“Stand Firm”             1 Peter 5:8-14                   August 28, 2011

 

SCRIPTURE INTRO:  We’ve come to the end of 1 Peter.

The theme of the letter is Christian suffering.

   How as a Christian you can live in such a way that the trials of life

   don’t burn you to ashes, but refine you like gold.

 

Peter’s wrapping up, and he has one more thing to say.

 


 

INTRO:  A number of years ago, when I lived in Ft. Lauderdale,

   there was a policeman in our church whose children were teenagers. 

He once told me that he didn’t have a lot of rules.  His kids were trustworthy.

   But he said he did have one rule that could not be broken.

My kids know that if they break this rule,

   I’ll come down on them so hard that they’ll never forget it. 

   He said:  The rule is that they have to be home by midnight. 

I was intrigued by that, because when I was a teenager, I didn’t have a curfew.

 

He said:  Here’s why I make my kids get home by midnight. 

   I’ve been a police officer for many years. 

There is an underbelly of this city that normal people never see. 

   There is a population that sleeps during the day

   and comes out from under their rocks at night to do their evil deeds. 

Naive teenagers, running around at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning

   have no idea how dangerous and depraved many of these characters are.

An invisible world, populated with dangerous beings

   who are prowling about looking for people to devour.  That sounds scary.

 

But here’s the thing, as long as his kids understood their dad’s concern,

   and believed that he knew what he was talking about,

   and as long as they obeyed him and got in by midnight—

Then they could live their lives without fear of that invisible world.

   There is always a chance they might be robbed or assaulted in broad daylight.

But the danger of falling into the clutches of evil people was checked

   by their father’s warning and their careful obedience. 

 

As Peter ends his letter, he makes two practical applications about suffering.

He says, as we saw last week, remember that you have an enemy within.

   Your pride.  Pride that manifests itself in anxiety.

   Pride that says:  God is not doing things right, if he was, wouldn’t be in mess.

Peter says:  You fight that internal enemy with humility.

   Humble yourself therefore under God’s mighty hand that he may lift you up in due time.

 

But then he says that there is another enemy, an enemy without.

   Your enemy the Devil, prowling about like a roaring lion,

   looking for someone to devour.  You must be watchful and ready to resist him.

Peter ends his letter on suffering by warning us about the Devil

 

It’s interesting, Paul does the very same thing in Ephesians. 

   After six chapters of calling the Ephesians to live the Christian life he says:  

Finally, brothers, be strong in the Lord.  Take your stand against Devil’s schemes.

   Goes into the armor of God passage.  Weapons of spiritual warfare.

 

And John does the same thing in his first letter.

   After a whole letter devoted to showing what the true Christian life looks like.

   A life of faith, obedience, and love he says at the very end—

   One more thing, remember the whole world is under the control of the evil one. 

All of these Apostles thought it was important to communicate this to Christians.

   But they don’t make a huge deal out of it.

 

I think the place where the Apostles address this in their letters is significant.

   At the end.  It’s not a major theme throughout the letter.

Peter doesn’t start his letter saying that your suffering comes from the Devil.

There are those strange verses in chapter 3 about Jesus preaching to the spirits

   in prison.  You might remember that that could be a reference to demonic forces.

   But the emphasis is the victory of Christ, not the power of the forces of evil.

 

It’s almost as if Peter is saying:  Kids, I love you, I trust you.

Just one more thing—this isn’t the biggest thing.  But it’s important.

   Don’t forget—There is an enemy prowling in the dark.

   There are demonic forces that are opposed to God and his people.

   There is a real being called the Devil who wants to devour you.

Be aware.  Don’t be naive, don’t be foolish.  Keep it in mind.

   But as long as you do what I say, he won’t able to devour you.

As long as you approach suffering as I’ve taught you, the enemy might

   threaten and rage and lie—but he can’t do you any lasting harm.

 

And to help us, Peter puts it very simply—stand firm.

   Stand firm in the faith.  Stand fast in the true grace of God.

   This is his “be home by midnight” rule.  Stand firm.  Stand fast. 

And yes, the Devil is still there, he still rages, but he won’t be able devour you.

 

Let’s look at this in more detail.  Just two headings.

1.  How the Devil tries to devour.

2.  How you are to resist him.

 

 

MP#1  How the Devil tries to devour.

I can imagine that policeman dad giving his kids the midnight rule and saying:

   I’m going to tell you about some of the criminals in our city.

