"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." ~ Deuteronomy14:2

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Spiritual Battle: Learning How to Keep Thoughts From Turning Into Sinful Habits

Part 1 of 2 "The Christian is commanded in Scripture to guard the heart because from it flows forth the issues of life. Today we are going to take a magnifying glass and look with more detail at how an improper processing of thoughts can lead to a situation where Satan has a controlling influence on the heart. An affair begins with just one thought. Financial bondage begins with just one thought. Breaking societal laws like those against theft, embezzling or murder begin with just one thought. Falling prey to an addiction like smoking, drinking or illicit sex begins with just one thought. Today we are going to learn how we can keep those thoughts from turning into sinful habits. We are in a war - Christians are in a spiritual battle with the world, the flesh and the devil. In every war prisoners are taken; this even includes the spiritual war the Christian is in. The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5:
"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ..."
Notice the expression "for pulling down strongholds" - In this passage of Scripture we are introduced to a form of spiritual bondage known as a stronghold. The Greek word for stronghold (ochuroma) means "to fortify by holding something securely." A stronghold is a castle or a fortress. A biblical stronghold is a stuborn argument, opinion, idea or philosophy that is formed and resistant to the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Paul refers to "arguments, reasonings, opinions, ideologies, and philosophies" that are contrary or diametrically opposed to the knowledge of Christ. By the way, anything that opposes Christ is from His enemy, the devil. Thus strongholds are from Satan and his demonic host. Strongholds are so resilient that they require we use spiritual weapons in order to combat them so Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:4, "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal [they are not of the flesh] but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds." Strongholds are not things you can talk down or negotiate with. Strongholds don't go away, dissolve or fizzle out with time. Spiritual strongholds will not be regulated or put in their place. They do not self-destruct. Many times Christians resort to using the weapons of the world. The world's weapons are education, personal clout or influence, beauty, impressive credentialsm and oratory and polished rhetoric. So many times Christians try using the weapons of the world - to fight spiritual battles. For example a brother or sister in Christ is looking for a job... so what does he or she do? They polish up their resumes - sometimes embellishing it or making it look like they are more qualified. They look and "dress for success." They may even borrow someone's car so they won't have to drive their older model "1983 get out and push" If you want to win your spiritual you must use spiritual weapons. Now don't get me wrong; there is nothing wrong with noting your experiences in a good resume. There is nothing wrong with looking your best and trying to leave a great first impression. But if you want God to bless and empower you to win the fight and to receive the victory and the blessing, you must fight the battle the way He wants you to wage war. War must be waged when dealing with strongholds. An individual must have both a soldier's attitude and mighty spiritually enabled weapons in order to overcome a stronghold. The weapons we use are the proclaimed Word of God and prayer. Strongholds will not be destroyed by anything less. Please note that these "spiritual" weapons are judged frail by worldly standards, that is why most people do not use them.
Imagine yourself at a meeting at work. The boss comes in and says that your department is in trouble. The output is down because of too many people are missing time. Maybe you are at a corporate board meeting when the president or CEO says that some of the parts that are ordered overseas have been tainted and the order from a new vendor will be delayed. Let's say you are at either one of these meetings and you stand up and say, "Let's pray." What do you think the response would be to your suggestion? Let's say you grab a copy of the Scripture and say, I would like to read from the book of Genesis and look at the life of Josepy, the second in command in Egypt or in the book of Nehemiah to see how he handled adversity." What do you think the response would be to that suggestion?
Sometimes the Christian responds the same way in their reaction to a trial - they use worldly weapons to seek deliverance and when these attempts do not produce the desired results, they resort to prayer. Have you heard it said, "We've tried everything we could think of, we may as well pray!" The weapons the Christian is to use are the proclaimed Word of God and prayer. A stronghold will not be destroyed by anything less. God wants us to grow and mature to the point that we pray first and look first thing to the Word of God!
Four key points for today's message: 1. Strongholds are resistant to change. 2. Strongholds are restrictive to challenge. 3. Strongholds are ruled by a Commander In Chief. 4. Strongholds can be routed out.
KEYPOINT 1: Strongholds are resistant to change. You know you are dealing with a stronghold when one refuses to change their behavior even thought it will not be for their benefit(addictions, obsessions, compulsions, impulse control issues). You know you are dealing with a stronghold when marriage and/or family problems have not changed over a period of time and perhaps have even gotten worse, despite all human efforts (i.e. Counseling or medical intervention; you or the person have been put on behavior altering drugs with little or no change.) You know you are dealing with a stronghold when marriage partners or other family members are blind to their own faults, but are able to see everyone else's (i.e. they are quick and sure to point out the faults in others bur rarely if at all admit that they themselves may have a problem or see their part or are able to accept responsibility). You know you are dealing with a stronghold when a person cannot control their human desires and impulses and they have no desire to do so. In 2 Corinthians 10:5 the NIV used the expression "every pretension"; the KJV says, "every high thing that exalts itself agains the knowledge of God." Expositor's Commentary says that this prase "refers to any human act or attitude that forms an obstacle to the imancipating knowledge of God contained in the Gospel of Christ crusiffied and therefore keeps men in oppressive bondage ergo sin." In other words, for many there is a pretention or something that a person relies on that keeps the person from experiencing genuine salvation from sin. One of the major pretensions that form an obstacle to genuine salvation is the thinking that if you have said a prayer to become a Christian, you are saved. The Bible teaches that genuine faith isn't necessarily a faith that says, "I believe", but a faith that works as proof of the genuine faith the person possesses. James 2:20 says, "faith without works is dead." But it is not only a faith that works but a faith that endures. I have seen how people start off fast, on fire with God and then run out of gas... they run out of gas - lose their faith - they run out of hope - they leave the faith! Because they were running on their own strength and not the power of God that is dispensed when a person is truly saved. The kind of stronghold that is resistant to change is the kind that tells a person that they are saved when they are not. They have no desire to really worship God, no true desire to commune with Him in prayer, no genuine desire to read and to meditate on His word. You know there is a stronghold involved when one is hanging on to something that they said or did to get saved rather than the genuine life-transforming, redemptive work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of someone who surrenders their life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Also, you know you are dealing with a stronghold when a relative or friend is consistently and openly hostile to the Christian faith. To be continued to discuss Stronghold points 2 through 4. (Chuck Brooks, Pastor of Ministry and Administration, GraceWay Church 6-8-08)

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