2 Corinthians 10:4&5 “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.”
Many of us are more familiar with the language of the Authorised Version for this fourth verse, alongside which the language of the NIV seems rather anodyne: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds”. That martial language ever rings in our ears. As those words are said one can hear in the distance the sound of the bugle and the drums. Hark! The guns are firing! Here is a battalion at battle stations, not on manouvers, and these words are the reveille. This very day, men and women, we are engaged in a battle which will last for the remainder of our lives. Are there recruits here who will fight for King Jesus? Come and join us in the fight of faith! If you follow him it is to the life of the soldier that he calls you. There can be no escape from the strife, no truce, no cowardly withdrawal. This is Christian warfare with a world system which organises itself against the Lord and his Christ. It is a fight against remaining sin. It is a battle without any quarter being given on either side against the devil and all his devices. There are even enemies in our own camp. Remember the apostolic warning: “Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:30). Did not that happen to Paul?
“Everywhere his rear was threatened by an all-engulfing paganism or by a perverted Judaism that had missed the real purpose of the Old Testament law. Read the epistles with care, and you see Paul always in conflict. At one time he fights paganism in life, the notion that all kinds of conduct are lawful to the Christian man, a philosophy that makes Christian liberty a mere aid to pagan license. At another time he fights paganism in thought, the sublimation of the Christian doctrine of the resurrection of the body into the pagan doctrine of the immortality of the soul. At still another time, he fights the effort of human pride to substitute man’s merit as the means of salvation for divine grace; he fights the subtle propaganda of the Judaizers with its misleading appeal to the Word of God. Everywhere we see the great apostle in conflict for the preservation of the church. It is as though a mighty flood were seeking to engulf the church’s life; dam the break at one point in the levee, and another break appears somewhere else. Everywhere paganism was seeping through; not for one moment did Paul have peace; always he was called upon to fight” (J.Gresham Machen, “God Transcendent”, “The Good Fight of Faith”, Eerdmans, 1949, p.119).
So every Christian is at war, and for this strife God has provided the weaponry. Paul speaks of “the weapons we fight with” (v.4). He stands in magnificent solidarity with the believers in Corinth. His words are not, “the weapons I fight with.” His were the common weapons God has always provided for his whole church. We all fight with the supernatural weapons of God. You will be aware of the history of weaponry, beginning with the club, knife, spear, slingshot, bow and arrow, and advancing to the sword and armour plating. Then along comes the gun, and bomb, and on and on to all the sophistication of modern weaponry. At each stage it is incumbent on nations to fight with the latest weapons. What folly to charge a line of entrenched cannons with cavalry! It becomes the valley of death for those brave horsemen. Man’s weapons are continually being discarded and updated, and so are the techniques of war.
How different are the weapons God supplies the church. They have come from the hand of God, perfect for the early church, far superior to anything that the world could invent. They have needed no modification nor improvement in the past 2,000 years. They are state of the art weaponry, designed in the council chambers of eternity, fully equipping the church for all God intends his people to do. These weapons are in Christ. That is, they were forged in the heat of Golgotha, that great weapon-making factory which God planted on this planet. They are given to the church by the risen Christ. He told the early church to wait in Jerusalem until he had given them these weapons at Pentecost, and he has never ceased giving them to his people. These weapons are mighty because they are Spirit and they are life.
Today we are fighting in Wales with the weapons the apostle himself fought with. We are fighting with the same great sword used by Athanasius and Augustine, Luther and Calvin, Bunyan and Owen, Whitefield and Edwards, Spurgeon and M’Cheyne, Lloyd-Jones and Van Til. They all trusted in the same weaponry, and were mightily used by God. We are not looking for new weapons. We are not bemoaning the armaments God has given to us. We cannot plead we’ve been ill-equipped. Our defeat and failure is not because of any inadequacy in God’s provision. Paul called his weapons his ‘sword’ and ‘shield’, ‘helmet’ and ‘breastplate’ and the church used them two thousand years ago to turn the world upside-down. We might give them more contemporary names, our kalashnikov and Armalite, but we are referring to the same effectual weapons which God provides every one of his foot soldiers. Through all the years of Marxist domination of Russia and eastern Europe the church in those countries had the same weapons that Paul and Peter themselves had and that is why they flourished. The church in China today has the same weapons, and that is why it is flourishing. Our lack of victories cannot be blamed on our antiquated weapons but on our lack of confidence in and failure to use the weapons God has proved.
