Public Enemy Number 1: Part 2
Ok, I know that picture may give you the “willies.” It sure does give them to me! This is an Anaconda and, according to National Geographic, these snakes can grow to a weight of 550 pounds! Wow! Now you know why I’m not ready to go on the mission trip down the Amazon!
Someone in the Peace Corps once published a fictitious manual of advice for volunteers headed to South America. In it they described how you should handle it if you ever, by chance, met up with one of these. Their advice was listed under the heading, “What to Do if Attacked by an Anaconda”:
1. If you're attacked by an anaconda, do not run; the snake is faster than you are.
2. Lie flat on the ground.
3. Put your arms tight at your sides and your legs tight against one another.
4. The snake will begin to climb over your body.
5. Do not panic.
6. The snake will begin to swallow you from the feet end.
7. Step 6 will take a long time.
8. After awhile, slowly and with as little movement as possible, reach down, take your knife, and very gently slide it into the snake's mouth. Then suddenly sever the snake's head.
9. Be sure your knife is sharp.
10. Be sure you have your knife.
I guess that would fall under the heading of “Be prepared,” huh?
As bad as meeting an Anaconda would be, there’s another serpent which is much more prevalent and a whole lot more deadly. It’s that old serpent, the Devil. He’s called a serpent in many places and, in our text for today, he’s called a lion as well.
In fact, Peter writes urgently in 1 Peter 5:8:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. Last week we talked about verse 8 and the attitude we must have to overcome our hostile, accusing, active, opportunistic, intimidating, deadly enemy. Today we want to talk about the action we must take in order to defeat him.
Peter sums up that action in one word. V. 9 begins, “Resist him.” Resist is an active word. It literally means to actively resist opposing pressure or power. You and I are not to passively sit by and depend on our attitude or our thinking alone to defeat the devil. We are to be active.
That’s important to note because most of us go through life trying to ignore our enemy. In fact, there are at least three groups of people here today. First, there are those I call “COASTERS.” No, I’m not talking about the round cork things you put your drinks on in the living room. I’m talking about believers who think they can coast through life without a fight. They’re like the guys who joined the National Guard during the Vietnam War to avoid the fighting. That may have worked out back then, but it’s not working out in this current war is it? And the truth is, it will not work out for you as a believer either. There’s no coasting, so you must be prepared.
And then we have the TALKERS here today. These are the people who are always bragging about their spiritual exploits, or at least vicariously living through the victories of others. They, however, are nothing but hot air. When the real battle begins and prayer warriors are needed, they are nowhere to be found.
WE have the coasters and the talkers, but we also have the “ISLANDS” here. That term has nothing to do with real estate. When I say “Islands” I mean people who think they can fight the battle all alone. They want to be come little islands of spiritual power impregnable by the forces of Satan and in need of no one else. These people are usually going from one defeat to another because they are all alone.
No matter your label, God has a plan for how you can be prepared for your encounter with the snake. He has a way for you to face the roaring lion. In order to resist the devil, you can
DIV1 - FOCUS YOUR FAITH
Notice that the very first thing Peter tells us about resisting Satan is that we must do this by being “steadfast” in our faith. The picture of steadfast is of something that has been concentrated to increase it’s power. In the old west, whenever the wagon train was attacked by Indians, what would they do? They would circle the wagons to concentrate their fire power. The idea of being steadfast is the idea of being compacted together and digging in your heals so as to withstand an attack. I like the word “focus” to describe this. When you are under attack, you must focus.
On what, you might ask? On what must I focus? Well, in the first place, you are not to focus on your faith. This is exactly the mistake that many believers make. They try to make their faith stronger by working on their feelings. That’s a big mistake. Faith doesn’t grow from a constant inquisition of it’s power. Faith grows through a concentration on its object! I don’t focus on faith to build my faith, I focus on God and He builds my faith! One of the best things I can do when under spiritual assault by Satan is to focus on God!
Now, this reason you must focus on God is that it is precisely your faith in God that Satan targets. Peter, realizing this, states very clearly that when we resist Satan, we must resist him in the very area he attacks: our faith. In Peter’s day, that attack came against the church in the form of outright persecution. Believers were tempted to deny their faith, and save themselves pain.
