Sermon Text: 1 Peter 5:8–11
Preacher: Pastor Brian Sauvé
The Devil & The Disenchanted West
Do you believe in the devil? Do you believe in the demonic? Do you believe that the universe you live in is a place, not just of atoms and molecules in motion, but of rulers and authorities and powers both demonic and angelic?
When you wake up in the morning and when you walk out your front door and when you go to work and when you parent your kids and when you pull out your credit card to buy something and when you sit down for dinner, do you take the unyielding opposition of ancient, undying, maleficent spiritual beings bent on your destruction into account?
How about another question: Did that last paragraph make you uncomfortable? Did it strike you as crazy? Be honest! If at the end of service each Sunday, I left you with the charge, “Oh, and beware the devil!” would you consider that advice strange?
One of the stranger things that has happened over the last five centuries or so, particularly in the West, is an increasingly strong presupposition that all things can be stripped down to cause and effect relationships among physical things.
There are lots of flavors and different strengths of this kind of thinking, from a vague kind of scientism to full on atheistic materialism and nihilism, but the fact staring us in the face unavoidably is that many see the world as basically a massive machine of moving molecules—cause and effect. Atoms colliding.
At bottom, this is really a silly idea, since it would make even the thoughts of our minds nothing but cause and effect movements of atoms and electricity—which means that even the thought “All that exists is the physical world,” is nothing more than atoms moving, neither true nor false, ultimately meaningless.
But despite our disenchanted babblings, despite our folly shrouded in philosophy, we live in a world that is seething with spiritual power. There is not a single unspiritual corner of this Universe. There is not a cubic inch of the cosmos that isn’t claimed, counterclaimed, and fought over by devils and angels.
And our instinctual Enlightenment rationalism, rather than equipping us to deal with reality, has actually left us, has actually left this world, terrifyingly vulnerable to the schemes of the devil and his demons. This morning, our brother Peter would aim to remedy that vulnerability. Look with me at our text, starting in verse 8,
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 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. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
-1 Peter 5:8–11
Peter sends an electric shock of warning and equipping into our sleepwalking, default materialism in three parts through this paragraph:
1. First, in verse 8, he calls us to watchful sobriety in this spiritual cosmos. Here we need to understand the strategies of the Adversary in order to set an effective watch for his works.
2. Then, in verse 9, he calls us to firm resistance of our spiritual enemy. We’ll look at the great weapon Peter would put in our hands for this fight.
3. Finally, in verses 10–11, he strengthens us for the fight with hope in our future victory. That regardless of our battle record as we go to war in our earthly sojourn, our Jesus is a victorious restorer of his fallen troops and guarantor of final victory.
Look again at verse 8, and we’ll take up his warning and call to watchful sobriety.
Watchful Sobriety, Principles of War
“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
-1 Peter 5:8
What is watchful sobriety? We’ve seen Peter use this language of sobriety already, as in 1 Peter 4:7, to be sober-minded in prayer. As with his previous uses, sobriety here refers to the opposite of a drunken stupor. It means a sharp, careful, observant, thoughtful readiness.
Part of watchful sobriety is knowing the schemes and strategies of the enemy in order to prepare for them; that’s Paul’s point in 2 Corinthians 2:11, where he warns us against ignorance of Satan’s schemes, lest we be outwitted by him.
One of the principles of warfare is security, which involves knowing the enemy to prepare against his attacks, as well as to launch effective attacks yourself. If you’re in a battle and you think the enemy is preparing a frontal assault, but he is really coming at your left flank, all the watchfulness on your front lines may prove to be vain.
Unless you know the strategies of your Adversary, how can you set an effective watch for his work? So how do I know when the Adversary is working? What are his strategies? What does attack look like?
So much could be said here, but what I’d like to do is focus in on four strategies of the Adversary in spiritual attack that we need be aware of.
1. He attacks through accusation. He is an Adversary.
Peter calls the devil “your adversary” in verse 8. Adversary is something of a legal term in Scripture; it describes a kind of prosecutor before God, someone trying to convict another of guilt before God.
So in the first two chapters of Job, Satan is an accuser of Job before God. So in Zechariah’s vision in chapter 3 of his book, Satan stands next to Joshua the High Priest accusing him before God.
And so the demonically inspired masses, whose father was, according to Jesus, the devil—accused Jesus falsely in court and in his trial as he went to the cross.
The Adversary works through accusation. You can know he is working when you feel the sharp accusation of your sinfulness—but not in a way that would drive you to the throne of grace. Have you felt the pressing of accusation—“Remember that thing you did? That was despicable. You are a worm. You are disgusting.”?
See, unlike than the conviction of the Holy Spirit, which always moves us from sin to confession to pardon to assurance, this voice moves you from accusation to self-justification and pride or to despair and depression. It’s either, “You are a despicable worm. Work harder or you are done.” Pride. Or it’s, “You are a despicable worm. Look at your weakness and despair of hope.”
We need to set a watch against demonic accusation.
2. He attacks by warping God’s Word; he’s a bad exegete.
Two examples to illustrate what I mean: In Genesis, Satan opposed our first human parents by twisting the Word of God—“Did God really say...?”
