Loving Obedience Through the Fight – 6-21-22

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,” 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 NKJV

RELATIONSHIP:

Do you already have a relationship with a powerful God who cares about your every need because He loves you? Did you know my God can communicate with you and protect you – He has a plan for you to prosper if you just submit to His will and let His plan play out in your life!!! God wants a relationship with you and has already made a plan for your life. He loves you so much He sent His son to this world, to die as a sacrifice for your sins and rise from death with victory over sin and the ability to have a personal relationship with you.

Do you want to know truth? Be able to discern lies? Know how to figure it all out in these confusing times and have peace? The Bible says Jesus is the truth. I have experienced it and it has changed my life. I was once a hot mess of sin, promiscuity, drug and alcohol use and so much more. But I was lost and when I could not find my way, or find a truth, I numbed it with bad choses. When I found Jesus, and truth – I found peace and deliverance from those things.

If you want a relationship with God without truth you will get the counterfeit, hypocritical Christianity that has kept some of you away for too long. You need truth and relationship. You need to be honest with yourself and God (including honest repentance) and God will reveal truth to you. It becomes the two way, interaction that your relationship with God is built on. This is why Jesus is called the truth, because he is our only way to the Father. 

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10 NIV
Here is a prayer for you to pray:
Jesus, I believe you are the way, the truth, the life, and the only way to the Father. I believe you are the son of God, you came to Earth and lived. That you died on the cross as a sacrifice for my sins, and rose again so that I may be saved from my sins and be able to get to know you. I declare: Jesus, you are Lord!
Therefore, I confess that I am a sinner and I ask that you forgive me of my sins and come into my life. Help me to turn away from my sins and transform me into what you have lovingly created me to be. Help me through a real personal relationship grow and accept your will for my life – that I may live in your blessings. Please walk with me, and talk with me – I accept a relationship with you and with our Father God, through you. In the name of Jesus I pray ~ Amen

BIBLE READING:

Dear Heavenly Father – Please give us the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of who you are, who Jesus is, and who the Holy Spirit is. Open the eyes of our understanding, please, so we may know the hope of our calling and the vast sovereignty and power of the grace of the cross. Please do not let us miss out on what you want and need from us today. Lord, I pray that your word prepares us and not scares us! We forbid the works and influences of fear over your word and our sound mind. And please keep us and bless us and shine your face upon us and pour out grace over us and give us peace! And we pray for the peace of Jerusalem! Thank you! – In Jesus name we pray, Amen

Today’s reading is the Book of Second Corinthians chapter 10 (embedded below for your convenience in the NKJV). 

The Spiritual War

10 Now I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—who in presence am lowly among you, but being absent am bold toward you. But I beg you that when I am present I may not be bold with that confidence by which I intend to be bold against some, who think of us as if we walked according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not [a]carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.

Reality of Paul’s Authority

Do you look at things according to the outward appearance? If anyone is convinced in himself that he is Christ’s, let him again consider this in himself, that just as he is Christ’s, even [b]so we are Christ’s. For even if I should boast somewhat more about our authority, which the Lord gave [c]us for [d]edification and not for your destruction, I shall not be ashamed— lest I seem to terrify you by letters. 10 “For his letters,” they say, “are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.” 11 Let such a person consider this, that what we are in word by letters when we are absent, such we will also be in deed when we are present.

Limits of Paul’s Authority

12 For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. 13 We, however, will not boast beyond measure, but within the limits of the sphere which God appointed us—a sphere which especially includes you. 14 For we are not overextending ourselves (as though our authority did not extend to you), for it was to you that we came with the gospel of Christ; 15 not boasting of things beyond measure, that is, in other men’s labors, but having hope, that as your faith is increased, we shall be greatly enlarged by you in our sphere, 16 to preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man’s sphere of accomplishment.

17 But “he who glories, let him glory in the Lord.” 18 For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends.

Footnotes

  1. 2 Corinthians 10:4 of the flesh
  2. 2 Corinthians 10:7 NU as we are.
  3. 2 Corinthians 10:8 NU omits us
  4. 2 Corinthians 10:8 building up

MEMORY VERSE CHALLENGE:

Acts 4:12-

“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

STUDY/DEVOTIONAL:

Today’s reading almost seems like a list of commonly quoted verses in the Christian community. Seriously, some of my favorite verses!

