We all struggle with certain strongholds of sin in our lives. These strongholds of sin work to push us away from God, and undermine our relationship with him. We must war against these strongholds of sin to be fruitful servants of God.
A big part of being a Christian is the simple idea that we are forgiven. We have all done wrong, and we are forgiven of these misdeeds by Christ. This forgiveness is what makes it possible for us to have a relationship with God. It raises us up to a level that we can know God, and be at peace with him.
However, the simple idea of being forgiven leads to some important questions that we should ask ourselves. If we are truly forgiven, and not in any kind of sin, then why do we struggle? If we are pure and right with God, then why do we sometimes feel estranged from him?
If we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that we aren't always close to God. Many times our thoughts and desires are not of God. We all have periods when we feel separated from him. There is often an ebb and flow in our lives as we move closer to God, and then further away. Why do we have these ups and downs, if we are perfect and complete in Christ?
When we are saved, Jesus doesn't change us into perfect beings that never sin. Rather, he takes us in our imperfect state, and delivers us from the power and bondage of our sins. From that moment forward, we are empowered to war against our own strongholds of sin. In Christ, we are free to confront and overcome the strongholds of sin in our lives.
What is a stronghold of sin? It's hard to define what is or isn't a stronghold of sin. It's clear that we all have certain weaknesses, traits, and thoughts that compel us toward certain sins. We all have unrighteous tendencies that manifest as sin in our lives. The strongholds of sin are the lusts and malignancies within us, that give rise to the types of sins that persist in our lives.
Whether we accept it or not, we all have strongholds of sin. We all have strongholds such as idolatry, covetousness, lust, pride, jealousy, hatred, unforgiveness, greed, slothfulness, self-righteousness, self-pity, selfishness, conceit, stubborness, narcissism, gluttony, ignorance, and many others. These strongholds are all doors that the enemy uses to try to gain back control of our lives.
Strongholds of sin can cause the spiritual low points that we experience as Christians. The strongholds of sin work to push, pull, and separate us from God. We must wage spiritual warfare against our own strongholds of sin, because if we ignore them, they will damage our relationship with God.
As Christians, we know that we are justified in Christ, because in him our sins are forgiven. However, our sins are not justified. Nor can we be justified in committing them, "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil..." (Isaiah 5.20 KJV bible). If we believe that our sins are justified, then we've refused the need to be forgiven for them. This is a denial of Christ.
Therefore as Christians, we should resist and hate sin. As followers of Christ, we should be working to be like Christ, "The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master" (Luke 6.40 KJV bible). To be like our master, we must be continually recognizing and subduing our own sins.
We all agree that Jesus has healed and freed us from our sins. However this does not mean that God is always pleased with us, or with what we do. Even though we are in grace, we can still distress and anger God.
This is why Paul warns us about provoking God. He compares our struggle to Israel's struggle in the wilderness, "But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted" (1st Corinthians 10.5-6 KJV bible).
God has not set us free to wallow in sin, but to serve him. For this reason God sometimes chastens us. He does this because we are under grace, and a part of his family, "For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth" (Hebrews 12.6 KJV bible). God chastens us for our benefit, that we might be partakers of his holiness (Hebrews 12.7).
So as Christians, we should never be satisfied or complacent about having sin in our lives, "What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid" (Romans 6.15 KJV bible). Even though we can't be perfect, we shouldn't be lenient with our own sins.
Too many Christians refuse to confront their own strongholds of sin. They've been taught that as Christians they are like Jesus, and perfect in God's eyes. So they play the role of the perfect Christian, and try to cover-up their strongholds of sin. They praise Jesus on the outside, but on the inside, their strongholds of sin have control.
These Christians have failed to use the power of Christ to war against their strongholds of sin, "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?" (Romans 6.16 KJV bible). They can't be servants of God, because they are servants of sin.
God expects that we use the freedom, power, and authority of Christ to suppress and destroy strongholds of sin. If we have faith in Jesus, we will have continual victory against our strongholds of sin. He will lead us against these strongholds, so that instead of being enslaved by them, they will be slaves to us.
If you're following this, you might notice that I am raising questions that challenge some typical Christian orthodoxies. For example, if our sins are completely forgiven, then how can they fester and gain power over us? How can our sins corrupt our relationship with God, if they are truly being taken away?
