LUKE 22:31-38 PRINCETON CHRISTIAN CHURCH 18 JULY 2021
In January and February of 1971 (50 years ago) the media promoted a movement in their magazine articles and pictures. The nation was brought face to face with the “Jesus Movement” which was sweeping the country from California to New York.
We saw a vivid presentation of a fundamental Bible-believing movement among the young people of this nation. The young believer shocked their parents. They also shocked the church and themselves.
Six months later, the same magazines –Time, Newsweek, and Look, were bringing the same nation face to face with the realities of the “Satan Movement.” We were introduced to Anton LaVey, the high priest of the church of Satan, along with his teaching of bizarre practices.
It would appear the news of the Jesus Movement, followed by the news of the Satan Movement was not a coincidence. In 1976, the newsworthy headline was focused on “Born Again Christians.” But, we can be assured that another headline – or another “movement” was on the rise. Now, we began to hear about the “Moral Majority” and the” Humanistic Theology.
It has been said that for every possible action, there will be a reaction or counteraction on the part of Satan and his forces of evil. And, that certainly plays out in the movements of 1971 and 1976.
Another huge part of the enemy’s schemes to detract people from the Truth was the coming of movies with satanic themes. And, through those media, many people are convinced that Satan can possess everything from people to bananas. The old saying, “everything from soup to nuts” comes to mind.
This type of overreaction is easily used by Satan himself to convince the so-called thing, people of this world, that this “Satan talk” was devised by weirdo, paranoid, Christian fanatics, and therefore is of no value. In other words, it says that Christians are gullible ready to believe any fantasy they are told about God and our Savior Jesus Christ.
In the Scriptures. Satan is presented as a real being. Jesus spoke to him, was tempted by him, and, of course, Jesus will ultimately defeat him. Jesus warned Peter about Satan’s influence in his life,
Read: Luke 22:31-38
Satan had already reached Judas, and the rest of the Apostles were his next targets. Jesus also knew that there would be many more targets down through the ages.
Without becoming obsessed by the subject, we, as Christians, need to be informed of the enemy’s desires as well as his warfare. This passage in Luke 22 presents this needed information regarding our struggles. Yes, by now, you surely have seen and know that we are Satan’s next targets.
But, we can be assured of that we know that SATAN HAS LIMITED POWER
Jesus said, “Simon, Simon, behold Satan has asked to sift you like wheat.” Satan was also active in Job’s life He made a similar request regarding Job. The accuser was accusing Job of selfishness, pride, and even ingratitude, and he needed permission to prove his accusations of Job. Satan’s real concern was not of Job or Peter, but it was about God. His real desire was to discredit God by discrediting God through His creation.
All of this demonstrates the comforting truth that Satan is limited in his powers and efforts to deceive. He had to ask permission to test Job and also he needed permission from God to test Peter. It stands to reason that Satan is not really as powerful in relation to God’s people as he would want us to think. If Satan gains control of a Christian, it must be through a voluntary submission on the part of the Christian. In other words, we give Satan permission to take over our lives.
To give you a picture of sifting or winnowing, we see that, in Bible times, winnowing was the process of separating the wheat from the chaff. After the grain had been threshed out of the head, it was placed in a screen and tossed into the air. The wind would then blow away the chaff and the grain would fall back on the screen. That was a crude process, but it was effective. Satan was accusing the disciples of being all chaff, easily blown away by the wind.
As Jesus warned Peter of Satan’s desires, He knew that Satan was already working on Peter as was evidenced by Peter’s boastful pride in saying, ”Lord, with you I am ready to go both to prison and to death.” (Verse 33)
It is important to note here that SATAN SIFTS CHRISTIANS, not those in the world who are lost.
Today, Christians need some real awareness. The is no reason to believe that Satan lies dormant, or inactive. Peter, as a man of experience, wrote a timely warning to us in 1 Peter 5:8: Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” How and where Satan plans to attach (or sift) us is our next consideration.
Fortunately, we do not need to worry about surprises or secret weapons. Satan is as predictable as is the assurance that the sun will rise in the morning and will set in the evening. His plan is the same today as it was back in the Garden with Eve. His plan is to discredit God by discrediting His creation. Satan discredits Jesus Christ, the Church, and the individual members of the Body of Christ.
