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#25 Demolishing Strongholds

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                     “DEMOLISHING STRONGHOLDS

                   (A Sermon Series from 2 Corinthians)

Westgate Chapel 2-10-08                          2 Corinthians 10:1-6

Proposition:      Defensive spiritual warfare, protecting marriage, family and the family of God, requires taking the gloves off, picking up the appropriate weapons, and punishing disobedience.                                                                               

i.    introduction

-     MAKE no mistake about it, at the time that 2 Corinthians was being written,

*     by the apostle Paul,

*     in the city of Philippi,

*     quite a distance north of Corinth….

      …the church in Corinth was in the middle of serious spiritual warfare, the outcome of which would determine whether God would be known in their city.

-     IN the first six verses of the tenth chapter alone we read words like war, weapons, courage, boldness, warfare, destruction, captive and punish.

-     IT is quite natural for most of us to recoil from any threat of violence and want to avoid or retreat from battle. Most of us love peace.

-     BUT when it comes to spiritual warfare, we are all in it, and,

*     avoidance or denial will not make it go away.

*     retreat will simply delay the inevitable.

-     THE reality of the spiritual war we all find ourselves in is summed up in God’s own words in Genesis 3. Speaking to Satan after the fall of humanity, God said, there will be…

      “…hostility between you [Satan] and the woman[us], and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15 NLT)

-     THAT has been the vortex of the battle ever since. Every battle you and I face is connected to this battle.

-     NO wonder Paul writes, in Romans 8:22, that all creation groans. It groans because we are at war.

*     Maybe you are a casualty in this war.

*     If you don’t have a few wounds yet, it is likely that you just haven’t lived long enough.

*     But one thing is certain. You are a combatant in this war, like it or not.

-     SO, if war is inevitable as Christians, what are we to do regarding our role in spiritual warfare?

ii.   two theaters of war

-     THE first thing you and I must know is that there are two theaters, or arenas of spiritual warfare.

1.   The first theater of war is when we are called by God to go out and take or re-take territory that is not our own and is under enemy control.

2.   The second is when the enemy has broken inside your borders; the border of marriage, family, ministry, or church.

-     AND, believe it or not, the Bible describes two and very different battle plans for each of these two theaters of war.

 

A.  TAKING NEW TERRITORY

     

-     GOD’S methodology for taking new territory or reclaiming territory that has been stolen…is always the same and is clearly seen all through the Bible story.

-     GOD always wins this victory through what we, as humans, would call weakness. 

*     In Joseph’s life, in the Book of Genesis, God raises him up as a leader to deliver His people in Egypt, out of a position of weakness.

*     Gideon, in the Book of Judges, is surrounded by an army of 120,000 Midianites, and goes out against them with 300 men armed with lanterns and trumpets.

*     A boy named David, in 1 Samuel, goes against a giant with a sling.

*     The Christian Church in the New Testament, is 120 unarmed, uneducated, frightened disciples full of the Holy Spirit confronted with the might of the Roman Empire.

-     ALL the way back in Deuteronomy 20, God gave His people the rules of war that still apply…when going out to take new territory from the enemy or to re-claim territory that has been lost to the enemy.

-     EVEN though as a New Testament people, our battles are not against flesh and blood, God’s rules of engagement still apply for our battles today:

1.   In Deuteronomy 20:1, God tells us to never allow the size of the enemy’s forces arrayed against us to frighten us, because He is with us.

2.   In verse 20, God will tell us which battles to fight.

3.   And finally, the rest of the chapter is about going out to fight these kinds of battles in weakness.

*     Those with a new house were sent home from the battle.

*     Those who had just planted a new vineyard were sent home from the battle.

*     Those just married were sent home.

*     Finally those who were frightened were sent home.

-     WHY? Wouldn’t that pretty much rule out your youngest and strongest soldiers?

-     YES! Because with God it has never been about a flexing of human force…it has been about God showing us who He is and what He can do.

-     THAT is why Jesus said, to the apostle Paul in the middle of one of his greatest battles,

      “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9a)

 

B.  DEFENDING AGAINST ENEMY INCURSION

 

-     BUT there is a second theater of war, other than going out to take new territory.

-     THE second theater is where the enemy has broken through yours or my borders and is on the inside doing damage to our marriage, to our family, or to the family of God.

