Tearing Down Strongholds … Or Not

Recently, I have been reading an altogether wonderful little book on spiritual warfare, specifically on tearing down strongholds,[1] and it occurred to me that (at least within the Charismatic movement) tens of thousands (if not more) Christians have been engaged in this activity for at least 50 years, yet as a nation (the United States) we are in living in a society of amoral hedonism, naturalistic relativism, and numbing apathy. Why? Why after five decades of spiritual warfare, and specifically tearing down strongholds, is our situation actually worse than it was before?

Of course, some of my readers may be wondering exactly what I mean by “stronghold,” and the simple, dictionary definition is, “a place that has been fortified so as to protect it against attack; a place where a particular cause or belief is strongly defended and/or upheld.”[2] This is an easy, straightforward meaning that we are applying to the spiritual realm, although it is with the second part of this definition we are particularly concerned. And why? We have been told by St. Paul, “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.”[3]

Again, though, thousands upon thousands of Christians have (seemingly) been doing this in our country for decades now. So, then, why are things not different? Why is our overall situation not better, but actually worse? I asked myself this question and almost immediately four answers came to mind from holy Scripture, which I will allow to speak for itself with only brief comments:

I.  Mixing Christ and Belial

For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship is there between light and darkness? What agreement does Christ have with Belial? Or what does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will live in them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.’ (II Corinthians 6. 14b-16  NRSV)

It almost goes without saying that one cannot claim to believe in and follow Christ while succumbing to and living like the devil. How are we, as Christians, actually living out our life in Christ? Are we mixing light and darkness, belief and unbelief … Christ and Belial?

II. Good Works Follow Faith

Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh. Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.  (James 3. 11-13  NRSV)

We should think about each other to see how we can encourage each other to show love and do good works.  (Hebrews 10. 24  ERV)

When we are saved by grace through faith in Christ, and filled with his Spirit, then we (should) naturally begin growing the fruit of the Spirit, and this, of course, includes working good works. Remember what our Lord Jesus said? “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”[4] And besides this, St. James said very plainly, “faith without works is dead.”[5] So the first (and obvious) question is: Can anyone pull down strongholds without faith? No, of course not, but if you have no good works – bearing the fruit of the Spirit – in your life, then you clearly have no faith … at least not authentic faith. So how do we, as Christians, score in the area of good works?

III. Missing the Target? Or Shooting at the Wrong Target to Begin With?

And He said, Go and say to this people, Hearing you hear, but do not understand; and seeing you see, but do not know.  (Isaiah 6. 9  LITV)

Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear?  (Mark 8. 18a,  RSV)

This point is a bit more complex, perhaps, but it is fully possible for godly, dedicated believers to either miss the target, or mistake the target altogether! I’m afraid that oftentimes Christians are directing their offensive against outposts rather than actual strongholds. Outposts? Yes. An outpost is “a small military camp or position at some distance from the main force,”[6] or stronghold.

One example of this may be attacking what seems to be the stronghold of poverty when in reality it is an outpost of, say, the stronghold of greed (especially greed in high places), and/or the stronghold of sloth (laziness), or both! This is not to say we should not work to alleviate poverty; point in fact, this ought to be part of our ongoing good work. But are we actually attacking and pulling down the stronghold(s) of which poverty is merely an outpost?

IV. Lack of Discipleship

…and you are to teach the people of Israel all the statutes that the LORD has spoken to them through Moses.  (Leviticus 10. 11  NRSV; emphasis mine)

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations … teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.  (Matthew 28. 19a, 20a  NRSV; emphasis mine)

…and what you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well.  (II Timothy 2.2  NRSV; emphasis mine)

At this point, Michael Spencer “hits the nail on the head,” so to speak:

Jesus-shaped spirituality hears Jesus say ‘believe and repent,’ but the call that resonates most closely in the heart of a disciple is ‘follow me.’ The command to follow requires that we take a daily journey in the company of other students. It demands that we be lifelong learners and that we commit to constant growth in spiritual maturity. Discipleship is a call to me, but it is a journey of ‘we.’[7]

Amen! It is not enough to merely “get someone saved;” sanctification in relationship with God is an important part of living out one’s life of salvation … in fact, indispensable. So, too, it’s not enough to merely lay hands on someone and pray for healing – and hallelujah, that’s wonderful – but what happens to that person who’s just been physically and/or mentally (emotionally, psychologically) healed? Perhaps they go on to profess Jesus the Christ as Lord and Savior … but then what? Do we leave them to walk the path of salvation alone, wondering and wandering about, finding their own way? We should not! because Jesus commanded us to disciple! Enough said on this point: We need greater, inner growth and maturity in and throughout the Church. Period.