All sifting – or temptation – breaks down into three basic pressure points. There may be all kinds of temptations in a person’s life. But, all fall into one of the three categories. These are demonstrated in Genesis 3:6 and in 1John 2:16. Eve, the first to be paralyzed by the pressure of sin, saw that the forbidden fruit was good for food, a delight to the eyes. And desirable to make one wise.
John calls these pressure points “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life.” Matthew 4:1-11 shows the same elements in Satan’s attack on Jesus in the wilderness.
It should be pointed out that these desires are quite natural and acceptable as long as they are held in check by the Spirit. For example, in reading Geneses 3 we may note that it was natural to eat, but it was not natural to eat food that God had forbidden.
It is easy to see how Satan sifts us today with pride and lust. Our pride causes us to start demanding our rights, especially in those things which God has specifically described in His Word.
Pride helps us in our keeping of records of wrongs done to us. Anger is generated by a combination of pride and self-interest. Pride simply distorts our objectivity.
Lust becomes apparent when we begin to covet other things, whether those things are social prestige, personal pleasures, or even another man’s wife. It is all a matter of lust.
Pride and lust are so deadly because they both scratch the same itch. The desire of oneself to become the central focus of life. To make matters worse, we help Satan in his sifting of us when we focus on minor irritations through the lens of self-interest. Furthermore, we become intent of shifting the blame for our own sins onto other people, demonstrating our inability to see ourselves as we are,
Finally, we fail to recognize these “weaknesses” as sin. Anger, malice, bitterness, strife, jealousy, pride, and hatred are all listed in the Bible as sin, and our failure to recognize these sins makes it impossible to correct them.
It is obvious that sifting leads toward sin and frequently progresses into sin. Sin, in turn, brings about alienation to ourselves, alienation from other people, and alienation from God. Now, sin and alienation are curable, but our reaction to sin will determine the curability of our alienation.
In viewing Scripture and contemporary mankind, we see that there are no less than three results of Satan’s sifting. These results need our thoughtful examination.
Sifting may, and often does, result in despair. This despair can be seen as that ultimate in self-rejection, Judas is a case in point. He had betrayed Christ. But his sin was not the unpardonable sin. I am sure that Jesus would have forgiven Judas just as He forgave those who drove the nails in His hands. Judas’ pride, fear, and anger prevented him from responding to his sin in the right way. Instead of repenting, Judas further rebelled as he fell into despair, blown away in the wind, like so chaff.
Many people today allow themselves to be cast into thoughts of despair. This is evident when we prefer to endure mental and physical agony, rather than confess one’s true sin, the result is despair.
Sifting may, and frequently does, result in separation. And, that separation may be a separation from God, or separation from other Christians. Separation and alienation assist Satan in his plan to divide and conquer. As long as a Christian Is separated from himself, from other Christians, or from God, he is not much of a threat to the kingdom of Satan. And, certainly, that person is not much of an asset to the Kingdom of God.
Finally, sifting may result in a return to God. Jesus promised Peter that he would be sifted, that he would fall away, and that he would return. It was Jesus’ prayer (Luke 22:32) “I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail, and you, when once; when you have turned again, strengthen you, brothers.”
That night in the courtyard, Peter was put to an enormous test. He failed this test by denying Jesus. However, rather than drifting into despair or separation (as did Judas), Peter came to the realization of his sin and wept bitterly as he repented. This beaten man returned to Jesus more useful than he ever had been before.
Sooner, or later, you will find yourself on the threshing floor of life, being sifted by Satan with every strategy in his power. However, his power is limited and we have some great promises to claim regarding God’s power to help us. Sifting does not need to result in despair or separation. Nor do we, as Christians, need to live our lives defeated by guilt, pride, fear, anger, or lust. Christ is winning the war, even though we find ourselves losing an occasional battle.
The sifting will come, but when it does come, we can send the “sifting one” hurrying off in defeat. We do that by being filled with the Holy Spirit.
What a wonderful promise to know that siftings are not synonymous with defeat, but that our weaknesses can be turned into victory.