The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

A Roaring Adversary

1 Peter 5:8-14 – “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.10 But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.11 To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.12 By Silvanus, our faithful brother as I consider him, I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God in which you stand.13 She who is in Babylon, elect together with you, greets you; and so does Mark my son.14 Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to you all who are in Christ Jesus. Amen.” 

Do you see the snarling teeth of the adversary, his hate filled preying eyes? Can you hear his roar as he seeks to divide and conquer through hateful words? Do you see how he tries to lure his prey into his lair with deceptive lies, falsehoods, and half truths? Can you hear his growl and vicious roar in the tones and shouts of combustible conversation? Do you see how he separates people from truth through manipulation and propaganda? Do you see how he bates and entraps people, how he gets people out of their minds with anger and rage until they do things no sane person would normally do? Do you hear the whimpers and last wails of those he clutches with his claws? Do you hear their last breath leaving them? Can you see the hope drain from their eyes?   

The signs of this vicious predator are all around us. They are in the riots popping up on the streets of America. They are in the hateful shootings. They are in the fear fueled shootings. They are in our schools where dissenting voices are violently put down. They are in the bullying tactics of many who speak against bullying. They are in the political propaganda and the making of news rather than reporting news of the media. Wherever there are lies you can be sure the father of lies is at work (John 8:44). They are in the desire to win rather than to be righteous. They are in every instance of injustice and oppression. They are in every intolerant action to force people to tolerate sin. They are wherever persecution of the righteous is found. Wherever innocent life is snuffed out you can see the blood dripping from the predator's murderous jaws. The predator is leaving his mark on our streets, in our schools, at our work place, he is coming to our homes. His is marking his terror-tory. The adversary is prowling, he wants our children, he wants our elderly, he wants us, he will feed on us all; if we let him.

We are in a spiritual war, do you realize that? Satan is prowling around trying to intimidate with his roar those who seek to be used by God. Satan is looking for people he can feed on and use to nourish his evil plans (5:8). The enemy wants to hurt and inflict as much pain as possible. He lives for chaos and the destruction of the order of God's laws. He breathes hate and tries to shout down love. This is a spiritual war. Our adversary is invisible to the eye, but we see his foot print and hear his roar all around us. It can be scary.

But all of this is nothing new. Oh, because we are fast approaching the Last Days of this existence, we see the indications of a time "such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be" (Matthew 24:21). We pray for such times to be shortened (Matthew 24:22). We pray, "Thy kingdom come" (Matthew 6:10) and "Even so, come, Lord Jesus!" And only if "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all" will we survive this time (Revelation 22:20-21). But by His grace we will not only survive, we shall overcome! (cf. Revelation 12:11). And as we live on until His return we are given some survival instructions by the Apostle Peter. These instructions can keep us out of the reach of the enemy and even cage him. And even if he claws us a bit or gets a lick in on us, we can ward him off  with these precautions against our predator. What are they?

First, "be sober." "Sober" (Greek nepho) means to abstain from wine, be discreet, be watchful, be in control of your senses. The idea here is to be on the top of your game and not hindered or have your senses diminished in any way. A fighter entering the octagon doesn't down a few shots of liquor or get high on hallucinogens. No, to do so would be suicidal and almost certainly guarantee defeat. A fighter must be ready to fight and in full control of their senses. A fighter must not be clouded in mind or heart if they are to fight at their best. They need a clear mind and a plan of attack. And then they need faith and courage to do what they must do.

The same is true in spiritual warfare. There are a lot of things that can cloud our mind and heart and make us ineffective and vulnerable to enemy attack. Indulging in alcohol or other drugs can cloud our thinking. But sin in all its forms does this as well. A wrong relationship, a compromising situation, a less than honest or truthful action, a lowering of holy standards to live by, these and other things can make us drunk spiritually. If you're wobbling in worldliness sober up! There's a predator on the prowl for you.

