READ: Proverbs 4:23; 1 Peter 4:7-11

I was watching the NBA championship series recently. It was one of those typical nail-biters that sports fan everywhere love to see. The game went into overtime for the second consecutive time in the series. What struck me as the game progressed was that the players played differently in the end than they did at the beginning. With time running out, both teams tried to do more things in a limited amount of time. It reminded me a lot of God’s will for believers as the Lord’s return approaches.

We can debate the time of the Lord’s return, the place of His return, and the events surrounding His return. But there is no debate about the certainty of the event.

In fact, the Apostle Peter states rather matter-of-factly that the “end of all things is at hand” (1 Peter 3:7). The verb the author uses is in the Greek perfect tense. This means that the countdown alluded to in the verse started in the past and continues up to the very present. What I find interesting is that the actions Peter describes in verses 7-11 are more "outward" focused than "inward" focused.  That is, they are more “others-directed” than “me-directed.” Peter is saying:

Since the Lord's return is certain, we need to guard our hearts with active love.

What do we mean by “active love?”

Go back to the basketball analogy at the beginning. If you follow the sport, you're probably aware that in the closing minutes of the game, coaches tell their players to do two things: be aware and make the best choices. That is, be aware of the fact that the game clock is running down. Then make sure that the best shots and the best passes are taken by reducing risks as much as possible. It is the same in our Christian lives.

With time running out, we need to be aware that we have less time to serve Jesus than ever before. We need to make choices that will have an eternal difference on people.

What does active love look like?

1 Peter 4:7-11 gives us four specific action steps we can take immediately:
  • We are to love God. Peter doesn’t say that specifically in the text, but it is implied in verse 7. To be “serious and watchful” means that we are to be thinking about what the Lord wants more than what we want. And the best place to practice serious thinking and watchfulness is when we pray. Or to put it another way, we are to pray as if Jesus was coming back at any moment.
  • We are to love our fellow believers.  In verse 8 the phrase “one another” is focused on Christians. The apostle must have assumed that loving other believers was more difficult than what one might think. He quotes from Proverbs 10:12, when he says, “Love will cover a multitude of sins.” He means that loving actions will look beyond the sins of another believer.  Instead of holding on to hurt feelings, we choose to actively love all members of the Body of Christ.
  • We are to love people with needs that we can meet. In verse 9 Peter calls us to show hospitality. The word “hospitality” literally means, “love for the stranger.” In the first-century world there were people who traveled from city to city, who may have been left to sleep at night in the town square. With time running, Peter was encouraging believers to show compassion and hospitality to people facing specific, physical needs. And no matter where we look in our own day, there are people in need. There are people with needs that we have the means to meet.
  • We are to love generously. In verses 10 and 11 the writer seems to be referring to spiritual gifts. These gifts, graciously and freely given to believers from God, are to be used to build up the Church. But it is not out of context to say that everything we have is a gift from God.  These undeserved gifts are to be used in such a way that human needs will be met, and Jesus will be exalted in all things (cf. v. 11)

It's a fact, time is running out. We have less time today than we have ever had before, but please do not misinterpret what I am saying. The text is not telling us to live hurried and fretful lives, where we are trying to earn points with God. The text instead tells us that:

We must be aware that the promise of Jesus to come back for His own will soon be fulfilled. So let us do the most powerful thing as humans that we could ever do - Let us love one another in both word and deed. When we do this, we will guard our hearts from spiritual harm.

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