Public Enemy Number 1: Part 1
Like him or hate him, Neville Chamberlain teaches us this one fact: When someone wants to destroy you, appeasement is not an option. You see, Chamberlain thought he was dealing with a reasonable man who was willing to coexist. He was not. Because he misjudged his enemy, he almost lost England. Misjudging your enemy is deadly.
Peter knew as much. Peter knew that he readers had adversaries. For one thing, the government and culture distrusted Christians, thinking them incestuous, idolatrous, and worse. So, since they didn’t really like believers, they made them the topic of their criticism, the butt of their jokes, and the objects of their discrimination.
But, as bad as these persecutors were, they really were not the enemy Peter describes. Read about this enemy with me in 1 Peter 5:8-9:
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.
The real enemy of Peter’s readers was not the governor on the throne, the business owner in the market, nor the neighbor next door to them who discriminated against them. It was much bigger than that. They were being opposed by Satan, himself. One commentator writes: The goal of the devil is to devour, a graphic depiction of his desire to annihilate the Christian and, collectively, the church by assimilating them back to the evil ways of the world. They were in a spiritual battle.
And so, by the way, are we. Listen, things don’t just go bad in your life because you or someone else makes mistakes. Things don’t just go bad because someone in your family or your circle of friends decides they don’t like you and that they want to oppose you. O we bear a lot of the blame, surely. But there is, many times, a spiritual component, too. Things go bad because there is a force outside of ourselves which is evil and which wants to destroy us. Peter says, “Wake up! Get a clue! Some one’s out to kill you, and his name is “the devil!”
And I know when some of you hear that you go, “Really!? Really!? Are you really going to play the ‘Flip Wilson’ card . . . you know, ‘The Devil made me do it.’ That’s nothing but an excuse for your own failure. I tend to agree with Ebeneezer Scrooge. There’s more gravy than grave about that! The Devil? Bah, Humbug!”
See, I know that there may be some of you here today that, whether you would admit it or not, really don’t believe in this whole “Satan thing.” If that’s the case, if you’ll permit me to be a bit forward, this morning, there’s a real good chance you are not really a child of God. You see, because when you decide to follow Jesus, you don’t just gain a friend, you get an enemy! People who are not sold out to Him really don’t experience, but people who know Him and love Him all know what it is to be opposed by a force outside of their own explanation. If you don’t believe in Satan or in his power, I really want you to hear me out. It may just be that God wants to speak to you this morning.
Others of you believe. You are not unbelieving, you’re just uninformed. You are a believer. You know what its like to be accepted by Christ and opposed by Satan. But that’s just the problem. You’re accutely aware that the devil exists because you have been regularly defeated by him. The reason you’re always losing the struggle is because you are ignorant of his mode of operation. If that’s you this morning, I want you to listen. In these two verses, Peter packs a peck of perceptive principles. Listen to what he has to say. It may mean the difference in victory and defeat.
You see, I believe that God has designed us to be winners. He wants us to be world-class warriors for God. He has already told us that Jesus in us is greater than Satan who is in the world. So why is it, then, that so many believer are losing, and how can we snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Well Peter gives us a couple of actions we must take to defeat our enemy. First we can
DIV 1: KNOW OUR ENEMY.
An old war cliche says, “Know your enemy or know defeat.” George Patton was fight the German Warrior, Rammel, in the sands of Africa during the World War 2. Patton had prepared the battle field. He had studied the tactics of the “Desert Fox” and he had set a trap. He watched with field glasses as the German tanks moved closer. As they rode right into his trap. He began to shout, “That’s right, Rammel. I read your book; I read your book.” Victory begins when we know our enemy.
So let’s examine this enemy of ours for a few moments. Peter describes him in v 8. First he says, Be sober; be vigilant, for your adversary . . . The devil, first of all, is our adversary. He opposes us, and he is hostile. He’s not out to give us a good day. He is against us. As one commentator put it, Peter meant for his readers to understand
that satanic powers are at work in the sociopolitical system of the Roman Empire, under which his readers are suffering . . . (and) that the persecution they feel (is the result of the fact that their love for God and His Son, Jesus Christ, has provoked the society in which they live.
They have an adversary who is hostile.
