Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God”

– 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

 

Have you noticed the pervasive problems with people’s thinking? In times which are looking more and more like the End Times, we are seeing more and more confusion and perplexity (e.g. Luke 21:25). People are overwhelmed by fears, real and imagined (e.g. Luke 21:26). There are more and more signs and symptoms of conflicted conscience in the psyche of people. Depression, anxiety, and despair are proliferating. The secular answer to such mental disturbance is more and more medications. And while there are certain biological factors which require medicinal treatment, there are more rudimentary spiritual issues that are going untreated. God offers comfort for the stressed-out conscience.

Have you noticed the spirit of conflict in the air? It seems like people don’t discuss things, but rather choose sides and then fight to the death to defend their positions. There is little honest consideration of opposing views. There is little objective truth seeking. There’s little civil debate or friendly discussions anymore. There are more and more people covering their ears and shouting down opposing views with a “La la la la la la la, I don’t want to hear you!” Certain speech has been determined to be violence. Gone are the days when people knew “Sticks and stones may break your bones but names can’t ever hurt you.” The presence and pressures of the conversational conflict have led to people seeking refuge in “safe spaces.” People have been coached to be conversational cowards. “Safe spaces,” don’t solve anything. “Safe spaces,” only cover up wounds without treating them. If you settle for simply bandaging over a wound of world view without cleaning it out with healthy truth-based conversation, it will only lead to an infection of falsehood and more serious interpersonal and societal problems. God offers a cure and comfort to deal with conversational conflict.

God, by His grace, has given us so much. And He has called us to be grace givers too. But there is someone who desires to fleece the flock of God. There is someone who wants to steal, rob and destroy (John 10:10). There is an enemy to the grace of God and that enemy is the devil. The devil is a real being who has a mission to usurp the throne of God (Isaiah 14; Ezekiel 28). He opposes all that God seeks to do and he opposes all those who belong to God and are seeking to be used by God for His glory. This enemy is brilliant, cunning, ruthless and merciless. He is dangerous and not to be taken lightly.

There are two main tactics the devil uses to destroy God’s human image bearers. First, Satan seeks to confuse our conscience and thinking. Second, Satan seeks to divide people with conflicted conversation. He knows that, “a house divided against itself will not stand” (Matthew 12:25). If he can divide our thoughts and keep people at odds with each other through a lack of conversation, then he can control and defeat us. Satan wants to keep the unsaved in the dark. They are already truthfully “children of the devil” (1 John 3:10). They are “by nature children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). Those who are spiritually dead, who have yet to be regenerated and given spiritual eternal life through the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 3; Titus 3:4-7), these are blinded by the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4). The unsaved belong to him. He’s got them wrapped up in a false comfort. He’s got them confused and ignorant of their future comfortless incarceration should they persist in their rejection of Jesus to the death.

Christians have escaped the snare of the devil (1 Tim. 3:7; 2 Tim.2:26). And the devil isn’t happy about that. He wants to take as many people to hell with him as he can. Every Christian reminds Satan of his defeat. Every saint reminds Satan of his future solitary confinement in the Lake of Fire. Every Spirit filled disciple of Jesus Christ is a poke at the devil who prowls around his cage steaming at the limits set on him by God (1 Peter 5:8-9). Therefore, Satan takes particular pleasure in oppressing and influencing Christians. Satan wants to confuse our thinking and corrupt our conversations. God has provided comfort in Christ against such devilish devices.

The church in Corinth was a church in conflict with themselves. They had succumbed to Satan’s schemes to lure them into carnal conflict. Enter the Apostle Paul. Paul had a history with the church in Corinth. He was used by God to plant that church (Acts 18:1-18). After Paul got the work going evidently false teachers infiltrated the church and attempted to take over what Paul had started. Like Satan the great usurper who sought to take over the universe built by God, these thieves sought to steal what God had begun through Paul. There are frequently those attracted by the “glory” and apparent popularity of leading a church. They aren’t around when the hard-foundational start up work is being done. But as soon as there is a window of opportunity, as soon as the Apostle was away, like the one who was driving them, they sought to “steal, and to kill, and to destroy” and profit from the work of God (cf. John 8:42-45).

