A violent battle is raging around you constantly. It’s the battle for the mind. It is vicious, intense, unrelenting and unfair; because our enemy, Satan, is unfair. Why is this such a big deal – because our mind is so important. What we think and feel affects all of life, Proverbs 4:23.
I’m battling in prayer with mental illness. We see people in the church office every week who are struggling with their mental health. I’m praying for real breakthroughs in healing mental health issues. Guarding our minds is important.
The Corinthians have a ‘fleshly’ way of thinking. Flesh (sarx in Greek) can mean a number of things:
i) a neutral reference to our body
ii) fallen sinful nature (remember 2 Corinthians 5:17 – we have a new nature now!)
iii) the world’s idea of standards of excellence.
In verse 3, Paul is using meanings (i) and (iii) – we live and walk in bodies, but not by the standards of excellence the world looks for. From the preceding verse we can see the Corinthians think that human ingenuity, rhetorical power, showmanship, charm and charisma are needed to be a good apostle. Paul’s not using those weapons. I remember going to hear a well-known speaker; I enjoyed the presentation and laughed at the jokes, but came away with no life change and nothing to put into practice. Motivational speakers don’t motivate for long!
Paul’s weapons are different – they tear down strongholds. What’s a stronghold? Verse 5 shows us they are arguments and lofty opinions raised up against the knowledge of God. They are thought patterns that dominate our thinking and stop us knowing God. They can be:
Worldviews – ‘isms’ – like atheism, Darwinism, materialism; or our cultural views like “an Englishman’s home is his castle”, meaning we don’t open up our homes for hospitality, thus stopping strangers and foreigners from being welcomed into God’s family.
Personal attitudes – like fear, bitterness, anxieties, insecurities.
I recently spoke to a non-Christian whose strongholds were a mix of the two. He saw everything through a rejection lens. He’d been rejected at a young age and constantly experienced or perceived rejection. When I pointed out that, for 30 minutes, everything he had said was about rejection and perhaps he needed Jesus to set him free from a spirit of rejection, he told me he was a mother nature worshipper. His worldview was a pagan one. And he was trapped. When I asked how good mother nature was at setting him free from rejection, he sadly didn’t want to know of a better hope.
Paul tells us to take these strongholds captive; take them captive to obey Christ.
The trouble is, it is easier to spot strongholds in other people’s lives than our own. We have blind spots to the weaknesses in our culture and attitudes. Paul’s hope is that his team’s influence among them would be ‘greatly enlarged’, v.15, so that as they get strongholds torn down they can spread the influence of the gospel further.
So how do we tear down strongholds?
- Don’t believe everything you think!
Sin causes confusion, anxiety, restlessness and rashness. We jump to conclusions and put people in boxes. Stop and think!
- Don’t let garbage in.
Computers are great tools and programmers talk about GIGO – Garbage In Garbage Out. What do you fill your mind with? Philippians 4:8 is pretty helpful here.
- Keep increasing your knowledge of the Lord – reading the Bible daily – praying for revelation and using it is a fantastic start. Don’t forget ‘Going Deeper’ this Sunday 9th Sept at 6:30pm in the church office.
- Ask for the Holy Spirit’s help – Jesus promised that the Spirit would guide us into the truth and the truth will set us free; John 8:32.
Let’s get tearing down strongholds that stop us growing in knowing God.