For though we live in the body, we do not wage war in an unspiritual way, since the weapons of our warfare are not worldly, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ.
I love how this starts out as Paul saying we have a war to win, taking up very masculine language to topple strongholds and raise victory over our enemies. But then he subtly changes tack, saying that the strongholds we are overcoming aren’t castles and fortress, but proud thoughts and arguments. Our weapons move from swords and shields to words and logic, offering this divine wisdom in answer to the world’s poor substitutes.
And then Paul changes things again! Instead of fighting “out there” and “them”, we suddenly realize that the battlefield is us. It may also be all of those thoughts “out there” that others have that need to be brought under the submission of Christ, but the first battlefield is in our own mind, the lusts and thoughts of our our heart, the pride we have before God as he haughtily declare that we know the truth. Hmm.
Just to reinforce what he is saying, he says this in the next verse:
And we are ready to punish any disobedience, once your obedience has been confirmed.
Ouch. I guess that means I need to take up (spiritual) arms against myself, for my greatest battlefield is in my mind.
Now, I want you to consider for a moment the implications of this. If we consider that the human person is made of of these three components, the flesh, the mind, and the spirit, where exactly is the battle taking place? And why there? Now I consider the mind to be the essential interface between the spirit and the body. and when it comes to spiritual warfare, especially in ourselves, it usually is warfare between the flesh and the spirit. We this confirmed in Galatians 5:
I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want.
But the mind is caught between the two. The mind is where we make decisions, carry out actions we’ve determined, and experiences the “what if” of temptation. It is that neutral ground between “I need a sandwich” and “I need to pray.” Yet it is upon the mind that the forces of flesh and spirit line up to meet.
Didn’t the flesh get redeemed like the spirit did when we accepted Christ? Yes. However, the flesh still has needs. You still need to breathe, to drink, to eat, to be warm or cool, etc. But even Paul says that self-control is still a necessity:
Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a crown that will fade away, but we a crown that will never fade away. Therefore I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
He notes that even as an apostle of Jesus, he needs to discipline his body and bring it under strict control. Consider that. We all have needs that are crying out to be fulfilled. There are easy ways to meet them (stealing) and more difficult (earning a living, being able to honestly purchase the things you need) that calls for some self-control and delayed satisfaction. We pray before we eat. Why? Does it sanctify the food? Depends on the cook. But it also practices self-control. We are not ravenous wolves who descend on a meal in a fervor. We wait each his turn, pass the peas, and say please and thank you.
Though sanctified, the flesh must be kept under careful discipline or else it will overwhelm the rest of you. This is how addictions start. If you’ve every talked with an addict, you find a person who’s flesh is dictating to them how to live, not their spirit.
This is why every thought must be taken captive to Christ. Every thought must be interrogated, “Why are you here?” “Whom do you serve?” ” How will you help me grow in Christ?” There are thoughts that course through your mind that come from your flesh. “The lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh,and the pride of life.” We need to take every thought captive, or else the mind will serve the flesh, and the not the other way around.
Lord Jesus, I need Your overwhelming power to help me overcome myself. My flesh wars against my spirit, and on this battlefield of thoughts, feelings, and emotions, I need a strong Ally at my side. Would you so equip me in this battle that I may stand, fully armored by Your armor, to withstand even this flesh that wars against me? Lord Jesus, I know that if we can win this battle, all the others will be easy. Thank You Jesus for Your grace and mercy, in Your Name I pray, Amen.