Watch Or You Will Be Devoured

1 Peter 5:8-11 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

There are two great realities presented in this passage. The first is the fact that there exists a being in this world whose primary desire is to tear you to pieces and then eat you. The second great reality is that there exists another being in this world who rules over the one who seeks your destruction and has given himself to secure your rescue. This week we’ll look at the first being and Peter’s prescribed response. And then next week we’ll look at the second being his rescue plan.

With that, let’s pray that God would make us continually aware of our enemy and strengthen us to respond in the ways he’s given us.

Again, the point of this letter is to give God’s perspective to the scattered, suffering saints concerning the reasons for their suffering and the right response to it. One of the reasons for their suffering, which is the emphasis of verse 8, is the fact that Peter’s readers have an invisible, but deadly enemy who is continually working against them. In order to best understand this passage and the manner in which we ought to respond to it, we’ll consider Peter’s answers to four questions: 1) Who is the enemy? 2) What is his intent? 3) What are his methods? and 4) What are God’s people to do in response?

Who is the enemy?
Peter identifies the enemy with three separate terms (all in v.8): 1) their “adversary,” 2) “the devil,” and 3) a “roaring lion.” None of those terms sound particularly appealing. All of them sound remarkably threatening. But it gets worse. The bible has many other descriptive names for this evil being.

Genesis 3:1 (2 Corinthians 11:3) Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.

Job 1:6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them.

Matthew 4:1-3 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came to him…

Matthew 12:24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul (master of the house), the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.”

Matthew 13:38-39 The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil.

John 8:44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

John 14:30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming.

2 Corinthians 4:4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers…

2 Corinthians 6:15 What accord has Christ with Belial (worthless or treacherous)?

Ephesians 2:1-2 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air…

Revelation 9:11 They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon (destruction), and in Greek he is called Apollyon (destroyer).

Revelation 12:3-4 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. 4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it.

Revelation 12:10 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.

The simple fact is that Peter’s readers faced a very real, very old, very aggressive, very hostile, very powerful and very deadly enemy. But what, specifically, was his purpose? What was his intention toward Peter’s readers?

What is his intent?
The single expressed purpose of the devil (in this passage) is to devour God’s people.

Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

What does that mean? It means, at the threat of death, he wants to destroy God, his work, and his people. Make no mistake, Grace, Satan is not out to give you a bad day. He’s not out to turn your clothes pink in the washing machine or burn your tongue on your Starbucks or have a friend cancel a get-together. He wants to end your marriage, cause you give into your every lust, divide the church with your preferences, make your kids to love the world and not God and end up in hell, get you to waste your life on the pleasures of this world, and shrivel your soul. Grace, your adversary, the devil, the roaring lion is out to devour you, to destroy you, and along with you, all who call upon the name of the Lord.

Why were Peter’s readers suffering as they were? Not every challenge they experienced was the direct result of Satan’s work, but much was and Satan rejoiced at everything that tempted them to place their hope in anything other than God.

But how, specifically, does he attempt to destroy God’s people? Or, what are his methods of devouring?

What are his methods?
Most of the devil’s methods of devouring/destruction are contained in the names he’s given.

In Matthew 4 he is called the tempter, as he tempted Jesus to deny the Father. Tempting, enticing, wooing God’s people to idolatry and sin is one of his most significant methods of devouring. Why does sin seem so appealing sometimes? Why do you so often finding yourself desiring things you so earnestly don’t want to desire and cold to the things you do? Often it is because the devil is the best salesman there is.

In Matthew 13 he is described as planting demons among God’s people to sow seeds of sin and lawlessness. The devil is not alone. He has an army of demonic minions to aid him in devouring the saints.

In John 8 he is referred to as a murderer. We see this in Cain, Job, Judas, Ananias and Sapphira, and of course, Jesus. He does, at times, have the power to kill.

In this same passage (John 8) he is also called the father of lies. His temptations are only lies. He does not tempt with things that are good and true. He offers partial truth (in the Garden and in Jesus’ temptation) and outright lies, but usually dresses them up to look nice and neat and plausible. This is why it is so crucial for us to study and know God’s Word. Satan, you might remember, tempted Jesus with slightly altered promises of God (Scripture). He would love nothing more than to whisper little lies into our minds and hearts, so that little by little we can no longer tell the difference between Satan’s voice and God’s.

In 2 Corinthians 4:4 Paul tells us that Satan works to devour mankind by blinding us to the glory of God in Jesus Christ. This is the most frustrating method for me. If we had clear vision we’d never give into sin. We’d see sin and Satan for what they truly are and want nothing to do with them. Likewise, we’d see God for who he truly is and run to him with everything we have. That’s what heaven will be! Have you ever considered that? Most everything that tempts us on earth will be present in heaven, but we will have no sinful appetite for it because sin and Satan will no longer be present to blind us. We’ll see all things as we should.

In 2 Corinthians 11(:13-14) he is said to disguise himself as an angel of light. This is a combination of his temptation, deceit, and blinding. Jesus described this as “a wolf in sheep’s clothing”. He pretends he’s something he isn’t in the hopes of enticing and ensnaring us. This is what happens when abortion is called “a woman’s right to her own body” and sexual deviancy is called “an alternative lifestyle” and when adultery is called “an affair” and when disconcern for obedience and holiness is tolerated and promoted in the name of avoiding “legalism”. All of those things sound mild and even appealing because Satan has wrapped them in a facade of light.

In Revelation 9 he is called “destruction” and “destroyer”. He wreaks havoc by seeking to undermine, to destroy the Word and work of God. This is the point of Jesus’ parable of the sower. Why are there so many versions of the gospel floating around churches (even well meaning churches)? In part, it’s because the devil is eager to twist it just enough to make the Father big and powerful, but not sovereign; Jesus important, but not supreme; the Spirit active, but not necessary for new life; and you and I the main characters in God’s story.

