You wouldn’t attack the Great Wall of China with a swiss army knife, would you?
I’m not much for war movies. Braveheart grossed me out, Saving Private Ryan made me motion sick, and I probably won’t see Dunkirk. I’m also not inspired by battle imagery. If you dig any deeper into Scripture than the Armor of God (Ephesians 6), I kinda zone out. I don’t like to talk about Satan either. You can skim back through my posts and see that.
If we’re not actively
resisting the advances of
Satan, we’re helping him.
It’s time to face reality, though, in my personal life and in the world. The spiritual battle is surging and victimizing. I wish it was fought solely by spiritual beings (like when Daniel had to wait on an answer because the angel was busy in hand-to-hand combat—Daniel 10), but it’s not. We participate in the battle, usually not by choice. Because if we’re not actively resisting the advances of Satan, then we’re helping him.
One of Satan’s tactics involves building walls between us and God—walls around our hearts.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5. We’ll consider three words/phrases from these verses (NIV) today and two more next week. The encouraging words are next week, so make sure you come back!
Strongholds (v. 4)
In medieval times, castles had a central, fortified space to which fighters could retreat if the battle went badly. It was virtually impenetrable and easily defensible, a place of relative safety, but not a place to live long-term.
Strongholds were designed and built to block incoming attacks but they also blocked any communication in or out.
If the enemy is in the
stronghold with you,
it’s not very safe.
Satan works to build a stronghold around our hearts. He wants it to be impenetrable and easily defensible…a place where we feel safe in our self-sufficiency. But if the enemy is in the stronghold with you, it’s not very safe.
Arguments and Pretensions (v. 5)
Strongholds are typically built of blocks: large pieces of masonry layered on top of each other over time. Like actual strongholds prevent communication, Satan sets up blocks of arguments and pretensions to prevent us from communicating with God. He works hard to impede any incoming knowledge of God or outgoing prayers to God.
His arguments include (not an exhaustive list):
Maybe the Bible doesn’t mean exactly what you think it does.
Did God really say ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’? – Genesis 3:1
God wasn’t suggesting you shouldn’t ever do it.
God doesn’t love you, and you’re not important to Him.
You will not certainly die. – Genesis 3:4
Surely, it wouldn’t hurt to try just a little bit, to look for a second, you know, so you know how to talk to people enmeshed in this problem.
When she saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom… – Genesis 3:6
His pretensions include (off the top of my head):
- Straight-up lies
He convinces us that his deceptions are actually truth.
- False assumptions
He convinces us, for example, that our impressions of other people are true before we know the people.
We begin to believe we know enough about the Bible, so we think we don’t need to read it anymore.
We find ourselves influenced by people who pretend to be believers—and may have even convinced themselves—but they and we are deceived by Satan.
- False teaching/fake truth
We believe things that are almost but not quite true about God. Things like, “God helps those who help themselves.”
We add on to the true Gospel.
We’re taken in by humanism: the idea that people—including us—are essentially good and will do good most of the time.
- Head knowledge
We think it’s enough to memorize Bible verses, to have the answers for every Sunday school question, to attend Bible studies. But nothing penetrates our hearts.
We believe we can and must take care of ourselves.
We try harder, punish ourselves more, berate ourselves for perceived failures, and deny outside help.
We read books about how to live better.
We print out listicles for strengthening our faith lives.
What I have on my agenda for today is more important than anything God could have to say or anything He might want me to do. (Okay, ouch. I just dropped that big, pretentious block on my own toes!)
- Good works
We commit to helping the poor or going on mission trips or efforts at evangelization, thinking these make us a “good Christian”…or at least make us look like one. All the while, we have no real relationship with our Father.
Satan creates heavy, dense blocks from these arguments and pretensions, first encircling our hearts, then imprisoning them. The thing is, we let him do it! Sometimes we even encourage it because we feel so much safer behind walls of our own construction.
Knowledge of God (v. 5)
Satan wants us to keep believing
what he plants in our heads.
Satan establishes this stronghold around our hearts specifically to block our knowledge of God. I like to think God stands before us in all His truth and glory, ready to show Himself to us if we’ll just look in the right direction. But Satan doesn’t want us to know the truth about God—that He is loving, generous, forgiving, worthy of worship, etc. Instead, Satan wants us to keep believing what he plants in our heads, which trickles down to infect our hearts. Like sinus drainage gives me a respiratory infection.
Satan is subtle. Sometimes you don’t realize how many blocks he’s laid on top of each other until you’re straining to see over them. I hate to leave you in such a negative frame of mind, but this is getting long. Come back next week to finish the imagery and find our success.
What arguments and/or pretensions can you add to my list? What has been especially challenging for you? Leave me a note in the comments and bless us all with your wisdom!