Aware of Our Enemy
Topic: English Passage: 1 Peter 4:8-9
One of the most powerful emotions for mankind is fear. Fear is contagious, and for that reason, it’s extremely effective if you can harness that fear for profit or for personal gain. That’s what American Express did with their traveler’s checks. We were told about the danger of being robbed of our cash, so we were urged, “Don’t leave home without them.” They did that because fear sells. People want to feel safe and secure, and they will make personal sacrifices to make sure that happens. That’s why many, many news stories appeal to human fear. It gets your attention. It gains them views and clicks, and they make money.
Fear, like other emotions, exists on a spectrum. There are different degrees and different ways to fear something. Sometimes, fear isn’t even the best word to use. We might softer words like “caution” or “concern.” We might use more serious words like “reverence” or “awe.” Or we might use more emotionally charged words like “horror,” “dread,” “terror,” and “panic.”
At one extreme, you can have absolutely zero fear about something. Or you might be aware that something is possible, but still, it makes no visible change in your life. Then there are things that cause you to proceed with caution. And at its most extreme, there is a level of fear that can completely dominate a person. There can be a consuming fear, completely out of balance with the rest of life. In the past, those would have been classified as phobias. Today, some might even consider it a virtue.
Each of us have our own mixture of fears, and we hold those fears in varying degrees and in different ways. You might be afraid of COVID-19. You might be afraid of violent crime in our neighborhood. Or maybe you’re afraid of terrorists. Maybe you’re afraid of governmental tyranny. Maybe you’re afraid of the promotion of wicked immorality in society. Maybe you’re afraid of getting cancer or a heart attack. Or, on a less serious note, maybe your just concerned about getting a flat tire, having a bad hair day, upsetting your friends, or getting caught unprepared for the weather. Like I said, fear looks different for every person.
But as a people who are united in Christ, we need to be united, more than anything, in our fear of God. That’s not supposed to be a terror kind of fear. But it should be a reverent fear that prompts us to holiness. We need to be aware that we serve a holy God who will discipline or chastise us for our good when there is disobedience and unrepentance.
First Peter 1:17 says we need to conduct ourselves with fear throughout the time of our exile on this world. That fear comes from knowing who our Father is and how we have been redeemed.
But our daily life shouldn’t be marked only by an awareness of God and Christ who are for us; it should also be marked by an awareness that we have an enemy. This is something God wants us to know about. And we see that in today’s Scripture from the Apostle Peter.
First Peter 5:8 refers to him as “your adversary the devil.” We are never told in Scripture that we need to fear the devil. That’s not the language that’s used, so I’m going to avoid it in this discussion. But there’s a difference between fearing the devil and being aware of him. There is a caution we are called to take. As a follower of Jesus Christ, you have a very real enemy in this world, and he poses a very real threat.
This morning, as we look a little more closely at verses 8 and 9 of the final chapter in First Peter, I want to give you two messages concerning this enemy. And the first is this: You have an enemy, and he is dangerous. He is dangerous.
Satan, I think we can say, is the most well-known angel in the Bible. We don’t think of him like that usually, but that’s what he is. According to word of God and the teaching of Christ, Satan is not simply a symbol of evil. He’s not the personification of some evil force. He is an actual person; he is a spiritual being.
He was created by God with power and with a level of glory, and he, along with a multitude of angels, which we call demons, has corrupted himself into the enemy of God. You have an enemy, and he is dangerous. You’re not supposed to take that lightly.
First Peter 5:8 begins with two brief commands highlighting the type of mentality we should have in light of this enemy. It says there, Be sober-minded; be watchful. You have a dangerous enemy.
Being sober-minded is a reference to thinking clearly. We’re not called to panic. But we’re also not called to ignore the danger. We need to be aware. We need to be cautious. We need to be alert. We need to watch out.
Two or three weeks ago, there was a little 5-year-old boy playing in his front yard in the Santa Monica Mountains. That’s about 40 miles west of here, near Thousand Oaks.
The boy’s mother was inside the house when she heard loud noises and her child screaming. She ran outside to find that a young, 65-pound mountain lion had dragged the kid about 45 yards across the lawn. According to reports, the mother started punching and hitting the mountain lion with her bare hands until it let her son go. News reports said that the boy suffered wounds to his head, neck, and upper torso but is expected to make a full recovery.
In addition to praising the mother’s response, one news report said, “[t]hese types of attacks are extremely rare. The Santa Monica Mountains have not seen a human attack by a mountain lion in more than 20 years.”
