Thursday, July 28, 2016

Taking Down My Strongholds

            I used to joke that I had Hollywood playing in my mind all the time. Throughout the day I would think and ponder on situations that were happening or had happened in my life and I would create a movie about it. I would tell this person that if they asked me this. I should have done that when she said this, on and on, over and over, another mini-series being created in my mind. Even before a situation arose I would think about how I was going to handle it. For instance, one time I caught myself thinking about what I would do if and when my husband passed away. I think I had a 3-part mini-series playing that day, because the thoughts just kept coming. Then it hit me that some of these thoughts were not only silly, but some of them were down right sinful. Some of these thoughts were not pleasing to my God at all.
            “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 ESV
            One of the things that I have realized in the past few months is that I have built strongholds in my mind. Strongholds are those areas of our lives that have power over us and that cause us to sin. God reveals these strongholds to us through His divine power and instead of repenting, we rationalize, we justify and we fortify our opinion above God’s. We make excuses for why this is not an issue, or that it is not causing us or anyone else harm. We find ourselves saying, “What’s the big deal?” We tell ourselves that we are being too legalistic and that in the end God gives us grace and we do have liberty. Instead of repenting of it and allowing God to free us from it, we hold onto it and fortify ourselves against God. We come to rely on our justification of it so much that we begin to believe we have a right to continue in it.
            Paul also goes on to tell us that we must “destroy arguments”; some versions say “casting down imaginations”. Both mean the contemplation's of our minds that result in the actions we take. These thoughts that we hold onto even though we know they are unholy and unrighteous, they are the arguments and the imaginations that Paul is referring to. Our thoughts lead our actions. If you believe something to be true in your thoughts, your life is going to reflect those thoughts. If you believe Jesus is Lord, then your life is going to reflect that. If you do not believe that Jesus is Lord, then your life will reflect that also. If you believe that your husband does not love you and you have convinced yourself of it, then your marriage is going to reflect that. Our thoughts work in conjunction with our will, which works in conjunction with our feet.
            We take our imaginations, the movies we continually play in our minds, and we focus on them, we dwell on them until they become our strongholds. Until they become our truth. We begin to believe the imaginations, the arguments, and the strongholds of our minds over the truth of His Word. These arguments become lofty opinions that exalt themselves against Him. But, you say that you don’t exalt yourself over God. God is Father, He is Lord of your life. Anything that sets you apart from God exalts itself against God. Because you believe it is more important to hold onto that opinion than to humble yourself and surrender to Him. Anything that goes against His truth and becomes a barrier in our minds is a lofty opinion and we have exalted ourselves above Him. (That is a humbling truth!)
            Paul speaks about a level of self-control in these verses that can only be obtained through the divine power of God freely and without barriers, working in our lives. When Paul says that we must take our thoughts captive, he is telling us that we must be willing and obedient to come under His power, His rule and His authority- even over our thoughts. We must give Him complete control. There is a choice to be made, and we are the only ones who can make it. God will not force Himself into the recesses of your mind without your permission. He is God, but He is also a gentleman. God will not go where He is not wanted. It is up to us to take the initiative of casting down those opinions and strongholds we have and lay before Him open and bare all we are, and all we think. All our thoughts, our dreams, our desires, even the mini-series you have been playing over and over in your mind, must be laid before Him.
            How do we do this? How do we rid ourselves of these strongholds and bring our thoughts under His power and authority? First we must recognize that we have strongholds. We must ask the Lord to show us our thoughts. Show us what areas of our minds we still have the doors locked up tight. What areas of your mind have you not freely surrendered to Him? Once you recognize them, you have to lay them out before Him through prayer and repentance. Let go of your opinions, your dreams, your desires and freely, without walls or barriers, let God into every corner of your mind.
            Next, we must immerse ourselves in His Word. Think, pray and ask God to show you where these thoughts are coming from. That mini-series playing in your mind is a result of something, find out why it is hasn’t ended yet. Ask the Lord to show you what you may be listening to, reading, watching or taking part in that is having an effect on you. What is causing you to justify your stronghold before God? What are you submitting yourself to that is leading you into these thoughts? Once you recognize where the source is, you can flee from it and begin to destroy that stronghold.
            I don’t think we realize how impressionable we are. Paul reminds us that we are at war. I think we have this idea that because we are Christians we are not influenced by what we see, read, hear or take part in. We think we are an impenetrable fortress because we go to church, read our bibles and pray. But over and over throughout the Bible God tells us to keep ourselves, to guard ourselves, be careful how we walk, watch carefully what we do and what we let into our lives. If we could take a step back and see our lives from God’s perspective, there is a lot we would no longer do. There is a lot we would no longer watch, read or listen to. We must surround ourselves with the word of God, it is the most powerful weapon in our arsenal.
            If we desire to live holy and righteous lives, then we must seriously and with much brokenness come before Him in utter surrender. We cannot destroy the strongholds of our lives if we are not willing to cast them down in obedience to Christ. We are not impenetrable. We must fervently keep ourselves unspotted from the world. You may be thinking that I am some radical Christian who thinks we should cut ourselves off from the world, build a house somewhere in the mountains and have no contact with the outside world. That is not what I am saying at all. What I am saying is that we will come to a place in our Christian lives sooner or later where we will have a choice to make; a choice to either go all in, or keep riding the fence. We have to decide if we are going to walk in Him or if we are just content to walk next to Him. You cannot have both. We pray and seek and ask the Lord to give us holy lives, but we are unwilling to do what He asks of us to live it. We allow the world to influence our minds through what we see, read and listen to. We choose to listen to the worlds truth instead of running and seeking out God’s truth. We can’t turn off the TV for one hour and pray. We can’t turn off our phones for two hours to go to church. We allow the world to creep in and we create strongholds that separate us from Christ.
            Until we see the great need for obedience in our lives, we will never be free from the imaginations and thoughts that exalt themselves against our God. My heart is convicted today, because I see a great need to be obedient in every area of my live, even in my thoughts. I am not being legalistic, nor am I saying that there is no grace for when I stumble and fall. But we cannot continue down the slippery slope of indifference and expect God to be pleased with only half of us. The only way I can come to that place of where my thoughts and the movies I have created in my mind no longer have control over me, is to get real and get radical about my life with Him. God does not ask me to walk alongside Him. He asks me to humble myself and let Him walk in me. He can’t do that unless I obey Him.

            I don’t know what led you to read these words today, but I pray that God would bring them to life in your heart. I pray that, like me, you will see the great need to live in radical, unhindered obedience to Jesus Christ. May God, by His divine power, give us great victory in casting down the strongholds, imaginations, thoughts, and opinions we have exalted against Him. To God alone be the glory. Amen.