-     NOW that is an entirely different kind of battle, calling for an entirely different battle plan.

-     AND, believe it or not, Deuteronomy 20 anticipates this theater of war also.

-     REMEMBER, from Deuteronomy 20,

*     Those soldiers with a new houses are back home, living in their houses.

*     Those with a new vineyards are back home, tending their vineyards.

*     Those with a new marriage are back home, enjoying their new family.

*     Those who were frightened by the prospect of war are back home.

-     WELL, let me ask you. Of these four groups of people back home, which ones will be most motivated to fight the enemy when he breaks through the perimeter of the battle and gets on the inside of Israel’s boundary markers?

-     EVERY one of these groups! They will fight to the death to defend, home, livelihood, family….and the frightened ones can sometimes be the most fearsome when it is do or die at home.

iii.  the corinthian battle

-     THIS is all tremendously pertinent to understanding 2 Corinthians 10 and all of the references by Paul to war, warfare, courage, and boldness.

-     THE warfare in 2 Corinthians is not taking new territory.

-     THE enemy has broken through inside of the family of God at Corinth and is doing serious damage.

*     The purity of the Gospel was under attack, being contaminated by teachers who had crept into the family in Corinth. In the very next chapter, Paul writes,

      “…I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:3)

*     The unity of the family of God was under attack. A partisan spirit had broken into the church and the congregation was divided over which pastor they liked best.

*     The worship services were under attack.

-     Arrogant people were abusing the gifts of the Spirit for their own aggrandizement.

-     Greedy people were abusing the Lord’s Supper as an excuse to lord it over others.

-     The preaching ministry was being disrupted by argumentative women.

-     And under the guise of tolerance and grace, open sexual sin was being condoned.

*     And lastly, the one that God had raised up to guide the whole congregation, under his apostolic mantle and anointing, was being undermined and his leadership rejected.

-     THE enemy had broken through the boundaries and was having his way in Corinth, and what made their future so tenuous was that without Paul’s voice and influence…..the battle was about to go to whoever had the loudest voice.

-     SO, now it is time for Paul to take the gloves off and have at it.

-     LET’S see what we can learn from him.

iv. the corinthian strategy

-     PAUL reveals three elements of a defensive battle strategy in this passage when the enemy has broken through the boundaries of our marriage, our family, or the family of God.

 

A.  TAKING OFF THE GLOVES

 

-     AND the first part of the strategy is taking off the gloves.

-     THERE is a time to be meek, and then a time to be bold. This is the time to be bold. Look at verse 1 with me.

      “Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ— I who am meek when face to face with you, but bold toward you when absent! [this was their accusation against Paul]” (2 Corinthians 10:1)

-     PAUL’S detractors in Corinth, the troublemakers in Corinth, had accused Paul to the rest of the congregation that he was bold when he was away from them (see 1 Corinthians), but meek in person.

-     WELL, meekness is really the nature of someone with a pastor’s heart.

-     I AM not suggesting that we as pastors cannot have a bad day, but the true heart of a pastor is to be gentle in their correction and dealing with God’s people.

-     PAUL instructs Timothy to “correct with gentleness those who are in opposition.” (2 Timothy 2:25).

-     AND that is what the Corinthians had seen of Paul’s pastoral heart when he was with them.

-     SOME had mistaken that gentleness for weakness and used it to question his apostolic leadership.

-     BUT this was not the time for being meek. The household of faith was under attack and in jeopardy.

-     AND the first clue to a shift in Paul’s attitude is in verse 1. In the opening words of the chapter, Paul writes  “Now I, Paul, myself…..”

-     PAUL is “standing” (Ephesians 6) to his full apostolic height, squarely in the face of the enemy of the Corinthian church.

-     THE next clue is, “I Paul, myself, urge you….”

-     THERE is an urgency in Paul concerning the safety and future of the people of God, infiltrated by those who were troubling and unsettling the sheep.

-     LOOK at verse 2,

      “I ask that when I am present I need not be bold with the confidence with which I propose to be courageous against some, who regard us as if we walked according to the flesh.” (2 Corinthians 10:2)

-     WHEN Paul gets to Corinth, he will still be a loving Paul the pastor, but the gloves were coming off against those in Corinth who were being used by the enemy to disrupt the life and witness of the church.