1 THE CHRISTIAN IS EQUIPPED WITH WEAPONS THAT CAN DEMOLISH STRONGHOLDS
“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds” (v.4). These weapons are not the ones the world uses. They are God’s gifts to us, and we disdain the use of any others. Men without God cannot understand our weapons. They seem utterly inadequate. Goliath took one look at the sling and five smooth stones that young David had taken from the brook and he laughed him to scorn. He had no idea just how effective David’s weapons were going to be. The world patronises us when it says, “Let us explain to you how it really is. Let us tell you about our ‘weapons’ – if we have to use that rather martial word. Our need is for image, and personality, and atmosphere. There must be hard sell, and humour, and widespread publicity. Get the famous men and women, the sports stars, the singers, the comedians and anyone in the media. Ask them to speak. Keep everything short. Have lots of movement in the meetings. Don’t call meetings ‘Bible studies’, call them ‘parties’. Don’t call them churches, call them ‘worship centres’. Don’t have ‘services’, have ‘celebrations’. Book the great concert halls and arenas. Use those weapons.”
That is the world’s approach – the endless procession of stunts. “No! Not the weapons of the world,” says Paul. We don’t use them because we have something far better. We have the weapons designed by God., and even the world at times has glimpses of their usefulness. When it wants to communicate with people eyeball to eyeball to win them it resorts to a pastiche of our weapons, thus acknowledging that they are the finest. A friend of mine recently pointed out, “During the 2001 General Election campaigning I was interested at the way the politicians of the 21st century got their messages across. They did not use drama, mime, dance or song but old fashioned preaching, spelling out their policies and urging people to vote. Despite all the modern sophisticated means of communication, they were not embarrassed to come to the people and use their voices, either in personal conversation on the doorstep, in the street and in the workplace, or to publicly proclaim their messages to the party faithful and the hostile crowds in platform speeches and in open air soapbox addresses.
He goes on to say, “The church has an amazing and much more important message to declare from the living God that concerns not only this life but that which is to come and we are to urge people to respond to it. But who will go and make it known? Where are the preachers of the gospel in our land today? There are plenty of performers, but where are the proclaimers? There are books galore on preaching but where are the men called to preach, who will be persistent and faithful whether the time is favourable or not? Where are the Spirit-anointed spokesmen for God? Pray to the Lord of the harvest; ask him to send out more workers into his fields. Urge him to give the Holy Spirit in greater measure to his servants and to raise up a new generation of faithful workers who will pass on the glorious gospel with passion and power and a heart of love.”
When I was a boy in school in 1957 William Sargant’s book, “Battle for the Mind” appeared. How my atheist friend and I discussed it! Sargant was a psychiatrist who had treated soldiers suffering from shell shock. He re-enacted the trauma they had passed through bringing them into emotional release, peace and safety. He saw something similar, he said, in the preachers of the Great Awakening. Wesley and Edwards would terrify their congregations with their vivid descriptions of hell and that would produce a horror which created a reflex which conditioned men and women into getting peace in religion. Sargant talks much about the ‘techniques of religious conversion.’ Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones answered Sargant in his booklet, “Conversions, Psychological and Spiritual” and in it he warns preachers about letting eloquence and imagination run away with them. He says, “I think we must avoid anything that leads to a suspicion that in evangelistic activities we are ‘conditioning’ people in a psychological manner.” He also says that we must never make a direct appeal to the emotions or to the will but that the truth must first grip men’s minds. That is the great weapon God has given to us – the truth!
In other words Paul is saying that whatever we do we must never lose our faith in the weapons of God and begin to use others. This great war is only going to be won if we fight with his weapons, and I am insisting on this point that all the weapons the early church had we ourselves also have today, as does the church in Saudi Arabia, and northern Sudan, and in the heart of Viet Nam. They are not ill-equipped. The church’s failure is not a lack of weapons.
What are these weapons? One would be faith. What subdues kingdoms and obtains promises and achieves extraordinary works of righteousness? It is faith. That is the great theme of Hebrews chapter 11. Those men and women believed in God and so they obeyed him completely. The victory that overcomes the world is our faith. When God opened the eyes of the servant of Elisha he could see that the horses and chariots of God were camping round about his master and himself. Do you understand? By faith we know that the Lord of hosts is with us and the God of Jacob is our refuge. We become more than conquerors as we keep trusting God. The most effective evangelists are those whose faith in God is great. Jack Miller was once speaking to a dying woman in hospital. She told him that she was not interested in going to heaven because it was too boring. Jack asked her, “What was the happiest moment in your life?” She said, “The best and happiest times of my life came when I was with someone I really loved.!” Now listen to the voice of faith in Jack’s response to her: “That is what makes heaven so very special. Jesus is my best friend, and the greatest thing about heaven is being there for ever with your best and truest friend.” That is what he believed. and God gave him grace to say it to her. It was a powerful word.
Another weapon is prayer. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16). When Elijah prayed the fire fell from heaven and consumed the sacrifice and also the water in the trench around it. Through prayer Hezekiah’s life was lengthened. Through prayer the Syro-Phoenician woman had her daughter healed. How could the Lord himself have survived in his own life without often crying to his heavenly Father for his help? John Nelson heard one comparing John Wesley unfavourably with a pulpit celebrity of his time. He replied, “But he has not tarried in the Upper Room as John Wesley has done.”
