The Reality of the Devil and his Temptations

Part Two


Our Scripture reading is in I Peter 5.


            Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

(1 Peter 5:8-11 ESV)


Last week we considered the reality of the devil, his character, his powers, and how he tempts. We saw that he is real and we can know that he is real because the greatest teacher of all time, the Lord Jesus, taught that he was real and that he affects our lives. We observed what he is like by considering his names.


  • He accuses us
  • He is our enemy
  • He is a liar
  • He is evil
  • He is a rebel and tries to get us to rebel against the authorities in our life
  • He is perverse
  • He is a murderer
  • He is a tempter
  • He tries to destroy us.


These are only a few of the things that describe him.


We saw that he has great ability.


  • He has greater power than men
  • He has greater knowledge than men
  • He can place thoughts in our mind
  • He can cause disease
  • He can control the weather.


These things are true of demons as well. In fact, it will not be Satan himself who tempts you and tries to deceive you. It will be a demon. Both the devil and demons are evil spirits who seek the destruction of your soul. They will try to lead you into sin and to make foolish decisions that will ruin your life.  Therefore, we must prepare ourselves to resist him. The Bible often speaks of the activities of subordinates as being done by their head. Since demons have the devil as their head or their leader, demonic activity is attributed to the devil. Resisting the devil means resisting whatever spirit is tempting you or deceiving you.


We also saw how he tempts us. He can place a sinful thought in or minds at just the right time – when the circumstances to sin are readily available. He influences us toward certain sins that lead to other sins. He knows which sins to concentrate upon. Sins such as:


  • Ignorance. He will try to keep you from reading and being familiar with the Scriptures.
  • Error. He will keep you from examining those things that you hold but are wrong about. He will get you to refrain from hearing counsel from godly men or women because you think you already know what is right.
  • Unbelief. He will try to get you to question God’s word even when it is plain.
  • Pride. This was his sin. He wants you to participate in it. It’s all about you, don’t you know?
  • Unthankfulness: a foundational sin that leads to so many others! Satan loves an ungrateful heart.
  • Sensuality. He (or one of his demons) is called “a spirit of fornication” in Hosea 4:12. But, don’t you know, it’s not really fornication. It’s just “being loved and appreciated.”


We can sin all on our own because we have desires of our own that are contrary to what is good and right (James 1:14-15). The devil and his hosts merely make our struggle against indwelling sin more intense and more difficult.


[I] Because the devil is prowling we must be sober minded. In verse 8 of our passage Peter writes, “Be sober-minded. Be watchful…” The NKJV has:


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


Some versions have “be sober-minded” and some have “be sober.” Which is it? The word in the original language can be used to describe either condition: being sober or being sober-minded, that is, a serious disposition of mind. Both are true. We are to be sober, not to be intoxicated with either alcohol or other drugs. We are also to be sober-minded. We are to have a serious disposition because there is a spiritual battle raging. Having a serious mind does not mean that we cannot be light-hearted at times. We can have a sense of humor. What it does mean is that our lives are not characterized by frivolity and constant humor. Robin Williams was a comedian that was never “off.” He could not carry on a serious conversation. Every time I observed him on a talk show he was constantly silly. We learned later that his non-stop funniness was covering up a miserable, discontented life.


Even Jesus had a sense of humor. Sometimes it is lost in translation and lack of familiarity with 1st century Jewish culture, but he did. Think of his question, “What father among you, if his son asks for an egg, would give him a scorpion?” That is a funny image! Likewise, a camel passing through the eye of a needle. Yet, he was sober-minded. He was focused on his mission. What an example he is to us! We, too, can be and should be sober-minded.


We must be both sober and sober-minded because the devil is seeking to devour us. This means he seeks to consume us, to take us into his plans and his schemes.


[II] Because the devil is prowling we must be watchful. The first way to prepare for spiritual warfare is to be sober-minded. Next, we must be watchful.


Before 1860, how could you get a communication from Missouri to California? There was no telephone. The transcontinental telegraph system had not been built yet – that would be in 1861. The transcontinental railroad had not been built yet. Prior to 1860 the only way you could send a letter was by getting it on a wagon heading west. That means your letter would get to California anywhere from 25 days to 2 months later. But some enterprising people got together and changed that in 1860. What was established in 1860 that would speed things up? Answer: The Pony Express! Trivia question: Where did the Pony Express begin? Answer: St. Joseph, Missouri.


When it comes to being on the alert and ready at any moment to do the job, it’s hard to beat the Pony Express. This historically famous mail service between St. Joseph, Missouri, and California depended on constant movement and readiness. Relay stations were established every ten to fifteen miles. A rider would shout aloud as he approached a station, giving the station master very short notice that he needed to be outside waiting with a fresh mount. Even when a rider came to the station where he was to spend the night, another rider was already mounted and waiting, ready to grab the first rider’s bundle of packages and continue the trip. They cut down the time it took to deliver a letter in half. They could get a letter from St Joseph to San Francisco in 10 days.


It was a dangerous job. There were dangers from Indians, bandits, and the perils of the wild. An ad for riders was this one:


Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over eighteen. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.


