************ Sermon on 2 Corinthians 10:5 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on april 18, 2010
2 Corinthians 10:1-6
2 Corinthians 10:5
"Every Thought Captive"
Christian Education Sunday
Today, we are at the start of Christian Education Week. This week Tuesday is the annual society meeting at CVC. Next week is the annual sale. This is also the time of the year when parents have to decide on the school their children will attend and the kind of schooling they will get. This is the time of the year when our youth have to finish their selection of a college. But before you make your choice I want to hold before you what we find in our Scripture reading this morning.
In our text, we hear Paul defending his ministry and authority (2 Cor 10:8) against those who attack him and the Gospel:
(2Cor 10:5) We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. This, I would say, is a great defense not only for the Gospel and Paul's authority as an apostle, but this is also a great defense for Christian Education in the church, home, and school.
As we look at this text on this Christian Education Sunday, I want to raise the two points made by Paul. First, "we demolish" the strongholds of this world. Second, we are to "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."
I The Negative – We Demolish
A Let's start off by recognizing we are in a battle – a spiritual battle for hearts and minds. "We do not wage war as the world does," says Paul (2 Cor 10:3). Notice, Paul affirms that we are engaged in battle, in warfare.
Christians are called to be different. We are part of the world, but we live by an entirely different set of rules: we do not act like other people, we do not have the same motives, we do not use the same standards to judge success and failure. So, it should not surprise us that "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world" (2 Cor 10:4).
What are the world's weapons? The opposite of what the Corinthians see when they look at Paul. What do they see when they look at Paul?
(2Cor 10:10) For some say, "His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing." The world, by way of contrast, uses people who look and sound impressive, people who are bold, people with authority.
Authority is such a difficult word and concept. We use it in so many ways. We refer to an encyclopedia as the authority for a fact. Advertisers love to use a doctor or dentist as an authority on what is the best toothpaste or drug. A gun or a search warrant is evidence that a police official has authority. And, at every wedding, I claim the authority to pronounce a couple husband and wife.
The world is really big on authority. But so is Paul. But what a difference between the two. In the world, authority is often used to beat people into submissiveness. Those in authority insist and command and demand. They use guns and paychecks and brute force and money and "letters of recommendation" (2 Cor 3:1). Jesus warned His followers not to pattern their leadership after that of the Gentiles who loved to "lord it over" others (Mk 10:41-45).
Paul followed the example of Christ in exercising authority. Even the Christians of Corinth misunderstood this; they mistook Paul's meekness for weakness. They thought he lacked any authority because he was so gentle.
B What does this have to do with Christian education? Because we are in a battle for the hearts and minds of our children. You know, there are parents who think they should let their children make up their own mind when it comes to matters like faith, worship, lifestyle, and values. Sad to say, but they are about the only ones who are not trying to use their authority to influence their children. Departments of education, advertisers, drug-dealers, musicians, homosexuals, alcohol and tobacco companies, and the public media all try to influence our children and youth. They use their authority to influence our children and youth. They are all open and unashamed about this.
So, our kids get bombarded day after day. They are told sex outside of or before marriage is okay. That there is nothing wrong with abortion. That it is normal to have two dads or two moms and to live in a homosexual or lesbian home. That evolution is a fact. That there are no absolute standards. That all paths and all religions lead to heaven and to God. That the highest good is to be tolerant.
Did you hear what Paul says about all of these? They are but "arguments" and "pretensions" "that sets itself up against the knowledge of God" (2 Cor 10:5). Against the authority of God. But they are fake and false, like a hairpiece or a forged painting.
C Now, do Christians just stand idly by? Do they tolerate all of this trash? Of course not. What does Paul say?
(2Cor 10:5) We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God ...How does Paul do this? What weapons does he use? The weapons Paul used were the proclamation of the Gospel and prayer (Eph 6:17-18).
These weapons may not seem like much in the eyes of the world. Even the Corinthian Christians were not impressed with this. After all, as Josef Stalin once famously asked when warned about the Pope, "The Pope? How many divisions has he got?" The Gospel and prayer don't seem like much next to an army or a tank or a fistful of cash. But, don't forget what Paul says,
(2Cor 10:4) The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.Did you hear that? The Gospel and prayer have "divine power." To use a previous word, they have authority. That is, they have the power and authority of God and of Christ. This is the same power and authority that was used to voice all of Creation into being. The same power and authority that brought Israel across the Red Sea on dry ground. The same power and authority that made the walls of Jericho come crashing down. The same power and authority that called and used Assyria and Babylon to discipline God's sinful people. The same power and authority that brought Jesus to the cross according to the plan of God. The same power and authority that raised Jesus from the grave. The same power and authority that is at work in those who believe (Eph 3:20).
