Satan prowls to inflict trials on us
First St Johns June 1, 2014
Lord we raise up to You Jesus’ prayer that we are Yours, that we are in the world, but subject to the attacks of the world, subject to maliciousness of Satan and his demons, the malignant attacks of Satan to inflict death. We know that Your Holy Spirit protects us, but we also know that being foreigners in this world that we will be attacked. We are behind enemy lines and while we are faithful to You, we will be hated and people will speak evil about us. We know Father that You watch over us, protect us and ultimately return us to be with You, in the world You intended for us, to be citizens of the New Jerusalem. We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who are saved and protected in Jesus Christ said … AMEN!
He has risen! He has risen indeed Hallelujah. We are now at the end of the Easter season, we held Ascension Day worship on Thursday, only a few of you are probably aware of that… Our Gospel reading this morning is part of Jesus’ great priestly prayer. His prayer could be characterized in legal terms of His summary argument, He is at the end of His ministry in the incarnation. Only about half His prayer is in today’s reading, the prayer is a lot of what Jesus’ entire purpose was in the incarnation: “I glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou has given Me to do.” The Greek word teleio,w this same word is used by Jesus shortly after His prayer, John’s Gospel says that Jesus’ last word on the cross was tete,lestai which is the passive form of teleio,w In His “Priestly” prayer, He is saying that the goal He has been sent to accomplish has been achieved. On the cross He is saying that the goal He has been sent to accomplish has been achieved through Him. In the Coast Guard while you are conducting a mission, there are a series of messages sent to the next level of command, at my station we would send what are called “sitreps” to Group Boston on the progress of the mission, there would be a final “sitrep”, situation report, that would report the outcome of the mission. In Jesus’ final “sitrep” He is reporting to the Father that I have “glorified” You in My life. He goes on to say I have also organized a group of disciples who will be going into the world to be our avpo,stoloj our representatives, our messengers. They are still disciples, still learners, as Christians always are, but now they are God’s messengers, which we also become when we are taught and confirmed in the faith. Jesus is saying I have accomplished this goal of the incarnation. When Jesus is on the cross He is saying that the goal of redemption has been accomplished through Him, the sins of the world have been redeemed, they have been paid for, it has been done/finished through Him.
In His “High Priestly Prayer”, Jesus now goes on to say: “I have given them Thy word; and ‘the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” When we are in Jesus we are like Him, that we are not of this world, we are of Him, in this world. Jesus goes on to say: “I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.” The “evil one” can be translated to be the “vicious one, lewd, malicious, malignant, one who inflicts pain, causes calamity, affliction”. When we hear the word “malignant” what do we usually think of? … A malignant cancer. What is a “malignant cancer”, a cancer that causes death. The “evil one” Jesus refers to, Satan and his “malignant demons”, cause death, our sin gives them the opportunity to inflict death. Jesus is praying for our protection and we are certainly protected. But we are still subject to attack and it is how we respond to those attacks that is what truly matters as disciples and apostles of Christ.
Johnny had been misbehaving and was sent to his room. After a while he emerged and informed his mother that he had thought it over and then said a prayer. “Fine” said the pleased mother, “If you ask God not to misbehave, He will help you.” “Oh”, Johnny said, “I didn’t ask Him to help me not misbehave, I asked Him to help you put up with me.” As the Father’s still imperfect children, we still misbehave, as Peter points out Satan still continues to prowl about seeking someone to devour, Satan continues to try to find ways to provoke us to misbehave and we trust that God will continue to put up with our misbehavior in response to Satan’s provocations.
I have this big brown “Day-Timer” that I keep reminders of the tasks that I want to accomplish day to day, I also keep some reminders/promises that God makes to us all and one of them is this quote from Peter. I would encourage you to keep this as a constant reminder; “Your adversary the devil prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Instead of “someone” though I substitute “Jim”, so it’s “the devil prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking Jim to devour.” This is a very compelling warning. I like to remember that the reality is, we are the foreigners, we are the outsiders, Jesus refers to Satan as the “prince of this world” (Jn 16:11 KJV). It is to recognize the reality that Satan is still very much a malignant force in this world, he inflicts death and pain and misery and provokes sin at every opportunity. When Peter tells us to remember that Satan is prowling to find someone to devour, who is he talking to? What kind of person would be reading the Bible? Christians!
The beginning of our epistle reading says: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” I’ve often had people do just that, “how can God do this, why would He let this happen to me?” First off, God isn’t “doing this”, God does not inflict evil. But He does permit Satan to inflict evil. The non-Christian just can’t seem to comprehend the world around them, they do not understand that evil can afflict them, I’ve heard so many people say something to the effect that they are somehow entitled to be protected, they shouldn’t be subject to evil. The more accurate question would be “how can evil not happen to me?” Those who are so worldly, who think they are so sophisticated in the ways of the world, demonstrate amazing ignorance when their attitude is that they should be somehow immune to the “fiery trial”. The sad part is that they are not just subject to trial here, but through eternity they will continue to suffer. While we Christians are subject to trial, we are still under Jesus’ protection. Last week I referred to the Book of Revelation when God removes His protection from the earth. We think the earth is evil now, we whine about our trials, we are protected, because of Jesus’ prayer, we are cared for and watched over. As Christians, we do have a target on our back. Let’s face it, for those who do not know Jesus, for those who are lost, those who are condemned, there really isn’t much point for Satan to attack them. For those of us who do know Christ, who are saved in Him, who are not of this world, but still in this world, we are the targets, we are going to be subject to the roaring lion, Satan wants to undermine us, wants to deprive us of the perfect world that we are going to and he will never know. But since we are protected by the Holy Spirit we are spared the worst. Even if we die as a result of Satan’s attack what happens to us? We are in the presence of the Lord. Death for the Christian is only the start, the next stop on the road to the perfect life in the resurrection. Peter points out something that we should be regularly and painfully aware of “…the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” What you are going through maybe difficult, but there are Christians that are experiencing pain and deprivation even as we sit in the comfort of our beautiful church and that pain is a result of their faithfulness to Jesus. In our times of trial we need to remember Peter’s assurance: “…the God of all grace, … will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you…”
Don’t be surprised by the “fiery trial”, it will happen. We can’t allow ourselves to be devoured by Satan in our bitterness. Spend some time in your journal and really dissect this passage from Peter. What trials are you going through, relatives, friends, those who the Holy Spirit puts in your life to witness to? How can you give them hope and strength through this promise of Christ? The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.