- Acts 20:25-38;
- 1 Peter 5:1-11
My dear friends in Christ,
If our Lord allows us, we will walk slowly through the last chapter of 1 Peter. The topic of this sermon “Heavenly Shaped Defence”. We of course speak of our defence against the strategy of the devil. To begin our study of chapter 5 with we will consider certain things leaving us defenceless against our adversary, the devil. More about that later.
We have had the privilege to walk through 1Peter over the last two months or so. God has shown us many wonderful things about our heavenly shaped lives, as well our heavenly shaped future in Christ.
- We have an inheritance which can never perish, spoil or fade; it is kept in heaven. This inheritance is shielded by God’s power until the announcement of the last time (1Peter 1:3-5).
- God revealed this salvation in Jesus Christ, who is the fulfilment of all prophesies of the Old Testament, now reality in the New Testament (1Peter 1:10-12).
- The good news about the Gospel of Christ is that, by the work of the Holy Spirit—who works through the revealed will of God in the Bible (1Peter 1:24-25)—changed our hollow and meaningless existence, from being God’s enemies, by making us children of God (1Peter 1:14-15, 18). For this Christ redeemed us by his precious blood, worth more than silver of gold (1Peter 1:19-21).
- Our life on earth is temporary, but one day Jesus Christ will return and will take us to Him (1Peter 1:13), but we called to, in the meantime, live holy lives, because we were called out of darkness into his wonderful light, to proclaim God’s praises (1Peter 2:9-10). In fact, Christians, under Jesus Christ woh is the head, is like a temple, a spiritual house, and a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God (1Peter 2:5).
- We live in this world as aliens, obeying the laws of governments, doing our daily work as if unto the Lord (1Peter 2:13-19).
- Our marriage and family relationships must reflect the relationship between Christ and his church as a message of hope to the world (1Peter 3:1-7).
All in all, what we have heard up to now is absolute good news. Our citizenship is in heaven, and we are kept in the hands of God:
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, (1 Peter 3:18, NKJV)
But our summary of what Peter wrote in his epistle is incomplete. Peter also prepares us for difficult times, precisely because of our faith in Jesus Christ. In 1Peter 1:6 he writes:
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials … (1 Peter 1:6, NKJV)
Why does all of this happen?
- The world, who rejects the Lordship of Christ goes after God’s children and whip up accusations against his church (1Peter 2:12), and Christians experience unjust sufferings (1Peter 2:19-21).
- If Christians suffer for what is right, they are blessed (1Peter 3:14), because it is better to suffer for doing good than for doing evil (1Peter 3:17).
- All of this should not come as a surprise to Christians, because being united to Christ implies that his sufferings will be our sufferings (1Peter 4:12-13).
Our sufferings and the glory of Christ
It is almost as if Peter leads us in our relationship with Christ, to have a look of what drives the drama behind the curtains, so we can understand the battle we are involved in.
There’s one thing our enemy would want to prevent from happening, and us from knowing: that the glory of Christ will be known in the lives of the followers of Jesus Christ. Peter, on the other hand, cannot stress the point more:
Rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. (1 Peter 4:13, NKJV)
If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. (1 Peter 4:14, NKJV)
Peter is confident about the fact he himself will share in the glory of Christ when it is revealed (1Peter 5:1). Elders are encouraged to discharge of their shepherding task well, because they will “receive the crown of glory” when the Shepherd appears (1Peter 5:4). He ends his letter with this encouraging word:
But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. (1 Peter 5:10, NKJV)
So, the devil’s plan to have Christians going through suffering, in the hope that they might retreat and give up following Christ as Lord—and thus miss out on the eternal glory of Christ—fails in the great plan of God: suffering, as we saw last week is a necessary process of refinement, but it also unites us with the glory of Christ.
We need to hang on to the words of our Lord in his Hight Priestly Prayer in the face of our suffering and our battle with our adversary.
And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one. Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:22,24, NKJV)
This prayer of Christ will ultimately surely be answered in full when He appears in glory: being already been gloried in Christ, those united to Him by faith will see his glory! The devil has no chance against Christ. In fact his place in the lake of sulphur is already prepared. His tail feathers have been plucked, and his wings have been clipped. Because he has been subjected to Christ, his is even more ferocious and dangerous. But God is not yet done with him.
First, let’s look at the things leaving us defenceless.
We look at five destructive dangers:
- our adversary, the devil
- ungodly elders
- insubordinate behaviour in God’s household
- wavering faith in times of trouble
- ignorance of prevalent danger
We will hear the Word of God on the first in this list, and continue next week.
Although Peter mentions our adversary last, it does not mean that he is the least dangerous. In fact, he is behind everything aimed at the destruction of the church of Christ.
