In our Pilgrimage to Heaven our Real Enemy is Satan
Intro: Well morning South Sydney Anglican Church. My name is Matt Johnson and today we are coming to the end of 1 Peter. THE BIG IDEA in this book is that Christians are simply pilgrims (or even exiles) in this world as we wait for our forever home in heaven. As exiles – “SUFFERING” is often part of our Christian experience. But as we finish this book – Peter finally identifies that the real problem is a creature called Satan.
Prayer: Well today Peter talks about SATAN or THE DEVIL as a roaring lion who is circling the Christian church looking for someone to devour. Whether you can see him or not (as a spiritual entity) – that is the reality. And as such Peter tells us in verse 8 – to be alert and sober minded.
But what is Satan up to? What do we need to be sober-minded about? I was speaking to Karon Davis (on Thursday night) and she told me about a YouTube video she watched by Paul Harvey called; “If I was the devil…” I’m going to play it for you in a moment as a kind of intro to what Satan is doing and why we need to be alert. But first a bit of background.
Paul Harvey was a famous RADIO PRESENTER in the United States from 1951-2008. He had one of the highest listenerships in the US and he won all sorts of awards. Growing up in Oklahoma – Paul also had a typical Bible belt – Christian worldview. So in 1965 he did a segment called – “If I was the devil,” this is what I’d do to destroy America. It was heard by millions. But as many have noted it was also kind of prophetic because it foretold some of the things that seemed to happen in the ensuing years. So let me – play if I was the devil – as we begin. (SLIDE 2)… Remember that is 1965.
Although secular humanistic thinking scoffs at the idea of God and Satan and tells us EVERYTHING has a natural explanation, rooted in 1)evolution or 2) politics or 3) perhaps psychology – the Bible tells us Satan is real and he is our main enemy.
So ignoring Peter’s words to be alert and sober minded about Satan’s attacks may be THE DIFFERENCE between A) arriving safely at the celestial city of heaven OR B) being seriously waylaid or even committing apostasy in the journey…
Point 1: Satan is Attacking Christians in our Pilgrimage to Heaven
Show: 1Pet.5:8-9 (READ)
Explain: Well, who is our REAL ENEMY in the journey to heaven? Yes, Peter has been clear God is using our difficulties and sufferings to refine our faith. Yes, like Jesus, our doing good as Christians will often be met by hostile authoritarian forces. But these forces are not the real enemy. Peter says the real enemy and primary cause of Christian suffering is the devil.
Peter says (verse 8) the devil exists. Peter says he is “YOUR ENEMY.” And he is pacing around like a roaring lion looking for Christians to devour. Then (verse 9) we are told to resist him and stand firm in the faith – because the family of believers (throughout the world) are also suffering – ie because of him, the devil. The devil is the real enemy of the church and the devil is the one causing the family of believers to suffer throughout the world. Satan is waging war on believers.
Peter has mentioned Christian suffering about 20x in this book – but he now lays the cause of this suffering at Satan’s feet. Satan may NOT be the direct cause of all suffering in this world, because some suffering happens simply because we live in a fallen, sinful world. But if you are suffering because of your faith in Jesus or your faithfulness to the Bible, something spiritual is taking place and Satan is somehow involved. So Peter hangs three imperative verbs off this reality of the devil being our main enemy. (Slide 4; The Devil, 3 things).
Satan exists, Satan is dangerous – so 1) be humbled, 2) be alert, 3) be resistant to apostasy. All 3 verbs seem to be linked to the same object – the devil. And the thing about imperative verbs is that they are commands. These are not three suggestions or recommendations. THESE ARE COMMANDS and ignoring these commands carries the risk of becoming A SNACK PACK or HAPPY MEAL for the Devil. So we’ll come back to these three commands in a moment – after thinking about our enemy….
