Our Enemy the Devil – 1 Peter 5:8-9

YouTube video sermon

1 Peter 5:8-9

Let me invite you to take your copy of God’s Word and go with me to 1 Peter. This is our 22nd week in 1 Peter (that’s almost 6 months), and I’ve discovered that I’m having a hard time bringing it to a close. But you know what; I’ve also learned that it’s not my fault. Isn’t that what our culture teaches us? “It’s not my fault.” Well, who’s fault, is it? It’s Peter’s fault. He keeps saying stuff, and some of the stuff that he says really needs to be considered. “Like what?” you ask. Well, like the fact that we have a real enemy – the devil. We’re only going to look at two verses today (1 Peter 5:8-9).

8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

“Father, we pray because we want to say that we depend on You. We need Your help. It’s fairly plain to understand what we’ve just now read, but we need the help of the Holy Spirit to make real consideration and application in a way that would change our lives. Lord, I pray with what we discover today, as for some it will be eye-opening and sobering. O God, that we would rejoice because of the ultimate truth that this text bears out. We look to You, Lord, we thank You for this day that we can gather together and worship as Your flock, in Jesus’ name, amen.”

As I was considering the passage and the title for today’s sermon, my mind kept going back to that song from 1939. The one that was originally written and recorded by Solomon Linda for the South African Gallo Record Company under the title “Mbube.” You know it, right? No? I figured since my Greek was getting a little stale, perhaps Zulu would interest you. You speak Zulu right? Let me give you another word. How about this, “a-wimoweh, a-wimoweh, a-wimoweh.” How about it? (The Lion Sleeps Tonight)

Fun fact: the word that we sing as “a-wimoweh” is really uyimbube. Mbube is Zulu for “lion,” and in order to call a lion (like calling a kitty cat) you say uyimbube. But when Pete Seeger of The Weavers was translating the song into English, he misunderstood the word and wrote in “a-wimoweh.” And you mock my sermons…

But seriously, what if the lion doesn’t sleep tonight? What if the lion is on the prowl? What if the lion wants to destroy? We have an enemy. We have a brutal, attacking, destructive, unrelenting enemy and he’s described for us in these verses. Imagine this scenario with me for a moment. You’re at the zoo, and you’re there with your family and you’re wandering around the park, and suddenly over the PA system you hear this announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, we just wish to inform you that the lion has escaped its enclosure and it’s roaming about the park. And, by the way, this lion hasn’t eaten, so you may want to keep your children close.” You laugh, but this actually happened back in 2014, in Sydney, Australia. A lion got out of its enclosure in the park during operating hours and dozens of people had to be brought inside in order to be protected.

We have an enemy. He’s a real enemy, an invisible enemy, a deadly enemy, far deadlier than any lion on this earth. The apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:12 says, “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places.” So, as we unpack these verses, there are four things I want us to understand about our enemy: his identity, his strategy, his territory, and his frailty.

His Identity – We Have An Enemy

Notice what it says in verse 8, “your adversary the devil.” Let’s just consider that for a moment. The word “devil,” diabolos in Greek, means one who slanders or one who will attack another by slander. It’s a term that’s used 35 times in Scripture. He’s called “the devil.” Another 54 times he’s referred to as “Satan;” another 5 times he’s called “the evil one;” another 8 times he’s called “the wicked one.” He’s also called “the destroyer,” “Abaddon,” “Apollyon,” “Lucifer,” and a host of other names.

He first appears in Genesis 3. His last appearance is in Revelation 20. In other words, his work spans all of human history. Now, I realize that some people hearing this or reading this flinch whenever they hear somebody like me talk about a literal devil. We live in a day and time when a lot of people deny the existence of a literal devil. Certainly, people who are unbelievers don’t give him much thought; and even born-again Christians, many of them, don’t consider the devil to be real. He’s just a cartoon character. He wears tight, little red underwear and has a funny goatee and hops around and goes from one comic book to the other.

The Gallup Organization said that although 70 percent of Americans believe in the devil, about half believe he’s just a metaphor for evil, not a real person, just evil in general. That doesn’t concern me. Here’s what concerns me: a poll from the Barna Group – polling only born-again Christians, or those that claimed to be – asked evangelical Christians: “Do you agree/disagree that the devil is a real, living being, and not just a symbol of evil?” Of those who said they were Christians, 32 percent “strongly disagreed,” 11 percent “disagreed somewhat,” and 5 percent “don’t know.”