Jesus was opposed, His apostles like Paul were opposed, and throughout history the ministers and ministries of Jesus have been opposed (John 15:18-19). Jesus warned us in numerous passages that this would happen (John 16:1-4; Matthew 10:16-42; Acts 4:1-4; 5:41; 6:8-15; 7:1-60; 8:3-4; 9:31; 11:19-21; 13:45-51; 14:19-22; 16:16-40; 17:13; 20:17-24; 21:10-14; 2 Timothy 3:12; Hebrews 11:35). The New Testament warns us of what is called spiritual warfare. Attempts of the enemy to confuse our thinking and conflict our conversations are inevitable. But God’s cure for such psychological and relational conflict is His “comfort.”

The epistle of 2 Corinthians opens in part with the words, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor. 1:3-4). The term “comfort” (Greek paraklēsis) means solace, comfort, to call near, encouragement, a stirring address, persuasive. When we think of “comfort” we should think of God coming next to us in His presence and putting His strong and comforting arm around us to walk us through difficulty. Jesus is our comforting Shepherd (John 10). Jesus is the “Commander of the army of the LORD” (Joshua 5:13-15). He is a Commander that defeats His every foe. And He is a Commander that comforts the victims of this world war. Jesus is a comforting Commander. He comforts with a steadying word of encouragement that promotes peace. Jesus’ comfort is a word that stirs us to get up when we’ve been knocked down and to continue our walk with Him. Jesus is a Commander Who will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Always remember that.

God’s comfort is something to be personally received, but also, shared with others. What we learn in this teaching is something for each of us, but it is also something that we can use to help others. Jesus left all to come and help us. In that spirit we should receive His comfort and seek to be used by Him to comfort others. Address conflict with His comfort, wherever you find it.

How are we to respond to the conflict, in mind or conversation, that so entangles and confuses us? We need do is understand that we are not to go out in our own strength as a solitary soldier of the Lord. We must run to and rely on our blessed “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” God in Christ is our Source of solace and Resource to resolve conflicts. God’s cure of God’s comfort is found in His manual for life, the Bible.

If we are to come through conflict of mind and conversation victoriously, we need to follow our marching orders laid out in this passage. There are four strategic truths for successful spiritual warfare that can be gleaned from 2 Corinthians 10:1-6. Let’s consider them carefully.

  1. Accusations Often Form the Attack

2 Corinthians 10:1-2 – Now I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ— who in presence am lowly among you, but being absent am bold toward you. 2 But I beg you that when I am present I may not be bold with that confidence by which I intend to be bold against some, who think of us as if we walked according to the flesh.

One of the titles of Satan is the Accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10). Therefore, it is not surprising that the battle we are in often involves character assassination and false accusations brought against us. From Paul’s words we see he had been accused of duplicity. His opponents said he was a lion in his letters but a lamb when present face to face. In other words, they accused Paul of cowardice. They had said something like, “he is a bold writer from a distance but when he is actually with us he’s too fearful and weak to back up his words. This man who speaks of the power of the Spirit is a weak fleshly man.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Such an accusation could be dangerous for the accusers. The Lord had manifested blinding power through the hands of Paul and he was very capable of being a courageous warrior for the Lord (see Acts 13:4-12). An accusation of cowardice was without merit. Then why was it brought against Paul? It was likely motivated by a desire to diminish Paul in the eyes of the Corinthian congregation in order to secure favor and supplant Paul’s authority.

God has not given us a spirit of fear. He has given us power and love and soundness of mind (2 Tim.1:7). And the Lord’s servant must not be a person given to quarreling. We’re to be students of His word. We must trust in the Spirit to work patiently teaching people God’s word with humility. Our objective is to see the Spirit bring people to repentance and “escape the snare of the devil” (2 Timothy 2:15, 24-26).

