JULY 1st, 2018                                                                                   PASTOR DON PIEPER

IN PAUL'S FOOTPRINTS                                                             2 COR. 5:11-21; 10:1-5


                                                “THE BATTLE ZONE


            There's a battle going on and I'm not talking about the battle over whose turn it is to do the dishes or take out the garbage, as life-changing as that may be.  Nor is it any mere Tweetle Beetle Battle either!  Ever heard of one of those?  A couple of you were talking about it last weekend! 


            They say, that “when tweetle beetles fight, it's called A Tweetle Beetle Battle.  And when they battle in a puddle, it's a tweetle beetle puddle battle.  AND when tweetle beetles battle with paddles in a puddle, they call it a tweetle beetle puddle paddle battle.  AND..., when beetles battle beetles in a puddle paddle battle and the beetle battle puddle is a puddle in a bottle..., they call this...a tweetle beetle bottle puddle paddle battle muddle.    AND..., when beetles fight these battles in a bottle with their paddles and the bottle's on a poodle and the poodle's eating noodles..., they call this a muddle puddle tweetle poodle beetle noodle bottle paddle battle!”   Did you know that?  Well, they do!


            But that's not the kind of battle I'm talking about either, as vital as that beetle battle may be!  No The battle in question is one that finds us all in the battle zone and is as real as any battle you'll ever face. This battle is a cosmic one and is the underlying theme from cover to cover in the Bible.  Back in the beginning..., God created everything in perfect harmony.  And repeatedly we are told, it was good!


            But God's enemy, the fallen angel, Lucifer, otherwise known as Satan, having been cast from heaven seeks to cause havoc here among God's good creation.  Having subjected ourselves to his dark influence starting with the consumption of forbidden fruit, we perverted God's garden into a war zone.  It was in that dark moment of defiant disobedience that the cosmic battle in question began. 


            But in the heat of the battle God sent his champion, his only son, whose kingdom-growing mission was launched under an immediate assault from the enemy with his temptations in the wilder-ness, and climaxing with the battle on Calvary, where the enemy's apparent victory is catapulted into his ultimate defeat as the champion rises victorious over death, sin, and the enemy himself.        


            Along the way, God's champion, Jesus the Christ, the anointed one, trains his followers to equip themselves as to be more than conquerors in the battle zone in his kingdom conquest.  Each of his core group of disciples, Peter, James and John all refer to this battle zone in their letters. 


            Peter reminds us that The devil “ prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour”  (1 Peter 5:8)  James urges us to “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Draw close to God and God will draw close to you.” (James 4:7)    And John writes: “Dear children, don't be deceived..., when people keep sinning it shows they belong to the devil who has been sinning since the beginning, but the Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil.”  (1 John 3:7-8)


            In his book of Revelation, John further notes that “Satan, the dragon has gone off to make war against...those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.”  (Rev. 12:17)


            So how does the enemy wage war against us and seek to devour us?  Jesus was clear: “He is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)  As John further warns: “He deceives the inhabitants of the earth....” (Revelation 13:14), and that “Satan has gone out to deceive the nations.”  (Revelation 20:8)





            Scripture is clear: Satan's chief weapon is that of deception.  He is a liar and the father of lies.  He will lie to us about God.  He will lie to us about ourselves.  He will lie to us about what brings life.  

Know this: the enemy will take full advantage of passive living.  Lives will be lulled to sleep.  Fear will rule.  Anxiety will dictate.  Toxic substitutes will be consumed because escape seems the only solution.


            In Paul's fourth letter to the Corinthians, written while he's up north in Macedonia during his third missionary trip, he reminds this beleaguered church of this cosmic battle they find themselves. 


            Paul writes: “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.”  (2 Cor. 10:3-5)


            Paul's references to arguments and pretensions and to every thought that crosses our mind re-veals that he's not talking about a physical battle but a spiritual one, an inner one.  Yes, the enemy may launch physical adversity at us – just read Job or recall Paul's adversities...if you have any doubt about that – but his most formidable weapon, his violence of choice, is one that is fought within!


            So what can we do?  We demolish the enemy's strongholds.  We take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ. We persist in our resistance of the enemy! We actively identify strongholds of deception and bring these pockets of malfeasance into truth-filled obedience to Christ. 


