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TEXT: I Peter 5:8
SUBJECT: Follow the Lamb #10: Beware of Satan
Tonight, with the Lord's blessing, we'll move on in our study of Follow the Lamb, a book, written about 1840, by the Scottish pastor, Horatius Bonar. The book is short and simple because it was written for young believers. Its goal is to help them understand and live the Christian life.
Assuming you are saved, you want to live for Christ. But have I assumed correctly? Is everyone in this room saved? Are you a Christian? Have you repented of your sins and put your faith in Jesus Christ? If you're not a believer, it's no wonder you don't live for Christ! You may be a nice kid or a responsible adult, but you don't live for Christ because you're not alive in Christ. You have to be alive-physically-before you can do physical things-like walking, talking, sleeping, and surfing the Internet! You have to be alive-spiritually-before you can do spiritual things-such as love God or follow Christ or grow in grace.
Follow the Lamb is written to and for believers. For people who love the Lord and want to love Him more. How do you follow Christ better? One way you do it to Watch Against Satan.
That's the title of Chapter Nine and the subject of tonight's sermon. Watch Against Satan.
What does it mean to watch against Satan? The word, watch brings to mind a soldier on guard duty. Today, a lot of surveillance is done by satellite and computers, but in Bonar's day, it was all done by human eyes and ears. Sentries were posted to watch for the enemy, to listen for galloping horses and so on. The man who slept on duty was hanged-and rightly so, for many lives depended on him staying awake and keeping his eyes peeled for the enemy.
Satan is our enemy, though unlike human soldiers, he cannot be seen with the eye. To watch against him, therefore, means to be alert to his temptations. It is to recognize them when they appear, and to resist them when they advance on you.
Speaking of the devil, Bonar says,
He is above all others your enemy. He is the old serpent, the dragon, the liar and the murderer. It is with him we are to fight.
Before we go any further, I have a couple of questions for you:
I know this can lead to folly. But it doesn't have to. If some people go too far, finding the devil under every rock, others don't go nearly far enough. This is our temptation. Fearing superstition, we tend to be rationalistic, as though Satan is only an idea-a doctrine to be defended, maybe, but not a real creature to be feared and watched against!
I know there are lions in Africa, but my knowledge has no effect on my life in America. But what if I knew hungry lions were roaming through Niles? Do you think I'd be more careful when I rode my bike down the trail? Do you think I'd walk to church unarmed?
Knowing there is such a thing as a lion is far different than knowing lions are loose in my neighborhood-and they're as big and fast and hungry as ever!
Well, Satan is not way over in Africa eating other people or safe behind the bars of a zoo. He is loose in the church, at home, and in your heart. This means you've got to be aware of him-and on guard against him.
What good is a watchman who sees the enemy coming and does nothing about it? He's supposed to wake up the city and join the fight himself.
When you're tempted to sin, you should see the temptation for what it is: an attack by Satan. It is he who wants you to hold a grudge or to slant the truth or to watch the unwholesome movie. It is the devil who wants you to brag and to gossip and to envy and to wonder why others don't live up to your high standards. He wants you to be a lazy worker or to love money or to look down on your husband. He wants you to ignore your wife or mistreat your children or bad mouth your parents. Satan wants you to nap instead of praying or work instead of reading the Bible or watch TV instead of going to church.
Oscar Wilde was the wittiest of men-and until his deathbed conversion-one of the ungodliest of men. He once quipped, I can resist anything but temptation. But in the plan of God, that's what temptations are for: resisting. The Lord keeps us away from many temptations, but not all of them. He allows them to come our way so that we will resist them and grow more dependent on Him for doing it.
How does the devil tempt us? And, what makes his temptations so hard to resist? Bonar knows very well,
He makes use of the world's beauty and pleasure to take us captive to his will.
Beauty and pleasure are the gifts of God, and we are made to enjoy them. If you take them for what they are and use them wisely, there is no harm in them-and much good. But, the devil wants you to enjoy them for what they aren't! He wants you to idolize them! He wants you to use them the way he wants you to, instead of how Christ would have you use them.
This leads to the bizarre conclusion: We are not tempted by bad things, but by good things! Go down the list: what is idolatry, but a devotion to God gone wrong? What is adultery but love and desire gone wrong? What is a dirty joke but humor gone wrong? Malice and envy and grudges are justice gone wrong. Cruelty and pride are man's dominion gone wrong.
Think of the temptations our Lord faced in the Wilderness: eat, trust God, and take the kingdoms of the world. Are any of these things bad? In themselves, they're not. But in the setting they were presented to the Lord they were bad. It wasn't the thing, but the use it was put to. This is how Satan works.