  1. Don’t War in Your Flesh

2 Corinthians 10:3 – For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.

It’s only natural to want to strike back when accused. We are inclined to defend ourselves. Our flesh or self-centered sinful nature is inclined to strike back to defend itself; to defend its pride. But Paul here says that’s not the right way to go. It’s best to trust in God to defend you. Jesus is our Advocate (1 John 2:1). Jesus is our Defense Attorney. If we defend ourselves we will have ourselves as our attorney. But if we trust in Jesus, we will have an Attorney that makes Perry Mason look like a fumbling Elmer Fudd. Let’s go with Attorney Jesus.

In Paul’s first letter he refers to Corinthians as “brethren” (1 Corinthians 3:1). These were people who had accepted Christ as their Savior and were a part of the body of Christ. Despite having been born again, there was a definite problem with these believers. They were “carnal” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3). The word “carnal” is translated from the Greek term sarkikos which means, “pertaining to flesh, . . . bodily, temporal, . . . animal, unregenerate . . . carnal, fleshly.” [i] This word is translated “flesh” (Greek sarx) in 2 Corinthians 10:3. This word can refer to the actual flesh and skin of an animal or human. But more importantly, it refers to “the body as opposed to the soul [or spirit], human nature” with its limitations and passions. [1] Your “flesh,” spiritually speaking, is that part of you that is self-oriented, self-centered, self-promoting, self-serving, preoccupied with self, self-reliant. The flesh is the “me,” ‘myself,” and “I” of our sinful nature. The flesh, which remains a part of us even after conversion, opposes the work of the Spirit in us. In the book of Romans Paul is inspired to comment that there is nothing good about the flesh in us (Romans 7:18). Your flesh is a kind of traitor living within you.

In Paul’s letter to the Galatians he was inspired to discuss this issue in detail. He pointed to the solution when he said, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). The idea here is simply what you feed will live, what you starve will die. If when tempted you “walk in the Spirit” and follow His way of “love” (i.e. Greek agape – which is Christlike sacrificial love in action) instead of following the lust of the flesh, then you will grow spiritually. But if you give in to the lusts of your carnal sinful nature, then you will spiritual digress. But faith we must lean on the Spirit and follow His holy ways. When we give in to the lusts of the flesh, we find that we become a paly thing for the devil and his demons.

We have to go beyond our flesh if we are going to win this “war.” The phrase, “we do not war” is translated from the single Greek term strateumai which refers not only to serving in the military, but more importantly, “to contend with carnal inclinations.” [2] The grammatical form of this word indicates an action we do to ourselves for ourselves (Present/Middle/Indicative). What makes this “war” so dangerous is that we are not only battling an enemy from without, but that there is a sympathizer within us who is eager to comply with our enemy’s demands and strategies. There is a breach, an informer, a spy, within our lines and we must root him out. That complicit enemy ally is our flesh.

When the enemy brings an accusation against us he does so aiming at our flesh. If he can get us to respond in the “strength” of our flesh, he will win every time. Our flesh therefore is our greatest weakness. When someone opposes us we naturally want to defend ourselves. And by doing so in our flesh we think we are relying on strength. But that is a false notion. If we rely on our flesh, we limit our response in every way. Our response will be weak because it will be from a point of self-deception; we won’t see the real or true enemy. And it is weak because there is no power to fulfill God’s will in our flesh. The flesh and Spirit within the Christian are at war (Galatians 5:16-26). From our limited human fleshly perspective, we only focus on what we can see and what our minds can understand. But there is a lot more going on than that. There is a spiritual war going on behind the scenes (see Job 1-2 and Ephesians 6:12-13). Paul gives greater insight into this reality further on in this letter (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

