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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Preached At:Langley Canadian Reformed Church
 Langley, B.C.
 
Title:The Devil Hates You and Has a Terrible Plan for Your Life
Text:1 Peter 5:8-11 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Spiritual Warfare
 
Preached:2005
Added:2006-07-17
Updated:2007-07-25
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Suggested songs:

Psalm 91:1-3

Psalm 51:1-4

Psalm 91:4-5

Hymn 47:8

Hymn 41:1-4

Reading: 1 Peter 5

Text: 1 Peter 5:8-11

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Christ Jesus our Lord,

Everyone else had gone to bed. But Ungan and Mahina couldn’t sleep. It was only yesterday that the lions had caught and eaten another worker. He’d been taken right out of his tent, screaming and kicking. For several months, Ungan, Mahina and dozens of others had been working on a railway bridge across the Tsavo River in Kenya. In that time, two maneless male lions had terrorized the work crew. Just the roars were enough to send workers running behind their thorn fences – a place where there was little safety. It got to be so bad that construction on the bridge couldn’t continue – Ungan, Mahina and others simply wouldn’t work with the lions prowling around. The British officer responsible for the construction of the bridge was a man named Colonel John Henry Patterson. He finally managed to shoot and kill both lions. By the time of their death, this pair of lions were said to have hunted down and eaten nearly 140 people. Most of them were indentured workers from India like Ungan and Mahina. This all happened in 1898. Today, you can still see the man-eaters of Tsavo at the Field Museum in Chicago, where Patterson had sold the hides.

Lions have had an innate ability to strike fear in the hearts of people all over the world. Lions used to range over much of Europe, Asia, and Africa. Eventually, they were hunted out of much of their former territory till today when they’re only found in Africa and a few regions of India. In Bible times, lions were almost everywhere, also in Israel. Even if many people had never seen one, they would have heard them. Their loud ferocious roars would be a constant reminder of lurking danger. In those times, lions were known for their strength, their stealth, their vicious attack, and their boldness. The lion was the ultimate hunter.

This helps us understand why the apostle Peter compares the devil to a lion. In verse 8, he says, “your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” The roaring lion is an image of something that would normally strike fear into people’s hearts. The lion that prowls around is restless and hungry. He’s serious about what he wants: he wants to draw blood, he wants death. He wants to devour somebody; literally, the text says that he’s looking for somebody to drink down. Satan is out on the hunt, looking for you and me. And it’s clear that his intentions are vicious and cruel. It’s clear that he’s bold and stealthy. He has only one goal: the eternal spiritual death of whoever he can get his dirty paws on. Our text is clear and we can summarize it with this theme and division:

The devil hates you and has a terrible plan for your life!

In light of this truth, believers need to:

  1. Recognize their responsibilities
  2. Rest in God’s promises

1. Believers need to recognize their responsibilities

Our text contains four commands. We find the first one at the beginning of verse 8: be self-controlled. We could also translate that as “be sober.” It refers to keeping a clear head, a life free of anything that might cause you to be fuzzyheaded and consequently have a lack of self-control. That includes alcohol, but lots of other things too. It’s no secret that when people drink excessively they lose self-control, but that can also happen with other things, including various addictions. What the Spirit says here is clear: believers have to steer well away from anything that would cause them to lose control over what they say, think and do. Because if they’re not in control, there’s somebody else waiting to take over and he does not have your best interests at heart. Satan wants you dead.

That also forms a reason to go with the second command in verse 8: be alert. We could also say: be vigilant or be watchful. God tells us that we’ve got to have our eyes open for what’s happening around us. Among other things, this means we have to know the kinds of situations where we have gotten into trouble in the past and where we could get into trouble again in the future. If we struggle with a certain sin, we should examine the circumstances in which we’ve given in to temptation in the past. We need to be alert so that we can watch for those circumstances and put a plan into action.

And the first and most important thing we can do is to pray. Listen to what the Lord Jesus says in Matthew 26:41, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” When Christ said, “Watch” he used the same word that’s used in our text for “be alert.” He connected it with prayer. Why? Because in ourselves we are so weak that we can’t stand even for a moment. We need the Lord and His Spirit to strengthen us. If we’re going to be alert and watchful, we need to pray too. We need God’s strength. Without God’s grace for us in this, it’s a hopeless case. And the devil takes advantage of the situation. When we’re not alert, when our attention drifts, Satan is ready to jump in. He’s eager to devour those who have a spiritual attention deficit.

