2nd Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 37
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2006|
|This is “Poise in the Face of Persecution”, part 2 today, and we’re going to talk about “Choose Your Weapons.”|
Choose your weapons (2 Cor 10:4-6)
I’m glad you’re here today. Turn with me to 2 Corinthians 10:4-6. Today we’re continuing in a little series, the last four chapters of 2 Corinthians, and I call it “Poise in the Face of Persecution.” This is part 2 today, and we’re going to talk about “Choose Your Weapons.”
Now let me get you into this. Conflict with people is inevitable as we journey through the Christian life. There’s no way you’re going to get around it. But the fact that we will have this conflict is not the problem. The problem is, how do we as believers who love Jesus, how do we as believers deal with this conflict when it arises? You see, one of the conflicts we’re going to have to deal with is when it doesn’t happen to us but it happens to somebody that we like, somebody that we love and they are being mistreated?
Our flesh is so deceptive; one of the first things it tends to do is take up an offense for a brother. That’s what we dealt with the last time. This does more damage, understand what I’m saying, this does more damage than just about anything you could do and you can hardly repair the damage that is done. Taking up an offense for a brother is based on several wrong assumptions, and there are two main ones that it’s based on. The first assumption is that we know the exact details of what took place and therefore we have all the information that is needed to deal with the situation. That is absolutely false in every situation.
The second wrong assumption is we think we know what God would do in the midst of this circumstance. I said it last week and you’ve heard it many times, there are two absolutes in life: one is there is a God, but two is we’re not Him. And don’t make that false assumption and jump into something because you don’t have all the information.
Why do I say that? Well, in Corinth, Paul’s critics had really come against him and they said that he was a coward, he was afraid to come to Corinth and face them. In jest they would say “he was bold when he wrote the letters, but he’s a wimp when he gets in front of us,” trying to discredit the man so they could discredit his message. Now this upset the believers of Corinth. Why did it upset them? Because they had repented, remember? This was the reason of the writing of 2 Corinthians. They’ve repented. It’s even said that they yearned to be with Paul. They’ve turned back toward Paul and when they hear these critics say what they’re saying, he’s their brother and they want to see him vindicated in front of his critics.
They were just about to take up an offense for Paul. But Paul did not want them to make that tragic mistake so he cautions them in verses 1-3 of 2 Corinthians 10 about three things that they have to make sure are in place before they would ever do anything. First of all, he speaks of the character that is going to be required. If you’re going to step into that arena, you better have this kind of character before you do anything. Second Corinthians 10:1, “Now I Paul myself urge you by the meekness and the gentleness of Christ.” By the means of, in other words, the words “meekness and gentleness of Christ” denote the character. That’s the way Paul confronts them. That’s the way he comes to them. It’s a character that only Christ can produce in a person’s heart.
We can’t produce this. God has to produce it in us. Meekness is the strength of one’s character who loves others more than he loves himself. That’s the bottom line. It’s not weakness; it is strength under control even in the face of people who are falsely accusing us and would love to see us taken down. When it concerns us as individual believers, meekness is the grace that gives us the ability to remain quiet and calm when we’re being falsely accused because we know that God is the One who vindicates the righteous and He judges righteously.
But meekness is a term; it’s a beautiful quality that stands between two extremes. It doesn’t rush to get angry. Have you ever known people like that? You’re scared to death to say anything. They’ve got a hair-trigger. I call it a hair-trigger. When you buy a gun and it has a ten pound pull on the trigger and usually you take it back so it can kind of become a hair-trigger, you barely touch it and it shoots. And a lot of people are that way. You have to walk on tiptoes because they’re so quick to react. That’s not meekness, that’s nothing to do with Christianity.
Meekness doesn’t rush to get angry; however, it also is not passive. It somehow stands in a beautiful balance between those two extremes. You see, when it affects the Body, when it affects the individual it can be quiet, but when it affects the Body of Christ and deception is causing a problem in the Body, then it will act and sometimes with a vengeance to make the truth known. Jesus took that whip and went into the temple and drove out the moneychangers.
