WARNING: Long blog post! 🙂
We have seen that a spiritual stronghold begins with a wrong thought or belief, which allows our enemy to have hold or sway over us. Let’s review the definition:
Strongholds(3794) [ochyrōma] – a castle or fortress; anything on which one relies; of the arguments and reasonings by which a disputant endeavors to fortify his opinion and defend it against his opponent. It is a derivative of the Greek word echo(2192) which means “to have or hold, to own or possess.”
We can picture it as our enemy’s argument or reasoning by which he convinces us of his opinion. It is an opportunity for us to be held captive, or influenced, even without our knowing it. We need to remember that strongholds are spiritual in nature. They can manifest themselves in physical ways, for instance, a wrong understanding of our identity in Christ can lead us to act in sinful ways. But I believe strongholds are primarily influential in our mind and heart. It is within our thought-life and belief system that spiritual warfare takes place.
The Bible has MUCH to say about our mind. We could write a book on just that topic! (Maybe one day…!) For today, let’s consider two scriptures to begin our study. In the Old Testament “heart” and “mind” are often used interchangeably, referring to the inner man, that part of us that makes up our thoughts, our emotions, our will and our affections.
Proverbs 4:20-23 – My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your sight; keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life to those who find them and health to all their body. Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flows the springs of life.
Proverbs 23:7 – For as he thinks within himself, so he is.
We see that the mind is powerful. What we think is really who we are, and what goes into our mind and heart flows out into our life.
Let’s look at our key passage, 2 Corinthians 10:3-6. In 2 Corinthians 10, Paul is describing himself, and his own ministry to the church. Because of sin and dissensions in the church, his first letter had been very bold. Now he is telling them in this second letter that he had delayed his coming so that they would have time to repent and put things right, before he came in his apostolic authority and duty to discipline them, and excommunicate those who were in disobedience. In describing for us his own way of dealing with the spiritual strongholds within the church, Paul gives us wisdom in how to defeat spiritual strongholds in our personal life.
Note the terms that Paul uses: war, weapons, destruction, destroying, taking captive. This is spiritual warfare.
1. Get prepared: Ask for God’s help to empower your spiritual weapons!
2 Corinthians 10:3-4 – For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.
We cannot defeat a spiritual stronghold by our physical flesh!
We are unable in our physical, human strength to defeat a spiritual enemy. We can try, and most certainly all of us at one time or another do try, to change our circumstance or thought patterns by thinking positive thoughts, changing our environment or circle of influence, breaking bad habits and trying to form new ones; but these activities will only be short-term, and will only affect us outwardly. In order to be transformed inwardly, we need the spiritual power that comes from the Spirit of God. We must recognize our own inadequacy first, and ask for God’s help. God has provided “spiritual armor” for spiritual warfare (see Ephesians 6 – topic of our next blog!).
2. Go on the offense: Destroy wrong thoughts!
2 Corinthians 10:4-5 – For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destructionof fortresses. We are destroyingspeculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God…
Destruction (pulling down/KJV) (2506) [kathairesis] – NOUN, demolition; a taking down, or casting down
Destroying (casting down/KJV) (2507) [kathaireō] – VERB, to take down, cast down, demolish; literally (kata, “down,” haireo, “to take”), and is also used as to depose (take down off a throne)
In order to take away the influential power of our enemy, we must demolish the stronghold of wrong thoughts. What are we to destroy? Speculations and lofty things raised up against the knowledge of God. Any idea or belief that we have that is not in perfect harmony with scripture must be cast out of our life, our mind, and our heart. We must be willing to let go of our ideas and opinions, of our strongly-held beliefs that may be wrong, of our passions and desires that do not glorify God. We do this by submitting to the authority of scripture, laying all of our wrong ideas and thoughts down at the foot of the cross, repenting of them, and turning away from them. Practically, as we study scripture, God will reveal places in our life where our thinking is wrong. We must confront it with the truth, and destroy it. We must turn away from it.
We do not have the spiritual power in our flesh to change our thinking. If we truly desire to destroy the strongholds of our enemy in our mind and heart, we must saturate ourselves with God’s Word, allowing God’s Spirit to do His supernatural work in us.
Hebrews 4:12 – For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
3. Get defensive: Take every thought captive!
2 Corinthians 10:5 – We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
Taking captive (bringing into captivity/KJV) (163) [aichmalōtizō] – denotes either “to lead away captive,” or “to subjugate, to bring under control”
Recognize that every thought that comes into your mind has an influence over your belief system. There is no way practically that you can stop and consider every single thought that comes into your mind. But we should have an awareness that every idea, every visual, every phrase in a song, every article in a magazine, every comedy routine on television, EVERYTHING that comes into our mind through our eyes or our ears, has the capacity to influence us.
Paul tells us to take every thought captive, to the obedience of Christ. This means that essentially we should evaluate every thought, holding it up against the truth of scripture, to see whether or not it exalts itself against God, or bows in obedience to God. If it exalts itself against God, we know that it is not spiritually healthy, and we must reject it. The best offense against spiritual strongholds, is to defend our mind from accepting the lies of the enemy in the first place.