Thus, instead of thinking milk good, wine bad, think of how milk and wine can be drunk for the glory of God and how each of them can also be abused. Is it possible to abuse milk? Sure it is-in the same way you abuse anything else. Drinking milk without giving thanks is an abuse; so is drinking all the milk at night and leaving none for your kids' breakfast. So is milk gluttony or being too fussy about your milk or grossing out other people by drinking straight from the carton!
Satan is not stupid. He knows our nature and what God made us to like. He takes beauty and pleasure and turns them against us. So, what do we do? We don't reject the good things of life, but we take them for what they are and use them the way the Lord wants us to.
Since the Fall of Adam, it has always been necessary to watch against Satan. In fact, before the Fall it was needful because if Adam and Eve had been, there might not have been a Fall. But even though Abel and Enoch and Noah and David and John the Baptist needed to beware of Satan, we need to even more. For Bonar reminds us that we-unlike the others I just named-are living in the Last Days,
Perilous times are coming. Many are lovers of self, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasure, yet still having the form of godliness. Let us be wary, lest standing as we do in these days, we are drawn away into the sins of an age led captive by Satan at his will.
The Last Days began with the first coming of Christ and end only with His Return in Glory. In one way, the Last Days are the best of times. Satan can no longer deceive the nations as he once did. But, in another way, it is the worst of times. The great work of Christ in the world is pushing the devil to frantic opposition. Because he now sees that his time is short, he intends to make the most of it-and do as much harm to the Lord's people as he can.
While letting us have our daily devotions and Sunday morning services, he's also going to promote pride, unfaithfulness, and other character flaws. We have to watch against these things-beware of them, especially if they don't affect our Bible reading, praying, and church going.
Satan has never been against religion. What he's against is holiness. He can use religion against us-even the religion of the Bible. If your quiet times permit you to treat your wife like garbage, the devil is all for them.
If anyone ever needed to watch against the devil, we do even more. For the Last Days are perilous times-and we're in the Last Days, and our danger is real and intense, never more so than when we think otherwise.
At the end of the chapter, Bonar exhorts us. He doesn't add anything new, but he tells us to act on what he has already said-and what we already know.
Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Fight the good fight of faith against him and his hosts. Watch unto prayer. Be sober, be vigilant. In these last days, he will lay snares more cunningly than ever. He is coming down, having great wrath, because he knows he has but a short time.
Resist the devil says Bonar-and so does God (cf. James 4:7). Are you doing this? And, if you are, how serious are you in doing it? And how consistent? No one is perfect, of course, but are you sincere? Are you trying to resist the devil? When you fail, do you admit it, and ask the Lord to forgive you and to help you in the future?
The devil-it seems-is like the boxer, Mike Tyson, used to be: ferocious for a round or two, but if you stand up to him, he'll quit. Do you stand up to him? Do you run away from temptation (as Joseph did)? Do you fight it-meaning to win? Luther was so tempted by the devil one day, he threw an inkwell at him! We smile at his naivete, but we have to admire his seriousness! He meant business! Do you mean business? Do you mean to resist the devil, only when it's? If you do, you'll never resist him because-with him-it's always hard. He tempts you with things you like! He knows your weak spots. He knows fornication means nothing to some woman-but self-righteousness? That gets her every time.
Watch unto prayer. Spend much time in prayer-especially if you don't have the time. Pray the devil will not tempt you. Pray for wisdom and courage and patience when he does. Pray for friends to help you; or a line in the Bible or a word in a sermon. Pray for guardian angels to come to your aid. Pray that the phone will ring when the power of temptation is at its height.
Be sober. The devil is not out to bug you; he means to destroy you. And he will unless you're serious.
Be vigilant. Satan is not a quitter. If you stand up to him on one thing, he'll try another. He doesn't have a plan B only, but an infinite number of plans. He has plan z to the millionth power to try out on you. This means you've got to watch every day all day until you die. David served his own generation by the will of God and fell asleep. And not before. There's plenty of time to rest and not watch against Satan. But that time is not now and not until all things are made new.
Do you want to follow the Lamb? If you do, you have to watch against Satan. That is never easy and never fun. But it is necessary. To help you do it remember: Your Lord and Savior stood up to him in circumstances far harder than you face. And He defeated the devil, in the wilderness, on the cross, and in the tomb.
He's with you in your temptations and He knows how to get you out of them or to keep you in them without sin. So fly to Him, confess your weakness, and find your power in Christ.
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