First Peter 4:7, and let's follow along as I read through verse 11: "But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. Use hospitality one to another without grudging. 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." Let's pray together.
Our Father in heaven, we thank you this morning for the infallible word of God. We thank you for the precious promises that we find. And now, Lord, today, help us to learn how to be better ministers, and teach us how we can encourage one another along the way in the Christian life, I pray in Jesus' name. Amen. You may be seated.
Well, sometimes people have asked me the question, "How many ministers do you have over there at Lancaster Baptist Church?" And a lot of times I'll look them in the eye and I'll say, "Well, we have about 4,000." And they look at me like, "What are you talking about?" But I remind them that Lancaster Baptist Church is not a place with 7 or 8 hired servants, but that all of us are the servants of the living God.
All of us are called to minister and to serve the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, for many years I've often said, "Every member a minister, that God has called all of us to be involved in the ministry." The apostle Paul, right after he was saved, he testifies in 2 Corinthians 4:1 and he says, "Therefore as we have received mercy, we faint not." And he says, "We have been called as the ministers of Jesus Christ." And all of us have received mercy to minister for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now when you open the book of 1 Peter, as with every book, it is very important to understand somewhat of a context of this particular passage; and we see the context is given when Peter says in verse 7, "The end of all things is at hand." And an amazing statement indeed is made. He is reminding them and he is mindful of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was aware that Jesus said, "I will come again," and he was aware when Jesus was ascended up into heaven, that the angel said, "This same Jesus will come again unto you."
By the way, one of the great incentives for living the Christian life is that all of us as we live the Christian life would be recognizing and remembering that Jesus Christ will come again. It's a great incentive to live a holy life. It's a great incentive to live a godly life when we realize that Jesus will come again. And so, he says this statement, that Jesus Christ is coming. He says very clearly in this verse, "The end of all things is at hand." And so this was on his mind when he wrote the letter.
Now why was that on his mind? Well, I think, secondly, we see the culture in which he was writing. The Bible is clear that Jesus Christ had promised he would come again, but also that prior to his coming there would be troublesome times. And in the book of 1 Peter we know that there were many difficulties being experienced by the early church. It was written, this book, between 63 and 64 AD.
And some of you have studied with me before that around that same time, the city of Rome had burned. About three-fourths of the city had been burned, and the Roman Emperor whose name was Nero was sure that it was the Christians who had burned the city. And so, Nero put an edict out for the persecution of the Christians throughout the first century. He literally made the Christians a scapegoat.
And one historian by the name of Tacitus wrote of this particular period for the Christians, and he said, "Therefore, first those were seized who admitted their faith. And then using the information they provided, a vast multitude were convicted, not so much for the crime of burning the city, but for hatred of the human race. And perishing, they were additionally made into sports." Now this is speaking about Christians. "They were killed by dogs. Hides of beasts were sewn to them, and they were stretched apart. They were nailed to crosses. They were set aflame; they were used as nighttime lamps. They lit the gardens of Nero." In other words, they were taking Christians and literally burning them and using them as candles in the night.
And so it was in this first century 63-64 AD in the Roman Empire, really the known world of the time, Christians were being persecuted, and Christians were hated by the Roman government during those particular years. And so, it was that Peter was writing to the church and he was calling them to remember, "Listen, the end of all times is coming, and we need to remember to minister to one another during these times."
And so, this is what I want you to have in your mind, if you would, as a backdrop for the message today: murder of Christians, Christians being thrown into the coliseums, wild dogs tearing them apart, fathers never coming home, teenage boys being persecuted. Why? Because they were called Christians. And unlike many Christians today who don't really want anybody to know except on Sunday for an hour, these folks were commonly knowns as Christians, and they were not ashamed of their faith in Jesus Christ.
