Battle of the Mind
By Pastor Anton Bosch, Herescope
“...though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh [human nature].
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 Cor. 10:3-5
Part 1. Strongholds
The Christian is locked in an intense [spiritual] 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 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 and add a few Bible verses to sanctify a system they have borrowed from the world. Strip those Bible verses out of the book or sermon and you are left with a motivational book or talk that the world will pay money to read or hear.
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 those formulas work to some extent, and for a while. 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 while, 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 seem simple, 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 weapons God has given you.
Our 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 these 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 philosopher (probably known to Paul) had used to describe the bastion of arrogant human reason. Philo likened this desire of man to fortify his arguments against God to the Tower of Babel. What does that all mean? It simply means that the thought-patterns that cause us to act as we do, become so powerfully entrenched in our minds that they become like military forts which are impregnable.
Have you ever tried to reason with someone who is obviously wrong (by all standards – not just your own) and realized that you are up against a stone wall? Well, that is exactly what it is. They are 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.
Often when we come across this in a person, they will have an almost irrational denial of reality and we say such a person is irrational or emotional (as opposed to rational). But the text refers to the reason as “arguments.” (The King James Bible incorrectly refers to “imaginations”). The Greek word is logismos from the same root as “logic.” We all have rational, logical reasons 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 and will simply retreat behind the castle of their reasons and begin to fire 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 begin to tear those fortifications down.
Without God, your attempts will simply cause the person to entrench themselves even more and go over to the attack. It is hard to learn not to argue with such a person, but to simply walk away and pray and trust the Lord to deal with them. Trust me, try to “help” them and 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 others' problems is the fact that each of us 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 and that is in our own lives. Sometimes we want to be free of the hold these things have in our lives, but often, we enjoy them and are not willing to let them go.
But the text reminds us that it is not just ourselves that are being wronged by allowing these thoughts to control us, but 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 allow and encourage these things to lift themselves up in rebellion against God!
If we are going to be the people God 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 or in your own strength? It will not work and 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. How? Read more in the next post.
Part 2. Separation
The solution to these strongholds is they have to be broken, pulled, and torn down. They cannot be converted or remodeled. That is one of the most serious and frequent mistakes we make. We feel we can somehow convert or change these strongholds for the good. Thus we see people ministering from a platform of pride, or channeling their anger into their preaching or finding an outlet for their lust for power and money in the church. There are countless ways in which the strongholds of the flesh are given a make-over and presented as something useful to the Kingdom. That was precisely Paul’s struggle with the antagonists in the Corinthian church.
These strongholds cannot be converted; they are in their very essence opposed to God and His principles. They can only be dealt with in one way – they have to be torn down. But how?
Strongholds do not appear in our lives overnight, they are built stone by stone as we reinforce bad thoughts and allow them space (and time) in our minds. The longer, and more often, we think and dwell on things we ought not to, the more stones we add to these strongholds and the more powerful they become. They must be dismantled the same way they were erected – stone-by-stone.
I know that we all wish there was some kind of miracle cure, which could destroy these strongholds in an instant – just like they implode big buildings with explosives. Sometimes the Lord does do that in individual cases. But it is not the norm, and the majority of believers have to struggle to dismantle these fortresses one thought at a time. Unfortunately, many preachers offer instantaneous “deliverance” by various means, including the “casting out of demons.” But that is not the reality taught in the New Testament. The Bible teaches an ongoing struggle and ongoing renewing of the mind (Romans 12:2).Do we not understand that:
How does this work? Well, first we have to stop fortifying the strongholds that are already there. We collect thousands of experiences and bits of information which we glean from all sorts of sources – mainly through what we see and hear. These we cement together with the mortar of our own reasonings to form a castle of inferiority, pride, fear, lust etc. To stop the building of these forts we must control what, we listen to, watch, read, and spend time with. This will stop the negative flow of information, but that in itself is not sufficient. Even if we put a complete stop to the adding of new material (which is impossible), we all have enough raw material in our memories to keep the strongholds reinforced and well-maintained for the rest of our lives.
