We are suffering enormous casualties in our fundamental churches. Front line soldiers are dropping out of the battle chiefly because we have not spotted the real enemy.
The Christian has three powerful enemies to face-the world, the flesh and the devil. There is an area of Satanic attack not often recognized, and that is in the area of the mind. Satan attacks the spiritual believer, not so much through the world or the flesh, but through the mental processes.
The devil would destroy the minds of Christians. This destruction is not evidenced in mental wards but by Christians who were once front line soldiers for Christ, but now have become spiritual dropouts.
It is nearly impossible to find a church without those who were once deacons, Sunday School teachers, faithful soldiers of the cross, but who no longer function. They simply became bitter in the battle. They lost the battle for the mind.
The Apostle Paul knew what this was all about. In II Corinthians 10:3-5 we have the basic text dealing with the battle for the mind.
First, Paul was under false attack by men who claimed to believe the Bible but were seeking to enhance their own reputation and position at his expense. They had entered the Corinthian church after he had left and sowed seeds of doubt concerning his apostleship and character.
Secondly, he was misunderstood by the very people he had won to Christ, those who should have appreciated him the most.
Thus under the two-fold attack of false accusation and ingratitude one would think he would have every right to be bitter. Rather, he gives to us the divine formula for winning this strategic warfare. His response to that pressure furnishes a basis upon which every Christian can face the same kind of attack without becoming a spiritual casualty on the battlefield. Let us look a bit more carefully at the means by which we win the battle for the mind. We need to see first of all:
Satan attacks the Christian, not so much through the toys of this world or the flagrant violations of the flesh as much as he does through the mind.
- Far more Christians and churches are wrecked through mental sins than fleshly ones.
If Satan cannot effectively neutralize our testimony through some fleshly outburst, he certainly will not hesitate to attack us through our mental processes.
Another important text in this regard is I Peter 5-8. The word, "sober," used at least twelve times in the New Testament, is used of mental preparation. "Be of sound mind". The Christian is warned to be mentally under control, for the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about seeking to destroy the effectiveness of the Christian. If he can get us to turn bitter in the battle he has won a victory as devastating as if he had caused us to return to some scandalous sin.
II. The Approach of the Adversary
The text before us in II Corinthians 10 speaks of "imaginations, thoughts." The New Testament warns us to guard against three negative thought patterns:
(1) Evil thoughts,
(2) Anxious thoughts,
(3) Unfounded imaginations.
It is this third area of which many Christians are unaware and unwarned.
A number of fine Christians, who, in time lost that battle and have retired from active service in the local church as a result. There seems to be a three-fold process.
- First there comes a spiritual paranoia.
Imagination runs rampant. All kinds of negative thought patterns become prominent. "People don't like me....I am not appreciated for what I do....the people in the church aren't friendly and so on." Thoughts filled with emphasis upon self and suspicious of the motives or actions of others take over.
Many times these imaginations, negative in content, are directed toward symbols of authority.
- Young people become bitter toward their parents;
- Members become bitter toward the pastor.
- Wives become bitter toward husbands.
- This then leads to the second step.
The root of bitterness comes. Hebrews 12:15, "Lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled."
Every Christian should memorize that verse for his or her own good, particularly those who are the most active in the church. That root of bitterness not only defiles the individual, but the verse teaches that it also defiles many others also.
Lastly there comes the shifting of the guilt. The person filled with the root of bitterness must find another party to blame for his or her failures.
Far more valuable workers for Christ have been set aside because of the loss of the battle for the mind than for any other reason.
(1 Cor 9:27) But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
Even when we have been deliberately wronged or grieved (as was the Apostle Paul) , the Lord expects us to allow His grace to work in our lives to be over comers in the situation. So lastly let us note:
- The Triumph Over the Evil One
In II Corinthians we have a description of our weaponry. We must note "not fleshly." We need not lash out, retaliate, or go on a personal vengeance crusade. In times of great mental conflict we dare not resort to the weapons of the flesh to gain victory over the mind. We should see their character, "mighty through God." My mind inseparably linked with the mind of the Holy Spirit, thus I have unlimited resources to keep on top in my mental attitudes. We also must not overlook their conquest, "pulling down of strongholds." Long developed negative thought patterns are pulled down through the armory at our disposal.
And then after seeing the great weaponry at our disposal the Christian in facing the battle for the mind must go on the counterattack. There are four operations that must be effected:
- Repentance. We must draw a circle about ourselves and recognize that the real problem is not with the other fellow but with the man in the middle of the circle. We need to confess to God that the negative thoughts are our own, regardless of the grievances we may feel.
- Restraint. I Peter 1:13. To gird up the loins of our mind is taken from an Oriental imagery of the gathering up of loose flowing robes prior to running a race. We must not allow the loose ends of our thinking to dangle out to pick up every negative impulse.
- Renewal. Romans 12:2; Our minds must be renewed daily by the constant application of the Word of God. No attack against us can stand when the living Word of God is constantly applied to life's situations.
- Refreshment. Philippians 4:7-8. One will look in vain for a negative thought in these verses. Rather, our hearts and minds are kept (literally, guarded), by a process of positive reflection.
It is a sad spectacle in Christian work to observe those who were once front line soldiers in our churches fall by the wayside because they have lost the battle for the mind.
Or perhaps there is a someone here who a number of months ago (or years ago) lost that battle for the mind and your life has been neutralized by it ever since.
I encourage you to rise from that past defeat, apply the grace of God to your situation, recover the lost territory and move out again into Christian warfare with a new sense of personal victory in the battle for the mind.