And so, Peter is writing to them, and he's saying, "Look, there's a lot of trouble out there in the world. But when you get together with God's people you need to minister to one another," because no one's going to minister to a faithful Christian at work. And very often we hear about people who are putting down a teenager who prays at their graduation, or somebody who speaks for Jesus Christ, or someone who just tries to have a witness. And we often hear about the late night talk shows making Christians really just the brunt of the joke in the day in which we live. So the world is not giving a lot of encouragement to Christians, so what we're going to learn this morning is that when we get together in the church, that we need to know how to minister one to another. So let's notice how we can do that.
First of all, I want you to see that we are called in this passage to minister in love one to another, to minister in love. Notice in verse 8, it says, "And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins." Now this love is to be a pervasive, fervent kind of love. In fact, he says the word "fervent" in verse 8: "Have fervent charity among yourselves." And one of the characteristics of a church that fulfilling its purpose is that it is a church that has a loving spirit, an intense, loving spirit for the Lord and for one another.
Now many churches become very self-centered. It's about themselves and what they get, and their few friends at their little class, and just having a little time together for themselves. But God says, "I want you when you come together to be aware of the fact that people have had a tough time. People have been persecuted. And when they are to come into the house of God that they should be encouraged by the church family.
Wiersbe said the word pictures an athlete. This word "fervent" pictures an athlete straining to reach a goal. It speaks of eagerness and intensity. It's telling us that we should reach out in love. It's telling us that we should be intentionally loving one another and encouraging one another in the Christian faith.
And not only do we see this as a fervent love, but it's a family type of love. Notice in verse 8 it says here, "Above all things have fervent charity," notice the little phrase here, "among yourselves." So God says, "I want you when you are together to have a spirit of love."
Can I just tell you something? No one needs to come onto this campus and hear about all the criticisms and complaints and gripes of the world; they're going to get that at work tomorrow. What they need when they come here to Lancaster Baptist Church is to be ministered to. "Hey, it's good to see you. I've been praying for you. God is able. God can make a way," and to encourage one another among yourselves. It's a pervasive love; and we literally can minister by loving one another.
Not only is it a pervasive love, I want you to see quickly it is a positive love, and I want you to see this in verse 8. The Bible says, "for charity shall cover the multitude of sins." Now that's a strange statement for our vernacular today. Let's say it together: "For charity shall cover the multitude of sins." Now all four of you said that really well, so I'm going to give you a second chance, all right? Let's try it again. Ready, begin: "For charity shall cover the multitude of sins." Much better.
Now let's talk about that phrase for a moment. The word "cover" means "to hide something." But let me be very quick to tell you that true love will not ignore wrongdoing. This is not to say that if you love someone and they do something wrong, then you just ignore it or you never correct it. That is not the Bible love that we're talking about. True love does not just say, "Oh, there's a problem, there's sin. Who cares?" That's not what this verse is saying. But what it is saying is that true love will take something that is meaningless or that bothers us slightly and true love covers that. True love doesn't make a big deal about that.
Some of you would say, "I've been married to my spouse for 28 years and he still doesn't know how to squeeze toothpaste out of that bottle." "She still doesn't know how to make this and such like my mom did." And true love covers the small things. Also, it will cover sin that has been repented of. So true love deals with sin; but when sin is dealt with and when apology is made, forgiveness is given, and it is covered in the sense of true biblical love.
You see, resentment is typical of this. Resentment carefully keeps books. Love keeps no books. Bitterness keeps books, but love keeps no books. That's what the Bible is telling us here. Psalm 103:12 says, "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us."
How many of you are thankful that God says, concerning your sin and mine, "What sin are you talking about? It's as far as the east is from the west." And so, God is not keeping a tablet on your sin or mine, and he says that when you love each other with a Christlike love, that love will cover a multitude of sin. It doesn't mean that we don't deal with sin, it just means that when it is dealt with, then we go on and we press on the upward way. And love is a healing kind of a love. Notice in Proverbs 10:12, "Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins."