   I’m going to tell you what one did to an innocent teenager who was out at

   two in the morning.  You understand the value of that sort of thing, don’t you?

 

Our heavenly Father does the same in the Bible. 

   He pulls back the curtain a little bit to show us the enemy.

   There are lots of things God doesn’t tell us about the world of demons.

But there are things he wants us to know.

 

First, the Bible tells us the Devil and demons behind much of the evil in the world. 

   It calls them the powers and principalities of this dark world.

   Spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Of course, human beings have sinful natures and are inclined to sin.

   But the Devil incites evil.  He stirs up and manipulates sinful people.

 

And specifically, the Devil has tremendous power over unbelievers.

If a person is not born again, if he or she does not have the indwelling Holy Spirit,

   and a renewed mind, and a restored will and conscience, then susceptible

   not just to being manipulated by the Devil, but being destroyed by him.

He hates all people because they are made in the image of God.

   He delights in destroying lives so that souls are cast into hell.

Listen some of the ways the Bible describes this.

 

It says that Satan works in the sons of disobedience. 

   He blinds the minds of unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the Gospel

   of the glory of Christ.  He turns men away from God to serve him. 

He makes men captive to do his will.  He deceives the nations. 

   He sows tares in the field of the world.  He obstructs the witness of the Gospel.

   He inspires false religions.

He’s the father of lies and the murderer of men’s souls.

   He holds the power of death.

 

But what about us?  What about believers?  How much can the Devil do to us?

Well, Bible says, that as God allows, Satan does all kinds of bad things.

   He makes war against the saints, throws Christians in prison.

And here, as Peter says, he seeks to devour saints who are suffering. 

   In fact, he is even behind the opposition and persecution they are suffering. 

But spiritually speaking, what can the Devil do to believers?

He can’t get you thrown into hell.  He can’t rob you of your salvation.

   If you are in Christ, you are eternally secure.

Paul specifically says that nether angels nor demons

   can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.”

 

The Devil knows that.  He knows he can’t rob you of God’s grace.

   But he can rob your experience of it.  That’s how he tries to devour you.

   That’s his goal when he is involved in your suffering.

There was a Puritan pastor named Thomas Brooks who put it best”

   “Though (Satan) can never rob a believer of his crown, yet such is his malice and envy, that he will leave no stone unturned, no means unattempted, to rob them of their comfort and peace, to make their life a burden and a hell unto them, to cause them to spend their days in sorrow and mourning, in sighing and complaining, in doubting and questioning.”

 

That’s what he wants to do by making you suffer. 

   Rob you of your comfort and peace.  If he can’t send you to hell, make life a hell.

   Hell in the sense that you doubt God, feel estranged from God.

What did he want Job to do in his suffering?  Curse God.  Run from God.

   God has one purpose in your suffering—to refine you faith.  Make you better.

   The Devil wants to do the opposite—to damage your faith, cast you down.

 

How does he do it?  By telling you lies when you are suffering.

The Bible says the chief way Satan works in the world is to lie.

   He persuades people to believe what is not true. 

   We are told he often disguises himself as an angel of light.

 

The Devil has two lies that he uses above all others—temptation and accusation.

Temptation and accusation are both lies but opposite and complimentary lies. 

   In temptation the lie is, “This sin is not so bad, what’s the harm?” 

   You’re hurting.  You’re suffering.  This will make you feel better.

He tries to get you to take sin lightly.  So you fall into temptation. 

   It’s very easy when you are suffering.  Sins are comforting escapes.

 

Then accusation follows.  Satan says—God will never forgive you. 

   How can you call yourself a Christian.  Your life is ruined!” 

He tries to make you take sin so seriously so that you forget the grace of God. 

   He tempts so that he can accuse.  He gets you to believe one lie, “Sin is not so

   bad” so that you will believe another, “I’m beyond God’s grace, I’m ruined.”

And that traps you in a cycle of temptation and accusation.

   You come back to that sin over and over, and you feel more and more estranged

   from the grace of God.  Not robbed of your crown.  Robbed of your peace.

Robbed of your effectiveness.  That’s how the Devil devours suffering believers.

   Let’s get a little more specific about the lies.  

   Long lists made by past generations of believers.  Let me mention just three.

  

Satan takes the past and brings it to mind.

   Past sins, past failures, past bad decisions, regrets.  Ever do that when suffering?

You can never be of any use to God.  Your life is ruined. 

   You may be saved but your life is on plan B, or plan C, or plan D.  All lies. 