Illustrate: Many years ago – I worked for a couple of weeks – IN DUBBO ZOO (and I got to feed lions and tigers and cheetahs) behind the scenes – often with just a cyclone wire fence between me and the big cat – like right there. And when big cats like lions and tigers are pacing back and forth (like right there) waiting to devour their food – you tend to have your senses heightened. YOU ARE ON ALERT. Now one of the days as I was bending down to poke a big bowl of meat into the tiger’s cage – the zookeeper banged on the wire and the tiger got angry. So as I bent down and pushed the food into the cage, the tiger jumped up against the cyclone mesh wire and it kind of bent out over me. 150kg of tiger (like just there). I think that is the closest I’ve come to pooping myself.
Apply: But here’s the point. You need to be 1) humble, 2) alert and 3) sober minded around big cats – otherwise you end up dead. And this is how Peter speaks of the devil – as a big, dangerous, prowling cat. Now how big and how dangerous? There are a number of Bible passages that lead us to believe that the devil was originally an angel. In the book of Job it says that as the angels were presenting themselves before God (for their assignments) Satan also came before God (Job.1:6; 2:1). So Satan is grouped with the angels. In Revelation 12 – we are told Satan and his angels are fighting against the archangel Michael and his angels. Again, Satan is grouped with the angels. So Satan appears to be a fallen angel and possibly even a fallen archangel because he seems to have fallen angels under him.
The prophet Ezekiel also speaks of an angelic creature in the Garden of Eden who went rogue (Slide 5 – Ezek.28:12-19). Similarly, the prophet Isaiah says (Slide 6 – Isa.14:12-15). Now if you’d like to think more about 1) Satan and/or 2) these passages – there is AN ARTICLE on our church website. (Slide 7) Simply go to ssac.net.au – go to the sermons tab – and then last item on the dropdown – you’ll see Christian articles. Click on Christian articles and you’ll find one on the armour of God – where I say a heap more about Ezek.28 & Isaiah 14.
Now some Christian scholars say that neither of these bible passages have anything to do with Satan. They say – that if you look at the biblical context it is simply talking about 1) the King of Tyre and 2) the King of Babylon. Exactly how the King of Tyre was in the Garden of Eden or was a guardian cherub is of course – a bit of a stretch. But what these scholars fail to recognize is that in Scripture evil spiritual entities like Satan or demons – often attach themselves to evil earthly authorities when they reject God. In the Old Testament King Saul was afflicted by a demonic spirit who then tried to kill the true King David – with a spear. This was a kind of a proto-antichrist, Saul (possessed by a demon) trying to kill the proto-Christ, David. We see something similar in both the books of DANIEL and IN REVELATION.
In Daniel, we learn that THE ARCHANGEL MICHAEL (who defends the Jews) has been fighting another spiritual entity over Persia. So who is this prince or king (over Persia)? Obviously its not a physical prince. MICHAEL is fighting a spiritual prince who has somehow taken control of the King and nation of Persia. And I’d say the same thing is happening in Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14. THE REAL KING over Tyre and Babylon at the height of their evil, arrogant, God defying empires was not human, but Satanic. Hence, the Bible passages in Ezekiel and Isaiah move from A) the visible entity (an earthly king), to B) the invisible spiritual entity pulling the strings (ie Satan).
The point is – as best we can discern from Scripture – Satan was an angel who went rogue because of pride. He is not God’s equal. He is an angelic creature, perhaps on par with the archangel Michael. But he has turned evil, he is dangerous and he should not be underestimated…
Point 2 Satan’s Reality necessitates Humility, Alertness and Resistance
Show: 1Pet.5:8-9a (READ)
Explain: What we find in this passage is THREE IMPERATIVE VERBS that all seem to arise from the reality of Satan. Be humble! Be alert! Be resistant (to apostasy) and stand firm in the faith…
Now the first command in verse 6 – “to be humble” OR “humble yourself” is building on what Peter said last week about God giving grace to the humble. But many scholars believe verses 6 & 7 form a kind of bridge between two ideas. There are two reasons to be HUMBLE. First, we need to be humble because God opposes the proud. But second – we need to be humble because the devil, our enemy, is real and he is looking for Christians to devour. There are three verbs, all commands, that seem to have the same focus – the devil.
