TEARING DOWN SPIRITUAL STRONGHOLDS V: THE WISDOM OF GOD
(c) Copyright 2000 Rev. Bill Versteeg
People of God:
We have been studying scriptures call for us to tear down spiritual strongholds, systems of thought that keep people from the knowledge of God and the glory of God in Christ. These strongholds are ways of viewing the world, that barrier people from the truth in Christ, as one author put it, they cause paradigm paralysis, an inability to see the truth of the Gospel in such a way that it affects our lives and behaviors. We have found so far some key points:
Each of these strongholds is a defensive lie promoted by spiritual forces in heavenly realms, as a defensive lie they are actually demonstrations of their fear of the victory of Christ, just as the walls of Jericho demonstration Jericho's fear of the God of Israel and his people marching through the desert.
We found that the powers, authorities, dark rulers of this cosmos, and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms, as Paul calls them in Ephesians 6, which once were forces given the call to enforce the law of God, have now been disarmed through the cross of Christ, and all they have left to throw at us is lies, lies, lies, imprisoning lies which have the power to keep us in bondage. And we are called by God to cut them off in the name of the Lord.
We found last week that our major weapon to cut off these lies is the truth, the truth of the Word of God, the sword of the Spirit both preached and prayed.
This morning we are going to look one more time at this theme, and we will find that a major weapon in fighting against spiritual strongholds is to act in an opposite spirit, reflecting the wisdom of God. We first touched on that theme a number of weeks ago when we noticed how the nation of Israel, instead of attacking the walls of the city of Jericho, were called under God's direction to make a procession around the city. In that procession, they were called to do the strangest of warfare strategies ever, they were to blow trumpets and we found that was trumpeting the coming of God's kingdom, and they were to shuffle around the city for days in a non aggressive manner. They acted in the opposite spirit to the attitude of warfare that was certainly being displayed by the army and the citizens of Jericho. In tearing down spiritual walls or strongholds, we too need to act in the opposite Spirit. To research this theme, I invite you to turn to
I Corinthians 1:17-2:8 (NIV)
For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel--not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate."
Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.
Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things--and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God--that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."
When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.
We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
Ephesians 3:8f (NIV)
Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Based on these two passages we have read, notice quickly just a few points.
1. When Paul talks about the wisdom of God, he not only talks about Christ and his purpose of salvation, he also talks about a way of behaving. Paul came to the Corinthians not with eloquent words, or great concepts and wisdom, which would have been the strategy for changing the minds of Greeks who loved their philosophy, rather he came with weakness and fear and trembling, and with the Spirit's power. He acted in an opposite Spirit to what the Greeks expected. He was demonstrating the wisdom of God through his behavior.
2. Notice that in both of the passages which we read, the rulers of this age, (from our research we have found that to be a key word in Paul's cosmology representing the Spiritual forces of evil in heavenly realms) defend against the advancement of the kingdom of God. In Ephesians we have found that our battle is not against other people, it is against spiritual rulers, authorities, cosmocrats (world rulers of darkness,) and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. In the first passage we read, we will find that the rulers of this age would have never crucified Christ, had they understood the wisdom of God, and in the second, it is now the calling of the church to display not only the realities of the gospel but the behavioral wisdom of God to the rulers of this age.
The wisdom of God demonstrated in our behavior is to act in an opposite Spirit. This teaching, once we are aware of it comes up throughout the scriptures. I would love to survey the scriptures with you to demonstrate that, but let me just highlight the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5-6, a sermon which scholars in their research have found to be structured in such a way that when we read it, it sounds like we are hearing the wisdom of Solomon in proverbs all over again - this time from one who is wiser than King Solomon ever was.
Listen to the words of the wisdom of God behaved!
Rejoice and be glad when you are persecuted, pray for those who persecute you. Forgive them. Do not live by an eye for an eye. Do not resist the evil person. If he hits you on the cheek, show him the other also. If he forces you to walk a kilometer, walk two kilometers. Love your enemies.
