Text: 2 Corinthians 10:3-6
Date: Sunday September 10, 2023
I OPENING: What is different about the way a Christian cares for another Christian verses how a nonChristian cares for another nonChristian. Consider three short examples.
Child Enters a Highly Emotional Season: First, a young teenage son who has always been a good boy, professed faith in Jesus, begins to make a series of poor choices. He begins to become a little wreckless, and you can see his attitude changing just a little. How do you care for him?
Friend Falls Back Into Old Bad Habits: Second example, you grab dinner with an old friend and while you are spending time with them you witness your friend drink three beers, and internally you know that he used to have a problem with drinking but had been really good for a long time. How do you care for him?
An Overwhelming Sense of Doubt: Third example, you connect with a friend, and they reveal to you that they have been in a season of overwhelming doubt about their faith. How do you care for her?
Learning how to care for a person, as a Christian, is of the utmost importance. It’s actually a defining hallmark of Biblical Christianity, that we do this very well. One verse that has always been a driving source of my Pastorate has been 1 Thessalonians 2:8 which reads1 Thessalonians 2:8 ESV
So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
To make things overwhelmingly simple for us, Christian care looks like Jesus. We love people out of the love we have received from Christ. We comfort people out of the comfort we have received from Christ. We are sacrificial in our service towards them. Questions like these are messy because lives are messy. But how do we counsel them? Do you know how to come alongside a person and help them see restoration and return to Christ’s path?
We are in week two of a two week mini-series that I have titled A Rooted Community. We are looking at the roots of what makes for a healthy Church. Last week we focused in on how Christians pray for one another. And I hope that you were challenged in your own prayer life to consider areas where you might grow. This week, we consider how we care for each other as Christians, and the way we are going to consider this question is by considering the issues we face through the lens of Spiritual Warfare. One of the reasons Christians often fall short on their care for others is because we are so busy dealing with the practicals, that we fail to see the spiritual needs undergirding the practical needs. We must learn to see souls. We must learn to apply the gospel into other people’s challenges. This is hard work, messy work, but it is worth it.
2 Corinthians 10:3–6 ESV 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, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.
From this text, I would like to consider two simple needs if we are going to care for others well.
Meaning & Application
I WE MUST UNDERSTAND THE SPIRITUAL NATURE OF OUR CHALLENGES
The first need is quite simple—We must understand the spiritual nature of our challenges. Just as a gardener who fails to pull a weed up by the roots encounters that same weed grown back with a fury the following day, so it is with us. If we, in an effort to care for other Christians who are enduring hardships, do not address the spiritual reality beneath their physical problems, a little practical advice might soothe the friend for a moment, but their issues will come back with a fury.
2 Corinthians 10:3–4 ESV 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.
This passage is filled with battle language. We wage war with weapons. We destroy strongholds. Paul is saying that there is a spiritual battle taking place which we must actively and intentionally participate in.
A Three Battlefronts
When Paul speaks of the “flesh” in this verse, he is referring to that which we can see in the physical world of space and time. We “walk” in this sense, in the flesh all the time. Paul says that though we live in the flesh all the time, we as Christians know that there is always more happening than can meet the eye. There are particularly three fronts to the Christian’s battle taking place at all times: the battle of the flesh, the battle with the world, and the battle with the devil. All three of these fronts are spiritual battlefields, and if we are to love and serve one another we must be keen students of how each of these battlefields are bearing down.
B The Battle of the Flesh
Let’s begin with the battle of the Flesh.