            Strongholds come in various shapes and sizes.  They are the lies that lead to eating disorders, pornography and addictions.  They are the lies that generate fear, anger, anxiety and discontent – those that have a way of driving us away from Christian community, that separate us from the Body of Christ. 


            There are voices within and without that feed into our fears and anger that would see us isolated and imprisoned...  But what if we unpacked what was really going on and held these deceptions up to the light of Scripture?  Consider the lies that fuel sexual sin.  Surely physical impulses play a role, but there's more to it than that.  There's the lie that says we're missing out, that everyone does it, or the one that convinces us that unbridled sexual expression generates a more satisfying life or experience or that whispers in our inner ear that if we don't do this we'll lose this person we want to be with.  Deception after deception, brick upon brick, until the stronghold is fortified. 


            How about eating disorders?  Is it just about the food or is there something else going on?  Do we eat because we're actually hungry or to numb the pain of some form of insecurity, or does the voice in our head convince us that we've earned it, even though it diminishes life rather than enhances it.


            One might ask how much influence a parent's definition of worth and value still hold sway in our lives.  How much are our decisions influenced by the way we define our worthiness?  Is worth defined by a need to always win, always seeking affirmation or based on our appearance...? 


            In the film, The Voyage of the Dawntreader, Lucy struggles under such influences.  She's be-come convinced that her value is directly connected to her appearance.  She listens to the voices that if only she were more like her sister, Susan, should be more accepted and adored.


            [DVD scene from Narnia: Voyage of the Dawntreader; 48:05 – 51:11]





The evil one almost ensnares her but the Lion of Judah whispers truth in her ears: “You doubt your value.”  As her brother, Edmund later exclaims, “Either we're all going mad or something or some one is playing with our minds.”  Indeed, such is the nature of the battle we all find ourselves in.  As the children were told: “To defeat the darkness out there, you must defeat the darkness inside of you.”


            So how do we do that? 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.”

 (2 Cor 10:5)


            So how does that work?  How can we be free?  Say your boss or family member belittles you? The belittlement could send you spiraling toward escapist behavior, or you could counter by swinging the sword of truth, a metaphor Paul uses in his later letter to the Ephesians, to talk about tbe powerful weapon of God's Word, like this: “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14) Memorizing such a verse or having it in your purse or wallet can be a powerful weapon against such attacks... 


            Perhaps you face a risk-filled opportunity or a potential confrontation.  You could cower in fear or you could unsheathe the sword of truth: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you...”  (Isaiah 41:10)


            Maybe you're struggling with temptation, the all-too-familiar magnetic draw to a quick fix and a feel-good moment.  You crave that buzz even though it is accompanied with a lie of hopelessness or entitlement.  Caving in feels inevitable.  What can you do?  You can stand firm with the belt of truth buckled around our waist: “God is faithful; He will not let me be tempted beyond what I can bear.”

                                                                                                              (1 Corinthians 10:13) 

            One of my weak spots is that of being criticised.  Once when I was criticised I felt myself begin to cave in to some crippling lie based thoughts. I recall identifying the nature of this stronghold when I went through the Morph Course.  I first identified the lie:“[I deserve the hurtful things that are said to me or happen to me.  Criticism reveals that I am hopeless, a failure and that I should just quit and give up before I mess up even more!] Here's the insight: {When self-pity or self-abasement kicks in at times of hardship or criticism I will recall how such times are common to all and to guard my heart, knowing that such times are temporary and God will use if for my benefit, to help me gain perspective and heal.}”   Where did I gain such insight, you might ask.  From this very letter we read today...! 


            “Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)


            The spiritual battle continues but relying on the weapons of the Spirit – on the Sword of the Spirit which is God's Word and upon prayer, by which we in faith access the very power of God, I have witnessed one stronghold after another come crumbling down in my life and in the lives of those around me – those who opened their hearts to God's Spirit and their minds to His truth...!


            My friends, don't give in to the lies that imprison you!  Instead, “Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”(2 Cor. 10:5)  “Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free..., for if the Son of Man sets you free, you will be free indeed!”  (John 8:32, 26)  

Don Pieper

Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, 45 Redeemer Way, Chimacum, WA, 98325

My family has been serving here at Redeemer for the past 21 years.  My wife, Claudia, and I particularly love worshiping with the Redeemer family and seeing people come to faith, as well as growing in faith through our Alpha Course, small group ministries, youth group and such.