Another weapon is Christ-likeness. Andrew Bonar’s wife watched Robert Murray M’Cheyne for a decade. She said, “I’d have given all the world to be as he was.” He changed the religious life of Dundee. He did it through his preaching of course, but those sermons came through a man of God. This is what he said: “Above all things cultivate your own spirit. Your own spirit is your first and greatest care. Seek advance in personal holiness. It is not great talents God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God. One word spoken by you when your conscience is clear and your heart is full of God’s Spirit, is worth ten thousand words spoken in unbelief and sin.”
Then again, what a mighty weapon is the truth. Consider the claims the Bible makes, that the Word of God is like a hammer that breaks an impregnable rock in pieces, that it is alive and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword. How have all of you come to know and love God? It has been by the power of the Word of God. How have you all gone on to serve and please God? By the same power. You sit in a church service listening to a sermon and there is an energy in that word as it comes to you so that you are strengthened to be poor in spirit, and to mourn for your sins, to turn the other cheek, to refuse to retaliate, to forgive again, with a gentle answer quieten someone’s anger, and to conquer a sinful attitude, and so on. By the energy that comes from the word of God you can live as God requires. The Bible is a transforming book.
I am saying to you that there is no secret whatsoever about the weapons God which provides. One finds references to them throughout the Bible. Even references to the Christian armour are not limited to one famous section at the end of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. They are referred to in the Old Testament by the prophet Isaiah, “He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head” (Isa. 59:17). They are referred to by the apostle Paul in other letters. He tells the Romans, “Let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light” (Roms 13:12). He tells the Thessalonians, “Since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet” (I Thess. 5:8). But most well known are Paul’s words to the Ephesian church: “Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything to stand,” (Eph. 6:13). Then he goes piece by piece through the armour – the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. Let me urge you not to neglect dipping into William Gurnal’s great work, “The Christian in Complete Armour” (Banner of Truth) and I commend to you also Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ “The Christian Soldier” (Banner of Truth) which is a study of the weapons we fight with.
I am insisting that today in this church all of us have the most effective weapons in the whole universe, and we must use them more and more to fight the good fight. That is where we are being searched. See the phrase Paul uses here – “The weapons we fight with.” Then where is the fighting? There would be a stir in the school yard and the boys would go running to a certain spot as a shout went up, “A fight! A fight!” I am asking where is this stir in the professing church. I hear, “A group! A singer! A personality! A crowd!” but not a fight. Where is the kingdom of God suffering violence and violent men are charging into it? “We must be saved!” These weapons of God are not intended to be put on display in a church museum behind a glass case. They are not intended to be kept in your cupboard and only used on red letter days. Some men brag in drama spots, choreography, comedians and big personalities. These are the top weapons the church has to use, they’re saying. No! The weapons of God must be constantly used to win the holy war, because the Christian never ceases fighting.
Put on the full armour of God. You must put it on. Paul insists upon it. He tells the Ephesians twice to do so. But you don’t put it on to look imposing, but because you’re a soldier, and the enemy is lying at your door ready to pounce. There are different forms of attack which the world and the evil one can bring against us – hindering, tempting, destroying, accusing, and the various pieces of armour are provided to defend every part of yourself and then to counter-attack. The first piece of armour is the truth of God – “the belt of truth buckled around your waist” (Ephs. 6:14). Then the other pieces have to do with our status in Christ, that our lives are hid with Christ in God. What morale such weapons provide. No use sending men into battle with rusty out-moded equipment. How dispirited they would be. But we take up these divinely honed weapons and remind ourselves day by day what we are and what is ours in Christ. We rehearse all our riches in Christ, that we are complete in him. We are talking about the reality and blessedness and simplicity of little boys and girls who are in Christ. They are utterly safe in this armour. As they build their lives upon Christ they are impregnable however mighty the storms may be that hurl against them. The gates of hell will seek to destroy them but they cannot but fail. Christ sends them forth as sheep amidst wolves, and every one of them is safe, because these sheep are armour plated sheep, and sword-wielding sheep. These sheep can drive away wolves! The devil is like a roaring lion, but let a sheep resist him and he will flee. Christ’s lambs are protected, and their swords are greater than that mythical sword ‘Excalibar’.
