Your Deadly Enemy
Passage: 1 Peter 5:8-11
When I was in elementary school, I raised chickens. I kept them in a section of the kitchen from the original homestead on our farm. One night after dark, my dad went with me to feed the chickens and to collect eggs. We walked into the old kitchen with a flashlight, and we could hear a bunch of little scurrying noises. My dad shined the flashlight around the room, and there were rats everywhere. We counted 14 of them. As a little boy, I wasn’t too alarmed. I actually thought it was kind of cool, though my mom didn’t when I went inside and told her. My dad went to work the next day cleaning up the building and putting poison out. He was carrying dead rats out of there for days, until the problem was cleared up. What is kind of creepy is that all of those rats didn’t appear suddenly. The population grew over time, but I had no idea. I fed my chickens every afternoon without any idea that there was a busy community under my feet. You are probably grossed out as you dream about what is potentially living in your attic or walls. Sometimes, it’s nice to be ignorant, isn’t it? And moving to the spiritual realm, sadly we are sometimes equally ignorant about the reality of spiritual warfare that is taking place below the surface in our hearts, in the hearts of those we love, and in our church. We prefer to live in ignorance pretending that all is happy and peaceful. We ignore the fact that Satan and his demons are active all around us. Hopefully our hearts are filled with joy today that we get to be together in church. We have smiles on our face. That’s good, but we better not forget that we aren’t alone. Yes, God is meeting with us, but demonic powers are also at work to resist what God wants to do this morning. This isn’t a pleasant thought to consider, but it is grace for us to remember so that we can respond accordingly. Peter does this for us in our text today (read). Verse 8 is a familiar, sobering reminder, but this passage does much more than give a grave reminder. It is also filled with hope that we can overcome Satan in the power of God’s grace. I trust that we will be sobered today by the reality of spiritual warfare and that we will be encouraged by our ability to be victorious.
My outline consists of three challenges. First…
Recognize Satan’s attacks (v. 8).
Before we dive into v. 8, it’s important that we remember the context. In particular, there is a striking difference of tone between v. 7 and v. 8. In v. 7, God puts his fatherly arm around us, and commands us to rest in him. That comforting tone gives v. 8 a shocking, almost cold feel. But this is intentional. Peter wants us to understand that God’s tender care should not result in complacency. We must humble trust God, but we must also work to overcome sin and to pursue godliness.
The need for urgency is apparent in v. 8 because of…
The Character of Our Enemy:
The title “devil” is the Greek term that is consistently used to translate the Hebrew name “Satan.” Its basic meaning is “slanderer” or “accuser.” It speaks to the fact that the devil is our enemy, or as Peter says, our “adversary.” The Scriptures are very clear that Satan is pure evil. He delights in our destruction. He is evil, but he is also intimidating. Peter compares him to a “roaring lion.” I think we all understand that lions are powerful creatures that are capable of doing incredible damage. You have probably seen a video at some point of a lion running down a zebra or gazelle and killing them in an instant. They are powerful, ferocious killers. Peter pictures Satan as such an intimidating creature whose roar inspires fear. Sometimes, this verse is explained as if Satan quietly creeps in and simply pounces when he is unexpected. Again you probably know that lions, like all cats, like to sneak up on their prey and then pounce. Certainly, that is one of Satan’s tactics. One of his most effective weapons in our day is to lull us into forgetting he is there or deceiving us into thinking he is not real. But the fact that Peter describes Satan as a “roaring” lion indicates that he is thinking of Satan as growling and strutting about, striking fear into those around him. In the case of Peter’s original audience, Satan was intimidating them through persecution. Peter confirms that he is thinking of persecution in v. 9 when he mentions the suffering other believers were facing. Therefore, Peter is saying that the persecution his readers were facing was like the roaring of a lion. It was the devil’s way of trying to intimidate them into abandoning their faith. Satan is an evil intimidating enemy. He wanted them to lie down and surrender.
But there would be no relief submitting to his intimidation. Notice…
The Purpose of Our Enemy:
The devil’s evil intentions are clear in the final statement of v. 8. He is “seeking whom he may devour.” Again, this is a graphic picture that we can all understand from videos or pictures we have seen of a lion killing its prey and then ripping it to shreds, while it eats every last part of value. We understand that ultimately the lion is simply trying to survive, but from the gazelle’s perspective, the lion has no good intention. Its goal is utter destruction. We need to understand that Satan has the same intention for us. Sometimes we think that he is little more than a fanciful figure in a red suite. Or maybe we think of him as a mischievous figure on my shoulder trying to get me to not be so boring and to just have a little fun. Sadly, many young people in our day have a great interest in dark magic, fortune telling, and witchcraft. It’s all just a game to them, but we must understand that Satan isn’t playing games. He is out to devour. Specifically, Satan’s goal in the persecution these believers were enduring was to intimidate them into abandoning Christ so that they would face eternal destruction. Let that sink in for a moment. Satan’s goal is to bring as many people with him to hell as he possibly can. He is pure evil. Of course, he cannot ultimately destroy the faith of a genuine Christ. First John 4:4 states that “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” But he can still inflict tremendous spiritual harm. We need to be mindful of his evil intentions and his destructive power.
