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Demolishing the Strongholds in our Minds

April 18, 2021 Speaker: Allen Snapp Series: Messy Grace: Second Corinthians

Topic: Strongholds Passage: 2 Corinthians 10:1–10:5

Messy Grace

Allen Snapp

Grace Community Church

April 18, 2021

 

Demolishing the Strongholds in our Minds

Please turn with me to 2 Cor. 10 again. I want to pick up on the subject of demolishing strongholds.

10 By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to youI, Paul, who am timid when face to face with you, but bold toward you when away! I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. 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. 

They say that facts are stubborn things. Lies are stubborn things too. Lies build strongholds in our minds – the picture Paul paints with that word is of city fortresses with high walls ready to fight from truth claiming that ground.

In verse 5 Paul tells us what these strongholds are: arguments and pretensions that set themselves up against the knowledge of God. Strongholds are belief systems that oppose, contradict, or deny the knowledge of, and the truth of, God.

These belief systems can be worldviews: atheism, materialism, hedonism, relativism, communism, these are all worldviews. Christianity has a worldview. So does Islam and Judaism. A worldview is a belief system by which we interpret everything in our world: life, politics, current events, history, everything is affected by our worldview.

Strongholds can be cultural currents and trends. What’s popular? What’s trending? What’s cool? Did you know that if you said something was cool a hundred years ago, someone would have offered to turn up the heat. A hundred years ago if something was cool it was swell. Now if something is swell we put a bandage on it.

Cultural trends are not necessarily good or bad in themselves but they can be used to set up strongholds. In the same way a fish isn’t thinking about the water it swims in (presumably – I haven’t actually interviewed any fish for this message), there are many aspects of our culture that we don’t think about – it’s the atmosphere we live in.

But what we value, what we think is “cool” or not cool, good or bad, good looking or ugly, is to a large extent the product of our culture, often in ways we aren’t aware of. If you don’t believe me, let’s take a short trip back to the 70’s.

How do you explain people thinking this looked good? …[show first picture] or this… [show second picture]…or this [show third picture]? It was the water they were swimming in then so to their eyes this was like, I gotta get me an orange leisure suit! BTW, when I was in high school I owned a grey leisure suit. I was cool even back then.

Strongholds include worldviews, cultural trends and, on a more personal level, strongholds can also be

attitudes or mindsets. Worry, fear, anger, caring too much about what people think about us, selfishness, narcissism, self-pity, entitlement, an on and on– these can all become strongholds in our minds. We all have them. My strongholds might be different than your strongholds, but there is turf in our heads that is held by lies.

And lies can be stubborn things. Sometimes, even knowing the truth isn’t enough to set us free. Who of us hasn’t experienced something like this:

  • I know I shouldn’t care so much about what people think, but I can’t help it
  • I know I shouldn’t be defensive when my spouse criticizes me, it just happens
  • I know I shouldn’t run the tape of what that person did to hurt me over and over again in my head, but I can’t seem to get it out of my head

I said last week, the most powerful influence in our lives is what we think and believe. Nothing determines the direction of our lives more powerfully than what we think and believe. Nothing determines the rise or fall of a nation more powerfully than the belief system and values of that nation.

So when God wants to transform a life, He doesn’t start with that person’s circumstances, He starts with what they think and believe. He starts demolishing the strongholds that lies have built in his or her mind. And Paul tells us that the wrecking ball that demolishes the strongest of strongholds is Christ.

we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (vs. 5)

Every thought refers back to the arguments and pretensions that are setting themselves up against the knowledge of God. The Greek word for “captive” means to conquer and the Greek word for obedient means to bring under the control of. So putting that together, we conquer every thought by bringing it under the control of the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

The question is, if strongholds are demonic lies, why doesn’t Paul say we take captive every thought and make it obedient to the truth. Why does Paul say we make every thought obedient to Christ rather than obedient to the truth?

The answer is that Jesus is the Truth. He said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” There is no other way to God except through Jesus. There is no other source of life but Jesus. And there is no source of truth but Jesus. All reality comes from Jesus. All truth finds its existence in Christ.

Jesus is the dazzling, brilliant star of Truth from whom all truth radiates! There isn’t one single truth in the universe that is disconnected from Christ. All truth finds it source in Jesus. He is the Truth.

Conversely, all lies find their source in the devil. Jesus said Satan is a liar and the father of lies. When we lie, we are speaking the devil’s native language. Sin and death entered the world through a lie.

Paul said he had divine power to demolish, and divine authority to build up. Demolish strongholds and build up people. As Christians, God has called us into the demolition and rebuilding business.

  1. Proclaim Christ to others and to ourselves

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus sake. For God, who said, Let light shine out of darkness, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of Gods glory displayed in the face of Christ. 2 Cor 4:4-6

CS Lewis once said: I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else. Our greatest job and privilege is to proclaim Christ that others might see the light of his glory.

Our war is never against people. That person who hates Jesus and mocks you – they aren’t your enemy. They are captive to the will of the devil and blind to the brilliance of Christ. Those blinders, that stronghold that keeps people from coming to Christ is deeply entrenched.

