One of the most difficult and yet most important things we HAVE to learn to do as we stand for the restoration of our marriages is taking every thought captive and making them obedient to Christ. No matter how much we read the Bible; no matter how much we pray; no matter how much we fast and no matter how much “good” we do, it won’t help us win the spiritual warfare we’re engaged in right now for the deliverance of our spouses and the salvation of our marriages, unless we learn to take our thoughts captive by making them conform to the word of God. And we know that based on 2 Corinthians 10:2-6 (NKJV), where Paul said But I beg you that when I am present I may not be bold with that confidence by which I intend to be bold against some, who think of us as if we walked according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.
Since there’s so much “meat” in these verses, let’s take a closer look at them. First, we know this must be an important message, because Paul said “I beg you”, which meant he obviously considered what he was about to say very important, especially since he did not use those words often. In fact, the only other place we find Paul saying “I beg you” is in Acts 26:2-3, when he was on trial, fighting for his life before King Agrippa, and he said “King Agrippa, I consider myself fortunate to stand before you today as I make my defense against all the accusations of the Jews, and especially so because you are well acquainted with all the Jewish customs and controversies. Therefore, I beg you to listen to me patiently. But the best way to truly understand the significance and urgency denoted by Paul’s use of the words “I beg you” is to look at the only other times they appear in the New Testament, as revealed in the following verses (found by searching BibleGateway.com):
When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” For Jesus had commanded the evil spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.
The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him. A man in the crowd called out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. A spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him.
In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
Then Paul makes it very clear that it is NOT good to walk or live according to our flesh, because he said “I intend to be bold against some, who think of us as if we walked according to the flesh.” Walking or living according to our flesh is what we do when we try to figure everything out for ourselves, relying on our own understanding and human reasoning and strength, which the Bible clearly tells us NOT to do. And when we do, we are NOT putting all of our trust in God, and we’re NOT acknowledging Him in all our ways. So according to Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV), we can’t count on Him to direct our paths, because it says Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. And that means we can’t count on him to make our righteousness shine like the dawn or the justice of our cause like the noon day sun either, because Psalm 37:5-6 says Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Even though Paul acknowledges that we are bound to our fleshly bodies and the limitations that naturally come along with that, he says “though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh”. That means we can’t rely on the things of our flesh to win our battles, that we have to rely on supernatural, spiritual weapons. And the following verses make it clear why this was such an important point:
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
This is what the LORD says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD.
Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.
1 Corinthians 15:50
I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Then Paul further warned us to avoid giving into our sinful nature in matters of spiritual warfare, because he said “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal”, which is a reference to our natural sinful nature as portrayed in the following verses:
Romans 7:14 (NKJV)
For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.
Romans 8:6 (NKJV)
For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
Romans 8:7 (NKJV)
Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, or indeed can be.
1 Corinthians 3:1-3 (NKJV)
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?
And Colossians 3:1-3 (NKJV), under the heading “Not Carnality but Christ” says If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. So we overcome our natural carnal nature, which is a definite challenge when dealing with everything threatening our marriages and families today, by becoming more Christ centered.
And most of us probably don’t fully realize the importance and significance of what Paul meant when he said our weapons are “mighty in God for pulling down strongholds”, because a stronghold is a place of strength and shelter, usually difficult to penetrate because it’s heavily fortified for the safety and protection of it’s inhabitants. So Paul was making the point that the weapons of our warfare are mighty ONLY when we rely on the power of God, who CAN demolish and pull down ANY stronghold Satan has built up in our lives or the lives of those we love, because there’s no stronghold too great for Him, as demonstrated in the following verses:
They all lose heart; they come trembling from their strongholds. The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God my Savior!
You have broken through all his walls and reduced his strongholds to ruins.
Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “An enemy will overrun the land; he will pull down your strongholds and plunder your fortresses.”
“In that day,” declares the LORD, “I will destroy your horses from among you and demolish your chariots. I will destroy the cities of your land and tear down all your strongholds. I will destroy your witchcraft and you will no longer cast spells.
Unfortunately, what Paul said about “casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God” is especially important and challenging to us as we stand for marriage restoration in this day and age, because so many churches and ministries have gone way beyond tolerating and accepting the sin of adultery, divorce and remarriage to actually condoning and promoting it. How that must break our Lord’s heart! But as sad as that is, it comes as no surprise to the Lord, and it’s nothing new, which the following verses confirm:
No one calls for justice; no one pleads his case with integrity. They rely on empty arguments and speak lies; they conceive trouble and give birth to evil.
I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.
2 Timothy 4:3
For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
2 Peter 2:1
But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves.
And right at the heart of spiritual warfare are Paul’s words “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ”, because that IS the key to victory over the devil and we have no greater example of how to do that than when Satan tempted Jesus while He was fasting in the desert, as we read in Luke 4:1-13, which says:
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.’”
The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’” The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written: ” ‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered, “It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.
And Matthew 4:11 tells us Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. So when the devil tempts us with thoughts contrary to the word, thoughts that are not God glorifying or that take our focus off of the love, power and glory of the Lord long enough to focus on (think about, consider, worry about or try to figure out and understand and make sense of) the things that hurt and disappoint us, we have to take those thoughts captive and make them obedient to the word of Christ. And, in the same way Jesus did, we do that by talking back to the devil (out loud when possible), speaking against him with the specific word of God that refutes his lies and deception. And after awhile, he’ll realize that he’s wasting his time with us, and as hard as it is to believe, the thoughts WILL eventually stop coming. And we can make that process a lot easier and quicker by PRACTICING the excellent instruction given in Philippians 4:6-8, which says Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. When we learn to “practice” those four verses, there’s absolutely NO DOUBT in my mind that we will start walking in victory and that we WILL se the mighty hand of God moving in our circumstances!
And finally, Paul said “and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.” As I considered that verse, I wasn’t too sure of exactly what it meant, because several possibilities came to mind, but as I started reading it in the various versions of the Bible to see if that would help clarify it, I was surprised with what the Lord brought to my mind, because I don’t think I ever would have thought of the connection, but now it makes PERFECT sense and it certainly applies to ALL of us as we stand for the restoration of our marriages. The Lord led me to Luke 6:37-42, which says:
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
He also told them this parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
I love it when scripture explains scripture like that! And based on that, it’s pretty clear that an important component of spiritual warfare is dealing with the sin and disobedience in our own lives BEFORE expecting the Lord to deal with it in the lives of our husbands or anyone else!
Then in closing, while studying this topic today, I came across John 6:63, which seems to tie everything together and sum up what we really need to understand when considering the importance of taking every thought captive and making them obedient to Christ, because it says The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. And I believe that’s one of the most important things we need to know as we stand for the restoration of our marriages, because it will lead us to the answer to every question, the solution for every problem, and peace in every situation.