What Satan is trying to get you to believe is that the grace of God is not sufficient

    to make all things new.  He is trying to get you to believe that God is not

   sovereign, that all things are not working for the good of those who love God. 

 

Satan causes you to misinterpret God’s dealings with you. 

   Accusation makes you look at trials in your life and say—I’m being punished.

Since by nature self-righteous, when things going well think, I must be doing right.

   So, when things go bad we think, It must be my guilt.  God punishing me.

And when you look at your life you can always find something to feel guilty about!

   So not only is there the sorrow and pain of this trial but the added weight of guilt. 

Job’s friends used by Satan for this.  Accused Job of being guilty of a secret sin. 

   Though they had good intentions, they pulled a believer down.  That’s easy to do. 

   I’ve done it before.  I’ve pulled people down that way.  I’ve been a tool of Satan.

 

Satan takes a recurring sin that you thought had conquered, and accuses you with it.

   A real Christian wouldn’t keep doing this.”  Thomas Brooks puts it this way:  “Says Satan, Your heart is not right with God; surely your estate is not good; you flatter yourself to think that God will ever eternally own and embrace such a one as you are, who complains against sin, and yet relapses into the same sin, who with tears and groans confesses your sin, and yet ever and anon falls into the same sin.” 

Do you see how subtle that is?  Look at your sin!  Look at your weakness!

   Look at yourself!  But who does Satan not want you to look at?  Your Savior. 

   So he keeps you from experiencing the grace of God when you need it most.

 

Paul says in Romans 16 that by Christ’s death and resurrection we can be

   certain that he will soon crush Satan under our feet.  He is a defeated enemy.

Our battles with him are his last raging attempts to strike out at God and Christ.

   As Revelation 12 says:  He is filled with fury, because he knows his time is short.

So what does this knowledge of Satan do for us?

It doesn’t scare us.  But it makes us more sober-minded people. 

It gives us a bigger context for looking at our suffering—

   a terrible, invisible spiritual battle.  Good and evil.  Darkness and light.

   So impresses on us one final reason that we need to learn to suffer well.

We want to be in step with God’s purposes—not give an inch to the Devil.

 

What does that look like?  Brings to second point.

 


 

MP#2  How we are to resist the Devil.

Peter doesn’t give us any new tactics for dealing with the attacks of the Devil.

   You sometimes run into Christians who think that there are certain words

   and phrases you can use against the Devil that are particularly effective.

Ways you can bind Satan.  You pray these words.  Say these words aloud.

 

But the Bible never tells us to do those sorts of things.

   It always says:  The way you resist the Devil is to be serious about living

   the Christian life.  That’s what Paul says in Ephesians 6, what Peter says here.

Be self-controlled and alert.  It’s literally the word sober.  Abstain from wine. 

   It’s one of Peter’s favorite words in his letter.  Studied it several weeks ago.

 

Peter’s point is that as a Christian you don’t deal with suffering by getting drunk.

   You don’t deal with your pain by limiting your view, trying to shut out the world.

   Finding things that numb you so you don’t have do deal with life.

You do the opposite.  You look up.  You face reality.

   You try with all your might to see the big picture.

 

Then he says:  Resist the devil, standing firm in the faith.

   And he elaborates on standing firm in three ways.

 

First:  Ponder the sufferings of your brothers and sisters in Christ.

Stand firm in the faith “because you know that your brothers

   throughout the whole world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”

Remember the context of this letter.  Growing persecution of Christianity

   throughout the Roman Empire.  These Christians were hearing stories.

   They were getting letters and reports of arrests and martyrdom.

 

Peter tells them to ponder those stories.  Look at those examples of faith in trial.

   Compare your suffering to theirs.  Compare your bravery to theirs.

I recently read that in the 1600s in England, most homes had only three books—

   the Bible, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, and Pilgrim’s Progress.

You can imagine a cold, dark evening with no TV, no internet, no Netflix—

   the family sitting around the fire and feeling a little restless, a little bored.

And the kids say:  Dad, read us some stories from Dr. Foxe’s book.

 

So he reads about the early Roman Christians thrown into the arena—

   and little boys and girls and old men singing and praying as lions ate them.

He reads the last words of some the great martyrs—like John Bradford.

Who said to the Christian being burned to death with him:

   “Be of good comfort, brother, for we shall have a merry supper with the Lord this night!”

He reads about Christians being forced to choose between denying Christ or

   watching their wives and children abused and killed before their eyes.

 

And then mom says:  Enough of those stories, the kids will have nightmares.