In our day, the attack may be more subtle, but it is no less deadly. Often our greatest temptation is not avoiding the pain of persecution but preserving the comfort of our lives. The early church was afraid of losing their freedom, or their job, or maybe even their lives; we fear losing a friend or being thought of as a fanatic. Satan’s temptation is always in the area of our faith, and since that is the case, trusting God must be our ultimate target.
You see, every sin you’ve ever committed in your life was, ultimately, a failure of faith. And it is really amazing to note just how quickly our faith can fail:
They arrived at the mountain with great anticipation. Moses had told them that something great was going to happen. They’d seen the power of God in Egypt. They’d seen locust turn the sky black and the fields brown. They’d seen the teeming Nile dying with the stench of blood. They’d walked by the stinking piles of dead frogs after that plague was over. More than anything, they’d heard the wails of mothers crying as they clutched the lifeless bodies of their first born sons. They had witnessed the awful power of God, and you would have thought that those images, those smells and those sounds so stamped their brains that they would never doubt Him.
But this was different. Now Moses, their great leader, had disappeared into the dark thundercloud at the top of the mountain. Surely no one could enter such a storm and live. Surely no one could behold God and survive. That had been the reason why, when they had heard the thundering voice of the Living God they had begged Moses to ask God not to speak to them anymore. They literally thought His voice might kill them. Maybe Moses was close enough to God that he could survive an audience with God, but maybe he wasn’t.
And as the days ticked by, the doubts picked up. Finally, their mustard seed faith evaporated and they told Aaron to make them a “more manageable” god. This invisible being with thunder for vocal cords and lightening for breath was too much of a risk. They couldn’t believe in that kind of a being. They needed something golden . . . like a calf.
And the Bible says that they fashioned that calf and turned their faith to an object of their own making, becoming idolaters. What was their problem? They did not believe. Every sin is a failure of faith.
And your faith in God is always Satan’s ultimate target. He always want you to doubt God.
There was a time in our world during both the First and second World Wars when men and women who served their country would go off and many times would be gone four or five years before they ever came home. We're told that a good Marine serving his country went off to fight. When he left, his wife was expecting a child. That child was born, and that child was a beautiful little girl.
Because this was a special home, the mother would never let the little girl forget her father. Every day she talked of the girl's father and showed her pictures of her father. She talked about the father's love and care for her, and about how someday her father would come home.
When the little girl was 4 years old, she was playing in the front yard. A man came to the gate. She looked up. She looked into his eyes with love, and he looked into her eyes with love. Then she said, "Daddy, you're for real. Daddy, you are for real!"
Listen! Satan’s mission is to get us to give up on our “Daddy” being for real. We doubt that God exists, or that, if He exists, He’s really all we need. If you’re single here today, you are told that God is able to fill you with joy, but, in the lonely moments when you’re all alone, you begin to doubt. In the pain of lonliness, waiting for God’s timing may seem impossible and the enemy whispers, “Just forget about purity. Get companionship any way you can.”
You’re told that God really cares about you and that He will take care of you, but then some tragedy happens. You pray, but, instead of things getting better, they just get worse. That’s when the enemy slips up behind you and says, “You know, if God were really there, he would not let this happen. If God is good, how can he allow this?”
You’re told that God owns everything and that you are to be a good steward with what He gives, but then things go bad. You are in danger of losing everything and the pressure is on. That’s when the enemy slips up to you and whispers, “Don’t tithe! Spend that money on yourself! After all, God promised that He would take care o f you and he has not.”
You see, lurking in the root of temptation is the mother lode of doubt. Satan wants you to lose your faith in God. The antidote to his temptation is to be “steadfast” in your faith: to focus on God and keep trusting Him?
But, how do you do that? How to you remain steadfast in faith? Well, in the first place, you must know WHAT you believe. This is more of an issue today than it used to be. We are innundated with lots of information in our lives, but even though we are better informed, we are more biblically illiterate than we’ve ever been. In his book, The Shape of Faith to Come, Brad Waggoner found that nearly 1 in 3 churchgoers did not believe that all men were sinners or that Jesus was coming again, while 1 in 6 did not believe that Jesus rose from the grave or that God was fulling in charge of every circumstance of life. Maybe the reason is that less than half of church goers actually read their Bibles at least once per week!
No wonder Satan has been so successful in corrupting our holiness and destroying our testimony. If you are to withstand his temptation to abandon the faith, it starts with knowing WHAT you believe.
