Summary: Peter summarizes the 4 basic things for a Christian to do (pray, love one another, hospitality, and using our gifts to serve one another).
Throughout Peterï¿½s letter he has been teaching Christian believers how to live as strangers in this world since we are now citizens of Godï¿½s kingdom, heaven. Peter gives Godï¿½s wisdom on how we as Christians live in a culture which doesnï¿½t share our values, and is perhaps even opposed to our faith as many were facing in Peterï¿½s day. While we may not have it as bad as those Christians Peter was writing to, his teachings are still helpful for us today living in a country which is increasingly going against the Christian faith. Peter addresses how we deal with those in authority over us, particularly those who arenï¿½t Christian. He addresses sin and how to live a holy life or life set apart for God, and how we share our life giving faith with those who are not open to it? Even though we are not at the end of Peterï¿½s letter for us this is the end (and not just because our baby is due this week), chapter four is the end of Peterï¿½s teaching to Christians as a whole, in the next chapter he gets more specific speaking to leaders and pastors of the church. In this chapter heï¿½s short, sweet and right to the point. I really like Peter because he gets to the bottom line. In the spirit of Peter Iï¿½ll try to get to the point quickly.
Peter begins by saying the end of all things is near. In other words Jesus is coming soon. It would be easy for us in 2008 to observe that over 1900 years have passed since Peter wrote these words, and think Peter didnï¿½t know what he was talking about since Jesus hasnï¿½t come back. But I donï¿½t believe itï¿½s about when Jesus comes back but that Jesus is coming back, and every day that passes brings us one day closer to his return. Peter is saying we must live today as though it is our last day because we will soon meet Jesus, our Judge. Peter wrote a few verses earlier in his letter, when Jesus comes he will judge the living and the dead (itï¿½s the same phrase which was adopted in the Apostles Creed). If Jesus were coming today or tomorrow, would I live my life differently? Would I be proud of my actions or ashamed? Remember heï¿½s writing to Christians so he is assuming they are saved, they have received Jesus, but he was concerned that their actions were not consistent with their beliefs. In light of Jesusï¿½ return, Peter gives us four areas to focus on.
1. Disciplined Prayer Life
The first area is about us and our relationship with God. ï¿½Be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.ï¿½ Prayer is our primary way of communicating with God, being in relationship with God. For a Christian to go without prayer, spending time in conversation with God, is like going without food or water. God is the source of our strength, He gives us the ability to stand up to adversity, temptation, .
Peter understands what it is to fail in oneï¿½s prayer life and experience the consequences. You may remember the moments before Jesusï¿½ arrest and crucifixion when he and his disciples were in the Garden of Gethsemane to pray and keep watch. You might also remember what Jesus told them as they entered the Garden. He said, ï¿½pray that you will not fall into temptation (Lk. 22:40).ï¿½ Yet what happened to every single one of the disciples? Did they pray? No, they fell asleep. Iï¿½m sure it was late at night, Iï¿½m sure that had had a long day preparing for and eating the Passover meal. But when Jesus asked them to pray and keep watch, they didnï¿½t. As a result they fell into temptation; the temptation to sleep, the temptation to save their own skin and flee when Jesus was arrested, the temptation to betray Jesus. Jesus on the other hand, who faced the greatest temptation, to leave behind the cross, and not pay the agonizing price of punishment for all ours sins, was strengthened through prayer. It says in Lukeï¿½s gospel that when he prayed, God sent an angel to strengthen him, so he could stand against the temptation of Satan to turn from his destiny.
When Peter says, ï¿½be clear minded and self-controlled so you can pray,ï¿½ he knows what he is talking about. He knows how easy it is to fall into the trap of putting prayer on the back burner and fit it in if we have the time. He knows the temptation to get a few extra zzzï¿½s rather than pray. ï¿½Oh what will missing one night, or one morning, or one day of prayer really matter?ï¿½ But Peter also knew the other side too, he knew it was the fervency of prayer which brought Pentecost when 3000 people were saved in one day. Peter knew it was because of the prayers of the church that God sent an angel to deliver him from prison just before Herod was going to kill him (he had just killed his friend James). The power of the Christian movement has always been God acting as a result of the prayers of his people. God changed the people who were praying, and he changed the people and the situations they prayed for.