"Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil."
Jesus began his public ministry by being baptized in the Jordan River where God the Father announced that he was his "beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." (Mt. 3:13-17) It may seem strange that immediately after this clear, public declaration of his identity, Jesus was immediately led "into the wilderness to be tempted." Why not go to the heart of Jerusalem and begin his teaching and healing ministry to show the arrival of the kingdom of heaven? Going off alone into a wasteland for "forty days and forty nights" may seem counterintuitive to God's purposes. Why this withdrawal into the desert?
Matthew does not explicitly tell us but he does purposely align Jesus' story with that of ancient Israel. Like Israel, Jesus came up out of Egypt (Mt. 2:15). Israel was then 'baptized' in the Red Sea and was made to wander in the desert for a period of forty (years). But whereas Israel was tempted and sinned in the wilderness, Matthew shows us that Jesus remained faithful to God by responding to temptation with Scripture ("It is written" vv.4, 7, 10). Each temptation with each quotation of Scripture from Deuteronomy has a parallel in Israel's history. Matthew's purpose is to show Jesus to be the faithful Servant of God that Israel, along with all humanity, failed to be.
THE PURPOSE OF JESUS' TEMPTATION
It is important to note that Jesus' confrontation with the devil in the wilderness was orchestrated by God. Jesus was directed "by the Spirit," meaning God not only permitted this confrontation but arranged it for a specific purpose: "to be tempted by the devil." Jesus was not tempted by God (Jas. 1:13). Rather God permitted the devil to tempt him (cf. Job 1:12; 2:6). The devil was the agent of temptation but the initiative was God's. Why would God desire his "beloved Son" to go through such an ordeal? Here are four reasons:
- Jesus was tempted to prove he is stronger than the devil - If Jesus is to "destroy the works of the devil" (1 Jn. 3:8) and be mankind's champion against evil (Gen. 3:15) then he must be proven to be stronger than the enemy.
- Jesus was tempted to qualify him as our High Priest - If Jesus came to represent us to God as the ultimate High Priest he must know the strength of the devil from personal experience so that he can sympathize with our weaknesses and intercede for us in heaven (Heb. 2:17-18; 4:14-5:10).
- Jesus was tempted to teach us how to resist temptation - Jesus submitted himself to God, resisted the devil and the devil fled from him (Jas. 4:7). If we follow his example, the devil will flee from us in times of temptation.
- Jesus was tempted to teach us how the devil works - Jesus' temptation provides us with valuable strategic insight into the "schemes" of the devil (2 Cor. 2:11). When the enemy's tactics are revealed, we can use that information to our advantage in our spiritual battle against him (Eph. 6:11ff). Douglas MacArthur once said, "The greater the knowledge of the enemy, the greater the potential for victory."
God arranged this direct confrontation between Jesus and the source of all evil not only because it suited his eternal purpose but for our benefit. Seeing Jesus overcome the enemy gives us who follow him hope. He is worthy not only of emulation but of worship. All praise to the Lord, the founder and perfecter of our faith, the champion of our salvation!
THE PARADOX OF JESUS' TEMPTATION
Matthew 4:1-11 has bred many false views of Jesus' divine-human nature. In an attempt to uphold his deity, some have devalued his humanity. We should remember that Jesus is a totally unique being, at once fully human and fully divine. We must, therefore, guard against any view that minimizes one aspect of his nature (1 Jn. 4:2-3). Jesus' nature is a paradox and as a paradox it cannot be completely explained or understood. To help maintain a proper balance, keep these truths in mind when reading abut Jesus' temptation:
- Jesus was tempted to sin - While the word "tempted" (peirazo) can refer to a test designed by God for our spiritual development (Jas. 1:2), it can also refer to a temptation designed by the devil for our spiritual destruction (Jas. 1:14-15). Each test comes with it a temptation to sin. Jesus' temptation in the wilderness reveals that a situation intended by the Father for good can be, at the same time, a situation used by the devil for evil (1 Cor. 10:13). Since Jesus is a human and temptation is a part of being human in a broken world, it should be no surprise that Jesus was subject to it (Heb. 4:15).