In light of that, notice…
Our Response to the Enemy:
Verse 8 opens with two urgent commands. To “be sober” is to have a clear mind that is unclouded and undistracted. The second command is to be “alert.” This verb is often used of a soldier who is on watch. Maybe he is guarding a gate or looking for an enemy. His only job is to spot an attack and make sure that everyone is properly warned. Together, these commands describe someone who is focused and fully engaged. Specifically, we are to be focused on Satan’s efforts to destroy us. Peter’s readers needed to understand that it wasn’t just their communities who were opposing them. Satan stood behind the opposition, and he was trying to ruin them. The same is true for us. When we hear about the evils of our world and increasing hostility against Christianity, we need to understand that Satan stands behind the evil intentions of men. He is plotting to destroy. But this kind of awareness is also significant as we think about the day-to-day battles we face. We can very easily fall into a monotonous routine of life. We are just cruising along, casually living the Christian life. Sadly, we live the Christian life lie we sometimes drive. We are talking on the phone, surfing the radio, and texting and only occasionally glancing at the road. We are oblivious to the fact that lion is in the bush behind us ready to destroy. Do you live in daily recognition of spiritual warfare? Do you read your Bible and pray like someone who is in a desperate struggle? Do you flee from sinful passions like someone who is running from a time bomb, or do you dabble with it as if it is a toy? Folks, we must live with a constant awareness of spiritual war. If we don’t recognize the battle, we are doomed for failure. Be sober; be vigilant.
But recognizing the battle is not enough. The second challenge Peter gives is that we must…
Resist Satan’s attacks (v. 9).
The Means of Resistance:
Verse 9 gives another urgent command. We must resist the devil. This verb has a military background. It pictures a soldier standing against an enemy charge. He cannot retreat; he must stand his ground, hold the line, and not be moved. I think it’s worth emphasizing that it is a defensive, not an offensive picture. The Scriptures never call on us to attack Satan or demonic powers; instead, they command us to take a defensive position and stand firm. We see this clearly in Ephesians 6:10–17.This passage is another sobering reminding of the war we are in, and it also has a strongly defensive tone. We are called to stand our ground and resist the attacks of Satan.
Maybe even a defensive position sounds crazy. How can I resist Satan? But Peter adds that we are to resist, “steadfast in the faith.” The idea is that we resist BY being “steadfast in the faith.” The battle against the devil is a battle of faith. I don’t mean faith in ourselves, rather faith in the strength God has provided. We believe that through the gospel we are united with Christ and his victory. We believe that he is greater than the devil and that he will protect us. As Romans 8 says, we believe that nothing can separate us from the love of God and that we are “more than conquerors” through Christ.
Peter doesn’t state it explicitly, but he assumes that when we resist the devil with this kind of faith, that we will overcome. James 4:7 promises that when we “Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” I don’t want us to skip over this promise because one of Satan’s greatest weapons is discouragement and despair, especially in our struggle against really tough sins. Christians will sometimes have the attitude, “What’s the use fighting. I’m never going to change.” They are content to just live with sin. Maybe that’s you today. You’ve thrown in the towel on a particular struggle. You’ve conceded to the lie that you will never change. I want you to see that your attitude is wrong, and it is terribly destructive. Any coach or teacher will tell you that belief is essential to success. It’s also true in the Christian life. If you are to flourish as a Christian, you must be steadfast in your faith believing that Christ is enough to win the victory, and then you must resist. Stand up to that temptation; stand up to that wrong way of thinking or wrong emotion. Stand up to that addiction. Stand up to the trickier of the devil, and he will flee. Verse 9 then concludes with further…
Encouragement for the Resistance:
Peter encourages his readers by noting that they were not alone. Other believers throughout the Roman Empire were facing similar challenges. And not that, they were overcoming. This fact should have been encouraging in a couple of ways. First, when you are going through a challenge, it’s nice to know you are not the only one, and you feel an immediate connection with those who are going through the same thing. For example, I had a serious knee injury a few years ago, and I feel an immediate connection with anyone who has had a similar experience. Second, and more importantly, this statement should have been encouraging because it provided proof that they could resist. If other believers were successfully resisting Satan through God’s power, they could as well.
Sometimes we get discouraged in our struggle against sin because we think that no one else is struggling like we are and that we are the only ones having a hard time. That’s one reason why the fellowship of the church is so valuable. It gives other believers the opportunity to help bear our burdens, and it gives encouragement as we see how others have been victorious. Don’t ever believe the lie of Satan that you are the only one who has faced your trial or temptation, and don’t ever believe his lie that it is too much for you to overcome. If you engage with other believers, you will find that others have been where you are, and they have stood against Satan’s attacks. Their lives are a witness to the power of God. If God could give them the victory, he can give it to us also.
Stay in the battle. Remain steadfast in your faith. Believe victory is possible, and then resist. Yes, the Christian life is hard. It is a war, but you have the power in Christ to win. And the prize is worth the fight..
The final challenge of this passage is to…
Rest in God’s promise (v. 10).