Consider the young fisherman Peter son of Jonas, called by Jesus Christ to be an apostle and promised, “I will make you a fisher of men.” See him stand in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost armed with the Word of God. How he fought with that sword. Peter was not a performer, juggling with a sword before 3,000 men. He thrust that sword into their hearts again and again. He told them that they had killed the Prince of life, and now nothing lies before them but an open-ended encounter with the God who has made this Jesus – “whom you crucified” – both Lord and Christ. They were cut to their hearts by what they heard, and they cried, “Brothers, what shall we do?” “Repent!” cried Peter: “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation!” More than 3,000 men did. Peter fought with the weapons of God, and how he prevailed against the kingdom of darkness. Remember Martin Luther’s great Reformation hymn, “A safe stronghold our God is still.” It has that wonderful line about the defeat of Satan, “A word shall quickly slay him.” We have to use the truth to kill Satan and all his works. One reads the book of Acts and the missionary journeys of the apostle Paul, and it chronicles his remorseless overthrow of the god of this world. Paul could have used the weapons of the world but he despised them: “I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony of God … my message and my preaching was not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power” (I Cor. 2:1&4). His message of Christ crucified was a stumbling block to many, but it was God’s great weapon and he was determined not to employ any other, and as he used it he discovered that Christ crucified was the power of God and the wisdom of God. That was the word he fought with.
“Nations, the learned and the rude,
Are by these heavenly arms subdued;
While Satan rages at his loss
And hates the doctrine of the cross.” (Isaac Watts).
The weapons God gives his church are righteousness, faith, prayer but especially Scripture. The Spirit’s sword is the Word of God, that whole body of Christian truth, all its promises and warnings, the full revelation of its glory in Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the whole counsel of God. Dr Lloyd-Jones says, “There is no part of Christian doctrine that you and I can afford to ignore. We must study every part of Scripture; and it is good to read the whole Bible every year. Leave nothing out, read the history, read everything, take every part and portion of the doctrine. Do not stop at evangelism, do not stop at justification, do not stop at sanctification; take in glorification, study prophecy, take the whole doctrine. Nothing causes such weakness and failure in the Christian Church as a failure on our part to put on the ‘whole armour of God’ (D Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “The Christian Soldier”, p.180, Banner of Truth, 1977). That is why the climactic aspect of our worship is the declaration of God’s word. But that word is not to be used only on Sundays but everywhere we are to be ready to use it. What David said about Goliath’s sword can be applied to this Bible: “There is none like it.” It is the incomparable Book.
A friend of mine began talking to a man about Christianity and their conversations went on for weeks, and this man seemed to enjoy every discussion. Nothing was happening at all; they were getting nowhere, and my friend was convicted that he wasn’t fighting, only sparring. He wasn’t using the weapons of God properly, so he went one afternoon to the man’s house. There were some very degraded men sitting in the front room and he passed through them into the bedroom where that man was lying down. He sat on the bed and he spoke to him about the gospel. “I really laid it on him,” he said. “I never spoke to anyone as bluntly as I spoke to him. And after ten minutes he shouted right back at me, ‘Are you telling me I am a sinner?’ I said, ‘I’ve been trying to tell you that for the last six weeks.’ ‘Oh!’ he said. I’d been juggling with a sword before him all that time. Now I used the word as the sword of the Spirit and did battle with him with it.” Henry applied the word of God to that man. He was in church the next Sunday and in the first message he heard Henry preach the theme of the sermon was keeping the Lord’s Day, and Henry said at one place, “Don’t tell me that you have any hunger for God if you fellowship just once on a Sunday.” And he had made a promise to himself that very morning that he would start coming once a week from then on, and that first Sunday he learned that it wasn’t enough. The weapon Henry used to smite him was the same sword of the Spirit when he was lying in bed next door to his disreputable cronies or when he was in church hearing a sermon. Today he is a saved man, and an officer at his local church. He is seeking to raise a Christian family. Humanly speaking it is because Henry started to fight with the weapon. To be bold and courageous without being aggressive – we will take our whole lifetimes to learn such a lesson. Let us be good students!
So there are these great weapons which are provided for every Christian by God, and whenever we use them strongholds are demolished. Consider the structures of locked-in atheism in our society today. It is found in the publishing houses, in the media, the TV and Radio, the schools and the entire education system, the newspapers and the whole world of sport and entertainment. God is not in people’s thoughts. It is like this across all the British Isles and Europe. What a stronghold! The great and seemingly impregnable citadel with the Son of God standing outside. It is a world locked and barred to Jesus Christ, and we seem to be making so little progress against it, indeed it seems to be growing bigger and stronger as the years pass by. But what do we read here? Our weapons “have divine power to demolish strongholds” (v.4).
Let me give you an illustration of this. It’s been over 60 years since the United States was attacked at Pearl Harbor. One soldier who heard about that event was Sgt. Jacob (“Jake”) DeShazer who was on duty at the time at an Army air base in Oregon. He developed a deep hatred for the Japanese. It was born that day, and it grew through succeeding events. His off-duty life was based on drinking and dance halls. A fortnight after the Pearl Harbor attack he was summoned to report to his captain. A score of his friends were there. The officer asked how many of them would volunteer for a dangerous mission and DeShazer immediately volunteered. After training as a bombardier, he became a crew member of what came to be called ‘the Doolittle Raiders’. Their leader, Lt. Col. James Doolittle, had devised this scheme. Land-based B-25 bombers capable of flying long distances, with pilots trained to take off from an aircraft carri er, would travel by Naval convoy to within 400 miles of Japan. Then, flying very low to avoid detection, they would bomb Japan and land at friendly Chinese airfields.
