For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 2 Corinthians 10:3-4
Our mind is our greatest asset and it can also be our greatest downfall. There is a spiritual battle for our minds. An ongoing, intense war. And we need to be alert and take an offensive posture instead of sitting back and hoping for the best.
The landmines scattered about this brutal battle are the lies we believe to be truth. Worldviews that say there is no God, we aren’t accountable to anyone, everything is permitted, this life is all there is so live it up, new enlightenment is where it’s at, we should be able to do what we want when we want with whomever we want. Or attitudes that entangle us like worry, approval-seeking, fear, shame, bitterness, insecurity. These strongholds are born and grow in our mind and IT IS WAR! But WE CHOOSE what we think. We have divine power to DESTROY these strongholds.
Though we walk in the flesh we don’t have to fight these battles in our fleshly mess. Because flesh-waged war looks like manipulation, power grabs, deceit, backstabbing, cheating, gossip, abuse of power…to name a few.
In this mighty battle raging all around us and in us, we can wage war differently than the world. We can pick up weapons that are not of this world.
We can decide what goes into our minds. Because what we think matters. What we focus on matters. What we fill our minds with matters. It is critically important that we protect our minds…that we are selective and super picky about what we let in…what we read, watch, listen to. And that we focus our minds on things of God and His truth. Always. Consistently.
Questions: Are you aware and proactive about what fills your mind? What strongholds do you need God’s power to help you overcome?
The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 2 Corinthians 9:6
Sowing and Reaping. Here in 2 Corinthians, Paul mentions it in the context of giving. In Galatians, he relates it to how we treat others. Jesus speaks of reaping & sowing with regard to hearing and believing the Word. It is a life principle built into creation.
We will reap what we sow. We can’t harvest what we don’t plant.
If we want to accomplish new things, we have to do the planting. If we want to get healthier, we have to do the planting. If we want to make life changes, we have to do the planting. If we want a deeper faith and spiritual life, we have to do the planting.
And it is HARD to do the planting. To bury that seed. To watch something seemingly die we are clinging to in that seed. To water and watch and wait. And wait. Because the harvest takes time. Planting ushers in seasons of sweat equity with very little to show for it on the surface.
God can take our obedient action, commitment, hard work, diligent waiting and make something beautiful out of it. The sweat equity has purpose. We are humbled, we become more committed, we are more grateful, we learn so much along the way, we are equipped to help others in their sowing seasons...we are more ready for the harvest.
We reap what we sow. We harvest only what we do the work to plant and care for. Let’s do this! Let’s sow bountifully!
Question: What one thing (or things) are you going to plant today? Things that not even a seedling of a harvest can be seen yet...running a marathon, starting a business, changing careers, saving up for that home, losing those extra pounds, founding a non-profit...
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. 2 Corinthians 6:14
A yoke is something put over two animals to enable them to pull together on a load when working in pairs. A vehicle to work side by side pulling the same plow to accomplish the same goal more effectively. But where goals, purpose, and objectives vary, things don’t go so well.
The concept of not being unequally yoked is often cited in the context of marriage, a place where being on the same page with common goals is certainly a contributor to success. But I think we can also look broader into other things that can become a part of us. Things that help us go in the right direction more successfully, or things that stall the process. The people we engage with, the things we do, see, read, watch, spend our time and money on…do they complement our Christian faith or pull it in an opposing direction? Are we a light of positive influence where we are and who we are with, or are we stepping into places, people’s lives, and situations we aren’t prepared to, and as a result allowing our light to fade into the darker worldly things?
How do we know when we are not simply in the world but also “of the world”? One question to ask is around influence. Who is the one being influenced and what is the influence? Jesus could often be seen with those of us steeped in sin. But Jesus was always the influencer with a God-glorifying influence. His presence poured out Godliness, rather than soaking in worldliness.
The gray areas will be different for each of us, based on our weaknesses and temptations. What one can easily walk into, another would become unequally yoked with the worldly things taking over. We can’t serve two masters and God alone is the Lord over our lives. If another causes a wedge of competition for our love, adoration, or submission we become unequally yoked. And Paul says, don’t go there.
Challenge: Pray about places in your life you may be unequally yoked to worldly things that may be pulling you away from your God-ordained calling.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-16
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed. We are jars of clay. Fragile, broken, dirty, cracked. But in this jar that on the outside appears utterly unworthy to hold anything of significant value – in us – is the surpassing power of God.
We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. What we proclaim is not ourselves or our finite understanding, but Jesus Christ as Lord. We have the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
We are persecuted, but not forsaken. He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us into the glorious presence of God.
We are struck down, but not destroyed. We do not lose heart. Though our outer self feels beaten down, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
Affliction is real and affliction is hard. But it brings with it preparation. And on the other side of it is an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.
So, we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. The things that are beautiful and glorious and eternal. A new home awaits. A home lit by the glory of God. A feast and celebration like none other. No pain. No tears. No suffering. No sin. No death. Love abounds. Joy overflowing. Peace.
Future hope ignites present faithfulness. So though we endure hardship for a time, we are hopeful and steadfast, gripping to truth and God’s promises with every fiber in us.
Questions: In what ways are you feeling afflicted or struck down? How can you make Paul’s words your prayer and hope?
… so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs. 2 Corinthians 2:11
The devil loves nothing more than to see the church in turmoil. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he rebukes the church he planted for not only being flippant about blatant and unrepentant sin but also their posture of boasting in it; boasting in their self-assessed spiritual superiority and open-mindedness. One of the ways the devil attacks us is to keep us from addressing sin at all. He gives us many reasons to rationalize it…to each their own, I’m not my brother’s keeper, judge not, be more inclusive, avoid confrontation, avoid conflict and potential side-taking, don’t rock the boat, don’t risk rejection. But sin is never isolated to an individual. Its tentacles reach deep into the community, sometimes in obvious ways, but always in subtle ways as well. And the devil sits back satisfied as believers become numb to sin and spiritual maturity comes to a screeching halt, all while a broken and weary world smugly looks on.
In this case, however, the Corinthians took Paul’s advice. The specific scenario we aren’t told but we know that the church took disciplinary action. Unfortunately, the devil has a strategy for this scenario as well. His plan this time to breed hard hearts, unforgiveness, permanently air-tight locked doors…even as the individual grieves, repents, longs to be reunited.
Paul essentially says, “Enough is enough! He’s been punished enough. He’s repented and forgiveness is in order.” But it’s hard, right? We are full of feelings and emotions. We are hurt by the ramifications of the sin; hurt by the sting of shame, betrayal, and destruction it caused. We aren’t ready to let go. And our unwillingness to move from the confrontation to the restoration is rooted in our distorted view of the purpose of addressing sin. It isn’t to be our aim to judge or condemn…that rests solely in the hands of God. Our goal should always be restoration, also God’s wheelhouse. Love seeks repentance, renewal, and restoration…never condemnation and eternal banishment.
Questions: Do you find forgiveness hard, even when the other party has repented? What makes the goal of restoration so hard?