So assuming that the three commands (are all linked to Satan) – I want to break them down. FIRST, lets think about being HUMBLED – in verse 6 – in relation to Satan. The fact is – if human beings could BEAT Satan in our own strength – then Jesus wouldn’t have needed to come to earth and die on the cross. We could have beaten Satan ourselves. But we can’t and we couldn’t – hence humility. According to the book of Jude – even the archangel Michael is careful around Satan (1:9). Michael doesn’t respect Satan, but he does respect his power. Similarly, in 2 Peter 2; Peter speaks of false teachers saying (Slide 8 – 2 Pet.2:10). Notice, Peter is saying don’t be BOLD AND ARROGANT (like false teachers) in your battle with the demonic, rather be humble and dependent on God – because they are more powerful than you…
So in this humility Peter encourages us to A) look to God’s mighty hand and B) cast our anxieties on Him. The point is NOW – that 1) although Satan is more powerful than us – 2) God is more powerful than Satan. Nothing can thwart God’s mighty Sovereign power and IN DUE TIME God’s mighty hand is going to grab Satan (mangy, kitty cat) – by the scruff of his neck – and throw him into the lake of burning fire.
So verse 7 – we are to cast all our anxieties on God because He is powerful to save us and he cares about us. Now please notice the word “ANXIETY”. Throughout Scripture Satan is linked to FEAR AND ANXIETY. Satan’s two biggest weapons against the church are fear and lies. The Bible says Satan keeps us in slavery all our life through our fear of death (Heb.2:14-15). And Jesus calls Satan – the father of lies (Jn.8;44). NOW THANKFULLY A) the Bible overcomes Satan’s lies and B) prayer overcomes Satan’s fear. But right now – I’d say Satan has our western world very close to a death spiral of lies and fear. The lies are feeding fear which feeds more lies and fear which leads to all sorts of irrational behaviour – while Albanese accuses us all of spreading mis-information and disinformation. So Peter tells us to break the FEAR-LIES-FEAR LOOP, by taking our anxieties to God in prayer, because he cares about us.
So that brings us to the second command (verse 8) – be alert and sober minded. This is now the second time Peter has told us to be alert and sober-minded (1Pet.4:7). Makes me think that Christian complacency and apathy may be a problem. The word “ALERT” is literally “keep watch.” It is the same word Jesus uses to describe his return like a thief in the night. (Mk.13:33, 35). LOOK OUT for Jesus’ return. LOOK OUT for Satan’s attacks. Second, the word “SOBER-MINDED” has to do with clear and perceptive thinking. The idea is A) WATCH CAREFULLY and B) THINK CLEARLY about what Satan is doing on the world stage. Not everything is – as it appears.
Peter is telling us that in realm of man, Caesar and the Roman Empire (passing edicts) the lion is stalking through the grass, (with a whole pride of lions just beyond our field of vision) working out how and when to charge forward and devour the gazelles. So are you watching and thinking clearly about world events? Is SCIENCE being DEIFIED on the world stage and what does that mean? Do you think it’s just a coincidence that the LGBTQIA motto is PRIDE and their flag is God’s covenant rainbow?
Do you not see that THE UNITED NATIONS push for globalization is fiercely anti-Christian? (PAUSE) Two weeks ago a United Nations “Expert” basically argued for an end to Freedom of Religion. (Slide 10). Notice the date – 21 June 2023. The expert states (ENTER)…. Now don’t be naïve. That is saying religion must align with secular sexual beliefs IN ALL CONTEXTS. From what I can see the United Nations is now implementing policies that are corralling Christians into accepting things that are tantamount to apostasy (or be penalised). Again, I’m not being alarmist. I’m just saying open your eyes because there seems to be a fiercely anti-Christian agenda coming out of the UN.
