Pulling Down Strongholds

We often get trapped in habits, attachments, and addictions that are inconsistent with discipleship. It will take more than will power to pull that stronghold down.


Pulling Down Strongholds
Last week we explored what to do if your conscience condemns you. We looked at how past sin is dealt with in the new birth and we looked at how to deal with post-conversion sin.

“…He does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities….”

Psalms 103:10-12 (NIV)
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

I want to revisit post-conversion sin. I specifically want to focus on what I referred to has habits, attachments, and addictions, to behaviors that are inconsistent with discipleship. These are inconsistent behaviors we can’t seem to escape.  We try and pray for deliverance but keeping tripping up on them.

1 John 3:6 (NIV)
No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

Reading this verse at face value one can really get discouraged. It seems even though we are being transformed in the image of Jesus by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit we still on occasion fall short. Ever have someone cut you off on the freeway and almost cause an accident. Is your response, “Well Bless His Heart?”  As I am cruising down the highway, listening to my Christian music, talking to God along the way, “Well Bless His Heart” might not be what comes out of my mouth. Then Matthew 12:34 comes to mind.

Matthew 12:34 (RSV)
For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

I think, is that what’s really in my heart. More scripture comes to mind.

Luke 6:28 (NIV)
“…bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

Did I do that? Did I bless? Nope. I did not follow the teachings of my savior Jesus, therefore it is a sin. You might think this is a trivial matter but I hope you see the bottom line on this. Let’s get a little more serious.

Cornelius Plantinga suggests a definition of sin. “Let us say that sin is any act—any thought, desire, emotion, word, or deed—or its particular absence, that displeases God and deserves blame. Let us add that the disposition to commit sins also displeases God and deserves blame, and let us, therefore, use the word sin to refer to such instances of both act and disposition.” [Plantinga C Jr. Not the Way It's Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans; 1995:13. Google Scholar]. The sinful disposition is that we generally seek happiness apart from God. Another name for that sinful disposition is egoism.

A habit is something you do automatically; circumstances just seem to trigger a response. For instance, it’s brushing your teeth time; you either use your left or right hand, because it’s a habit. If you want to feel what not doing what is habitual feels like tonight, brush with your other hand. It will feel weird and most likely you will finish brushing with the hand you have always used.

An attachment is something you do because it feels normal. We all want what is normal to us. Let’s say you’re a neat freak, a place for everything and everything in its place.  Your kid comes home from college and leaves dishes in the sink, dirty clothes on the floor, and crumbs on the couch. Most likely you will feel exasperation, and either get them to “clean this mess up right now,” or just do it yourself because things aren’t the way they are supposed to be, they are not normal. With attachments, we want homeostasis, the status quo, the familiar.

An addiction is something that we physically or psychologically need to get back to feeling like we want.  I want to feel good, I want to feel better, I want to do better, so I medicate. Eventually what we choose to medicate ourselves, what made us feel good starts to take control until you are the slave and it is the master. I choose gluttony, I choose opioids, I choose violence, I choose porn, I choose alcohol, I choose sex, I choose whatever makes me feel like I want. Nothing is as important as the next fix. With addiction we are slaves to sin, “hopelessly out of control, shrewdly calculating, masterful at justification and victimized. Yet we are still the responsible party for our behavior.”

Now when a habit, attachment or addiction has you locked into behaviors that are inconsistent with discipleship, you’re sinning. Then after you have indulged your conscience kicks in, the Holy Spirit uses your conscience, to inform you that you’ve done wrong again. If this doesn’t occur, you have accepted your sin. If you’re seeking deliverance, praying for forgiveness, wanting to change, vowing “never again” you are still in the fight. But because these behaviors have hard-wired in your brain it’s just a matter of time and you’re doing it again.

There’s a reason for this. You live in a village called Feeling Bad, just about a mile away there is a village called Feeling Good. Between Feeling Bad and Feeling Good there is a jungle. There’s no path, just a wall of green. So you take out the machete and start hacking a path. And you finally make it to Feeling Good. But every time you fall asleep in Feeling Good, you wake up in Feeling Bad and have to follow that path you hacked out of the jungle. This happens so much that the path becomes clearer, you don’t have to hack your way through you just walk the path. But every time you make it to Feeling Good, you wake back up in Feeling Bad. So off you go again, and again until that jungle path becomes a street, and the street eventually becomes a highway. That highway is the habit, attachment or addiction that takes you to Feeling Good. That’s what happens in your brain. The path becomes your habit, attachment or addiction for it leads to Feeling Good. Over time it becomes a superhighway in your brain, easy to travel.  When a habit, attachment or addiction becomes master you can’t exit. You can go slow, you can resist the fix, you can exert all the will power you have, you can pray, you can seek God for deliverance and you are still eventually finding yourself traveling that path to Feeling Good. Even when you become convinced that the path is not how you want to get to Feeling Good, you’re on it over and over again.  

