Arm Yourself (II Corinthians 10:3-5)
II Corinthians 10:3-5; Isaiah 55:10, 11
(One Truth: Your Word is Truth)
July 16th, 2017
I. A Wartime Footing
Listen to the following description of our country approximately 65 years ago:
The home front of the United States in World War II supported the war effort in many ways, including a wide range of volunteer efforts and submitting to government-managed
rationing and price controls. There was a general feeling of agreement that the sacrifices were for the national good "for the duration." The labor market changed radically...This was achieved by tens of millions of workers moving from low to high productivity jobs in industrial centers. Millions of students, retirees, housewives, and unemployed moved into the active labor force. Hours worked increased as leisure activities declined sharply...Every aspect of life from politics to personal savings changed when put on a wartime footing.
Did you catch that, “every aspect of life” was changed “when put on a wartime footing”. U.S. soldiers have been in many military conflicts since WWII, but none of those has significantly affected our everyday lives, not in the way we just heard about.
But think about your life right now. Is the war affecting “every aspect of your life”? No, I'm not talking about a conflict in the Arab world. I'm talking about the spiritual war, the one the Bible describes, the one taking place all around us even now? Does it affect your everyday life?
This morning, as we turn to God's word, it is critical that we acknowledge this war, AND that unlike the description above, Christians are not on the homefront of that war; we are on the battlefront. Turn with me to II Corinthians 10.
II. The Passage: "The Weapons of Our Warfare" (10:3-5)
For the past ten and half months, we have been digging into our Four Essentials by digging into a collection of forty-eight memory verses; verses that represent the biblical foundation for what we believe. And some of us have been memorizing those verses, and as a result, growing in our faith; growing our vision of who God is, what God has done, and what He will do. I pray the series has been a blessing to you in this way.
But as we approach the beginning of a new school year and new ministry year, I'd like to wrap this series up a little earlier than planned. That will allow us to begin a new book study next month, and an exciting new teaching series for September and October.
That being said, I'm still committed to looking at all of our memory verses. So this morning, we will be looking at two passages, II Corinthians 10:3-5 and Isaiah 55:10, 11. Listen to what Paul writes to the Corinthian believers in II Corinthians 10:3-5...
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ...
So right away, Paul is acknowledging the spiritual war we are engaged in as believers. As we see here, he is specifically talking about the kind of spiritual combat that takes place in this conflict. If we are at war, how should we fight?
Well, to understand what Paul is talking about, what he, what God is saying here, let's look at three things: first, let's talk about...
1. The Strongholds of Our Enemies
According to Paul, part of the spiritual conflict taking place all around involves the destruction of “strongholds. Do you see that idea at the end of verse 4? But what are these strongholds?
Well, in more recent times, many in the Charismatic and Pentecostal movements have decided these “strongholds” or “fortresses” are demonic armies who move in and spiritually occupy a community, or oppress a family, or wreak havoc in certain parts of your life. But is that what the context reveals?
Listen, we know the Bible teaches that as believers, as followers of Jesus, we do wrestle against the spiritual forces of the devil and his armies (Ephesians 6:12), as well as against the world system (John 15:19), AND against our own flesh, our own sinful passions (I Peter 2:11).
But if you look at the immediate context (the rest of chapter 10, back into chapter 9), you'll see no mention of demonic forces. Instead, the very next verse explains what Paul is talking about; verse 5: [Destroying strongholds means] We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ...
Notice those words in verse 5, “arguments”, “opinions”, and “ every thought”. So these strongholds are the defensive positions of sin's deception. They are the false rationales, the core lies, untrue arguments by which everything that opposes God justifies its rebellion.
So the “strongholds” Paul destroys are not the devil, the world system, or the flesh per se. Instead, they are the lies by which all those entities follow the path away from God.
So when we talk about THE war, the ultimate war raging all around us, we should not talk first about angels and demons, or the world's persecution of believers. The ultimate war in which all those battles take place is the war for your heart and mind.
Every lie, every variation on every lie, is a brick used by Satan, by the world system, and by your own sinful desires to build a tower in which you feel 'in control' and from which you sin against your Creator. And as in Corinth, enemies of the gospel feel safe in such towers, from which they attack the grace of God. But as Paul says in verse 4, his work is to destroy such strongholds. That leads us to topic number 2. We also see in verse 4 that Paul speaks of...
2. The Weapons of Our Warfare
He writes: the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ...
We may walk, we may live in human bodies among the rest of humanity, but it doesn't mean we fight according to human wisdom. No, we use divinely powerful weapons to destroy these fortifications of falsehood; these defensive positions of deception.
What are these weapons? Well, if such false arguments and worldly opinions stand in opposition to (v. 5) “the knowledge of God”, then our weapons must be ultimately rooted in the truth of God. Think about two verses from Paul's first letter to this church; think in terms of divinely powerful weapons...
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
Those ideas sound familiar, don't they? “[The] word of the cross”, that is, the gospel, is the primary weapon with which we fight. Now, both of Paul's letters to the Corinthians, those included in the NT, also point us to the Holy Spirit and prayer as divinely powerful weapons. But these work together with the gospel; with all of God's word.
Our key weapon is the word of God, called the “sword of the Spirit” in Ephesians 6:17. But since the whole counsel of God is ultimately about Jesus and the Good News, the gospel, then we don't need to think about these things in separate categories.
Brother, sister, are you armed with the gospel in the daily battle for your heart and mind?