But not only is their enemy hostile, he is also accusing. V8 says again, Be sober, be vigilant, for your adversary, the devil . . .The Greek word for “devil” is diabolos, which literally means “slanderer.” In Rev. 12:10, Satan is called the “accuser of the brethren.” He is our accuser. He’s very sly. He sets us up to sin by tempting us and, as soon as we fall, accuses us to God and to ourselves. Our enemy is hostile and he is accusing.
But, He is also active. He isn’t sitting around hoping that we turn our back on God and walk away. He’s always working. In fact, v 8 says of him, Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about . . . looking for someone to devour. I looked up that verb “seeking” and it means, literally, “to try to learn the location of something, often by movement from place to place in the process of searching . . .” Satan is our active enemy, moving constantly and looking for the weak places in our lives.
And that leads me to the next description of him. Not only is he hostile, accusing, and active, he is opportunistic. That phrase at the end of v 8, looking for someone to devour relates to the fact that he is called a “lion.” Let me ask you, how does a lion find its prey anyway? Well, if you ever watch the National Geographic channel, you know, right. There’ll be this herd of Zebra’s down at the river taking a drink. In the background, you’ll see the lions watching and pacing. You see that verse right in the picture. They are “walking about looking for someone to devour.” The question is, which zebra will they pick?
Well, they will pick the weak, the sick, the slow, or the injured. You’ve seen it. When the zebras start running for their lives, it’s the one that gets isolated because it can’t keep up that gets jumped. I think that’s the picture in this verse. Satan looks for the weak person to attack. He looks for the weak time in your life. He looks for the time when you’ve been injured or hurt, or the time when your own anger or depression has isolated you and he jumps you. He’s opportunistic.
He’s hostile, he’s accusing, he’s active, he’s opportunistic, and then he can be intimidating. Notice v 8, Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about (like what, that’s right) like a roaring lion.
There is nothing quite as intimidating as the roar of a lion. Peter picks this picture for a reason. It very graphically describes just what we are up against. Satan wants to cow us with his ferocious war and his fierce attack. One commentator wrote of this: The devil roars like a lion to induce fear in the people of God. In other words, persecution is the roar by which he tries to intimidate believers in the hope that they will capitulate at the prospect of suffering. That was the primary threat in Peter’s day, but that certainly isn’t the only threat Satan uses. He roars through marriage issues; he roars through bad diagnoses; he roars through financial reversal; he roars through your own sinful failure.
But I love what that commentator went on to say. He said:
The contrast between God and the devil is quite striking. God tenderly cares for his children (5:6–7), inviting them to bring their worries to him so that he can sustain them. God promises to protect his flock (v. 2) in all their distress. Conversely, the devil’s aim is not to comfort but to terrify believers. He does not want to deliver them from fear but to devour their faith.
God tenderly cares for His children, while Satan is really the classic three-hundred pound bully. He feeds on weakness, boasts of greatness and succeeds by intimidation . . . if we let him. You see, the truth is that the devil has no authority nor power in the life of a believer. The Bible tells us, Greater is He that is in you than He what is in the world. And it tells us that we are to Resist the devil (and what will happen?) He will flee from you. Listen Christian, its time some of us stood up to that three-hundred pound bully in our lives and said something like this: “Satan, I’ve been compromised by your intimidation long enough! Yes, I am a Christian, no matter how many times you’ve told me I’m not; Yes, I am forgiven, no matter how many times you rewind the tape on my past sins. Yes, I will succeed because I am following God’s will for my life and no weapon formed against me can stand!
You must know your enemy! He is hostile; He is accusing; He is active; He is opportunistic; He is intimidating;
And, even though he cannot touch the believer who is trusting Christ, still his attacks, for many, are deadly. v. 8 says . . . (that) your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. That word “devour” is graphic. It means, literally, “to drink down.” The picture is of a beast that swallows its prey in one gulp, kind of like the big fish did with Jonah. Satan’s desire is to gulp you down in one gulp. He wants to destroy you.
And his strategy is often deception: He deceives us, tempts us, then accuses us. Neil Anderson wrote a very frank book on this back in the ‘90's entitled The Bondage Breaker. He deals at length with numerous experiences he had in helping people overcome Satanic attack. One of the chapters in the book is entitled, “Don’t Believe Everything You Hear.” One of the letters he included was from a defeated Christian who wrote:
My old feelings that life isn’t worth the trouble keep coming back. I’m scared, lonely , confused, and very desperate. I know deep down that God can overcome this, but I can’t get past this block. I can’t even pray. When I try, things get in my way. When I’m feeling good and I begin puttin into action what I know God wants me to do, I ‘m stopped dead in my tracks by those voices and a force so strong I can’t continue. I’m so close to giving in to those voices that I almost can’t fight them anymore. I just want some peace.