Verses 8–9 are pretty intense. They picture the Christian life as a stance against a roaring lion and a charging enemy. Then they remind us that suffering is the common lot of Christians. But v. 10 follows with a much more comforting tone, and it assures us that God hasn’t left us alone in this struggle. He will “perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” Verse 10 is filled with hope.
I’d like to break it down into two questions. First…
Why can we trust God’s promise?
Peter gives two answers to this question. First…
God is full of grace.
Peter describes God as “the God of all grace.” The idea is that God is a God of grace. It is in his nature to give. He is a generous God who loves to give to his people. But sometimes we have a heart to be generous but nothing to give. That’s never true of God. He has more than enough grace in the bank. His storehouse of grace is full. Therefore Peter can call him “the God of all grace.”
The second reason we can trust God’s promise is…
God’s grace is effective.
Peter reflects on a compelling evidence of the power of God’s grace. Through his grace, God “called us to His eternal glory.” There are two different ways that theologians talk about God’s call. There is God’s general call to salvation. For example, Revelation 3:20 states, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” In this verse Jesus invites all people to come to him for salvation. But Peter cannot be referring to this general call in our text because it wouldn’t contribute anything to his argument. Peter is trying to establish why we can trust God to enable us to persevere through suffering. It’s great that God invites all people to be saved, but it doesn’t demonstrate his power. Because of that, Peter must be referring to God’s other type of call, which is his effective call to salvation. Theologians call this effectual grace. Jesus described this call in John 6:37, where he states “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” When God calls, we come, and we will not be cast out. In other words, we will never lose our salvation, and we will make it to “eternal glory,” as Peter says. And so in this phrase, Peter considers the beginning and the end of our salvation. God effectively brought us to himself, and just as surely as he called us, he will bring us to glory.
Therefore, we can trust God’s promise. He is full of grace, and he has proven the power of his grace by calling us to himself and changing our hearts. But why is that significant in context? Remember that we were just talking about roaring lions, charging armies, and persecution. These are intimidating powers, and in the face of such enemies, we might wonder if we will make it. And Peter says that we can absolutely trust God because as we said already, “greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” We can trust the promises of God.
The second question I’d like to answer in v. 10 is…
What has God promised to do?
The answer to this question is found in the four verbs that conclude the verse. There isn’t a significant difference in meaning among these verbs. Together they speak of how God is at work in his people to sustain us and to transform us in preparation for eternal glory. The first verb speaks of God’s work to restore the image of God in us. He is remaking us and perfecting us. The second verb, “establish” speaks of making something firm or stable. Think of an anchor or a support cable. The idea is that life in a sin-cursed world is often unsettling and hard. But through all of the difficulties and temptations life may bring, God will keep his children firmly planted in him. Third, God will give strength. He will give us the grace we need to overcome every hardship and to remain faithful. Fourth, he will “settle you.” This term speaks of a firm foundation, and the idea is similar to “establish.” God will keep us planted on the foundation of His Word. Sometimes life feels as if you are trying to stand on a wet, slippery rock in windstorm. You aren’t sure if you can keep your footing. But God’s grace will keep his children planted no matter what life may bring.
The doxology that follows in v. 11 indicates that v. 10 closes out the body of the letter. It really is a perfect conclusion to the point that Peter has been making. We face many, many enemies to our faith. We’ve seen over and over that the world frequently will oppose our faith. But it’s not just the world out there that resists godliness; 2:11 said that we face “fleshly lusts which war against the soul.” And we just saw that the devil also is trying to intimidate us into submission. The Christian life is hard. But no matter how overwhelming these enemies may seem, we can rest in God’s promise. God is full of grace, and he will enable us to persevere. God’s people will not abandon the faith; they will continue to obey. We will make it to eternal glory. That glory will be worth it. Suffering may seem overwhelming, but Peter reminds us again in v. 10 that it is just for “a while,” glory is eternal.
How should we respond to all of this?
Verse 11 gives us a good place to start. We ought to…
Praise the Lord. This doxology particularly highlights God’s power, which is appropriate in this context. Satan may roar through the evils of this world, but God ultimately possesses all dominion. Let’s give God glory today because he alone is great, and he has given us all grace.
Live with a healthy balance of sobriety and confidence. We can easily fall in two divergent ditches with this text. We can translate v. 8 into despair, or we can translate vv. 9–10 into an arrogant cockiness. We must avoid both pitfalls because both are deadly. Instead we ought t respond to this passage with sober confidence. We should be motivated to draw heavily on the means of grace God has provided with confidence that God will work through those means to give us victory.
Come to him for grace. With this final point, I’d like to speak to anyone who has never come to Christ for salvation. Maybe you have never had much interest in following Christ. You’re content to just live the way you want to live. But I hope that you will recognize today that your life may feel good, but ultimately you are in the teeth of Satan, and he is devouring you through deception. But you can be delivered from his grip through the grace of Christ. Jesus broke Satan’s power when he died in our place and rose in victory. And if acknowledge your sin before God, turn from it, and believe on Christ for salvation, you can receive his grace and the victory he provides. I hope that you will do that today. I hope that you will find me or one of ushers afterwards so that we can take you aside and explain to you God’s wonderful grace.