Soberly Vigilant

Neil Girrard

Peter wrote, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”

The devil’s most effective lie is that he does not exist at all. His second most effective lie is that even though he exists, he is a complete buffoon who is totally inept at what ever it is that he is trying to do. His third most effective lie is that, well, he does exist and he is intelligent but he’s not really dangerous to the genuine follower of Christ in any way.

If this third lie were true, Peter would have written something like, “Relax, take your ease, because your debating partner the devil walks about like a harmless kitten looking for someone to pet and feed him.” Note well that Peter did not say that or anything like that! And note well also that it is Satan who most often says to us, “Relax, take your ease…”

Some believers act as though Satan were entirely harmless and they decry any attempt to expose the schemes and strategies of Satan as an overemphasis on the devil and ridicule those who “see a demon behind every rock.” They rely on Jesus’ statements that He has given us power to tread on scorpions and snakes and that nothing will in any way harm us. This is true – so long as we are going where He has sent us and proclaiming His gospel. His promise holds nothing for those who are going wherever they think best and who are proclaiming whatever part of the Bible they prefer in whatever manner they like.

Three mistakes are often made by those who do attempt to wrestle their spiritual adversaries: First, they over-estimate his power against them. Though he could truly rend them in an instant, he is restrained by God from doing any more than He has allowed Satan to do. In this sense, Satan is God’s servant to buffet and oppress us so that we can learn for ourselves that God’s grace is sufficient to overcome all the schemes and strategies of the devil and his demonic hordes.

The second very common mistake is to fail to gain the Lord’s understanding of the devil’s strategies. Most people who claim to follow Christ are already so immersed under the devil’s deceptions that he doesn’t attack them in anything resembling honest warfare – most often they are already his ready pawns, zealous to uphold whatever deception he has managed to secure them under. He attacks them only enough so as to “confirm” to them that they simply “must be” in God’s will for their lives. The faithful “church” member, as but one example, who is submitted to the headship of a “pastor” (whether at an institutional building or at a home “church”) is already such a willing participant in the schemes of Satan that he has no need to attack such a one. But let that one be shown the Lord’s light and truth and begin to listen only to the true Shepherd’s voice and the demonic will be forced into a more frontal mode of assault.

The third very common mistake is to fear the devil. Peter said to be sober and vigilant, ready to resist the devil. But he did not suggest in any way that we fear him;. Indeed, to do so is to succumb to yet another of his deceptive schemes. We must not fear the one who can only destroy our flesh - rather we must fear Him who could destroy both flesh and soul, that is, God. We must rely on Him who has promised to draw near to us and cover us in His shadow as we draw near to Him. Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world. Our mistake is to draw near to the devil and to resist God.

Our relationship (for lack of a better term) to the devil is to be neither nonexistent nor misguided nor miscalculated nor misplaced nor fearful. ?In fact, our interactions with the devil and the demonic are to be much like working around heavy machinery - always respectful of the machine’s strength and power but likewise careful to not get caught up in or trapped by its moving parts! Like all other aspects of our life in Christ, we must see things as they actually are, as God says they are. If we subscribe to any of Satan’s lies, he does gain a measure of power and control over us precisely because we have failed to obey God in that area. Wherever we fail to be sober and vigilant is precisely where we can expect to be deceived and diverted from God’s will for our lives.

Let he who has ears hear.

1 Peter 5:8
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