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


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