Religious Belief in Australia (2011 Census Results)
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Living in the Last Days (1 Peter 4)

PeterThe apostle Peter presents us with a strong challenge for times like ours: 

1 Peter 4:7-11. The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen. NLT

There was an urgency in which the followers of Christ in the first century lived their lives. They needed to be fully awake (see Romans 13:12. Philippians 4:5. James 5:8. 1 John 2:18. Revelation 1:3; 22:20). Disciples of Jesus lived their lives with the perception that since the end of the world was near, they should live in light of God’s judgment. The completion of history was imminent. The next event could usher in end time events.  

Do we believe in the divine end of history or the myth of continual progress, where the world is continually getting better? True, technology is making our lives easier, but society remains about the same (with rampant discrimination, violence, conflict, crime, etc). Is there any urgency in our living, without becoming frantic, panicked end-times junkies always looking for the Antichrist? Someday we will be judged and held to account for how we lived our lives. How frequently do we examine our lives in light of eternity? 

DEVOTE 3

In light of the urgency of the hour, Peter urged Christians to live a certain kind of life and to DEVOTE themselves to some specific practices. 

1. PRAY: “Be earnest and disciplined in your prayers.”

This is a call to be mentally and spiritually alert, so that we have an effective prayer life. If they stayed alert, they would be effective in their prayer. It was about living with a sense of urgency. Be steady in mind. Preserve your sanity. See things in proper perspective. Be sober in mind – sensible but not joyless.

Peter knew what it was to fall asleep in a prayer meeting - with Jesus! He also knew the power of prayer to build an intimate relationship with God and to draw on the unlimited resources available to us - wisdom, faith, and boldness to name a few.

What are some blockages to prayer? They include busyness, distractions, disappointment and unbelief. We can never not be in God's presence. What we lack is awareness. God is with us all the time wherever we are. Prayer can be a continual lifestyle. There is also something special that can occur when we stop and take focused time to communicate with God.

2. SHARE: “Show deep love for each other.”

Above all, love each other deeply. Work at loving one another because doing so in the midst of stress is difficult, as relationships tend to become frayed and tested during difficult times. Preserve your love. Let it be constant and consistent. Love the unlovely and the unlovable. Love in spite of insult and injury. Christian love is not an easy, sentimental reaction.

Peter quotes Proverbs 10:12 about “love covering a multitude of sins.” He is not talking about covering up sins here, hiding things we’d rather not face. However, God's love enables us to overlook faults and forgive others more easily. It is patient. It transforms situations, moving them from squabbling and fighting to reconciliation and working together. Abandon the old pagan ways and learn the new habit of love. The community that loves one another is able to forgive one another more rapidly when minor issues arise.

Also, Peter doesn’t want Christians withdrawing from the world in selfish separation. He urges them to go out into the world, to become more deeply involved in it by serving others. Be hospitable – to other believers (including travelling missionaries) and to all people. Hospitality (a “lover of visitors”) was to be a mark of followers of Christ (Romans 12:13. 1 Timothy 3:2; 5:10. Hebrews 13:2. Titus 1:8. Matthew 25:35, 43). It formed the foundation of the Christian movement. It was about warmth and love.

Share a meal with someone – then be open to sharing your story and eventually sharing your faith in Jesus with outsiders (see 1 Peter 3:15). 

3. SERVE: “Use whatever gifts you have been given.”

Use your gifts to serve others. Spiritual gifts are an important topic and Peter is echoing Paul’s ideas here (Ephesians 4:11). Of course, love is the context for the exercise of spiritual gifts in the church (1 Corinthians 13). The church needs every gift every person has (Romans 12:3-8. 1 Corinthians 12). There is no gift that cannot be placed at the service of Christ. We are stewards of the gifts we have been given.We can serve in many spheres; the church, our home, our local community, our work place and our global village,

In 2013, we want to devote ourselves to these three practices which will help us move towards making our church mission more of a reality. The needs in our world are great. There is an urgency in the hour. Our nation needs God, so it doesn't continue in a slide towards spiritual apathy and atheism. Crime is on the increase, as is hopelessness, violence and relational conflict. 

May the Spirit of God stir us afresh at this time to break out of indifference, complacency and apathy into a life of passionate faith. Imagine what could happen if the church in Australia came alive with God's Spirit. The stories of salvation, healing and restoration would be inspirational. Each crisis is an opportunity in disguise. Together, let's seize the day! 

[See also Endurance in Suffering - 1 Peter 1 and Leading in Tough Times - Peter 5]