Before Christ: The Christian story is one of a change of our natures, a fundamental shift of who we are and what we are. Before a person becomes a Christian we are told in Scripture that in our nature we had corrupted natures. Every person ever born was born into a corrupted nature. Because of sin, we had a corrupted mind (so we thought wrong). We had corrupted affections (we felt wrong). We had corrupted relationships (we treated others wrong and with false motivations). We had a false purpose for our life (we didn’t realize life is ultimately about the one true and living God.Ephesians 2:3 ESV
among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
When You Believe: But, when a person believes in Jesus, they are not inheriting a new faith, they are becoming a new person in a very real way. God really does heal and set straight the pieces of us that had been corrupted by sin. This is not just a nice religious idea, this is a true change that takes place in the heart of a person who believes in Jesus. The Puritan Thomas Boston wrote this,
“But regeneration is a real, thorough change, whereby the man is made a new creature (2 Cor 5:17). The Lord God makes the creature a new creature, as the goldsmith melts down a vessel of dishonor, and makes it a vessel of honor. Man is, in respect of his spiritual state, altogether disjointed by the fall; every faculty of the soul is, as it were, dislocated: in regeneration, the Lord loosens every joint, and sets it right again… It is not a change of substance, but of the qualities of the soul. Vicious qualities are removed, and the contrary dispositions are brought in, in their stead.”Thomas Boston, Human Nature In Its Fourfold State
After Christ: Does this mean that everything is simple and easy for Christians. No! By no means. God has begun this new work in us but it is not complete. And the old nature often fights back and draws us to our old ways. The Christian story is one of a battle of what nature are we going to choose to live into. Our true new nature in Christ with a new mind, new affections, new emotions, new relationships, a new purpose. Or are we going to be deceived by our old dead and dying nature to return to it, like a dog returning to its vomit.
C The Battle of the World
The second battlefront Christians face is the battle of the world. Christians are born again, set to a new and living hope. They have an eternal perspective and live for Christ, and yet they live in this fallen world, surrounded by people and ideas that do not share the desire to honor and glorify God. Jesus, speaking about this said,
John 17:14 ESV I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
The Christian battle with the world is one of the sense that we are exiles, never quite fitting comfortably into our surroundings. This battle front is so real. We find ourselves at times drawn by the allurements of the world, enticed by the fleeting pleasures of worldliness. The world offers sensuality and wealth and secret knowledge and power, and the Christian even with their new heart and new purpose at times is allured away from that which is truly good into the painful and pitiful loves and cares of the world.
D The Battle with the Devil
Thirdly is our battle with the Devil. Beyond the flesh and beyond the world there is a spiritual enemy. A hater of God who lurks behind the scenes tempting, numbing, multiplying problems, doing anything he can to take our eyes off of God and off the truth.1 Peter 5:8 ESV
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
It is remarkable to me that so many Christians, who genuinely love God’s Word, fail to practically realize the extent and depth of the spiritual warfare happening all around us. It’s almost as if we’re ashamed to say we believe in these things.
We Have Become Embarrassed: How did we get here that Biblical Christians, are embarassed by something that is so clear in the Scriptures? I believe that by and large we have bought the lie from secular culture around us that says that all those stories the Bible that deal with angels and demons and spirits are simply unscientific people who were describing the world they saw around them using images and ideas they were familiar with. And so, in the Scriptures, the people who were “demon possessed” likely just had some of the various illnesses or mental illnesses that we know about today. The supernatural stories of the Bible, are nothing more than mythology that grew up around the historical Jesus. That is the general message of the world around us towards Christianity. And Christians often find themselves in a murky middle ground, not necessarily denying all the supernatural of the Bible, but not really living in any practical way as if it was their world that they were living in. Christian, if we do not assume the worldview of the Bible we cannot care for people the way Jesus did.
And so the first thing we must do if we are to love and care for others, to serve others is properly recognize the true spiritual reality of our problems. There is more going on than meets the eye, and the true Christian friends starts with that starting point.
II WE DESTROY ENEMY STRONGHOLDS BY CONFRONTING LIES WITH BIBLICAL TRUTH
The second principle is where we begin to get very practical. We see in this passage that Christians actively destroy strongholds by confronting lies with Biblical Truth.
2 Corinthians 10:4–6 ESV 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, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.