  1. Our Weaponry is Mighty in God

2 Corinthians 10:4 – For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,

If we’re going to win this conflict we must rely on more than mere physical weaponry. You can’t stab, shoot, blow up or nuke a spirit entity. And it is a spiritual war in which we battle. That is why Paul says “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal.” If you rely on mere physical or even mere psychological weaponry or strategies, you will lose this war. That is why despite the efforts of social and psychological services people are still caught up in so much of the enemies’ traps. Medications can bring balance to a chemically imbalanced mind. But too often medications only cover up and put off addressing real underlying issues. We can medicate our problems to avoid dealing with them, but when the meds wear off, the problems will still be there, and will likely have worsened. No. We need to get to the root of the problem of conflict. The weapons we need are those that are, “mighty in God for the pulling down of strongholds.”

A “stronghold” (Greek ochuroma) is a fortification, a castle, a beach head or a place or position of safety for soldiers. [3] There are “strongholds” in our life where the enemy and our flesh feel safe and secure. These strongholds have to be rooted out. The enemy and our flesh feel most comfortable in areas of our lives where we permit disobedience, rebellion, or contradiction to the reign of Jesus as Lord to exist. When you indulge in things you know are wrong, sinful and against God’s will, that is an enemy stronghold. Indulging in things like idolatry, adultery, pornography, theft, lying, envy, etc., are all strongholds for the enemy. These are things you cannot allow in your life if you are to win the spiritual war you are in.

When Marines in the Pacific during World War 2 planned to take the small 8 square mile Island of Iwo Jima they thought they could polish it off in a week or so with limited casualties. When the marines landed the reality turned out to be a bloody 36-day battle. There ended up being 26,000 American Casualties, 6,800 American soldiers killed and nearly all of the 22,000 Japanese soldiers on the island killed. What made the battle so difficult was that the Japanese military had dug in and had a network of cave and tunnel strongholds throughout the island. These strongholds were impervious to the mass shelling of Naval bombardment that preceded the attack. From their strategic camouflaged positions, the Japanese sniped at our soldiers mercilessly. The enemy was determined to fight to the death and had to be slowly, carefully and ruthlessly rooted out of those caves and tunnels. Similarly, the flesh has dug in and infiltrates much of our lives. It has to be rooted out. The Lord has given us the weapons we need to stand against our devilish spiritual enemies as well as our flesh.

There is a spiritual war going on and we need to use the spiritual weaponry God has provided for this war. In the letter to the Ephesians Paul is moved by the Spirit to write:

  • Ephesians 6:10-18 – “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints”

Our battle is not against our neighbor, or our fellow brother or sister in Christ, it is against Satan and his hoard who are trying to stealthily tear down the work of the Spirit in and around us (Ephesians 6:12). At the same time, as we have already mentioned, we have a foe within, our flesh. The armor and weaponry God provides is a potent answer to address these internal and external enemies. What do the weapons of our warfare consist of?

First, we must understand we need to depend on God’s might not our own (Ephesians 6:10; Zechariah 4:6). This is the most important order in our spiritual warfare. This is not a command we can overlook or choose to disobey. Part of Satan’s strategy is to get us to rely on our own strength (like he did with King David – 1 Chronicles 21:1). We are no match for Satan in our own strength. Satan is smarter, stronger and wiser than us. But in Christ, the Spirit enables us to discern and gain victory over Satan and his allies.

Second, you need to put on all the armor of God not just a piece here or there (6:11, 13). You can put most of your armor on but if you leave off the helmet you expose yourself to a fatal blow. Leave off your belt and your weapons will swing free and get tangled up and trip you up or choke you out. Leave off your army boots and you won’t walk far or be able to keep up with your battalion. You have put all your armor on!

Have you ever seen the equipment a football player wears? I played football and let me tell you, you can put on your shoulder pads, hip pads, thigh pads, knee pads, elbow pads, hand pads, and even your ribcage pads, but if you go out to play without your helmet, you’re in for a rough day. Have you ever seen a hockey goalie? They wear so many pads they look like a mound of pads on ice skates! But they have to wear that protection because a hockey puck is like a piece of hard rubber rock that is shot at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour. Can you imagine if a goalie put on all their pads, except for their chest protector? What do you think would happen if that rock-hard puck came flying at them and hit their bare chest? They’d be dead in a heartbeat! The same is true with our spiritual armor, leave any one part off and it could prove fatal, or at the very least, very painful.

