The mind is often called "the devil's playground." And for good reason.
When you think about it, most of the battles we face—insecurity, fear, discouragement, offense and so on—all begin in our minds and trickle down from there. The apostle Paul understood the battlefield that is the mind and exposed what the enemy plants in it: "arguments and every lofty opinion raised up against the knowledge of God" (2 Cor. 10:5b, ESV).
How the Devil Enters the Mind
Many a sermon has been preached on this verse. But Paul's warning to the Corinthians spells out so much more than what meets the eye about how the enemy enters and uses our minds. To uncover the full scope, follow me on a brief study of the three paramount words Paul used.
'Knowledge of God'
To grasp what the enemy's after, we must first understand the last three words in Paul's statement: "knowledge of God." Basically, the "knowledge of God" is the truth about God. This includes the truth about His character: good, loving and faithful. It also includes the truth of what He says about who we each are in Christ: made new, made right, made whole and made holy. Essentially what Paul warned here is that the enemy is out to attack our concepts of who God is and who we are in Him. The sneaky way the devil does it, Paul revealed, is through "arguments" and "lofty opinions."
The word "arguments" in the original Greek language is logismos—from which the word "logic" is derived. In other words, arguments are real facts or evidences. In spiritual warfare, the enemy's arguments frequently include past mistakes, present struggles or the words of other people. Because these are actual events that did happen or still do occur, the devil's arguments are the bait he uses to capture our attentions.
Finally, "lofty opinions" in the Greek is hipsoma, which in English may also be translated as "arrogant interpretation." As we know, an interpretation is not a fact itself, but a subjective conclusion based upon only bits of fact. The devil's interpretations are the substance of his lies and may sound something like this: "Because you fell to that back then, God can't use you today" or "God can't love someone who deals with what you do." Accordingly, with evidence from the past or present, Satan arrogantly interprets what your situation means about you, your future or even God Himself.
What the Devil Wants Thoughts to Do
As I explore in my e-course, The Armor of God, the enemy's work in our minds doesn't end with merely creating defeated thoughts. No, he wants them to do something. Because thoughts are the forerunners to our beliefs, Satan aims to get them deep into you in order to affect the rest of you. This is precisely why the Bible warns to "be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life" (Prov. 4:23, NCV).
A popular quote powerfully illustrates this truth: "Watch your thoughts, they become your words. Watch your words, they become your actions. Watch your actions, they become your habits. Watch your habits, they become your character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny."
Practically put, consistent thoughts about your failures eventually turn into a belief that "I am a failure." Because beliefs influence behaviors, you'll soon feel sad, quit too early and isolate yourself from others. In time, these behaviors form a habit of being afraid to take risks or staying within a comfort zone. People later recognize this consistent behavior, which represents your character. Therefore, what begins as a negative thought, affects your beliefs and influences your behaviors. This then transforms your destiny into a defeated life that never knows its full potential.
While thoughts can't take away your salvation, they can certainly keep you from enjoying its benefits. And for the Christian, that's what the enemy's after.
(For an in-depth, illustrated study about how to combat the enemy's lies, accusations and mind games, begin my six-session e-course, The Armor of God, today.)
Kyle Winkler (kylewinkler.org) is the creator of the popular Shut Up, Devil! mobile app. His latest book is Activating the Power of God's Word: 16 Strategic Declarations to Transform Your Life. Kyle holds a Master of Divinity in biblical studies from Regent University. Connect with him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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