And in the temptation of Christ in the wilderness in Matthew 4, he quoted the Scriptures out of context to tempt Jesus. Satan is a bad exegete, and he attempts to twist the Scriptures to lead us from God.
So you can know he is working when the Scriptures are being wrongly used rather than carefully handled. When so-called Bible teachers use the Bible for their own gain or to manipulate. When priests and popes refuse the people direct access to the Scriptures, insisting on their mediating interpretation.
Set a watch against the mishandling of Scripture. Meaning me too. Meaning open your Bible yourself and make sure even your favorite pastor isn’t misusing it. Matt Chandler doesn’t get a pass. Neither do Piper, Sproul, or MacArthur. Neither do the Puritans or the church fathers. The Scriptures are our authority.
3. He attacks in and through physical affliction, desire, and weakness.
It was after Jesus had fasted for 40 days in the wilderness that he arrived and tempted Jesus with bread. Paul was buffeted by a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan in 1 Corinthians 12. In Mark 9, Matthew 12, Luke 9, and Acts 8, demonic opposition physically afflict a variety of people, bringing physical suffering ranging from deafness to blindness to seizures.
Yes, the Adversary uses illness and physical affliction. Just look at Job.
We bear the image of God, friends, and the Adversary hates God, so he hates human beings—body, soul, spirit. Why do you think the demonic doctrines of the sexual revolution keep leading further and further down the road of self-mutilation and self-hatred with things like transgenderism and child sacrifice in abortion clinics nationwide?
Why does it always end there, in transhumanistic fantasies and eugenic experimentation and all other attempts at remapping what it means to be human? Why do all these attempts always end with a lowered, rather than elevated, humanity? Because these things are nothing short of demonic graffiti on God’s image.
Wherever you see the wanton destruction and dehumanization of God’s image bearers, you are seeing demonic strategy unfolding. Though I know our Western materialist minds scoff, often the cancer diagnosis, disease, illness—I’m convinced that these things are often that is not merely physical, but demonic hatred of God’s image bearers brought to bear in human bodies.
4. Mission-killing discord among brothers.
In Matthew 16, Jesus tells the disciples that he is going to be crucified, and Peter—yes, the Peter who wrote this letter!—takes Jesus aside and actually rebukes him, saying basically, “God forbid that you would do that, Jesus!”
Jesus’ response is to see, as he does, through skin and bone to spiritual reality, to Satan’s whispering. So Jesus responds, “Get behind me, Satan!” The mission-killing division at work was Satanic. We see this in the ministry of Paul as well. 2 Timothy 4:9–18,
“Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion's mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”
-2 Timothy 4:9–18
Notice how Paul connects these afflictions to “the lion’s mouth,” spiritual warfare language. When Paul wrote that we do not wage war with flesh and blood, but with powers and principalities in the heavenly places this is one of the things he meant—demonic discord among brothers, making mission ineffective.
But the Lord triumphed, did he not? “So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly Kingdom. To him be the flory forever and ever. Amen.”
And so it is time to turn to verse 9, and see one of the great, fell weapons that Jesus puts in our fists in this war.
The Fell Weapon of Faith
“Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.”
-1 Peter 5:9
So now we are not just to set a watch, but to actually resist when the orcs crash against the watched walls. How do we resist Satan? How do you resist an ancient, immortal, spiritual enemy of incredible power and craftiness?
Peter takes one option off the table entirely, and at the same time gives us another. Your own strength is not an option, here. You are not equal to this enemy, just as Gandalf commanded the other 8 members of the fellowship of the ring to fly across the Bridge of Khazad-dûm when the Balrog came (sorry not sorry).
We aren’t equal to the Adversary natively. When he accuses, our own righteousness won’t serve as an adequate shield. When he afflicts, our bodies are frail. When he divides, our flesh delights. We aren’t equal.
So what do we do? How do we fight? Peter answers, “By faith, not strength.”
“Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.”
-1 Peter 5:9
What does that mean? What is faith? How does faith resist the devil? This isn’t isolated instruction in our spiritual resistance. In Ephesians 6, Paul writes,
“…be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 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. 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… In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one…”
-Ephesians 6:10–13, 16
Here’s the big, bottom-line answer to the question of how we fight this fight: We resist the schemes and attacks of the Adversary by trusting, depending, and sheltering in our Lord, the dragon-slaying, victorious Adversary of the adversary. We fight by faith.
Let’s unpack that. First, what is faith? Faith trusts and depends in some object. Faith believes that some object can do certain things. So by faith, the scientist believe that his eyes, ears, brain, reason, are reliably experiencing and apprehending reality.
By faith, the driver crosses the bridge over the Interstate, trusting that it will hold up his car. Faith is an inescapable concept; we all live by it all the time. So when Peter tells you to resist the devil, “firm in your faith,” what object is he referring to? Clearly, to the person and promises of God. He’s saying, “Resist the devil by trusting in God’s character and Word.”
