Cornerstone United Methodist Church
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
To Reach, To Grow, To Send
Breaking the Strongholds I
By the Rev. Edgar De Jesus
September 9, 2012
Scripture Lesson: 2 Corinthians 10:1-6
We are at war! That abundant life that we are supposed to be enjoying in Christ Jesus is being strangled by enemy strongholds of fear, resentment, bitterness, unforgiveness, sinful thoughts, lust, pride, greed, drug and others…something that consumes our emotional, mental and spiritual strengths. This is a different kind of war that we are in! Apostle Paul says that the primary battlefield in this war is the “mind”!
To win this war against Satan, we need to take control of our thought life – “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” The devil’s chief target is the mind, because the most effective way to influence our behavior is to influence our thinking. Satan did that to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden - doubting God’s truth; to Jesus in the temptation in the wilderness, twisting God’s truth. Terry Teykl says, “Satan’s target is our minds… not by accident or because it was simply convenient, but because that was his battlefield of choice, and his tactics haven’t changed much in two thousand years.
And so we beginning a three-part sermon series about “Breaking Strongholds”. This morning, we’re gonna talk more about what is the biblical meaning of “stronghold”. Then, we’re gonna try to find out where do enemy strongholds come from? Next Sunday, we’re gonna try to identify more specifically the enemy strongholds in our lives and try to find out from the Bible how can we pull down these enemy strongholds that Satan is building in our lives.
A Fortified Place
The first question that I want to ask is what is a stronghold? The word stronghold comes from Greek “ochuroma” (okh-oo'-ro-mah) meaning to fortify or through the idea of holding safely. It can be a place that is fortified by either its location, its construction, or usually both. Throughout history, strongholds are usually made of the strongest materials and are located in raised locations. At the same time they are places that are easily accessible by their inhabitants. They are places that provide their occupants with a highly defendable position against an opposition that wants to get rid of them. This reminds us of the Tower of London built in 1078 by William the Conqueror.
In Bible, the word “stronghold” appears 50 times (49 times in OT and 1 time in NT). In the Book of Samuel, David is on the run from King Saul who is trying to kill him. And we read in 1 Samuel 23:14 that, “David stayed in strongholds in the wilderness.” These were physical places, such as caves up on a mountainside which were very difficult for an enemy to access and attack-- protected places or fortresses. David wrote about such places in the Psalm 18 when he writes, “I will love You, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”
Is Stronghold A Good Thing or a Bad Thing?
Whether a stronghold is a good thing or not, all depends on who it is that is inside defending them. If we or our allies have access those strongholds, then they are a place of refuge in times of trouble. If it our enemy that has a stronghold then they are places of great danger. Terry Teykl defined “stronghold” as a “belief system—a pattern of thinking attitudes and expectations that influences behavior and invites spiritual domination.” According to this definition, a stronghold is neither good nor bad in and of itself. However, the Bible clearly defines what is a good stronghold and what is a bad stronghold.
An Enemy Stronghold
So you have this Old Testament picture of this place of protection…this place of safety. But Apostle Paul is clearly taking that word “stronghold” and flipping it for us to show how these same fortified places can be places of defense for the enemy— destructive strongholds that are bastions for Satan and sin, and all kinds of demonic activity in people’s lives. Paul defines these “strongholds” in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.” And then he tells us how our weapons are victorious, by “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
A Destructive Attitude and Mindset
Clearly the strongholds that Paul is talking about here are not physical locations, instead they are destructive, attitudes, mindsets and thinking patterns, that are in opposition to God. These kind of strongholds can exist on a personal level or corporately.
There are many enemy strongholds in this nation. The advance of secularism, attitudes towards sexual practice, the turning of many people towards illicit drugs to overcome feelings of low self esteem, the acceptance of evolutionary teaching as fact, and many others. These are all things that oppose God and His desire to see His Kingdom come on this earth. A church can also have destructive strongholds. They can be ideas of how things should be done, or fixed traditions. These things may not be morally wrong, but are certainly not Biblical commands. Churches can often be so fixed with these preconceptions of how church should be, that they become strongholds, preventing the church from moving and growing in the way that God wants.
