Resisting the Devil

“Resistance is futile!” intones the Borg drone in Star Trek. “You will be assimilated.” The superior physical strength of the cyborg and the overwhelming superiority of the collective mind cannot be resisted. Defeat is inevitable. Resistance is futile.

Is Peter’s command to “resist the Devil” (1 Peter 5:9) similarly doomed to failure? Jesus successfully resisted him (Matthew 4, 16; Luke 4). But can an ordinary Christian believer resist the overwhelming might and superior intellect of his Satanic Majesty?

Thinking sensibly

To succeed in resisting the Devil we will need to take Peter’s advice on how to go about it. First he commands us to “be sober-minded” (1 Peter 5:8). We must have a realistic appreciation of who the Devil is, and what our situation is.

It is commonplace today to view the Devil in one of two ways. Either people treat him as a mythical character, often portrayed in cartoon format as a playful agent of frustration or malevolence. Or they are obsessed with him to the extent that he is behind every ill that befalls them, from stubbing their toe to contracting cancer. Neither view is sober-minded, or scriptural.

Peter describes the Devil as “a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). The metaphor shows that the Devil poses a serious threat to the life and well-being of the child of God. We may not dismiss the idea of a devil as a fanciful notion.

The threat is real, but we must not exaggerate it. The book of Job shows us the Devil is “God’s Devil”, as Martin Luther used to say. His power is not equal to God’s. Nor is it exercised apart from God, but is under God’s authority. He may not exercise it against the believing child of God beyond the limits imposed on him by God. The danger posed by the Devil is real, but he is not omnipotent. His power is constrained by Almighty God.

Looking out

Peter also advises us to “be watchful” (1 Peter 5:8). We must be vigilant, ever on the lookout for threats and attacks. If we are sober-minded we will not be obsessive about this, but we must take an active approach to the Devil’s schemes.

Peter’s description of the Devil and his approach give us an insight into the danger we face. And at the same time, some reflection on them will uncover great encouragement so that we may face him boldly.

Resisting our Adversary

As followers of Jesus Christ, the Devil is our Adversary. He is against us. He is our enemy. Peter doesn’t want us to think of the Devil as a great warrior, a spiritual Goliath we must face. Rather, he is our opponent in court. Once we see that ploy, we know that resistance is not futile, for we have an Advocate (1 John 2:1–2), a defence attorney, who is more than able to counter every legal argument the Devil may throw at us. Our salvation rests on a firm foundation. It is legally unassailable. We are justified, declared righteousness, by God, the Judge of all the earth. When our Adversary accuses us we can take comfort in Paul’s marvellous outburst: “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn?” (Romans 8:33–34)

Paul does not have to give an answer. It is absolutely clear. No one. Our Adversary does not have a case. His accusations will be thrown out of court every time by the Judge himself. We may resist him on solid legal grounds.

Resisting the slanderer

If “adversary” shows us the Devil’s attempt to use legal argument to attack us, “Devil” shows us another despicable ploy he often uses. He is not content just to employ legal means. If he cannot convict us, he will slander our Advocate.

This was his tactic in the Garden. Not content to lead Eve to doubt the truth of God’s word he came straight out with a downright lie. “You surely shall not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from [the tree] your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4–5)

Ever will the Devil seek to have us think less of God than we ought. “God is holding out on you.” “God is not fair.” “God will not hold you accountable for your sin.” “God is not telling the truth.”

But our God is a God of truth. “He is not a man that he should lie.” (Numbers 23:19, cf Titus 1:2) Often as he spoke Jesus prefixed his words with “I tell you the truth . . .” He is “The Way, and The Truth, and The Life” (John 14:6).

When we hear the Devil’s slander we must take comfort that God our Saviour is the God of Truth. We may depend on his word alone. That was how the Lord Jesus himself resisted the Devil in the wilderness (Luke 4). If we would resist the Devil we must turn to it as well. That presupposes we know it. May we get to know it better.

Resisting the Lion

Peter’s final description of the Devil shows him at his most devious. He can appear as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). Yet for all his reasonableness and pleasantness, he is at heart a roaring lion, hungry for dinner. And we are on the menu.

The Devil is, for all his majesty as heaven’s former Number 1 Angel, no better than a brute beast. He is driven by appetite and instinct. Dangerous, but not irresistible.

But we can take comfort in the fact that the Lord Jesus is the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5). And he has conquered death and sin and the Devil. His roar is much more terrifying than the Devil’s. His voice is as the roar of many waters (Revelation 1:15).

The Devil is God’s Devil, and Jesus is our Lion! And we are part of his tribe, for his people are “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). He is more than a match for our adversary in court, or in the jungle of life. We do not resist the Devil in our own strength and with our own resources. We do not resist him alone.

Resistance is not futile

A sober assessment of our enemy, our situation, and our resources leads us to the conclusion that resistance is not futile. We are defended by heaven’s great Advocate. We trust in the God of truth. And we are protected by the Lion of the tribe of Judah.

We can resist the Devil, firm in our faith. We do not believe in ourselves, but in Almighty God, under whose mighty hand we have humbled ourselves and to whose allegiance we have pledged ourselves.

We may face such a roaring lion as the Devil without fear because we can cast all our anxieties on the God who cares for us. He will not let us be devoured, though we may experience suffering, in common with our brothers and sisters worldwide. But “after [we] have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called [us] to his eternal glory in Christ will himself of restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish [us].” (1 Peter 5:10) And at that time we will echo Peter’s confident affirmation: “To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:11)

Resistance is not futile. We can and must resist the Devil. And we will resist him successfully if we rely on the resources that Almighty God has provided for us.

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This was first posted at Gilnahirk Baptist Web site on 26 Oct 2010.

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