I “borrowed” this post title from a line in the new Casting Crowns song “Courageous“. This post was going to be the next one in our “Handling Grief” series, however the topic seems to encompass a greater spectrum of Christian living beyond just living with grief.
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; (2Co 10:3-5)
Simultaneously with the death of our son, Isaac, the war for control of our thought lives increased in intensity. We were bombarded with the images of the day. Our enemy invaded our minds with doubt, guilt and condemnation, tempting us to doubt the goodness of our Heavenly Father. This battle still wages on and we must overcome by bathing ourselves in the truth of God’s Word.
According to 2Co 10:1-2, the context of the verses above seems to be Paul humbly and gently pleading with the Corinthian church rather than being bold towards them. However, there are some individuals that he anticipates being bold towards who think that he merely walks according to the flesh (i.e. has no spiritual power). Then Paul writes that, even though we as Christians still live in our fleshly bodies, we do not fight with our bodies because our primary battle is not with this physical world. Our primary battle is with spiritual enemies:
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Eph 6:12)
What is a stronghold? In the physical realm, we could think of a castle or a military base. These share the common characteristic of being fortified to prevent the penetration of an undesired intruder. The minds of unbelievers have been fortified by the enemy to make it very difficult for them to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, for example:
Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (Rom 1:21)
Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway. (Rom 11:10)
Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: (Eph 4:18)
Even children of God experience attacks on their minds, hold to beliefs that are contrary to God, or may meditate on thoughts that do not honor God. Paul writes that we are to cast down (or demolish) and take captive these thoughts. We must not allow them to run rampant in our minds. Obviously, it is easier not to fight but to passively meditate on these thoughts. Just as it takes energy to fight a physical foe, we must exert an effort to fight our mental battles.
So what is our strategy for fighting our thoughts? We counter them with the truth of God’s Word. We must prepare ourselves daily by reading and meditating on God’s Word. This renews our mind with the truth and arms us for the battle. In Ephesians 6:10-18, Paul utilizes the analogy of an armed soldier prepared for battle and describes the weapons of the Christian solder. There are numerous studies on this available, so I don’t intend to study these in-depth. However, instead of focusing on how the particular articles of clothing and weaponry are equipped on the soldier, I will highlight our God-given weapons:
- belt of truth
- breastplate of righteousness
- shoes/sandals of the preparation of the gospel of peace
- (above all) shield of faith
- helmet of salvation
- sword of the Spirit (Word of God)
We are armed and prepared with God’s truth, righteousness, gospel of peace, faith, salvation and Spirit/Word in order to defeat our enemy.
Let’s try a few examples:
- A condemning thought enters my mind – I pray “Lord, Your Word says that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. I believe in Your Son and am your child. I have confessed my past sins and repent from those sinful attitudes, lusts and behaviors. I keep my current sins before you and receive your forgiveness through the blood of Jesus. I do not feel convicted of a particular sin in this circumstance but have an overall feeling of condemnation. Therefore, I declare that I am free in Christ and stand innocent and guiltless before you. I believe this truth according to Your Word, goodness and mercy.”
- A lustful thought enters my mind – I pray “Lord Jesus, you said that anyone who intentionally looks on another woman with lust is guilty of adultery in his heart. I did not invite this thought into my mind but know it is sinful to meditate on it with the intent of lusting after another person. This person was created by you and has more value than just to gratify my flesh. I am to walk after the Spirit and not the flesh and ask that you take this image from mind. I thank you Father for forgiving me and giving me the strength to see this person as you see them, for I am crucified with Christ and now walk in his resurrection power.”
- An image that celebrates evil, death, etc. enters my mind, actual or imagined – I pray “Heavenly Father, it is not fruitful for me to meditate on this even though this event may have actually happened. Your Word says meditate on that which is wholesome, pure, lovely, thank worthy, etc. This image is neither of those. I choose to focus on the beautiful things of Heaven and rejoice that those who know you can live with you in Paradise. Thank you for this tremendous gift.”
I hope that these examples are helpful. In my experience, sometimes the thought disappears after the first effort and sometimes it keeps reappearing, creating a continuous battle. I pray that the Lord gives you the strength to have victory in the battle of your mind! Onward Christian solder…