The Flesh: We are prone to discovering strongholds in our life that are a result of our flesh. Remember our old nature still often attracts us to ungodly desires and unwise decisions. It is always beckoning us back. Each of us are prone to particular sins. One person may be prone to the idolatry of pride, or another the idolatry of ease, or another the idolatry of power. When we are not careful the flesh can begin placing a stronghold in our life. Small sins will always give way to greater sins. It begins with the little things that slowly grow to be well fortified fortresses. William Spurstowe said,
“Small sins are as the priming of a post or pillar, that prepare it to better receive those other colors that are to be laid upon it.”William Spurstowe
We must not wait until small sins are fully matured to root them out. We consantly are scanning our lives and our flesh asking God to reform them.
The World: The world can often take up bunkers in our hearts. The world is full of ideas of how things are and how they ought to be. Christians are very often duped by worldly ideas that come to them like wolves in sheeps clothing. One of the most common questions I field these days are around sexuality and gender. Why do Christians have so many questions on this topic. Is it because God’s Word is unclear? No! It is because the world is incessantly throwing antiBiblical ideas at us from every direction. And when you’ve been beat with one message so much for so long you begin to believe it.
The Devil: How does this play out in a real world situation. Much of our spiritual warfare comes in very simple forms. Imagine, a husband and a wife experiencing a season of distance from one another. I’m not speaking geographic distance, I mean relational distance. The husband seems like he’s not home when he’s home. They’re not talking. They’re not engaging meaningfully. There’s no intimacy. The nonbeliever trying to care for this husband might just say something like this, “Hey man, you need to date your wife. Plan some dates. You need to do something special.” Don’t get me wrong, those things would go a long ways. But the believer should see more going on here. CS Lewis has a masterful book called The Screwtape Letters in which one older demon instructs a younger demon on how to deceive believers. In that book the older demon writes this about instructions for how to attack marriages.
“When two humans have lived together for many years it usually happens that each has tones of voice and expressions of face which are almost unendurably irritating to the other. Work on that. Bring fully into the consciousness of your patient that particular lift of his mother’s eyebrows which he learned to dislike in the nursery, and let him think how much he dislikes it. Let him assume that she knows how annoying it is and does it to annoy – if you know your job he will not notice the immense improbability of the assumption. And, of course, never let him suspect that he has tones and looks which similarly annoy her. As he cannot see or hear himself, this easily managed.”CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
Do you see? This is what Satan does. Not just in our marriages, but in every area of our life. He is looking to take you down and he plays on your weaknesses. He leaps on opportunities. And faithful Christians need to be trained to see his schemes
B Taking Every Thought Captive
What are the instructions Paul provides for what we are to do with strongholds. We are to “destroy them.” We do so by “destroying arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God.” We do so by “taking every thought captive.” At the center of every stronghold of the enemy in our life, is a lie or a series of lies, that we are believing. And Paul states that to break the strongholds, we need to identify that lie, and tear it down by bombarding it to the truth. And so at the heart of all Biblical Care, is Christian who draw up near to each other in brotherly love and affection, in sacrificial love and service, and with their Bible’s open. And we listen to people, and we ask good questions, and we’re listening for what lies they are believing. We expose the lie that we are believing to the truth of God’s Word.
Before I walk us through how to do this, I want to ask you if this is how you go about considering and laboring through the challenges you face. Do you see them as strongholds of the flesh, strongholds of the world, or strongholds of the great enemy. And do you approach them with the Word of God open? If we don’t bring the Word of God to bear down on the false lies we are believing, then we are simply using all the same tools that nonbelievers use.
D Truths of the New Creation
Let’s walk through this together, and with each of these I wan you to consider your own strongholds, and then how you might care for others in your life who are experiencing their strongholds.
1 Strongholds of the Mind: First, we renew our mind. “We take every thought captive.” We identify the lie that we have been believing and we powerfully and prayerfully speak the truth over it. You are not who you were. You are a new creation in Christ. Perhaps before you knew Jesus you had did not have the power to overcome sexual temptation. But guess what, the truth is, if you are a Christian, you do have that power, it’s called the Holy Spirit. We are not who we were, and we must start with the mind. You have been born again to a living hope. You refuse to the believe that God will leave you here. He has called you.