I love that the definition of captivity is two-fold. If the thought is from the “enemy”, we are to take it captive – capture it, and put it away for life, or execute it! But…if the thought is one that leads to obedience of Christ, we are to “capture” it –we make it our captive, so to speak. We keep it close to us, guard it, protect it. The key is to determine the source of the thought or idea.
Practically, how does this work? Ask yourself: What am I believing that is not true? Examine your thoughts. Hold them up against scripture. If you’re not sure if something is true, dig into God’s word and see. If you need help, ask a trusted spiritual mentor.
4. Finish the assault: Obey God completely!
2 Corinthians 10:6 – …and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.
Here we see Paul’s heart of grace. He knows that there will be some members of the church who will refuse to repent, and will end up being disciplined. But he is counting on many of them to turn away from their sin, back to an obedient life. From this we learn…obedience is key to defeating spiritual strongholds. When God reveals something to us, an area where we have been believing a lie, or avoiding the truth, we must be willing to abandon any sinful actions so that He can restore us and defeat the spiritual stronghold.
Scripture confirms scripture. I worked on this blog yesterday, and as it would happen, I woke up early this morning with this scripture in my mind. I knew that the blog post wasn’t “complete”…it felt like I had missed something. When I woke up, I realized that I had completely missed the part of scripture about demolishing and destroying wrong thoughts. I love that God is so attentive to my heart, that He cared enough to wake me up and remind me of what I’d missed!
If that wasn’t confirmation enough that He was speaking, as I began to write this morning, I opened up the Bible Gateway website to find a reference of a verse that came to mind. And right there, was the verse of the day (highlighted in bold):
Isaiah 55:6-9 – Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
This passage completely confirms what 2 Corinthians 10 teaches us:
· Seek the Lord…call upon Him – Ask for help!
· Forsake unrighteous ways and thoughts – Destroy wrong thoughts, take captive all thoughts!
· Return to the Lord – Repent and obey!
We must accept that our human minds are not going to think thoughts worthy of God. The only way our mind and heart will be defended against the strongholds of the enemy are through the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, enlightening our minds to the word of God. His thoughts are not our thoughts, and more importantly…our thoughts are not His thoughts!
So how do we know that our enemy has “set up camp” in our spiritual life? How do you recognize a spiritual stronghold? That’s a topic for another blog (they just keep coming!), but here’s one example that most women can relate to. JOY.
Perhaps you have been dissatisfied in your own life, feeling discontent with your circumstances. There’s nothing you can really put your finger on, but there’s no joy in your mind and heart. Life has become rote and mundane. You only see what is wrong in your life, and what you might be missing, instead of seeing the blessings of what God has given you. Your thinking has been “skewed.” You have begun to believe that you deserve more. You have lost the joy of daily walking with God.
What might be the root of this thinking? Examine what thoughts you are allowing into your mind.
What are you reading?
What are you watching?
Are you feeding your mind and heart a steady diet of HGTV where everyone ends up with their dream home?
Are you consuming the beautifully laid out pages of the latest issue of House Beautiful, where every room is perfectly staged, and the dream kitchen never shows a sink full of dirty dishes?
Are you devouring the pages of a fitness magazine, where every person depicted is perfectly shaped and toned?
Are you following Pinterest pages that tell you continually what you need to look beautiful, be perfect, be happy?
I can speak of these things because I personally know how they can influence your thoughts! (…says the person with over 7,000 pins on her 56 perfectly organized Pinterest boards!)
In the example above, there’s nothing inherently wrong with beautiful houses or renovation shows, but a steady diet of them can infiltrate our heart with dissatisfaction and before you know it, our enemy has set up camp, stealing our joy!
So how do we combat it?
We ask God to help us change our thoughts.
We consider how much “seemingly innocent” input we really need, and “take it captive”. This might mean evaluating how much time we spend in those activities compared to how much time we spend taking in God’s word.
We obey. Is God’s Spirit gently convicting you? Then act on it. Set aside those activities, or at least put them in their proper place. Find someone to serve or bless; that has amazing impact on your own level of contentment, when we begin to see the needs of others.
The example I gave is not a heavy issue; but it’s probably one that most of us can identify with. I used it just because it’s easy to see how our thought life influences us. But you may discover that there are strongholds which are a lot deeper and more spiritually challenging to your life and faith that you need to deal with. God’s Word is the resource to expose those strongholds.
In Part 3, we’ll look at Ephesians 6 and see even more practically how to defend against the enemy, as well as go on the offensive against spiritual strongholds before they ever take hold in our heart.
For some of us, it may take years of learning to “think right” and “feel right” before we really feel victorious over a particular stronghold. But the word of God assures us that we can live in freedom through the power of Christ in us.
John 8:31-6 – So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” … “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”