How does the flesh get such a strong grip on us?
Strongholds of the flesh can show up in an instant and pin us to the mat, but they don’t jump on us “out of the blue.” We almost always have had a long history of giving way to them, or of traumatic past issues that spawned them. This means that what came in can also go out!
Knowledge is power. Whenever it is placed under the Lord’s leadership, it leads to liberation (as in “you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free”). We will never be free of having to wrestle with our sinful flesh as long as we are in physical flesh, but we can strip strongholds of their power. Learn these ways of breaking free of the strongholds of the enemy.
Our True Stronghold
Jesus is our true stronghold – the Rock that we run to when threatened by sin or danger, our new shield of protection against the enemy’s encroachments. David couldn’t say enough about trusting the Lord as His Protector, Provider and Pardoner.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:2
Half of the battle is understanding what grips us and doing what Jesus says to get free. But none of this will help anyone, if they are not committed to running to Jesus at the first sign of trouble. Trying to get free of the stronghold in our own strength is a formula for disaster or discouragement. We get our victories through Him and this means calling on Him and clinging to Him when we are under attack from temptation or our own negative emotions.
And here’s the best part: running to Jesus as our true Stronghold, not only paves the way to freedom from strongholds of the flesh, it presses us into greater knowledge of and increased intimacy with the One our hearts love. That’s a double victory!
How Spiritual Strongholds Are Formed
The enemy creates counterfeit strongholds in our flesh. These are un-surrendered, un-healed or un-crucified areas of the old nature or self-life. They rise up and resist the Spirit-given life. Self-protectiveness built them and maintains them, aided by the lies and temptations of the enemy. We are to resist them by pulling them down. Like David we don’t need self-protection any longer – we have the Lord to protect us. His grace is all-sufficient!
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the throwing down of strongholds, throwing down imaginations and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 WEB
Strongholds are habit structures of thought. The new birth gives us a new heart, but we have to change our former mental and emotional habits. We do this by working with the truth and grace God supplies. Habits are thoughts or actions repeated so often over time that no conscious thought is required for them to take place. Thoughts begin as seeds, but if unchecked, can become as firmly rooted as trees.
Strongholds are built upon seemingly apparent truths which are actually distortions of eternal truth. Our continuing agreement with them keeps them built up, strengthening the grip upon us of the negative emotions which they engender. Stronghold thinking is “stinking thinking!” Such thinking springs up from the murky depths of the heart of our fallen nature which is “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” according to the Lord, who alone can search it out. Yes, as if the new life weren’t complicated enough, we now have to deal with the reality of having “two hearts” in one believer.
This helps explain why living the new life is so easy whenever we are free of negative emotions (it flows gracefully from our new heart) and yet so difficult whenever negative emotions hold us in their power (their power comes from our old heart’s most cherished beliefs). We are literally wrestling within ourselves at times over which belief system to believe – the one that comes with Jesus or the one that we lived by apart from His leadership.
It is extremely comforting to know that the new heart we have received is entirely good. Indeed, it is Christlike for it comes from Him and stays ever ready to power up the New Creation life, whenever we break free of the strongholds that entrap it. The old heart, however, is the “stronghold maker.” It draws its power from all of the deeply cherished (false) beliefs and (unchristian) coping strategies we developed along the way with the enemy’s help. These become the wellspring for our negative emotions, for any emotion is merely the passionate expression of a deeply held belief.
If you are wondering which is which, then know that believing from the new heart always produces life and peace in any moment; believing out of the old heart’s strongholds doesn’t.
Pulling Down Strongholds
How are strongholds brought down? The things that bring strongholds down are the very things that would have kept them from forming in the first place – having sufficient understanding of how to apply the truth of God’s Word to the hurtful situation or wrong desire. So now, in the present moment when new situations trigger the stronghold, we can do what we didn’t do then and begin taking the stronghold down one victory at a time, under the Spirit’s power.
We do this by carrying their “high” thoughts captive to Christ. This is primarily a truth encounter on our part. We choose by an act of our will to cast down our understanding and break agreement with our feelings. As we agree with the truth (that the enemy’s stronghold is a lie and God’s Word is the truth), then the Holy Spirit strengthens and raises us. Confessing truth and renouncing the lies need to be done by the one seeking freedom – thought by thought, “stone by stone.”
When the stronghold gets its “death-grip” on our emotions, we always have a choice. Either we will carry wrong thoughts captive to Christ, or those wrong thoughts will carry us captive to do their will. Therefore, there is a great need to pray for revelation, because if we lack discernment the un-recognized thoughts have greater power. Recognizing stronghold thinking and being willing to challenge it with the truths of God’s Word, gives us the weapons needed for victory. Truth is always liberating – if you truly believe it.
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32
See The Power of Believing at our website for more on believing truth with active faith.