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The Right Perspective on the Devil

The Right Perspective on the Devil

1 Peter 5:8–9 – Perspective: 1 Peter Series – July 17, 2022

Introduction

Sun Tzu was a 5th century BC Chinese philosopher and author. He also studied war. He wrote The Art of War, which reads kind of like the book of Proverbs for fighting wars. In it he wrote this:

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.[1]

“Know the enemy and know yourself.” This is where we so often fall down.

“Know the enemy”? Our problem so often is that we forget who the real enemy even is.

  • We can travel between being materialists and superstitious.
  • Materialists—there’s no devil or demons or angels—only what we can see and taste and touch.
  • Superstitious—imagining devils in every bush, imagining every horror movie we’ve seen is true.
  • Both extremes serve the devil well.

“Know yourself”? We can be overly confident—or overly fearful.

Our sermon isn’t exactly “know your enemy and know yourself,” but it’s close. “Know Your Adversary and Know Your Response.”

Our text is 1 Peter 5:8–9. We’ve been working through Peter’s letter to the church. The sermon series is called Perspective, because week after week in passage after passage the apostle Peter has given us the right perspective.

This week he gives us the right perspective on the devil.

He tells you, (1) Know Your Adversary; (2) Know Your Response

Prayer

I. Know Your Adversary

Read 1 Peter 5:8.

Who is this “adversary the devil”?

  • Some of us grew up on Looney Tunes, so we know about the devil.
  • It’s the red guy on our shoulder, with horns and a pitchfork, always telling us to do the wrong thing.
  • He’s on one shoulder.
  • On the other shoulder is the good angel with a white robe, always telling us to do the right thing.
  • And life is about listening to the good angel and ignoring the bad one.

Or maybe you watched the original 70s The Exorcist. So you know how it works when someone is possessed.

  • Not sure what the modern equivalent is—The Conjuring or the Paramount tv series “Evil.”

The devil keeps popping up in fiction. People can pretend to be good materialists with only the physical realm. But they know something’s out there, even if they can’t quite define it.

We want to think rightly about the devil so we don’t give him too much credit or too little.

A passage that reveals a lot about the devil is from Revelation 12:

Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. (Rev 12:7–8)

And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. (Rev 12:9)

And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.” (Rev 12:10)

  • “War arose in heaven” (v. 7) = Not on earth. It happens along with human history. Earthly, natural realm and then a spiritual, heavenly realm—they exist simultaneously. When it happens is a question. Some think it’s future, but I think it’s already occurred.[2] The important point for us is the idea that you have a battle in a spiritual realm you can’t see. It’s real—but invisible to us.
  • “Michael and his angels” vs. “the dragon and his angels” (v. 7)
    • Angels and archangels vs. demons and THE ARCH-DEMON the devil.
    • Note that this means Michael and the Devil on the same level—not God and the Devil.
  • Devil “defeated” (v. 8). Real defeat w/ consequences but not final one.
  • “The great dragon…that ancient serpent” (v. 9) = The serpent from all the way back in the Garden of Eden:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Gen 3:1).

  • Serpent wasn’t made evil but somewhere before Gen 3 became evil.
  • Devil and demons fell—some fell after this, but by Gen 3 some had fallen.
  • “That ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan” (v. 9)
    • “Devil = diabolos = “slanderer
    • “Satan” = Satan in Hebrew, Satan in Greek, Satan in English.
    • Means “accuser” but also something like a proper name.
    • Slanderer + accuser = Speaking lies against God’s people to falsely accuse them. Telling lies and half-truths so God turn against them.
    • Hear “Satan” accusing Job in Job 1–2, Joshua in Zech 3.
  • “The deceiver of the whole world” (v. 9).
    • Satan and deception go together.
    • Jesus calls him, “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).
    • And Paul in 2 Cor 4:4:

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Cor 4:4)

  • “Accuses them day and night before our God” (v. 10).
    • This connects to 1 Peter 5:8, where the devil is called “your ADVERSARY.”[3]
    • In a legal context it means your opponent in a lawsuit, and Jesus in Matthew 5:25 and Luke 12:58 uses it in that way.
    • Connects to Job 1–2 and Zechariah 3 as well, places where Satan accuses God’s people before God in a scene like a trial.
  • Reminds us that one of Satan’s devices is to ACCUSE US.

Do you see how much of the devil’s work is twisting truth, speaking lies, half-truths?

  • DECEIVER (2 Cor 4:4), ACCUSER (Rev 12:10), SLANDERER (“Satan”), LIAR (John 8:44).
  • God creates from nothing and speaks words that bring life.
  • The devil is the opposite—taking what’s already created and distorting our view of it.
  • Taking words and ideas God creates and then twisting them.
  • That can have a powerful effect on us.
  • When you start believing a lie about a person…
  • When you start believing a lie about yourself…

You can hear this in the abortion debate and so many cultural debates in our day. Lies of those defending goodness of abortion:

  • The baby in the womb isn’t really a baby, just a part of the woman’s body—the lie here is that it ignores the truth the baby in the womb really is a baby, a person (Ps 139:13–16)
  • Not a person, it’s a fetus—a medical term is sometimes fine and useful. But sometimes it blinds us to deeper realities. That fetus is also a person.
  • It’s psychologically damaging to be forced to have a baby—the lie here is that it ignores the psychological damage that abortion itself creates.

Closer to home for most of us—Lies can destroy a relationship.

  • So many marriage conflicts start out by one spouse believing something untrue of the other spouse.
  • Make a judgment about the other person’s motives.
  • You assume what an action or a word really meant.
  • And sometimes even when they explain themselves, you won’t let go of it.
  • Sometimes these lies have a snowball effect.
  • You believe one lie and start to misinterpret other words and actions.
  • And before long this person you loved you now call your enemy.
  • And you move toward divorce and all the wreckage it can bring.