Second, "be vigilant."  "Vigilant" (Greek gregoreuo) means to keep awake, watch, be vigilant, to give strict attention to something. The idea here is to be aware and awake to possible attack. In hockey a skater needs to skate with their head up even if they are carrying the puck because if they skate with their head down they make themselves vulnerable to a blind side hit. Hits received when one isn't looking are hits that hurt because we don't defend or brace ourselves against them. We need to be ready and watchful for the devil's strikes. Keep your head up. Know what's going on around you. Be informed politically, economically, socially and especially spiritually. Be vigilant against the lies an deceptions of the enemy. He's lurking in the weeds and he wants to pounce on you.

Third, be aware you are in a war - "because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." It is said that the roar of a lion is the loudest sound in the jungle. A lion's roar can be heard from miles away. When you go to the zoo you can hear this. And the lion roars because he is hungry! He wants to "devour" (Greek katapino) or to drink down, gulp whole, swallow up. He wants to devour you. He wants to drink you down and swallow you whole. The devil wants to feast on you. Don't let him do it? Be aware of his tactics. Be aware of his presence.  

Understand something here. The devil "walks around" from place to place; he is not omnipresent. He has to rely on demons to extend his reach. He is not equal with God. He is fallen. He is defeatable. He is, in fact, defeated. Jesus publically for all to see defeated this devil enemy and all of his pride. Jesus did this at the cross (Colossians 2:15). You have no more need to fear the adversary. Listen, Jesus came, "that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Hebrews 2:14-15). The lion still roars, and he is still scary, but when you take a closer look you see he's toothless and declawed. We're in a war, but the outcome is already decided, and we in Christ are victorious (Romans 8:37-39).

Fourth, "resist him" the devil. "Resist" (Greek anthistemi) means to stand against, oppose, withstand. It means to put up a fight. Don't give up! Don't let down! Stand in the strength of the Lord and fight this prowler! (cf. Eph. 6:10-18). With every resource of God and fiber of your being fight the enemy. Be a part of God's resistance force.

Fifth, be "steadfast in the faith.”  “Steadfast” (Greek stereos) means, stable, sure, strong, sturdy, immovable, solid, hard, rigid. The basis of our steadfastness is "the faith." This means our personal faith in the Lord. But it also refers to "the faith" of the gospel in particular and God's word as a whole. The enemies' strategy is two pronged. First he want to get you to doubt God's word (e.g. Genesis 3). Then he wants to get you separated; separated from God; and separated from the flock of God and "the faith." If he can isolate you from fellowship and God's word then you're easy prey for him. Be stable, sure and strong in the shoulder to shoulder battle lines of God's army. Be immovable from the truth of God. Be rigidly committed and loyal to Jesus. Do this and you will effectively ward off enemy attacks.

Sixth, know you're not alone or that such spiritual attacks are unique to you - "that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world." No testing or trial is unique to us. Everyone is under attack in some way. But God is faithful and won't allow us to be attacked beyond what we are able. God sets the parameters of battle and limits to what the enemy can do (e.g. Job 1-2). The Holy Spirit will show us an effective response strategy so that we can escape and continue to stand against the enemy (cf. 1 Cor. 10:13).

Seventh, depend on "the God of all grace." Jesus is the Commander of the Lord's Army (e.g. Joshua 5). Paul was inspired to write that all he was could be attributed to God's grace working in and through him (1 Cor. 15:10). That must be our understanding and assertion too. Depend on God's grace and the provision of His grace. Nothing more is needed. Nothing less will help us succeed to victory. We follow a gracious, wise and powerful Commander.

Eighth, remember your calling - "who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus." We are called and commissioned by God to reach a final destination of being with Him in glory. Our mandate from Him is to come to Him and to bring as many other lost souls with us as possible. Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost. We need to follow our Commander in this mission; a Great Commission (cf. Matthew 28:18-20). Our calling is manifested in Jesus and His ministry that testifies to the glorious provision of God.

Ninth, understand your suffering is temporary - "after you have suffered for a while." No matter how bad the enemy attacks become or how serious and severe our suffering becomes, it will end. Satan's attacks are limited to this life and even in this life they are transient and temporary. God sets limits to devilish attacks and suffering. God is merciful. So no matter how bad the political, economic or societal climate becomes, our hope is in Him not politics, money, peace officers or the military. This world is not our home. We are heavenly citizens. While we live here we need to be good citizens of the country God has sovereignly placed us in. But our yes and heart need to be fixed on Him. Everything we do in this life needs to be directed by eternal life. Suffering now only reminds us of the blessedness of heaven with Christ to come. And for that we give Him glory.