   Read something else.  So he gets down Pilgrims Progress and reads about

   the adventures of Pilgrim and Hopeful and the journey to the Celestial City.

Is it any wonder that the generations of Christians nourished on that,

   sparked modern missionary movement, laid groundwork for Great Awakening?

 

As I was writing this sermon Friday, got an email from a ministry called

   Voice of the Martyrs.  It documents and provides aid to persecuted Christians.

Photo of a Nigerian woman named Monica Dra, bandaged, with tube in nose.

   Her story was one that is very common today.  Muslim mob attacked village.

   Her husband hacked to death.  She was wearing a cross around her neck.

The mob tried to cut off her head. 

   She survived but could only breath through a gaping wound in her windpipe.

 

She said that as she was being attacked she thought:

   “I am a Christian.  I am dying today.”  She survived and told VoM worker.

“Now that I have my strength back, I have forgiven my attackers.

   Now I have more courage to serve the Lord.”  More courage.

It’s a strange instruction from Peter, but one you ought to heed.

   You feeling down and low in suffering?  The discouraging attacks of Satan?

   Ponder the sufferings of other believers.  Go on VoM website.  Put steel in spine.

 

Second:  Preach the big things to yourself.

Peter gives a marvelous summary of all his teaching on suffering in next verses.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.  To him be the power for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

How do you resist the Devil and stand firm. 

By taking God’s truth about suffering, and using it like a weapon.

   Preaching it to yourself.  Like what? 

 

You serve a God of all grace.  Grace.  Undeserved favor.

   God’s riches at Christ’s expense.  The smile of his favor upon you.

That means all of his dealings with you are ultimately gracious.

   When God allowed Satan to attack Job, he was still the God of all grace.

   And if there is one thing the book of Job shows us—God’s grace is sufficient.

Preach the grace of God to yourself.

 

He’s called you to his eternal glory in Christ.

Wow.  What a huge theme in this letter. 

   That the path Jesus followed was the cross and then the crown.

   Suffering and then glory.  As a Christian you’ve been called to that path.

And through your mystical union with Jesus his life is your life,

   his death is your death.  Your experiences reflect his.   

   You share fellowship with him in suffering.  Your trials are redemptive.

Preach the cross self.  God brought good out of greatest evil.  Will in my life too.

 

What else?  “After you have suffered a little while.” 

   Another truth Peter tells us over and over to remember.  All trials will end.

   God will lift you up in due time.  Hold on.  Don’t despair.

He will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.

 

Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said that the whole secret of the Christian life is learning

   how to quit listening to yourself and how to start preaching to yourself.

If you listen to your despondency, bitterness, self-pity, impatience—

   going to be more susceptible to the Devil’s attacks.

If you preach to yourself, you will resist him.

 

Third:  Participate in the life of the body.

Here it is again.  Peter has said it over and over and over in his letter.

   You don’t learn Christian suffering in isolation, learn it in the local church.

You learn it by intentionally devoting your life, over the years to a group of people

   so that you learn their stories, enter into their lives, walk with them through

   the good times and the bad times, watch their children grow up, sit with them

   at the bedside of dying parents.

You see their faith.  You see them wresting with God.  They see your faith.

   You are mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.

 

Peter’s been saying it over and over, and here at the very end, we see that he does it. 

   He doesn’t just say:  You need the church, church needs you. 

   That was the lifestyle of the great Apostle.

He mentions Silas, a faithful brother.  Remember Silas? 

Paul’s missionary companion.  Church leader mentioned occasionally in Acts.

   Apparently now a member of a congregation in Rome.  Helping Peter.

He mentions Mark.  What a humbling story Mark had. 

   He was the young man with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane who was so

   scared when the soldiers came, that when they grabbed him, slipped out of his

   robe and ran away naked.  He later deserted Paul on missionary trip.

And yet, here he is, part of the church in Rome.

 

Look at the way Peter refers to the church.  She who is in Babylon, chosen. 

   Babylon a veiled reference to Rome, also symbolic of opposition to Christ.

But he calls the church she.  Not it.  Not that church.  Not those people.

   But she, the Bride that Jesus loves.  The Bride he died for.

   Church filled with solid people like Silas.

And those who disappointed and failed, like Mark, and even Peter himself,

   but who by God’s grace, were still walking on the path.

 

Greet one another with a kiss of love.

If you are going to stand firm, resist the Devil, be sober-minded—

   you need the church.  Love her like Jesus does.