Paul proclaimed the truth of the Gospel. Paul prayed for the churches under his spiritual care. It is this "divine power" that "demolishes strongholds." Think of Babel. Think of Jericho. Think of Goliath. Think of Babylon and Greece and Rome. Think of modern strongholds: departments of education, advertisers, drug dealers, musicians, alcohol and drug companies, public media. Every stronghold of our world is powerless before the Gospel and prayer. This includes "every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God" (2 Cor 10:5).
D So, we need to surround our children with the Gospel and with prayer. Only with the truth of the Gospel and with prayer can we demolish the strongholds of this world that stand opposed to God and Christ.
This is something to keep in mind not only for the church but also for the home and the school. We hear the Gospel so often that we think our kids don't need it anymore – some parents have actually said this to me. But our kids need the Gospel and prayer as much as a fish needs water or as a man needs air. Our kids need this or they are defenseless against the strongholds of this life.
II The Positive - Every Thought Captive
A On the negative side, we want to demolish every stronghold that stands opposed to the Gospel and to prayer. On the positive side, we want to "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Cor 10:5).
"Take captive every thought." I just love that phrase. Think of a captive in war, held at spear point. Think of a fugitive captured by the police. Think of Jack Bauer in the current version of "24" – some mid-eastern tyrant is held captive, completely at the mercy of his captors. His every movement is dictated by the one holding the weapon. He is a prisoner-of-war.
"Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." Let's spend a few moments looking at the opposite. What are thoughts that are not captive to Christ? You know: falsehood, anger, covetousness, greed, unwholesome talk, lust, bitterness, rage, brawling, slander, malice, sexual immorality, impurity, evil desires, and filthy language (cf Eph 4:25-32; Col 3:5-11). Guns, violence, pornography, gangs, drugs, alcohol, racism. When you look after number 1, selfish and self-centered. Living for this world and the things of this world. Having an unthankful and complaining attitude.
How many times don't we all have thoughts like this? How many times don't we all have thoughts that are not captive to Christ?
What happens when our thoughts are not held captive by Christ? What happens when our minds are filled with the impurities and arguments and pretensions of this world?
Let me tell you what happens. We become so accustomed to them that they no longer bother us. For instance, we hear and see so much about abortion and homosexual behavior that we no longer think of it as being evil in God's sight. Or, we no longer realize we are looking at half naked men or women on the TV. Or, we become so accustomed to seeing adultery and pre-marital sex that we even begin to accept it. The very next step, of course, is that we even begin to participate in the stuff we know to be wrong. The best example of this kind of behavior is Lot. He started off by living on the plains, keeping away from the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah. But pretty soon he was pitching his tent right next to Sodom. And right after that we find him living in Sodom itself.
See what happens when every thought is not captive to Christ?
B "Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." What are thoughts that are captive to Christ? You know: seeking first the kingdom and its righteousness; the truth of the Gospel; thinking about whatever is true, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy (cf Phil 4:8); love; righteousness; holiness.
C How do we make every thought captive to Christ? Well, we need to fill our mind with the right things. The Bible is the first place to start. Where can we find anything more true and noble than words breathed by God Himself? Where can we find anything more lovely than the Lord's love letter to us as He tells us about Christ and grace and salvation and the Gospel? Where can we find anything more admirable and excellent and praiseworthy than the teachings of Jesus and His apostles?
This makes me think of what is written in Psalm 19 to describe the Word or Law of God:
(Ps 19:7-11) The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. (8) The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. (9) The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. (10) They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. (11) By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.According to the psalmist, in the Word of God we find whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. When we concentrate on the Bible and meditate on the Bible, we make every thought captive to Christ.
If we want to make every thought captive, we have to spend time with the sweet, precious Word of God. We need to read it daily. We need to think about it constantly. We need to so immerse ourselves in the Word that we can't go anywhere and can't do anything without being aware of God and thinking of His Word.
Think of Moses in Egypt. He was bombarded with Egyptian culture and idolatry, with Egyptian paganism. He was bombarded all day long. It is no coincidence that God told Moses to say what he said about the Law (and therefore the Word) in Deuteronomy:
(Deut 6:7-9) Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (8) Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. (9) Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.In other words, surround and bombard them with the Word and with prayer.
As I already said, everyone wants to captivate the hearts and minds of our children and youth. As Christian parents and grandparents, however, we want their thoughts and minds to be captive to Christ.
Demolish the strongholds of this world. Take captive every thought to be obedient to Christ.
This is something for parents to keep in mind as they choose the school or the schooling for their children. This is something for our college bound youth to keep in mind as they select a school.
I implore you, my brothers and sisters, fill your minds and the minds of your children with the Gospel and with prayer. That is God's desire and Paul's goal.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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