How to Handle Conflict - Part 4 of 4

by Wayne Barber

In our last article, we saw that when dealing with conflict, we must know our weapons. They are divinely powerful because we are in a war and the flesh is not to be involved. In this article I want us to see that it is also so important to know who our enemy really is: "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood" (Eph. 6:12). People are not our real problem regardless of what the conflict is!

I can hear someone say, "You could have fooled me!" But it is not just the person that is causing you the conflict, it's what's controlling the person and causing him to behave the way he does! Fleshly weapons will not touch the real issue we are dealing with; "for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerfulfor the destruction of fortresses" (2 Cor. 10:4). The word "fortresses," or "strongholds" in the KJV, in the Greek is ochro\ma. This is a strong fortress in which people put their trust and find their security. When used metaphorically, as it is here, it refers to the premises or thought processes that have been built into one's mind. This is where a person finds his security and places his trust (see Prov. 21:22).

These fortresses or strongholds in one's thinking determine what a person does or does not do. People act the way they do because they think the way they think! Behind the actions of any person, whether he be a believer or not, is a fortress, a thought process, that is determining his or her behavior. For the believer, it is to be the Word of God and the ways of God. "The way of the Lord is a stronghold to the upright" (Prov. 10:29). So, a fortress or stronghold is the framework that is the structure behind all behavior.

Years ago they did an experiment on a monkey. They put candy in a container which was securely fastened. The monkey could put his hand through the opening of the container but with his fist closed could not pull it out. In the container they put candy. The monkey put his hand through the hole and grabbed the candy but couldn't bring it out. The monkey decided that he wanted the candy more than he wanted his freedom-the desire for the candy was controlling what the monkey chose to do.

Paul continues to illustrate this in verse 5: "We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God." The substance of this fortress is now revealed! Whatever the mindset is that makes the monkey choose to be in bondage in order to have the candy rather than to be free Paul identifies as a "speculation"-"imagination" in the KJV. The Greek is logisms, which has to do with how a person evaluates what he should or what he should not do. It's his reasoning of a situation, based upon the mindset or understanding that he has. It's the counsel he gives himself. When we deal with behavior that is hurtful or sinful we must identify the wrong thinking that it comes from! There is a lie somewhere which is believed and is trusted and is hidden behind the wrong behavior.

Identifying this wrong thinking is more important than what a person has done or not done. Now, this wrong thinking which has resulted in wrong behavior has elevated itself far above the knowledge of God. That's why it's called a fortress. "We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God" (v. 5). "Lofty thing" in Greek is hupso\ma, which is that which, as the text says, has been raised up above what God's Word says! The verb "raised up" is present middle passive. This is a deponent verb and not only points to the false teachers who have raised up this lofty thing, but also to those who have chosen to listen to them.

The truth of God's Word forms the basis of the way a believer thinks, the way a believer reasons, and therefore the way a believer acts. It is God's truth dressed in God's character that tears down wrong thinking in others.

Wayne Barber is senior pastor of Hoffmantown Church in Albaquerque, New Mexico

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