TEARING DOWN SPIRITUAL STRONGHOLDS V: THE WISDOM OF GOD

(c) Copyright 2000 Rev. Bill Versteeg


Previous Message in Series on Tearing Down Spiritual Strongholds

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.
"I thought back to my first experience at seeing a city change through the power of prayer. It was Cordoba, Argentina, 1978.

We were frustrated. The international Youth With a Mission (YWAM) team had been on the streets all day, and we were not getting anywhere. All two hundred of us met the next day for prayer in a rented monastery on the edge of town. We cried out to God for answers.

The crowds were there. Thousands of Argentines from all over the country had come to the finals of the world soccer play-offs, but our witnessing lacked power. Nobody was coming to Christ.

During the day of prayer and fasting, the Holy Spirit began to reveal the nature of the unseen realm over Cordoba. We realized that our timidity and weakness in proclaiming the gospel were partly due to the work of satanic forces manifesting themselves in the culture of the city.

Cordoba is a proud and beautiful city with proud and beautiful people. The population is largely of German and Italian descent, and much importance is given to position, possession and appearance. In the midst of this fashion-conscious culture, we felt very out of place. We were Christians from twenty nations, simply dressed, struggling with Spanish and carrying gospel literature.

The Lord responded and gave us a plan. As we prayed in small groups, the Holy spirit revealed the same strategy to many minds. There is only one way to overcome a spirit of pride - through the humility of Jesus, through Jesus' life lived out in acts of obedience by His people. We were discerning a principality attempting to rule the city in the pride of life, so we had to confront it in an opposite spirit with a strategy of personal humility.

Here is what we did. We went downtown the next day - all two hundred of us - and formed into small groups of about thirty. We positioned ourselves all through the fashionable malls and streets for pedestrians of the downtown area. The we did it. We knelt down right there in the midst of the fashion parade, surrounded by expensive bistros, outdoor cafes and boutiques. With our foreheads to the cobblestone, we prayed for a revelation of Jesus to come to the city.

Breakthrough was immediate - breakthrough in us and breakthrough in the city. Large crowds of curious people gathered around each group.

I remember vividly how Christ strengthened me when I set aside my dignity and knelt in the street. The intimidation of the enemy was broken along with our pride. As the crowd became larger, I stood and explained through an interpreter why we had come to the city. As I lifted my voice to communicate to the people at the edge of the crowd, the boldness and compassion of the Lord filled me and I began to preach.

All over downtown Cordoba, Youth With a Mission workers preached to attentive audiences and a harvest of souls began. The people were so receptive that they would wait patiently in line for us personally to autograph our gospel tracts. They insisted on this unusual way of honoring us and constantly expressed gratitude for these small gospel portions. These large street meetings went on for several weeks until our departure. Large numbers came forward publicly to indicate that they had turned to Christ." (Pp. 18-20, Taking our Cities for God, John Dawson)

And a few paragraphs later

"Now tell me. How could a city so resistant to the gospel suddenly become such a place of harvest? The enemy holds the nations in deception and accusation. When we minister to a given city we, too, are hindered by the spirits oppressing the people, until we discern the nature of the enemy's deception and "bind the strong man " by acting in the opposite spirit." (Ibid, p. 20)

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:
"The rise of Christianity in Korea is also closly related to great efforts and sacrifices made by foreign missionaries at the beginning of Korea's Christian era. As agents of God, foreign missionaries paid a great pice for bringing the gospel into the new land. Many were harassed, mocked, and even martyred. Yet even in the face of persecution, they exemplified God's love and mercy to the Korean people.

In 1865, Rev. Robert J. Thomas, a missionary from the London Missionary Society to China, visited Korea's west coast area to study and distribute Chinese Bibles. The following year he returned to Korea. On the way to Pyongyang, his ship was set fire by Koreans, and the escaping sailors were massacred. According to an eyewitness, Thomas made his way to shore with his arms full of Bibles, thrusting them into the hands of the very men who killed him. He became the first Protestant missionary to shed martyr's blood in Korea.

Even though Thomas did not live to see the fruit of his labor, Samuel Moffett, a missionary in Pyongyang, found a man in 1893 who actually had received a Chinese new Testament from Thomas. Moffet reported what had happened after Thomas' murder: "Some Government officials went down the Daidong river and destroyed all the Gospels they could find; but they could not erase from men's minds the eager face of God's messenger, neither could they find and destroy all the books. Some were hidden and read and became good seed in fertile ground." (bolding added)

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.

Prayer.

Lord's supper



(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.

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