2 Corinthians 10:
“Now, I Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ- who in presence am lowly, (timid, when face to face with you NIV), but being absent am bold with you. I beg you that when I am present I may not be bold with confidence by which I intend to be bold against some, who think of us as if we walked according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for the pulling down of strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled. “NJKV
Understand Paul is writing to a divided church, some of which were resisting his teaching and authority. A church being seduced by false teachers. Paul is addressing those who say Paul writes boldly from a distance, but is timid and backs down in face to face confrontation. Paul is saying to those who are on his side I may not have to be bold toward some of you, but I expect to be bold toward some who think we walk and live by the flesh, or world standards. Paul is saying I am prepared to do battle and my weapons are not carnal, but mighty in God. They are spiritual weapons for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every pretension that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. True spiritual power is a combination of meekness and gentleness as exhibited by the Lord Jesus. In Matthew 11, Jesus says come unto Him and take His yoke upon you and learn from Him for I am gentle and humble in heart.
The false teachers and Judaizers who were dividing the church and attacking Paul were men of impressive personalities, great speakers, clever with words, and appeared to be intellectually superior. They used these skills as weapons to make people believe they knew more than they really did. Their personalities were overbearing, and their high-minded attitude of intellectual superiority intimidated people. We see these types of personalities on the nightly news, we read their opinions in the daily papers, and our response to them is anger and if we will admit it- hatred. We despise them. Yet Paul is speaking of this battle we are waging, tells us the first thing we must do is recognize our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against authorities, gains the powers of this dark world and against spiritual forces of evil in high places.
Paul tells us this is spiritual warfare and requires spiritual weapons. This conflict began in heaven, in the spiritual realm and spilled out on to earth. What we observe in the physical realm began and is influenced by the spiritual realm. In Ephesians 6, Paul tells us this truth which we are very prone to forget: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against spiritual forces of evil in heavenly realms.” Now in battles, the opposing forces establish fortified places- strongholds or fortresses as base of operation from which to launch their attacks. The four fronts on which the enemy attacks are plainly seen:
So we have established by God’s Word the battle is in heavenly places but impacts our lives on these four fronts. Let us see what the Word of God tells us about these heavenly places. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” (Ephesians 1: 3) Do you see where all your blessings are? This is where your spiritual weapons which are mighty to the pulling down of strongholds are. In that same chapter in verse 20 we read: “That power is like the working of His mighty strength which He exerted in Christ when he raised Him up from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion and every title that can be given not only in this present age, but also in the one to come.” Our Lord Jesus is above all and in control over all. Now so far I have probably not told you anything you do not already know. But perhaps are reminding you of what we have available to us. Now one more truth about the heavenly realms: “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in heavenly places in Christ Jesus….” I know you have always heard – you cannot be in two places at once- but we can and we are. You must put your mind on things above- not on the things on earth. You need a heavenly mind-set. Why? Because the enemy is going to attack your mind.
Next we must realize where the battlefield is and what is at stake. The battle is for your mind, this is the battlefield and we must learn how to use the weapons of spiritual warfare. Our job as Christians is to destroy strongholds. So one of the most important things we need to learn and teach others is how to guard, strengthen, and renew our minds, because the battle for sin always starts in the mind. Every sin begins as a thought.
THE CAUSE OF THIS WAR
Do you know what the cause of this spiritual war was? The battle was and is for glory. Lucifer was a created being, an angel. And the Word of God tells us there are levels and types of angels. Lucifer was an anointed cherub. A cherub angel is like the honor guard of God, the King. They guard His Honor, His Glory. This is the responsibility of the cherub angels to proclaim and protect the glory of God. Lucifer was the highest ranking cherub angel. Angels were evidently created with volition, the ability to choose. Lucifer coveted God’s glory and wanted it for himself. We read of his rebellion and the subsequent revolt that followed. We read of this in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28. In Isaiah 14, we read the motivation and cause of this war in which we were all born. Lucifer said in his heart: “I will ascend to heaven. I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds. I will make myself like the Most High.
We know Lucifer and the angels who followed him (1/3rd) were cast out of heaven to the ground. Here is a lesson to learn from this fall of Lucifer, the highest ranking angel, who even today is called the prince of power of the air. And John tells us the whole world; (society) is under his influence. Here is the lesson- one can control one’s own decisions, but God is in control of the consequences.