You have an enemy - you be the person to do all within your power to reconcile with him before you go to the altar.
Let your yes be yes and your no, no (contrary the politicians who are ruling according to the wisdom of the age).
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth. Do not worry about your life our your future. Have a little faith! Seek first the Kingdom.
Jesus gives us all this apparently absurd advice because we do not battle against flesh and blood, we battle against spiritual powers in heavenly realms.
The wisdom of God, proclaimed, prayed, and now behaved is our main weapon for tearing down those strongholds that oppose the advancement of the kingdom.
In the past number of years, this
truth is being rediscovered in the work of bringing the gospel to
nations and cities and neighbours. We might think that the phrase
"Tearing down Spiritual Strongholds" is new, its actually a very old
and biblical principle re-understood. It has especially grown in recent
years in the area of cultural studies where Christians have discovered
that to effectively minister to a group of people, it is helpful to
understand the spiritual forces shaping their perception of reality. A
new discipline has formed in theology called spiritual mapping.
This discipline does the dirty work of examining the
historical spiritual heritage that shapes the mind set of cultures,
cities, ethnic groups, in the hope that, with that understanding, we,
by acting in an opposite Spirit can wage effective warfare on the
spiritual influences that blind them to the gospel. At the
early spear head of this movement has been a man named John
Dawson, who worked for YWAM (Youth With A Mission). In his book, Taking
our Cities for God, he writes how YWAM came to discover this
principle by experience.
Another illustration that comes out of our own church publication - The Banner August 28, 2000. The article titled "Winning the Soul of Korea" by Timothy Won asked the question, "What has caused the success of the Korean Church?" In the past 45 years, the Korean church has gone from 5% of the Korean population to over 40% of the South Korean population. The city of Seoul, South Korea has 10 or the Worlds 20 largest churches. Every day, 20 new churches are planted and 1400 more people come to Christ. What is the cause of this success?
He gives three reasons: God's
providential preparation in making the people spiritually hungry with
the discrediting of its original national religion, Confucianism. His
third point is that Koreans whole heartedly accept the gospel and live
it out. His second point I want to focus on: Missionaries
Mirrored Christ. He writes:
YWAM and Robert Thomas acted out of the wisdom of God, and in doing so, tore down spiritual strongholds that would not break down by any other demonstration of power. God's weakness is move powerful than man's strength or any other strength for that matter. And we are called to demonstrate that wisdom to the Spiritual rulers of this dark age.
This morning, I want to touch on one more demonstration of the wisdom of God which tore down the strongest wall of all, that is the crucifixion of Jesus. Paul refers to it in our first scripture reading when he says None of the rulers of this age understood it (the wisdom of God), for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
Scripture tells us that Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil, he came to pillage the rule of Satan in this world and ransom and rescue those held in bondage to the tyranny of the devil.
How did Jesus, the wisdom of God, do that?
He acted in an opposite Spirit!
When before Pilate, he was falsely accused, he said nothing. When he was ridiculed and mocked, he did not defend himself. When his life was traded for Barabas, a murderer, he did not claim his own innocence. When he was sentenced to be crucified, the cross laid upon his shoulders, then hung upon the cross, nail's piercing his hands and feet, he did not resist. When on the cross, he was insulted, he had no pride by which to hurl the insults back. He acted in the opposite Spirit. And by it, the heavens that were once brass were opened, Satan's strongholds over our lives decisively torn down, we have access to the throne of God, we now are seated with Christ in heavenly realms, we have inherited the truth that will set us free!
This morning we celebrate the Lord's supper together. In it we celebrate the victory of Christ by remembering his weakness, his submission, his humility, his death, his broken body, his shed blood, the bread and wine. "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things--and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him."
We celebrate together that our worst enemies were disarmed, defeated by the one who is the wisdom of God, who acted in an opposite spirit and by that destroyed the works of the devil. None of the rulers of this age understood it (the wisdom of God), for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.