In the Revelation 12 passage we read earlier, Satan is called the “accuser of our brothers”. This means that another of his devouring methods include falsely accusing God’s people of any manner of distracting and discouraging things. Chiefly, it seems, Satan likes to accuse us of not being God’s people. He accuses us of being worthless, unacceptable to God, and unreachable by grace. He wants us to wallow in, rather than repent of, our sin. If you are a Christian, every time you are tempted to think of yourself as beyond help or beneath love or a lost cause, remember that the devil loves to falsely accuse God’s people of these things.

And, of course, the point of our passage for this morning is that the devil’s methods include causing suffering among the saints. We see this explicitly in Job’s misery and in passages like Luke 13:16 where Satan is said to have bound a woman in sickness for 18 years.

Before we come to the fourth question (how are we to respond?), let’s pause for a moment and consider the fact that this is true. It is not a fairy tale designed to make kids obey. It is not a parable intended to teach some spiritual lesson. This adversary, this devil, this roaring lion is as alive and active today as he was when Peter wrote this letter. And his purpose and methods remain the same.

It’s become apparent to me that my life and preaching have become more serious over time. Coming to a greater understanding of this reality is a significant reason why. As long as we are alive the devil and his demons are actively plotting and working for our destruction. Though the victory of Christ means we need not despair, the reality of the ever-prowling lion means we cannot be flippant.

Only once you’ve let that sink in are you ready to ask what we are meant to do about it.

How are we to respond?
As I was working on this last question this week, I couldn’t help but to remember an article I read about the school shooting in Kentucky. The article described the scene as one of chaos and terror. Students and staff responded to the shooting, understandably, by running as far and as fast as they could. All of this was caused by a single, teenage gunman. I understand the response of those at the school. I have no idea how I would react. There’s at least a decent chance I would have done the same thing.

If a school shooting causes this type of response, how should we respond to the far greater threat that we just looked at-the threat of Satan devouring us? I don’t mean this question to minimize the nightmare that those in KY are experiencing-we need to be in constant prayer for the families and help out in any way we can. But I do mean to draw attention to the fact that as horrible as the school shooting was, the enemy Peter describes and the danger he poses is much more horrible still.

Again, what does that mean for God’s people? Should we be expected to respond in even more chaos, terror, and fleeing? If that response makes sense in a serious, but lesser tragedy, wouldn’t it make even more sense in light of the attacks of the god of this age, the prince of the power of the air, the great red dragon?

Peter’s answer, once again, is “no”. Christians, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and according to the Word of God, are to respond differently. Ultimately, the difference is this: we ought to respond in light of the fact that the devil’s greatest weapon (death) is nothing short of gain for the people of God. That is exactly what Paul meant when he wrote,

Philippians 1:21-24 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.

But what does that look like in real life? Peter names four things in vs.8-9.

  1. Be sober-minded. We’ve seen this more than once already in 1 Peter.

    1 Peter 1:13 preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

    1 Peter 4:7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.

    To be sober-minded, once again, means being of right mind; being clear minded and alert. The news that someone of Satan’s power and menace is coming for us to devour us, if we really believe it, may send us into a panic. But Peter’s simple message is this: the gospel cancels chaos. “For he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Who worries about an 8 year old bully when your dad is superman?

  2. Be watchful. Being sober-minded and gospel-hoping does not mean, however, that we are indifferent to the devil’s schemes or that we are to bury our heads in the sand. Christ’s victory does not mean that we ought to sit back and allow Satan to devour us. Therefore, in the knowledge that Satan is constantly, sometimes secretly, on the hunt-that he is constantly prowling around-means that we should keep on the lookout so that when he shows up we can, respond rightly. But what does that mean? What, specifically, does one who is watchful and sober-minded do when the prowling lion comes?

  3. Resist him by being firm in your faith. When Satan comes to tempt or accuse or lie or divide or blind or murder, God’s people must, in the strength God provides, resist his treachery. We are not to give in to it. We must take a stand against him, firm in faith. That is, we resist the devil and his devouring methods by holding fast to the promises of God rather than our circumstances. But which promises of God is he talking about? The promises of 10-11 which we’ll consider all next week. When we know and trust the God and gospel of these verses we will be able to resist the devil’s sick schemes.

    Consider the parallels between Paul’s words in Ephesians and Peter’s words here.

    Ephesians 6:10-18 Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 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. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints…

    Carefully working through all of what that means is another sermon for another day, but I wanted to make sure to draw your attention to the passage as it so closely parallels ours. In addition, it provides the perfect segue to Peter’s final charge concerning how we are to respond to Satan’s attacks.

  4. Remember that others are suffering too. Paul’s command to respond to the work of the devil by “making supplication for all the saints” is the direct result of Peter’s reminder that “the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” Our suffering must not cause us to implode; to turn entirely inward. We honor God in our suffering when it makes us more empathetic to the suffering of others. We honor God in our suffering when we seek not only our own deliverance, but the deliverance of others as well. We honor God in our suffering when the entire world would expect us to run or hide or circle the wagons, but instead we run to others placing ourselves at even greater risk. We honor God when our response only makes sense if the gospel is true and powerful and transforming.

Given the knowledge of Satan’s prowling, devouring diabolicalness, Peter instructs God’s people to be sober-minded, watchful, faithfully resistant, and others-oriented. These things thwart the devils plans and honor God.

Satan is real. His hatred for the things of God is real. His power to devour is real. And yet, as we will see clearly next week, if we resist the devil in faith, at the very worst, “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. [Therefore], to him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”