You know, I've pastored this church for 32 years, and I've helped a lot of people through a lot of difficult and sinful situations, and I sometimes fear that they think about it, first of all, much more than God thinks about it. God's not thinking about it. And, secondly, much more than I think about it, because I never think about it. And I can look at someone that's had some sin problem maybe when they were a kid or maybe went through something; I don't think about that. You know why? Because I love Lancaster Baptist Church. And when I know that something's been dealt with before the Lord, then love covers a multitude of sin, and you move on, and you go on as partners together doing the work of God. And what I want to tell you, my friend, is be quick to ask forgiveness, and be quick to give forgiveness, and then move along in the Christian life. Don't ruin your future by living in your past, because true love covers a multitude of sins.
So God says, "I want you to make the church a place of love and minister with fervent passionate love for one another." And then notice, secondly, he says, "I want you to minister with hospitality." Now this is really a great verse. I want you to see this in verse 9. It says, "Use hospitality one to another without grudging."
Now if you were a kid in a Christian school, that would be your favorite memory verse, because you can remember it really easily, it's a short one. But just in case you can't remember it, let's read it together, okay? Verse 9, ready begin: "Use hospitality one to another without grudging."
Now hospitality is a form of natural love, and I want to speak to you about it for just a moment, because I believe a great church is given to hospitality, not just if you're a care group leader or a Sunday school teacher, but that all of us should have a spirit of hospitality one to another. So let's look at, first of all, the tool of hospitality.
You say, "Why do you call it a tool this morning?" Because notice what the Bible says. It says, "Use hospitality." Like you would use a screwdriver or a wrench, God says, "I want you to use hospitality to show love to guests or strangers."
Now in the New Testament times there were few hotels, and many Christians were too poor to afford paying for a place of lodging. And so often when Christians would come through a town, they would find lodging with another Christian, and it was just the way it was. People were ready to bear burdens.
I remember years ago visiting the city of Ephesus, and I looked at the various door entryways to some of the homes that had been excavated; and the archeologists had kind of put some of the rock back together. And at the thresholds of several of the doors the tour guide pointed out the sign of the fish, which was an ancient sign of belief in Jesus Christ, and he said, "Oftentimes the Christians put these things at their doorstep, number one, to say that they were not ashamed of Jesus."
By the way, if I were to visit your home or if someone visits your home, could they tell that it was a Christian home? Do you have maybe the Ten Commandments? Is there a Bible out? Is there some way that someone could know? People back then wanted it to be known, "We are a Christian family." But, secondly, it was so that Christians who were passing through town would know that they had a friend there.
You know, I want to tell you, in this world in which we live, where Christians are often cursed and made fun of, we want every passerby, every Christian that comes our way to know, "You have a friend at Lancaster Baptist Church," and we want to be given to hospitality. And we ought to be saying, "Look, I don't care who it is, if it's a first-time guest, I want to show hospitality."
During this month of December, it might be a single mom, and you invite her and her children over; and she'd be so thrilled to see her children around a man who prays for the meal. And it might be someone just coming in from out of town and starting up a job at Aerospace, and you meet them, and you have them over for a bite to eat, or you take them to In-N-Out Burger and introduce them to the culture of California, right?
Some of you just woke up, you heard me say In-N-Out Burger. I was talking about God and Jesus and the Bible, and you were sound asleep. But then the food was mentioned and you woke right back up. God bless you.
Let me tell you, when you use hospitality, make sure as you use it that you do it from your heart. And if you're having someone in your home, I might add it might help to clean your house just a little bit and kind of make do.
I remember very first time someone had us over when we moved to Lancaster, and they haven't been in the church 30 years. I don't know if they're even still living, so I'll take the liberty to tell this story. But they had us come over. And I'm telling you what; we had to literally navigate our way through all the stuff in that house just to find a place to sit down. It was quite a situation.
