2 Corinthians 10.3-5 “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
This passage teaches the same fundamental truth as Ephesians 6. We are in a war that is fought not in the realm of the physical, but in the realm of the spirit; therefore, the weapons we wield must also be weapons of the spirit. Paul says that the weapons he deploys “have divine power to destroy strongholds.”
The word he uses for “strongholds” is oxyroma, and it means a reinforced military fortress. It is “a place of strength,” a place which is a purposely fortified stronghold. In this context it refers to a place where the enemy is entrenched, where his evil is heavily-fortified and protected behind strong defenses.
It is not out in the open; it is not easily exposed and overthrown; it is entrenched and well defended, and therefore difficult to defeat.
The enemy has established such strongholds throughout human society. These strongholds are distorted beliefs that people embrace in an attempt to escape reality. The strongholds are deviant behaviors that people practice in an attempt to experience pleasure and avoid pain; idols and false gods that people worship in their desire for happiness and fulfillment; addictions that torment and tyrannize people.
These distorted beliefs, deviant behaviors, false gods, and addictions are truly strongholds of evil that have become embedded in culture.
It is important to understand that the enemy also seeks to establish strongholds in the minds of Christians. The internal strongholds of evil that Christians must defend against take the same basic form as those we battle against in society: wrong beliefs, wrong behavior, and idols and false gods.
For the Christian, the place where this battle takes place is the mind. Once you have given your life to Christ, the enemy cannot take away your salvation, but he can take away your effectiveness. He can steal your peace of mind and rob you of your confidence. He seeks to do that by disrupting and distorting your thoughts. He attacks the mind and seeks to establish a stronghold of disruptive and distorted thinking.
It is for this reason that Paul says in the 2 Corinthians 10 passage quoted above, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” The last part of that verse is monumentally important: “Take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
The mind is the primary battleground where we must stand firm against the schemes of the devil. We must not allow our thoughts to run on autopilot. We must not allow our mind to operate on default. We must not allow our mind to be directed by impulsive and impetuous emotion.
The continuous renewal of the mind is the cornerstone discipline of the Christian life.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12.2)
An undisciplined mind is highly vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy.
Therefore, we must pay attention to what we pay attention to. We must be aware of the thoughts that seek to occupy our mind. When disruptive thoughts enter our mind (and they will!), press pause and redirect. This is where we must apply the sword of the Spirit and replace wrong thoughts with the truth of the Word of God.
The word of God plays a foundational role in the life of the Christian. We are called to gain strength and skill in our ability to wield the sword of the Spirit so that we can, like the apostle Paul, destroy strongholds and take every thought captive to obey Christ.