Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Being Sober, Alert, and Standing Firm (1 Peter 5:8-9)

“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” (1 Peter 5:8–9, NASB95)

When I read these verses I frequently think right away of Cain and Abel. They are the first two children of Adam and Eve, and they are the closest two people could have ever been to having lived in perfection but never having done so. Their parents were created without sin and placed in the garden, but when they disobeyed God as Eve was tempted by the serpent and Adam who was with her both ate of the one tree from which they were forbidden to eat, sin entered man. Adam and Eve were banished from the garden, and all of their children were born in their same fallen state.

But God did not abandon them. We know this because at beginning of chapter 4 we read, “Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, “I have gotten a manchild with the help of the Lord.” Again, she gave birth to his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering;” (Genesis 4:1–4, NASB95)

Eve recognized that her children were a gift from God. Then when her sons were older we read they on their own brought offerings to the Lord. It seems a very reasonable assumption that God was present in their home. The children learned to some degree of Him as they were raised, and that they continued to look to Him as they got older. But there also appeared a difference between the two, with each taking a different path in regard to their work and their worship of God. Verse 4 tells us that that the younger brother, Abel, brought the best of his flock and their fat portions, and that “the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering;” Abel did not hold anything back from God. But verse 5 paints a different picture of Cain. We read, “but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell.” (Genesis 4:5, NASB95)

Cain gave, it seems, out of obligation and not worship, and he was not happy that God had no regard for his offering. I don’t know what the communication was like that they had with God, but it certainly seems that it must have been reasonably intimate because Cain knew that God was not pleased with what he had brought. In fact, we continue to read that God spoke to Cain in his angry and face fallen or downcast state. He said to him, “Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”” (Genesis 4:6–7, NASB95)

God spoke to him!! God spoke to Cain and asked him what was up? Why was he so distressed and angry? Then God told him that if he did well then it would all change, but if he refused then he was making himself an open target to be consumed by his sin. He told Cain that sin was seeking to destroy him, but that he had to master it. The rest of the story for Cain is that he did not listen to God. In fact, he went out and found his brother, told his brother what had transpired between him and God, and then he killed his brother, Abel.

Our passage for today tells us the same thing. We have an enemy crouching at the door seeking to destroy us. This is not a fantasy. It is very real. We need to be real about it. Sin destroys and there is a destroyer after us who is the devil. He is relentless and continually on the prowl like a roaring lion, and he is not nice. We are not to open ourselves to him. We are told to be “sober-minded” about this reality. We are to think clearly about these things, and be constantly watchful for those opportune moments when he would strike. And then our instruction is simply to resist and stand firm in our faith knowing that we are not alone.

Our victory does not lie in our own strength, but in our faith. Cain had likely become self-focused and self-dependent. He did not rely on God nor was he focused on doing what God had for him despite having even having had a personal relationship with God. God spoke to Him, and God speaks to us. Today we have His Word, and in His Word we are shown the way to stand victoriously in the midst of spiritual attack. One of the most pointed passages on this is found in Ephesians chapter 6 where we read not only of the nature of the battle but also of our being armored to fight it. Every single piece of armor points back to Christ. It is His truth that we are to wrap around ourselves as our belt or as the firm foundation of all that we know. It is His righteousness that has been put upon us and not our puffed-up breast which is so easily pierced. It is because of what He has done for us that we are at peace with God and we can stand with our feet shod in peace in the midst of the fiercest battle. We don’t have to hide behind our weakness but behind His strength as we are saved by faith, and it that faith that is before us as an impenetrable shield. And, when the enemy would like to sever our heard and scramble our thoughts, it is the certain knowledge that we are forever saved that is our helmet that gives us hope to stand and victoriously endure. Our sword with which we defend those attacks that can come so quickly and from every which angle is all of those promises of His Word and the things which we know of Him. His Word is our sword. Armed in Christ, we are made to stand strong against our enemy who might seem to come in flesh in various ways, but in reality is unseen by us but fully known by God. 

Paul continued in Ephesians 6 to encourage us to pray for one another. “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,” (Ephesians 6:18, NASB95). Looking here to Peter’s words, we are reminded that indeed we are not alone. There are others engaged in the same battle who are being made able to stand firm by our same Lord. In this we can not only be strengthened in numbers, but also supported in prayer.

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