We sat down, and we're sitting there. We were just glad somebody wanted to have us over, you know; I was the new pastor, and we're sitting there. My son Larry, I don't know how old he was, maybe four or five, and he had his hand kind of down by the ground. I don't know why, he was just sitting there. And suddenly he goes, "Ouch!" And we look over and there's literally blood from his finger. And the lady of the house said, "There's our pet hamster. We could not find him for two weeks." Just a thought: when you can't find a pet hamster you might want to clean up just a little better around the house.
But use hospitality. And this Christmas season say, "Well, Pastor, this is our busiest season." No, no, no; let's use it this month. Do you know there's 80 widows in this church, and many of them are in this room right now? And you know some of you young parents should not let your children just run right by them. But you ought to stop and learn names, and open your heart, and sometimes open your home.
And you say, "Pastor, this is such a basic sermon. You're telling us to love each other and have each other to our home." Sometimes I find Christians just don't do the basic things anymore. And if we're going to minister to one another, we can't just be zooming in and zooming out; but we've got to be looking around and realize that everybody around you here has probably had a tough week. And God says, "I want you to use the tool of hospitality." God says, "Pastors are to be given to hospitality, a lover of hospitality."
And notice the test of hospitality; I want you to see this. Notice the test of hospitality, verse 9: "Use hospitality one with another without grudging." Now every teenager knows what grudging is, because when moms or dads say, "Now you need to take out the trash and get your homework done," a lot of times teenagers go, "Aw, man!" And we all know what grudging teenagers need. Well, that's another sermon, we'll talk about that later.
But sometimes parents can be grudging. And I just want to remind you, it is a privilege to serve somebody in the name of Jesus Christ, it's a privilege. Whether it's a missionary like at our Missions Conference, or when we have the Spiritual Leadership Conference in the summer and dozens of pastors stay in the homes of our members. And many of those pastors have said to me, "The highlight of the conference, don't take this wrong, Brother Chappell, it really wasn't the services, it was the hospitality of a family from Lancaster Baptist Church that loved us." You see, compassion and hospitality make a difference.
Now one lady, she spent the day preparing dinner for company, and when the guests finally arrived, she told her three-year-old daughter, she said, "I want you to say the blessing, Sweetheart." And her daughter said, "But I don't really know what to say." And her mother said, "Well, just say what Mommy said at lunch," and she said, "Okay." And she bowed her head, she said, "Dear Jesus, why did I invite these people to supper tonight?" So that might be a little bit of grudging right there, right? God says, "I want you to use hospitality, but don't have a grudging spirit about it."
Now, folks, look; don't have an excuse. "Well, if I had a nice house I would give hospitality." You know, when Terrie and I came here to Lancaster Baptist Church we lived at 45009 Spearman Drive. You're all welcome to go drive by this afternoon: 45009 Spearman, okay, and go by and take a look at it.
It wasn't much. We couldn't set our furniture up in the bedrooms; no room for most of our furniture. It wasn't a lot, but we kept it clean, and every Sunday night we invited somebody over. And we were given to hospitality. We didn't have disciplers and lots of people to help disciple. We just did the best with what we had. A lot of times we did not have money for food, we'll just said, "We'll have popcorn," and we'll have some popcorn and maybe some diet Coke or Dr. Pepper. But there's something about opening up your home and your life that makes a difference.
You say, "Well, I like my privacy." Then grow up as a Christian, because the Christian life is not just about your privacy, it's about serving other people, you see. So the ministry is to minister in love. It's to minister with hospitality. Then notice, thirdly, it's to minister with wisdom, to minister with wisdom.
Now I want you to see where wisdom is needed. Look at verse 10: "As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." Now let's read verse 10, shall we? Ready, begin: "As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God."
First of all, God wants you to discern your gift. He wants you to discern your gift. And the word "gift" here is the word charisma. It means "a divine enablement." It means divine enablement. God has enabled all of you at the moment of your salvation with an edifying gift that you can use to minister to other people.