But to balance this, and some people say it justifies what I’m doing and there’s a wrong being done and I’m going to fight it. Now careful, careful. There’s a fine line between meekness and taking up and offense for a brother. You have to understand that it’s a different quality here. And so Paul adds the word, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the word “gentleness.” The word gentleness is the word epieikes, and it’s only used two times in Scripture, the Greek word. Other words are translated “gentleness” but it’s not this word. It refers to one’s mild and kind and gracious manner even in the face of those who come at him. It’s a person who knows how to walk in the Spirit and the qualities of the Spirit are always there. It’s a divine sense of timing is with this word “gentleness.” They know when to confront, they know how much to confront, and they know how to go about confronting somebody. So it’s totally the character of Christ.
Once this character is in place what it will do is it produces a conduct that is responsible. Now conduct that is responsible is conduct that doesn’t take matters into your own hands. What have we all done all of our lives? We’ve taken matters into our own hands and that’s caused so many problems.
Verse 2, “I ask that when I am present I may not be bold with the confidence with which I propose to be courageous against some, who regard us as if we walked according to the flesh.” You see, the critics of Paul knew nothing about waking in the Spirit. You have to remember this: if somebody is coming at you they know nothing about walking in the Spirit. They regarded Paul as if he walked according to the flesh just like they did. They would be only too pleased if Paul would get in their face and be bold and take them down. Boy, that’s strength, that’s what the pagan world thinks is strength. Get in their face, man, make them wilt. That’s a man there, that’s a man!
Paul said to the Corinthians who desperately wanted to see him vindicated, they wanted to see him come out and get in the face of those who criticized him in a war to be vindicated and Paul says to them, “Don’t you dare push me into that situation. Don’t you make me have to step forward and be bold when I come among you with your intent of showing me off as to the fact that I could be what they said I couldn’t. Don’t push me in that kind of situation.”
You say, “Why, Paul?” Well, Paul answers it. Because he says even though he lives in a body that is subject to that kind of behavior, just like he was before he got saved, he doesn’t war according to that behavior anymore. I don’t use those kinds of weapons anymore.” That’s not the way we deal with conflict and this is something for every one of us to learn.
He says in verse 3, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.” Paul knew something that I wish we all understood in the 21st century about being a believer. When you’re in the midst of a conflict, the only confidence that is reliable is when you trust God, as you’ll see in the message today, only Him, only Him, only Him and never trust the flesh. Because the flesh brings that damage and division and factions to the body like nothing else. We’re in a war with our fleshly mindset and that mindset says, “Do things your way. Resolve the conflict your way, and according to the ways of the world.”
Evidently we’re losing in that war. The pastors this year, they tell me there are more pastors resigning from the ministry because they’ve been chewed up, spit out by people than ever before. Churches are split everywhere. You could go to cities in the South: 800 and some churches, and 400 of them I think were split off from the others. You see Fellowship Baptist Church on this corner, Greater Fellowship than that Baptist Church, and then you see Boy, You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet Baptist Church. That’s what you have because people in conflict choose to solve it their own way. They do it with the weapons of the flesh. They want to be vindicated as being right and that’s what Paul is saying is exactly wrong. That is not the way we deal with conflict. That’s what he says.
The flesh has its weapons, get in your face, confront with boldness, even lie if you have to, but we don’t fall into that trap when we walk surrendered to the Lord Jesus Christ. There’s more to it than that as we’ll see in our message today. What I want us to do today is look at our weapons. I want us to look at our enemy as to who he really is and I want us to look at our strategy and I want us to make sure. You see, if you don’t understand these three things, then you’re going to choose the wrong weapon. That’s why I call it “Choose Your Weapons.” Weapons of the flesh, is that the way we’re going to deal with it? Or weapons of the Spirit?
We need to know our weapons
Here are three things I want you to see. First of all, we need to know our weapons. We need to know our weapons: 2 Corinthians 10:4, “for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful.” First thing you see is that the weapons we need in the battle that we’re in to combat the real enemy are weapons that are divinely powerful. They’re not these grossly ineffective, weak, and anemic weapons of the flesh.