Let’s however remember the context – especially since many of us a so familiar with them out of context.
Paul is writing this letter to the church of Corinth to remind them of His love for them, like a father. He is defending himself in God, against a smear campaign aimed at discrediting him. And he is reminding them of the tasks at hand, that still need to be accomplished. Yesterday we concluded two chapters on giving offerings to God. Keep in mind that Paul did not break this book into chapters and verses… that happened much later. So today’s reading may seem to change the subject, but it doesn’t – Paul is great at staying focused on what it is he is saying.

So today he is speaking with the starting point of giving yourself to God and an offering to God. And he will continue to defend his authority and its limits.

1 Now I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—who in presence am lowly among you, but being absent am bold toward you.”

Now, usually we hear man say, if you are humble and meek, you do not have to say so. People should see it in your character. Well, that is not true. We, humans, being prone to arrogance – love to think we are perceptive enough to recognize a humble servant type character. But our perception of humility and meekness is equal to weakness in our heads. Why? I do not know.
Jesus was humble and meek, even when he went into the temple with a whip and overturned tables and chased out the vendors! Humble and meek people are still empowered, especially when filled with the Holy Spirit.
Paul wrote the very stern and firm disciplinarian letter of First Corinthians, then there was the letter of tears (or maybe it was one and the same based on your understanding of history) and now this letter is also, quite direct. No one likes to be disciplined, and no one likes to be wrong and corrected – and from that perspective it is easy to confuse authority for pride and lack of meekness and lack of humility.

But I beg you that when I am present I may not be bold with that confidence by which I intend to be bold against some, who think of us as if we walked according to the flesh.”

If Paul was driving and this church was in the back seat – this is the proverbial: “Don’t make me pull this car over!” Paul says this a couple ways, just like our parents, or even us as parents at some point find ourselves saying. Like: Don’t make me come over there! Like: Don’t make me call your father!
Paul doesn’t want to have to discipline them further and is saying that he wishes he didn’t have to be firm. But, if they are going to misbehave, he will have to be bold – or sternly correct them.
In the flesh, some may say or imply that Paul is coming in a power trip of pride. But this is not of flesh, but of God and Paul is quick not to take credit or accusation – This is a spirit thing.
This has EVERYTHING to do with the two chapters of the offering message! (Which actually surprised me, once I put this in context!)
Because you may say of me, after reading those lessons on giving: “who do you think you are, by telling me what to do with my money?” And same with the Corinthians to Paul. And same with you and I to Paul – don’t tell me what to do! We seek spiritual guidance from Paul and the Word of God, but does it cross a line when it reaches its hand into our pockets?  Mature and hungry Christians, like you and I, are eager to learn and practice what we have learned. We gave the best offering we could last Sunday! God is GOOD! It stretched us and we know God is God and has the right to tell His story through us AND through our finances.
But then, Monday, right after – God asked us to do it again at the end of this week – and to take a whole week to prepare and to be MORE generous than last week!! And now it is easy to succumb to the voices around us saying who is this blogger and why do they think they can tell us what to do with our money and how we should give offerings. It is not me OR PAUL, asking for the more generous offering – it is your heavenly Father. So if you are so bold to walk before Him in that pride and ask Him, He will gladly tell you and sadly resist you.
Now, Paul was well aware of those voices, coming in to steal the good meat he laid out for us. They are not flesh, even if some come from people around us. They are the enemy! Which is why Paul goes on to say:

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.”

To the Ephesians he says:For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12 NKJV
And to the Galatians, Paul writes in Galatians chapter 5 that they should walk in the Spirit, not in the flesh.
Putting verse 3 in context with Second Corinthians and then in perspective with the New Testament, we begin to get a broader understanding.
The fleshly world is NOT the real one – we must learn to be aware and walk in the Spirit world that interacts with the fleshly world. Not only aware and walking – But warring! There is a battle there and it is our JOB to be in the fight!
The enemy wants to steal the blessings of obedience to giving. Steal the blessings of becoming humble and correctable. And steal the blessings of submitting to the authority of the Word of God, penned by Paul.
How do we fight to keep the seed of the Word, the seed of the finances God blesses us with to plant?

