How do I get started in this spiritual battle?

Q. I need your help with 2 Corinthians 10:3-6. I want to do the right thing but I often lack the strength to do it. How do I get started in this spiritual battle. How do I succeed?

“Within my earthly temple there’s a crowd;
There’s one of us that’s humble, and one of us that’s proud.
There’s one that’s broken-hearted for his sins,
There’s one that unrepentant sits and grins.
There’s one that loves his neighbor as himself,
And one that cares for naught but fame and self.
From much corroding care I should be free,
If I could once determine which is me!”
(Edward Sanford Martin, “My Name is Legion)

I think this poem concisely describes the two natures that we deal with daily. We have heard the term “Second Nature.” We usually say that a certain thing is second nature with us. When we say something is second nature to us, we mean that it has become a part of us. It is not always something that compliments us. If there is a “second nature” there must also be a “first nature.” There is also a “first nature” and a “second nature” in the spiritual realm. In the spiritual realm the two natures oppose each other. The apostle, Paul, describes in graphic terms the conflict of our “first nature” and our “second nature.”

Romans 7:14-19
14* ¶ For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.
15* For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.
16* But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good.
17* So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
18* For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.
19* For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.

How many times have you wanted to do what was right, but couldn’t find the strength to do it? Our first nature to do good was given by God. Satan gave us our second nature. It opposes our first nature. We may discover the truth, but the difficult part is making practical application of that truth through repentance. Paul experienced this problem. We face the same old fight every single day our lives. We face the same enemy every day. It is the enemy of change. It is the enemy of our first nature.

Lloyd Cory said, “The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.”

2 Corinthians 10:3-6
3* For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh,
4* for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.
5* 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,
6* and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.

Notice closely what Paul says, “for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.” He speaks of “fortresses.” Fortresses speak of a city with an iron wall built around it for protection from an enemy attack. We don’t have iron walls erected, but we do have iron wills that resist obedient change. Paul says,

2 Cor. 10:5
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

The enemy who has a strong hold on us is deeply entrenched in our minds. He is deeply embedded in our emotions and wills. A group of golfers were sitting round talking about their game. One man turned to another man and asked, “What is your handicap?” He said, “My handicap is myself?” Each of us is our own spiritual handicap. I am my own greatest problem. The reason I am my greatest problem is because SELF has a strong hold on me. Self is deeply imbedded in my thought life.

We must face the enemy within before we can break the strong hold he has on us. Paul says,
2 Cor. 10:5
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

Jesus stresses the truth that the enemy lurks within our own mind and hearts.

Matthew 15:11
11* “It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.”

Matt. 15:18-19
18* “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.
19* “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.

Do you know where SELF has a strong hold on you? It is easy to recognize these strongholds. They are the things that prevent our spiritual progress. They are usually areas of great contention. It may be a person, place, predicament, or problem that hinders us, harbors us, or holds us in its clutches as it seeks to destroy our potential for Christ.

It is unchristian to run away from the problems of life. We cannot escape from SELF by running. If someone has a strong hold on you, and you run, you will simply drag the person with you as you run. The same is true with SELF. It is wrong to seek refuge where we can live without encountering the difficulties our world imposes upon us. Jesus came to this world and met the problem of sin head on so that we could face the reality of our opposing natures.

We must have a personal encounter with ourselves as we face God. Encountering God through the revelation of his word is difficult because we cannot encounter God without coming face to face with SELF. When we face God we must face every

“We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God”

The NIV has “arguments and every pretension”
The KJV has “ imaginations, and every high thing”

This is a military metaphor. We have to pull down the top-most perch of audacity in reasonings against God. Here pretense is our worst enemy. Too often, who we are, and what we pretend to be are poles apart. This is not because we desire to live phony lives. It is because the world’s way of thinking has captivated our minds and blinded us to our true self.

We must recognize that the enemy is real. Paul speaks of “destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God”

Have you noticed how much of the world’s argumentation is set against the knowledge of God? Have you noticed how the world’s arguments are set against you taking a good look at yourself? The world’s arguments are designed to make you change the way you think about what you do rather than change what you do. Have you noticed mass media’s efforts to change the way we think? Changing the way a person thinks changes the person for good or bad.

If you captivate a person’s mind, you make that person your prisoner. Peter says that we must “prepare our minds for action.”

1 Peter 1:13-16
13* ¶ Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
14* As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance,
15* but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior;
16* because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”

Messengers of Satan are real today. We think of demonic possession as something in horror movies. We consign Satan to long-ago times and faraway places. There are demons working to take possession of our minds. The Bible speaks of the doctrines of demons that lead us into slavery as they destroy our minds and hearts. (1 Timothy 4:1-3) Satan roams over the whole earth. (Job 1:7) The whole world is under his power. (John 12:31; 14:30; 1 John 5:19) We assume he leaves Christians alone, but Peter says that Satan is walking about as a roaring lion seeking to devour us. (1 Peter 5:8)

The only comfort about our powerful adversary is that the one who empowers our lives is more powerful.