Well, I don’t think it matters anymore to this mom how rare these attacks might be. You can bet that she is going to think twice about letting her little play outside all by himself in a home in the mountains. Life isn’t going to be same anymore, right?
Well, if you have come to Jesus Christ, life isn’t going to be same anymore. You are called to be careful, to be watchful.
How many of us woke up this morning and gave some thought to the reality of Satan? For most of us, I’d guess it probably didn’t. It’s not a common thing in our circles. We delight in the joy of Christ. We recognize that we are sinners, but we don’t always live with a sense of awareness that we have a dangerous enemy.
Here is verse 8, God’s word tells us “[our] adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” You have an enemy, and he is dangerous.
Now, what kind of danger are we talking about? That’s an important question. With a physical lion, we’re talking about death. You will die if you face an angry lion by yourself. But with Satan, what is it that’s at stake here? Why is he so dangerous?
Well, for starters, it is his disposition. Satan is not potentially dangerous or sometimes dangerous. He is set on evil. Jesus said Satan was a murderer from the beginning, and there is no truth in him. He is the father of lies. He is seeking deception and destruction.
We serve a God of truth, and a God who comes to give life. But our enemy brings deception and death. Like a raging lion, Satan is actively seeking to destroy. So, again, what makes him dangerous is, first of all, his disposition.
A second danger here is his influence. Ephesians 2 refers to him as the prince of the power of the air. He is “the god of this world.” His influence is everywhere. You can’t escape it.
The Bible never teaches that Satan is omnipresent. And I would even say that Peter’s words here don’t strictly mean that Satan himself is going to mess with you. But we can take this as a reference to Satan’s armies, which is the demons. It would be like saying, “Hitler invaded Poland.” It wasn’t Hitler himself leading the charge, but it was all under Hitler’s leadership. He was the chief strategist. He was in control of his armies.
Well, Satan has an innumerable army under his command. And along with his demons, he is opposed to Jesus Christ. We need to understand that if we are going to be alert. There is no place separated from Satan’s influence. Not your home. Not your church. Not anywhere. That’s what makes him so dangerous.
Now again, what, then, is Satan after? In what way is he going to devour someone?
In 2 Corinthians 2:11, Paul says “we are not ignorant of his designs.” So, what are Satan’s plans? What is he after?
Well, I think the best way to understand what Satan is after is to understand what he’s against. I remember seeing a T-shirt once many years ago—and I don’t mean to offend anyone—but this is what it said: “My favorite teams are UCLA and whoever’s playing USC.” When you have a rival, you don’t care who they lose to, you just want them to lose.
And that’s the case with Satan as the enemy of Christ. Whatever Christ is after, Satan wants to impede it, or stop it if he can. So, rather than ask ourselves, what is Satan after, we can ask ourselves, “What is Jesus after?” or “What should I be pursuing that Satan is opposed to?”
Well, the broadest answer to that question is: the glory of God. But more specifically, Peter has been showing us in his letter the many ways that God is glorified.
The letter begins by praising God for the great salvation He has given us. God is glorified through the salvation of sinners.
Then, for those of us who have already trusted in Christ and been brought to salvation, 1 Peter 2:5 says we “like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
You glorify God in salvation, and you glorify God in adoration, in praise.
Later in verse 9, it says that God chose you as “a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
You glorify God in salvation. You glorify God in adoration, and you glorify God in proclamation.
Lastly in this little list, verses 11 and 12 give us the familiar instruction to “abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”
So, we can say, we glorify God in salvation. We glorify God in adoration. We glorify God in proclamation. And we glorify God in sanctification. We glorify God as we persevere in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Your holy life leads others to know God more and then to glorify Him.
So, Satan’s primary concern is not necessarily to turn you into some kind of Satan-worshiper. It is to pull you away from your commitment to Christ so that you will no longer be effective for Christ, so that God will not be glorified. That’s Satan’s plan. That’s been his plan since the beginning, when he turned the hearts of Adam and Eve away from God. He wanted mankind to distrust God, to question His character.
This is what Satan is after. Jesus said Satan is like the birds that eat the seeds on the road. He steals the truth of God that someone might have heard.
When you leave church today, and if you sensed the Spirit of God teaching you and helping you in your Christian walk in some way, Satan’s goal is just to make you forget about it. And that’s not too hard, you just need to get a little hungry or a little impatient. And his goal is made easier by the fact that we are sinners too.