The word “not,” they’re not of the flesh, is the word ou in Greek. Now there are two words for “not” in Greek language where we only have one. This means the absolute, in no way, shape or form, not. “For the weapons of our warfare are not in any way, shape or form, they’re not even similar to the weapons of the flesh, but instead they’re divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.” The word “powerful” is the word dunatos, which means “mighty, capable of accomplishing the task.” The literal text includes the word theos, which is the word for God, so the King James” Version translates it very literally, “mighty through God.” The New American Standard, it’s okay what it says, it says “divinely”—which would be God—“powerful.” That’s what it’s speaking of. Our weapons are mighty because they’re from God. God is the One. If you think about it, when you deal with any conflict in your life, you have to go to God because He’s the only One who understands the problem. And He’s certainly the only One who has the solution.
Now the weapons, the word “weapons,” is the word in the plural which is hoplon. It is that which is necessary to accomplish a task. It’s a shovel if you’re going to dig a hole. It’s a pen if you’re going to write a letter, but when it’s used in a military sense as it is only two other times in the New Testament, it means weapons or armor that are necessary to defeat one in battle. The battle Paul was up against in Corinth was an interesting battle. You see, it wasn’t just the people. He was up against the battle of humanistic error. They love humanistic wisdom. Worldly wisdom, false doctrine, all these things were what he was up against. This was what was deceiving the church of Corinth. Paul was up against those who had impressive worldly credentials who were in command of the way people thought and how they behaved. They could control people around them. We can see this by the way he contrasts those who God chooses to uses. You see, God always goes the other way. God doesn’t go the way of the world.
In 2 Corinthians 1:26-27 he says, “For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble.” See, that was what he was up against and God chooses the opposite: “but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong.” See, Paul himself was a total contrast to the way the world operates and to what he was up against in Corinth: those polished, successful, persuasive men in Corinth that could bring false doctrine in and seduce the church’s mind. Paul was exact opposite of that.
He says in 2 Corinthians 2:1-5, “And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God.” —I didn’t come in with all the bells and whistles.—“For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom,” like the world uses and uses them to convince everybody, “but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power”—you say, “Paul, why would God do that?” —“that your faith should not rest,” ever, ever, ever, “on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.”
Since this word hoplon is used two times translated “weapons” in Scripture and means that, we need to look at that. We need to realize that it’s not about what these weapons are, and I’ll show you, it’s Who our weapon is. Don’t get hung up in what they are, get overwhelmed by Who He is. The word is used in Romans 13:12 and if you’ve studied Romans you know this passage and you know what he’s talking about, particularly from chapter 8 on.
It says in verse 12, “The night is almost gone, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore lay aside the deeds of darkness,” that old works of the flesh and the way we do things, “and put on the armor of light.” Do you know who the armor of light is? That’s the Lord Jesus Himself. It’s not what our weapons are, but who are weapon is. This is once again showing us that before we ever approach any conflict, whether we initiated it, whether it’s against a friend of ours, or somebody else initiated it against us, before we do anything we need to be dressed in the armored garment of Christ. That’s what Paul taught in Ephesians. The armor of chapter 6 is the garment of chapter 4. Jesus is the armored garment that God gives to us when He’s in control of our lives and we’re workers together with Him. Then His armor, His weapons, are weapons of righteousness. But did they accomplish the task?
The word is also used in 2 Corinthians 6:7 and Paul talks about how he lives and how he deals with the situations in his life and he said in verse 7, we’ve already studied this, “in the word of truth,” that’s how he lives, “in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left.” You see Christ in us is the only One who can solve the conflicts that come either from other believers or even from the pagan world. His arsenal is divinely powerful.
Obviously his arsenal does not just include Christ because it’s more than that. It has to include His Word. We walk by faith and Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” The word for “word” there is rhema, and it means the subjective, spoken word of God, that which Christ takes and convicts in our hearts. You’re in the midst of a conflict and you run into the presence of God, you get into His Word and God takes His Word that you’ve been memorizing and studying for years and He burns it into your heart and says “You stand on that, it’ll hold you up.” It’s not just knowing God’s Word in your head but having God burn it in your heart as you get in to it to seek Him.
When Israel was just about to go into the greatest conflict they had ever faced, they had to cross that Jordan River first of all, a mile wide, two and a half million people. But that first battle they had was Jericho. Remember when we studied it and God said something to Joshua that we need to take to heart? He said, “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth but you shall meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful to do according to all that’s written on it for then you will make your way prosperous and then you will have success.” And the word “success” in the Hebrew means “then you’ll have the proper discernment at the time when those circumstances and conflicts come at you that you hadn’t expected.”