But that brings us to a third point, and our second set of memory verses. Destroying the the strongholds of our enemies with the weapons of our warfare, should also involve...
3. The Promises of Our Father
Listen to what God declared to His people through the prophet Isaiah...
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,  so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11)
In light of the context, God is declaring the glorious future He has in store for His people, which included their restoration from the exile that was eventually coming via the Babylonians. As we see from these verses, He wants to assure them that just as there is a fixed system of cause and effect in nature, as with “the rain and the snow”, so also will He fulfill everything He has spoken.
Our God is a God of his word. He doesn't make promises He can't and won't keep. He is faithful. What He has promised will surely come to pass.
Did you know the gospel of grace is like a gift basket bursting with the promises of God. Because of His divine and perfect life, by means of His shed blood on the cross, and His resurrection from the dead, Jesus has given that gift to us. Paul said this about Jesus in the very first chapter of this letter, of II Corinthians...
For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. (1:20)
Do you see what that means? It means when we are armed with the gospel in the daily battle for your heart and mind, you are in fact armed with the promises of God...the promises of God secured by the precious blood of Jesus. If you are “in him”, then God's promises “find their Yes in him” for you!
Does the encourage you? It should. It should embolden you for the fight. But let's take all this and talk practically about what it means to truly live “on a wartime footing”. Remember, we are on the battlefront and not simply the homefront.
III. Are You Armed?
In Corinth, certain “strongholds” had been built by false teachers who were attempting to discredit Paul and assert their own authority over the church. These “strongholds”, these fortifications of falsehood focused on issues of worldly wisdom and worldly power or strength.
But it's critical for us to stop and consider what “strongholds” might we be running to for refuge. When times get tough, when our tank feels empty, in the face of failure, where are we tempted to go?
To think about the practical application of these things, let's talk about three steps that correspond to the three points we already talked about. So we should: 1) Identify the stronghold, 2) remember the gospel, and 3) cling to God's promise.
First, through prayer and godly counsel and honest reflection, we should attempt to identify the stronghold that seems to be influencing our choices, maybe on a regular basis; a pattern of behavior. For example, you might realize that you believe the lie: “My value is based on how many people like and accept me.”
That is a stronghold that can affect all of us, from the child in the schoolyard to his mom and her peers. When we take up a defensive position in that kind of fortress, we attempt to make sense of and justify our sinful compromise. We tell ourselves, “If I don't act like this, if I don't spend my money on this, if I don't spend my time in this or that way, if I don't put that person or these people first, my life is worthless...because I won't be accepted.”
There can be many reason behind this kind of thinking, and there can be many ways in which it manifests itself in my life. But in the end, we must acknowledge it is a lie. Sometimes, it is the sting of rejection that reveals just how deeply we care about this kind of acceptance.
But that should drive us to the second step, remember the gospel. In the Good News of Jesus, the gospel of grace, we hear at least two relevant points. First, because every single person is a rebel and guilty before God, we realize that the unkindness or rejection of others is not my issue but theirs. It may remind me that I too have been unkind or unwelcoming to others.
But second, the gospel reminds us that in spite of our sin, we are welcomed and accepted by God through the death of Jesus on our behalf. Through that amazing news, we realize that our real value is connected to God's acceptance, and not that of other people. I was made by and for Him, and through Christ, I am His again. Therefore, with that sword of the word, with that catapult of the gospel, we are able to destroy that stronghold.
But what happens when I once again you feel the sting of rejection or move to a new job and meet a new group of potential friends? What happens when we feel that temptation to anchor our identity in the acceptance of others? Well, that's when we need to cling to God's promises.
Through the gospel you are reminded of “the precious and very great promises” which have been granted to us through Jesus (II Peter 1:4), that whoever drinks from His water will never be thirsty again (John 4:14), that if you open the door to the knocking Jesus, he will come in and eat with you, and you with him (Revelation 3:20); that you will never be cast out (John 6:37), that He will never leave your or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5), and that He will complete the work He began in you (Philippians 1:6), and will bring you all the way home, to Himself, for all eternity (II Corinthians 5:1).
Talk about divinely powerful weapons! This is how we regain our perspective in the face of temptations to value human acceptance above the acceptance of God. The beauty of the genuine article always outshines the counterfeit. Vital, healthy relationships are an important and wonderful thing, but they are not an ultimate thing. There is only one ultimate relationship. And the promises of God sober us to that beautiful truth.
Believer, there are many strongholds to which we flee or might flee: strongholds of greed, strongholds of lust, strongholds of comfort or bitterness or self-righteousness. And as we walk with each other, not neglecting to meet together and spurring one another on (as we talked about last week), we may recognize those strongholds in our brother or sister's life.
By God's grace, firmly planted in that grace, God is calling us to acknowledge or point out such things. Yes, they can be hard to accept, and yes, they can be discouraging. But this morning God wants to embolden us with the reality that we don't fight the battle against lies with more lies, against human wisdom with more human strategies.
Brother, sister, are you armed with the gospel in the daily battle for your heart and mind?
And maybe you are here this morning, and don't quite understand what I mean by “the gospel”. Maybe you have a sneaking suspicion it's much bigger than you previously believed. If so, come talk with me afterwards. God is inviting you to freedom from these strongholds.
Shouldn't “every aspect of life” be affected by the reality of this war for your heart and mind. Let's ask God to get us on a “wartime footing” and turn to His weapons of grace.
other sermons in this series