- Jesus' temptation proves his humanity - While Jesus' divine nature could not be tempted (Jas. 1:13) his human nature certainly could. Jesus willingly subjected himself to all the limitations of the human body (Phil. 2:6-7) including hunger. He draws attention to his humanity by applying Deuteronomy 8:3 to himself: "Man shall not live by bread alone" (Mt. 4:3-4). Jesus, as a fully human being, found his spiritual nourishment in the word of God.
- Jesus could have succumbed to temptation - Jesus' confrontation with the devil was a genuine conflict. If Jesus, as a human, was incapable of sinning then looking to his victory over temptation for confidence in overcoming our temptations would lose all significance (Heb. 2:18; 4:15). Saying that Jesus could have sinned does not disparage him in the least. As stated above, temptation is a reality faced by all humans. By recognizing that Jesus was capable of sinning we can truly appreciate the greatness of his choosing not to sin! "Yes, Jesus had the possibility to yield. But even more wonderful - He had the power not to yield. And in that truth is His glory and our hope" (Hobbs, An Exposition of the Four Gospels, Vol. 1, p. 47).
- Jesus overcame temptation as a human - Because Jesus faced temptation as a fully human being, he had no spiritual "edge" while being tempted. He met temptation as a human and utilized no weapon unavailable to the rest of us. This ought to give us hope. If we follow his example, we too can conquer temptation through him! Whereas Adam, the first human who was a type of Christ (1 Cor. 15:45), failed in the Garden of Eden, Jesus triumphed. In the wilderness, Jesus faced the inverse of what Adam faced in Eden; "Can you be like God?" the serpent had asked in Eden; Can you be truly human? asked the tempter in the desert" (Yancy, The Jesus I Never Knew, p. 70). Jesus did not abuse his divine power by using it to serve himself. Instead, he faced temptation with the same tools available to us. He overcame sin by relying on the power of God's word and submitting to it in faith ("It is written" vv. 4, 7, 10).
- Jesus proved that sin is not an inevitable part of being human - Sin is not a necessary ingredient to being human or a forgone conclusion for us. We sin and fail to glorify God, improperly reflecting his image (Rom. 3:23). Jesus perfectly reflected God's image as a human (Heb. 1:1-2; Col. 1:15; Gen. 1:27) and demonstrated that it is not "only human" to sin. If we follow his example in our hour of trial, we too can be "more than conquerors through him who loved us" (Rom. 8:37).
Jesus' victory over sin in the wilderness and on the cross is an endless source of strength and hope for the Christian. Whenever we are tempted, let us always remember Jesus understands what we are going through. He lays his hand upon us in those moments of intense suffering and wants us to look to him for hope. His victory helps us overcome sin but for the times we fail, he is merciful to forgive us and advocates for us to the Father as one who understands our weaknesses (1 Jn. 2:1-2).
(Points adapted from Kenneth Chumbley's The Gospel of Matthew, pgs. 65-67)
Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.
2 Peter 1:12-15
We all get tired of hearing the same things over and over, perhaps especially from the pulpit. If we've heard it stated once clearly enough why does it have to be repeated? I often feel the same way when preparing to preach sermons week after week. I will be studying a topic or a text and think, "We talked about that a few weeks ago. We better go in a different direction this week." But I've come to learn that, while variety in teaching has its merits, repetition is more valuable to the student. Jesus often repeated himself, sometimes to the point of exasperation (Mt. 15:16; Jn. 21:15-17). He told his disciples he would die and be raised from the dead on at least three separate occassions and they still were not prepared for it when it finally happened (Mk. 8:31; 9:30-31; 10:32-34).
Peter made no apology for reminding his audience of things they already knew (2 Pet. 1:12-15). Paul reminded the Corinthians of the fundamentals of the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-5). Timothy and Titus were told that teaching as an evangelist includes reminding Christians of familiar truths (2 Tim. 2:14; Titus 3:1). John made it clear to his audience he was bringing nothing new to the discussion (1 Jn. 2:7). But the writers of the New Testament did not merely repeat themselves. They iterated. They held up the same truths like a diamond against the light and turned them this way and that to see the same teaching from different angles. How does the command to love apply in this situation? What are the implications of Jesus' sacrifice in that situation? How does the hope of resurrection help in these cirucmstances? etc. Each time the same truths are taught, we gain a little ground and see a deeper layer than before.
