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I can’t help but wonder who it was who was arguing over who the greatest might be among the disciples. If Peter was involved, then this next scene may be a most appropriate one to get him back on track."Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." But he replied, "Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death." Jesus answered, "I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me."
NOTE Jesus uses the plural here at first when describing the sifting process. He is saying, “Simon, Satan has asked to sift y’all like wheat. The sifting is about to happen to all of the disciples. Sifting was a familiar process of separating the wheat kernel from its shell, using a sieve. No doubt Jesus is strongly implying a painful process of being shaken spiritually that these disciples will face.
I think the next statement is so interesting. Jesus says, “But I have prayed for you.” You can almost hear Peter’s thoughts saying, “Pray for me? Can’t you protect me from this sifting?” This, in itself, is an interesting principle. I summarized it for years by saying THE BEST WAY OUT IS THROUGH. The Lord normally doesn’t protect us by baling us out of some trouble, but enables us to get through it—and come out the other end of this tunnel of trials better for it.
NOTE what Jesus prayed: That your faith may not fail. This literally means “that your faith may not totally eclipse” as you go through this upcoming sifting—that you will not be destroyed through it all.
When Peter was told that he was going to deny Jesus, he immediately rejected this prediction. He said, “Jesus, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” But Jesus specifies more clearly that Peter would actually deny Jesus three times before the rooster crows today.
Remember, Peter has been at the top and at the bottom so many times. Now, after he and the disciples were blessed by Jesus as He conferred the Kingdom on them, it is time for maybe the toughest of all times. Jesus predicted Peter’s denial and it actually happened in the way He said it would. This was unthinkable to Peter!
Even though Jesus predicts Peter’s denial of Him, He doesn’t leave him at the bottom. He has a confidence that Peter will come back and get his life back together. Jesus says, “When you have turned back, then you will be able to strengthen your brothers.” Jesus is not speaking to all of the disciples with a ya’ll here, but is now talking to Peter only.
ONE MORE THING: Whatever else is meant and understood by Satan demanding to sift the disciples like wheat, there is a definite warning for us today. The devil’s desire is to shake you up and take you through so much pain and trouble that your faith will totally eclipse or fade out. But Jesus’ intent is two-fold when this happens: FIRST—That you might turn to God through this difficult time. SECOND—That through this experience you will learn to strengthen your brothers.
“Demon-possession” in the Scriptures is an unfortunate translation. It is better rendered demonized. To demonize a person is when the devil directly affects your life. There seem to be three progressive levels of demonization. FIRST—HARASSMENT. This usually happens through shooting lies or destructive thoughts into your mind. Have you ever had a thought pop into your mind that is so evil, so destructive, so way out that you have never thought before? I think this is a good illustration of harassment from evil.
SECOND—INFLUENCE. When you buy into the negative and destructive thoughts that are fired into you mind, you are then ready to be influenced by this evil. This is what I believe Jesus is describing with “sifting like wheat.”
THIRD—CONTROL. If you buy into the harassment, allow yourself to be influenced in your thinking and behavior, then you tend to be controlled by this evil.
The most insidious thing about this process of demonization of believers and non-believers is how the devil attempts to deceive us. He plants these horrible, destructive thoughts in your mind, tries to move you along in their grip, even to the point of control, and then accuses you for having these thoughts and behaviors. So many of these lies and thoughts are set in a counterfeit motif. For instance, the devil rarely appears in a red suit with horns, long tale and a spear. However, the devil shows up as something or someone good.
So, how can you resist the process of demonization in your own life? The only thing I’ve been able come to is summarized in this statement and is worthy for your consideration: THE BEST DEFENSE AGAINST THE COUNTERFEIT IS TO KNOW THE GENUINE VERY WELL. And, I would say that all that you need to know about the genuine is found in Jesus, personally. Hang on to Jesus and hang out with those who are following Him. There’s no better defense, anywhere!