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,”

The weapons are further described in the passage of the Armor of God – which is FIRST the sword, or the word of God – it is anointed to do its job. The second is prayer and intercession.
These can pull down strongholds. What is a stronghold? I am glad you asked. Literally, in Roman military strategies, the military would built huge structures and put them on wheel and wheel them, push them, into the opposition’s territory. In the medieval times, they strongholds were fortresses that were fortified and held well usually made of stone. Paul was unaware of these stone structures, Paul is speaking of the Roman strongholds.
These huge wooden structures would be filled with warriors and water. Because they’re weakness was fire – and then they could put out any fire quickly. These strongholds, moved slowly and intentionally bullying their way in and possessed the land.  Possess the land. When we have stronghold, the enemy is attempting to or is possessing an area of your life. An area of your life – you are not demon possessed, but there is a possession in some area in the spirit. And it needs to be pulled down since fire was not fully effective. The most effective offense against it is to sneak up beside it and throw a rope up on it which could hook in. Then they would pull it sideways – it was the only way to pull it down and stop it!
This is the visual that the Corinthians would have been familiar with and understand.

casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,”     

Casting down arguments. Like who does Paul think he is? All the things those voices say to convince us to argue against the Word of God. We can fight those voices by confirming the Word. It is written!
When arguments come to us through man, against the word, we can speak the word to fight in the spirit. Man gets so mad, but it is a spiritual battle – not a flesh battle and our spiritual sword is the word. It is so important to know the word!
Casting down every high thing that exalts itself against God – Pride. God really has a huge issue with pride. He will shack it to its knees or to its destruction. We can cast down the pride in ourselves by double checking that we are humble, regularly – and practicing humility. When we are confronted with pride and should discern it and pray against it – “In the Name of Jesus, we cast it down!”
Bringing every thought into captivity is a bit more of a struggle (maybe just for me). Last week I felt like wild thoughts just kept my mind jumping around from one thing to another and insecurity, doubt, the feeling of not being good enough, and the feeling that I was wrong but kept bombing my mind. Over and over I had to literally say STOP! And ask God to clear my mind and help me be obedient even in my thoughts. So I would try to focus on God, His word, and Philippians 4:8. (Which is a great verse to work on memorizing whenever you struggle with your mind, or with depressive or anxious thoughts. Especially in the KJV, because there is a bit more rhythm in that version.
We are to guard our minds, and be obedient even in our thoughts and repent of wayward thought – yea, this opens a whole new area to die to flesh in!
Those of you with ADD, ADHD, or a form of Autism – by diagnosis it is more difficult for you to control your mind. I know. I used to excuse myself, because I clinically can justify my lack of control. BUT if God is making me into a new creature – then, my long list of diagnosis is just a list of made up words and are meaningless in the power of God. Meaning, God is still able to help me in those areas and in controlling my mind. For me it is more of a battle, I suppose, based on comparative discussions with others, than it is with people who are neuro-typical. But God overcomes, no matter your abilities. God is never limited by man’s definitions.
I was one way, then Jesus happened to me and now I am another way – I was terrible at thinking and writing and teaching, then God happened and now I find myself doing this for His glory!

and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.”

We really should use a bit more modern language here. Paul is NOT saying we are to punish anyone who is disobedient. The law has to do with punishment so God completed the law with Christ and brought freedom (as we saw in previous studies).
Paul is saying that once we learn to obey in an area (‘your obedience is fulfilled’) then we can correct and help our brothers and sister through their struggle to overcome or correct disobedience in their own life.
But for us to become submitted to obedience – we must die to self. Die – punish. So we can begin t see where the language came from.

Do you look at things according to the outward appearance? If anyone is convinced in himself that he is Christ’s, let him again consider this in himself, that just as he is Christ’s, even so we are Christ’s.”