Third, we need to wrap ourselves in God’s truth (6:14). The belt of truth is what holds all the other pieces of armor in place. The armor of old was put on in layers like a number of smocks. To keep the armor from becoming too cumbersome to move around in a belt was used to hold it tight at the waist. Without a belt a soldier might get all tangled up and tumble and fall on the ground in battle. On the ground, fallen, a soldier in battle is an easy mark for the enemy. We need to know and stand on the truth of God’s word so that we won’t stumble and fall spiritually. Jesus said the word of God is truth (John 17:17). Hearing and obeying His word is like standing on a rock (Matthew 7:24-27). If you want to stand firm, stand on the truth of God’s word and you won’t be an easy mark for the enemy.

Fourth, we need to cover our hearts with the righteousness of Jesus (6:14; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Satan puts a bulls-eye on your heart and aims for its center. He will come against you with discouragement and try to depress you. He’ll bring thoughts like, “So, you think you’re such a great Christian eh? Well what about the way you spoke to your spouse this morning? What about the way you talked to your kids? What about the way you blew that chance to witness? What about that lustful thought you had?” etc. Those are all things that need to be confessed and repented of, but did you know that your righteousness before God is not based on those things or any other thing other than what Jesus has done for you on the cross? That’s right; our righteousness is not based on our works, but on the finished work of Jesus on the cross in our place. Paul was inspired to write that we are righteous in Christ (Romans 3:21-22; 8:1; 2 Corinthians 5:21). We are righteous because of what Jesus has done for us, not because of what we do for Jesus. Remember that when Satan attacks you. Cover your heart with that truth and remind Satan of it too.

Fifth, we need to go with the gospel (6:15; Matthew 28:18-20). We need to be ready and alert to share the gospel wherever we go. Like our shoes, we take the gospel with us wherever we go. The gospel enables us to step on the nails of sin in life without getting hurt. The gospel helps us to share the way others can be freed from the pains of sin. The gospel destroys the strongholds of the enemy. The gospel is the power of God! (Romans 1:16). Toss a gospel grenade into a demon infested thought cave. Rip up enemy strong holds with your gospel grenade. Take the gospel with you wherever you go.

Sixth, we need to keep our enemy at bay through faith in Jesus (6:16; Hebrews 11). Notice, Paul says, “above all.” We should especially take careful heed to keeping our shield of faith close by. Satan shoots fiery missiles at us. Did you ever watch one of those old-time cowboy and Indian movies where the wagon train is attacked and they have to circle the wagons? Well, what do the settlers in the wagon train fear the most? They fear the dreaded fiery arrows shot by the Indians because when they hit their mark they don’t only affect the immediate area of contact, they start a fire that spreads. Satan shoots fiery thought missiles or arrows of outward accusation at us. They may seem small at first, but because they are fiery, when they hit, if they are not warded off with the shield of faith, they can start a fire of doubt, bad feelings or depression that will spread in us and perhaps to others also.

The shield of faith protects us from those fiery darts. When Satan shoots a doubt or depressing thought, we merely hold up our faith in Jesus and what by grace He has provided for us. When we do that the fiery arrow is extinguished and falls to the ground harmlessly. We walk by faith not feelings (2 Corinthians 5:7). Faith can get us through any attack of the enemy. The Bible is filled with examples of those who weathered and withstood the attacks of Satan’s fiery arrows by faith in God (see Hebrews 11).