“Joshua, get into My Word; Joshua, meditate upon My Word. Don’t let anything come out of your mouth that’s not seasoned and saturated with My Word.” When we face hurtful conflicts, folks, we don’t rise up in anger, we don’t get in somebody’s face. Oh, how many times in my life I said, “Oh God, give me five minutes outside the building and I can solve this conflict.” God wasn’t impressed. He made me 6’7”, 265 pounds so I’d have to learn not to use an ounce of it. But God has every time driven me to himself. “Wayne, you come to My Word, son, because you don’t have all the facts and you don’t know what I would do. You come to Me and let Me dress you in My presence; and My character in you is an armor that is absolutely awesome. My weapons are weapons of righteousness.”
The only thing that will disarm our opponent in the midst of a conflict and the hurtful climate that it has created will be His character seen in us and His Word that seasons everything that we say. So we must know our weapons. We better know what we have as a choice. We know the fleshly weapons. Most of us have lived in it all of our life. But we need to know and when you sum all of our weapons up it can be summed up in a person: the Lord Jesus living His life through us. As we renew our minds concerning the situation by the revelation of His Word and we stand in the face of conflict.
So know your weapons. Know your weapons. You’ve got two choices: do it your way, do it God’s way. Remember that old song? “I did it my way.” Buddy, that’s a tragic song when it comes to the Christian life.
We must know our enemy
Secondly, we must know our enemy. We must know our enemy. I wish we could all realize what Paul said in Ephesians 6:12, first part of the verse. He said, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood.” I want you to put that on your refrigerator every day you get up. Wayne, it’s not my problem. He’s just an irritation. Wayne’s not my problem. People are not your problem. I can hear someone saying, “Well, you sure could have fooled me.” Yes, it involves the person, yes. It’s not just the person, though, that’s causing the conflict. It is what—listen carefully—it is what’s controlling that person.
You see, fleshly weapons won’t touch that which is the real problem. Yes, the symptoms can be there. They said something about you; they ran their mouth when they should have kept their mouth shut. They did something to hurt you; they lied about you. Hey, that’s just symptomatic. That’s not your problem. Your problem is what caused them to do that and only divinely powerful weapons can handle that kind of thing. Fleshly weapons cannot disarm what the real problem is.
In 2 Corinthians 10:4, “for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.” Now the word “destruction” is the word kathairesis, which means “to demolish something, bring it to ruin.” When I was in Reno we had an old hotel there that they demolished. Have you ever seen that happen? I don’t know how they do it, but they put the charges, the explosives, in such a way that when they push one button or push the thing down, that whole building just went poof. And that’s what the word means: to demolish, to bring it to ruin.
The word “fortresses” as it’s translated in the King James “stronghold” is the word ochuroma. Now this is a strong fortress in which people put their trust, now listen carefully, they put their trust and they find their security in this. When it’s used metaphorically, as it is here—in other words, it’s a word picture—it refers to the premise or the thought processes that have been built as a fortress in somebody’s mind. It’s controlling them; it’s where they’re coming from. This is where a person finds his security and puts his trust. Proverbs 21:22, “A wise man scales the city of the mighty and brings down the stronghold in which they trust.” It’s what you trust in is how you’re going to live. What you trust in, what you’ve embraced somewhere in the fortress of your mind is going to determine how you’re going to act. And that’s the real problem: not how you act, that’s symptomatic. It’s what is controlling that.
Now these fortresses or strongholds in one’s thinking, like I said, determine everything we do. It determines everything we think, everyone acts the way they do because they think the way they think. Behind the actions of any person, whether he be a believer or not, is a fortress and that’s what your real problem is and when you handle things in the flesh you haven’t solved anything. For the believer this is a great stronghold. It’s going to go on and say the unbeliever puts their stronghold up against the Word of God. We don’t put it against the Word of God. Our stronghold embraces the Word of God.
Proverbs 10:29 it talks about the Word and the ways of God. “The way of the Lord,” which cannot be known apart from His Word, “is a stronghold to the upright.” That’s why when you get out of bounds the stronghold within your life will pull you back to where you ought to be. That’s what really controls us. When we renew our minds and the Word of God gets saturated into our life, we begin to behave a different way. So a fortress or a stronghold is the framework that is the structure behind all behavior.