Let’s go to 1Peter 5:8
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8, NKJV)
Of all the wild animals there is one we do not want to tackle with bare hands: the lion. Even tame lions can be dangerous and in some cases be extremely unpredictable.
Our adversary is more than such a lion. He prowls around with one aim and purpose: to devour and destroy.
David prayed in Psalm 7:2
O Lord my God, in You I put my trust; save me from all those who persecute me; and deliver me, lest they tear me like a lion, rending me in pieces, while there is none to deliver. (Psalm 7:1–2, NKJV)
Of his adversary the Psalmist writes:
He lies in wait secretly, as a lion in his den; He lies in wait to catch the poor; He catches the poor when he draws him into his net. (Psalm 10:9, NKJV)
John exposes the devil:
He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. (John 8:44, NKJV)
He has sinned from the beginning (1John 3:8). He perverts the truth of God, precisely because he knows truth so well. He believes and his fellow fallen angels believe God, and they shudders (James 2:19). He knew very well what God had commanded Adam and Eve, but he perverted the truth and trapped them into believing his version of the truth instead. He tried to use his version of the truth to tempt our Lord by quoting verses of the Bible. Here is some of his strategies:
- To undermine your faith in Christ he whispers in your ear that it is impossible to know that you are a Christian, reminding you of your sins.
- Or he might even prevent your from fully trust in Christ as your Saviour by trying to convince you that you are not a sinner to begin with. A loving God will not possible throw sinners in hell!
- He might try to convince you that God’s Word is not the truth, and not enough to lead you to the knowledge of who God and your Saviour is. How can God call you through a book which was written thousands of years ago. Can the Bible be true? Is there power in the gospel?
- Was grace enough for you? Can you have security that your inheritance in heaven cannot spoil, fade or perish, and that God is shielding it for you? What about your past rebellion against God?
- Who says God really loves you, and that He will never let anyone pluck you from his hand? Who says God really exist?
- Another great delusion from the devil is the suggestion that Christians should not suffer for the sake of Christ. Last week we dwelled on the abominable teaching of the Health and Wealth theology, also know as Prosperity Theology. Our adversary will be ready to whisper in our ear that God does not love us as soon as suffering shows up in our life. And what is he so good in convincing ignorant Christians with? He does it as he did with Christ: he makes promises he know very well he cannot deliver. Don’t fall for it. It is a lie from hell.
And so you are tossed about like a wave on the ocean. Listen to him and he will rip your heart out and laugh about you on your way to hell.
In The Pilgrims Progress Bunyan writes: “No king will willingly lose his subjects,” said Apollyon to Christian when he stretched himself across the road, “and I swear you shall go no further; here will I spill your soul.”
I quote from a sermon of Charles Spurgeon:
“Do you suppose that Satan would lose his subjects one by one, and not be filled with wrath? Assuredly not. As soon as he sees a soul hurrying off to the wicket gate, with his eyes fixed on the light, away go all hell’s dogs after him. ‘There is another of my subjects going; my empire is being thinned; my family is being diminished:’ and he tries with his might and main to bring the poor soul back again.”
There’s far more to say about the devil, but let’s wrap it up with this from Revelation 12: it describes the battle between him and the angels of God who protects the church of the Lord out of which would be born Jesus Christ. An enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns with seven crowns on his head appeared on the scene. Here we have an explicit reference to him “the ancient serpent, the devil, or Satan who leads the whole world astray” (verse 9). At the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, who would rule all the nations with an iron sceptre, the dragon wanted to devour the newborn child. Satan lost the rebellion in heaven and was hurled to the earth and his angles with him (verse 8). He then focussed upon the woman who had given birth to the son; he focussed on the church of Christ, but God is protecting his people (verse 14). Although overcome, Satan does not retreat. He is still engaged in the battle, now honing in on all who call Jesus Christ their Lord. Listen:
And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Revelation 12:17, NKJV)
This is our enemy Number One. Every soul who allows itself to be entrapped by this enemy is in great peril. The Church of our Lord Jesus Christ has exposed itself by voices from within who denies the existence of its greatest enemy.
My friends, don’t be fooled or distracted. Satan is not the little disfigured red-faced little fellow with sharp pointed ears and a pitch fork in his hands. He is a dangerous, yet not almighty, fallen warrior. He knows no love, although he can speak lovingly; he promises all, although he has nothing to offer; he prides as an angle of the light, yet in him is just darkness. The Bible gives us the instruction:
Resist him, be steadfast in the faith. (1 Peter 5:9, NKJV)
Hide in the righteousness of Christ and hang on to your inheritance in Him which cannot spoil, fade or perish. This is our only defence.
Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 22 July 2018