinthians 12:7-11; Romans 12:3-8). I gave it the title, “Gifted for a Purpose”. In the “not knowing” how to recognize the gifts of the Holy Spirit manifested in the body of Christ, the Church, how are we going to apply the proper use of ministry gifts?
As we progress into “the last days”, we’re going to have the tendency to spiritually “cool off”. Peter reminds us to be passionate in our Christian service, no matter what is going on around us.
“…Christ Jesus; who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, ZEALOUS FOR GOOD DEEDS” (Titus 2:14)
“…So be enthusiastic and in earnest and burning with ZEAL, and repent–changing your mind and attitude” (Revelation 3:19 AMP).
5. ”Rejoice in our sufferings” – (verses 12-16).
This is something that the church preaches and sings a lot about but seldom do. We generally moan, groan and complain. As the LAST DAYS continue to unfold, opposition to the gospel and Christianity will increase. So, to be able to REJOICE, we are going to have to keep our eyes on the Cross and REJOICE in Christ.
As long as we remain quiet about our FAITH, we can sail through life pretty easily. When you become vocal about your FAITH, opposition against you will increase.
WHICH CHURCH ARE WE TO BE CHARACTERIZED BY?
Is it the Philadelphia church or the Laodicean church? Are we following the instructions of Peter, or will we ignore them?