Your Adversary the Devil

1 Peter 5:8

In a 2002 Barna Research survey, 73% of American adults rejected the notion of Satan as a real being – seeing him merely as a symbol of evil in the world – only 27% think Satan is real (Church of Christ – 36%). What that implies is, if we were to count off this morning 1-10, 6 of every 10 of you would say, “Satan is not real,” 3 of you would believe that he is real, and 1 of you would say, “Satan who?”

I’m here to tell you that Satan has done a masterful job of public relations. And you might say, “Wait a minute, I thought you said 7 out of 10 don’t believe in Satan. That sounds like he needs some help getting the word out.” No – Satan is at his best when we dismiss him and ignore him.
The biblical writers understood his tactics:
• In 2 Corinthians Paul admonishes us not to be “unaware of his schemes …that Satan might not outwit us” (2 Cor. 2:10-11).
• In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul writes, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:4).
• Peter warns us, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

There are 100 specific references in the Bible to Satan – he appears under many aliases: the devil, Satan, adversary, accuser, prince of demons, father of lies, tempter, god of this age, prince of this world.

We play into his hand – we dress up with pointy red horns at Halloween and make light of him – or we monsterize him with hideous evil-looking features that scare and terrorize us at the very sight of him. I suspect that Satan is much more subtle – his appearance would be disarming – even inviting. In the garden, Eve didn’t go running at the sight of him – she stopped, she listened, she spoke with him, she believed his words.

He packages his temptations in wonderful wrapping paper. We listen to his offers and they sound so appealing, his promises are so exciting. Even with yellow crime scene tape wrapped around them and toxic waste warnings printed on every side, we ignore the warnings and rip open the package of sin he offers us only to find out that nothing of what he says and promises is true.

How many of you think sin is good for you? How many of you think that the wages of sin is death? How many of you believe God’s warning that the soul that sins shall die?

Illustration – a couple of years ago when there was flooding in the Midwest, a police officer was posted at an underpass with a barrier warning people not to drive through because there was 6 feet of water over the road. Not just one, but three cars ignored the signs, ignored the policeman waving a his flashlight, and drove around him into the water to be swept away to their deaths.

Well, sure, we don’t think sin is good for you, but death? Come on, sin’s not that bad, especially the little sins I commit. And besides, what about God’s grace? Out of my way – I’m driving on through.

I want to focus on one word the Bible uses to describe the devil – Peter calls him our adversary. Have you ever had someone who was against you? I don’t mean that he just didn’t care for you, but that absolute hatred seethed from his pores. Maybe he was a neighbor or a supervisor or a school bully. It wasn’t just the occasional confrontation – it seemed like he went out of his way to make your life miserable and invented new ways to torment you. That’s an adversary. The very name “Satan” means adversary, and that is his nature.

And Satan is your adversary. He’s not just a generic symbol of evil in the world – he is real, he is active and he is personally interested in you – he knows your name, where you live and what your weaknesses are. He is relentless and ruthless in his pursuit of you.

I was thinking of a couple of notable examples of that in the Bible:
• Job 1:6-11
• Luke 22:31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.”
• John 13:2 “The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot to betray Jesus… 27 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.”
• When Ananias and Sapphira sold the land and withheld the money, do you remember what Peter said when he confronted him? “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart…?” (Acts 5:3).
• And even Jesus – when Satan had finished tempting him in the wilderness – Luke tells us “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13).

Don’t ever turn your back or let down your guard. Satan isn’t going to leave you alone – he’s never going to give up on you – and he has an arsenal of weapons and a legion of demons at his disposal to tempt you and trap you and try to destroy you.

And about now, you’re thinking, “Come on preacher, you’re just trying to scare me.” And you know what? You’re right! That’s the purpose in talking about Satan – to literally scare the hell out of you. Too many of us, for too long have been “unaware of his schemes” and been outwitted by him. I’ve seen too many brothers and sisters become lion food, because they didn’t take Satan seriously. Too many of you live helpless and defeated lives because you have decided you couldn’t possibly stand up to Satan or resist his lies – or because you have ignored God’s warnings and driven your life right into the raging torrent of sin and been washed downstream and you are drowning.