When you’re watching from the outside as a divorce like this unfolds it becomes clear the devil was at work.

  • Doing his work of LYING, SLANDER, ACCUSATION, DECEPTION.

Devil is the great deceiver turning some people away from Christ and making the lives of some Christians unfruitful.

  • But not forever…
  • A day is coming, recorded in Revelation 20, when in an instant and forever, Devil thrown into lake of fire (Rev 20:10).
  • Michael had defeated him in a battle—but his final end is coming!

But what about you and me right now? Let’s go back to 1 Peter 5.

“Devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour”

  • Devour: “The picture is one of a beast swallowing its prey in a gulp” (Davids, NICNT, 191).
  • To Peter and his Roman audience, idea of a lion ready to devour was familiar. Rome had a long tradition of watching people be thrown to wild beasts to be killed—including lions. Way to combine capital punishment and entertainment.
  • Eventually would happen to Christians as well.
  • Our lives are like this—in an arena with wild beasts around us who want to destroy us.
  • Powerful image

APPLICATION:

  • Everyone here has a real, true, and threatening enemy.
  • But it’s not a person or political party or company.
  • Remember Paul in Ephesians 6:12:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Eph 6:12)

  • The devil may use all those things to oppose us and God’s people.
  • But the real enemy is the spiritual foe behind these, the devil.
  • Our real adversary is the devil.

Once we grasp this, tempting to stay in bed and hide under the covers.

  • But we’ve seen horror movies. We know this doesn’t work!
  • What SHOULD we do?

II. Know Your Response

Read 1 Peter 5:8–9. It’s critical to know the response God wants us to have.

  • Otherwise, we assume the fight is impossible and we’ll just cave.
  • Or we’ll assume the fight is easy and we won’t think the devil is a threat.

Peter uses a set of imperatives to guide our response:

First, “Be sober-minded!” — Davids (NICNT) translates this, “Be clear-headed,” saying, “the meaning is not literal soberness as opposed to drunkenness, but a clear-headedness that comes from a freedom from mental confusion or passion” (NICNT, 189).

Second, “Be watchful!.” Like a soldier on watch in the middle of the night. Eyes open. Attentive. Watching for threats.

Implies that the threat is real and close. If a threat is across an ocean, it’s hard to be alert. But when you know a threat is within 50 yds of your house, you stay alert.

Peter’s telling us the threat is real and close.

Remember that lion lurking in the brush. He’s there. Waiting to pounce. Waiting till your guard is down and you stray from the herd. When you’re alone and not looking around.

Third, “Resist him!” same verb as James 4:7:

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7).

“Resist” doesn’t mean to face him alone without relying on the Lord.

  • Resist means to resist him by relying on the Lord.
  • All those physical battles in the OT when Israel won the victory by stepping forward in faith—these are meant to show us what happens in our spiritual battles. We win the victory not in our own strength. We win the victory by stepping forward in faith, leaning on God for strength.
  • You can hear this in David’s words to Goliath:

46 This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD’S, and he will give you into our hand.” (1 Sam 17:46–47)

  • We might need to use a sword or spear, but those don’t bring the victory.
  • The Lord brings the victory.
  • Resist the devil knowing that “the battle is the LORD’s.”

Resist how?

  • If a strange thought sabotages your thinking, think on things that are true.
  • Unwelcome desires—do something else.
  • Sometimes doesn’t feel subtle but more of a direct attack—pray!
  • Have others pray for you.
  • Pray against the devil, against his attack, pray for protection.
  • Pray against his influence.

Don’t always know the exact way the devil is involved.

That’s a reminder of one of the spiritual gifts we need that God provides to people in the church:

…to another the ability to distinguish between spirits… (1 Cor 12:10)

Three imperatives—“Be sober-minded…watchful…resist”

But then a source of encouragement (1 Peter 5:9): We’re not alone!

“knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.”

  • We’re part of a “brotherhood,” “fellowship,” “fellow-believers.”
  • And it’s global: “throughout the world.”
  • We’re not suffering because we’re excluded from God’s people.
  • We’re suffering because we’re part of God’s people.

Conclusion

Sun Tzu – “Know your enemy and know yourself.”

As we close, something else to know about ourselves. From 1 John 4:

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)

In other words, my Lion is bigger than your lion. I might be a gazelle, but a Massive Lion is next to me!

“He who is in you” is the one prophesied in the Garden of Eden:

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Gen 3:15)

God here talking to “that ancient serpent, the devil.”

  • Promises WOMAN’S OFFSPRING will crush the DEVIL.
  • Woman’s offspring is the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • It was Jesus tempted in the wilderness—like Israel—and prevailed.
  • It was Jesus tempted in the garden—like Adam—and prevailed.
  • It was Jesus at moment looked like greatest defeat—cross—but prevailed.
  • Our victory over devil is through Jesus
  • Repent and believe in him—declared righteous, forgiven of sin, but also DELIVERED FROM THE DEVIL.
  • We’ll still be tempted—but we no longer belong to him.

APPLICATIONS—One thing to do, two questions to ask

  • Read Genesis 3, consider how devil twisted truth of God to tempt Eve.
  • Are there lies you’re believing about yourself or God tempting you to sin?
  • Are there lies you’re believing about another person tempting you to sin— and ruining the relationship?

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)

Let’s stand and pray

[1] Sun Tzu, The Art of War, trans. by Lionel Giles (http://classics.mit.edu/Tzu/artwar.html).

[2] For one defense of this see https://www.samstorms.org/all-articles/post/war-in-heaven-and-on-earth-how-the-church-conquers-the-devil---revelation-121-17.

[3] See Schreiner (NAC, 242) and Davids (NICNT, 190) for more on this idea.

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