Every parent and teacher knows that repetition and iteration reinforces learning. We may get tired of hearing the same thing over and over again but we will be less apt to forget it if we do. And the more important a thing is, the more it bears repeating. One preacher said to me, "About the time you get tired of saying it, they are just starting to hear it." Parents can relate! Parents are constantly repeating themselves to their children. We can tell our children the same thing a thousand times in a thousand different ways and we might not feel like we're making any headway. But then there are moments when our children surprise us. Without any prodding from mom or dad, they start cleaning their room or making their bed in the morning or brushing their teeth. The evidence that the lessons are finally sinking in are well worth sounding like a broken record.
We are God's children (1 Jn. 3:1), and as children we should never dismiss a subject our Father is teaching us on the basis that we've heard it before. "If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know." (1 Cor. 8:2) Thinking that we've mastered a biblical teaching is a good indicator we still have much to learn. We show that we truly understand a teaching by putting it into practice. This is the difference between mere knowledge and maturity. A child of God is always learning from their Father. We must always be listening with ears to hear, humbly striving to understand God's will with the aim to do it (Jas. 1:22).
John Chrysostom, in one of his sermons, said, “If therefore you would not have us wearisome or annoying, practice as we preach, exhibit in your actions the subject of our discourses. For we shall never cease discoursing upon these things till your conduct is agreeable to them. And this we do more especially from our concern and affection for you.” In other words, he refused to stop preaching on a subject until his listeners obeyed the teaching.
If God says a thing once in the Bible, it ought to be enough for us. But God repeats himself often. The same themes occur over and over again throughout the Scriptures because our patient Father knows his children need to be told the same things several times before the lesson sinks in.
But repetition is important for another reason. In the ever-changing demographics of the local church, some people may be hearing for the first time what is redundant to others. Children mature and begin to grasp things that, a year ago, were beyond them. A familiar passage can take on new and profound implications when circumstances in life change. So let us continue to teach and preach the same truths from the Bible. Our prayer is that, together, we "may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God." (Col. 1:9-10)
If you grew up in a family committed to Christ, you may have felt, especially during your adolescent years, that you were missing out on many of the common experiences that your other ‘normal’ friends enjoyed. There may have been times when you felt, with more than a little bitterness, the “thou-shalt-nots” of the Bible governed your life. And that incessant voice was always whispering, “Go on, what’s the big deal? Everyone else is doing it.” This temptation is especially strong in our youth but it doesn’t go away entirely with age. Living as a Christian at any stage in life can feel like being an island in the middle of a sea.
When we’re tempted to go with the flow of culture around us instead of being set apart for God in the world (Jn. 17:15-18), we need to hear the voice of wisdom and reason that says, “All that glitters is not gold… gilded tombs do worms enfold.” Or, if you’re not hip to Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, all is not what it seems. Some things that attract us are far less so when seen beneath the surface (Lk. 16:15).
There is a Biblical story that speaks to this struggle. In Hebrews 11:24-26, the author gives us a brief summary of Moses’ life that is meant to encourage faithfulness to Christ against peer pressure.
MOSES’ REFUSAL (v.24)
“By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter”
Pharaoh’s daughter found the infant Moses in a basket at edge of the river Nile and adopted him as her son (Ex. 2:5-10). He was raised in the royal household and was “trained in all the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22). Moses knew he wasn’t an Egyptian and when he grew up, he decided to renounce his Egyptian identity to be counted among his kinsmen, the Hebrews, instead. He cut ties with the family that raised him and embraced a life with the people of promise. That choice was a demonstration of his “faith.”
Moses’ story mirrors our own. Our choice to follow the Lord was a choice to forsake the world. We knew certain behaviors were off limits when we made that choice. We “counted the cost” (Lk. 14:25-33) and were joined to a new family and a new way of life in Christ. As a Christian, just by abstaining from certain things, others “malign” us (1 Pet. 4:4). So it was with Moses and all those who choose to live “by faith.”
MOSES’ CHOICE (v.25)
“choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.”
Moses’ choice put him in a position of disgrace. He forfeited his social standing, his dignity in the eyes of the Egyptians and his adoptive family, and a life of luxury in the royal house. He chose instead to be associated with Hebrew slaves, a kind of double stigma (Gen. 43:32; 46:34). Why would he make such a radical choice?