He’s an enemy who stands against us. Sure, he throws out lies to make us believe that he has something that will soothe our pain, relieve our stress, quench our thirsts and longings. He’s been doing that since the Garden of Eden. But the bottom line is he’s against us. He is the accuser. That’s what the Hebrew word Satan means. That’s what the Greek word diabolos or devil means. Accuser, adversary, enemy. The one against.

And against him, we have to resist. That’s the third command in our text and we find it in verse 9. To resist the devil means that we set ourselves against him, we oppose him who opposes us and God. In other words, you have to choose sides. By God’s grace and power, you have to decide whose side you’re going to be on in the great spiritual warfare. In the Second World War, there were countries that declared themselves neutral. Switzerland, for instance. Switzerland is the classic example of a country that has never formally taken sides in any modern conflict. But in the great spiritual warfare, there is and can be no neutrality. You’re either for God or you’re against him. This is a clear case of black and white. Our text is calling us to make sure that we’re on the right side, that we’re on the winning side.

The fourth command is closely connected to the third: standing firm in the faith. In fact, we could say that this is the way that we resist the devil. We stand against him by standing firm in the faith. We uncompromisingly hold on to the good news about the Lord Jesus. We never give up the battle, even for a moment. In this way, the Christian life is like a garden. What happens when you go on holidays for a few weeks and you leave your garden alone? In my limited experience with gardens, you come home and you can’t see the garden for all the weeds. The battle against the weeds was given up, even for a short time and then the weeds took over. The Christian life is the same way. If we stop standing firm, if we stop doing battle, even for a moment, the spiritual Satanic weeds will take root very quickly and before long they’ll choke out the good stuff. So, standing firm in the faith as a way to resist the evil one!

Verse 9 adds an extra motivator for doing this. Peter says, “…because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” Here’s where we’re brought back into the world of Peter’s original readers. They suffered hardship and persecution because of their faith in Christ. The devil tried to use those sufferings to get believers to turn away from Christ. In that particular context, the original readers had to clearly see what was going on. They needed to be alert to Satan’s schemes. Seeing those schemes, they needed to resist. But they also needed some added motivation. The Spirit gives that by reminding them that they’re not alone. Other believers elsewhere were going through the same thing. In other words, it’s part of what it means to be a believer. This echoes the teaching of 2 Timothy 3:12, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” So, the motivation lies in a sense of solidarity and identity. When Christians are hounded by Satan, they can know that they’re not alone. They can know that this is a clear sign of their position and identity. After all, Satan doesn’t really care about those he’s already devoured. It’s the children of the light that he’s after.

And if we apply this to our lives today, the truth is that the devil is still prowling around. Perhaps he’s not being as direct as he was in the time of our text. He knows that we have comfortable lives here in Canada. So, he uses more subtle means to attack us and devour us. He distracts us with materialism. He captivates us with addictions. Sometimes he turns us against one another. And many other ways. But even though we are not persecuted in the way that Peter’s original readers were, the truth remains that the devil is still like a roaring lion looking for believers to devour, to drink up.

In other words, Satan has gone underground in Canada. He rarely does warfare against us out in the open. His strategy is to work covertly with a view to long-term results. And in view of this strategy, we need our own strategy. Better yet, we need the strategy of our King and commander in chief. Think of how the Lord Jesus resisted the enemy. When he was tempted, how did he respond? With Scripture! That’s why Ephesians 6:17 says that the Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. It’s the only offensive weapon that believers have. So, if we’re to stand and resist this roaring lion, we need this Sword of the Spirit. We need to have the Word of God on our hearts and minds. We need to be busy with the Word. And right now, it’s summer time. We have lots of time on our hands for all sorts of other things. But many times the Word gets put to the side. Family worship perhaps isn’t done regularly. Personal and group Bible study fall by the way. Sometimes people will even take a holiday from going to church! Brothers and sisters, this is where Satan gets happy and starts drooling. Because this is when you’re at your weakest point and most vulnerable. If he’s going to have any success with you, it’s going to be when you’re not busy with the Word. Cut him off before he even begins. Work with the Word regularly – then we’ll be standing firm, then we can resist him and be alert to his schemes.