However, the Japanese spotted the task force, and the planes had to take off a day early, adding hundreds of extra flying miles. After bombing Tokyo and other cities, they ran out of fuel, abandoned their planes, and parachuted down. While most of the Doolittle Raiders made it to friendly Chinese locations, the Japanese Army captured DeShazer’s crew and three others. So began 40 months of imprisonment, 34 of them in solitary confinement.
The men were taken to Japan and interrogated for days, placed on a starvation diet, beaten, and tortured. In October 1942, three of the men were executed, but Emperor Hirohito commuted the sentences of five, including DeShazer, to life imprisonment. They were sent to Nanking, where they each spent more than two years in solitary confinement, except for a few minutes of daily outdoor exercise. During this time one of them died of malnutrition. For years, they requested books. Finally, in 1944, they were given some including God’s great weapon against man’s rejection of Christ, a copy of the American Standard Version of the Bible. DeShazer read the entire Bible several times and the Old Testament prophets six times. He memorized passages like the Sermon on the Mount, 1 Corinthians 13, and much of 1 John, among others. The Bible’s message made its way into his heart. On June 8, 1944, DeShazer cried to God for mercy, entrusted himself to Christ, and became a Christian.
Obedience became DeShazer’s key word. “Love your enemies” included even the guards he once hated so bitterly. He began speaking respectfully and kindly to them. It took time, but eventually they responded in kind. In June 1945, the prisoners were transferred to a Peking prison used for Japanese soldiers. Though conditions were worse than ever, DeShazer experienced moments of deep communion with God. When he learned that the war was over, he became persuaded that it was God’s will for him to return to Japan with the gospel of Christ.
He prepared himself by getting a degree from Seattle Pacific College, where he met and married Florence Matheny, and together they sailed for Japan as Free Methodist missionaries. When they arrived in December 1948, they were surprised at the large crowd greeting them at the docks. The press had picked up on his story, and people had come to see what they had been reading in the papers: a tortured, hate-filled Doolittle bombardier was now returning to teach his former persecutors the gospel of Christ.
Meanwhile, Gen. Douglas MacArthur had sent a message via his staff chaplain to the president of the Bible Meditation League (now known as Bible Literature International). MacArthur asked the league to print something that might help heal the wounds between Japan and the United States. The league printed 1 million pamphlets of DeShazer’s testimony, ‘I Was A Prisoner of Japan’, for distribution throughout the country. One of those tracts down into a most unlikely hand.
Commander Mitsuo Fuchida was the lead pilot of the 360 planes that attacked Pearl Harbor. He gave the order to attack, and then shouted the famous attack signal, ‘Tora! Tora! Tora!’ (Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!) Fuchida had been carefully chosen for this task. He was an expert at dive-bombing and torpedo-launching, and at the age of 39 he had racked up more flying hours than any other Japanese pilot. He was a national hero, and it earned him an audience with Emperor Hirohito himself. he had a sense of the importance of his own destiny and when the battle of Midway began in June 1942, Fuchida was in a below-deck sickbay on an aircraft carrier, suffering severe pain from an appendectomy. He disobeyed orders and crawled out of sick-bay to the flight deck. When American bombs hit the carrier, it exploded. Fuchida, thrown ten feet into the air, broke both legs as he fell. He barely missed burning to death, which happened to all who had stayed below deck.
In August 1945, Fuchida was on duty in Hiroshima when a telephone call summoned him to headquarters. He left the city at 5 p.m. The next day at 8 a.m., the first atom bomb destroyed the city. The next day, he was ordered back to Hiroshima. He spent three days walking amid the fatally radioactive rubble. While most officers became seriously ill and died from the exposure, Fuchida remained perfectly healthy.
Shortly after the war, Fuchida spoke to a friend who had been captured and then imprisoned in the United States. He was curious to hear how well Japanese prisoners had been treated, especially by one 18-year-old volunteer, Peggy Covell. When the prisoners asked her why she had been so helpful, she replied, “Because Japanese soldiers killed my parents.” She explained that her parents were missionary teachers in Japan at the beginning of the war. They fled, only to be captured later in the Philippines. They were judged to be spies and, while kneeling in prayer, they were beheaded. When Peggy heard about this three years later in the States (she had been evacuated), she was filled with hate. But she concluded that her parents must have forgiven their killers, so she too had to forgive and show it. Peggy fought Japanese unbelief with that powerful divine weapon, the love of Christ.
