Day 52: Tearing Down Stongholds - Part 2
A few years back, I went on a white-water rafting trip with some of my friends from college. As we started off down the rapids, I quickly realized why we were wearing life jackets. What once looked like small, easily conquerable splashes in a river became treacherous waves when met up close. Fortunately for us, this was a trip that required a guide. He didn’t have to tell us to listen, we would have begged for his guidance for the sake of making it out alive. He guided our every move through the rapids, and although there were a few close calls crashing about between the rocks, we never doubted the grin our guide confidently bore.
Much like we needed that guide on our rafting trip, we need a guide in our journey through the rapids of life. The problems we face in life may seem minuscule in retrospect or prospect, but often times in the heat of the moment we feel terror as the waves crash around us. So who is our guide in those storms? Where ought we draw our wisdom, hope, and shelter? When our world seems dark, what will light our path? The answer is given to us in the book of Psalms:
Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me. -Psalm 119:133
This passage from Psalm 119 may seem obvious at first glance. And yet many days we can’t seem to let go of our pride and allow the Holy Spirit to guide our footsteps. Too many of us are stubbornly refusing to heed the guidance of God, and meanwhile we are heading in the wrong direction on the rapids of life. When I first read this verse, I thought it was saying “If I’m led by the word of God, no sin will overtake me.” Though that has truth to it, that is the wrong interpretation of this verse. This is a prayer to God, and the second half of Psalm 119:133 is a continuation of that prayer. The prayer is quite simply “let no sin rule over me.”
Make me know your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; For You I wait all the day. -Psalms 25:4-5
Job 6:24 was a prayer from Job to God during a time of total devastation (Job had lost his possessions, health, and children). Imagine for a moment that you had lost what Job had. How would you respond? Would you ask God to teach you and show you what you had done wrong? I'll admit that it'd be tough for me to respond with such a humble heart. Job, however, understood a simple truth: in life, no matter what we're going through, whether we've lost everything or we're trapped in a lifestyle of sin, He gives us the strength to tear down strongholds.
OUR WEAPON AGAINST STRONGHOLDS
For me, it was a lack of self-discipline that prevented me from being led according to God's Word. I stayed up late at night, never prayed, and never studied His word. At best, I did one or two things to glorify God throughout a week. This was simply insufficient. God demands our best time, not just what's left over. Spending time with God doesn’t have to be forced either. Even if at first you find that you long to be doing other things, you’ll quickly find the word of God jumps off the page and changes your life.
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. -Hebrews 4:12
If this verse is true and we believe it then it will have a profound impact on our lives. Think about what Hebrews 4:12 is saying. Pray on what is being taught here. The word of God is powerful, life-changing, and convicting. It molds us from ordinary men and women into people after the very heart of God. We become something we’d never become on our own.
DESTROYING STRONGHOLDS THROUGH PRAYER
Scripture clearly tells us that we are to pray against the work of the enemy. Yet some of you may argue: “I have prayed, and still I struggle.” I know what that feels like, friend, and I have been in that place many times. Understand however that God never allows us to be tempted beyond what we are able to contend with, and by praying against temptation, He will make a way of escape for you (1 Corinthians 10:13). God never calls us to give up in scripture. His sacrifice at the cross paid every debt, set us free from every sin, and gave us the opportunity to spend eternity with Him. Once you know and understand that in your heart, the sanctifying process of healing begins. Perhaps you’re still struggling with sin, and perhaps you’re frustrated that God has “not yet set you free.” Do you know what the reality is? You are already free from that sin. The price has been paid, despite your continual struggle.
When Romans 8:2 hits home, really settles into your heart… then and only then can sanctification begin. You are free… period. There is no war left un-won, no battle left un-done, no sin left unforgiven. You and I no longer need to struggle for salvation, that struggle is over. You are now striving to love Christ and obey His commands:
Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. -John 14:23
While we are certainly set free by Christ, there is additional work (called sanctification) that needs to take place. For example, by coming to truly know the power of the cross, my habitual sin was crushed. I was still left, however, with the scars of what I had seen, the desires that I now had no idea how to deal with, the sin of those who did me wrong, and the fears that led me to be weak in this area in the first place. Yes, the stronghold of the enemy was decimated, but there were layers of subterranean levels underneath the stronghold that were now exposed. God killed the infection, but now the wounds were uncovered. How do we deal with the scars of our past life of sin? How do we make sure those strongholds are destroyed for good?
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ -2 Corinthians 10:3-5
You wouldn't measure length with a weight scale just as you don't tear down strongholds with physical weapons. It's the wrong tool for the job. The right tool is the "knowledge of God." When you continue to hear, ready, study, and memorize the word of God, you are equipping yourself with the divine weapons to tear down strongholds. How can you destroy arguments raised against the knowledge of God if you don't know it? Christ, when tempted in the desert, stood up against the darkness using scripture that he had studied all of his life. He was human like you and me. It took time and dedication to memorize scripture. The devil was trying to establish a stronghold in the life of Jesus, but the materials never made it to the job site, so-to-speak.
Day 52 Application
What is it that often keeps us from walking in the word of God (see James 1:22-25)? Have you ever prayed, only to stumble immediately after?
Do you see strongholds in your life that have yet to be torn down? According to scripture, what is the tool at our disposal to destroy these? Are strongholds in the physical world built overnight? Does this also apply to strongholds built in our hearts? How will you prevent the establishment of new sinful strongholds in your heart?
How have you spent time with God today? 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?