May 31, 2020
There are many in the Bible who experienced direct attacks from the devil himself, or Satan:
First, of course, was Eve, who was tempted by Satan to eat the forbidden fruit of the Garden. Remember, his was ultimately an enticement to pride – to be like God. Eve, and Adam, giving into that temptation plunged the world into a cursed state, and humanity into sin, without exception. It was a dreadful defeat.
You may remember Moses was posthumously attacked by Satan. How so? Well, Satan and the archangel Michael fought over the body of Moses. You see, most agree if Satan could entice the people to build some shrine to this great leader, he would perhaps succeed in drawing the people’s attention away from the God of Moses.
But perhaps immediately, Job comes to mind, who faced relentless attacks from Satan. Job lost his wealth, his family, his health, his reputation. The good news is, Job largely and faithfully resisted those evil attacks.
In the New Testament, we find after fasting for 40 days, Jesus Himself was tempted three times by Satan. If he could entice Jesus to sin, then all hope for humanity’s redemption would be forever lost. It’s interesting to note – Jesus never gave in to those temptations, but rebuffed them with the Word of God. Probably something there for us to learn.
You’ll remember the Apostle Paul was attacked by Satan through some thorn in the flesh. Three times he asked the Lord for the thorn to be removed, and the Lord responded, My grace is sufficient for you. You don’t need a lack of thorns, what you need is a recognition of abundant, magnificent, soul-strengthening grace.
And of course, our author Peter was also attacked by Satan. Remember the time up in Caesarea Philippi when Jesus asked the disciples who they thought He, Jesus, was. Peter rightly and gloriously responded, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Home run Peter – you got it right. But then, immediately, the frontal attack came. Jesus began telling His disciples they were headed to Jerusalem, where He would be handed over to the Jewish authorities, then Roman authorities, ultimately to be put to death – crucified.
Now this is very interesting. Hearing of Jesus’ fate, Peter said, no way Lord – I’ll never let that happen to you. To which Jesus famously responded, Get behind Me, Satan. This was obviously an attack of the evil one. An attack against Peter, of course, but also against Jesus – and God’s plan of redemption for us. Please notice, if Peter prevented Jesus from dying on a cross, it would be the work of Satan. Meaning, the work of the cross was not Satanic – quite the opposite. It was the work of God as He sought to provide redemption for humankind – for there was no other way.
And so, when we regularly hear that the forces of evil celebrated the death of Jesus on the cross – that is simply not true. It was the first nail in the coffin of their defeat – and the resurrection would be the last. To be clear, the cross was God’s great victory, and spelled Satan’s ultimate defeat. The cross of Jesus Christ is the apex of divine history, as God demonstrated most gloriously His attributes before and on behalf of a lost and sinful world.
Let me illustrate with a story I shared some time ago. I was in the car, listening to Christian radio. The speaker was talking about this great cosmic struggle between God and the forces of evil. With great passion, he said something like this:
It’s as if all through the Old Testament, God and the devil were playing a chess match. God would choose a man, make His move, and the devil would counter. He, too, would choose a man, make his move, countering everything God did. Move, countermove; attack, counterattack. By the end of the Old Testament, it had been pretty much a draw – in fact, there were 400 silent years as someone pondered the next move. It was apparently God’s turn, because the New Testament opened with the birth of Jesus Christ. But the devil chose a man and countered, he tried to have Herod kill Jesus. Then, there was the great battle in the wilderness – when the devil himself faced God Himself – tempting Jesus three times. Back and forth the chess match went until the crucifixion, when finally, the devil said, check. And the demons were throwing a party – Jesus was dead. It appeared the devil had won the match. But then, on Easter Sunday morning, Jesus arose from the dead in glorious resurrection – and God said, checkmate.
The sermon was given to a live audience, and there was great shouting as the story reached its magnificent crescendo. Sounds great, but I have some real problems with that analogy. First, God and the devil are not equals. Second, it is not as if they are playing a game. Third, the end of the match was never in question. Fourth, the crucifixion was not the devil’s move – it was God’s move. Isaiah 53 tells us it was God who would crush and bruise His Son on the cross. And He would see the travail of His soul, and be satisfied. God was pouring out His wrath on the sin of humankind when Jesus bore our sin in His own body on the cross. Make no mistake about it – the cross was not an attempt by the devil to destroy the Son of God. Again, when Peter said he would prevent Jesus from going to the cross, Jesus said, Get behind me, Satan. Meaning, any attempt to prevent Jesus from dying was Satanically inspired. You see, the cross was the culmination of the eternal plan of God to provide redemption for us.
And so, Peter was well aware of Satan’s schemes, having been the object of his attention. Not only there in Caesarea Philippi. About six months later, the night before the crucifixion, Jesus reminded His disciples His time had come. He also told them, strike the shepherd, and the sheep will scatter. That very night, all of them would scatter – fall away, leave Him, desert Him in His time of greatest need. Peter, always the first one to open his mouth with false bravado, said, not me, Lord. Even if everyone else flees, I won’t. You can count on me.