This story astounded Fuchida. He had long been pondering a phrase from the Emperor’s surrender broadcast “To pave the way for a grand peace for all generations to come” and now he began to think that such peace could come only from a supernatural source. One day in October 1948, while waiting at a railway station in Tokyo, Fuchida was handed DeShazer’s leaflet, ‘I Was a Prisoner of Japan.’ He was ready to throw it away, but he noticed that it was written by a courageous Doolittle flier, so he read it with keen interest. This prompted him to buy a Bible immediately, but he didn’t get around to reading it for months. When he did, he found that the Bible’s message gripped him, and Christ’s prayer from the cross captured him: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:24). He was deeply moved and became assured that Jesus had prayed and died for him. It was in September 1949 that he accepted Christ as his Saviour, and he was baptized two years later.
There came a time a few years later when these two men met. They had fought with the weapons of the world bombing and killing, but both had been overcome by more powerful weapons that are able to change the hearts of men, making bitter men sweet and violent men gentle. These former enemies had become brothers in Christ. Over the next years, Fuchida and De-Shazer spoke together to large crowds of people. Fuchida died in 1976 at the age of 74, but De-Shazer is still alive and is now aged 88, and with his wife they live near Salem, Oregon. Two enemies, who through war and the subsequent peace had good reason not to trust Christ or one another, yet both did. Both used the great weapons of God, the Bible, love, prayer, righteousness, forgiveness and faith to great effect.
Here were two men who once had lived by the standards of the world, and had waged war as the world does with guns and bombs, but they were both converted reading the Bible, the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. They then put away their hatred and all their worldly weapons and they used this same powerful weapon which had killed the angry men that they themselves had once been, and which had made them new men. That weapon is the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. They used it with courage, but in meekness and gentleness, as did their Lord, and by his divine power they spent the remainder of their lives demolishing the strongholds of sin.
2. THE EXTRAORDINARY EFFECT OF THESE WEAPONS.
The apostle tells us of the impact that these weapons have. Firstly, “we demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.” Secondly, “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (v.5).
i] GOD’S WEAPONS DESTROY ALL THE SPECULATION AND LOFTY PRETENSION OF MAN.
There are arguments and every kind of pretension that unbelievers use to replace the knowledge of God, and part of our task is to destroy those excuses.
i] “I’ve made up my mind and you won’t change me.” That’s a pretension. There is nothing so deadly as a closed mind. Look at people trapped in all sorts of superstitions, refusing to consider that they might be wrong. There are people who still believe that the Piltdown Skull is the missing link, that Elvis Presley is still alive, that you must touch a piece of wood if you say something hopeful. There are people to whom it’s a sin to use motor cars, and telephones. They go around in horse-drawn buggies. There are people who believe a sign of holiness is a long beard, or that blood-transfusions are evil. They’ve made up their minds, and refuse to change. Prejudice destroys people. Please think again about the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s all we ask.
ii] “There’s not enough evidence that Jesus is the Son of God.” That’s a pretension. Have you looked at the evidence we have? Have you read about it? I would guess you know almost nothing about the four gospels, and the lives of Christians in the last two thousand years. Jesus Christ says that he is your God. That is a staggering claim, and if it is true it must change your life, and yet you refuse to check out the facts about him
iii] “I am glad you are happy with your faith, but I have no sense of need of him.” That’s a pretension. The issue is not whether you feel you need something, but is Christianity true? You may feel no need to visit a doctor but you may be mortally ill and a visit now could save your life. The only person who can speak about our need is God and he says that we are living in his creation and have broken his commandments, and he is going to hold us to account. The question is not whether you feel religious or not but whether Jesus Christ was speaking the truth when he said, “I am the truth … no one comes to the Father but by me.”
iv] “I’ve tried it before and it hasn’t worked.” That’s a pretension. Your first girl-friend or boyfriend finished with you and you were crushed. That didn’t stop you dating and marrying someone else. What would you think of a man aged 40 who when asked why he never got married told you, “Oh, I had a sweetheart when I was 15 but she preferred someone else and so I know it doesn’t work”? You wouldn’t believe him. You would pity him. So too with you and Jesus Christ, you might have tried confirmation classes and been confirmed. You might have gone forward in a high powered religious meeting. You might have learned how to speak in tongues but now you have fallen away from all religion. The Lord Jesus speaks about such people. They hear the word with joy and there is a short spurt of religious life, but once some difficulties and disappointments arise they fall away. That happens. Don’t dwell on that. Don’t try to analyse it. Saul of Tarsus got messed up in a false religion, that didn’t stop him working with all his heart in a new religion. He didn’t give up on God after his first terrible failure. You had some feelings for God once. Great. You committed your life ‘in pencil’ to the Lord once. Ink it over! Now go for the reality. You are older and your need of his grace is even greater.