It didn’t happen all at once. No one ever woke up one morning and thought, “I’m going to let Satan have his way with me. I’m tired of God and I’m going to plunge into a life of sin and try that for a while.” No – it happened a small step at a time. It began with a tiny, seemingly inconsequential decision. You couldn’t really call it sin – maybe just unwise. But it was compromise – it opened the door – it gave Satan an opportunity. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:17, “and do not give the devil a foothold.” That’s what it is – just a little spot for him to set up shop. But Satan is opportunistic – he is never satisfied with just a foothold – he is always looking to expand and diversify.

Illustration -- He’s like kudzu –do you realize that kudzu was first imported in 1876 as an ornamental vine? People loved it! The large leaves and sweet-smelling blooms of kudzu captured the imagination of American gardeners who used the plant for ornamental purposes. And in the 1930-40’s the U.S. Soil Conservation Service paid farmers $8 an acre as incentive to plant kudzu for erosion control. It wasn’t native, they imported it and planted it intentionally and it literally took over – it now covers over 7 million acres of the deep South.

Think of the way Satan begins with something small and innocuous – like anger or pride or doubt or lust or jealousy or greed. He doesn’t crash the party with an invitation to murder or commit adultery or rob a bank. He makes a suggestion that you should hate someone who has done you wrong, or that pornography isn’t really all that bad, or that you are justified to take office supplies for your kids at school because they don’t really pay you enough as it is.

Satan is powerful – don’t underestimate his tireless efforts to challenge your faith and destroy your life and claim your soul. But there is good news – he is not all powerful.
• James writes, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
• Peter says, “Resist him, standing firm in the faith” (1 Peter 5:9).
• Paul writes, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Eph. 6:10-11).
• And especially what Paul writes in 1 Cor. 10:13 – “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

Satan doesn’t make you sin – he doesn’t have that kind of power – but he can make sin look so inviting and rewarding that you can’t imagine why God has a problem with it. You look at the water rushing across the road and think, “I can take it – no problem.”

I want you see Satan like God sees Satan – strip away the facades, the centuries of myth and fantasy, the modern day characterizations as an occultish monster who hides away in dungeons and caverns. Break his spell, open your eyes.

Satan once was as one of the angels – a chief angel – his name was Lucifer, which meant “morning star.” Isaiah writes of his tragic fall:
How you have fallen from heaven,
O morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
you who once laid low the nations!
You said in your heart,
“I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne
above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,
on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain.
I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.”
But you are brought down to the grave,
to the depths of the pit. (Isa. 14:12-15)

From that moment on his existence was spent working to destroy the work of God. He opposes God and hates his Son. He especially hates God’s creation and people and wants to enslave them and destroy them and will use any means necessary to accomplish that.

The Bible says, Satan is
• The father of lies (Jn 8:44)
• Your accuser (Job 1,2)
• Your enemy (1 Peter 5:8)
• The ruler of this world
• The god of this age
• …and the one who was once the morning star is now the prince of darkness (Eph. 6:12, Col. 1:13)
• The deceiver (2 Cor. 4:4)

One thing you can be certain of is that the world will never see him as he really is. Paul writes in 2 Cor. 4:4, The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
Do you wonder why people don’t take sin seriously? Do you wonder how people can be so blind to the evil that is camped on their doorstep? Paul says Satan blinds the minds of unbelievers. They’re not ignorant or stupid, they aren’t wicked and evil – they have been blinded by Satan. They aren’t the enemy – Satan is – and they are his victims, prisoners of war, casualties on the spiritual battleground. If you think it’s tough standing up to Satan with the power of Jesus’ blood and the Holy Spirit at your side, think what it would be like to be tempted by sin without the armor of God to protect you.

Illustration – The Hypnotized Bird

You are not held captive – Jesus came to free us from Satan and his grip of spiritual death. Let’s close with the words of the Hebrews writer: Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. (Heb. 2:14-15)