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Spiritual Warfare (1)

What's Got A Hold on You?

2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Jim Davis

"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
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do-- this I keep on doing. (NIV)

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."

What's Got A Hold of You?

2 Corinthians 10:3-5
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (NIV)

As a child growing up, I remember my grandmother asking me this question when I misbehaved: "What's got a hold of you?" There was another question she often asked when I misbehaved: "What's got into you?" It was her way of trying to get me to think sober when I was doing something wrong. I would like to ask each of you this morning, "What's got a hold of you?"

Notice closely what Paul says, "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds." He speaks of "strongholds." Strongholds 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, "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to 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.

Facing the Enemy Within

We must face the enemy within before we can break the strong hold he has on us. Paul says, "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." Jesus stresses the truth that the enemy lurks within our own mind and hearts.

Matthew 15:11, 18-19
What goes into a man's mouth does not make him 'unclean,' but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him 'unclean.'" . . . But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.' For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. (NIV)

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 " . . . pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God . . ." 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.

Prerequisites for Engaging In Spiritual Conflict

We must recognize that the enemy is real. Paul speaks of demolishing " . . . arguments . . .set 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
Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy." (NIV)

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
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. (NIV)

Paul writes, "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to 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. "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Ephesians 6:12 NIV) 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
Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (NIV)

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
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (NIV)

As Paul acknowledged his weakness before God, God says, Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect 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, "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. 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.

Luke 10:19
"Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you."

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

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

Hebrews 13:5-6
Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." So we may boldly say: "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?"

James 4:7
Therefore submit 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
Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. (NIV)

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
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (NIV)

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.

Acts 19:13-20
Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, "In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out." Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. the evil spirit answered them, "Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?" Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding. When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power. (NIV)

The Ephesians accepted the challenge of God. They burned their books as an indication that they were willing to accept God's book to direct their lives. The Ephesians faced the fear that seized them. They realized that they were powerless to fight the demons without God's help. They trusted God's grace. This allowed God's word to spread in that region as it spread in their hearts with great power. It resulted a changing for the better as they burned their books of sorcery.

Are you willing to have your sins exposed by God's word?
Are you willing to confess your sins as God exposes them?
Are you willing to trust God's grace?
Are you willing to get a grip on God's powerful grace for living?
Are you willing to face SELF and crucify SELF as you are buried with Christ in baptism?

These are the prerequisites for engaging in spiritual warfare. They are matters of life and death.

 

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