I have been trying to underscore some principles about spiritual warfare from 2 Corinthians 10:4-5. If you get nothing else from that passage, please understand this much: First, the spiritual warfare we fight as Christian soldiers is a battle for truth, not territory.
Second, our weapons are not the carnal apparatus of worldly warfare, but vastly more powerful spiritual weaponry. Specifically, we wage this spiritual battle "by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left" (2 Corinthians 6:6-7).
Today I want to consider those principles from a very personal and practical perspective.
Have you ever realized that if spiritual warfare is ideological, the most crucial battle you will ever participate in takes place in your own heart? If the goal and the end game of this warfare is to bring "every thought [captive] to the obedience of Christ," that presupposes that my own first order of business must be victory in my own thought life.
I have no control over your thoughts. I can perhaps influence your thinking by proclaiming the truth of God's Word, but my role in that capacity is instrumental only. You can't really be accountable to me for your private thoughts, nor can I be similarly accountable to you. This is a battle you must fight, sometimes all alone. It's lonely, grueling, lengthy, frustratingand it's the one great battle you can least afford to shirk.
Paul knew that. On occasion, he described the Christian warfare in precisely those terms:
- Romans 7:22-23: "I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members."
- Galatians 5:17: "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would."
Paul was describing a struggle in his own heart. He says you can expect to have the same kind of internal conflict. That conflict you feel inside yourself is one of the key skirmishes you must win in the spiritual arena.
Peter understood that aspect of the warfare, too. In 1 Peter 2:11, he wrote, "Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul."
That is why the New Testament uses such graphic and violent language when it speaks of our duty in the matter of sanctification.
- Romans 8:13: "For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify [put to death] the deeds of the body, ye shall live."
- Colossians 3:5: "Mortify . . . your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry."
One of the sad realities of warfare is that the soldier must kill or be killed. In the spiritual warfare, there is some killing for us to do, Paul says. It's not about killing people, for that would require carnal weapons. But it's about putting to death sinfirst of all in our own members.
May I say as gently as possible that you that you cannot be a good soldier unless you take this warfare seriously? You must be spiritually earnest, sober-minded, sound in the faith, strong in the Word of God, and diligent in the battle.
Too many Christians, especially in this worldly age, are content to coast through life taking nothing seriously. If you read the blog regularly, you know I'm not arguing against every expression of a lively sense of humor. But I am saying that this warfare we are engaged in is serious stuff. It's not for the lazy or apathetic. In fact, if you are passive or careless at all in your own personal spiritual walk, you will suffer agonizing defeat at the hands of the enemy.