ďStand FirmĒ†††††††††††† 1 Peter 5:8-14†††††††††††††††††† August 28, 2011
SCRIPTURE INTRO:† Weíve 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
†† donít burn you to ashes, but refine you like gold.
Peterís 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 didnít 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,
†† Iíll come down on them so hard that theyíll 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 didnít have a curfew.
He said:† Hereís why I make my kids get home by midnight.†
†† Iíve 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 hereís the thing, as long as his kids understood their dadís concern,
†† and believed that he knew what he was talking about,
†† and as long as they obeyed him and got in by midnightó
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 fatherís 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, wouldnít be in mess.
Peter says:† You fight that internal enemy with humility.
†† Humble yourself therefore under Godís 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
Itís 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 Devilís 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 endó
†† 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 donít make a huge deal out of it.
I think the place where the Apostles address this in their letters is significant.
†† At the end.† Itís not a major theme throughout the letter.
Peter doesnít 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.
Itís almost as if Peter is saying:† Kids, I love you, I trust you.
Just one more thingóthis isnít the biggest thing.† But itís important.
†† Donít forgetóThere 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.† Donít be naive, donít be foolish.† Keep it in mind.
†† But as long as you do what I say, he wonít able to devour you.
As long as you approach suffering as Iíve taught you, the enemy might
†† threaten and rage and lieóbut he canít do you any lasting harm.
And to help us, Peter puts it very simplyóstand firm.
†† Stand firm in the faith.† Stand fast in the true grace of God.
†† This is his ďbe home by midnightĒ rule.† Stand firm.† Stand fast.†
And yes, the Devil is still there, he still rages, but he wonít be able devour you.
Letís 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:
†† Iím going to tell you about some of the criminals in our city.
†† Iím 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, donít 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 doesnít 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.
Heís the father of lies and the murderer of menís 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 canít get you thrown into hell.† He canít 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.Ē
The Devil knows that.† He knows he canít rob you of Godís grace.
†† But he can rob your experience of it.† Thatís how he tries to devour you.
†† Thatís his goal when he is involved in your suffering.
There was a Puritan pastor named Thomas Brooks who put it bestĒ
†† ďThough (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.Ē
Thatís what he wants to do by making you suffer.†
†† Rob you of your comfort and peace.† If he canít 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 sufferingóto refine you faith.† Make you better.
†† The Devil wants to do the oppositeóto 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 othersótemptation and accusation.
Temptation and accusation are both lies but opposite and complimentary lies.†
†† In temptation the lie is, ďThis sin is not so bad, whatís the harm?Ē†
†† Youíre hurting.† Youíre suffering.† This will make you feel better.
He tries to get you to take sin lightly.† So you fall into temptation.†
†† Itís very easy when you are suffering.† Sins are comforting escapes.
Then accusation follows.† Satan saysóGod will never forgive you.†
†† How can you call yourself a Christian.† Your life is ruined!Ē†
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, ďSin is not so
†† badĒ so that you will believe another, ďIím beyond Godís grace, Iím ruined.Ē
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.† Thatís how the Devil devours suffering believers.
†† Letís 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 Godís dealings with you.†
†† Accusation makes you look at trials in your life and sayóIím 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.†
Jobís 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.† Thatís easy to do.†
†† Iíve done it before.† Iíve pulled people down that way.† Iíve been a tool of Satan.
Satan takes a recurring sin that you thought had conquered, and accuses you with it.
†† A real Christian wouldnít keep doing this.Ē† Thomas Brooks puts it this way:† ďSays 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.Ē†
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 Christís 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 doesnít scare us.† But it makes us more sober-minded people.†
It gives us a bigger context for looking at our sufferingó
†† 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 Godís purposesónot 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 doesnít 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.† Thatís what Paul says in Ephesians 6, what Peter says here.
Be self-controlled and alert.† Itís literally the word sober.† Abstain from wine.†
†† Itís one of Peterís favorite words in his letter.† Studied it several weeks ago.
Peterís point is that as a Christian you donít deal with suffering by getting drunk.
†† You donít deal with your pain by limiting your view, trying to shut out the world.
†† Finding things that numb you so you donít 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 ďbecause you know that your brothers
†† throughout the whole world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.Ē
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 booksó
†† the Bible, Foxeís Book of Martyrs, and Pilgrimís Progress.
You can imagine a cold, dark evening with no TV, no internet, no Netflixó
†† 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. Foxeís book.
So he reads about the early Roman Christians thrown into the arenaó
†† and little boys and girls and old men singing and praying as lions ate them.
He reads the last words of some the great martyrsólike John Bradford.
Who said to the Christian being burned to death with him:
†† ďBe of good comfort, brother, for we shall have a merry supper with the Lord this night!Ē
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:
†† ďI am a Christian.† I am dying today.Ē† She survived and told VoM worker.
ďNow that I have my strength back, I have forgiven my attackers.
†† Now I have more courage to serve the Lord.Ē† More courage.
Itís 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 Godís 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.
†† Godís riches at Christís 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 usóGodís grace is sufficient.
Preach the grace of God to yourself.
Heís 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 youíve 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?† ďAfter you have suffered a little while.Ē†
†† Another truth Peter tells us over and over to remember.† All trials will end.
†† God will lift you up in due time.† Hold on.† Donít 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, impatienceó
†† going to be more susceptible to the Devilís 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 donít 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 otherís faith.
Peterís been saying it over and over, and here at the very end, we see that he does it.†
†† He doesnít 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?†
Paulís 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 Godís 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-mindedó
†† you need the church.† Love her like Jesus does.†