A good way to answer some of these questions is with a metaphor. To understand strongholds of sin, we need to think of ourselves as nations. Instead of individual people, each one of us is a mini-nation.
Nations are not the same all the way through. They are made up of different regions, groups, tribes, and organizations of people. These groups often have opposing interests, and ideas. Not every part of a nation is in harmony with the other parts, and this leads to power struggles.
Each one of us is our own Christian nation, and like any nation, we have internal power struggles. This is because not every part of our nation is in subjection to Christ. We all have hold-outs within us, that are resistant to God's authority. The enemy uses these hold outs, or strongholds, to subvert the will of God in our lives.
Therefore, we must work with Christ to subdue, or even slay, these rebellious parts, "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry; for which things' sake cometh the wrath of God upon the sons of disobedience" (Colossians 3.5-6 KJV bible).
We all experience urges and temptations to sin. We must war against them, so that sin will not reign within us, "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions" (Romans 6.12 KJV bible). We must not submit to the deceptiveness of sin. Because if we give shelter to sin, it will undermine our relationship with God.
We know that nations that are at war with themselves are not strong, but weak. Likewise, our strongholds of sin weaken us, and prevent us from bearing fruit in Christ. So to fulfill God's will in our lives, we must subdue our strongholds of sin. We must work with Christ to overcome them, so that we are not at war with ourselves.
This is similar to what Jesus describes in the parable of the sower. In this parable, Jesus compares the Word to seeds being spread out on the ground. The seeds fall in different places, representing the different kinds of people that hear the Word.
Some of the seeds land on good ground where they grow strong, and reach maturity, "But other [seed] fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold" (Matthew 13.8 KJV bible). This ground represents the people who understand the Word, so that it grows and matures in them.
However many of the seeds never grow to maturity. Even though they sprout, they are killed off by stress and attack, "And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them" (Matthew 13.7 KJV bible). This ground also represents people who hear and understand the Word. However, they have thorns springing up in them that overpower the Word, so that it can't bear fruit.
In this parable, the thorns that choke the seedlings are like strongholds of sin. They live in us, and by their nature they are obstacles to the Word of God. The thorns compete against the Word, preventing it from maturing and making seed. We must strengthen the good seed in us, and not the thorns.
Confronting our own sins is generally not fun. It requires humility, effort, and perseverance. It requires that we give up our habits and desires for a greater purpose. Many times it means leaving behind things that are very familiar to us. Overcoming strongholds is the work part of being a Christian.
We know that Christ gives us the sight to see the errors of our ways. He gives us the spiritual weapons and training. If we are truly born of him, then we are guaranteed victory. Despite his promises, change can still be frightening.
In the Old Testament, God promises the Israelites that he will give them the land of Canaan. He frees them from the slavery of Egypt, and guides them through the wilderness by great miracles. Yet despite all this, when it comes time to enter the land, they refuse to go.
Instead of trusting in God, they listen to an evil report. This report exaggerates the strength of their enemies, and implies they won't be able to take the land, "The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight" (Numbers 13.32-33 KJV bible).
The Israelites become so intimidated by the giants blocking their way, that they give up. Instead of receiving what God has promised them, they look back to Egypt, "And wherefore hath the LORD brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt" (Numbers 14.3 KJV bible).
These "giants" intimidate and block Israel from obtaining the land that God has promised them. In this way, they are similar to the strongholds of sin that stand in our way. We must be willing to confront our own strongholds of sin, to receive the inheritance God has prepared for us. Christians who take the path of least resistance, by yielding to sin, will not receive the promises.
"But exhort one another daily, while it is called today, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end...For some, when they had heard, did provoke; however, not all who came out of Egypt by Moses" (Hebrews 3.13-14,16 MKJV bible).
By these examples, we understand that the devil uses strongholds of sin to prevent us from fulfilling God's will. His strongholds keep us away from the places that God wants us to be. The more we give place to the devil, the less we are able to serve God.
Being a Jesus cheerleader might impress men, but it will not overcome these strongholds of sin. Instead, we must turn to Christ. Through faith in him, we must identify and subdue the enemy's strongholds in our lives. Little by little, we must tear down the idols and obstacles that block our spiritual path.
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