Sleeping With the Enemy
The Lord allows various trials in our lives so that we might draw closer to him.† These trials take on many forms, shapes and sizes.† I am writing this interpretation because I believe its information could be helpful to a person who is under a specific permitted demonic attack.† Just like we all have various and intimate personal relationships with the Lord, we also have various and intimate trials the Lord allows us to undergo.† It is my hope this interpretation will instruct the reader how to become wiser in their relationship with God as well as give them instruction so they can become a better steward of the faith God has entrusted unto them (1 Corinthians 4:1-2).
And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.† And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death.† And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.
Here we are given an intimate look at the spiritual battle that is permitted in the lives of Godís people (Job 1, 2).† The Devil thinks he can win and deter Godís people because he is a liar (John 8:44), but God, in his infinite wisdom (Romans 11:33), will allow the Devil to buffet us (1 Corinthians 4:11, 2 Corinthians 12:7, 1 Peter 2:20) so that we will be conformed into the image of his son Jesus Christ (Hebrews 12:5-8).† In this specific situation God was going to allow the Devil to sift or buffet Peter because God had a perfect ordained plan for Peterís life (Jeremiah 29:11).† It turns out that God, on the day of Pentecost, was going to use Peter as a strategically placed spiritual leader but before this happened, God needed Peter to learn a very wise and important lesson.† To have confidence in the spiritual and not in the fleshly.
For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.†
God needed Peter to learn to abide in the Spirit of God (John 15:4-5).† Because of Peterís false boldness concerning his fleshly confidence God could never effectively use Peter as a vessel of honor (Romans 9:21, 1 Thessalonians 4:4, 2 Timothy 2:20).† Peter needed to learn that only perfect love, and never fleshy boldness or confidence, could ever suffer and die for our Lord Jesus Christ.† Perfect love has absolutely nothing to do with fleshly confidence, but has everything to do with submission to the love of Christ (Spirit of Christ).† Simply put, Peter need to be purged of his false confidence, and God was going to use the Devil as his instrument to purge Peter (or sift Peter).
1 John 4:17-19
Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.† There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.† We love him, because he first loved us.
God needed Peter to learn that when perfect love was sanctified in him, and this by the Spirit of Christ, that this love would enable him to become complete (James 1:4 = 1 Corinthians 13:13) in order that he might suffer and die for our Lord Jesus Christ.† It was because God allowed this sifting process in Peterís life that Peter eventually learned that boldness, as well as a desire to suffer, would never come from his fleshly confidence (pride), but from his submission eventually yielding a spiritual impartation, which would only come about by him patiently abiding in the Spirit of Christ.† Peter (after the sifting) made a conscious choice to abide in Christís Spirit, and as a result, on the day of Pentecost, he preached one of the most beautiful sermons ever recorded (Acts 2:14-41).
Now that I have briefly outlined a simple example which clarifies why the Lord would allow Christians to be sifted, I would like to take a closer look at the sifting process God used in Peterís life and observe what we can learn from Peterís process.
Jesus said to Peter:
Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.
Converted?† But Peter had already made a confession of faith (Matthew 16:16-18).† So whatís this ďconvertedĒ the Lord is talking about?
When Peter made his original confession of faith in Matthew 16 it was a spiritual conversion.† The Father from heaven, and not man, had revealed to Peter that Jesus indeed was Lord, and Peter had confessed Jesus as Christ by faith.† This was a spiritual conversion, the first actually, and this confession by Peter became the rock the church is built upon that the gates of hell will never prevail against.† But itís also obvious from Peterís track record that at times he seemed to have a mind of his own (John 13:6-9, Luke 22:33, Matthew 16:23).† What I am saying is that although Peterís confession of faith was very real and very spiritual, fully accepted and received by God the Father, that the confession lacked character.† Basically the confession became Peterís salvation, but the confession by itself would never impart a converted character in Peter.† The conversion Jesus was referring to in Luke 22 was Peterís converted character.† God the Father used Satan to sift Peter as wheat because God was going to root out of Peter (convert) any fleshly confidence in himself (pride) and then leave glimmering, through tears (Luke 22:62, Luke 6:21, Isaiah 30:19), a spiritual steadfastness and confidence (faith) (Ephesians 3:12, Isaiah 30:15) in Jesus Christ.† This buffeting/sifting/purging process, demonstrated in Peterís early Christian life, is one of the extreme methods God will use to purify and convert our faith and character in order that we might accurately, according to knowledge, draw closer to him.