Seventh, we need to know whom we believe in and have a personal saving relationship with Jesus (6:17). We need to put on the helmet of salvation. We need to know the rationale for the gospel and have it settled in our mind and hearts. When Paul went from city to city he went to the synagogues and spoke with people reasoning with them about the gospel and Jesus Christ. Paul was able to do this because he knew Jesus personally as his Lord and Savior (2 Timothy 1:12; see also John 17:3). When we speak of knowing the rationale of the gospel we are not only speaking of an academic understanding of Jesus and the gospel, far from it. Seminaries are filled with people who know a lot about Jesus and religious things, but don’t know Jesus. Putting on the helmet of salvation does not mean we merely know about Jesus, it means we know Jesus, personally. The assurance of salvation that comes from that intimate personal and close relationship we have with Jesus protects us from any head blow Satan may throw at us (see 1 John 5:12-13).

Eight, we need to wield the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God (6:17; 2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12). With the word of God, we can protect ourselves and also go on the offensive destroying the works of the devil. The word of God is like a surgical scalpel that can perform intricate spiritual surgery. Or it can be machete that can cut down the thick jungle brush that needs to be cleared away to walk a straight path to the destination of truth. The sword of God’s word can pierce the heart of the fiercest foe, or it can open a can of rations so the soldier of God can be well fed in the battle. The sword of the Lord, His word, is indispensable to victory in the spiritual battle.

Ninth, and above all, we need to declare our dependence on God always in prayer (6:18). When we pray it is like we go to the Commander to get our marching orders. When we pray we get encouragement and support from our Leader Jesus. When we pray, we fall in line with our God of hosts. A Christian is not an “Army of one.” A Christian is an army of the One! We take our orders and find our strength to fight victoriously in Jesus Christ.

When those weapons are in place on us we will be able to pull down the strongholds or places in our lives where the enemy felt safe. Don’t allow Satan or your flesh to ever feel safe. Martin Luther used to say, “Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon their knees.” Let’s war on the floor and make full use of the spiritual weaponry God has provided.

  1. Our Objective is Obedience to Christ

2 Corinthians 10:5-6 – 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, 6 and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.

For a battle to be won there must be an objective. We need to grasp what needs to be done. We need to have a target, a destination, a definition of victory. If you aim at nothing you will hit it every time, but you’ll get nowhere in the spiritual war. What is the objective of this spiritual battle? It is simply, “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”

Notice where the battle field is. Paul says, “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience to Christ.” This is a war that takes place to a great extent in our minds. Our thoughts are a battle field. The war takes place primarily in your mind. “Knowledge of God” is in the mind. Arguments are formulated in the mind. The options toward the knowledge of God in your mind are either obedience or disobedience. That is the heart of the war. Satan wants to get you to first disobey God in your mind so that you will disobey God in action. Paul calls us to capture our thoughts through obedience to Christ.

Have you ever awakened from sleep in a bad mood? You don’t’ know why you are grouchy or feel like fighting with the world, but you do? Ever wonder why you have that bad thought about somebody? They didn’t do anything to you, at least as far as you can see, but you just know they have it in for you. Then you talk with the person and they’re the most loving and kind person you’ve ever seen. Why is that? Ever feel depressed, angry, or unloving or unloved without reason? All of this is very likely connected to and a result of spiritual warfare.

What should we think about? The battle for your mind involves choices. If the enemy can win control of your mind, they win. Who you are in life is determined to a great extent by how you think. In His word God tells us how we should think and act. And the enemy tempts us with alternatives. There are two passages which will give us insight into this battle and the strategy of Satan and our flesh. There are two passages I’d like to refer to that will help us determine what right and wrong thinking produces. The Apostle Paul in his first letter the Corinthians and in his letter to the Philippians tells us what should fill our thoughts. By looking at these things to think about we can identify the opposite thoughts our enemy Satan will try to tempt us into indulging.

In Frist Corinthians 13:4-8 Paul defines love as:

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 – 4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.