Remember the test that they did years ago on the Gibbon monkey? They had a little container and that container had a chain hooked to it and was bolted to the floor which would imprison it if something was locked in it. They had a little opening to the container that a monkey could put his hand through, but if he balled his fist up he couldn’t pull it out. And they put candy inside of that container. And they proved it over and over again. The monkey is free, he’s free, but he chooses to imprison himself because he thinks that he needs that candy and when he grabs the candy he can’t get his hand out, but he won’t let go of the candy.
Now, that’s what we’re talking about: something inside, I don’t know how monkeys work, but something is controlling that behavior. Paul continues to illustrate this in verse 5: “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God.” Now the substance of the fortress is now being revealed. You want to know what this all is? He begins to tell you. Whatever the mindset is that makes the monkey imprison himself when he could have been free thinking he had to have what he had his hand around, whatever that is, Paul identifies as a “speculation.”
King James translates is “imagination.” That’s a great translation. It’s the word logismos; some people translate it “argument.” The argument somebody makes for his case that comes from a framework of how he thinks. This word has to do with how a person evaluates what he should or what he should not do. How does he evaluate it? It’s his reasoning of a situation based upon a mindset or the understanding from which he’s coming and which he has. It’s the council he gives himself based on the mindset in which he operates. A person’s behavior is determined by the mindset in which he operates. When we deal with behavior that is hurtful or sinful, you see, we don’t look at that. We must identify where the wrong thinking is that causes that kind of behavior.
And I’ll tell you this: if it’s not embracing the Word of God then everything else is a lie and somebody has embraced a lie somewhere. He so believes it, he so trusts in it, that it’s hidden behind his wrong behavior. Identifying this wrong thinking is more important than in what a person does or doesn’t do. It’s where he’s coming from. What’s his frame of reference?
Now this wrong thinking that has been reasoned out in wrong behavior, Paul says has elevated itself against the Word or the knowledge of God. It shuts down what God has to say. It’s not controlled by what God has to say. Verse 5, “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God.” The word “lofty thing” is the word hupsoma, which is that which the text says. It’s been raised up like the tower of Babel in Genesis 11. Above what God’s Word has to say. It’s something that is humanistic; it’s something that man has come up with and built it to such a structure that it won’t allow itself to hear the Word of God.
The word “raised” is in the present middle passive, which gives us two thoughts. That’s a deponent verb. First of all he’s talking about the strong towers, the strongholds of false teaching and deceptive thinking that the false teachers have raised up in the church of Corinth, but not only that, but since it’s in a deponent verb it also has to do with how the people have listened to them, bought into it and raised it up themselves. So you’ve got a huge problem in the church of Corinth. You’ve got a problem with the way people think which is determining the way people behave.
The truth of God’s Word forms the basis of the way a believer thinks. You see, our stronghold is the Word of God. We don’t cast anything against it: we embrace the Word and the ways of God. It’s what blows the whistle when we get out of bounds. It’s what calls us back to behave properly. It’s God’s truth dressed in God’s character that tears down wrong thinking in others.
Let me ask you a question. Think about it. What controls you this morning? What controls your behavior this morning? Why is it that you do some things that you do? There’s a piece of this puzzle I was going to wait about 17 months before I shared it with you. I’m going to share it with you today. If you know me for anything, I’m not very intelligent but at least I’m honest. You’re going to find me that way; sometimes to a fault.
When I shot that oryx, if you’ve ever hunted, anywhere you are you cannot shoot across a paved road. When we saw that oryx I got so excited, everybody got so excited, I shot before I crossed that road. When it all caved in on me to realize that we had been in a restricted area which was so humiliating and embarrassing, because we didn’t intend that, I didn’t tell them that piece of the puzzle. Isn’t it amazing what your flesh will do on an impulse? Just to protect yourself you’ll lie like a dog. I made that man think that I was on the other side of the road. Because it was bad enough as it was. I didn’t want to have to tell him that I shot from this side of the road.