I want to quickly add that Peterís original confession lacking character is a common attribute among all confessions of faith.† When any Christian makes his or her confession of faith then it will be accepted by God but it will always lack Christ-like character.† This is because at the point of spiritual conversion none of us are spiritually discerned or even know ourselves (1 Corinthians 2:14).† Right from the onset God, allowing the Devil to sift Peter, was seeking to bring about the beginning (or the foundation) of the sanctification process within Peterís life (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4).† This process, once in full bloom (it takes years upon years), would build within Peter the maturity to gain the fruits of the Spirit on a continual basis.† By quickly building a foundation for sanctification in Peterís life, God was actually honoring Peterís faith and life in Christ, although this foundation did come by way of humbling circumstances.† God, choosing to work this way in Peterís life, showed he trusted in Peterís ability to be sifted (Hebrews 12:5-11).† This is important to understand.† Going through this process, or even learning this process, is hard work.† Much like Jobís temptation (Job 1, 2), God had the belief that Peter would endure, though Jesusí prayers (intercession) obviously assisted in the matter.† I just want to make it very clear that it is not wise to assume Peter was weak because of his early mistakes.† Peter was the only apostle that Satan had permission to sift.† It just so happens that Peterís early life and struggles exemplifies how God desires, and then works toward that desire, that a man should be conformed into the image of his son (Romans 8:29, 2 Corinthians 3:18, Hebrews 12:5-8).††
So how exactly did the Lord allow Satan to sift or buffet Peter?† What were Satanís methods and what can we learn from these methods?†
The bible offers us two clear situations in which Peterís faith, personality and character were sifted.
Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus.† Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?
Here, at Jesusí betrayal, Peter makes a choice to follow his
heart and act on his fleshly emotions.†
The swords that the Lord commanded his disciples to carry according to
the scriptures (Luke 22:36-38), would eventually become an instrument of
testing.† We must notice that although
Jesusí disciples were commanded to carry the swords, they were never instructed
to use them (John 18:11, Matthew 26:52).†
The swords purpose was a test to set in motion the witness Jesus wanted
to demonstrate.† This test basically
allowed hearts to be manifest, and Peter failed that test.† You might be asking, ďbut the Lord commanded
the disciples to carry the swords so what does the Devil have to do with any of
this?Ē† It was the Devil who created the
situation.† The scene in the
Then took they him (the Lord), and led him, and brought him into the high priest's house. And Peter followed afar off.† And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them. But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with him.† And he denied him, saying, Woman, I know him not.† And after a little while another saw him, and said, Thou art also of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not.† And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilaean.† And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew.† And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.† And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.
This was the second situation in which Peter was sifted.† Notice here the Devil uses three distinct people at exactly the right time in order to sift Peter wonderfully (Daniel 8:24, Job 1:14-19).† The method serves its purpose.† This second situation breaks Peter down to humble tears and actually sets the foundation for Peterís sanctified conversion.
Like I mentioned before, Peterís faith was real but his understanding and character needed to be purged.† It was fleshly and it was burdened with prideful convictions and overconfidence.† The Lord used the Devil to create situations in order to reveal these things to Peter.† The Lord wanted Peterís eyes open (and heart open) to his shortcomings so he allowed these sifting situations to humbly break Peter down in order to yield a true conversion via consistent repentance.† This would in turn lead to a more sanctified view (understanding) of his false convictions, and would create a workable foundation for the Lord to thoroughly build upon for the future.† These sifting situations stimulated Peter to reexamine his faith (2 Corinthians 13:5) so he would not be in a place of false misunderstanding but in a place of teachable submission.
So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these (referring to his brethren)? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.† He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.† He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep
The Lord, after his crucifixion and resurrection, affirmed that Peter should strengthen his brethren or ďfeed my lambs/sheep.Ē† Here the Lord was confirming Peterís God given ministry (Galatians 2:7) and was also baring witness to the fact that the sifting process had yielded a true character conversion.† Peter was now in a humble place, poised to fulfill the words of:
And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren (feed my sheep).