2 Strongholds of the Affections: Second, we renew our affections. Our affections are our desires and longings of the heart. Whenever we discover a stronghold in our life, it is not just our mind that has believed lies but our affections have been held captive. We don’t just sin, we love sin, it enflames our hearts. A person is not just addicted to pornography, they secretly love the pornography. But in Christ, you have a greater love. God has set your affections in order. You are not a slave to sin anymore. You to tear down that stronghold brick by brick until the gospel takes full fruit in your life. We label and we cast off our false affections. We proclaim that God alone satisfies our hearts. We pray,
“God let me find deep satisfaction and joy in you. Transform the longings of my heart to be found in you, to rejoice in you, to experience grace afresh every day. As the deer pants for water, so my soul longs for you.”
3 Strongholds of our Identity: At the heart of sin, especially habitual ongoing sin, is a stronghold where Satan convinces us that we are the center of our story, we are the center of our problem, and we are the center of our solution. The great lie that gets perpetuated is that we must be must be self-sufficient. The problem is that this is the antithesis of the Gospel. Some Christians have heard over and over again, you just need to overcome your sinful habits. And they have strived to do it out of their own fleshly efforts and failed so many times that they’ve just given up. The stronghold is now a fortress and growing into a dark kingdom in their soul. Take that thought captive. Whose are you? You are Christ’s, and he has begun a good work in you, and he will bring to completion. You are not a partial son or a partial daughter. You are an adopted heir of grace. Take that stronghold down brick by brick. Let the demons hear you say it!
“I am not the sum of my mistakes as satan would like me to believe. I am a sinner in need of constant grace. I am not perfect glorified yet, but I am justified and new in Christ. My nature has been changed. I am no longer who and what I once was.”
4 Strongholds of Relationships: Fourth, if we have been living in self-sufficiency mode, then we have been expecting that of others as well. We have placed demands on others without offering them grace. We’ve become a little cesspool of gracelessness. What is the truth. The truth is “Blessed are the meek. Blessed in the poor in Spirit.” Some Christians this stronghold is so great, that they have almost no space for the Church in their life, this precious community of believers, they keep at an arm’s length.
“God I am a follower of Jesus, you have set my relationships in order. You have poured grace into my life, and you can pour grace through my life into others. Help me to live into that reality.
5 Strongholds of our Purpose: Fifth, habitual sin for a Christian typically waters down our purpose, why we are here, and what God is doing with us. Sin makes our world so small, we think about ourselves constantly. Here we plead with God to grant us a God vision of what we are doing and why we are doing it. You are called by God to a holy life. You are called by God to missional living. You are called by God to be salt and light. You were not called by God to a small life of cycles of sin. You are an agent of the living God.
“Father, I hear Satan’s insidious whisper: ‘Now you’ve done it. Blown it good. For good. You’ve thwarted your Master’s purposes for your life. You’re cast off. Adrift. Disqualified.’ Make it stop, Father. Scripture says ‘Where sin abounds, grace much more abounds. Please forgive me and renew me. Use my brokenness for your glory.”
E Concluding Thoughts
Christian— for what purpose to do this? Look at that last phrase in verse 5, “We take very thought captive… to obey Christ.” Christ’s plan is to give you life to the full. The Apostle Paul called it the life that is truly life (1 Tim. 6:19). These are such simple things, but all I’ve done is show you how to take your thoughts captive, and to declare the truth of Scripture over the lies we believe, both in your own life, and in the lives of those around you.
If you’re in here today, and this all sounds foreign to you, I want you to know that Christ offers you new life. He does not just offer you a religious aspect to your life, that’s not Christianity. To become a Christian, is to die to yourself, and to be resurrected unto Christ. To become a Christian, is to put behind you the ways you saw the world, the ways you thought about th world, the ways you felt about the world, and to permit Christ to give you new vision, new heart, new life, new purpose. Christianity is nothing less than an entirely new birth.