At some point, Moses understood it would have been sinful for him to remain in Pharaoh’s house. Pharaoh considered himself the son of a god. He brutally oppressed Moses’ people and even committed infanticide against them (Ex. 1). Egyptian culture was idolatrous and materialistic. As Moses matured, his conscience would not have allow him to live in that world any longer.
He knew any pleasure he would have enjoyed as an Egyptian would have been temporary. By faith, he looked into the future that God promised his people and saw that there was something far better and longer lasting than any earthly pleasure. He cherished his relationship with God more than he cherished his relationship with his adoptive family. He could not live in both worlds. He had to make a choice (cf. Mt. 6:24; Jas. 4:4).
He chose to sacrifice the easy life and take up with slaves. Was Moses missing out? Absolutely! But what was he missing out on? A life of ease, wealth, status and pleasure. But Moses knew “the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 Jn. 2:17). Moses also 'missed out' on a life of sin, saving himself the heartache of regret that would have come if he stayed in Egypt.
MOSES’ TREASURE (v.26)
“He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.”
In what historians call the New Kingdom Period, Egypt’s wealth was legendary. The temples were storehouses for Pharaoh's gold. The archeological evidence of such wealth during this time only serves to emphasize the magnitude of Moses’ choice and the sacrifice it entailed. Was he missing out? Only on the most wealthy, opulent lifestyle imaginable! But Moses forsook the great wealth of Egypt because he believed he would gain an even “greater” treasure with God's people.
Moses’ choice foreshadowed the kind of choice you and I make to follow Jesus. We either choose the “reproach of Christ” or the deceptive comfort of the world. Like us, when Moses “considered” the two choices, the answer was obvious because “he was looking to the reward.” He was looking toward an unseen but promised future. Yes, the problems and temptations of the present seem more pressing. But by faith, Moses was able to look past all those hardships and sacrifices of the present to see the true reward of following Lord.
What can we learn from the story of Moses?
- Faithful choices result in temporary loss. If we choose to follow Jesus, we will miss out on many things. Like Moses, we may lose family relationships (Mt. 10:34-49). We will miss out on the passing pleasures of sin (1 Jn. 2:17). By identifying with Christ and his people we will lose face with our peers in the world (1 Pet. 3:16). Most of all, we will lose ourselves (Lk. 9:23-25). But, like Moses, this temporary loss results in eternal gain!
- Faithful choices result in eternal gain. We gain a supportive spiritual family network in the Lord (Mk. 3:31-35). We gain far greater riches in Christ (Eph. 2:4-9). We gain a greater reward than anything we can find on earth (1 Pet. 1:3-5). Ironically, in losing ourselves, we gain Christ and find ourselves in him (Phil. 3:8; Lk. 9:23-27). In Christ, we lose the shame, guilt and punishment associated with sin and we gain the eternal love, grace and mercy of God!
- This eternal reward comes only to those who live “by faith.” Living “by faith” doesn’t mean we close our eyes and turn off our brain, however. Like Moses, faithful choices are carefully considered. Our decisions have far-reaching consequences and require weighing short-term gains against long-term gains. Faith banks on the eternal reward (Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:17). Heaven will be so great we will wonder why we ever doubted making the choice of faith!
Let us “count the cost” like Moses by weighing passing pleasures against eternal pain, momentary affliction against eternal joy. Whatever choice we make, we’re going to miss out on some things. We will either miss out on the fake, temporary stuff now or the real, eternal stuff later. As one man said, "If you miss out on heaven, you've missed it all."
This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son."
1 John 5:6-11
The first letter of John was written to encourage and protect Christians from the error of false teachers, further establishing them in their faith. In this short letter, which reads more like a sermon, John explains his purpose for writing in three statements: to complete Christian joy (1 Jn. 1:4), to encourage holy living (1 Jn. 2:1), and to provide believers with assurance of their salvation (1 Jn. 5:13). Whereas John's gospel was written to produce faith in Christ "and that by believing [they] may have life in his name" (Jn. 20:31), John's letter was written to encourage those who already believe that they "may know that [they] have eternal life" (1 Jn. 5:13).
