|Volume 20 Number 2 February 2018||
Jesus speaking to Peter in Luke 22:31-32 said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” Being sifted carries the idea of being examined, selected, scrutinized, sorted, gone through or to be put through a strainer. As disconcerting as Jesus knew this would be for Peter, He told him that He was praying for him that his faith would not fail. It doesn’t get any better than that!
“But he said to Him, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death’” (Luke 22:33). Peter was bold and brash. He was staunch in his declarations of loyalty and commitment. Jesus called him out and said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me” (Luke 22:34). His lack of courage in the face of a most undeniable truth–that he was a disciple of Jesus–would bring him to his knees. Peter’s sifting was inevitable because Jesus had forewarned him of what was about to occur.
Satan had already sifted Judas through the strainer of his insatiable greed for money and had ground him to powder! Luke 22:1-6 records this treacherous plot among the chief priests, the scribes and Judas. The chief priests and scribes were hunting for a way to kill Jesus, for they feared the people. Verses 3-6 reveals, “Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered with the twelve. So he went his way and conferred with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray Him to them. And they were glad and agreed to give him money. So he promised and sought opportunity to betray Him to them in the absence of the multitude.” The betrayer of Jesus was also a first-rate coward in this money-ravenous conspiracy. Judas went to the chief priests and asked them what were they willing to give him (Matthew 26:14-16).
Following His prayer in Gethsemane, Jesus had come to His disciples and found them sleeping from sorrow. Luke 22:46-48 reads, “Then He said to them, ‘Why do you sleep? Rise and pray lest you enter into temptation.’ And while He was still speaking, behold, a multitude; and he who was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them and drew near to Jesus to kiss Him. But Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?’” Luke 22:52-53 reads, “Then Jesus said to the chief priests, captains of the temple, and the elders who had come to Him, ‘Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs? When I was with you daily in the temple, you did not try to seize Me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.’” At that moment in time, Satan and sin were ruling. Satan had sifted the crowd like wheat through its total intolerance and hatred for the Son of God! Pilate knew that the chief priests had handed Jesus over because of envy. They said He had spoken blasphemy, and stirring up the crowd, they said He was deserving of death. Satan’s sifting was at its ugliest!
In his first letter to Timothy, among many other subjects, Paul instructed him to honor widows who were really widows. Paul told Timothy that those who were really widows were ones having no children or grandchildren to take care of them, trusted in God and continued in supplications and prayers night and day. He then made this most pointed assertion in 1 Timothy 5:6, “But she who lives in pleasure [indulgence] is dead while she lives.” Satan’s sifting is lethal every time.
Then, Paul instructed Timothy not to let a widow under sixty-years-old to be “taken into the number” unless she met several very particular qualifying conditions (verses 9-10). Paul further stated that younger widows were to be refused enrollment as deserving the church’s support. Several reasons were given for this divine instruction in verses 11-14. Verse 15 is distressing because the sifting by the enemy was evident. “For some have already turned aside after Satan.” The only power that Satan has is the power we give him. If we allow him to cause us to become spiritually unbalanced, the eternal consequence will be the lake of fire.
We are warned about our rogue enemy Satan through countless passages. God has given us these warnings through the countless lives of those who stood in opposition to Him since the Garden of Eden. God has warned us that the ultimate consequence of following the father of lies will be eternal hell.
A preacher made this observation in a sermon, stating that Satan has three diabolical objectives that he will never abandon. Those objectives are: (1) Keep people out of the church. (2) Get people back in the world. (3) Render people useless in the church. He explained that Satan knows if he can keep you out of the kingdom of God—the church—you remain in his kingdom. He said if Satan is not successful in keeping you out of the kingdom of God, he will work tirelessly to get you back into his kingdom—the world. He said if Satan is unsuccessful in getting you back into the world, his unceasing aim is to render you useless in the kingdom of God. If Satan is successful in these objectives, he knows he will have you in hell forever.
These thoughts are from an article that was used in a church bulletin. The article is entitled “The Ol’ Devil” by Guy Orbison, Jr. In part it reads:
The devil comes to us with a plan. He was not through with Jesus until he had “finished every temptation” he planned. Satan is wily and organized. He “schemes” and tries to take advantage of us by his strategies (2 Corinthians 2:11). It is not by chance that the ‘ol devil crosses our path…but by design.
The devil departs from us only temporarily. After a series of temptations, Satan did leave Jesus alone, but it was only until another “opportune time” appeared. The ol’ devil will not leave us alone for long. One victory over his temptations does not end the war. Therefore, we must arm ourselves (Ephesians 6:11) for the duration, which lasts a lifetime. Sin is real, and Satan is relentless. Be Ready!
Note the following from Apologetics Press, “Satan—His Origin and Mission,” Lesson 5 by Bert Thompson and Eric Lyons.
Make no mistake about it. Satan has arrayed himself against both God and man. He is God’s archfiend and man’s ardent foe. Nothing short of an absolute victory will satisfy him; nothing short of a hell filled with every single member of the human race will dissuade him. He is, indeed, “the enemy” (Matthew 13:39).
Were Satan made of flesh and bone, we might employ the oft-used phrase to describe him as “a man with a mission.” But do not let the fact that he is spirit rather than flesh trick you into thinking he has no mission. He most certainly does—and has since the day he was cast from the heavenly portals. Simply stated, that mission is the complete destruction of all humanity in hell.
It is nothing less than Peter being led by the Holy Spirit when he wrote:
Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experience by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever, Amen. (1 Peter 5:8-11)
Peter’s bitter, painful experience of denials and cursing, and then the heart-wrenching challenge Jesus put before him to “feed His sheep,” changed him. Who would be more qualified to warn all of us about Satan and his desire to sift us as wheat?