Now these gifts are listed in Romans 12, and we refer to them as permanent edifying gifts. There were temporary sign gifts in the New Testament such as tongues and healings. These were revelatory for a period of time until the Bible was complete. But once the Scriptures were complete and the revelatory gifts passed away, the edifying gifts continued. You read about them in further book such as 1 and 2 Thessalonians.
In the later epistles where we read nothing about tongues; we still read about these ministering gifts, because God intended his word to be the final authority and ministry to happen in the local New Testament church. And every believer received these gifts, and they are gifts for the ministry. In fact, notice in verse 10: "As Every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another." God says, "I'm going to give you some gifts so that you can minister, so that you can encourage one another."
Now in your notes I believe there's a box that lists some of the gifts from Romans chapter 12, and here they are. There's the gift of prophecy. That gift can be either discernment, or sometimes it's telling out the truths of God. There's the gift of serving. There's a gift of teaching. There's the gift of encouraging. There's the gift of giving. There's a gift of ruling, and there's the gift of mercy.
Now these are some of the spiritual gifts that are given to people when they accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. God says, "I'm going to give you these gifts, these divine abilities, so that you can serve." And many people have this gift of serving, and they enjoy finding ways to serve God in the local church. It might be cleaning; might be helping a class; might be serving as an usher. Might be teaching is one of the gifts; encouragement or edification.
Giving. There are some people beyond their tithe and the offerings, maybe to missionaries and the building. Some people God just blesses with an ability to make money and give money. There's the gift of ruling, that is organizing things. And there's the gift of mercy; and what a beautiful thing. What a beautiful thing to see in the church people that have a gift of mercy, and they visit someone, maybe someone that's lonely, maybe someone that's having a surgery, and they just express God's love to them and God's mercy for them.
Maybe to see someone who has the gift of teaching and they articulate biblical truth in an organized fashion and they put an application to it. Maybe to see someone who has the gift of giving and they're very generous in helping with the work of the Lord, or in the gift of serving. But all of these are given as gifts from the Lord. They are given as gifts for the ministry, and they are given as gifts of grace to be stewarded.
Notice again in verse 10, "even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." So let me put it down in layman's terms. God, when he saved you, gave you a divine enablement. He gives you a desire. If you would search the matter out prayerfully and scripturally, he would show you.
And some of you have a desire just to help in whatever way. And some of you have a desire to serve, and some of you to teach, and some of you to help organize and all these different things. And God says, "I want you to steward these gifts. I want you to manage these gifts well. I don't want you to sit on them, I want you to use them. I want you to be involved in sharing with those gifts." So discern your gift.
And all of us this morning should have a desire to think, "You know, if God gave me a gift, how can I use that for his glory?" And if you feel like, "Boy, there's some things that I would enjoy doing," you let me or one of the pastoral staff know; we would enjoy getting you plugged in and helping you to enjoy the fulfillment of using your spiritual gift for the glory of God. Discern your gift, determine what it is, and then steward it well.
I want to tell you this morning, if every member of Lancaster Baptist Church would know their gift and employ their gift in ministry, we would change the history of the city of Lancaster. But we're not going to change it if we give Jesus one hour a week. But if we discover what it is that God has called us to do and gifted us to do, and we all get involved, we can make a difference for the glory of God. Discern your gift.
Secondly, notice this, we must display our gifts. We must display our gifts. Now notice this in verse 10: "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 of the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth."
Now when you display these gifts, first of all, you can display it with speaking. Some of these gifts like mercy and teaching, they require speaking. And when you speak, God says, "I want you to speak as of the oracles of God." In other words, "I want you to give God's truth to people. I want you when you go to the hospital to remind them that there is a God who hears and answers prayer." And when you go to someone whose spouse has left them, that we can cast our every care upon the Lord. And when you go to someone whose just gotten laid off from work, that all things work together for good.
So when you use your spiritual gift, make sure that you're not giving them your human psychology or humanistic thought, but give them God's oracles. And then, secondly, notice here, he says, "We also want to minister to people." Verse 11," and if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability of God."