That’s what holy scriptural love is truly like. This is how God desires His people to act. But before we act that way our flesh and the devil try to conjure up evil alternatives. Our enemy wants to drive us away from God’s love. So, when it comes to loving as God would have us love the Tempter creates thoughts that will hinder God’s loving plan for us. Temptation takes the form of thoughts that oppose God’s love. God wants our love to suffer long and be kind. Satan says, “Why should I suffer long and be kind, I’ve waited long enough and they’re not kind to me?” God does not want us to “envy” but Satan and our flesh say, “Why should they get that position? How come they have those things? I’m more deserving than they are!” God says love does not parade itself” and “is not puffed up,” but Satan and our flesh say, “Strut your stuff and let everyone know who’s in the house!” God says love isn’t rude but Satan and our flesh say, “What I have to say is so important; it’s more important than what anyone else has to say. And besides, everyone loves to hear me talk.” God says love “does not seek its own” but Satan and our flesh say, “Mine, mine, MINE!” God says love “is not provoked” but Satan and our flesh say, “Who do they think they are? Don’t they know who I am? The nerve of them. Well, I’m going to get up in their face and make sure they know who I am. I’m the dominant ‘Alpha’ person around here.” God’s love “thinks no evil” but Satan and our flesh say, “I know just what to do to get even with that guy.” God’s love “does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth,” but Satan and our flesh say, “Why should I live a holy life, no one else does? And besides, I kind of like living this lie; I can have my cake and eat it too and no one is the wiser.” God’s love “bears all things,” but Satan and our flesh say, “Are you kidding, I’m out of here, I’ve had enough.” God’s love, “believes all things,” but Satan and our flesh say, “I just know they are up to something and I know it’s against me.” God’s love “hopes all things,” but Satan and the flesh say, “That’s it, it’s all over, I knew things wouldn’t work out!” God’s love “endures all things,” but Satan and our flesh say, “I’ve endured enough, it’s my turn!” God’s love “never fails,” but Satan and our flesh say, “Forget about that love stuff, you’ve got to be real and get your own.” Satan and our flesh do not want us to think or act in a loving way. Those two adversaries want us to be at odds and selfish toward everyone around us. That’s what the war we’re in looks like from the inside.

But there is another passage that Paul was inspired to write to the Philippians that tells us in particular what should be the focus of our thoughts. Paul wrote:

Philippians 4:6-9 – 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

That is what God wants our thought life to be like. What is the enemies’ alternative? God wants us to not be anxious about anything, but instead to pray about everything so that God’s peace can conquer our fears (Philippians 4:6-7). Satan and our flesh want us to be anxious about everything and forget about praying. God wants us to think about things that are “true . . . noble, . . . just, . . . pure, . . . lovely, . . . things of good report, . . . any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy” (4:8). God wants us to think about the things we’ve learned from His word (4:9). If we think on those things God’s peace will be with us. Satan and our flesh don’t want us to be at peace with God or anyone else. They hate peace. They love confusion and calamity. They love disruption and destruction. Satan and our flesh want to consume us with the filthy falsehoods of his world. They want us to dwell on the low and base things of this world, injustices, lustful things, things of bad report and anything that is unholy. They want us not to praise but to rip down and criticize. Hmmm, this sounds a lot like what we see on the evening news, TV in general, the Internet, magazines and newspapers, the conversations of our day. Wonder who is behind all of that?

We live in a fallen world and there is a war going on. The war is for your mind. It is all about what you think because you are what you think. If the enemy can sway your thoughts, they can win the war. Our only defense is the Spirit of God using the word of God to consecrate the minds of God’s people (Hebrews 4:12).

The idea of “bringing every thought into captivity” is expressed by one Greek term Greek aichmalotidzo) which means, “to make captive; lead away captive, bring into captivity.” [4] The idea is to subjugate and take under control. And it is our thoughts that need to be taken under control. That is something that we can only do with God’s help. God alone can create a clean heart and mind in us (Psalm 51:2-4, 10; Acts 15:8-9; Titus 3:4-7; 1 Peter 1:22-25).

