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Sermon preached on 1 Peter 5:8-14 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 9/4/2011 in Novato, CA.
Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
1 Peter 5:8-14
“Like A Roaring Lion”
If you’ve ever been at a zoo and heard a lion roaring in the background, it may have sent shivers down your neck. I’ve personally always felt there was something so distinctive about a lion’s roar. It has such a deep, powerful, tone to it. It makes you thankful right away when you are at the zoo that the lions are separated from you by some enclosure. Humans should have a healthy respect for the power and danger of a roaring lion.
Well, today’s passage compares the devil to such a roaring lion. When you hear that lion roar, you may not know if that lion is out to get you or not. But I can tell you, that Satan is indeed out to get you. Satan is very powerful, more powerful than a roaring lion. Today’s passage reminds us of the danger of this roaring lion known as the devil. Certainly we should have a sense of healthy respect for this enemy’s power. And yet, ultimately, we’re reminded of the greater power of God to overcome all the enemy’s attacks. And so in today’s message we’ll consider first the devil and his afflictions. Second, we’ll see how Peter calls us to respond to this warning concerning the devil. Third, we’ll briefly consider the grace God gives us in all of this. That third point will be a subject we’ll develop more fully next week in our final sermon on 1 Peter.
Let’s begin then with considering the devil and his afflictions. Verse 8 begins with a label to describe the devil. He’s our adversary. Don’t be deceived, he’s not on our side. When he first appeared to Eve in the garden, he might have seemed to be on her side. He might have appeared to be a friend. But of course he wasn’t. The devil can masquerade as an angel of light. But make no mistake, he is our enemy. The word for enemy here has a legal connotation to it. This is the word you’d use to describe your opponent in a court case. This reminds us how we see the Devil as the accuser of the saints before God. He is no friend. But ultimately he is our enemy, because he’s God’s enemy. As long as we bear God’s name, he will want to harm us. He wants to try to shipwreck our faith and break our relationship with God.
I appreciate how Peter doesn’t end this letter without mentioning the Devil as our enemy. This whole book has been about Christian persecution. It’s about how the world will hate us for being a Christian. Certainly, in terms of our faith, the world has set itself up as our enemy. And yet, here Peter helps us to see the spiritual battle behind all of this. He points to this age-old battle that’s going on in all of this. At the end of the day, our ultimate enemy here is Satan. Peter hadn’t mentioned the Devil yet, but now it’s all so clear. When the world persecutes us for our faith, we realize there are forces at work that we have only begun to understand. Whatever persecution the world may bring to us for being a Christian is all a part of the Devil’s bigger plan. It’s all a part of his battle he is waging against us as our enemy. Peter clues us in to this spiritual warfare just before he closes his letter, and suddenly it all makes so much sense. The Devil wants these troubles to come into our life and actively looks to damage us with them. On the other hand, God can allow these troubles to come but then turns them around and uses them for our good. God overcomes his and our enemies.
So Peter then describes this enemy as a roaring lion. He’s a roaring lion that’s walking about. Most of our experience with roaring lions is probably either at the zoo or watching an animal documentary on TV. Back then, there was a good chance that many of Peter’s audience had seen humans literally devoured by a lion, since this was sadly a common part of the Roman amphitheatre games. (You think we have some problems with entertainment on TV today.) The dangers would have seemed very relevant to them. Verse 8 describes this lion as one walking about. It’s not just walking, it’s walking around and about. You might say he’s on the prowl. He’s moving around on the lookout for his prey. Well, Peter tells us what he’s looking to do. He’s looking to devour. Literally, looking to swallow up. Who? You and me! He wants to eat us. Obviously this is a figurative expression to tell us a literal truth. Satan wants to destroy us. Specifically he wants to destroy our faith and our relationship to God.
So the question that then comes, what does this look like? What does it look like for Satan to prowl around looking to strike us in this way? Well, in Satan’s craftiness, we see that he has a number of different ways he can attack us. In the context of this book, we should understand that he’s in one way or another behind the persecutions that unbelievers wield on us. This is not to give him the exclusive blame. Surely, Satan makes use of man’s sinfulness in the first place to encourage this persecution. But nonetheless, this is surely one of the ways that he can attack us. Surely, Satan has heard the parable of the sower. Remember the seed that fell upon the rocky ground. Jesus said that describes those who receive the word at first with joy, but since they have no root, they only last a short time, falling away when persecution or trouble comes. Satan can use persecution to attack people’s faith to try to get them to fall away.