Now listen very carefully. As you serve God, it can get wearisome at times. How many of you remember when Jesus crossed over the Sea of Galilee with the disciples, the Bible says, "He went into the hinder part of the ship and he put his head on a pillow and he fell fast asleep." Our God Jesus Christ is 100 percent God and 100 percent man, and he was weary. And sometimes the ministry is wearisome, and that's why we must make sure that we're ministering in the power of his grace.
So look at it again in verse 11. It says, "Let him do it as of the ability which God giveth." Let's say that together: "Let him do it as of the ability which God giveth." Say it one more time: "Let him do it as of the ability which God giveth."
So how many of you agree, we need God to give us the ability to get this ministry done? I know I do. I need God's help and God's ability to go faithfully day after day. And I cannot have God's help if I'm not abiding with Jesus Christ, because he's the vine and we're the what? Branches. He's the vine, so we've got to abide with him. That's why people will burn out if they're not abiding in the vine; they're just doing stuff, and they're not doing it in the power of God. Then they'll find that in their heart, in their inner soul there's a depletion that comes.
That's why Jesus said, " Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." God says, "You're not going to get it done if you're not walking with me." And so we must minister in God's strength, and we must minister for God's people. Dr. Curtis Hutson often said, "The measure of a man's greatness is not how many people serve him, but how many people he serves." "For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another."
Can I ask you this question? Who can you serve this month? You say, "Oh, I'm going to serve the Lord." That's a great answer. But he says, "I want you to minister one to another." The way we serve the Lord is by ministering one to another.
Is there someone today that God could use you to touch? Don't come to church and just rush in and rush out. Might be someone you meet on the way out, might be someone you meet in the parking lot, just someone that God brings across your path, and he says, "I want you to minister to them. I want you to lift their burden. Minister in love, minister with hospitality, minister according to the wisdom of your gifts."
God has given you a gift. Are you using it for the Lord? Are you allowing God to use you to minister to others? You say, "Well, why do I have to do all this stuff? That's the problem with you Baptists, you're always telling us to do stuff." Well let me tell you why and we're done.
Look at this verse right here: "For even the Son of Man," that's Jesus, "for even the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." By the way, how many of you are glad that Jesus came to give himself a ransom for many? Jesus Christ left heaven's glory. He was born of a virgin, born in that manger we're going to talk about next month. And he was born; not only was he born in that manger, but he grew up in a carpenter's house, and then he began to live his life, a perfectly sinless life.
He never sinned. But when he went to the cross of Calvary, he shed his blood; and that perfectly sinless blood was shed by someone who didn't come to be ministered to; but he came to give his life. And because he literally gave his life and shed his blood, whoever will call upon the name of the Lord can have their sins forgiven. You can be washed in the blood of Jesus Christ, and you can have a home in heaven for all of eternity. This is why Jesus came, and this is what Jesus does: he offers cleansing because of the shedding of his blood. He came to minister to you. And now the one who died for us says, "I want you to minister to one another." That's his challenge.
Why do we need to find our gift and deploy into ministry? Because of what Jesus Christ has done for us. And so, I encourage you, as we conclude this series, to minister one to another. Ask the Lord to lead you. Don't wait for pastor to make a chart that you check off: "I open the door for somebody. I had someone in my house. I wrote a kind note. I pet the dog."
You know, there comes a point when you stop checking charts and you start walking in the Spirit, and he starts showing you, "You know what? You could help that family. You could help that teenager. You could minister to that dear lady." Minister one to another, because everybody's had a tough time.
Now, we're not living in the Roman Empire yet. We think it's bad. We didn't like the last election, whatever. But I'm telling you, there's enough difficulty in the world today that everybody needs encouragement; and this ought to be the place where they find it. To the glory of God, may Lancaster be a place where ministry's doing well, and God's people are edified as we obey the Word of God.
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