But even more important than know what you believe is knowing WHO you believe. The reason for knowing the word of God is evident when you start understanding Satan’s strategy to defeat us. He is out to attack our faith by making us doubt the goodness and even the existence of God. But knowing the facts is not enough. There are plenty of people who grew up in the church or attended a Christian school who know all about the Bible and about Christianity. They have the facts, but they have never grasped them with their hearts. They know about God, but they’re not passionate about Him. Look! The only kind of relationship that will keep you through the onslaught of temptation is one of intense love for God. It is not a knowledge of a “how” but the knowledge of a “Who” that leads to victory.
When Satan comes at you with this temptation, or when, like Job, your world is falling apart and the circumstances of life are making you want to quit, you are then faced with a choice. You can make your faith contingent on your problems and quit, or you can focus your faith the person of Christ and keep on going. Satan will always attack you with the circumstances of life and, if you trust them, he will defeat you. The key to your victory will be a focus on Who God is.
If you are to win this battle, you must know WHAT you believe and WHO you believe. But there’s one more: You must TRUST what you believe. Simply put, you have to stake your life on the WHAT and on the WHO you believe. In this cosmic battle, timidity spells defeat. It’s kind of like playing football: If you walk out on the field afraid of getting hurt, you’ll get hurt every time because you won’t be playing all out. As a Christian, you’re all in or all out! Let me give you an example:
Let’s say that Satan has been attacking you through pornography on the internet. You’ve developed an addiction to those websites that are so destructive. God deals with you about it and you know you need to take some action. So instead of having the internet disconnected or signing up for covenant eyes, you just make yourself a promise that you won’t look again. You just make a half hearted commitment to change. And what happens? Well, that might last for a day or two, but before long you’re more captured by it than you ever were. Why? Because you knew What you believed: pornography is mental adultery; You knew Who you believed: You wanted your love for Christ to help you never want to go to those websites again. But you did not truly TRUST what you said you believed because you just didn’t take the radical action needed to really be free.
And that’s the truth you must remember. In this battle against Satan, you must focus on faith. Resist him firm in the faith. But there’s one more action you must take to win this battle. Not only must you focus your faith, you must:
DIV 2 - FELLOWSHIP WITH YOUR FAMILY
Peter ends v9 with a somewhat curious phrase. He says: Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. He adds that one of the motivating factors for his readers to endure persecution and stand strong against the onslaught of Satan is that they realize that they are not going through their struggle alone. It is a consistent principle of Scripture: Fellowship and accountability describes one of the most important strategies of victory in the Christian life. For instance,
Heb 10:24-25 says: And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
James 5:16 tells us that we should confess (our) trespasses to one another and pray for one another that (we) may be healed.
And even Paul himself said that it was the fellowship of suffering that encouraged him in his ministry. In 1 Thess 3, he writes:
. . . 4 For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened, and you know. 5 For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain. 6 But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always have good remembrance of us, greatly desiring to see us, as we also to see you— 7 therefore, brethren, in all our affliction and distress we were comforted concerning you by your faith. 8 For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord.
Paul actually says there that his very faith is strengthened when he finds out that they are standing strong against temptation.
We need to learn this lesson. For too long we have considered our faith to be so private that its no one else’s business. We think that we ought to be able to have our privacy when it comes to this Christian thing. It’s really nobody’s business if we’re having our Quiet time; that’s between me and the Lord. It’s nobody’s business if I’m tithing; that’s between me and the Lord. Hey, it’s nobody’s business if I’m involved in private porn; that’s between me and the Lord. I want you to hear me this morning. That’s nothing but a Satanic strategy! It is transparency that brings power into your life. You need it. That, by the way, is why you need to sign up for discipleship, I don’t care if you’ve been a Christian for forty years! Why? Because you need the constant accountability you get in a discipleship relationship! That old cliche “No man is an island,” ought to be adjusted for the Church: God never intended for any Christian man or woman to be an island. If you are to win against Satan, you must have the accountability that comes from fellowship with the body of Christ!
A police officer in a native settlement in northern Canada told this story. One day a rabid wolf came into the camp. Eventually, the police officer killed the wolf, but he was not able to do so before it attacked a young man and his Grandmother . . . in their home, making kindling out of a chair the young man used to protect himself and from his attacker.