The supreme example of Satan’s work would be to disqualify a minster of the gospel. And by that, I don’t just mean a pastor or an elder. We are all ministers of the gospel. We are all called to use our words to proclaim and defend God’s truth, and we’re all called to live lives worthy of that truth. Satan wants to stop that. He wants to distract. He wants to deceive. He wants to entice. And given our world, with its unending distractions, his job isn’t very difficult.
Maybe a good word for what we are called to guard against is worldliness. Worldliness. Satan is the god of this world, so the more he can conform us to this world, the more effective he will be at impeding the work of God in our lives.
In 1 Corinthians 5:5, it’s interesting that when Paul told the Corinthian church to deal with an immoral man, he said “deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.”
Delivering a man to Satan means: Remove him from the blessing and the affirmation of the church. Hand him over to the domain of Satan, which is the world. Don’t let him be an influence in the world. Let that guy face divine punishment in the pain of this world, with the hopes that he will be brought to repentance.
At the end of 1 Timothy 1, Paul uses the same phrase when he talks about professing believer who made a shipwreck of their faith. Verse 20 says: Among [them] are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.
Satan’s goal is to make you and me less effective for Christ. And he can do that with pain and difficulty, or he can do that with luxury and ease. So, being devoured by Satan, in the worst way, would mean to be taken out of the visible sphere of Christ and placed back into the world. It may mean that someone turns out never to have been a true believer. Or it could mean that they end up facing a severe discipline of God in some way.
That’s what Paul wanted to avoid in his own life, so he said: I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
You have an enemy, and he is dangerous. So, be on the alert. Don’t waste your time. Don’t waste your opportunity. The days are evil. You need to watch out. You need to do some self-examination and think about how you are being pulled more into this world and further from being effective for the glory of God.
Satan will do that through entertainment. He’ll do it through sexual temptation. He’ll do it through friends and sports and music and news. He’ll do it any way he can. He will get you more focused on stuff that doesn’t matter, and he wants you to be okay with that.
In fact, I would say, that if you’re thinking to yourself, “I don’t really see how Satan is working in my life. I don’t really think I’m a big target for him,” you’re already losing in a major way. If you have no intention or no desire to be effective for Christ, Satan has already won. He doesn’t have to worry about you.
If your biggest goal each day is simply to behave—or to not get in trouble, or to enjoy life, or to be a good conversationalist, or to win people over to your political opinions—Satan has already won. You’ve already lost a major battle. You need to wake up.
You are not designed to just sit back as a Christian. God has you here for His glory. He placed you in this church, in your family, and in your neighborhood for a reason. Don’t let Satan steal you from that. You have an enemy, and he is dangerous. Therefore, you need to be aware.
Now, being aware isn’t enough. Look at verse 9 with me. There’s another command. What does God tell us to do? Verse 9. It says: Resist him. Resist him.
When we are given a command in the Scripture, that implies at least two things. Number 1, that it’s not what we would normally do. Secondly, it also implies that by the power of the Christ within us, by trusting and depending on Him, we can do it.
So, the second message you need to know is that you have an enemy, but he is defeated. You have an enemy, but he is defeated.
The first message keeps us from bring flippant in our faith, forgetting the danger. This second message keep us from being frozen in fear. This dangerous and powerful enemy can and must be resisted.
You can stand against this lion. You can face him. Like all obedience to God’s commands, you can’t do this on your own, but you can do it by the power Christ provides.
Before coming to faith, you were a slave of Satan. You were blinded by him. But Jesus is infinitely more powerful than Satan. That’s why when the demons responded to Jesus in the gospels, they were terrified. Jesus faced more demonic opposition than any of us because He was fully committed to the glory of God. But Jesus, as the Son of God, and in perfect communion with and dependence on the Father stood firm.
And we’re called to follow that example—again, not in our own strength, but in the strength which He provides. We can, like Peter says, be firm in our faith. We can stand our ground.
The Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, has broken the power of Satan in our lives. We walk in newness of life. That doesn’t mean, like some people teach today, that we’re supposed to be walking around rebuking Satan. That’s ridiculous and arrogant and foolish. In the little letter by Jude, it talks about false teachers trying to do that kind of thing. And it reminds us that even Michael the archangel, when he was battling with Satan, didn’t pronounce judgment, but he said, “The Lord rebuke you!”
This is Christ’s battle, ultimately. We don’t have any power in ourselves. That doesn’t mean we don’t need to fight in some way, but it does mean we recognize that the power is not our own.
So, how do we resist? Well, resisting is going to mean personal exertion. This is a battle. This is warfare. It’s going to hurt. Ephesians 6 says it’s a struggle. But the battle is about more than just willpower.