I came home; we went on a staff retreat for three days and I kind of got my mind off of it as much as I could. It was a wonderful retreat. Came home and Thursday I called the game warden. He wasn’t in his office, probably in the field. He called me back that night and told me what I needed to do and who I needed to call and I could send the fine in by the mail. He said, “Oh, by the way, I found a shell in the middle of the road.” It was explainable in my mind, because I can’t even really remember how all that happened. My second shot I don’t have because my clip for whatever reason in a bolt action gun hangs the second shot. It won’t bring it into the chamber. I don’t know why, I just discovered it a couple of weeks ago and I hadn’t had time to fix it. So I figured I probably ejected it and put my gun back in the car.
I went to bed that night and at 3:00 Friday morning God woke me up. What’s it like in your life when you get convicted? What’s it like? I don’t know how you are but it’s like a horse that’s kicked me in the chest. I thought I was going to die. I literally thought I was going to die. I even felt hot all over. I felt like I had fever. It’s amazing. And God was saying, “Son, you have not been truthful with that man.” “But Lord, it may cost me more.” And God said, “Excuse me? Did I hear you correctly?” At 8:37 that morning I picked up the phone and called me but he didn’t answer. I left a message for him to call me back. He didn’t call me back; he’s probably in the field.
He didn’t call me back all day, didn’t call me back that night. By yesterday morning I’m thinking, “Thank You, Lord, thank You. It’s over, it’s forgotten, I’m sorry, I’ve dealt with You but now I don’t have to deal with him.” Wrong. I took my car out to get it washed and I got some oil changed in it and a few things I had to do and I came back to the house about 9:00 and the phone rang. It was Ray. And I said, “Hey, man, I called you the other day,” and I had a second question I called him for and I said, “I’ve lost my number that I’m supposed to call. Can you give me that number?” “Yes.” He gave it to me and I hung up.
And that conviction, that arrow that pierced my heart hit me again. It’s like God was saying, “What are you doing? Pick up the phone and call him back.” I picked up the phone and called him back and he was on another call. God made me wait on this thing. Ten minutes later he calls me back and I said, “Ray, the real reason I called you is, you don’t know me very well. I wish you did. But I’m an honest person. I live before God the way I want to live before men. This has been a problem. There’s a little piece of the information that I haven’t told you and I don’t know if you’re a Christian or not, I don’t know if you know what conviction is.” But I told him the story. “I have got to tell you this: I shot from the other side of the road. I want to ask you to forgive me and I want to apologize to you as a man and a friend. You’ve been so nice to me, but I’ve got to tell you the truth.”
I’m not going to tell you the rest of the story because I don’t want in any way for this to get back to him in a wrong way, but I’ll tell you this: God was so merciful that when I hung up the phone I shouted. If my wife had been there she would have thought I was dying. You could have heard me for three blocks. And you know what God told me? “Now you can take your hand out, son. You held on to it because you thought you could protect yourself. Take your hand out, now you’re free.”
I want to tell you something, folks, the stronghold in my mind is the Word of God. I’ve been studying it for years of my life. Can I get out of bounds? You better believe it. You don’t have a perfect pastor. But when I get out of bounds the Holy Spirit so blows the whistle in my heart He drives me back to that stronghold and I’ve got to do what He tells me to do. And when I do the character of Jesus can be worn in my life once again.
What controls what you do? How can people in a church gossip and tear things down and never even confess it? How can they do what they do and never have any conviction at all? I’ll tell you why. They don’t have the stronghold of God’s Word built into their minds. They’re not embracing it and they’re not letting it dictate to their behavior. Can we get out of bounds? We always do; that’s why we confess sin. Every one of us does, but what is the stronghold that controls the way you behave? Not just think, but behave.
We must know our strategy
Thirdly we must know our strategy. What is all this about? When I’m dressed in His character, when I’m seasoned with His Word, what is all this about? What is the strategy of this? Verse 5 goes on to say, “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ…”
Now, we already know part of our strategy is that we are dressed in His garment, His character, and part of our strategy is our word is seasoned with His Word, and when we’re dressed in His character and our words are saturated by His Word, then the false thinking which is causing the false behavior of the people that we’re dealing with begins to get threatened. It begins to be disarmed because it doesn’t really have the legs to stand on that it used to have. Paul says that “we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” In other words, there’s going to be a behavioral change because the thoughts are going to change.
