8Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
4Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3And the tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread." 4But he answered, "It is written,
"'Man shall not live by bread alone,but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"
5Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,
"'He will command his angels concerning you,'
"'On their hands they will bear you up,lest you strike your foot against a stone.'"
7Jesus said to him, "Again it is written, 'You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'" 8Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9And he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me." 10Then Jesus said to him, "Be gone, Satan! For it is written,
"'You shall worship the Lord your Godand him only shall you serve.'"
11Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.
21From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "Far be it from you, Lord!Or "[May God be] merciful to you, Lord!" This shall never happen to you." 23But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindranceGreek stumbling block to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man."
24Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright (c)2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. http://www.esv.org
“Be sober-minded; be watchful.” If that’s all Peter had said, most of us would agree. We need a sound mind and a watchful eye for any number of reasons. But Peter grounds our thinking and watching in a confusing and frightening reality. We need to think well and keep our eyes open because we have an adversary, a fallen angel who “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour”. Does our life feel like war, like someone is seeking to devour us? Some of us came to Peter looking for a spiritual pick-me-up, but now he ushers us into the war room. We should have known this might happen, for when it comes to spiritual warfare, Peter is an experienced guide, tested and tried. This may not be the message we wanted, but this is the message we need. So when we hear about our adversary, how should we respond?
We shouldn’t remain oblivious. Paul says that “we are not ignorant of [Satan’s] designs” (2 Corinthians 2:11), but sadly, many are. The modern naturalistic worldview makes Peter’s teaching about the devil seem outdated or untenable. The march of technology and science makes the reality of a spiritual realm seem unlikely. But in Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis’s fictional tempter explains, “Our policy, for the moment, is to conceal ourselves.” Could all these atmospheric challenges play into the demonic strategy of working behind the scenes? Of course. It doesn’t matter how the enemy conceals himself as long as we remain oblivious. How can we win a war when we’re not even aware of it?
When we learn about the devil, we also shouldn’t become obsessed. As the pendulum swings, we can quickly move from ignorance to obsession. We didn’t “see” the devil at all before, and now we see him everywhere, creeping under every rock, hiding around every corner. Once we gave the devil no credit; now we give him too much. We forget that “those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (2 Kings 6:16), that He who is in us “is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). When this happens, our enemy becomes greater in our imaginations than our Strength and Shield, Jesus Christ. How can we win a war when we don’t realize that our resources are far greater than the enemy’s?
No, when we learn about the devil, we should not remain oblivious or become obsessed. By God’s grace, we should live as those who are informed but not intimated. We should be sober-minded and watchful, aware of the devil’s schemes, but confident in Christ's victory. Because Adam (and all of us) have yielded to temptation, Jesus went into the wilderness—led by the Spirit!—and resisted Satan’s temptation in our place. Like a roaring lion, the devil sought to devour Jesus, but in the desert, in the Garden of Gethsemane, on the cross, and in His resurrection, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah has dealt the devil a deadly blow. As we engage in the fight of faith, do we rest in the victory of Christ?
The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure;
For lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.