An enemy stronghold can also affect the individuals. Many people have strongholds in their life’s including those that they don’t even recognize. Alcohol abuse, gambling, pride, pornography, and many others are areas in which Satan has got a stronghold in his or her life?
Paul had recognized a lot of these strongholds when he wrote to the church in Corinth. Paul had stayed in Corinth for eighteen months and in that time had set up a church. From reports that Paul was receiving after he had left, he had started to recognize certain strongholds creeping into the church. He had already written to them once before, warning them of, amongst other things, divisions, and the acceptance of sexual immorality. Corinth was a very sinful city, and some of that immoral behavior, was gradually creeping into the church.
Principalities and Powers
In this passage, Paul is talking once again about how we do not wrestle with flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers, rulers of the air. And since our battle is not with flesh and blood, Paul wants us to know that our weapons our not earthly, fleshly, physical weapons. This isn’t about swords, and shields. This is a spiritual battle.
And Paul utilizes the word “strongholds”. Those spiritual fortresses that Satan can build in our lives. Those road blocks, that if not eliminated, will make true enduring freedom impossible. That’s what our spiritual weapons of warfare are for. For pulling down these strongholds. And so, where do “strongholds” Come From?
First: THE WORLD
Francis Frangipane writes, “The steady stream of information and experience that continually shaped our childhood perceptions is the greatest source of strongholds with us. The amount of love (or lack of love) in our home, our cultural environment, peer values and pressures, as well as fears of rejection and exposure – even our physical appearance and intelligence, all combine to form our sense of identity and our view of life.”
And depending on the source and nature of that “steady stream of information and experience” you may have built within your heart and mind Godly strongholds, or place may have been given for the enemy to build his strongholds. Let me give you one example of this: astrology. You don’t have to raise your hand, but how many you know what your sign is? How many of you read your horoscope? Even just for “fun”. Have many you have read your horoscope, and allowed that to influence your personality, actions, or outlook for the day? That’s the influence of the world, not God, in your thought life. And it can lead to a stronghold against what God would want you to think and believe.
Second: OUR EXPERIENCES
Many strongholds are a result of an accumulation of thoughts and attitudes that have ruled our lives during our formative years. As children growing up in a world that is under the influence and the sway of the enemy we received a steady stream of information and experiences that continually shaped our childhood perceptions. This is why the Bible says our minds need to be renewed once we are born again of God’s Spirit. The amount of love (or lack of love) in our home, our cultural environment, peer values and pressures, as well as fears of rejection and exposure--even our physical appearance and intelligence, all combine to form our sense of identity and our view of life.
Many of our opinions about life are ours only because we know of no other way to think. Yet we protect and defend our ideas, justify our opinions as though they were born in the wombs of our own creativity. Proverbs 23:7...for as he thinks in his heart, so is he. In other words, the essence of who we are is an accumulation of our thought life.
Experiences have a powerful influence on our belief system, and can be an incredible source of strongholds against the truth of God’s word, and the freedom that can be found in Christ.
Third: WRONG DOCTRINES
Jesus knew this would happen, so He warned His disciples, “See to it that no one misleads you.” Paul wrote, “Every fact is to be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” (2 Corinthians 13:1). Poor interpretation or understanding of God’s Word.
I read this last week, and the more I think about it, the more I will probably agree with it, “Every battle we face in life is over the Word and whether or not we can build our lives upon the faithfulness and integrity of God.” That’s heady stuff.
In closing, before this church can tear down strongholds in this city, we must first tear down the strongholds in our personal lives. We tear down personal strongholds,... We tear down strongholds in the church,...We tear down strongholds in the church we then can tear down strongholds in the city.
Take every thought captive begins with simply believing in him. It is at this point that we too can have life. Of course we are still going to die. But the Bible promises us that that is not the end. If the stronghold of death is removed from our lives then we will have eternal life with him. The great news is that not only can God remove all of these enemy strongholds from our lives, but he can also become our stronghold.