Thursday, June 16, 2016

Breaking Strongholds in Your Life

Written by Ken
So what is a spiritual stronghold?  Strongholds are places of hidden sins that are often guarded by hurt and pain, or lust and pride. The hurt may have been perpetuated upon the individual or passed along to them by parents whose hidden sins and unforgiveness can be passed along from one generation to the next. Each stronghold is built upon the deception of the enemy, and the most obvious of generational strongholds is the hatred that the Palestinians have for the Jews. Just as in these centuries old fighting, a spouse can carry around with them bitterness and unforgiveness in their heart that damages their ability to see the truth about themselves and their behavior.

There is very little direct information on strongholds in the Bible, but the apostle Paul illuminates the subject as he writes:

For though we live in the flesh, we do not wage war according to the flesh. The weapons of our warfare are not the weapons of the world. Instead, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We tear down arguments, and every presumption set up against the knowledge of God; and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, as soon as your obedience is complete” (2 Cor. 10:4-7)

How do you break strongholds in your life, or the life of your spouse?  Especially those sinful fortresses that are tearing apart your marriage? Recently I (Ken) spoke to my 85 year old missionary father about this important issue. My Dad has been a missionary/preacher much of his life. He has dealt with many who have had strongholds in their lives, including some who have had demonic activity harassing them, and many were released from the hold that Satan had upon them.

The first thing to realize about strongholds is that they cannot be broken with fleshly means. That is not to say that fleshly means, the use of psychology and logic is not helpful, but to demolish strongholds we must realize that it is God's power that ultimately tears them down. Our job in dealing with a spouse who may have a stronghold is to be consistently faithful in speaking the truth in love, requesting a minimum standard of conduct of "common human decency," if not Christian love, and doing our best to hold the willing spouse accountable for their consistent sins. We must operate in what seems like the fleshly realm, but all the while handing over our efforts to the Lord in prayer who can heal them of their sinful diseases. 

The supports that buttress the sinful stronghold are the lies that Satan has planted in the minds of those who he controls. At the root of these lies is often bitterness and unforgiveness. You do not have to have a demon harassing you when a lie, or set of lies, planted deep into one's psyche can do the trick. Imagine the pearl that begins with a grain of sand (an awful sin) which is then covered by a layer of nacre as the oyster protects itself from the irritation of the sand. Layer upon layer gets laid until the sin is completely encased with lies, rationalizations and reasonings that seem quite logical to the sinner, but are nonsense to those who can see clearly the truth of God's Word.

Paul calls these lies arguments and every presumption set up against the knowledge of God. The words of Jesus, "I came to set you free" rings loudly in the ears of the mature Christian, but for the one who is imprisoned by their lies, it is difficult to overcome their arguments and self-justifications. Deep down they are unwilling to acknowledge the truth, as to do so may mean recognizing that the very pain that they are hiding is the pain they have been daily inflicting upon others. After all, is this not what Satan desires? The old wily Devil out to destroy as many lives and marriages as he can before his day is done. Pain begets more pain until it is delivered by the Divine Healer, Jehovah Rapha.

To be healed of a stronghold the Believer must want to be healed, and must start on a journey seeking the truth. I find it amazing how many Christians who are suffering from sinful strongholds want to try and deal with Satan's lies on their own. A stronghold seems like a safe and secure place to protect oneself, one's pride and the need to be right, and to decide that "God and me, we can get the job done." Unfortunately, strongholds by definition cannot broken down alone, just as God never intended for us to live the Christian life on our own. I recall Lori telling me when I was trying to deal with her argumentative spirit that God would do the work in her heart. Yes, God does the work, but He most often does it by using our godly spouse and friends, our church and Christian community to help us see the truth and to hold us accountable to the truth. The idea of "God and me" is hardly Christian, especially if you are a wife married to a godly man who is called by God to teach you His truths. Is not a godly husband God's instrument of truth and leadership for his wife and family? The lie "God and me alone will solve this," is a buttress for strongholds.

The Believer is to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. The thought life is indeed the stronghold itself, and to remove it requires not only matching up one's thinking with God's truth, but following after it in obedience. Even if we are temporarily delivered from the stronghold, but then repeatedly seek to excuse, justify, and argue our sins, we begin to quickly rebuild the strongholds once again. Wrong emotions are nothing more than a thought processed by a false belief, a lie, resulting in an inability to match up our thoughts and resulting behaviors a with obedience to Christ.

To be delivered from a stronghold, one must want to be healed. Recall the story where Jesus healed the man who was waiting by the pool for the waters to be stirred. "Do you want to be healed?" Jesus asks. What a silly question it seems, yet think about all those who you know who really do not want healing from their sins. They do not want to "get up, take your bed and walk," in obedience to the Lord and His Word; instead preferring to protect that little boy's or girl's pride, or stubborn will by continuing is the seeming safety of their stronghold.