Do you see how this connects to the strategies of Satan we’ve listed above? When the Adversary accuses, we resist by faith. How? By believing the gospel! Not by denying that the very sins he accuses us of are unreal, but that the gospel is true, that they are swallowed up in grace. And so by faith, we resist both pride and despair by believing God.
When the Adversary twists Scripture and attempts to anchor our trust in some faulty footing, faith resists by tenaciously believing the Word of God—let God be true, though all men proves liars!
When the Adversary attacks our bodies with illness and suffering, faith resists by hoping in resurrection, by believing that even in nakedness and famine and sword and death, the Lord gives no faulty gifts, but enslaves even these things to serve us for our ultimate good.
What might keep us from this faith-fueled resistance? If faith is trust, trust in the wrong thing would keep us from resistance, right? Peter knows this deeply.
In Luke 22, Peter thrice denies that he even knew the Lord Jesus as he was taken and led to his crucifixion. What happened? Peter trusted in himself, didn’t he?
Jesus warned Peter in Luke 22:31, “Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat.” This is Satanic sifting. Peter’s denial was sin, but it was sin as a result of failure when the enemy attacked. It was spiritual warfare! When Peter says that the Adversary roams around like a lion, seeking people to devour, he knows what he is talking about!
He tried to resist in the strength of his own hand, and utterly failed. But by the Spirit, by grace, the Lord restored, confirmed, strengthened, and established him. Jesus even finishes his warning to Peter by saying, “...Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
Peter obeys this instruction, even as we read his words today. Peter denied his Lord, but his Lord did not deny him. Now, on the other side of restoration, confirmation, strengthening—the establishing of forgiven Peter on the other side of failure—our sifted and now standing brother speaks a word of wisdom to us: Resist him, but do so in the firmness of faith, not native strength.
The Son Came For Blood
Is all this reasonable? Peter is telling you to take sides, here—that there is a war, a fight, an all-out, to-the-death, for-the-world, winner-take-all, cosmic brawl at hand. And he’s saying, “Live like Jesus wins that fight.”
Listen, I know that you and I, and that the Christians in Asia Minor in the first-century who first read this letter, know that the correct theological answer is, “Yes, of course Jesus wins.”
But what if your eyes are telling you otherwise? What if you are a Christian in the 60s AD who feels the growing hatred of his neighbors for his faith? What if you a Christian under demonic Nero, going to be burned alive for your faith?
What if you feel the demonic opposition pressing in on you and you don’t see Jesus swooping in to keep you from suffering? Can we be honest and say that this is a real question that our actual hearts ask? Can we be honest and say that when suffering and demonic opposition actually arrives, we struggle to trust? To believe Jesus?
And so Peter does two things in verses 10–11: He looks straight down the barrel of suffering without explaining it away, and then he answers that suffering to its face. Verses 10–11,
“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. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
-1 Peter 5:10–11
Why is the response of faith in Christ’s victory to demonic opposition and suffering a reasonable and right response? Because our faith is faith in the eternal glory of our gracious God whose dominion is universal and eternal, whose victory is secured and hurtling towards us.
Satan may be a roaring lion, but the Lion of the Tribe of Judah is the true Lion. He makes Satan look like old Puzzle the donkey, parading around in his dirty lion skin.
In John 16, Jesus tells us that on the cross, he judges Satan. Jesus tells us in Mark 3 that Satan is like a strong man, but that Jesus has entered the strong man’s house, bound him, and is plundering his goods. Genesis 3 promises that though Jesus’ heel will be bruised on the cross, it is bruised as it crushes the Serpent’s head.
All of this is captured in the mission of Jesus as told in 1 John 3:8. There, John teaches us that the Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil. What does that mean?
It means that our Lord came to opposed the Adversary, smash his institutions, castrate his power, dethrone his demonic powers, chain his movement, disrupt his schemes, invade and colonize his kingdom, bind him and cast him down and plunder his house, judge him, and crush his head.
It means that Peter’s prayer in verse 11, “...to him be dominion forever and ever. Amen!” is answered with a resounding, “Yes! It will! Of the increase of his government there will be no end!”
It means that as we resist the devil, firm in our faith, we do so with the utter assurance of Jesus’ present and future victory.
Before we close the book this morning, I want to draw your attention back to two words in this passage that change everything for us—will himself.
After his people suffer and even fail the test of spiritual warfare, Jesus will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish. After the enemy comes, temptation comes, and you stumble again. After you dip into depression again. After the 7th sickness of the year, the 10th setback, the 3rd reemergence of that same old temptation and sin.
Jesus is faithful, friends. And he isn’t depending on you; he has made you to be depending on him. The enemy and the adversary may seem to succeed, they may get Peter to fall, even egregiously, even heinously. But they can’t keep Jesus from protecting his own, keeping his own, restoring his own.
So listen: Whatever sin you are in this morning. Whatever spiritual attack you have weathered and feel worn down by. Whatever it is, Jesus can slay it, overcome it, and restore you from and through it. Don’t wait to come to him. Don’t wait to call out to him. Don’t dare not to ask him for help in time of need.
As our brother Paul writes in Romans 16:20, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”