Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), pastor in Northhampton, MA, fueled the American Great Awakening of 1739-1741 with his weighty preaching and profound writing. He was intensely serious about his faith in Jesus Christ, but at the same time deeply committed to joy in the same. Beginning in the fall of 1722 at the age of 19 and finishing in the summer of 1723, Edwards composed 70 Resolutions which would give him a place to stand in the world and a compass to guide him as he sought to follow Jesus. Several of those resolutions reflect his commitment to live with the end in mind. Here is a sampling:
18. Resolved, to live so at all times, as I think is best in my devout frames, and when I have clearest notions of things of the gospel, and another world.
19. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour, before I should hear the last trump.
50. Resolved, I will act so as I think I shall judge would have been best, and most prudent, when I come into the future world.
55. Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to act as I can think I should do, if I had already seen the happiness of heaven, and hell torments.
Here are a couple that touch on living in light of his own death:
7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.
17. Resolved, that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.
52. I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, that I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age.
We have been thinking about Peter’s declaration that “the end of all things is near” and what it means to sojourn as followers of Jesus with that end in mind. In the text we are considering, I Peter 4:7-11, Peter exhorts us to live by two priorities: prayer and love for one another. In light of the end of all things these are critical. Two weeks ago we took a pretty thorough look at this passage (Sojourning together in Love)and last week we took a more general look at what Jesus said about the times leading up to the end of all things (Sojourning with the End in Mind). Last Sunday’s sermon focused on the first priority of prayer and this week we will focus on loving one another. So we will return to our text and reflect on the second priority Peter gives us, loving one another.
Read I Peter 4:7-11 and use the questions below to help you meditate on this text.
1. Before we get to the second priority, let’s take a minute to recall that we are to be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of our prayers. That is, we are to see ourselves with sober judgment and see our circumstances clearly so that we can pray rightly. In the sermon on Sunday we reflected on how Peter himself failed at these things in the Garden of Gethsemane. So given Jesus warning about the days ahead, how do you think you should pray? He said, “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then may will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt. 24:9-13). If these things are true, how do you think you should pray for yourself, your children or grandchildren, and one another?
• Why do you think when the end of all things is near Peter’s first concern is our prayers?
• Would you say it is your first concern? Why or why not?
• What resolution might you make regarding prayer in light of the nearness of the end of all things?
2. Peter’s second priority for us is, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly” (vs. 8). We considered before why Peter tells us to love one another “above all” (cf. Jn. 13:34-35; I Cor. 13:1ff.), but why will that be increasingly important with the end of all things near?
• The word translated “earnestly” also contains the idea of “keep” or continuing. What does this mean for loving one another and why is this so important for the fellowship of Christians?
3. Peter gives us three practical applications for loving one another earnestly. What are they?
4. We have looked at what Peter means when he tells us that “love covers a multitude of sins,” but why does love do that? Where does our love come from and what kind of love is that? Consider Psalm 32:1; Micah 7:18-19; Hebrews 10:17; I John 4:7-12.
• We noted before that “love covers a multitude of sins” can mean overlooking sins, but we are also commanded to confront sins (Gal. 6:2; Matt. 18:15-17). How does love cover sin, even when it is confronted? Or is it?
• Why is this such a critical application of love for the fellowship of Christians? (cf., Gal. 5:15)
• Is there a resolution you might make with regard to covering one another’s sins?
5. Think for a moment about the church in Peter’s day. Why might hospitality be so important? (Consider Acts 16:15;; Romans 16:5; Colossians 4:15; Matt. 10: 11-15; II John 10-11; III John 5-8)
• Why do you think Peter is concerned about showing hospitality without grumbling? Why might grumbling be an issue for some?
• How could we apply this principle today?
• Is there a resolution you might make for showing hospitality without grumbling?
6. Peter says that each of us has been given a gift which we are to use “to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” We considered other passages about spiritual gifts last time (Rom. 12:3-8, I Cor. 12:4-11 and Eph. 4:11). But what does this expression or application of love tell us about the very nature of the church? (you might give some thought to Ex. 33:15-16)
• Why is the good stewardship of our spiritual gift critical to the fellowship of Christians? (cf., I John 4:12)
• What resolution do you think you can make with regard to the use of the gift God has given you for the good of others?
7. In his diary, Jonathan Edwards wrote, “Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God's help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ's sake.” And, “Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.”
• What do you think of your resolutions? Are they in line with His will? Can you pray that the Lord will help you keep them?
• Write out a prayer reflecting your meditation on I Peter 4:7-11.
May the Lord bless your meditation on His Word and enable you to grow “in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!”