-     IT is important to note though, that he was not threatening to be tough simply to defend his position or his ego!!!!!

-     PAUL’S motivation for taking the gloves off was for the sake of the health of that congregation and their witness to the city.

-     THERE is a time to take the gloves off when the enemy has broken through, but it must always be for the benefit of the ones we are fighting for….not for our own benefit or ego.

 

B.  PICKING UP THE WEAPONS

 

-     THE second part of Paul’s strategy is picking up the weapons of spiritual warfare.

-     LOOK at verses 3 and 4,

      “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-4)

-     PAUL uses flesh two ways in these verses.

1.   The first reference to flesh, simply describes our physical existence in a fallen world, with a body subject to gravity, age, pain and death.

2.   The second use of the word flesh, has to do with an ungodly dependence on ourselves rather than God, and it shows itself as…

*     self-seeking

*     self-promotion

*     manipulation

*     coercion.

-     SO, when we do battle to defend our marriages, our homes and the family of God, we reject these fleshly weapons of war….and we pick up the spiritual weapons of war.

-     WHAT are they?

-     I AM sure that for most of us here, our minds would automatically go to Ephesians 6….and rightly so. Those are the weapons needed for us to “stand against the devil’s schemes….to resist his incursions.”

*     Belt of Truth….God’s Truth revealed and lived out in us.

*     Breastplate of God’s righteousness…received and lived out in us.

*     Shoes of the Gospel of peace….our restored relationship with God that alone brings peace lived into our lives.

*     The Shield of Faith….believing all that God has revealed Himself to be.

*     The Helmet of Salvation….protecting our minds with the reality of our reconciled relationship with God.

-     BUT there is another place where the outcome of God’s victory over Satan is revealed in our lives, and it is Revelation 12:11,

      “And they overcame him [Satan] because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.” (Revelation 12:11)

-     THERE are three spiritual weapons in this verse that we use when withstanding the enemy’s incursion into our lives:

1.   The blood of the Lamb. Satan was defeated once and for all on the cross and through the resurrection of Jesus. That is our weapon when resisting him in our lives.

2.   The words of our testimony concerning who God is and what He has done in each of our lives is a powerful personal and corporate weapon that brings us into victory.

3.   That we do not love our life so much that defending and protecting US becomes the point of the battle in our minds. This is not about me. It is about God being made known through me and the outcome of the battle I may be facing right now.

-     THOSE are some of your weapons. They have divine power to destroy the enemy’s work.

-     PICK them up and use them when the enemy breaks into your life, your marriage, your family, or the family of God.

 

C.  PUNISHING ALL DISOBEDIENCE

 

-     LOOK at the last two verses of this passage for the last of Paul’s three-pronged strategy for warfare:

      “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, 6 and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.” (2 Corinthians 10:5-6)

-     DO you see what is at the heart of this battle, even though the immediate skirmish concerns the rejection of Paul?

-     THE heart of the battle at Corinth is against the knowledge of God.

-     GOD wants to be known.

-     WHAT was happening at Corinth and against Paul was getting in the way of God being known, being revealed.

-     SO, Paul takes the gloves off….no more Mr. Nice Guy towards those who are behind the trouble and are not repentant.

-     AND Paul picks up spiritual weapons that are mighty.

-     AND he focuses his weapons on three fortified positions in this battle for the family of God at Corinth:

1.   Speculations; the heady intellectual philosophies that permeated and impressed Greek minds and culture.

2.   Every thought; our actions are simply a reflection of what we truly think and believe about God.

3.   Disobedience; the outcome in our actions, evidence of an unsurrendered life.

v.  CONCLUSION

-     PAUL is urging the believers in Corinth to separate themselves from those who had unsettled them and their faith.

-     BUT if they don’t, when he comes, he will deal with the unrepentant.

-     PAUL is bold and unafraid because of what is at stake.

-     WE are no less in this kind of battle today, for our lives, our marriages, our families and Westgate Chapel.

-     WILL you:

1.   Take the gloves off….times are too dangerous in marriages, in families and the family of God to worry about being liked.

2.   Pick up God’s weapons….they are mighty (not you) to demolish strongholds.

3.   Punish all disobedience…it is getting in the way of God being known.

 

                 FOR YOUR KINGDOM, FOR YOUR GLORY

 

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