Ok, verse 7 is a little abstract and very meaningful. Usually, the more abstract the thought is in the Bible the more spirit-filled and deep, meaty it is. So first to keep it in perspective Let us look at it from a step back. We are talking about the battle that comes with giving an offering, the battle that comes with being corrected, and the battle that comes with reconciliation from a divide. In other words, the devil came to rob, kill and destroy and we are battling to not be robbed, stop the killing and not be destroyed as a whole – the Body of Christ spread over the globe, as the regional body of believers in your area, as your local church body and as you individually.
We spend a LOT of time applying these things to us individually – because we cannot change others, but we can change ourselves. But the battle is greater and individually and just speaking, teaching or reading the word is an offensive move in the spirit – the enemy sees us swinging a sword. And if you think you are swinging a sword to fix yourself, then you aren’t looking at the spirit – in the spirit the enemy sees the sword swinging and sends backup. But do not focus in the spirit at your battle – instead look around – there is a greater war on the body and this is not about winning battles, it is about engaging in the war. Yu see personal attacks are often just a distraction so you cannot see or pray for the war at hand.
You know you have accepted Jesus (hopefully, if not go back to the top and get that done!) and have a relationship with God and are engaged in the war – because you are learning and growing deep and strong in the Word of God, getting into your heart and transforming you. So Paul is saying look again and see that he and his team are also in Christ. Stop warring against each other and band together against the enemy.  There is a common foe, and he is distracting us and making us focus on each other.
This is a difficult concept. On one hand we can certainly see how this works with most people. But if you are in a conflict with a fellow believer, it is important to understand they love God and God loves them. They are not the bad guy even if they hurt you. They are fallible, weak humans who have erred and so are you, and me. Paul is redirecting, knowing the attack of the enemy will hit hard after the lesson’s he has presented – because unity, obedience and giving are enemy crushing concepts if practiced regularly.

Now, we know there are some in Corinth who have questioned Paul’s authority, even though he founded the church. And we know the enemy will continue to attack the authority of a Christian, because how can we stand if we are questioning if we should stand.

For even if I should boast somewhat more about our authority, which the Lord gave us for edification and not for your destruction, I shall not be ashamed –“

Boasting (in this sense) is not a prideful activity – it is praising the character or saying something is good. Paul’s authority from God over this church is good. God gave it to edify and not destroy.
You and I also have authority from God – to do great exploits, and to edify and NOT destroy. Some people just like to see others fail. Paul is not ashamed, because he is NOT hoping they fail and he is not co-dependent, needing them to need him. Paul has a lot of churches to oversee and even more he hopes to start. You and I should learn to grow others, encourage others, boast on others, and stay in our lane (more on that in a moment).

lest I seem to terrify you by letters. 10 “For his letters,” they say, “are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.” 11 Let such a person consider this, that what we are in word by letters when we are absent, such we will also be in deed when we are present.”

Again, Paul is reminding them that he will stop this car if they do not behave! It appears, they were well behaved while he was there, so he wasn’t so hard on them. But now that he is gone he has to address problems again by letter. He knows they are LUCKY, Jesus sent him, instead of showing up himself with a whip, overturning tables!

12 For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.”

The other day I had iced tea with a motherly person in my life – she and I were talking about this very thing. Paul compared his level of obedience to the measure of what God told him to do. It is vital that we use NO OTHER METHOD of measuring ourselves. Any other method will give a wrong answer. Jesus sees us by the fruits we are able to produce and God sees us by our love for Him. So we cannot compare to those things, as they are known only to God in full and to us in part.
Man says to compete with yourself and do better than the last time. Man says to compete with others as well. These are humanistic values – not Godly! Let me use myself as an example.
I was a very talented kid, when it came to art. I could paint and draw very well – all things creative came easily to me. I quickly became the best in my class – a class of untalented children who took art because it was part of their curriculum. I then stopped stretching and growing and my grades were always A’s. The assignments bored me and I created much better things in secret. But I compared myself to others and so did my teachers. UNTIL, one teacher started to grade me, comparing me to yesterday’s me. Now, I had to one-up myself in order to get the good grades. Each day I put in slightly more effort to outdo myself. And each day I scored well. This is NOT wise – because under that direction, I never reached my own potential. And I knew it. I was lazy. I still got into the 2nd best art school in the nation (I did not apply to the best, it didn’t interest me – because it was known for comparing people to their potential). So I went to school and outperformed my classmates, because I am competitive and got the stellar grades. Soon I wasn’t challenged anymore and bored. I was scared of working hard and meeting my potential – it was easy to just be the big fish in a pond (but I wasn’t a fish, I was a tiny underdeveloped whale). God wants us to be everything he designed us to be – and that can be scary, but it is what we are made for. We are made for such a time as this!
And honestly, the only part that is scary is the unknown. Humans need limits – security. Even if we press those limits and expand, we still need them.