Throughout the book, John weaves together three tests by which Christians can confirm their standing with God against the counterfeit assurance of unbelievers: the doctrinal test of believing in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God (1 Jn. 3:23; 5:5, 10, 13); the moral test of keeping God's commands (1 Jn. 1:5; 3:5, 9); and the social test of loving other Christians (1 Jn. 4:7-11).
It is difficult to know the identity of the false teachers but John describes them as "false prophets" (1 Jn. 4:1-6), "deceivers" (2 Jn. 7) and "antichrists" (1 Jn. 2:18, 22). At one time, they passed as true Christians but had since seceded from the Christian community (1 Jn. 2:19) and "gone out into the world" (1 Jn. 4:1; cf. 2 Jn. 7) to spread their lies about Jesus. They denied the fleshly incarnation of Jesus (1 Jn. 4:2; 2 Jn. 7) and their theological error resulted in making outrageous claims about sin that led to moral degradation (1 Jn. 1:6-10; 2:29-3:10).
After teaching that we can overcome the world through our faith in Jesus as "the Son of God" (1 Jn. 5:5), John confirms Jesus' identity by bearing witness to it (1 Jn. 5:6-11). He presents three "external" witnesses that all agree (Spirit, water, blood, v.8) along with two "internal" witnesses that agree (faith, v.10, and eternal life, v.11). The reason for presenting all this evidence is to confirm for the believer that their faith in Christ is not in vain and that through that faith they overcome the world (1 Jn. 5:5).
According to the Law of Moses, evidence was confirmed based upon the testimony of "two or three witnesses" (Deut. 19:15). These, God has provided concerning his Son. The "water" refers to Jesus' baptism whereby both the Father and the Spirit testified to his identity as God's Son (Mt. 3:16-17), and the "blood" refers to Jesus' sacrificial death on the cross, witnessed by the Spirit in the Old Testament (see Isaiah 53). The "Spirit" also bore witness to Jesus' identity as God's Son at his baptism (Jn. 1:32), during his ministry as he performed miracles (Heb. 2:3-4), and after his ascension through the apostles (Acts 1:8). The Spirit continues to testify to Jesus' identity in the Scriptures (2 Pet. 1:19-21).
These three witnesses all agree and tell the truth about Jesus. This is God's testimony concerning his Son. If we believe our fellow man in a court of law based on the testimony of two or three witnesses, how much more ought we to believe God? (1 Jn. 5:9) To those who accept God's testimony he gives "eternal life" in his Son (1 Jn. 5:11). Those who reject God's testimony accuse him of lying (1 Jn. 5:10; 1:10). In forfeiting the Son, they forfeit eternal life (1 Jn. 5:12).
An important textual note regarding 1 John 5:7-8 must be made. The King James Version, which bases its translation on the Textus Receptus, includes what textual critics call the Comma Johanneum:
"in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. And there are three that testify on earth"
The evidence, both internal or external, is against its authenticity. Externally, this longer reading is found only in ten very late manuscripts (mss), four of which have the words in a marginal note. These mss range in date from the 10th century to the 18th. It was inserted into the Latin translation of the Bible, the Vulgate, probably to affirm in one convenient place the trinitarian view of God. Internally, the context of John shows that this was a later addition: John is talking about the witness in regards to Jesus as God's Son. The truth of God as one in three persons can be well established elsewhere in the Bible without this spurious addition to Scripture.
Our culture is obsessed with the end of the world. Disreputable sources tell us that zombies will soon take over, we will suffer a nuclear holocaust or a massive geologic catastrophe will wipe out all humanity. Religious people seem especially drawn to interpreting so-called “apocalyptic” events, usually from the book of Revelation. This kind of shoddy eschatology (study of "end-times") is sometimes followed with instructions to stock up on non-perishables, ammunition, and fuel while we all begin building our underground bunkers.
The Bible does teach that "the end of all things is near" but underground bunkers won't be of any use (Rev. 1:7; 6:15-16). Jesus spoke often about the coming day of judgment (Mt. 25:31-46). He promises to return in power and glory to vindicate the faithful and punish the wicked (2 Thess. 1:5-12). At that time, we will see "the end" of the world as we know it and "the beginning" of the new heavens and new earth in which righteousness dwells (2 Pet. 3:1-13). "The end" will be the culmination of all things, the completion of God's eternal redemptive plan which he set forth in Christ (Eph. 1:9-10). In contrast to our culture, however, the apostle Peter teaches us to make some very different preparations for the end in 1 Peter 4:7-11,
The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Peter emphasizes the coming judgment (4:5, 17) to remind the suffering Christians he wrote to that all things would be made right by the just Judge in the future. Christ is ready to judge the living and the dead (4:5). Some Christians had already died which may have drawn ridicule from critics (4:6). You can almost hear the taunts of first century scoffers, “Your Christ said you would live forever but his followers die like everyone else! What use is your faith?” to which Peter asserts, "the end of all things is near."