We should be tearing down strongholds and transforming our nation (and, indeed, the world) but evidence seems to indicate that we are decidedly not doing so! Perhaps (hopefully) the points made above will help answer the question, “why?” God bless you and keep you ever and always in His tender, loving care. Amen.


[1] Derek Prince, Pulling Down Strongholds, published by Whitaker House, 2013 from the archives of previously unpublished material by Derek Prince

[2] Christine A. Lindberg, Artemis Grace, et al eds., The (2002) Oxford American College Dictionary, 1367

[3] II Corinthians 10.4, ESV; Cf. also Proverbs 21.22, “A wise person attacked strong cities and demolished the strongholds in which the impious trusted.” (NETS)

[4] Gospel of St. Matthew 5. 16, ESV; Note: Emphasis Mine

[5] Cf. James 2. 17

[6] Christine A. Lindberg, Artemis Grace, et al eds., OACD (2002), 969

[7] As quoted on www.goodreads.com accessed July 30, 2016; Michael Spencer is the author of Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality published June 15th 2010 by WaterBrook

Advertisements

By His Brilliant Son

I call to you, Lord, all the day long;
To you alone I reach up my hands;
Will you work wonders for the dead,
Will the shades throw off their bands?

The Lord is my stronghold of boldness,
My tall tower of everlasting power
Into whom I run by His brilliant Son!

Will your love be told in the grave,
Your affection within the tomb?
Will your light shine in the dark,
Your life enliven cold earthen womb?

The Lord is my stronghold of boldness,
My tall tower of everlasting power
Into whom I run by His brilliant Son!

Grant me your wisdom to guide me anew;
Stay the hard hand of the Enemy we fight;
Let love triumph, glory shine through;
Keep me pure by the power of your might.

The Lord is my stronghold of boldness,
My tall tower of everlasting power
Into whom I run by His brilliant Son!

Yes, God is my ever-bold stronghold,
My powerful, tall and everlasting tower,
Into whom I run by His brilliant Son…
Into whom I run by His brilliant Son!

Prayer

Christ God defend us, and be our defense.
Rebuke the darkness, and be you our light.
Christ God have mercy, and mercy dispense.
Protect from all evil, and be you our might.

One Rose in the Garden of Humanity

One Rose to pose not any threat, planted in the Garden of Humanity,
Surrounded by insanity, but beautiful nonetheless, we had to confess;
Stem standing tall and shimmering petals to impress even the most
Callous soul filled with malice; this one Rose chosen for cultivation
Without manipulation to spread its aroma throughout all the Garden
So thick with weeds and sticks and such sick undergrowth that beauty
Was hard provoked and nearly choked … but there was that one Rose
That weary souls chose to breath and admire in their dire straights
To satiate their hunger for something good and true neath brilliant
Skies of numinous blue…

Now it has been ages and many pages of history since that one Rose
Bloomed in the Garden of Humanity, but not without leaving behind
An unique kind of fragrance that lingers on along with promising
Flowerets that beget more beauty in their growing duty to Life
… and it all began with the one Rose; yes, that one majestic Rose

 

Note: First posted on Noblethemes by Jonathan Noble, also author of this blog.

Pathmaker and Constant Companion

This path I am on now, how do I know it’s the right path?
This path I am on seems dull, not bright with your light…

Trust me, and hold me, and walk with me
And you will be where you are meant to be

This path I am on now seems very low and the going so slow;
This path I am on now from here seems to lead to nowhere…

Trust me, and hold me, and walk with me
And you will be where you are meant to be

This path I am on now is so quiet and the diet so meagre;
This path I am on now is shrouded by trees and overclouded…
Oh! I cannot see!

Trust me, and hold me, and walk with me
And you will be where you are meant to be;
You’re a shining star in the Kingdom of God;
You are on the right path and your destiny
Is not far… Trust me, hold on and walk…
And you will be where you are meant to be!
And you will be where you are meant to be!