Those are the words of someone who is under attack. They are fighting the one who is hostile, accusing, active, opportunistic, intimidating, and deadly. Maybe you find yourself in the words of this letter. Maybe you’ve been under attack and have been “hearing the voices” too. O, I know you haven’t heard an audible voice, but there have been whispers in your heart telling you that God doesn’t love you; that you’re not worth anything; that nothing’s going to go well and that you are doomed to failure. They’ve been telling you that you just need to quit.
Well, I’m here to tell you this morning that you don’t have to be defeated. You can understand your enemy and defeat him. Let me give you some principles to hold on to. First, since hostility is his attitude, you can recognize his influence. What I mean is this. Wherever there is division, strife, and hostility, you can be sure that the deceiver’s influence is lurking in the background. When you recognize this, guard your reactions! Don’t fall into the trap of retaliation that the deceiver sets for you. Since his hostility is his attitude, recognize his influence and defeat his strategy.
And since accuser is his name, reject his condemnation. You need to understand what the Bible says about you as a Christian. Paul wrote it over in Romans 8:1: There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. So, Christian, if you hear a voice telling your heart that God can never forgive you, that’s the voice of your accuser; if you hear a voice telling you that God’s Word is boring, that’s the voice of your accuser; if you hear a voice telling you that you’ll never be able, even with God’s help, to live the Christian life that’s the voice of your accuser. If you hear a voice telling you that you’re doomed to die a drunk just like your mother, or abuse your children just like your father, or cheat on your wife, just like your father, that’s the voice of your accuser. He may be talking to you, but you don’t have to listen. His name is accuser, but you can reject his condemnation.
And since intimidation is his strategy, you can ignore his threats. Remember, he is a lion and he is roaring, but you don’t have to be intimidated. As long as you are trusting Jesus, he cannot touch you! You can ignore his threats.
Since hostility is his attitude, you can recognize his influence; since accuser is his name, you can identify his deception; since intimidation is his strategy, you can ignore his threats, but then, since weakness is his opportunity, you can embrace God’s strength. Like I said before, Satan preys on us like a lion. He chooses the weak and those who are straying to touch. Which simply means that you must be strong in the Lord. How do you do that? Well, you immerse yourself in the Word of God because Heb 4:12 tells us that it is living and powerful; and then walk through your life in an attitude of prayer, constantly turning every situation over to Christ. Since weakness is his opportunity, embrace God’s strength.
And since destruction is His goal, you must take all of this very seriously. He’s out to devour you and me, so how are we to react. How can we take this seriously? Well, simply put we need to deploy a strategy that really works. That’s exactly what Peter gives us here in these verses. Not only can we defeat our enemy by knowing our enemy, we can also win this battle if we
DIV 2 - DEPLOY OUR STRATEGY.
A biblical war plan to defeat your enemy basically involves two strategies: First, you can adopt a biblical attitude. You see that attitude described in the imperative commands given at the beginning of v8. Since we have a hostile, accusing, active, intimidating, opportunistic, deadly enemy, we need to adopt two attitudes, Peter says.
The first thing he commands is that we Be sober. The work literally means “not drunk.” When someone is inebriated, they are not in control of their minds. They are easily distracted and cannot think rationally. The first step in our winning strategy is to be “sober.”
Now some have taken this word and mistakenly thought that it meant that believers should never tell a joke nor laugh. After all, if God commands us, here, to be “sober,” we need to “sober up,” right. Well, there may be some truth there, but it’s more helpful to me to think of it in other terms. To me, the term “clear-headed” is more helpful. What Peter is commanding, here, is for us to think clearly about the situation we may be in. I also think that a large component of thinking clearly is thinking biblically. In fact, you might say it like this: Clear thinking is a result of thinking biblical thoughts through the power of the Holy Spirit in connection with the situation in which you may be engaged. In short, you might say it like this: In order to think soberly, you must think biblically.