The riders had to be ever vigilant and watchful, looking out for danger and robbery. Six riders were killed during the short 19 months that the Pony Express operated. If you were watchful your chances of survival were much higher. If you were uncaring or oblivious to the dangers then you were apt to suffer. The attendants of the relay stations were in even more danger because they were often located in isolated areas and were stationary. They were called stock keepers and sixteen were murdered in those days.


The riders had to take a loyalty oath. This was their oath:


“I do hereby swear, before the Great and Living God, that during my engagement, and while an employee of Russell, Majors and Waddell, I will, under no circumstances, use profane language, that I will drink no intoxicating liquors, that I will not quarrel or fight with any other employee of the firm, and that in every respect I will conduct myself honestly, be faithful to my duties, and so direct all my acts as to win the confidence of my employers, so help me God.”  Any rider caught breaking the terms of his oath was dismissed without pay.


Can you take such an oath?


“I do hereby swear, before the Great and Living God, that during my engagement as a servant of Jesus Christ while on this earth, I will, under no circumstances, use profane language, that I will never be drunk, that I will not quarrel or fight with any other member of the Body of Christ, and that in every respect I will conduct myself honestly, be faithful to my duties, and so direct all my acts as to win the confidence of my employers, my family members, and my fellow saints, so help me God.”


Most riders of the Pony Express were not even Christians, yet they took the oath. Can followers of Jesus? Of course they can! Such an oath will help us be watchful!


[III] Because the devil is prowling we must resist him. We saw last week, in the book of James, that a person is tempted by their own desires. We do not need to have an evil spirit tempt us in order to sin. However, we must be aware that they are here and they can make temptation more difficult. Therefore, we must resist. If we resist we shall find victory.


“Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)


How do we resist? To resist is more than trying to deny the temptation. The quitessential example of resisting the devil’s temptations is found in how our Lord faced them in the desert.


[READ Matthew 4:1-11]


The most important truth to take away from this experience of our Lord is that the way that Jesus resisted the devil is by quoting Scripture. He did not rely upon his will power. He did not rely upon his good intentions. He did not rely upon outsmarting the devil. He relied upon the word of God! We must do the same!


Do not expect to successfully resist temptation unless you have God’s word in your heart. We must know God’s word.


How did Jesus know God’s word well enough to be able to quote it to the devil himself? He did not get to know it simply because he was the Son of God.  Someone might say, “Well, he is the eternal Son of God. He actually wrote it all to begin with by inspiring men to write Scripture so, of course, he is going to know it.” No! Jesus emptied himself when he came to this world. He was born of a woman. He had to learn how to walk and learn how to talk just like you and me. He had to learn how to read. And, he had to learn the Scriptures by reading them and studying them.


So must we. If we hope to resist temptation. One of the reasons why people, including Christians, sin is because they are ignorant of God’s will in a matter. If they are not ignorant then, often, they are not fully convinced that something is a sin. They may have been taught that something was wrong by their parents or by their Sunday School teacher but, when temptation comes, they think, “Is it really wrong?  All it really is….” Or, “Everyone else is doing it. My mom (or my teacher) must be wrong.” (The devil’s favorite deception for young people.)


But when you know that God has said it clearly in his word, when you have it memorized, it takes away all doubt. Not only so, but the word of God is powerful and quick. It is living! When we quote it there is a power that comes to us in time of need.


And, observe, that in resisting the first temptation to eat, Jesus quotes from Deut. 8:3.


            But he answered, “It is written,

            “‘Man shall not live by bread alone,

                        but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

(Matthew 4:4 ESV)


We shall not live by food alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God! Jesus cites the very mode of triumph that he uses to defeat Satan in his first response.


Jesus had to learn the Scriptures by reading them and studying them. Then he used them to resist temptation. So must we.


Verse 11 reads,         Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.


When you cite Scripture temptation leaves you and you will even be ministered to by angels!


The power of the Scriptures is predicated upon your faith. This is why Peter writes, “be firm in your faith.” This is also why the Scriptures themselves carry greater effectiveness than the teachings of your parents or the preacher. Because we have more faith in them. We ought to have faith in our parents and we ought to have faith in our church leaders. But we also ought to have more faith in the Scriptures themselves.


We need to know that the Scriptures are from God Himself. Jesus did. And there is no more reliable authority that has ever lived.


[IV. Conclusion] We are in a battle for the souls of men. Not only the souls of our friends and neighbors; but our own souls. In this battle we must be aware that the devil like a roaring lion seeking to devour us. Do not think that you are doing so well that you are not in danger. If you are thinking along those lines then you must take heed lest you fall.


  • Because the devil is prowling we must be both sober and sober-minded.
  • Because the devil is prowling we must be watchful. Like those Pony Express riders, we have to be wary of the dangers that are out there. Right now in the midst of the church we have extra safety. When you walk out those doors dangers await. Take the Pony Express oath. It will help you to be watchful.
  • Because the devil is prowling we must resist him. The way we resist him is by knowing Scripture. By being able to quote it as Jesus did.


In our passage, Peter wrote about suffering and links this with the devil. What is that about? By God’s grace we will see that next week.