Basically John 21 is the fulfilling of Luke 22.† In Luke 22 Peter is told that he would be sifted as wheat but that his faith would became sanctified (converted) in order that he might strengthen his brethren.† In John 21, when Jesus tells Peter to ďfeed his sheepĒ the sifting process has begun and Jesus is confirming Peter, who is now in the ongoing process of a purified faith, that the time has come for him (a converted Peter) to feed his sheep, and to fulfill the obligations of his calling and the burdens of his faith (John 21:18, Luke 22:33).†
It is comforting to know that Jesus was with Peter before the sifting even began, prayed for Peter, and then reappeared to confirm in Peter after the sifting had begun.† The Lord admonished at the beginning, comforted in the middle, and edified through enlightenment in the end.† This example reminds me of a verse in Davidís Psalm 23:
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
As David walked through the valley of the shadow of death Jesus was with him.† A valley is in the mist of two opposite ridges.† One ridge is the beginning of the valley and the other ridge is the end, the valley is in the middle.† Notice what David says.† ďThough I walk through.Ē† God didnít just leave him there, in the middle of the valley; he walked with him all the way through.† God began the journey with David on the first ridge, was there to comfort him with his rod (discipline) and staff (mercy) throughout, and then finished on the second ridge.† The Lord was with David all the way through.† This is exactly how it was with Peter in the sifting process.† When Jesus told Peter he would be sifted as wheat it was the first ridge, the actual sifting and trials of faith Peter endured represented the valley Peter had to walk through (middle), and then Jesus reappearing to encourage Peter (enlightenment) was the final ridge.† Jesus never left his side (Luke 22:32).† Isnít it incredibly comforting to know that even though we will fall (Psalm 37:23-24) and end up weeping bitterly, that Jesus will reappear to comfort us when we least expect it?† I wanted to include this segment in order to remind and to comfort Godís people that even though the Lord will allow the Devil certain leverage in our lives, that the Lord is faithful throughout the duration of any and all such processes.†
What can we learn from the Devil sifting us?
God has given the Devil power against us.† The Devil has been given the authority to sift us according to the measure God allows (Job 1:12, 2:6, Revelation: 13:7).† Like I said before, Godís reason for doing this is to shape us and mold us into the image of his suffering Son (Hebrews 5:8, Romans 8:29, 2 Corinthians 3:18, Hebrews 12:5-8).† Being conformed to the image of Christ comes through suffering (2 Timothy 2:12).† God didnít only want Peter saved, he wanted Peter saved and then conformed into the image of his Son so he allowed a suffering and sifting process in order to build a foundation toward that desire (1 Peter 1:6-7, 2:20-21).
ÖSo the Devil has this authority.† What can we do about it besides suffer patiently (1 Peter 2:20)?† As we are sifted and buffeted what should we do in order to be good stewards of the grace and faith God has imparted unto us?† It is very likely we will fall during this sifting season (Psalm 37:23-24) but what can we learn as we are being exercised throughout this difficult process (Hebrews 12:11)?
Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
2 Corinthians 2:11
Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.
One of the things we can learn is that we should grow wise concerning Satanís tactics.† It is not possible for someone to be as wise as a serpent unless he has spent time with the serpent.† The more time you spend with the Devil, the better you are able to learn of his devices.† If God has given the Devil the authority to hang around you and reap havoc in your life then take full advantage of the situation.† As Satan sifts you, sift him right back.† Learn his tactics.† Understand his devices.† Understand how he uses people and their weakness against you and then grow wise concerning these situations, but stay merciful.† Remember:
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
We must always remember that the Devil uses people but that people are not our enemy.† A lot of times the Devil will use the doubt, ignorance or insecurities (1 Timothy 1:13, Corinthians 4:3) within people in order to get a foothold into our lives but this doesnít mean we should hold a grudge against people.† We are merely supposed to observe and understand how the Devil is using these people and then grow wise regarding these tactics.
We as Christians donít have the authority when the Devil is sifting our lives.† The only authority we have is the authority Christ had, which was to rely on the Father.† We must also remember the Lord will never allow us to be tempted beyond we are able (1 Corinthians 10:13).† The reason we do not have the direct authority in this situation is not because we donít have the power of Christ (Philippians 4:13), but because God has ordained these sifting situations for our own spiritual well being (2 Corinthians 12:7-10, 1 Peter 4:19, Hebrews 5:8-9).† Therefore, for this reason, we are to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:3), and as any good soldier knows, we are to know our enemy.