When you add the “strongly disagree” and the “disagree somewhat” and the “don’t know,” you end up with 48 percent of Christians leaning to the idea that the devil is not a real being but just a symbol of evil, or they just don’t know. So, just in case I’m talking to any of that ilk, let me propose a question to you: How much stock do you put in the words of the Lord Jesus Christ concerning the devil? That’s really the issue. The issue is one of authority. Where do you derive your authority? Everybody gets authority from someplace.

Maybe your authority is your culture, what everybody else thinks about something – you want to go along with them. Maybe your authority is your tradition – what’s been passed down. Maybe it’s what your friends think? Perhaps your thinking and convictions are tightly associated with your emotions, so your authority is based upon how you’re feeling at any given moment? Or, is your authority from the Bible? And do you put stock in what Jesus said about the devil? See, when Jesus talked about the devil, He never referred to the devil as an “it” or a “that,” but a “he” and a “him” (personal pronouns). In Luke 10:18 Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning.” Those were Jesus’ words, His experience. D. L. Moody used to say, “I believe in the devil for two reasons: 1.) the Bible says he exists; and 2.) I’ve done business with him.”

I find Peter’s language of animals in this chapter fascinating. There’s something about this lion that we read about here; Peter pictures him as “a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour,” wandering around. However, this lion often wears a disguise. He’s portrayed as a lion in the text, but Jesus said he usually shows up like a wolf in (what?) sheep’s clothing. Isn’t it interesting that Peter has just been addressing the shepherds and then he talks to the sheep, and no he refers to one that he calls a lion but is really a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

He’s all about the cover up. He’s all about deception. He doesn’t come off as an enemy, but as a friend. When Satan first appeared to Eve, he questioned God: “Did God really say…” He comes off so deceptive. Paul says, that “Satan masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14) so friendly, not at all like a lion.

I read an interview with Mel Gibson about his movie The Passion of the Christ. (Can you believe that movie is almost 20 years old?) The interview caught my attention, because if you remember that movie, the actor that portrayed the devil was just creepy. And I’ve often wondered, “Ugh! What’s that about?” Well, the interviewer asked Mel Gibson this question: “Why was the devil portrayed by a person you couldn’t clearly identify? Was it a beautiful woman or a hideous man? Sometimes the character looked good and other times the character looked ugly.” Mel Gibson responded by saying, “I wanted it this way because that is how the enemy is. Evil looks good until you turn it around a little and you see the whole spectrum, and then you see the ugliness.” Oh, what a statement.

The ugly, brutal lion goes undetected. In fact, the world doesn’t see him as a lion, they’re going around calling a household kitty cat, “Here kitty, kitty, kitty” not knowing who he really is. Satan is either your friend or he’s your enemy, and for born-again believers he’s indeed our enemy. So, that’s his identity.

His Strategy – Our Enemy Has A Plan

Let’s look at his strategy. Peter says he “prowls about.” He’s on the prowl, “seeking someone to devour.” The word “devour,” is a very strong word. It means “to drink down, to swallow, to consume.” How does the devil devour people? Well, let me kind of boil it down and just get down to brass tacks. First, he wants you to burn in hell forever. How’s that for a bottom line? That’s what he wants. In John 10:10 Jesus said, “The thief comes for no other reason except to steal, to kill, to destroy.” That’s Satan’s intent. We know that hell was not made for people; it was made “for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). But misery loves company, and he wants to get as many people as possible in hell with him and his minions, and he wants humanity to burn in hell forever.

Second, if he can’t get that – and the only reason he couldn’t get that is if a person said “no” to him and said “yes” to Jesus – if he can’t get the heart of a believer, then the next best thing is to make you weak. Get you so weighed down and distracted with the piddly little stuff of life: this thing, that thing, your career, your boat, your project, just get you swimming in all of that and not thinking about advancing the kingdom of God. In that case, you’re just existing. You don’t really pose a threat to Satan and the kingdom of darkness, because you’re just impotent, you’re anemic, you’re weak.

So, here’s the bottom-line statement. Satan is hungry and gullible; and ill-prepared Christians are on his menu. He’s on the prowl, “seeking someone to devour.” Can I take your mind back to a familiar passage in the book of Job? You don’t have to turn there but recall it with me. In Job 1:8, God asks Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job?” That’s a rhetorical question. It would be better translated: “You’ve been considering my servant Job, haven’t you?” The word “consider” means “to set your heart on, to study.” “You’ve been studying Job, haven’t you? You’ve been looking at him. You’ve been watching him, haven’t you? You’ve been eyeing him.”