Related to this, he might not only be behind the persecutions, in getting people to persecute you in the first place. But, he can also be the one who tempts you when the persecution comes. When the trouble comes he can give you lies – lies like that God must not care for you, or that God is powerless to help you. He can tempt you to recant, to turn from you faith. Many had that problem in the early church in the 3rd and 4th centuries when the persecution was so tough, many were offered by the Romans to be spared from death if they would just recant and offer some pagan sacrifices. Great controversy arose in the church when the Novatians and Donatists didn’t want to receive back into the church those who had previously fallen away. The point is that the Devil can be on both sides of this attack. He can instigate the persecution, and then work on you to fall away from your faith when the troubles come.
Of course the list of Satan’s kinds of attacks go on and on. Satan will try to pervert God’s Word in your life. That’s what he did to Jesus during that temptation in the wilderness. Satan quoted Scripture to Jesus in Luke 4:10, trying to get Jesus to tempt God. To us, he’ll want us to misuse some Scripture in our life; misunderstand it so that we act in unrighteous ways, and then when we have trouble because of our unrighteousness, blame it on God.
Satan can also give false promises. He promised Jesus in Luke 4:7, that if Jesus would but worship him, then Satan would give him all the kingdoms of the earth. Jesus didn’t buy into that promise. Satan may well bring certain false promises into your life. Don’t expect him to speak audibly to you like he did with Jesus. But he very well may present some attractive option to you that is only achieved by going down some sinful path.
We said that Satan can masquerade as an angel of light. When Paul talks about that in 2 Corinthians 11:14 he mentions how Satan can raise up false leaders to lead us astray – leaders that might have attractive sounding ideas, but fundamentally turn us away from the truth in God’s Word. That’s the warning of 2 Corinthians 11:14, that since Satan masquerades as an angel of light, that his servants might masquerade as servants of righteousness. We have to be on guard against this by being founded in God’s Word.
Another tactic of Satan is that he will try to cause doubts or unbelief in our minds. Remember what the Devil told Eve in the garden. She explained to him how God said not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. She said how God had told them that the day you eat of it you shall surely die. How did Satan respond? He contradicted God. He said, “You will not surely die.” He drew doubt in Eve’s mind over God’s Word. He got her to think, was God’s Word really true, or was that serpent right? Well this continues to happen today.
These are just a few of the tactics Satan might use. Jesus said he is the Father of Lies. He’s a tempter, an accuser, and a deceiver. We should expect that as a roaring lion he will not hold back in his attack, but ferociously look to destroy. Don’t be unaware of all the kinds of attacks he might bring on us. Peter would have you to be on guard against this ravenous beast. He wants to us be prepared for the kinds of attacks he will do. That leads us then to turn to our next point for today. How would Peter have us to respond to this warning about this roaring lion?
Well, Peter has several commands for us in this regard. Verse 8. Be sober. Be vigilant. Verse 9. Resist him. Be steadfast in the faith. Let’s look at those four commands now. They are how Peter tells us to respond to the threat of the devil. We’ll deal with two in verse 8 first. Be sober and be vigilant. We saw this word for being sober back in chapter 4:7. There the NKJV translated it as watchful. Peter had told us to be watchful, or sober, in light of the end of all things being at hand. Here it’s being used in a similar way with this call for vigilance. They are close synonyms and get at the same kind of thing. If you know that the Devil is out there looking to get you, it’s not the time for drunkenness. It’s not the time for any mental fog. No, we want to be sober, sober-minded, alert, clear-headed, awake to the danger. That’s the idea of this vigilance. That’s night-watchmen language. You are to be constantly scanning for the danger. It’s being on guard, not getting caught unprepared. You’re ready to respond when the enemy strikes.