Ephesians 6 talks about the armor of God. And two of the pieces of armor mentioned there are the shield of faith and the sword of truth. The shield of faith includes your personal subjective faith, but it also includes the objective content of your faith—true doctrine. Paul says that protects you from Satan’s flaming arrows. It’s a defensive protection.
In terms of offense, we have the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. We combat lies and deception with truth. That’s how Jesus, in His humanity resisted the devil. He kept saying, “It is written.”
If you’ve got some specific sins and temptations in your life that are a bigger struggle for you, you need to arm yourself with truth. You need to find some key verses and truths to fight. You need to be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you are not being conformed to this world.
So, you fight Satan through personal exertion and through faith and truth. You also fight with prayer. That’s what Paul talks about after talking about the armor of the Lord. Hebrews says we need to go to the throne so we can receive mercy and grace in our time of need. We need to go to our sympathetic High Priest.
So, we resist Satan through personal exertion, through the truth of Scripture, and through prayer. But here in verse 9, Peter emphasizes another way. And in our social media, privatized culture, I think this is so important. We resist Satan through fellowship. Fellowship.
Notice again, what Peter says, we resist Satan knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
In other words, remember that you are not alone. You are not alone.
This letter was written to Christians experience severe trials and persecution. And that persecution was leading them into to worldliness. That’s why Peter told them about fleshly desires that wage war. These people’s worldliness could have been some kind of escape from their suffering, or it might have been some kind of way to reduce the persecution. “If I just do whatever the rest of the world is doing, they’ll leave me alone.”
Whatever the motivation was, the pain of persecution was pressing them back into the mold of the world. But Peter says, “Remember, you’re not alone.” You’re not alone. Remember that.
In every generation, and in every culture, there have been the people of God enduring significant pain, significant trials. You are part of a global brotherhood. That’s what Peter says. There is a brotherhood throughout the world.
Sorrows and sin and Satan have a very isolating effect. Some of you know that acutely. They pull you apart from the rest of us. You feel all alone, like nobody else would understand. But that’s not true. Jesus understands, and so do your faithful brothers and sisters.
First Corinthians 10:13 reminds us: No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he 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.
That verse reminds us that God is faithful, that He will give us a way to escape temptation. But it also reminds us that what we’re facing is common to man. We’re not alone.
Many others have faced similar battles, and they have made it through. I believe that’s part of Peter’s point here in verse 9, but we lose it a little bit in our English translation. In English, it says these difficulties are being “experienced” or “accomplished.”
The Greek word means to be completed, to be perfected. And I think that’s pointing to the fact that there are brothers and sisters in the world who are overcoming these difficulties. They are glorifying God through the pain. God is using this in their lives for His good purposes, and He’ll do the same in your life too.
Practically speaking, I think this means a lot for how we resist Satan and the onslaught of demons in this worldly system. Don’t do it alone. Don’t fight this fight alone. Find a trusted friend. Find a mature man or a mature woman and open up to them. Let them join you in this battle, and you join them in the battle. What a blessing it is to know you’re not alone in this world. God has given you brothers and sisters to help you fight.
And though we lose so often, what a blessing to have brothers and sisters who will pick us back up again, and who will walk with us in repentance and in the grace of God.
What a joy to know that the victory Jesus accomplished at the cross can be seen in our continual forgiveness and cleansing from sin, in our daily victories over sin, and it will be clearly seen when Jesus comes to finally free us from this wicked world and this sinful body. Our enemy has been defeated, and we will be victorious. We face a dangerous enemy, but he has been defeated.
We’ll talk more about that next time, as we look at verses 10 and 11.
Let me close by reading the lyrics to a hymn. This was written by Martin Luther back in 1529. He was used by God to help usher in the Reformation which brought Europe and the rest of the world back to the fundamental truth of Jesus Christ. He gave the people back the word of God in their own language.
But since he was used so mightily, he faced Satan in some very distinct ways in his life. Part of the result of that was a hymn he wrote, which is titled “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” It’s older English than most of us are used to, but I hope you get the message. Here’s what he wrote:
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing; our helper he, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing. For still our ancient foe does seek to work us woe; his craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing, were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God's own choosing. You ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is he; [The Lord of hosts] his name, from age to age the same; and he must win the battle.
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.
That Word above all earthly powers no thanks to them abideth; the Spirit and the gifts are ours through him who with us sideth. Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; the body they may kill: God's truth abideth still; his kingdom is forever!
Life hurst, and Satan is real, but by the power of God we can resist and we will be victorious.