This is what believers need to do in light of the truth that Satan hates us and has a terrible plan for our lives. But it needs to be emphasized that even though this is our responsibility, it is still Christ’s work in us. Which again underlines the need to pray. We cannot rely on our own strength. And that also holds true when we consider our second point this morning:

2. Believers need to rest in God’s promises

Verse 10 of our text should sound familiar. After all, our Form for the Public Profession of Faith concludes with this text. I’ve always thought that a bit hard to understand, especially the words “after you have suffered a little while.” When you do profession of faith and then the form concludes with those words, you’re left thinking, “Okay, so now that I’ve done Profession of Faith I’m going to suffer?” Why does the Form use those words? What do they mean?

Before we answer that, let’s back up to the first words of verse 10. Peter speaks about the God of all grace, calling us to eternal glory in Christ. These words first of all tell us something about God. He is the source of all grace – all the good things that we don’t deserve come from God. The second thing to note is that these words tell us something about ourselves. We’re called to eternal glory in Christ. That’s not just a wishful thinking kind of call, but a call that actually accomplishes something – you could say it’s a kind of divine, royal commission. We have been called to eternal glory – and this is in Christ. All of this takes place through what Jesus Christ has done for his people. This call to eternal glory through Christ’s work is in place now, but it has not been completely accomplished. There is a future element to it. That means that in the future we will be crowned with eternal glory in its fullest sense.

But for now, there’s a time of struggling, a time for enduring suffering. Now we have to contend with the prowling, roaring lion who wants us dead. That was true for the original readers of this letter, but it’s true for us too. And that’s why the Form for Public Profession uses verse 10. It’s not about suffering in the sense of having bodily aches and pains. It’s about suffering in the sense of having to struggle against sin and its effects. It’s about suffering in the sense of having this enemy who hates us and wants us dead. This kind of suffering will be there in the Christian life in this world.

In the face of that suffering or struggling, we have to hold on to God’s promises. We do that through the power of the Spirit and by God’s grace alone. God’s promise is that he will make us complete. He will mend what is broken in the weakness of our earthly existence. He will make us completely strong and firm. He will ground us firmly in eternal glory. Today we have a time of struggle and trials, but it’s all temporary. God’s promise is that there is future glory. And the story of Christ is the story of believers. That story involves entering into suffering that we might be received in glory. “Through suffering to glory” is a Biblical theme that we see repeated in Scripture and ultimately fulfilled in Christ. That’s why Peter said in 4:13, “…rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” So, today we suffer, but we do so with an eye to the future, knowing that eternal glory is waiting, knowing that Christ’s victory over sin and Satan assures us of our victory.

And today already we get a measure of the fulfillment of God’s promise. Today, when we pray to the Lord for strength in the battle, he promises to give it. With the Spirit and the Word, too, He will help us to do battle with the enemy. This helps us in our suffering and struggle. This helps us to keep going – knowing that the time will come when the battle is completely over and we can rest eternally from spiritual warfare. The suffering and struggle here is but for a little while, the glory that’s waiting for us will last forever.

To get there, we need to focus our hearts on God and his promises. And that’s why verse 11 ends our passage with a doxology – words of praise and glory to God. Peter gives this specific doxology because he wants to draw the thoughts and hearts of believers upwards to a sovereign God who cares for them. Sure, the truth is that we have an enemy. The devil hates us and has a terrible plan. All true. But we have a God who has the power. We have a God who has called us effectively. We have a God who loves us deeply in Christ Jesus. To this, with Peter, we can say “Amen,” it’s true and certain. There’s no doubt about it. Against a sovereign loving God, the devil can do nothing.

Yet, we should never underestimate the power and strength of our enemy. Though our sovereign God has him on a short chain, he still has power to destroy lives eternally. He is a defeated enemy and he knows it. The war has been won, but the individual battles rage on. He has nothing to lose, so he rages with all his might in a last ditch effort to mess up God’s work of salvation. But by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can and will resist him. We will not fear when we hear his roar. We will not fear when we see him prowling around. We will resist him boldly and steadfastly because we have the weapons and army – we have the best commander an army could have – we have all we need to see this enemy go down to eternal defeat. Sure, Colonel John Henry Patterson had his .303 rifle. But we have the Word of God – nuclear firepower. So, we can sing, as we will in a few minutes, the old hymn of Martin Luther,

And though this world, with devils filled,

Should threaten to undo us,

We will not fear, for God has willed

His truth to triumph through us.

The prince of darkness grim,

We tremble not for him;

His rage we can endure,

For lo! His doom is sure;

One little word shall fell him.

AMEN.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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