Text: 2 Cor 10: 3 – 6
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
What are strongholds? How are they formed? Can they be demolished? Why does God want us to pull them down? Can Christians have strongholds? These are some of the questions we will be examining today.
“A stronghold can also be a fortified set of thought patterns and ideas that govern individuals, communities, churches, and nations, religious or other controlling institution of influence.”
Dick Eastman – Jericho Hour
(Dr. Dick Eastman is the international president of Every Home for Christ)
What is a stronghold?
A stronghold is a fortified defensive structure.
In Old Testament times fortified cities were built with a wall around outside. They would also build a secondary defense in the center of the city in the shape of a tower. This was called a ‘stronghold’ and whoever was attacking a city would not only attack the outer wall of the city but also pull down the stronghold making his enemy totally defenseless.
The word stronghold is used in the Bible with that kind of connotation. When we picture a stronghold we get a mental picture of an ancient stone fortification with dungeons and dark places – a place controlled and defended by God’s enemies and that means Satan and his demonic forces. But these forces built fortifications or strongholds in the minds of people and they do not let go easily.
Strongholds are patterns of thinking that get entrenched in the minds of people. These start out as arguments to justify a perverted life-style and over time and usage become beliefs that become deeply entrenched in the minds of those who practice that life-style. What started as theories and reasonings now challenge the conventional moral code that was established by God’s word. I will explain that but before we go over this process let me tell you that there are several types of strongholds. For want of time we will restrict ourselves to 4 kinds.
Types of Strongholds
In the personal stronghold column I would put sexual sins such as homosexuality, lesbianism, pornography, deeply rooted character faults, addictions, abuse etc. Emotional
issues such as un-forgiveness, rejection, fear, anger and bitterness can bring us into bondage.
These would be racism, caste-ism (big one in India), social injustice, and other oppressive barriers. What we call ‘tradition and culture’ are really demon inspired ways to keep people in bondage.
For example, the concept that parents of married children have a right to interfere in their affairs is not biblical, but is widely accepted in India.
There are many Christians, who will not undertake any important work during an inauspicious time without checking their horoscope. Many Christians believe in and practice Vastu Shastra, Feng Shui, Pranic Healing and the spiritual side of Yoga. They fear the consequences if they don’t fall in line. The Bible has harsh word for them and calls these divinations – an abomination to God.
Stronghold of Mammon
If you were to overhear any conversation on the road, a train or any such public place it will nearly always be about money or career (as the source for money). There is nothing wrong with money and God does not withhold any good thing from us. However, Jesus categorically said that we cannot serve God and Mammon (who is a false god). The love of money is a very strong stronghold in this world.
Who is responsible?
We make the mistake of ascribing everything to demons. It is true that they set traps and create an atmosphere for people to get entangled; but we have to take responsibility also.
There are 3 sources that feed our mind:
1. Our own desires
2. Demonic influence
3. Prompting of the Holy Spirit
Our own desires
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1: 13- 15)
We look at or read things that flame our passions or influence our thinking
We listen to unwanted things that mould our thoughts.
We act for immediate gratification without looking at the consequences.
Let us look at the process by which people’s minds are molded by arguments and theories and reasonings which become ‘beliefs’ and thereafter strongholds.
Undermining Moral Values
TV and movies are powerful tools in the hands of the enemy to undermine moral values and build strongholds in the minds of people. Have you ever seen these never ending romantic soap operas? Countless people are addicted to them. If you ask what is wrong with that let us take a closer look at what they are actually promoting. It is a continuing saga of hatred, intrigue and extramarital affairs. The story comes up with all kinds of permutations and combinations. The son is having an affair with his father’s mistress or someone is consoling his brother’s wife because of his cruelty to her – falling in love with her, in the bargain. Now the ‘victim’ is seeking vengeance against his own brother! The play is such that you feel sorry for the poor woman who has been ditched by her husband. But in reality, by accepting these positions, our moral values are being compromised. We will condone that behavior and should we find ourselves in a similar situation chances are we might succumb to temptation. We allowed ourselves to be influenced by standards the ‘world’ accepts as normal. By building a stronghold in our mind the enemy guards that ‘belief’ fiercely.
The sad thing is many Christian leaders have fallen on account of sexual sins because they were not wise enough to guard their minds.