This brings me to the third word “RESIST HIM”. Literally, RESIST is something like; “don’t commit apostasy”. (Slide 9) APOSTASY comes from two words; APO meaning to move from or move away and STASY meaning to stand. Specifically, Christians are meant to stand as Christians. So apostasy is to move from or move away from Christian faith. But in this passage Peter uses a word that is almost the OPPOSITE of apostasy. (ENTER) The word resist is literally ANTI-STASY which means to stand in place or stand against the pressure to apostasy. The apostle Paul uses the exact same word in Ephesians 6 when he talks about spiritual armour. He says when the DAY OF EVIL comes – we must anti-stasy, stand against Satan’s pressure to commit apostasy. (ENTER) The same root word STASY which means “to stand” is also used in 1 Peter 5:12. Peter tells us (that he has written this whole book) so that the church will STAND FIRM – especially under the pressure of injustice, blatant persecution and fiery trials.
Now theologians love debating whether a true Christian can commit apostasy or not. But nonetheless, the Bible tells us not to commit apostasy. 2 Thessalonians 2 tells us that in the last days lots of people will commit apostasy. And Peter is now telling us to anti-stasy, not apo-stasy. So remembering that faith without works is dead, I’d say true Christians should be humble, be alert and be resistant OTHERWISE complacent, lazy faith might find itself dead and devoured.
Point 3: Satan’s Assault on the Church is Time and Space Bound
Show: 1Pet.5:1-11; 13-14 (READ)
Explain: Well Peter finishes this book reminding us that Satan’s attacks on the church are TIME BOUND and SPACE BOUND. It is only for A LITTLE WHILE that we will suffer. God by his grace – has called undeserving sinners (like you and me) to an eternal glory in heaven, (the celestial city) in and through Jesus Christ. (GOSPEL) None of us deserve heaven. What we deserve because of our sin is to be handed over to Satan as A CHEW TOY. But when Jesus died on the cross he was taking the punishment for our sin so that we could be spared the fate that is soon coming upon this world. Of course, WE ALL DESERVE the fate coming upon this world because we have all sinned. But in His grace – God says that if we believe in Jesus, ask for forgiveness and start to repent of our sin – he will give us heaven as a gift.
This is God’s offer to you today. If you accept Jesus as your Saviour and Lord – God will forgive you of all your sin. That means you only suffer A) for a little while here on earth, instead of B) for all eternity in hell. So Peter urges us – to hold on and hold out – for the celestial city because Satan’s attacks ARE TIME BOUND. In verse 6 we are told “in due time” – God will rapture us and take us to heaven. In verse 10 we read – “after a little while God will restore us make us strong and take us to our forever home.” Our suffering is time bound – to this age.
But Peter also signs off this book talking about the Christian church who is in BABYLON. Geographically Babylon is probably talking about the church in Rome. But Babylon is more significant than just a code word. Peter began this book talking about the Christian church as EXILES scattered in this world. Of course, when Jewish Israel were EXILES in the Old Testament – they ended up in Babylon. Babylon was the place of exile – before God brought the true and faithful Jews back home into the promised land. BABYLON is a language of exile AND Babylon is language for authoritarian demonic, Satanic rule.
And really, this whole world is like Babylon for exiled Christians. Babylon is not our true home. This is the place of fiery furnaces. This is the place of lion’s dens and proud corrupt evil authorities – like Nebuchadnezzar or Nero. But this is only reality in Babylon. Like the apostle John in the book of Revelation, Peter is telling us that Satan’s attacks are not just time bound, they are space bound to Babylon. The only authority Satan has is in the world of Babylon, not in the kingdom of Jesus. Very soon we will join with the angels in Revelation 18 declaring “Fallen, Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a dwelling for demons and a haunt for every unclean spirit.” (Rev.18:2).
So in the knowledge that Satan’s attacks are time bound and space bound – Peter tells us STAND FIRM; BE AT PEACE and GREET ONE ANOTHER WITH A KISS OF LOVE. The challenge for the bravest man in the room is to greet Geoff Miles or Robert Freeman with a kiss of love. But while you’re doing that remember be humble; be alert and be anti-stasy, resistant to apostasy because soon God will lift us up, we will arrive at our forever home and all Satan’ attacks will be forgotten like a distant, bad dream (of perhaps kissing Geoff Miles or Robert Freeman). So stand firm in the faith. Stand firm and be ANTI-STASY!