All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.  (Psalms 25:10  ESV)

Pathways, Promises and Prayer

Scripture

A road may seem straightforward, yet end as the way to death.  (Proverbs 14. 12  REB; see also, Proverbs 16. 25)

Make straight tracks for your feet, and straighten your ways. Do not incline to the right or to the left; rather turn away your foot from an evil way…  (Proverbs 4. 26-27  NETS)

People who respect Yahweh, what of them? He teaches them the way they must choose.  (Psalm 25. 12  NJB; revision mine)

Reflection

Ultimately, and most importantly of all, Christ Jesus is “the way, and the truth, and the life.” (cf. John 14. 6) And the Lord said rather ominously, “the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7. 14  ESV) So we know (or should know) that we are saved only by grace through faith in Christ, and filled with His Spirit — the Spirit of Life and Light and Truth — the very Spirit of the living God.

However, how often do we stop to think that as members of His Kingdom, in and through Jesus the Christ, God has laid out a unique pathway for each of us to walk? This is the same as to say that He has an authentically special plan for each of us individually. If we have not thought about this, then it’s likely we’re not walking that unique path for our lives. If we have thought about this, then the question is: Are we faithfully walking that path?

Even as redeemed, Spirit-filled children of God it is all-too-easy to become distracted and led astray by the Enemy (or merely by our own self-focused thinking!) But the Word of God is clear: The end of any path other than the one upon which God has set our feet is destruction. No, it may not mean the loss of eternal salvation, but it will certainly mean a fruitless, futile life. And this is not what we want from our life in Christ Jesus.

Prayer

Lord God, the Everlasting One, we humbly come before You, bowing in Your glorious presence, thanking You first and foremost for our redemption in and through Your only-begotten Son, our Savior, Jesus the Christ. We praise You and thank You, Abba Father, for filling us with Your all-holy, good and life-giving Spirit, even as we pray for Your continued guidance and direction. Guide our footsteps faithfully along the path that You have set before, granting us strength and courage with every step we take, ever bearing in mind that we walk not alone but with the Good Shepherd, who promised never to leave or forsake us; even Jesus Christ our Lord, in whose most precious, powerful, holy and altogether beautiful Name we pray. Amen.

Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Most holy Spirit, come to me, open my eyes to see,
Fill me ever fully to be all that You intend me to be,
And remind me that the victory cry does not come
From some far off place as I face bows and arrows
Of enemy foes; no, but ever reassure my trembling
Heart that the One, who came down to ascend again
To reclaim His crown, won the victory in the mystery
Of His death and resurrection for my own salvation
And exaltation in glory — this battle belongs to Him,
And the war already won — so now there is no need
For tears and fears; barriers have been torn down,
Enemies worn, though they continue fighting and
Biting at our heels to inject their hellish poison
In the hope we will reject the triumph our Savior
Gave us ages ago, written on the pages of history
Ever to be read in Truth and never tread under foot;
So come, holy Spirit, come my way this day and fill
All of me to overflowing that I may glow with fire
Of heaven that I may fight on through day and night
And inspire people round about to inquire and acquire
Truth and redemption, thru Jesus Christ, our only Lord.
Amen.

Heart-Cry From Dry Places

This path I’ve travelled before, well-worn and I so torn;
There are temples round about, vacant and empty, forsaken;
And it is so dry, and try as I may I fall under heat of the day
Trying to find my way; but did You not find me, unbind me,
Release me from my fetters to see better times, hearing bells
Of heaven chime over defeated hell that’d punched a hole
In my soul and left me for dead in this bed of dry earth?
Oh, but I thirst as I wander and wonder at my new birth;
Where, oh where, are You leading dear Shepherd, and upon
What are You feeding me? I cannot see thru the winded dust
That blows all around, hiding the glow of Your presence,
Making a mockery show of my existence in persistence of
Something greater and better than I have ever known before,
Tossed and turned, blown and lost as I was before You came
To claim this lame and dying lamb, good Shepherd; are You
Still near and held so dear, and will You dispel these fears
That give way to so many tears? Oh, lead me to green pasture
So serene and beside still, cool waters so to drink my fill;
Be not deaf to my cry, and ne’er say ‘goodbye’ or I shall die,
But fly to my side and here abide, for this well-worn path
Is dry and leaves me torn with the afflictions I’ve borne;
Save me, Savior, and lead me to higher and richer ground
Where I may abound in Your love, mercy, and grace evermore!