Tenth, understand what good God can bring in and through you from such spiritual warfare and suffering - God will "perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you." "Perfect" (Greek katartidzo) means to thoroughly complete us. God uses trials and spiritual warfare to make us what we need to be in order to do what He calls us to do. God uses suffering and trials to test us in order to finish what was begun in us, to bring us to maturity or completion.

"Establish" (Greek steridzo) means to turn resolutely in a certain direction, to confirm, to strengthen. Faith is like a muscle and for a muscle to grow in strength it must be tested and exercises. Trials are a workout for our faith. It is in the battle that we learn to stay true to the Lord and where we learn the reliability and reality of God's truth.

"Strengthen" (Greek sthenoo) means to strengthen, build vigor, give vitality. God brings us through trials with an awareness of the energy and power He supplies. I hate to quote an atheist, but what Friedrich Nietzsche said is true, "That which doesn't kill us makes us stronger."  [1]We become stronger in our faith and relationship with God as we see the truth that God is right and just and faithful; that all God has told us in His word is reliable and true. That is confidence building. And that will have old atheist Neitzsche rolling over in his grave. Ha! Good.

"Settle" (Greek themelioo) means to lay a basis, to erect, to consolidate, to ground, to settle. The idea is the setting of a firm foundation. God will bring us through trials in a way that sets in place a firm and reliably sturdy foundation for our faith. A faith untested cannot be trusted. But a faith tested true can be trusted.

Eleventh, give God glory - "To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen." Peter wrote this epistle to exhort the persecuted pilgrim to keep their focus on God and give Him glory no matter what. We can weather the storms of life and anything the devil and his minions throw at us if we will just keep our eyes of faith on the Lord. Our worship unites us and encourages us. This is our battle cry is - "To Him be the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen!" Like the old hymn of Fanny Crosby we go into battle singing, "To God be the glory, great things He has done. So loved He the world that He gave us His Son, Who yielded His life an atonement for sin, and opened the life-gate that all may go in." [2] Praise the Lord!

Twelfth, stand in God's grace - " By Silvanus, our faithful brother as I consider him, I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God in which you stand."If we try to stand in our own strength we will be reduced to unsteady steps like an aging senior relying on a walker. Apart from God's grace we are easy prey. But by His grace we throw away the walker and run to victory. God's grace is always sufficient for whatever we encounter in life (e.g. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10). That is the hope we have in Him.

In the final verses Peter points to Silvanus as the faithful carrier of this letter which contains “the true grace of God in which you stand” (5:12). In verse 13 Peter speaks of “she who is in Babylon, elect together with you.” There is no evidence that Peter ever went to Babylon. This is likely a reference to the church that is in Rome. Whatever the case, "Babylon" in scripture is a symbol of everything that opposes God. We are living in a Babylonish age and a Babylonish land. All the more reason to apply these last battle plans provided us by Peter.

Peter closes with a reference to his spiritual son Mark and an urging to greet one another with a holy kiss of love, which was a culturally acceptable practice in his day. Love and unity in our ranks are essential to our cause. An army divided against itself is weak and vulnerable. A united army under an Awesome Commander like our Jesus, in Him, is unconquerable. All of this aims at fulfilling Peter's last benedictory prayer of, “Peace be to you all who are in Christ Jesus.” The world claims it wants peace. But there is no peace if the devilish lion is allowed to go on roaring. We need to shut the lion's mouth. There's a bumper sticker that says, “No Jesus – No Peace; Know Jesus – Know Peace.” There is no hope for peace with an equation for peace that doesn't have Jesus as part of the solution. Peter opened his first letter with the words, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith  for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Peter 1:3-5). In light of that we might create another bumper sticker that adds, “No Jesus – No Hope; Know Jesus – Know Hope.” We have peace in Christ because of the living hope that He puts in us. May we take hold of our victory in Him. It's time to shut the lion's mouth. Amen!

[2] To God Be the Glory, by Fanny Crosby (1820-1915), Worship in Song Hymnal, (Kansas City, Missouri: Lillenas Pub. Company) 1972. Hymn #3.

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