The battle is ongoing. Children born in certain parts of the world are born in war zones where two forces are at battle. In Israel the battle is ongoing between the people of Palestine and the people of Israel. And we are born into a war zone, a battle between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of the devil.
Don’t miss what God’s motives are as explained in Ephesians 3: “ His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms according to His eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus.” God’s plan and motives and His wisdom which is manifold is being revealed to not only the 2/3rd of the angels who stayed loyal to God but also being revealed to Satan and the angels who followed him. God is displaying His glory through His manifold wisdom, power, authority, grace, holiness and justice.
In our lives personally, God wants us to use the mighty spiritual weapons to tear down any stronghold in our lives which take away the glory of God. Two instances come to mind of men who would have the glory that belonged to God – belong to them: Nebuchadnezzar who wanted glory which belonged to God. As a consequence he spent 7 years crawling on his knees living like an animal. (Daniel 4) And King Herod Agrippa who declared himself God. He was immediately struck dead, eaten by worms.
We see the enemy’s strategy in the first temptation and sin which resulted in the fall. In Genesis 3, Satan who can disguise himself even as an angel of light appears as a serpent. He tempts Eve by questioning God’s Word. A strategy that uses today with great effectiveness. He questioned the Word of God in three areas: Accuracy- Authority and Acceptability. He then tempted with: lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, and pride of life. The rest is history.
Satan wants to establish strongholds in your life in your mind. A stronghold is a fortress the enemy has built. The enemies of the Christian are threefold: the devil, the world he controls and our old nature, the flesh which walks according to this world. This is one of the reasons our God is One God in three persons to deal with the threefold enemy we face. The word stronghold can also be referred to as a fortress. It is something the enemy has built in your life. This is the base of his operations which he uses to attack you at will. When you have an enemy who can take refuge in a stronghold and come out an attack you at will, you will not get anywhere until you tear down that stronghold. A stronghold is a partition the enemy has built in your mind where God’s glory is not present, is not allowed. This partition must be torn down, for whoever controls thoughts control actions.
Here he can launch an attack on the individual. How do we recognize the stronghold? A stronghold is an area which you have said; you cannot get victory over it. You cannot fix it and you cannot seem to yield it to the Lord. It is a mindset. He starts here with the individual, just as he did with Eve. This then created the family problems that ensued as a consequence (Kicked out of Eden, Cain and Abel.) Why the family? By destroying the family the enemy seeks control of the next generation. As the family goes, so goes the church and as the church goes so goes the community, our society, our culture, our country. Passages in Daniel lead us to believe the enemy has control over whole nations.
TRUTH WHICH WILL SET US FREE
Paul is very succinct in what we must do. Although the strategies and weapons are not named in this passage, we can discover them in Ephesians and other places. Here are the truths Paul wants us to know and believe:
- We are in a battle, a spiritual battle which has manifested itself in our lives. Since it is a spiritual battle we must NOT use carnal weapons, (weapons of the flesh) to fight spiritual battles. We must use spiritual weapons which have divine power.
- Satan attacks our minds to establish strongholds. He builds up partitions which block God and therefore God’s glory from that area. The stronghold is a mindset. We must recognize in that area the thoughts are the thoughts of our old nature which was deceived by the lies of the enemy. We must know the truth and apply the truths. For Jesus told us ‘if you abide in my word, you are my disciples indeed, and you shall know the truth and the truth will set you free. And if the Son (who is the Truth) sets you free, you are free indeed. Recognize those thoughts and cast them down, replacing them with the right thoughts. ( Philippians 4)
- Strongholds, these partitions in your mind are established and built up to make you “double-minded”. And a double minded Christian is unstable in all his ways. We must be heavenly minded- put our thoughts on things above.
Our emotions only respond to what we think. Emotions come from the heart. This is why the Bible tells us ‘as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he. ‘(Proverbs 23: 7) therefore, it makes sense whoever controls the thoughts of your heart, controls your emotions and determines how you feel.
Paul says we are to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Now we have an old nature, the flesh, which Paul tells us has a mind of its own. In Romans 7, Paul says the good things he wants to do, he does not do and the evil, sinful things he does not want to do, he does. He says it makes him wretched and he discovers this principle, every time he wants to do good, evil is always present.