Kim and I had a chance to practice this very literally on our recent vacation. At the Rocky Mountain National Park we were on a trail with Will and Zoe. Someone told us about how a mountain lion a few years back had snatched up a little four year old just a few feet away from his parents. Now, yes, that’s a very rare thing, but nonetheless we were going to play it safe. That meant we had to be vigilant when we were out there hiking with the kids. We couldn’t let them just run up ahead by themselves or dally behind us. We had to be on guard for their protection. Another hiking example of this is when you hike in grizzly bear country. You are encouraged to take precautions and be on guard. You do things like maybe wear a bell that is supposed to signal to bears that you are close so that you don’t startle them and they attack in fear. Instead it gives them a chance to move off on their own. You might also take bear spray, just in case. But the difference with a bear is that they attack out of fear; a lion, like the devil, is hunting you down. But the idea of vigilance and being mentally alert and on guard is still here with the bear example.
Next consider the commands in verse 9. The first is that we’re called to resist him. We are to resist the devil. James 4:7 says something similar, telling us to resist the devil and he will flee from you. The idea of this word is that you are to set yourself in opposition to the Devil. That you are to stand your ground, clearly distinguishing yourself from him. This is the same word also used in Ephesians 6:13 where Paul says we are to use the full armor of God, that we might be able to withstand in the evil day. This shows this was a pretty common idea of how to approach Satan, if three different authors, Paul, James, and Peter, all use it to describe our approach to him. But what’s it really mean to resist and withstand the devil? Well, Peter gives us a further explanation. He says we are to be steadfast in your faith. The way the grammar is here in verse 9, this is said as another command, but it seems to be said in such a way as to flush out this call to resist the devil. You resist him, by standing fast in your faith. Of course this makes sense in the most simple understanding. If Satan is trying to destroy our faith, we instead resist that by standing fast in our faith. We don’t give in to his attacks on our faith. We protect our faith, and rely on our faith, we trust our faith, in the midst of it all. One of the items in the spiritual armor Paul describes in Ephesians 6 is our shield of faith. Paul says we can protect ourselves from all Satan’s fiery darts with that shield of faith.
Let’s just stop for a few moments and think about how our being steadfast in our faith will help us in our combat with the enemy. A moment ago I mentioned some of the ways we can expect Satan to try to attack us. Let’s use those as examples of how our faith can stand fast in each of those circumstances. The first one – when Satan gets people to persecute us, how can our faith stand fast? Well, as one example, our faith is to trust in the fact that Christ is coming back to vindicate us on that last day. Our faith stands fast by entrusting our souls to God, that he will bring justice. Or when Satan tries to lie to us in the midst of that persecution, that God doesn’t love us. Well, we strengthen our faith by believing what’s been promised in 1 Peter. We saw it in last week’s passage. God cares for you. That was an assurance given in light of all the persecution described in 1 Peter. That God cares for you, and we shouldn’t be surprised when persecution comes, because we know God may allow it for a short time, and that if he does, he’ll turn it around for good, using it for our growth.
Or when Satan tries to pervert God’s word in our life, our faith stands firm when we don’t just believe his lies. Rather, our faith resists him when we seek out ourselves what God’s Word really says. We can even pray that God will give us wisdom to rightly understand the Word when you are struggling with differing interpretations of the Word. Be on guard for the fact that Satan might try to get you to misunderstand the Word, and then seek out how other the people of God have consistently understood a particular passage. If the church hasn’t faithfully used a particular passage the way you are wanting to, then there’s a pretty good chance Satan is trying to pervert the Word in your life.
If you have the temptation of false promises by Satan, remember to strengthen your faith with God’s Word. Paul talked about the breastplate of righteousness. Inform your faith with what right living looks like in the Word. If you are held out some wonderful prize but the only way to get it is through some unrighteous action, then exercise faith. In steadfast faith, believe that God’s righteous path is best. Satan’s real good at this one. He’ll put little dilemmas in your life. Something good that can only be obtained by doing something less than good. You’ll be tempted to justify it because the good thing seems so good. But have your faith believe in God’s way!
If Satan attacks as angel of light through raising up righteous-looking heretics, you will again have to put your faith into action. You’ll need to be feeding your faith with Scripture. You see, our faith must not be a blind faith, otherwise, it’s not the kind of faith the Bible is talking about. Add to your faith a faithful study of the Scriptures. Again, look to how the church has always understood the teachings of Scripture, and beware novel approaches. Satan wants to present things that sound fresh and exciting to us, but actually steer us away from the one faith that has been passed down through the ages.
