Sermon Podcast Audio
A Real Attack
Have you ever watched the National Geographic channel and seen the videos of the gazelles or zebras on the African plain? The camera cuts to the lion who is laying in wait, just ready to pounce on its prey. The lion is patient and waits to see one zebra pull away from the heard and then he makes his move. Then he pounces and absolutely destroys the zebra. It is not a site many want to see.
It is very interesting that Peter uses the imagery of a lion in the following passage:
“Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” —1 Peter 5:8b
As Peter describes the scenario, he is telling us that if we are not careful, we will be the zebra, because Satan wants us to crumble under difficulty. He wants to cause us to stumble in sin and ruin our witness, to destroy us before the world so they look at us as just another hypocrite who can’t walk the walk. He wants us to give in.
How does he do it? Look at how he is described in the Bible. He is an accuser, a liar, a tempter. He distorts the truth. Jesus even called him the father of lies. But we don’t always see it because as Paul writes:
Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. —2 Corinthians 11:14
He pretends to be on our side. He pretends to be our friend. He tells us what we want to hear. “Go ahead. Lie to your boss,” he says. “Look at those images on the internet,” he says. “Prayer is for the super-spiritual. The Bible is not that important to faith. If your friends really wanted to know about Jesus, they would ask. Don’t worry about telling them about your faith,” he says. He will do whatever he can to keep us from experiencing the life Jesus came to bring us and from sharing that kingdom life with those around us.
As one pastor I read this week put it, we need to be ready when Satan tries to HIT us. Looking at when Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, we will be HIT when we are Hungry, Isolated, and Tired.
We get hungry for a lot of things, not just food. We can be hungry for revenge when we’ve been wronged. We can be hungry for sexual sin. We can be hungry for escape and run to those things that will numb us to our life, like alcohol or even entertainment.
Satan is no fool. He won’t tempt you with things you aren’t interested in. He tempts you with things you want! Things you desire. Things you are hungry for.
We are often isolated. At Ashworth Road, we say we value connection because we are better together. And this is true. Thinking back to the National Geographic video, it is always the zebra off by himself that gets it. There is strength in numbers, and we open ourselves up for attack when we insist on living in isolation.
But did you know that you can have masses of people around you and still be isolated. It isn’t how many people surround your life, but how many you let in your life.It’s those that know you authentically. Not the facade you project, but those know you deeply and love you all the same.
We can be tired physically and that is a huge danger for us. A friend of mine always said, “Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is get a good night’s sleep.” But tired isn’t just exhaustion. It can be tired of doing the right thing. Tired of living for Jesus. Tired of feeling like everyone has a better life than you.
If we are unaware, if we live in ignorance about our enemy, we will be like the unsuspecting prey and we will get HIT.
A Real Victory
Now all this may sound frightening, but we need to be aware of what we face. Peter says we need to wake up. We better be paying attention.
Why do coaches study game film of their upcoming opponents? To be prepared for how their opponent will come at them. So that their team will WIN. Why are we talking about this villain today? Because we need to pay attention. We must know that he is real. We need to know how he will come at us.
But, and this is a big but, WE CAN WIN! We can resist. We can stand firm. We can have the victory. If we are alert, if we are paying attention and not asleep at the wheel, we can be ready.
And as powerful as Satan may be, we need to remember a few facts about him.
- He is not omnipotent — all-powerful.
- As much havoc as he might be able to cause, he is not omnipresent — everywhere at once.
- And he may act like he knows everything, but he is not omniscient — all knowing.
There is only one who is any and all of those things. And that is our God.
As John, another of Jesus’ disciples wrote:
“You have already won a victory. . . because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.” —1 John 4:4
So, how do we do this? How do we overcome?
First, we recognize that we are not called to fear the attacks of the devil. We just need to be aware that they can happen. Then we resist. It’s called active determined opposition. It isn’t sitting back and passively taking it. We need to do whatever we can to stand firm. No retreat!
This begins by knowing who you are. If you are following Jesus, if you have put your faith in him, you are his. You are not alone in the fight. He is with you and has surrounded you with others who are experiencing the same thing. And we can stand together in victory.
We also resist through prayer. Prayer puts us in a position where we understand that it is not our strength or willpower that will get us through, but God. We resist through the word of God.
Jesus was able to fend off Satan’s attacks by quoting the Bible. If we don’t know it, how can we know if the devil is distorting it? Put God’s word in your heart. Know it. Live it.
We resist by living in community and not allowing ourselves to be isolated. We need one or two people in our lives that can speak truth to us, even when it hurts. We need a core group of people we trust and rely upon in difficulty.
We need to resist by knowing that this is a battle for our hearts and minds. And if we can stop it there, we will see incredible resistance.
“We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” —2 Corinthians 10:5
Our defeat is not inevitable. We can experience victory, but it begins by understanding our enemy and being ready.
We Need Balance
Now, with all this said, I have one word of caution. When it comes to understanding and responding to the devil, there are two equal and opposite mistakes we can make.
In the introduction to “The Screwtape Letters,” C.S. Lewis describes them.
One is to disbelieve in his existence. We have addressed this already.
But Lewis describes the other as, “to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in him.” This is the person who sees the devil in everything, a demon under every rock. It is a person who wants to exorcize demons from everybody.
Neither approach is right or healthy. We need balance. We must understand we have an enemy, but not give him too much credit either.
A Villain Overcome
Satan is the original villain of the bible. From its first pages until the very end, he is working tirelessly to destroy God and his efforts to put the world right in the new kingdom. But we know that in the end, he loses.
Until then, he will work very hard to convince our society that God is unnecessary, that Jesus isn’t needed, that everything you need can be found within yourself. Work harder. Do more good. Be more socially minded. Make sure that the scale holding the deeds of your life is leaning toward the good side and you will be fine. God will like you better then. But he is a deceiver, a liar.
If you have never put your faith and trust in Christ, you need to know this. You need to see the lie for what it is and realize that Jesus is the only way you can overcome the enemy and the only way to God. You may have bought into this lie in the past, but you can throw that lie out today and take your first step in faith toward Jesus.
And for those who are believers, we can’t write Satan off and believe he isn’t real or there. If we do, we will lose. He will do whatever he can to cause us to stumble and fall. We must wake up and pay attention. Victory doesn’t happen by accident.
We can stand firm and give the world a taste of what life in the kingdom of God is like here and now. And then live expectantly for the final victory over this villain once and for all when we live with God in his kingdom forever.
Satan is a real enemy but Jesus is our victory.