So, Satan had been studying Job and thinking, “How can I undermine this blameless, perfect man?” Looking for weak points. Looking for a time to attack. This leads me to a couple conclusions. First, Satan is actively studying you. Does that make you feel a little unnerved? I hope so. It makes me feel a little creeped out. Ever been in a restaurant when you realize that person across the restaurant has been looking at you staring at you the whole time? It’s like, woo-ooh, that’s just weird. We have an enemy who studies us. All of us have weaknesses.

There are areas of our lives where we’re prone to sin, prone to stumble and fall. For some it could be anger. For others it could be lust and pornography. For others it can be a bad habit. For others it might be insecurity and lying, trying to project an image, because you always want people to accept you. Whatever that is, and you know what those areas are, you have an enemy who also knows what those areas are. And the point is this: whatever temptation Satan sends your way is custom made just for you. “You’ve been considering my servant Job,” that’s the idea of prowling around.

The second conclusion is that Satan operates within parameters. He can only act by permission of God and in line with God’s purposes, much like the demons who inhabited a man at Gedara. And before Jesus cast them out, they said, “Permit us to go into that herd of swine” (Luke 8:31-32). They operate only by permission. That give me comfort. I know I have an enemy who’s studying me and attacking me, but I have a Lord who’s sovereign over him permitting him certain freedoms and curtailing and restricting other freedoms. So, he can only go so far. So, this is what it means to me: when I’m in the fire of a trial or I’m in the fire of a temptation, I know that God has His eye on me and His finger on the thermostat. He knows what I can take. Paul said, “[God] will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

So that’s his identity and that’s his strategy. Consider now his territory.

His Territory – Our Enemy Is Active

Look at verse 9, “Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of sufferings are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” Consider that phrase. Who’s “your brotherhood?” Fellow believers. “Throughout the world;” where’s that? Well, it could mean scattered outside the church, the worldly system. But it just means everywhere on earth where there are believers Satan is attacking. So, listen to this: Satan has access to the entire world geographically, but his focus of attack is on believers specifically, “your brotherhood in the world.” Did you know that three times Jesus Christ referred to Satan as “the ruler of this world?”

I’ve never liked that. I like to sing, “This is my Father’s world.” And it’s His world by creation, and it’s His world by sovereign purpose controlling everything, but He allows this devil, this Satan certain liberties and freedoms to move and to do. And though he’s on a leash (frankly, sometimes I wish the leash were a little shorter) he has access. The world is his oyster. It’s his platform of attack. Like the lion, who is considered to be the king of the jungle because he can roam just about anywhere, so too, this enemy roams wherever he wants. He roams. He searches. He looks for prey.

Go back in your mind to Job 1, the story I mentioned just a minute ago. Job 1:6 says, “Now there was a day when the sons of God (that’s angels) came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.” So, Satan appears before God to give an account. And the very next verses says, “The LORD said to Satan, ‘From where have you come?’ Satan answered the LORD and said, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.’” So, he appears before God for some personal accounting, but he’s been cruising the earth.

Satan has access to heaven and earth? Stay with me here. He has some access to heaven. He had some ability to appear before God to give an account, but he was cruising the earth. Let me remind you of something else we often forget, or maybe you never knew this, but Satan is not in hell. He’s never been in hell. One day he’ll be in hell. He’s going there. But not yet. And oh, when he gets there, he won’t be in charge. He’ll be in chains. He’ll be the chief victim. But until then, he has freedom, and he wanders, and he works. He commands the demonic realm, but the theater of operations of that demonic realm is in the human world. So, this is what we’re dealing with: we have an invisible army in a visible world. It’s pretty tough. It’s like they’re everywhere, but you can’t see them. He’s not omnipresent, like God is, but he’s active all over the world.

So that’s his identity, his strategy, and his territory. I’ve saved the best for last; that’s his frailty.

His Frailty – Our Enemy Must Be Engaged

He can and must be engaged and he can be defeated. And that’s found in these words: “Be sober-minded, be watchful.” Also, verse 9, “Resist him, firm in your faith.” Listen, your enemy cannot be ignored. You can’t hunker yourself down in a church and say “I just don’t want to think about the devil.” That’s what some churches do. That’s why so many Christians attend churches that don’t talk about Satan – they think they can just pretend he doesn’t exist. But we have to engage him. One commentator put it like this, “The devil is never too busy to rock the cradle of a sleeping saint.” He has to be engaged. And it begins in the mind – where you think.