THE WEAPONS OF THE FLESH vs. WEAPONS OF THE SPIRIT
What are these weapons of the flesh? Manipulation, coercion, pressure groups, compromise, demonstrations, raised voices, clenched fists, violence, and riots. They happened in Paul’s day and they are happening in ours. These are the weapons of the flesh. And we see them wielded every day from the streets and in the schools, the college campuses right up to and including the halls of congress and the White House. Carnal, worldly minds think they know more than God. They think of themselves as smarter, more sophisticated, more effective, and more powerful than God’s ways
If you are governed by the flesh, the old nature. These are the fleshly weapons employed to get things done.
Carnal thinking among Christians, true believers who have compromised their beliefs in the name of political correctness or tolerance are nothing new. They have always been a problem. The wisdom of the flesh is nothing more than man’s natural abilities opposed to God’s supernatural grace.
What are our weapons which are mighty in God? Ephesians 6 tells us what they are as well as other scriptures also. Ephesian 6 remind us we ‘wrestle not with flesh and blood but against spiritual wickedness. ‘ Paul goes on the describe our spiritual weapons and armor: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the Gospel, the shield of faith, the sword of the Spirit, the helmet of salvation, the Word of God and prayer.
Here is the clash- the Word of God, the truth, comes against the deceitfulness of false teaching. The breastplate of righteousness, His Righteousness comes against the image of success according to the world’s standards. The simple Gospel comes against the smooth words of deceit which promise fulfillment, but leave one empty. The shield of faith is opposed by the perception of power which intimidates like a roaring lion. The Helmet of Salvation protects our minds against the world authority which would have us not speak of the Word of God in the public place, nor voice our opposition to sin and wrongdoing in the name of tolerance.
And the shield of faith is the largest and most protective piece of armor we have against the fiery darts of the enemy. And when we have armed ourselves for the battle what do we do? Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and request. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
Charles Stanley says we win all our battles on our knees in prayer.
Thoughts reap action; an action reaps a habit and habit reaps your character. And why is character so important? Because character reaps your destiny. Reject, tear down, and replace any thought which does not honor Christ in our thinking.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR THE SPIRITUAL BATTLE
- Dress appropriately. Follow these steps.
- Put on the belt of truth first thing each morning upon rising. This belt Paul observed on the Roman soldiers who guarded him was a very important element. It was a leather apron, a girdle for his loins. Protective and functional. It held his sword and perhaps short dagger, also he used it to tuck his robe into it when he went into battle so he would not be entangled. We are to set aside that which so easily entangles us and keeps us from running the race set before us.
- Next we put on the breastplate of righteousness. This is not our self-righteousness, but the righteousness of the Lord Jesus. It deflects fiery arrows. Those arrows of temptation to sin or give into wrong emotions, such as fear, hatred, self-pity, or dissatisfaction
- Put on the sandals of the Gospel of Peace. Roman sandals were comprised of thick soles with spikes for traction, so a soldier in combat could anchor himself in the ground and remain steadfast. On Christ the Solid Rock I stand.
- The shield of faith. Largest piece of armor which offered full body protection. With unwavering faith in Christ, we are assured of His protection, no matter what the enemy throws at us.
- The helmet of salvation. Our minds are protected when we put on the helmet of salvation and let this mind which is in Christ Jesus be our mind to give us wisdom and discernment.
- Then and only then can we take our stand and pray always with all prayer and supplication for all the saints
We are not go it alone. We are to keep on learning, keep on leaning and keep on loving.
We come here each Sunday morning to keep on learning, leaning and loving. To keep growing in wisdom, in stature and in favor with God and man.
If your teacher or preacher quits growing then you will quit growing and the church will quit growing. We need teaching, preaching and training if we are to keep on learning and growing.
The only way we can have consistent victory over the flesh is to bring every thought into obedience to Christ. We must recognize carnal thinking, and take dominion over it, casting wrong thoughts down. Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing your mind.
Paul will address one of the problems of carnality which we will explore in next week’s lesson. Paul asks a very penetrating question which is a test for carnal thinking: “Do you look at things according to the outward appearance?”
To be continued…..