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Bringing Every Thought Captive

II Corinthians 10

Paul has spent the last two chapters talking about giving and offerings, but now he returns to defending his ministry.

It seems that the scenario here is that Paul wrote a letter (most theologians believe that particular letter is lost, though he may be referring in part to I Corinthians) in which he didn't mince words.  He had confronted them with their sin and challenged them to repent.  Then it seems as if some of the "super apostles" were saying to the Corinthians, "Wow, that Paul is just a mess.  He writes to you with such bold words.  But look at him in person.  He's not eloquent  and he's not much to look at either.  He's just such an ordinary guy, at least compared to us."  These guys would then compare themselves to themselves and they all thought they came across as pretty amazing people.  But Paul reminds the Corinthians that that's no way to judge yourself.  You need to compare yourself to the highest standard, to Christ.  How do you measure up to him?  Paul reminds them to look deep into their hearts and not just at the surface.  He says that getting rid of sinful practices is a battle, but we have divine power to help us.

Verses 3-6 are familiar to anyone who has been involved in church, so I spent some time looking a little more deeply at them.  They say
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  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.  And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.
First, what is the battle for and who is it against?  The battle is for truth, obedience to Christ, and to overcome sinful practices.  The battle is against lies, disobedience, sinfulness, and of course, the author of all those things, Satan himself.

Secondly, who is fighting the battle?  I think there is a very real sense where these verses have an individual application.  But notice Paul's use of the plural.  A soldier seldom fights alone; he fights alongside other soldiers.  That's why being part of a church and in fellowship with other believers is so important.  We are not in the battle alone!  But just like each individual soldier needs to have battle skills and know how to handle his weapons, I have to know and understand truth on an individual level or I can't contribute to a group that is fighting for truth.

Thirdly, how do we fight the battle?  Well, based on the previous question, I'd say we fight it together.  And we fight it with weapons that have divine power.  Ephesians 6:10-20, also written by Paul, is a great chapter to read along with this as he explains what our weapons are:  the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, shoes that are the readiness that comes from he gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

Fourthly, how can I make this practical?  How do I know when I'm thinking lies?  When I'm reverting to old patterns of thinking that result in sinful living?  How do I get to the root of my worldly patterns of living?  I found this graphic here and think it's very helpful!

1.  Is it true?  Remember, just because you thought it, doesn't make it true.  The hard part is that we are fed so many lies that we believe them and don't even recognize that they are lies.  The only way you can have this kind of discernment is by spending time in the Word and asking the Holy Spirit to guide you.
2.  Does it honor God?  If it doesn't, you shouldn't be thinking it.   An example would be thinking hateful thoughts about somebody.  They are made in God's image and loved by Him, so my hateful thoughts don't glorify or bring honor to God.
3.  What is its origin?  Again, this is a tough question, but we can't believe everything we've been taught.  Learn to be discerning.  If it causes fear or distress or negative feelings, its origin is from Satan.
4.  Is it uplifting?  Does the thing you are thinking cause you to be discouraged and dragged down?  Is it negative towards other people?  Does it make you angry towards God?  Then stop thinking it.
5.  Does it involve guilt?  We're not talking about godly sorrow that leads to repentance.  This is guilt that you hang on to after confessing and repenting.  It's also guilt that we heap on ourselves because we weren't perfect (mom guilt is a perfect example of wrong thinking).
6.  Is it helpful?  Is this thought helping you to be a better, kinder, more godly person?  Or is it harmful to yourself or to others?  
7.  Is it a temptation?  If so, run from it!
8.  Does it strengthen you?  If not, you don't need to be thinking it.  Just remember that there's a lot of nonsense out there that might strengthen you, but it isn't necessarily true, like, "Follow your heart".  Ummm, no, that's probably is really just going to get you in trouble!

N. T. Wright writes, 
All truth is God's truth.  All truth can be twisted to serve the ends of human pride and arrogance, and that happens far too frequently.  But it can be straightened out again; and the way to do that is to 'take it captive', ..., to bring it on to the right side.  There is no insight, no vision of truth, so noble and lofty that it cannot be perverted and made an instrument of human pride.  Likewise, there is no small glimmer of light, no faint echo of reality, so small or corrupt that it cannot be taken into the service of the world's creator and rightful Lord.
And Jim Eliot said, "Bringing every thought captive is no easy chair job."