Ephesians 1:17-21
15* ¶ For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints,
16* do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers;
17* that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.
18* I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
19* and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might
20* which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,
21* far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

Paul writes
2 Corinthians 10:4-5
4* for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.
5* 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,

The divine power we have to demolish our false pretensions is found as we prepare our minds for spiritual battle.We prepare our minds for battle by knowing God’s Word, which helps develop mental strategies to face Self so that we will be enabled to fight our battles effectively.

Christians are not persons without problems. They are persons who are educated about their problems. There are “wicked spirits in high places” that wish to keep us in ignorance. The forces of evil do not educate the mind toward truth but error. They are seductive and false. They lead us astray.

Eph. 6:12

12* For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

This is why we are powerless without God.

However, before God can get a grip on your life, you will have to admit you are weak. What army would enter into battle without knowing its own weaknesses? The knowledge of God is designed to reveal our weaknesses. It is important for us to know our weaknesses for it is through our weaknesses that Satan will get a strong hold on our lives. I think this is why confession is so important. We must be honest about the sin in our lives. Remember God knows all about your sins already. He just wants you to recognize them. Healing can’t begin until we recognize our problem. Acknowledging your weakness is the first step to obtaining divine power.

The reason we hide our sin is because we believe that we can handle sin on our own. We want to solve our problems without God. We want to solve our problems and then come to God. It can’t be done. Remember Paul’s struggle in Romans chapter seven. He admitted that what he wanted to do–he couldn’t do. He was too weak to pull it off.

Only God’s powerful truth can lead us out of the darkness of sin. It does so by enlightening us about our sinful ways. God’s word reveals our sinful tendencies. God’s word is designed to renew our minds in an effort to change our behavior.

Ephesians 4:21-24
21* if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus,
22* that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,
23* and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind,
24* and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

How can we renew our minds if we refuse to accept our personal sin? How can we change our behavior without recognizing what is wrong with our behavior?

The second step we must take in preparing our minds for battle is to trust God’s grace. We are in the grip of God’s grace, but we must get a grip on his grace. Failing to admit our weaknesses and failing to recognize the security of God’s grace go hand in hand. We fail to admit our weaknesses because we remain ignorant of the strength of God’s grace. We think grace is for perfect people. Paul learned that God’s grace was sufficient as he struggled with his sin in the flesh.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10
7* Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me–to keep me from exalting myself!
8* Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me.
9* And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
10* Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

As Paul acknowledged his weakness before God, God says, Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”
God knows failing to understand his grace fills you with insecurity and fear. Insecurity and fear leave us in bondage to Satan. It leaves us afraid to step up to the challenge of Satan. This leaves you wide open to Satan’s attacks.

God wants you to trust the power of his grace. He wants you to rely on his grace for deliverance regardless of the circumstances. God knows where you are. He has placed you there. He is waiting to see if you will trust him. He wants you to admit that you are struggling with self-discipline. He knows all your temptations. He knows you are weak. He wants you to acknowledge the strength of his grace to carry you through the circumstances.

Paul became strong in his weaknesses when he learned to trust God’s grace. Paul says, ” I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Our weaknesses are real, but we glory in the grace of God that promises us victory. Take notice of what God promised the first century disciples. Realize these promises are just as real today. We my not visibly see miracles today, but we do realize that God’s supernatural power is at work in our lives.

Romans 8:31
31* ¶ What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?

Romans 8:38-39
38* For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
39* nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Hebrews 13:5-6
5* Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,”
6* so that we confidently say, “THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME?”

James 4:7
7* Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

God wants you to use your ability, but he wants you to rely on him. To be strong in the Lord we must rely totally upon God. The more we rely upon him the stronger we become. To learn to rely upon God we must know his word. We must spend time in God’s word. Bible study is boring because we do not see ourselves revealed in the word of God. Sure we are to know God, but you can’t know God without allowing him to focus on your life through his word.

Psalms 1:1-6
1 ¶ How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.
3 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.
4 ¶ The wicked are not so, But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
6 For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the wicked will perish.

The thrust of this passage is that God’s people are meditating upon his laws to discern between right and wrong. Then they choose to walk in the path of righteousness.

If you are not studying and meditating upon God’s word, it is a sure sign that you are not waging war with the weapons of God. It is a sign that you are not using your ability. You can’t rely upon God without doing your part.

Is it time to finally take responsibility for your own spiritual maturity? What area of your life is most open to Satan’s attack? Take a look at your insecurities and fears. What are your temptations and addictions? Are you spiritually alert to your willingness or unwillingness to face them? What are the strongholds (garrisons) of the devil in your life? Let God by His Word and through His Spirit tear them down!

2 Corinthians 10:3-5
3* For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh,
4* for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.
5* 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,

Conclusion:

Today’s world wants salvation without allowing God to salvage lives for the better. We want to go to heaven, but we don’t want to accept the challenge to mature spiritually. We want to accept God’s grace, but we want to continue to live for SELF.

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