He didn’t know when but neither did Jesus (Mt. 24:36) which makes all our speculation about the timing of the end useless. Leave the timing to God (2 Pet. 3:3-10). Ours is to believe “the end” is certain and “near” and prepare for it by living holy lives (2 Pet. 3:11-12). Here are three ways to prepare for "the end of all things" so that "God may be glorified through Jesus Christ" in us.
First, we must focus on glorifying God through prayer (4:7b). The act of prayer is humbling. By praying in faith, we are acknowledging our inadequacy and demonstrating our trust and reliance upon God (Mt. 6:5-6). To not pray is, in effect, to assert our own sufficiency and claim we have no need of God’s strength. Peter gives us guidelines to help us with our prayer lives.
He teaches us to be of "sound judgment." For some people, knowing the end is near will cause them to indulge in immorality and lose all inhibition (Rom. 13:11-14). Peter says we are to do just the opposite. Knowing the end is near should motivate Christians to live self-controlled lives "for the sake of your prayers." In other words, we are to live in such a way that will not hinder our prayers to God.
He also teaches us to be of "sober spirit." Sobriety is mentioned twice in first Peter in connection with the judgment (1:13; 5:8). Sobriety is about more than simply not getting drunk. It means to be watchful, alert, ready to respond. The opposite is to be asleep (1 Thess. 5:6-8). By the way, Peter knows a thing or two about being asleep when he should have been awake (Mt. 26:39-41). Spiritual drowsiness leads to temptation and sin. Because the end is near we must keep our spiritual eyes peeled and be vigilant and watchful in prayer.
Secondly, we’re told to glorify God through loving one another (4:8-9). Peter emphasizes that loving one another is central to our faith (1:22). It’s easy to love most brethren but some require a little more effort. We must love one another as God loves us: unconditionally, constantly, faithfully, and regardless of the loveliness of the other person (1 Jn. 3:10-11; 4:9-10).
That's why Peter says to “keep fervent” in our love for one another. Our love should be sustained by constant, strenuous effort. “Fervent” literally means to strain or stretch as an athlete stretches toward the finish line. We can do this only by first grasping the love God has shown us in Christ (1 Jn. 4:9-10). As the end draws near, let us exert ourselves in our love toward one another. We can express that earnest love through the acts of forgiveness (Prov. 10:12; Eph. 4:32) and sincere hospitality (4:9).
Lastly, we must glorify God through serving one another (4:10-11). We may not have the miraculous spiritual gifts that Christians exercised in the first century, but God has blessed each one of us with unique abilities to serve in some way (Eph. 4:7; Rom. 12:3-8). We are expected to be so motivated by Christ’s servant spirit (Phil. 2:1-11) that we would use all we are given in his service (Mt. 25:13-30). It doesn’t matter what God has given you or how much, he expects you to use it for his glory!
God’s gracious gifts are “manifold”, that is, variegated. Each Christian is uniquely equipped for a distinct function. No gift is insignificant in the church because what one member has another lacks. If your contribution to God's work is teaching, faithfulness to God's word is paramount (speak only "the utterances of God"). No matter how ordinary or how monotonous the task, serve with the strength that God supplies (2 Thess. 3:13). The only way to avoid "growing weary in doing good" is to rely on the strength of God. Remember, "it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for hisgood pleasure." (Phil. 2:13)
The goal for our Christian service, love and devotion in prayer is the glory of God (1 Pet. 4:11b). Some may superficially be involved in God's work for their own gain. But Christians pray in secret, serve on the sidelines, and love unselfishly all for the sake of God's glory. The "end of all things is near." Christians are not to sit around waiting for the end but are to be busy preparing for and hastening the end through living for God's glory (2 Pet. 3:12).