13 We, however, will not boast beyond measure, but within the limits of the sphere which God appointed us—a sphere which especially includes you.”

Getting back to staying in our lane – and comparing ourselves to our potential within God given limits. Paul isn’t saying he is the boss of everyone – he is saying God gave him churches to oversee and he is doing his job – and Corinth is one of those churches.

Paul wasn’t heading to Jerusalem to run the churches that Peter oversaw – they was Peter’s job.
And back to using me as an example, God did not make me to be the best at art in my classes – God made to use my art to glorify him. Which I am learning means in a very different way than most people expected of me. My mom would LOVE me to be one of those prophetic painters who speaks prophecy while painting, or paints while worship music plays and the subject matter becomes an image of Jesus.
I have nothing against those who do that – but THAT is definitely NOT mine. I do listen to the Bible on audio and worship music while I paint – but that is just because I like to listen to the Bible and worship always, when I cook, when I clean, when I drive, etc. God has given me business skills and other skills he wants incorporated in my creativity – I must reach MY potential, not someone else’s.

14 For we are not overextending ourselves (as though our authority did not extend to you), for it was to you that we came with the gospel of Christ;”

Paul is reminding this church – he, through God, founded it. He is perfectly in his lane and authority to do God’s will in this church.
Life application is – when we are in our scope of authority, God’s power and anointing can move through us. And when we are outside of our scope of authority and meddling with someone else’s’ ministry, or calling – we are not anointed.
If I was to play music and –paint for you, you would be entertained. There would be NO anointing. That is NOT my calling or ministry. If I was to stand in front of you and speak, like I write, then God will move. This is my calling. He is also glorified in my painting – but that is not this. And everyone who buys my painted earrings, is blessed and moved by God and God encourages, makes them feel beautiful and God lifts them up. That is what God does with my ‘art’. I make it, sell it, send it off – and God does the rest.

15 not boasting of things beyond measure, that is, in other men’s labors, but having hope, that as your faith is increased, we shall be greatly enlarged by you in our sphere,  16 to preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man’s sphere of accomplishment.”

Now, as Paul stays in his authority – God moves, the anointing breaks the yokes of bondage, great testimonies and boasting on God can happen. Paul says he is not meddling in someone else’s ministry, but having hope that they understand in faith – and that faith grows huge and Paul can see the fruits of his labor in the field in which he planted. Paul is NOT trying to take credit for someone else’s work, labor, or sowing.

17 But “he who glories, let him glory in the Lord.” 18 For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends.”

And finally I circle back to that conversation with that mother figure over tea – as we discussed our measure in God’s eyes and in how we testify and glorify our God, she flat out says: we can misstep in our testimony robbing God of a sliver of His glory and taking a reward, or recognition, here on earth, and losing that crown in heaven. Me, being me – runs this idea through verse after verse, finding a full sermon’s worth of revelation and wow. She knows how to give the word, uncorrupted and she is a great role model. So we discuss the verses and the depths of glory and conclude it is actually possible to rob yourself of salvation, through pride, sliver by sliver. It was a reverent moment. The fear of God strikes in awe.
It is a slight slip, on a slippery slope. This is why repentance and forgiveness is in our lesson, from Jesus, on how to pray daily. We must humble ourselves and repent daily. We must stay in our lane and obey our tasks and look for no reward, other than seeing our God, and Jesus, both whom we love deeply, get all the credit and be glorified.

Lord help us to love you this way! In the name of Jesus ~amen

***

Thank you for reading in 2022 – a Year of Wisdom and Salvation
May the God of peace keep you and bless you. May you stay focused on Christ and covered in grace.
Maranatha ~ Come Lord Jesus!

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