Tuesday, June 09, 2015

The Battle of the Mind

Pulling Down Strongholds 

By Pastor Anton Bosch

“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 pulling down 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.”

(2 Corinthians 10:3-5) 

The Christian is locked in an intense war. Many of us, however, are so interested in fighting an external war with the Devil that we forget that the most important battle is not with external forces, but within our own mind, heart and thoughts. These verses above contain the keys to victory in an area where most Christians are constantly defeated.

Paul reminds us that our weapons and strategy are not fleshly or carnal. This is the first key to victory. Most Christians employ fleshly, psychological and human strategies to deal with spiritual problems. Many books that provide “seven easy steps to victory” employ human wisdom. They simply add a few Bible verses to sanctify a system they have borrowed from the world. Strip those Bible verses out of the book and you are left with a motivational message that the world will pay money for. When something is that acceptable to the world we need to question whether it is indeed authentic Christianity. I have no doubt that many of these formulas work to some extent. They are just like the many “cures” for weight problems that are touted every day – they provide quick solutions, and may even work for a time, but in the end leave you worse off than before.

Our battle is a spiritual one and can only be won when we employ the spiritual weapons that God has put at our disposal. Sometimes people don't use these weapons because they either seem too simplistic or too much like hard work. But they work because God has designed them and the Holy Spirit empowers them. In fact, the battle for (and in) your mind cannot be won unless you use the spiritual weapons God has given you.

Our spiritual weapons are mighty in God. They are powerless in and of themselves, but in God they are mighty, powerful and able to bring every thought under control. These weapons include the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17), prayer (Ephesians 6:18) and the anointing of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8).

One of the reasons we need such strong weapons is because bad thought patterns are so deeply entrenched in our minds that they literally become strongholds. Paul did not use the word “strongholds” by chance. This is the same word which Philo, the Jewish Greek philosopher (probably known to Paul), had used to describe the bastion of arrogant human reason. Philo likened this desire of man, i.e., to fortify his arguments against God, to the tower of Babel. What does this mean? It simply means that the thought-patterns that cause us to act as we do can become so powerfully entrenched in our minds that they become like military forts that are impregnable. Have you ever tried to reason with someone, who is obviously wrong (by all standards – not just your own), only to come to the conclusion that you are up against a stone wall? Well, that is exactly what it is. These are like strongholds built out of stone. Our arguments against God’s will, His Word and His wisdom become so fortified in our minds that nothing short of a miracle is able to penetrate them.

Such strongholds are built, stone by stone, argument by argument, until they become a fortress behind which we hide from God and our responsibilities. They are built over years through self-justification and rationalizing our bad behavior, addictions and unacceptable values. They are further reinforced as we fill our minds with the world and its systems and values.

When we come across this in a person, they may have an almost irrational denial of reality. We say such a person is unstable or emotional (as opposed to rational). But the text refers to the reason as “arguments.” (The King James incorrectly refers to this as “imaginations.”) The Greek word is logismos from the same root as “logic.” We all have rational, logical reasons for why we are disobedient to the Lord. Allow me to share some hard-earned advice: do not even try to argue with such a person. They are not interested in the truth, and will simply retreat behind the castle of their reasons, firing at you with all sorts of criticism.

So what are we to do to help others? Our weapons are not human – remember? We can only allow the Word of God and the Holy Spirit to do the work. Our part is simply to pray. That is all. The Lord must change the person’s mind through His Word and Spirit, and these begin to tear the fortifications down. Without God, your attempts will simply cause the person to entrench, and even go over into attack. It is hard to learn not to argue with such a person. But you need to simply walk away, and pray, and trust the Lord to deal with them. Trust me. If you try to “help” them you will only buy yourself much unnecessary heartache and pain. One of the hardest things in Christian work is to hand such a person over to the Lord when we feel we should actually be doing something.

More important than other's problems is the fact that we each have such strongholds in our own lives. Strongholds of fear, doubt, unbelief, greed, lust, anger, addictions, and the list goes on and on. There is only one place we can actively participate in this work of tearing down the strongholds in our own lives. Sometimes we want to be free of the hold these things have in our lives, but often we secretly enjoy them and are not willing to let them go.

But the text reminds us that we are not just wronging ourselves by allowing these thoughts to control us. It is sin against The Most High. Paul speaks about “every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God” (v5). Is that not what they did at the Tower of Babel? They built this tower in defiance of the Lord. That is what we often do when we harbor these things in our minds – we permit, even encourage, these things to lift themselves up in rebellion against God!

 If we are going to be the people the Lord wants us to be, these strongholds must be torn down and the thoughts hiding behind them brought under control. Paul says these arguments that elevate themselves against God must be cast or pulled down.

Do you feel defeated even before you have begun? Maybe it is because you have been trying to overcome these entrenchments using human methods in your own strength. It will not work. I hope you will have realized that by now. We need the dynamite power of the Holy Spirit to explode these fortifications. God can, and will, do it – with our permission and cooperation.

This article is Part 1 of a series of 4 covering these verses in 2 Cor. 10:3-5, recently published in Pastor Anton Bosch's new book of devotionals Building Blocks of Encouragement – A Devotional. The book is a selection of 60 of his most popular articles written over the past 11 years. As the title suggests, the articles are encouraging and edifying. Each chapter is free standing and is designed to be easily read in one sitting. In addition to being encouraging, the articles are doctrinally orthodox and the book is therefore a safe gift for friends and family that will bless strengthen and encourage. To order the book, contact the Discernment Ministries Book Center (903) 567-6423. The book is also available as a printed book as well as a Kindle book from Amazon.com.