Let me point out three things (quickly) and we’ll be done. “Be sober-minded.” That’s a word that means “to be self-controlled, to be disciplined, to think clearly.” In other words, don’t allow yourself to be intoxicated by the amusements of this world. Be sober-minded. The battle always begins in the mind, folks, it always begins in the mind. “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7, NKJV). Every behavioral scientist in the last several decades has said that most people are governed by sub-conscious thought. So, we begin in in the mind – what we think about. We have to think clearly.

Second, “be watchful.” The word means to be alert, to be vigilant, to be on the lookout, don’t fall asleep on the job. I think of Peter and James and John in the garden of Gethsemane, and I wonder if that wasn’t still resonating in Peter’s mind when he wrote this. Remember, Jesus came to him, and he said, “Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation” (Matthew 26:41). So, watch out for attacks in weak areas. Watch out that you don’t get in a compromising position or a situation where you would be more apt to yield than to resist. Watch out.

Third, verse 9 says, “Resist him.” He can be resisted. We like to throw up our hands in frustration and weariness and say, “I just can’t resist…” as if the call to fight sin and wage war against our bodies is a waste of time. It’s not. We can resist Satan. Maybe not perfectly. Maybe not all of the time. But we can and we have. James 4:7 says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” But notice that it also says to do this “firm in the faith.” Now, this is one of those places where I actually don’t like the ESV. Normally, the ESV is a very good, very dependable, very accurate translation, but not here. The ESV says, “Resist him, firm in your faith.” The Greek uses the definite article “the faith.” This is so clear to us in our day. How many times have we recently heard people in our western American culture talk about “your truth” and “my truth.” “Well, that might be ‘your’ truth, but it’s not ‘my’ truth. Speak ‘your’ truth in this/that situation.” No, there’s only one truth. The question is whether you’re on the right side of truth.

The same is true for faith. There’s not ‘your’ faith and ‘my’ faith, as though we can pick/choose which parts of the gospel we want. The faith is the truth of the gospel as embodied in the Scripture. In Jude 1:3 we read, “Contend earnestly for the faith, once for all delivered to the saints.” Jude was speaking about the body of truth that has been passed down by the Holy Spirit in the written Word of God. What did Jesus do when the devil assaulted Him in the wilderness? He quoted Scripture, “It is written . . .” You gotta know what’s written before you can say, “It is written . . .” That’s why we need to know our Bibles, otherwise when we’re attacked, we’re going to say things like “Okay, uh, God helps those who help themselves. Oh, wait, that’s not it. A stitch in time saves nine. Oh, wait, I got it ‘Cleanliness is next to godliness.’” Standing firm in the faith is how you resist the devil. Be sober-minded. Be watchful. Resist him, firm in the faith.

Let me close with this, because otherwise you’ll leave here today saying, “Yeah, I heard a great sermon. I got an enemy who wants to kill me. Woo-hoo! It feels so good!” Listen, our enemy is a vicious lion. He’s a brutal lion, but he’s only a second-rate lion. He roars a lot. He sounds intimating, but he’s a second-rate lion. There’s a lion that out-ranks our enemy and He goes by the title the “Lion of Judah.” And John sees Him in the book of Revelation, and he says, “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered” (Revelation 5:5). C. S. Lewis wrote a whole series of books, Chronicles of Narnia, and the Christ figure in that series was the lion Aslan. That’s what John was referring to.

The prophet Amos predicted, “The LORD roars from Zion and utters His voice from Jerusalem” (Amos 1:2). When Jesus was on the cross dying in Zion, our lion King, the true lion King, the Lion of Judah, roared from Jerusalem with these words, he cried out with a loud voice, “It is finished!” He made that proclamation. And one day our great enemy, Satan, the second-rate lion, the crafty, deceiving, manipulating lion will be “thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10).

Until then he roams around, but until then we can be sober-minded, watchful, resisting him in the faith because “greater is the Lion of Judah that’s in us than the roaming evil lion that is in the world” (1 John 4:4, adapted).

“Father, we thank You for these truths. We thank You, Lord, that You don’t leave us in the dark about who our true enemy is, and what he does, and what we’re able to do – resisting him, standing firm in the faith. O God, most of all, we’re grateful that You and You alone are the true Lion of Judah, our King, our Savior, our Lord, for we offer this prayer in the name of Jesus, amen.”