I stood at the bedside of a dying man and asked if he wanted to receive Christ as his Savior. What could stop him? There was nothing else left for him to hold onto but sadly, sin was holding onto him and he decided to put that decision off, which really was his polite way of saying no. I was so sorry to hear that he passed away before I could meet with him again.

But I had shared Christ with him and we can’t know what God did with that seed. We are to proclaim the truth of Christ and pray that God will supernaturally open the eyes of unbelievers to see the light of the glory of God displayed in the face of Christ.

We also need to proclaim Christ to our own souls every day as well. Jerry Bridges said we must preach the gospel to ourselves every day. Strongholds of legalism, condemnation, guilt, fear hold territory in our minds and Christ is the great demolisher.

So every day is demo day! Janice and I enjoy watching a few HGTV shows such as Hometown, and after they choose a house to renovate they begin with demo day. Knocking down walls, ripping out cabinets, cutting out rot, ripping up carpet. They do this not to leave things in a shambles but to get out the bad so they can rebuild with the good. For the Christian every day is demo day! Knocking and tearing out and ripping up the lies so we are rebuilt with the truth of Christ!

Demo day is all about proclaiming Christ– the grace, the beauty, the mercy, the love, the power of the risen Christ to our own souls and to a lost and dying world.

  1. Renew our minds with Gods word

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what Gods will ishis good, pleasing and perfect will. Rom. 12:2

Notice that the difference between conformed and transformed is what goes on up here. The transformed life is the product of a renewed mind. Strongholds of lies begin to fall to the power of truth. Stinkin’ thinkin’ gets replaced with transformed thinking.

Reading, meditating, and memorizing scripture is how we renew our minds. Meditating means to chew over – to turn a bible truth over and over in our heads until we start to see and understand it in a deeper way and it gets worked inside of us in a deeper way.

The deeper we get God’s word in our hearts and minds, the more His word will transform how we live by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Doubts are transformed into belief. Fear is swallowed up by faith. The winds and waves churned up in our minds by worry hear Jesus’ voice say “peace, be still.”

Renewing our minds means that through the truth of God’s word, God takes more and more ground in our thoughts and lies start losing ground. There are fears that used to come close to paralyzing me, that are still there, but instead of paralyzing me, they just poke at my heart a little.

By the way, good, biblically solid books can also be a great tool for renewing our minds. I am currently using a book called Gentle and Lowly as my morning devotional, and God is using it to deal with what I call performance legalism in my heart. Performance legalism is when we believe that God loves us or doesn’t based on our performance. He accepts us or doesn’t, draws near us or doesn’t, likes us or doesn’t, based on our performance.

I know this isn’t the case, but my heart believes it. It bleeds into my friendships and relationships too. I fight the impulse that says my friendships are one failure, one wrong thing said, one disappointment away from ending. It’s a stronghold.

This book, through excellent scriptural exposition, is washing over my mind and heart with the truth of God’s rich mercy and great love and strong commitment to me. A commitment God has proven to me over and over again all my life.

This is deeper than saying Jesus is loving or merciful or gracious. The cumulative testimony of the four Gospels is that when Jesus Christ sees the fallenness of the world all about him, his deepest impulse, his most natural instinct, is to move toward that sin and suffering, not away from it.~ Dale Ortlund

Being reminded, biblically, that Jesus moves toward me not away from me counters the stronghold lie with the biblical truth.

Maybe your stronghold is different than mine. Solution is the same: renew your mind with biblical truth. Don’t let the world squeeze you into its form, but let the truth of God’s word transform your life by renewing your thinking!

  1. Build our lives on the rock of Christs words

Jesus said that the person who hears his word and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his

house on the rock. Even when the storms come with rain, floods, and high winds, that life will not fall, it will stand.

Notice it’s not just the person who hears Jesus’ words. In fact, he goes on to say the person who hears his words but doesn’t put them into practice is like the foolish person who builds his life on sand. When storms come, their lives fall apart.

If someone said to you, “I believe very strongly in the importance of charity and helping the poor.” And you said, oh wow, Can I look at your checkbook to see how much you give to help the poor and to charity? And they answered, well, I don’t actually do it, I just strongly believe in doing it! You’d say, “hmmm, there’s a disconnect between what they say they believe and what they believe.”

As Rick Warren put it, our creeds must be turned into deeds. We need creeds (doctrines we hold to and believe), but we also need deeds – acting on what we believe. Here are a few stronghold demolishing, truth building challenges for us to consider:

  • If selfishness is the stronghold, be intentional about doing considerate things for others.
  • If fear is the stronghold, step out and do something you feel the Lord leading you to do but are afraid to do
  • If the stronghold is fear of being rejected if people find out you’re a Christian, pray and then look for a winsome and natural way to bring Christ into the conversation.
  • If the stronghold is what you’re looking at on certain websites, read scripture on purity, pray and ask God to lift your thoughts, and get a website blocker or ask someone to hold you accountable.
  • If the stronghold is a heart that is dull towards God, think thoughts that fan the flames of affection for God – feed that flame with Bible truths about how great and awesome God is!

Demolishing strongholds that lies have in our minds by proclaiming Christ, renewing our minds, and building our lives on the word of Christ. In Christ, by his word, and through His Holy Spirit we have power to demolish lies and build firmly on the truth of Christ. He is the rock who won’t roll, the foundation that lasts forever.