Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 October 1, 2017
“Resist Your Adversary”
Text: 1 Peter 5:8-9
Peter’s first letter to the Church at large—which we have been examining verse-by-verse in this punctuated series—is quite the hortatory manual for God’s exiled, persecuted people. This we have seen time after time throughout this year—and, as a result, we have seen how relevant and timely this letter is for our lives and world. In this final chapter, we hear welcome exhortations in our ears. We hear God’s call to faithful leadership and follower-ship in the Church (5:1-5), and we hear His call to release of self-will and of every anxiety—and that because He cares for us (5:6-7). Today, we hear another set of exhortation from the Lord—exhortations coalescing about the theme, “Resist your adversary.” Let us hear the Lord speak to our souls in this portion of His Word.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
We have three commands from the Lord today. The first two, to be sober-minded and to be watchful, are closely related. Certain traits come to mind when we think of sober-minded people—moderation in all things, clear evaluation of all presenting facts, and being not easily swayed from right paths come immediately to mind. Now, in God’s providential history, is not the time for dulling of senses and dissipation of energies. We need sobriety of mind in these trying times. Moreover, we need to watch; that is, God’s calls us to be alert, not dulled, and He calls us even to be vigilant, and not inattentive. This is significant to Jesus. When He discoursed concerning the events related to the end of this present order and His glorious return, He concluded, “And what I say I say to you all: “Stay awake” (Mark 13:37). It is true that we need physical sleep for our bodies, but our posture must be one of sober vigilance at all times.
We must maintain this posture due to an incontrovertible fact: Our adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. The evil one indeed is our adversary. His very name, Satan, means adversary or accuser in Hebrew. This adversary, this accuser, prowls around like a roaring lion. We see this in the book of Job. In Job, Satan goes to and fro on the earth, and he walks up and down it—and that with near-ceaseless activity and energy. More than this, the evil one accuses Job to his Maker. This is his usual tack, especially against the covenant children of God in Christ. With noise, with pursuit, with restless, demonically-high energy, the evil one assails the blood-bought children of God.
The evil one pursues thus with view to seeking someone to devour (literally to swallow). Satan is not content with mere annoyance or disturbance of our souls. He seeks no less than our complete destruction and the utter obliteration of our existence. He hates our souls, and our redeeming triune God, with a fierceness hard to measure for scope—yet finite, for that degenerate creature himself is finite. That is his view toward us and his aim against us. Happily, this is not the last word.
Now enters our third command today. We are to resist him. We can do this in God’s power, by God’s grace, because of God’s decisive victory in Jesus Christ. By resistance, we mean an active stand against the evil one without yielding to him by sin. We are to resist him by standing firm in our faith in Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior. We do this by our strong cognitive grasp of Christian truth; we learn, through preaching, teaching, and personal study, of His Word and of the correct truths derived therefrom—and we use our minds to resist the deceptions that our skillful foe slings our way. We also resist the devil by our strong will to cling to Christ—come what may. By God’s empowering grace, we will not be dissuaded from following Christ by hardship, by ridicule, by bodily suffering, by anything.
God’s fuels our resistance with the reminder that our fellow Christians around the world—and maybe very close at hand—suffer thus. This is nothing strange for the Christian—though it seems strange indeed in historically favored nation. Such suffering has occurred, more or less, in every age. Persecutions, after all, have waxed and waned between sporadic and systemic. Moreover, such suffering happens, more or less, everywhere today. It surprised me to learn in seminary in the early 1990s, as perhaps it will surprise you today, that more people were martyred in the twentieth century for Christ than in the previous nineteen centuries combined—and that with a few years left in that century. Yet with all this activity of the evil one, and with its accompanying providential suffering—both personally and collectively throughout the Church—there comes a blessed Scripture promise, from the Spirit-led pen of James, “Resist ye the tempter, and he shall flee” (James 4:7). Thus Jesus demonstrated, being thrice tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11, and parallels), and He both models and empowers our own resistance against the evil one.
Make no mistake—there is quite a measure of blessed peace and tranquility associated with favorable station in Jesus. We, each and all who are in Christ, shall enjoy these forevermore to the full in Glory, but we enjoy them in considerable measure here and now—even, and perhaps especially, in the midst of the providential storm. Yet the conflict of the ages rages in this season—though its outcome, happily, is assured in our favor, because Christ has won in our stead. Hence, the Lord, in His Word, calls us to sobriety in all things, watchfulness at all times, and resistance against the evil one. May He fortify us to these ends by His Word—especially this portion today—and may He fortify us by this sign and seal prepared on His table today.