To which Jesus gave a startling reply, “Peter, Satan has demanded to have you, to sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail. So when you turn back, encourage, strengthen your brothers.” And he did – it’s called I Peter. But at first, in response, Peter of course said, I’m ready to die with you, Jesus. Before this night ends, Peter, before the rooster crows, you will deny that you even know me – not once, but three times. You see, the roaring lion will seek to devour you through fear.
So Jesus led them from the upper room, down the Kidron Valley, to a place called Gethsemane. It was an olive garden, where He and His disciples often went to pray. And there, He left most of the disciples at the entrance. He took His inner circle, and went into the Garden and asked them to wait for Him – to watch and pray. But they couldn’t even keep their eyes open. Jesus came back three times – and found them sleeping. He was praying, sweating great drops of blood – they were sleeping. About that time, the soldiers and Temple police came to arrest Him – the lion roared, and they scattered.
Satan attacked Peter, and for the moment, won. Peter fled. More, he denied even knowing Jesus. But Jesus prayed for Peter – prayed that he would not fall away, forever. And he did not. After that miserable failure, Jesus graciously restored Peter at the Sea of Galilee. Three times, just like Peter’s denials, He asked him, Simon, do you love Me. Each time, Peter affirmed his love – to which Jesus responded, then shepherd My sheep. Within days, perhaps weeks, Jesus ascended into heaven, leaving the task of shepherding God’s people to Peter, and other faithful under-shepherds.
So, do you think Peter knew what he was talking about when he wrote his first letter, and said to the elders of the church, as a fellow elder, “Shepherd the flock of God among you.” Do you think he knew what he was talking about when he said to all of us, clothe yourselves with humility. Don’t think too highly of yourselves. I know – I fled. But He gives grace to the humble. Do you think he knew that? Therefore, humble yourselves under God’s mighty hand. Do you think he knew what he was talking about when he said, cast all your anxiety upon Him, for He cares for you. He cared for me when He graciously restored me at the sea.
I think he did. Peter was most qualified to write this letter through the school of hard knocks. Maybe you need to hear that this morning. Maybe you, too, have spoken too brashly, and fallen too greatly. Maybe you need to be reminded that we serve the God of all grace. You see, I think Peter knew what he was talking about when wrote our text today – I Peter 5:8-11.
Do you think Peter knew intimately what he was talking about when he wrote those words? I believe he wrote with passionate emotion. We have a real adversary, who seeks to destroy us. He almost got me – but Jesus prayed for me. Be on the alert – don’t fall asleep, like I did. Resist him. And know that we serve the God of all grace, who will do His restoring, glorious work in us. He will see us through. To Him be dominion forever and ever.
There are some extremes we need to avoid as Christians as it relates to Satan and the forces of evil. One, obviously, is to ignore the supernatural. The cosmic battle that wages war against our souls, and the souls of people. There is a real devil, there are real demons, and we need to be aware of their schemes to destroy God’s work – namely, His people. Don’t dismiss the reality of Satan and his evil forces as some myth of days gone by.
But on the other hand, we need not see a demon under every bush, behind every rock. Everything that happens to you is not necessarily demonic. Your flat tire – probably not a demon – probably a nail in the road. And yet, we must not be unaware that the forces of evil seek to do real damage – to our souls.
But the good news is, we can resist him. He is not equal to God. He is subservient to Him, and does nothing without God’s knowledge, even His permission. Remember what Jesus said to Peter – Satan has desired permission to sift you like wheat. Remember Satan before the throne of God, accusing God of spoiling Job. He could do nothing without God’s permission. God is sovereign, all powerful, all knowing, and all good. Satan is subject to Him. We see in this text Satan may seek to destroy us, but he can do nothing without God’s knowledge or permission, and His loving care. But the God of all grace will strengthen us. Always remember, greater is He who is in us, than he who is in the world.
There’s probably another extreme we need to avoid – and that is actively seeking conflict with the devil. Nowhere are we told to seek battle against him. We will talk about this later, but ours is to draw near to God. That’s how we resist him – by being near the One who is greater. By trusting Him in faith. Those who go out intentionally seeking battle with the enemy of our souls are foolish. Before I go any further, let me suggest this outline:
- First, who is Satan?
- Second, how do we resist him?
- Third, how are we encouraged in the battle (from this text)?
So first, who is Satan? In our text, Peter calls him the devil which means slanderer, and our adversary – the one who opposes us. The Scripture also refers to him, among others ways as:
- Satan, which means accuser or adversary, and appears 52 times in the Bible.