This man, when face to face with the stranger that day, knew he could be healed, stood up in obedience and walked. When confronted with the truth, one still has to decide if they will reach deep down inside and subject their stubborn will to God's commands. Far too often we are seeing one godly spouse struggling to confront their misbehaving emotional spouse with the truth, only to have the spouse decide he/she prefers to live within their stronghold. It is the moment of obedience that the Divine Power heals us, step by step, feeble perhaps at first, and getting stronger day by day. It is the same faith that healed the lame man that can heal the sinner's stronghold, but both require consistent obedience to His Word.

Jesus later finds the same lame man in the temple and says to him, Behold you have been made whole. Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you (John 5:14). The man had been lame from birth. How much worse could things get than that? What we and the Pearls are seeing far too often are those who claim to be Christians, have been exposed to the God's Word in their lives, but have chosen to forsake the truth and now are living in a crazy cycle of emotional upset and ruination of their relationships. It is not that the Lord did not set them free at the cross, but they have chosen a path of disobedience, unwilling to listen to the voice of the Lord that compels them to arise and walk in newness of life. The greatest truth they reject is the Lordship of Christ in their lives and His demand to "do all things Christian" with their relationships.

Notice Paul writes that we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, as soon as your obedience is complete. Why punish after the obedience is complete? Why not before? The reason is that no punishment can break a stronghold, but once the stronghold is broken, then strong disciplinary consequences should be put into place to prevent the Believer from falling too easily back into the cycle of sin and from which he/she was delivered. If your stronghold was an addiction to complaining, or uncontrolled tongue, sexual addictions, bitterness or unforgiveness, no matter what the habitual sins that helped secure the stronghold, these must be handed over to a spouse, or friend who loves you who can hold you strictly accountable, to prevent you from falling back into sin, lest worse things befall you. Each time you fall back into the stronghold, the harder it becomes to tear it down, and ultimately, it will destroy you and all your relationships.  

For Lori and me, we know our past strongholds and we hold each other strictly accountable whenever we see the old pattern rising up again seeking to destroy. We will not let sin dwell in our home without calling it out and speaking God's truth into the situation.  Unfortunately, for many Christians, pride too often prevents them from humbly acknowledging their sins, because to do so may take them back to the root of their sins; a place they have hidden and never want to revisit. It is that place which is off limits to discussions, off limits to a spouse, off limits to any exploration, that keeps even Believers in bondage to Satan's lies. Is it not shedding of light on sin that takes away the darkness, and is it not salt in the wound that ultimately heals it? To think one can conquer a stronghold pain free is simply not possible. 

Christ came to set us free from sin, and we are indeed free from the condemnation of sin the moment we believe in Him and His saving grace. But to be free from the power of sin in our lives we must turn our life and will over to Jesus so that he can inhabit every part of us. We cannot leave some pocket of bitterness, anger, hurt or unforgiveness and expect that Christ will be able to rule that part of our life. Many a stronghold comes from long time bitterness hiding behind a face that says, "I'm OK," even as their destructive behavior says otherwise.

If you are in a struggle with your spouse where one or both of you cannot seem to meet the standard of "common human decency" towards each other, and "doing all things Christian" in your home is just not happening, it may be time to sit together and explore the past areas where you have been unwilling or unable to forgive one another. And if it is not one another that needs forgiveness, look to a parent, or a friend who you need to visit and ask their forgiveness, or to forgive them for things where they have harmed you. Allowing bitterness to take root in your soul will only spring up into destructive behavior where you feel like you have no control to change it. Satan has his foothold and is not going to let you or your spouse go until the root causes are dealt with in a spiritual way that honors God at His Word.

Jesus came to set the captives free. Are you free indeed? Or are you bound up in your past hurts and pains unable to live out the Christian life in an authentic way? Are you addicted to anger and upset, blaming and self-justification? Recognize that the first set of sins may have been perpetuated upon you by others, but now you have become the abuser of the souls of others, doing unto them exactly the same hurt and pain you received, and yet you can't see it at all, because it is hidden behind a big fortress, bolstered by layers of sin. To break it you must allow the mirror of God's Word as spoken by the mirror of your spouse and fellow Believers who also have the Spirit of God, to reveal lies you tell yourself and replace them with God's truth. When those walls come tumbling down it can be a very painful process, yet one that is so rewarded by all the good things of the fruit of the Spirit, replacing the destruction of sin.

The easiest way to spot if a Believer is entrapped in a stronghold is to ask the question,  "What consistent fruit do you have in your life? Are the things of the Spirit regularly bearing fruit, or do you find your life full of anger, upset, anxiety, bitterness, bad thoughts and bad language?" Here below are the fruit that exemplify the Believer. Is this you, or do you need to to go to the mirror of God's Word and to your spouse to discover that you indeed are in Satan's stronghold and you need deliverance with truth and obedience to God's Word, along with strict accountability to prevent you from returning to your vomit of destructive words and behaviors? If you are unwilling to surrender, then hold on tight and pray you do not become like so many who have now destroyed their lives and relationships, all the while clinging to Jesus, but unwilling to allow Him to wipe out the strongholds in their lives. 

For the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, 
patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness 
and self-control. Against such their is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23