But he goes on to say, Be sober . . . and then . . . Be vigilant. The term “be vigilant,” is an extension of the word which means “to stay awake.” It means to be in a continuous state of readiness and alertness. I can explain it by giving you three statements. If “be sober” means to “think biblically,” then “be vigilant” means to “think constantly.”
Now “thinking constantly” speaks to the fact that we must learn to guard our minds. Your thought patterns are the battlefield of life, did you know that? This war will be fought in your thoughts. Win here and you will never fail in your actions. Lose here and it’s just a matter of time before you act out what’s on your mind. As a believer, the first thing you must decide is to be the policeman of your brain! As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians, we must “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” Vigilance means that we think constantly.
And then vigilance means that we think practically. This is where so many Christians miss it. To “think practically” is to connect the actions of your life to the principles of scripture. When the Bible says to dress modestly, ladies, I practically look for ways to apply that to my life. When the Bible tells me not to let the sun go down on my anger, I understand that this principle of scripture is directly connected to the argument I just had with my spouse! Vigilance in my strategy against Satan means I do more than memorize scripture, I apply it. I look for the practical ways that it impacts my life. I think constantly; I think practically.
And then vigilance means that I think proactively. The reason so many Christians are defeated by the schemes of Satan is that they spend their whole Christian experience reacting to life rather than proacting. They wait until they’ve both gotten so defeated and angry that they’re in divorce court before they seek counseling. They wait until after they speak to a bankruptcy attorney before they consult God about their finances. A vigilant thinker is constantly looking down the road of life and anticipating the weak spots that Satan wants to attack.
The first strategy for victory is in our attitude and our thinking. We must think biblically, think constantly, think practically and think proactively. We are to be sober and vigilant.
For fifteen years Mark Souder served as one of the congressmen from the state of Indiana. He was one of the conservative republicans who came into office during the off year “shellacking” that the Democrats suffered, not in 2010, but in 1994. He was known as a staunch conservative, especially on the social issues. He pushed family values and even made a video touting abstinence before marriage with one of his staff members, Tracy Meadows Jackson.
You can understand, then, how devastating it was when, in May of 2010, it was discovered that he had been having a multi-year affair with Ms. Jackson. Shortly after this revelation, Souder resigned and, as he stood before the cameras, he said:
It is with great regret I announce that I am resigning from the U.S. House of Representatives as well as resigning as the Republican nominee for Congress in this fall's election....I sinned against God, my wife and my family by having a mutual relationship with a part time member of my staff. I am so shamed to have hurt those I love.
Souder deviated from his written statement when reading it aloud to the Fort Wayne press later in the morning to explain why, unlike many legislators admitting adultery, he did not have his wife of 30 years at his side:
"I'm sick of politicians who drag their spouses up in front of the cameras rather than confronting the problem they caused."
But that’s not all of the story. In a series of emails, he shared with World magazine how he had fallen so far. He wrote:
I prayed multiple times a day, sang hymns with emotions and tears, felt each time that it wouldn’t happen again, read the Bible every morning . . . So how in the world did I have a torrid–which is an accurage word—many-year affair? How could I comparmentalize it so much? (In another email, he added) Bottom line, however is that the problem is sin . . . The problem is getting the will subordinate to the Holy Spirit early enough that the Spirit is not quenched.”
Did you catch that last line? He said “The problem is getting the will subordinate to the Holy Spirit early enough that the Spirit is not quenched.” At every turn, Satan was working to keep that from happening and, in the final analysis, he succeeded. The great issue was compartmentalization. Simply put, he disconnected the truth of scripture from the reality of his life. This is precisely what Peter warns us about when he tells us to be sober and vigilant. He is telling us that Satan, when he attacks us will come in and try to cloud the issues. We defeat him by thinking biblically, thinking constantly, thinking practically (that is connecting the word to our actions), and thinking proactively (anticipating where our weak spots might be and taking action to avoid or strengthen them.)
So, how’s the war going in your life? Are you aware that your enemy is out to devour you? Do you even recognize his attack? Are you aware of his schemes?
There was another world leader who spoke about appeasement. His take was quite different than that of Chamberlain. Listen to his words: Play Reagan: A TIME FOR CHOOSING
The answer really is simple: You have an enemy out to destroy you. You can adopt God’s strategy and fight, or you can surrender and become a slave.