Now I have heard testimonies about miraculous deliverance; people quitting a habit, attachment, or addiction cold turkey.  So I know God can deliver you in an instant. But I also know sometimes it’s a huge battle because you have to make a righteous path to a different Feeling Good village, and the old path is so very easy to travel and the new one so hard to build. There is a way to accomplish this.

Romans 12:2 (NIV)
“…be transformed by the renewing of your mind…

To tear down the stronghold of a habit, attachment or addiction a transformation of your mind, in your mind, has to occur.

For this transformation to take place first you need a great desire to repent. No more excuses indulging. I have kept a journal to write out my confession and my desire to break these strongholds. It always helps me to write my thoughts out on paper.

Psalms 32:5 (NIV)
Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord"-- and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

For a transformation of your mind ask God to allow the Holy Spirit to empower you to say no to the old path to Feeling Good. I believe that God can deliver you instantaneously. So ask for divine power to break into your life and set you free. You will no longer be using your willpower; you will allow the Holy Spirits' power to transform you.

2 Corinthians 10:4 (NIV)
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.

The Holy Spirit is a stronghold demolisher. We are to rely on His divine power, not our will power. You are not in control. Surrender to God’s control.

The third thing that will help you tear down these strongholds is being accountable to another person. Someone you trust that will check up on you. This accountability can also be found is a support group. As I mentioned last week Celebrate Recovery has multiple support groups to tear down just about every imaginable stronghold. The meetings on Fridays at Sea Coast Grace are the best I have attended.  Their mission statement is “Welcoming God to free us from our hurts, habits, and hang-ups will introduce you to true peace and joy.” It all starts at 7 PM. You need help to demolish strongholds, the Holy Spirit’s power, and a group to encourage you.

Proverbs 27:17 (MSG)
You use steel to sharpen steel, and one friend sharpens another.

An accountability person or group will help you demolish your stronghold.

Fourthly you need to cut a new path to a new village of Feeling Good. You want to feel good, so you need to replace the old village of Feeling Good because the path to it kept you in continuing sin. I have a couple of suggestions that have worked for me: Praise and Worship; Getting into the presence of God; Casting my cares upon the Lord; Exercise; Eating a healthy diet; which for me restricts sugar and carbohydrates;  Laughing; Being with good friends; Doing new things; making things neat and tidy; using the gifts God has given me; making other people smile. Your task is to find something new that makes you feel good. Then when you’re feeling bad, you choose to get on the path to the new Feeling Good, ignoring the old way. Ask God to show you the new path to Feeling Good. It will be hard at first getting there because you have to hack your way through the jungle, walk the path until it becomes a street, then a highway, this happens through determined repetition.

One of the secrets for tearing down strongholds is that it takes time. For instance, it takes 21 days of ignoring, of stop feeding, of denying the old pathways and replace it with the new one. 21 days is just the start because it’s like the first machete hack through the jungle. So the pull of the old will still be strong. It will take at least an additional 65 days of avoiding the old and traveling the new to build that superhighway that is consistent with being a disciple of Jesus. It takes 21 days to build a path and it takes 65 days to build the highway.

[Just a word of warning: The old way is still there. That’s why relapse is so easy. That old familiar path to Feeling Good will always beckon until the time of your full deliverance.]

James 1:21 (MSG)
So throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.

Fifthly I have found the meditation helps me get past the cravings, the sirens’ call to that thick crust all meat pizza. This involves training your mind to think about something else instead of indulging your addiction. “As we consciously direct our thinking, we can wire out toxic patterns of thinking and replace them with healthy thoughts” (Carolyn Leaf). That’s how we transform our minds. Starving the old way, feeding the new way to the village of Feeling Good.

Back to our scripture verse:

1 John 3:6 (NIV)
No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

When we are trapped in a stronghold of a habit, attachment or addiction that is inconsistent with living the life of a disciple, the Holy Spirit will use our conscious to reveal our problem. Our conscious may condemn us and based on the verse we just read. Our conscience may even cause us to think that we aren’t really believers after all. But when we are fighting for deliverance, battling that pull of continuing sin, it may hinder your ministry, it may ruin your effectiveness in the Kingdom, even destroy your harvest, but if you haven’t given in, just not caring, rationalizing, excusing the behavior, God’s grace holds you firm.

1 John 3:19-20 (NIV)
This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

If your conscience condemns you because of your habit, attachment or addition know this: if you are still determined to love, if you are still determined to obey God’s commands, even if it is the hundredth time you have confessed and repented, know that you’re still in the fight with the great hope of deliverance.   If you are not excusing habits, attachments and addictions that are inconsistent with discipleship, keep on fighting and know that God hasn’t given up on you. God does not condemn you when you are in the fight for seeking deliverance.

So here’s our bottom line. Ask yourself this question--

“Am I prepared to put in daily practice those five action items for two to three months to develop a new godly discipline which leads to life?”

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