Paul paints a vivid picture of how the enemy which is the wrong thinking of those who hurt us and do ungodly things to us is captured and is conquered. By implication it would mean in our text to subdue, to bring under subjection. “Taking” is present active; we’re constantly capturing the wrong thoughts that are determining the wrong conduct and we’re leading them captive. Where are we leading them captive to? To the obedience of Christ.
Every thought, every mindset must surrender to submit to the obedience to Christ. It’s incredible what he’s drawn a picture for here. When you’re dressed in the character of Christ and when you’re armed and seasoned with His Word and you’re dealing with a conflict, you’re bringing up a whole different paradigm of thought processes that are going to attack and challenge the way another person thinks. And truth will hold its own. And it’s kind of like it leads those thoughts away captive to and the ultimate is obedience to Christ. To where they bow before Him and to what He has to say.
Remember Dorie Van Stone that came for Equip a couple of years ago and she was down in part of Irian Jaya that is cannibalistic. And for eight years they saw no behavioral change. The people worshipped pigs, they went naked everywhere they went. She had to go home because her children got sick and she didn’t get to go back. Twenty three years later she gets a letter and they ask her to come back. She saw not one convert those first eight years. They said, “You come back.” Two hundred fifty thousand of those people of that tribe have come to know Christ and they’re a leading evangelistic people in all that part of the world. And her husband, Lloyd, who had died since that time, she said they want to put a statue of him and the chief holding hands with a Bible in their hands. “Come back, come back.”
She said when she flew in and the people were lined on the runway because she’d worked with her all those years ago and they loved her. And when she got off the plane she immediately saw that they were all fully dressed and she immediately saw the differences on their faces: they had come to know Christ. What happened?
You see, you can’t go in to somebody’s thinking without being armed with the weapons of God. And when you’re dealing in a conflict, you’re dealing with somebody who doesn’t have the paradigm of God’s Word being the stronghold of their life. What they have done to justify the way they behave, they’ve built another type of fortress and the only thing that will tear that down is the weapons that God has for us.
Paul gives us an illustration of how God works in his life: Romans 15:17-18, “Therefore in Christ Jesus I have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God. For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed.” You can tell by what they said and you could see by what they did, how they behaved, something had changed the fortress in their mind. It had torn it down and now God’s Word in their minds caused a different type of behavior.
Christ in and through Paul conquered the sinful strongholds of the Gentiles that he was sent to minister to and they were led to obedience to Christ. Now Paul says something to the Corinthians I will not be able to develop today in verse 6. He says to them, “and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.”
The word “punish” is the word ekdikeo, which means “brings about righteous judgment.” That’s all it’s saying. There were two groups in the church of Corinth just like there are two groups in any church, everywhere you go. One group loves God and has built that fortress in their minds of His Word which controls their behavior; when they get out of bounds they’ll come right back, they’ll confess it, they’ll make it right, they want to walk with God. But the other group is unwilling to let God’s Word and God’s truth and knowledge of God come in to their mindset and to their thoughts, therefore into their lives.
Basically what I see in this text, I’ll be studying it again this week and bring it to you next week, I believe God is saying, “God’s going to deal with them and with a vengeance. But I’m waiting on you to let your obedience become complete. I want to see in your words and in your deeds the change that’s come in your life so I’ll know who is and who isn’t.”
So we must know our weapon, we must choose our weapon and to do that we must know what they are. We’ve got two choices: we can go the way of the flesh; we can go the way of the Spirit. We must know what our enemy is and who our enemy is. It is not a person. It’s what controls the way they think. And thirdly, we must know our strategy. And basically to sum it up, our strategy is when we continue to proclaim the Word, preach the Word, teach the Word, dressed in the character of Christ, it begins to slowly erode the wrong thinking of people and once the wrong thinking of people begin to erode and become into ruin, God holds His stronghold in their minds and their behavior completely changes.
And to me that’s an appropriate message for all of us in the 21st century. What weapons are you using? David had a choice to go with the weapons of Saul, big old giant and he said it didn’t fit him. “I’m going to trust in the power of God.” And he slew the giant. I want to tell you something. Giants in your life can still be slain if you will choose the right weapon. It’s got to be of the Spirit, divinely powerful and cannot be of the flesh. Conflict is nothing more than a test to see what you’re going to do, to show you where you are, how you’re going to handle it. How are you going to handle it?