v] “I don’t want to get involved.” That’s a pretension. I can understand people not wanting to get involved with ourselves. We are not a very smart people, and we don’t live as we should. We let one another down and we let God down too. So there’s the possibility that you’ll get let down too, but who are you to speak about such things? Are you above reproach? Doesn’t your conscience convict you? Aren’t you glad there have been people who have kept forgiving you? Are you going to look the other way when a woman is being attacked? You are a coward and love yourself more than anything else. Jesus Christ got involved with 12 weaklings who either betrayed him, or denied him or ran away and left him all alone. He had known that that was his destiny, but it didn’t stop him coming and loving these people, and making himself vulnerable, and getting hurt. There was a man called Pontius Pilate who didn’t want to get involved in Jesus Christ. He washed his hands of him and so the Lord was crucified because the Consul refused to get involved. It’s weaklings who don’t get involved.
vi] “I believe in evolution.” That’s pretension. Chances are most people who say something like that have the haziest notion of what evolution is. I believe in evolution. Two dogs went into Noah’s ark but look at all the breeds of dogs you have today. Animals change, and scientists can describe the changes, but description is not explanation. What happened at the beginning when there was nothing, and then the creation began? If it all came from chance why is there order and beauty and design and intelligence everywhere? You would expect some parallels if the same God made all things. He doesn’t spread diversity unnecessarily. If you are sincere about evolution giving you problems there are men with Ph.D.’s in science in this congregation who have worked all their lives teaching and working in genetics and plant breeding, and they don’t believe in evolution as the explanation for everything. They believe that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and that God has made himself known through prophets and apostles and through his son Jesus Christ. These scientists would be happy to speak to you. We are suggest you think more, and speak to them.
vii] “All roads lead to heaven. It doesn’t matter what you believe so long as you’re sincere.” That’s pretension. It seems to me that it matters very much what people believe, because they act accordingly. The men who hijacked those planes and flew them into the Twin Towers were sincere in what they believed. They killed themselves for what they believed. The cannibal is sincere in what he believes. Hitler was sincere in what he believed. Are there millions of ways to God? Is everyone going to God in his own way – 6,000 million ways to God, one for every person on the planet, or is there just one way to God, by Jesus Christ? The One who preached the Sermon on the mount and raised the dead and never sinned himself, the One who died and rose on the third day said that only by him do men know God. “He that believeth not the Son shall not see life” he said (John 3:36).
viii] “I can’t believe in a God of love in a world where there is so much suffering.” I would gently and hesitatingly say that that can be a pretension too even though you may have experienced very severe suffering. No one suffered as much as Jesus, and God forsook him as he suffered, but he kept trusting God, and at the end he said, “Father into Thy hands I commend my Spirit.” I am sorry you experienced such pain and loss, but I would plead with you not to use that suffering as a reason for not obeying God. Some suffering is through the folly and wickedness of other people. Some suffering is part of mankind’s mortality – we live in a fallen groaning world. Some suffering is a result of our own excess – man’s cruelties, follies and addictions. For some suffering we have no explanation at all in this life, but in heaven we shall know the reason for all things to our eternal satisfaction. If you come to this church, and hear the morning sermons on Job, or read the sermons on this website, and keep coming and listening to the Scriptures you will find answers to some of the problems that suffering brings.
ix] “You Christians are so divided. You seem to disagree about so much.” That is pretension. There are Christians who reject major teaching in the Bible. They have separated themselves from Christianity in that area. Yet they want to be called Christians. They have denied heart doctrines of the faith, and until they believe them again we cannot stand with them. Others have added many traditions for which there is no place in the Bible and until they are jettisoned there is no possibility of being united with them. True Christians are not divided whether they are Baptist, Presbyterian, Anglican, Reformed or whatever label they choose to use. We all believe that we deserve eternal death because we are sinners, but Jesus because he loved us, died in our place, and that we must turn from our sins and entrust ourselves to him. That is the gospel, and if you talked to Andrew the minister in the Congregationalist church down the road, or Ian the vicar in Holy Trinity, or Ifan the pastor of the Welsh Evangelical Church, or Andy at St. Michael’s, then I believe each one of them would give you the same answer. There is escape into saying that Christians are divided only if you ask those who believe their own selected bits of the Bible, and that approach leads to another religion.
