2Co 10:3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.
2Co 10:4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 2Co 10:5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.
I consider the above passage along with a similar text in Eph. 6 as being of the utmost importance for Christians to understand if they are to battle sin effectively. Our passage says that our weapons are not fleshly but spiritual and have to do with the mind and ideas. While it is intimated in 2 Cor. 10 that our enemies are spiritual, Eph. 6 says it plainly that our weapons are spiritual because the enemies are spiritual, Eph 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
In a nutshell 2 Cor. 10 is telling us that our real battle with sin lies in how we think about God and his Word. The strongholds in vs. 4 aren’t actual physical forts but erroneous thinking and being deceived; thinking that is dangerous because it is against the knowledge of God. The positive way of saying this is seen in the latter part of verse 5. Incorrect and sinful thinking accepts human wisdom over the revelation of God. Godly thinking has only one grid that all thoughts must pass through, does it fall under the will of Christ; will it serve his cause, does it fall in line with what he has said or will it undermine truth?
The objective of our warfare is to change how people think and so it begins with us. Too often Christians have tried to clean up people’s lives but because they are so weak in the faith all they accomplish is to make the “converts” look outwardly like them. But their ideas of God and service are so defective that they are unable to do battle when the trials come. They cannot have strong relationships because their love for Christ isn’t driving them; they still love themselves and live for themselves and can’t figure out why attending church or not drinking, or not smoking doesn’t fix their problems. Their hearts and their minds (in the Bible they are the same thing) have not been transformed by truth.
When Christians do this they turn their attention on things of the flesh as if somehow that will change the heart. An even more extreme example of trying to fight this spiritual battle with weapons of the flesh would be when some in the name of Christ have actually taken up conventional weapons like swords or guns and tried to force people into a spiritual kingdom. Nothing could do more damage to Christ’s kingdom than that.
It also, then, forces us to acknowledge that those who tempt us or persecute us are not our enemies as such. This is how we can love our enemies. They are held captive by sin and Satan and need the gospel. While they can hurt the body and fight against Christ; pain and suffering are not our enemies; listening to their siren call of pleasing the flesh is our enemy.
For instance, many have used torture or physical intimidation to try and cause saints to deny their faith. We might ask isn’t that physical enemies and it would seem the way to combat it is to get away from the pain or danger? Not necessarily. What happens when you cannot get away from such things? The real problem isn’t the pain or discomfort; it is the lie that they are trying to get you to buy into which is that momentary relief is more important than honoring the Lord! It is the same lie that brought down Adam and Eve and everyone since then. And this holds true whether you are being attacked with poor health, lack of a steady income, relationship problems, etc. The spiritual enemy’s attack is to get inside your mind and make you think that the most important thing is to get rid of discomfort, to exalt your pride and your wants and your needs above serving the Lord.
So the only effective weapon against sin is a strong love for the Lord that causes us to reject the lie of the flesh and the Devil that there are things that are more important than serving the Lord with all your heart. It is to live in light of eternity and not live to please the flesh for a few years on earth. The battle against sin is first and foremost a battle of the heart and mind.
When Paul was arrested by the light of God on the road to Damascus, his first words after finding out that it was Jesus was, “What shall I do Lord”. If this isn’t our mantra, the fundamental truism that we constantly come back to when making decisions then we haven’t been delivered from these spiritual forces no matter what our theology might be or how well we think we keep the outward laws. May God help us to recognize our real enemy and to also recognize our most important defense and weapon; a transformed heart saturated in the Word.