- The deceiver
- The accuser
- The prince of the power of the air
- The evil one
- The prince of demons
- Beelzebub or Beelzebul, which means the ruler of demons
- An angel of light
- The dragon
- The enemy
- The father of lies
- The ruler or god of this world
- The ruler of darkness
- The serpent
- The tempter
Most of those titles are self-descriptive, and they are not good. The fact is, Satan is the avowed enemy of God and therefore, of God’s people. He is our avowed enemy. He is out to destroy all that God loves. I often remind us that unbelievers are not our enemies – they are held captive by the enemy – Satan himself. I want to say clearly, he is a deceiver, an enemy, the evil one, and the one who would seek to destroy us.
In fact, in this passage, he called our adversary, who prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. The roaring lion is meant to be descriptive of his power and tenacity. When we speak of him as the serpent, we speak of him slithering and sneaky – out to strike without our knowing. But here, he’s a roaring lion – powerful, hungry, tenacious. It’s interesting to note – Jesus is called the lion of the tribe of Judah. We would therefore expect Satan to be an imitator. He would seek to be Aslan – but he is a poor imitation.
A roaring lion is a hungry lion. He’s on the prowl – looking for someone to devour, to swallow in a single gulp is the picture. I’ve heard it said that a lion will often roar before it pounces, seeking to freeze its prey in fear. That’s the picture – our enemy is seeking to destroy us. In the context of this book and even this passage, he seeks to do so through suffering and persecution. His goal is to get you to shrink away through fear and pain. Perhaps to deny Christ in the heat of persecution and opposition. In doing so, he devours you. Any time you sense a desire to shrink away from your faith – you find yourself fearful, know that is the work of the evil one. He would seek to destroy you.
So then, how do we resist him? There are three imperatives in these verses, all having to do with what we do to resist him. The first two are somewhat synonymous, found in verse 8. We are sober and alert. To be sober means to be of sober and somber mind. It is to be serious. It is not to be intoxicated by the things of this world. To be alert means to not be lulled into complacency and lethargy. Together, these words alert us to the seriousness of the task. Just like Jesus told His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, so also we need to not become drowsy, unaware of the devil’s schemes and devices against us. Now, to be clear, we don’t become students of the devil – but nor do we minimize his demonic, evil existence and desire to devour God’s people.
Now again, clearly in the text, his schemes include opposition and persecution, seeking to get Christians to waver. But there are many other ways he can seek to devour us outside this text. For example, he is the accuser – he accuses us before the Father, as he did Job. He is the tempter, presenting temptations so we might fall into sin. He is the father of lies – telling us lies to seek or demise. I hope you are beginning to understand – he represents everything that is evil, and we should be aware of his crafty desires to destroy us. And to be willfully ignorant of his existence does not help. Be sober, be alert.
The third imperative is found in verse 9 – we are told to resist him – how? By standing firm in the faith. Meaning, simply, we continue to trust God and His promises. We do not take on Satan in our devices, but in the power and truth of faith – found in the Word of God and through indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
We resist him by faith. I love Ephesians 6, where Paul tells us to put on the full armor of God. Look at the text with me – Ephesians 6:10-20,
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.
11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
14 Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS,
15 and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE;
16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
17 And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,
19 and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel,
20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
Do you see – Paul was suffering for the gospel. He was in prison in Rome. Don’t shrink back. This is an attack of the evil one. Put on the whole armor of God. Which includes the shield of faith by which you extinguish the attacks of the evil one. Take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray for me, that I don’t shrink back – that I proclaim the gospel boldly. This is my prayer for us.
Peter says, be sober, on the alert – resist the devil, standing firm not in your own strength, but in the strength of faith. James says it this way, Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. How? Next verse, Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. You resist the devil through faith in Jesus Christ, through the power of the Spirit and the word of God, by drawing near to God. In other words, our greatest device against the enemy is not to focus on him, but to focus on God.
Finally, what encouragements does Peter give us? Three things:
- First, you are not alone. Your brothers and sisters around the world are facing the same struggles, persecutions, oppositions. And they are standing firm. Stand with them. Find solidarity in the hope of the gospel.
- Second, after you’ve suffered for a little while, the God of all grace who called you to eternal glory in Christ – stop right there. Our suffering in the grand scheme of divine things, is only for a little while. That does not mean for a few weeks or months. It means our life on earth is short compared to all of eternity. In chapter 1, he said, “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials…” Our suffering does not last forever – but our glory in Christ is eternal.
- And third, the God of all grace will make sure we get there. He Himself will perfect, that is, mature us. He will confirm us – demonstrating the reality of our faith. He will strengthen us, giving us what we need for the cost following Jesus. And He will establish us forever – we will stand firm in the faith. We need be aware of the roaring lion, but we need not fear him.
And so, Peter closes with an exclamation of worshipful benediction, To Him be dominion – that is sovereign rule and reign, forever. Amen. He alone is God. And He has no equal, no rival. Satan is not His equal. You cannot even refer to Him as a rival, a chess partner – rather, he is merely a subject to the sovereign to accomplish His purposes. So to God be eternal dominion – that is, eternal rule, forever and ever, amen.