And if Satan attacks you by trying to cast doubt or unbelief in your life, you have to found your faith in God’s truthfulness. As he challenged Eve with God being truthful, it’s simple enough to trust God. When Satan tells you otherwise, rebuke him in the Lord. Say, “The Lord rebuke your lies, Satan.” The God of all truth has said this. We have no reason to believe Satan over God.
So in all these things our faith must stand firm. And Peter goes on to tells us that our faith can be encouraged in all this by the fact that our troubles are not unique. He says in verse 9 that the same kinds of sufferings that we go through, are the very sorts of things all Christians go through. There is nothing new under the sun. And with regard to suffering, Christians throughout the world undergo it. With regard to Christian persecution, Christians throughout the world are undergoing it. With regard to attacks from Satan, Christians throughout the world are also being attacked in similar ways. Peter says that this is part of what our faith should keep in mind. There’s a comfort in knowing this. There’s nothing strange going on with us. It’s not like God has forgotten about us. No, this is something common to the Christian existence. We can go through these things then together with other believers. We’re not alone, and there’s a comfort to our faith in knowing that.
We’ve talked a lot about faith here today and its importance for combating the devil. But realize that our faith finds its protection ultimately outside of itself. Faith is something that looks away from itself. It looks to the object of the faith. Well, the object of our faith is Christ. That’s why Paul can tell us that in spiritual warfare we must find our strength in Christ. God in Christ is the one who will give us the strength to resist the devil. We need God’s grace in all of this. This is where this all brings us back to the gospel. And it’s what leads us to our final point for today. It’s the God of all grace that will enable us to overcome the enemy.
You see, I wouldn’t want any of us to walk away from today’s message and think that if I can only be alert and vigilant enough, then I can take on the devil. If I can only believe enough, then Satan watch out. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that it’s all about you going against the Devil on your own. No, our faith finds victory against Satan, as our faith takes hold of the power of God. As our faith connects us with the grace of God. As our faith looks away from ourselves to the grace that is in Jesus.
Just notice how our passage ends. This really is the climactic end of this whole letter, for that matter. Verse 10 refers to the God of all grace. Verse 12 again mentions the true grace of God. He references God’s grace with regard to how we stand fast in all of this. Verse 10 looks to the final outcome of all this. That the God of all grace will ultimately perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. We’ll flush those out next week, but the summary for today is that when all is said and done, God will restore us and build us so that we stand strong and secure in him. That God will allow the enemy to do his prowling around only for a little while longer, and will ultimately save us from these troubles, vindicate us, and heal us. Verse 10 says that’s a function of God’s grace to us.
But this grace isn’t just a future benefit. It’s not like God is going to let us just get pummeled and beat up until his return, and then finally pick up whatever is left of us. No verse 12 goes on to say that this whole letter of 1 Peter has been talking about how we have God’s grace, and that this grace is what enables us to stand. In other words, we don’t wait only for the future for God’s grace to come and save us from Satan and from persecution. No, right now, God’s grace is what is enabling us to stand. That’s what he told us essentially at the start of the letter too. In chapter 1, verse 5, he said that we are being kept by the power of God through faith for that salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
The point I am making is that we combat the Devil by standing fast in faith. But our faith looks to God’s grace and is itself a gift of God’s grace. And so it’s God’s power that will enable us to resist the Devil. That’s what our faith is looking to at all times. And so I close out our message today really with what we preach each week. With what we need each week. A call for faith in the grace of God. You’ve been called to believe that the cross paid the penalty of your sins, and that in Jesus you have eternal life. That’s God’s grace. But today’s passage also calls us to believe that God will give you the grace to stand up against all Satan’s attacks. That’s the ultimate way we stand. That’s what it all boils down to. However the Devil tempts us, attacks us, accuses us, or tries to deceive us, look in faith to God and his grace. Believe that his Word is true. Believe in all the promises he has to give you victory. Believe that he is with you. Trust that he cares for you. Don’t believe the lies. Believe in the life. That abundant life God has given you in Christ, because he loves you so much.
Satan might seem scary when you think of him as a roaring lion. But we have an even greater lion as our Lord. Not the devil, No! Never! Rather let us hail the lion of the tribe of Judah, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He who is seen both as the Lion and the Lamb. Hosanna, Hosanna, Save us, Oh King Jesus! Amen.
Copyright (c) 2011 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.