Let us look at someone who turns into a compulsive liar. The person who lies thinks he is going to gain some benefit– maybe get out of a difficult situation or avoid pain. Did he start life like that? As a child he possibly saw his parents tell lies when it suited them. Every now and then our household helper’s ten year old daughter will call up and say “My mother cannot come today, she is in hospital (pause). She will only get well on Monday”. The child grows up realizing that there are some quick benefits to be had by lying and if her parents are asking her to tell a lie then it must be ok. She is operating under the world system which grades falsehood as white lies, and not so white, lies. As she graduates to more serious stuff, a stronghold is being established and she will act on the basis of this belief system.
Many TV ads are based on exaggerations and lies…. (example)
By the way, there are no shades of grey. A lie is a lie, period!
The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Cor 4:4)
One of Satan’s most powerful tools is pornography. In many hotels at least 2 of the pay channels are reserved for hard porn. Now it is available on the Internet for free! Any amount of books and CDs are available. We see so many instances of people (especially older ones) becoming pedophiles – one of the most despicable things that man can do.
When I was a teenager I remember coming across a book called “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”, by D.H. Lawrence (which incidentally is a literary classic). It had some graphic details and when I read it my conscience was seared. I remember taking the book and burning it! This is kindergarten stuff for today’s teenagers, many of who look at porn without batting an eyelid.
We get trapped by habits that appear to be harmless but are nevertheless strongholds. It is Satan’s ploy to keep us away from our faith by making us lean on things other than God. Superstitions fall into this category. The other day I asked someone what the highlight of his week was. He began to speak of his breakthrough with a client but soon checked himself. Then hesitatingly he explained, “I never talk of my success. I used to do that but every time something bad happened so I decided I would not speak of my successes.” “But you can talk about your successes and give God the glory, I responded. In fact by not speaking about them you are not giving God the glory and the enemy has begun to build a stronghold in your mind by creating the fear of a backlash if you spoke of your success.” Remember, we defeat Satan by our testimony!
We see from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian Church: ‘The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds’.
So, clearly it is God’s intent that we demolish strongholds that have been built in our minds. Strongholds act as a barrier to fellowship with God. It is clear that they cannot be demolished by the ‘world system’ and so God has provided for those who believe in Him Divine Power to get the job done!
In his letter to the Romans ( 8: 6) Paul states -
Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires 7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.
So it is clear that we need the Holy Spirit.
Prompting of the Holy Spirit
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Cor 4:7)
The good news is that God has provided a way for man to have his life transformed. He sent Jesus to die on the cross as a substitution for us. Those who accept God’s offer in repentance and thankfulness, the Bible says, is a new creation. The old has gone and the new has come. Jesus is now their Lord and Savior forever!
The bad news is that there is no other way!
No amount of obeying religious rules or attending church regularly will transform our mind. The transformation of the mind is absolutely necessary for us to resist sin. For this we need the Holy Spirit’s help. Earlier whenever we were tempted by our own flesh or by Satan, we were powerless to overcome sin but now we have the power to overcome those very things.
It is now possible to demolish strongholds but that does not happen automatically. Why? God has given us a free will. We must choose to give up the pattern of thinking that once ruled us. There is a battle because sinful desires surface from time to time because of the dregs left behind from our past life. And we Christians face a struggle each day because there are many areas in our lives that are still not surrendered to God.
We demolish strongholds – by God’s power being released in us. Praying over someone and commanding a stronghold to come down can give him a start but thereafter he must exercise his God given power to say ‘No’ to that sin.
For instance if I have to stop using coarse language which let us say has become part of my vocabulary, I have to make the choice (decide) not to speak those words and then ask God to help me. If I don’t make that decision I will continue to have the power of God inside of me but the ugly vocabulary still remains with me. I have not used the power of God to demolish the stronghold of filthy language that is inside me.
Rom 12: 2
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
So that’s it!
The world system is polluted
Satan perverts God’s creation to satisfy man’s lust momentarily
Man ends up paying a horrible price eternally
God wants us to demolish Satan’s strongholds
This calls for spiritual re-birth and holy living thereafter.
Finally, we can no longer follow the pattern of thinking of the ‘world’.