We are to capture wrong thoughts and discard them if they are disobedient to Jesus. Obedience is not a popular notion in our modern world. In a fallen world rebellion and disobedience is glamorized and obedience is marginalized. But the Bible has a lot to say about obedience. Jesus said obedience is the proof of a disciple’s love for Him (John 14:15, 21; 15:10). Jesus is our example of obedience (Matthew 26:39, 42; Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 5:7-10). Since God’s purpose is to conform us to the likeness of Christ, we ought to follow in His steps of obedience (Romans 8:29; 1 John 2:6). The Bible says we are to be obedient to God (Acts 5:29), to Jesus (Hebrews 5:9), to God’s truth (Galatians 5:7) and to the Faith (Acts 6:7). Our obedience should be from the heart (Romans 6:7). The only way we can obey God is by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us (1 Peter 1:22). Obedience is an important aspect of our relationship with Jesus. The objective of the enemy is to get us to disobey.

This is no gentle task. This war is not for the faint of heart. The word Paul uses for “casting down” is kathaireo and it means to violently bring down, destroy, demolish.[5] Paul tells us that when facing, “arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God,” we need to grab them by the collar and pull them down. Get the back of wrong thoughts and choke them out. We do not have the luxury of allowing opposition to the knowledge of God to peacefully coexist in us. Remember, we are not warring in a fleshly way. The way God does things is through the Holy Spirit and His love and truth (Ephesians 4:15).

Warren Wiersbe comments on these verses saying:

There are walls of resistance in the minds of people, and these walls (like the walls of Jericho) must be pulled down. What are these “mental walls”? Reasonings that are opposed to the truth of God’s Word. Pride of intelligence that exalts itself. Paul was not attacking intelligence, but intellectualism, the high-minded attitude that makes people think they know more than they really do (Rom. 12:16). Paul had faced this “wisdom of men” when he founded the church (1 Cor. 1:18ff), and it had surfaced again with the coming of the Judaizers.

Paul’s attitude of humility was actually one of his strongest weapons, for pride plays right into the hands of Satan. The meek Son of God had far more power than Pilate (see John 19:11), and He proved it. Paul used spiritual weapons to tear down the opposition—prayer, the Word of God, love, the power of the Spirit at work in his life. He did not depend on personality, human abilities, or even the authority he had as an apostle. However, he was ready to punish the offenders, if necessary once the congregation had submitted to the Lord.

Many believers today do not realize that the church is involved in warfare, and those who do understand the seriousness of the Christian battle do not always know how to fight the battle. They try to use human methods to defeat demonic forces, and these methods are doomed to fail. When Joshua and his army marched around Jericho for a week, the spectators thought they were mad. When the Jews trusted God and obeyed orders, they brought down the high walls and conquered the enemy (Joshua 6:1–20). [6]

There is a lot of conflict in our thoughts and in our conversations. Maybe you’ve experienced some of that. Thankfully, the comfort God offers can help us overcome in such conflicting circumstances. It’s time to strap our armor on and obey our Commander. Don’t listen to the enemy attacks whether they are from outside you or from within. Take hold of every thought and in faith obey our Comforting Commander Lord Jesus. He is leading on to victory. He leads us by example. He is the first into battle. He is the bravest of the brave. And He knows what it means to fight in the trenches. There are times when He is shoulder to shoulder with us. He will bring us through. He will shield us and supply our needs. He has our back. He will comfort us through our trials. For the glory of God, I pray you experience His comfort and victory.

 

[1]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[2]Strong, J. (1997, c1996). The new Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words (electronic ed.) (G4754). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3]Strong, J. (1997, c1996). The new Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words (electronic ed.) (G3794). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4]Strong, J. (1997, c1996). The new Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words (electronic ed.) (G163). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[5]Strong, J. (1997, c1996). The new Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words (electronic ed.) (G2507). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[6]Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1989). The Bible exposition commentary. “An exposition of the New Testament comprising the entire ‘BE’ series”–Jkt. (2 Co 10:7). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

[i]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.