Day 15: Tearing Down Strongholds
After wandering in the Sinai desert for 40 years, the Israelites prepared to cross the Jordan River and enter the Promised Land from opposite Jericho. Before making the crossing, however, Joshua, the Israelite commander, dispatched two spies to reconnoiter the city.
Narrowly escaping capture, the spies brought back valuable intelligence collected from Rahab, a harlot who lived within the city wall. Although the Jordan was in flood at the time the Israelites crossed, the waters were miraculously stopped and the Israelites were able to cross "on dry ground."
They then marched around the heavily fortified city daily for seven days. On the seventh day, to the blast of the ram’s horn, the walls came tumbling down. The Israelites rushed into the city and put it to the torch. 
In this historical account of Jericho's destruction we find a powerful truth related to our battle against sexual sin. To take control, you must first destroy strongholds that the enemy has built. The Israelites didn't stand a chance against Jericho with all of its might, walls, and defenses. To conquer the city, they had to first tear down its walls.
When I was younger I enjoyed playing a computer game called StarCraft. In this game, two or more players gather resources, create armies and fight for control of a map. After playing for a while, I began noticing patterns to win. Understanding how to take down an enemy's base was fundamental to victory. No matter how many battles I won across the rest of the map, if I didn’t take out their stronghold (their source of reinforcements), their forces kept coming wave after wave. I was only a matter of time before I became overwhelmed. The same is true in our hearts. We fight wave after wave of temptation all day but neglect to tear down the lies the enemy places in our minds, hearts, and souls. Lies such as:
"I'm not hurting anyone by giving into this temptation."
"I'm not strong enough to withstand this, it is literally outside of my control."
"Since I'll never been good enough, I might as well give in."
"This time will be worth it, I'll be satisfied."
Often we are so used to giving into these temptations that there is no thought process at all. We fall into sin like an animal into a trap:
With persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk. All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer stepping into a noose till an arrow pierces his liver, like a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost him his life. - Proverbs 7:21-23 (NIV)
To identify strongholds in your own life:
- Look for the things in your life that seem out of your control. Many people feel enslaved to pornography, thinking that there is no choice in the matter at all. In reality, we have the choice to destroy areas that have continually caused us to stumble. We may just need some help from our accountability partners in doing so.
- Identify the things that you choose over more important areas of your life. When I was trapped in a sinful lifestyle, I would often commit to pray for a time, only to instead choose surfing the web, eventually stumbling into temptation.
- Identify circumstances where you continue to find yourself feeling guilty over. Guilt is an indicator of something out of place. I used to feel guilty playing video games, not because they are wrong, but because they were taking the place of time I promised to spend with God.
Our hearts are a battleground. A war is raging between the light and the darkness and the only way to win that war is to destroy enemy strongholds. These strongholds are thoughts and even actions that we have habitually allowed into our lives. According to scripture, our hearts will even begin to change. We defile our hearts until they are no longer recognizable:
And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” -Mark 7:20-23 (ESV)
As we do this, the enemy sets up strongholds with the intent that we’ll eventually lose the strength or interest to overcome them. Or worse, we recognize the strongholds, but simply don't bother to confront them. Apart from Christ we are powerless to defeat this enemy. So what ought our weapon be against such a foe?
The best time to destroy a stronghold is when it's only a foundation. In other words, fighting back when the temptation first emerges. Allowing sexually sinful thoughts and actions to grow gives the enemy time to construct these strongholds, often without us even knowing it. Jesus illustrated the importance of destroying these strongholds right away when tempted in the desert:
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. -Matthew 4:1-11 (NIV)
In my past struggle, the enemy had set up thought strongholds based on images I had seen in the past. These images came into my head and haunted me until I gave in. Once Christ set me free through his power, mercy, and grace I began rebuking these thoughts with the word of God. In time, the strongholds of the enemy crumbled to the ground. The same will happen for you; it will be tough at first, but I promise you that the enemy will fall before the feet of Christ.
Just as there is a time to run, there is also a time to stand and fight. Here's how:
- Counter Attack
When Christ was tempted in the desert, he countered the enemy with the word of God. (See Matthew 4:1-11). We must do the same when facing temptation. Know the word of God, as Christ did, so that when the time comes, you are prepared to push back at the darkness.
- Visualize the War in Our Mind
Spiritual warfare is real and it wages in our hearts and minds. As opposed to dwelling on that particular thought or temptation, picture the battle. Picture yourself ignited and infused with strength through the power of Christ. Tear down that stronghold with the supernatural strength that only God has the authority to grant. Our imaginations are a gift from God too, use yours to imagine the battle taking place and the victory being handed to you through Jesus.
- Sabotage New Strongholds
Even a single thought can grow into a stronghold if we let it. Even a single impure thought will set off a chain reaction of temptation. Rebuke those thoughts and immediately dwell on the things above.
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. -Colossians 3:2 (NIV)
Even the smallest foothold allowed will give the enemy an advantage over you. Take every thought captive to the authority of Christ.
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. -2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV)
Day 15 Application
This will be covered more in a later lesson, but when do you feel it's appropriate to stand and fight versus turn and run?
How are you managing currently in this war over your mind, body, and soul?
Why do you believe a continuing awareness of God's presence is important? Have you been in contact with your accountability partner such that you were asked tough questions about purity?
Since the last lesson, how have you been with maintaining your sexual purity?