Many of us are familiar with Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 10 where he stated that “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds” (2 Corinthians 10:4, KJV). But are we also familiar with what Paul wrote next? Do we know what kind of strongholds we pull down through these mighty spiritual weapons?
Paul continued, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete” (2 Corinthians 10:5-6, ESV).
As paraphrased in The Message, “We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.”
This is not just a matter of driving demons from people bound and possessed (although that can be part of our spiritual warfare too). It is a matter of driving out demonic mindsets and false assumptions, of expelling darkness with light and deception with truth.
Our battle is both spiritual and intellectual as we engage in spiritual warfare with demons and their ideologies.
That’s why Paul wrote, “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” (1 Timothy 4:1, NIV). It is not only the temptation of sin that pulls people away from God; it is also the deception of error.
That’s why Paul warned the Corinthians, saying, “I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough” (2 Corinthians 11:3-4, NIV).
His greatest concern, then, was not that they would completely deny Jesus but that they would believe in a different Jesus. He was not only concerned with their moral integrity; he was also concerned with their doctrinal purity.
Paul understood that Satan himself was involved directly in the manufacture and propagation of false doctrines. The ancient serpent deceived Eve by planting a question in her mind about the words of God, and he uses the same tactic again and again. There really is nothing new under the sun.
What, exactly, was the nature of Satan’s lie to Eve? His opening words said it all: “Has God really said … ?”
To paraphrase, “Eve, can you really trust His words? Does He really mean what He says? He is lying to you! He said you will die if you eat from this tree, but you most certainly will not die. That means that your first step to enlightenment is to recognize that this God is not who He seems to be and that His intentions are questionable. I know better!” (Genesis 3:1-5).
This is the spirit of progressive Christianity—the mindset that we know better than God, that the plain sense of the words of the Bible cannot be trusted, that the old, proven paths are not proven at all, that the very God of the Bible must be recreated if He is to live up to our enlightened standards. We know better!
What we are left with is simply our religion—a faith and a bible and a god that we have created in our image, based on our values.
Augustine summed it up nicely: “If you believe what you like in the Gospel, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the Gospel you believe, but yourself.”
But, again, this is not merely an intellectual battle. At root, this is a spiritual battle, one that can only be won through prayer and fasting, through clear Gospel proclamation, through resisting the enemy, refusing to compromise and walking in genuine, heartfelt love.
The spirit of the age will be against us (“You are so old-fashioned and outdated!”). The spirit of the flesh will be against us (“You are such boring legalists!”). The spirit of that ancient serpent will be against us (“If you want to be on the right side of history, you need to abandon your inflexible, fundamentalist mindset!”).
But the Holy Spirit is with us, and by His power we pull down these deceptive strongholds and demolish these destructive ideologies. We do it by wrestling in prayer in the secret place before we raise our voices in the public square.
We do it by pointing to the inevitable trajectory of progressive beliefs, as little by little, they depart further and further from the faith until even the most fundamental doctrines are denied.
We do it by exposing the moral bankruptcy of a faith that questions God’s integrity and His Word, producing bondage rather than freedom.
And we do it by setting the captives free, offering them radically new life through the Gospel and a true encounter with the living God through His Son, Jesus.
In the days ahead, this battle will intensify. The foundations of our faith will be questioned as never before, and the “old ways” will be rapidly abandoned. But be encouraged. Progressive religion is no better than a beautiful sandcastle, soon to be washed out when the tide comes in.
It is that holy tide, in the life and power of the Spirit, grounded in the Word of truth, that will carry us to victory and deliver many from deception and lies. ©2022 Michael Brown
Michael L. Brown is the founder and president of FIRE School of Ministry in Concord, North Carolina, and host of the daily radio show “The Line of Fire.”