Pastor Jim Mann
We all have errant, sinful thoughts from time to time…wishing ill on someone who cuts in front of us in traffic, a statement that crosses the line. But do you have negative traits that keep coming up? Character flaws that, try as you might, you just can’t seem to shake? For many of us these defects have traveled with us our whole lives: anger, lust, greed, etc.
The Bible calls these spiritual “strongholds.” In the Old Testament when Israel was conquering the Promised Land, there are many descriptions of sieging these enemy fortresses.
In the New Testament Paul uses the term as an analogy. “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.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5, NIV)
Paul describes here a fortress in the mind. It is enemy territory not yet conquered, made up of arguments and pretensions (posturing, self-importance) that compete with our desire to be disciples of Jesus and good people. In other words, a stronghold is a way of thinking that has developed a life of its own within us—a way we think or behave that is protected from critical thinking.
These thought processes become habits we carry with us. These strongholds guard the untruths that keep us in bondage to self and flesh. They are the mental/spiritual fortresses of thought and emotions that surround and protect our own selfishness.
How do we know if we are dealing with spiritual strongholds? First, Paul tells us to take our thoughts captive. That means to “think about how you think.” Is there a re-occurring, negative theme in your life? This might indicate a stronghold.
Next, look at the fruit in our lives. Jesus said “…every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.” (Matthew 7:17-18, NIV). Do you experience re-occurring, negative results in your life? This might indicate a stronghold.
Finally, pray about it. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal these negative thought processes. He will do it…that’s His job.
Once a stronghold is found, tear it down. Repentance is always the first step. Ask God to forgive you and make a decision to turn away from the sin. Also have a plan of action so these fortresses don’t get rebuilt. Make spiritual evaluation a regular part of your walk with the Lord: “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” (Romans 12:3, NIV)
I’ll see you in church!
Jim Mann, Ph.D. pastors New Life Church at Robson Ranch. This interdenominational church meets at the Robson Clubhouse on Sunday mornings at 8:30 a.m. Visit New Life’s website: www.NewLifeDenton.org for more information.