Men sometimes say that you can make the Bible teach anything. No you cannot. That is another pretension. I have preached almost 50 messages on 2 Corinthians and I use about 18 commentaries which I keep on a trolley in the study. Some of these books were written 400 years ago and some were written last year. They are written by Lutherans, Anglicans, Presbyterians and Baptists. What is striking is the utter uniformity of interpretation of each of them. They are all saying the same thing. Where there are some rare ambiguities in the text, as there must be in all human language, they weigh up the different interpretations and generally come down on the same side. We know what Paul is saying, or Peter, or John, or Matthew, or Mark, or Luke. The Scriptures give one clear message.
x] “What about those who have never heard the gospel?” That again is pretension. They know the living God because he has made them, and put a conscience in their minds, and written the things of his law in their hearts, and set his glory in the creation, so they are without excuse. They will be judged according to their knowledge. The problem is that every man knows more than he practises. Every man is guilty and needs a Saviour. But you know the gospel and do not respond. Shouldn’t that be much more concern to you than those who have never had a chance to reject the living Jesus Christ?
There are ten pretensions that set themselves up against the knowledge of God. There are many more, and if listen to the preaching of the Bible or read the Scriptures for yourselves you will find them, one by one, also being demolished. Even if we cannot win you for Christ we can arouse you from your apathy. I feel at times like that Welsh farmer spotted chasing his horse round and round the field. “What are you doing, Dai?” his neighbour asked. “I want to harness this old mare to do some plowing for me,” he replied breathlessly, “but she refuses to get caught. So if she is staying in this field I am going to make sure she doesn’t enjoy a day of idleness.” So it is with me. If I can’t convert you to Christ I can disturb your days of disobedience by demolishing every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God. But I would do more:
ii] EVERY THOUGHT IS TO BE MADE OBEDIENT TO CHRIST.
What an incredible concept! The human brain is the most astonishing and mysterious of all complex systems. Inside the brain there are billions of neurons, and information flows in ways we don’t understand. The memory of learning the catechism with our brothers and sisters sitting on our mother’s knee. Imagination. Consciousness. Scientific knowledge. Capacity for mathematical generalisations. Questions about the universe. Tenderness to our children. Our brains are capable of this and much more, and no one knows how. Every single thought is to be made obedient to Christ! He must be Lord of all. “Take my intellect and use, Every power as Thou dost choose.” Under his lordship our thoughts and feelings are arranged in classes (as in the process of polishing or smoothing). Those that rise towards the honour of God taking precedence over those that drift downwards towards the gratification of self, and so the great decisions of life are prepared.. Through Christ’s lordship over our thoughts our characters are molded and our vocations determined.
When Jesus Christ comes into your life he comes as God the Son and the Lord of glory. He comes as your teacher and he says, “Learn of me for I am meek and lowly of heart and you shall find rest for your souls.” What a brilliant and effective teacher he is. He will cast light on every part of your life. The wisdom of the world will tell you that Christ’s influence will be greatly restricting. How can this be when in him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge? He is the Creator of everything. He is the sustainer and interpreter of everything. There is no electrical activity in our brains which is not powered by him. Was Johann Sebastian Bach, the father of music, restricted in his creativity by his obedience to Jesus Christ? Was Vermeer, or Rembrandt? Were the writers Bunyan, or Cowper, or Spurgeon? Was the scientist Michael Faraday? It is error that confines. In the world of Islam today there are no creative thinkers, or poets, or artists, or writers. Theirs is a frightened sterile world. But Christian education flourishes all over the world.
If there is a thought that says no to Jesus Christ then it is a sinful thought. If there is an aspiration, a desire or an imagination, which refuses to bear the scrutiny of the kind but searching eyes of the Lord then it cannot help you or anyone else. Paul is setting before us here the goal that every Christian has – submission of his entire being to this comprehensive Lord. Of course, we never attain it. There has never been a Christian who took captive every single thought and made it obedient to Christ, but every one of us desires that. That is what I want with my life, whether I am working, or at home, playing my sport, out with my fiance, watching TV, talking to my friends, or whatever. I know how much more blessed my life would be if that amazing world of my thought life were in service to Christ.
That is why Paul tells us to put on the helmet of salvation. A mind that is preoccupied with thoughts of our great salvation is kept safe and intact from the onslaughts of the enemy. A mind that dwells on the deep riches of grace and the wealth of the believer’s inheritance in Christ finds a refuge and fortress against which the enemy’s attacks beat fruitlessly and in vain. Put on the helmet of salvation. Protect your mind from the flood of devilish and worldly thoughts by allowing the things of God to make their imprint upon you. There was a missionary who had become so deeply depressed inwardly without any external adequate cause to account for it. He thought he was losing his mind, but the way he received deliverance was using his mind to lay hold of facts, and to refuse feelings. His position and status in Christ, the great promises of God made to him as a sinner who trusted in Christ – words which never shall be broken – were his food. It was in rehearsing these that he emerged gradually, step by step, to a full victorious command of himself, his mind, his spirit, his thoughts, his body, his circumstances. He brought again every thought back under the Lordship of his loving and gentle Saviour. That is the strength the battle-weary soldiers of Christ can expect. They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint.
20th January 2002 GEOFF THOMAS