Saturday, October 2, 2021

Lions and Legionnaires - 1 Peter 5:8-11 - October 3, 2021

 1 Peter 5:8-11 Lions and Legionnaires

Good morning! Well, it’s October, I think we can officially say that summer is over. The scenery certainly changes in October around here, the tourists are scarce, the leaves change, and every other front yard turns into a cemetery.

October brings Halloween, a very tricky season to be sure. It’s tricky because the church has had a great deal of difficulty in dealing with it over the years. Look at our history, the church has shunned it, banning trick-or-treating or any other participation in Halloween festivities, the church has ignored it, just shrugging our shoulders and turning off our porch lights so no kids will bother us for candy, the church has tried to replace it, with harvest parties and more holy activities, we all know that they’re Halloween parties we just can’t call them that.

This year, I encourage you to redeem the day, hand out candy in the Name of Jesus, good candy, love your neighbors and their kids, be welcoming and generous.

But also don’t be fooled by mischaracterizations of our very real enemy, the devil.

Halloween is the season of glorifying evil. Every channel on TV shows horror movies, every storefront feature all things scary. There’s a lot more going on than just kids getting candy, our enemy is at work.

Our passage for this morning focuses on our very real enemy and his designs and will be very helpful for us as the Lord’s church, not just on Halloween but all the time. 

1 Peter 5:8-11, page 1017 in the pew Bibles.

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. 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.

Let’s pray.

There are three parties mentioned here in these four verses, who are they? The devil, the church, the Father.

The devil, the Father, and the church; the devil and the Father both want things for the church, and they could not be more different.

Peter calls the devil, “your adversary,” this is the same word as the Hebrew word, “satan,” it means a legal opponent, one who speaks against another, one who is actively and consistently hostile towards someone, our enemy.

Even the word devil means slanderer. The Bible calls him the accuser of the brethren, a murderer, and the father of lies. 

He is no one that our unwitting neighbors would invite in for candy they knew who he really was and what he really wants to do to them.

And what is it that our enemy wants to do to them, to all of us, especially God’s church? He wants to destroy us. 

The devil’s goal for the world is to turn everyone away from the Lord Jesus, to deny Him. It’s not just to get people to sin, though he is very good at that, even though we seem to be experts at it without his help, his goal is to turn people away from Jesus, away from the Father and destroy them.

Peter says that our adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

I hate this picture because I love lions, but as Abraham Calov wrote, “The Lion of the tribe of Judah is mightier by far than the lion of hell.”

The lion of hell seeks our destruction, to devour us one by one until there is no one left to turn to Jesus. But the Lion of the tribe of Judah has designs for us as well and He is mightier by far!

Peter says that though the devil wants to destroy us, but God wants to restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish us in His eternal glory in Christ.

These four terms are all part of the same picture.

To restore means to make completely sufficient, to perfect, to be ready in every sense.

To confirm means to make more able, to impart spiritual might as opposed to weakness.

To strengthen means to make more firm, stronger.

To establish means to fasten to the ground, built up on a firm foundation.

I can’t help but imagine the picture of a Roman legion, warriors ready for battle, able, strong, fastened to the ground and immovable.

This is what God wants His church to be by His grace. So what does Peter say here that we, Christ’s church, need to do in order to be that, to get there, what do we need to do to resist the devil so that he will flee from us like it says in James 4:7?

The Holy Spirit through the Apostle Peter gives us four tactics of Legionairres: to be sober-minded, to be watchful, to stand firm, and to stand together.

Peter just instructed the church to cast our anxieties on the Lord because He cares for us. It’s been said that anxiety will intoxicate the soul therefore we must be sober. We need to be serious and aware of the reality of the fight we are in, as Lange wrote, “we are the church militant, not yet the church triumphant.” That day is coming when the Lord Jesus return for His church but until them we are in a fight, don’t be fooled, it’s a war for souls.

Not only are we to be sober-minded and aware of the fight we’re in but we must also be watchful, vigilant, and aware of the tactics of our enemy.

Pretending that the devil doesn’t exist is one of his greatest tactics, we cannot ignore the reality that our enemy is out there seeking people to devour and destroy.

I’m not suggesting that we live in fear as if the devil is going to jump out from behind every bush but we must be aware of his tactics. He is the accuser of the brethren according to Revelation 12:10, he is a murderer and the father of lies according to John 8:44, everything he does is get people to believe lies that push us away from faith in Jesus and push us toward our own pride.

Pride says that we are either extraordinary sinners or uncommon saints, either beyond the reach of God’s grace or beyond the need of it. Believing either of these lies makes you lunch for lions. But these are the lies we are fed all the time.

I was in Home Depot this week and the cashier was telling me that their store has been the frequent target of counterfeiters. The best training to spot counterfeit bills is not to study the counterfeit bills but to study the genuine bills until the flaws in the fakes become obvious. 

The same is true for the church, we must study the truth of God’s Word so that the lies of the enemy become obvious.

Knowing God’s Word helps us with our third tactic against the enemy, to stand firm in our faith.

Verse nine says to resist the devil, firm in your faith.

Johann Gerhard wrote, “Victory over Satan lies in faith, because faith unites us to Christ the Victor. By faith the devil is driven to flight as the lion is by fire.”

“Faith,” to have faith or being a person of faith has become very nebulous in our day, there are lots of “spiritual people” around. But this loose mysticism is miles away from what Peter meant by “standing firm in your faith.”

Faith is not nebulous or mystical or spooky, it is concrete. It is absolute trust in Jesus.

It is trusting that He is the one and only, eternally existent Son of God, sent to earth by the Father and anointed by the Holy Spirit and with power. He went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil. He was crucified but God raised Him from the dead on the third day and He appeared to chosen witnesses who ate and drank with Him after he had risen from the dead. He commanded them to preach to the people and to testify that he is the One appointed by God to judge the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His Name.

That was Peter’s profession to Cornelius in Acts 10. That is the faith that we stand firm in.

But Legionnaires never stood alone. We are to be sober-minded, and watchful, standing firm in our faith, and standing together.

Resist [the devil], firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

I’m sure Peter hadn’t seen a lot of PBS specials on lions, he didn’t have National Geographic, but this is how lions hunt, by separating the weak from the rest of the herd.

Believing that we are alone, that no one could understand our suffering, or even worse, that we are ok alone, and that we don’t need anyone else to stand with us, is to believe a great lie from the enemy.

If you are watching this video, or listening to this podcast, because you are sick or are unable to attend services, or just live far away, this next statement is NOT for you.

But if you are watching this video, or livestream, or are listening to this podcast because you think that you do not need to go to church, that you do not need the church, or that church only exists for sermons and services, you have been deceived by the enemy and he is ready to devour you.

The church is not just a building, the church is not just services and sermons, the church is people, fellow believers, fellow legionnaires that need to stand together in order to stand against the enemy.

This will sound familiar, it’s read at every wedding, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12:

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! 11 Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? 12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Of course we all know that the third cord is Christ Himself, braided together with His church.

The devil wants to devour and destroy us but the Father wants to restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish us. To Him be the might and power forever and ever.