The amazing thing was, however, that, since this was a Canadian village, there were about 150 sled dogs in the village. Together they were more than a match for a sick wolf, yet even though they were there, the wolf attacked undeterred. Why? Well, the reason was simple: In order to prevent the dogs from fighting and wounding each other, (which they were prone to do if they were allowed to stay together) they had each been tied to wooden stakes spaced far enough apart to prevent them from reaching any neighboring animal. Because of this, the wolf walked freely among the dogs, killing some and badly wounding others. In isolation they were no match for their foe, and they suffered terribly for it.
That’s a picture of what happens to us as Christians when we isolate ourselves: Alone and isolated, Satan is able to deceive us and defeat us. We are easy prey for the enemy of our souls. We desperately need one another! If we are going to overcome the attack of our enemy, we must focus on Christ and fellowship with His family.
Well, we have spent the last couple of weeks talking about our enemy. The one who wants to swallow us in one big gulp and bring us to the point where we stop trusting Christ. Let me just summarize in four quick statements our strategy for his defeat.
First, since victory requires clear thinking, you can memorize and study scripture. This is the only way you’re going to be sober. You must have a scripture-saturated brain. When you are cut, spiritually-speaking, you must bleed Bible. The only way for that to happen is for you to immerse yourself in Scripture, studying and memorizing it.
So are you doing that? Do you have a time every day that you get alone with the Lord and open up His word and really dive into it. When was the last time you memorized a verse of scripture. You might be thinking, “Well, Rusty, why do I have to memorize it?” Well, the best answer for that is simply to point you to the temptation of Christ. I don’t read that, when Satan tempted Him, He whipped out his Ipad version of the Torah and read verses. No, He answered instantly from memory, and, by the way, I think that He probably had to memorize it just like you and I do. And the result was He was able to defeat Satan’s temptation. Since victory requires clear thinking, you can memorize and study Sripture.
And then, since victory requires connected thinking, you can apply scripture. What I mean is that it isn’t enough to know the verses, you’ve got to dynamically apply them to the circumstances of your heart and life. Satan doesn’t care how much Scripture you know; he only cares about how much Scripture you apply.
Third, since victory requires persevering faith, you can focus your attention on Jesus Christ. In all of his work, the schemer’s design is always to turn your attention from Jesus. That’s why Hebrews tells us that we must “Look unto Jesus, the author and the perfector of our faith . . .” if we are to persevere.
And last of all, since victory requires mutual accountability, you can seek a discipling relationship. Mutual accountability is and always has been the key to growth. Defeat is the step-child of isolation. We need one another!
His obsession began innocently enough, with the puppies and broken-winged birds many little boys beg to bring home. Over the years, Antoine Yates' taste in animals grew ever more exotic, neighbors said, and his collection came to include reptiles, a monkey or two, and a hyena.
But when Yates' most exotic pet—a tiger he named Ming—grew to more than 400 pounds and let loose a fearsome roar, the trouble began.
Terrified by the beast, his mother, Martha, packed up and moved to a suburb of Philadelphia earlier this year, neighbors said.
Yates, increasingly hard pressed to control the tiger, apparently decamped too, to a nearby apartment.
He continued to feed the tiger by throwing raw chicken through a door opened just enough to keep a paw the size of a plate from swiping through, neighbors said.
On Saturday, police arrived, after being alerted by phone tips. They removed the tiger, and an alligator, after a sharpshooter shot them with tranquilizer darts.
Police now are trying to determine where Yates, 31, got a tiger and how he managed to raise it in a public housing project for years.
The story became even more poignant a couple days later. After a court hearing Yates was released without bail. Limping and with his arm in a sling, both injuries caused by the tiger, Yates continued to profess his love for Ming. Outside the courtroom Yates commented to the reporters, "I never feared him at all. He was like my brother. He was my best friend. He's my only friend, really.
Here’s the truth: Some of you have been nursing a date with the devil. You don’t realize it, but its true. If you could pull the mask from that sin you’ve been coddling, you’d find the fiendish face of the lion Peter tells us about. You’ve been feeding him, comforting him, providing for him and you feel as if he’s your friend, but he’s nothing but the tempter and if you don’t stand up to him and defeat him, it will not be long till he rises up and devours you. It is time for you to take action!