We live in a world which bombards us with a constant stream of information which is contrary to God’s Word. Almost everything the world has to say through it’s media is contrary, no matter how good and wholesome it may seem. I am not saying we have to live in a monastery, but we do need to begin to understand that God’s ways are dramatically different to the world’s ways. That is exactly where our first problem lies. Most of us do not understand how negative the world’s influence is. This is aggravated by a host of “Christian” preachers who insist that the world and it’s systems are basically good. I have been shocked by the slew of books on how to see the “gospel” in “The Sopranos,” “Harry Potter” or any other evil program designed to make us feel good about murder, rape, robbery, adultery, witchcraft and any of a thousand other vises. I am tired of “Christian” books that quote Hollywood characters as examples of godly characteristics. Since when is evil good? Is this not the accusation against the prophets of the Old Testament? (Isaiah 5)
Beloved, we will not win the battle of the mind until we fully understand and are convinced that everything the world has to say is in opposition to God’s Word. The world will only agree with the Word in order to trick you into dropping your guard. “Has God indeed said…”
“our Lord Jesus Christ … gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Galatians 1:3).
“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: … to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27)
“Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4).
Once we stop the building of the strongholds, we must begin to tear them down. This is done by replacing the bad information with God’s thoughts. That is easier said than done.
Many Christians attend church for one hour a week, listen to the message and go home. To make it worse, in some churches the message is only ten minutes. The rest of the week their thinking, values and views are shaped by the world and then they wonder why they cannot get victory in their personal lives. You cannot break those strongholds down through one sermon a week while you rebuild and reinforced the few rocks that were pulled down in the service, by the time you have finished reading the Sunday paper.
Please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying you should not read the newspaper or watch television or expose yourself to any form of worldly media. A child cannot be allowed to eat anything in the supermarket until he is able to read the labels on the cans and can figure out what is food and what is poison. Even then, he needs to be well educated because much of what is sold for food in the supermarket is very bad for you. Only someone with some understanding of diet and physiology can make the right choices.
In the same way it seems very few Christians are able to discern between good and bad, especially if it has a Christian or wholesome looking label. Frequently people, who should know better, recommend various “Christian” books to me. On closer inspection such books are often anti-Christian in essence, and again I have to groan within myself for the naiveté of people and their leaders. Oh that Christians could just see and understand what they are doing to themselves by filling their hearts and minds with stuff which is downright poison and which is slowly killing them!
Until you stop the enemy coming in through the gates of your senses you will never stand a chance against him. Close those gates today and challenge every thought and idea before giving it right of entry by that age-old question: “friend or foe?”
– To be continued. . . .
"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." (1 John 2:15)
This message is one that we no longer hear in the modern church age. For further study on this important subject, see the excellent sermon by J.C. Philpot, "The Love of the World and the Love of God," preached on July 19, 1868, in which he summarizes this point:
"But, just so far as I love the world and the things that are in the world, I love God's enemy; I love a state of things which is in direct opposition to the revealed will of God; I forsake my banner and range myself under the opposite flag; I stand in the ranks of those who are fighting against God and against whom God fights; and by my [fleshly, human feelings of] love toward them, I show my approbation of their principles, their maxims, their pursuits, their customs, and their ways...
"This, then, is the reason why God bids me not love the world; for if I love the world, my heart declines from the strait and narrow path, slips into an easy groove, walks in compliance with those who are traveling down the broad road....God, therefore, by His inspired apostle, drops this caution in my ears, and O that God the Holy Spirit would convey it into my heart and yours in all its sacred light, life, and grace – 'Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.'"
(Anton's Note: This series was produced in 2004. Since then, many people have commented on the help it has been. I have re-edited the articles and am publishing them again, in the hope that more people will be helped by these thoughts.)
Pastor Anton Bosch is the author of Building Blocks of the Church: Re-examining the Basics and Contentiously Contending, both available HERE.
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