Strongholds are discussed by the Apostle Paul in 2 Cor 10:4, "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds." It is important, first off, to realize that these strongholds are straight from the Devil and are a means of holding you back and keeping you under demonic oppression. These often will mimic holy things or appeal to the emotional feelings of a person, so they are not easily detected.
A physical example from the Bible is Jeroboam's false temple worship that he set up at the cities of Bethel and Dan. These were spectacular to see and impressive to the visitor and even the frequent worshiper. You would leave there and think you have "experienced God" when, in fact, you experienced Satan at his best deception technique. However, when you left there you would feel "empty" inside your soul and think that you needed more of it, and it would keep you returning to it; which, is exactly what it is designed to do. Likewise, Satan sets up spiritual strongholds that produce this deception technique in a similar fashion with the goal of capturing people in a false sense of reality – a lie!
Understand that true worship of God is not done with men's hands, but is accomplished through the spirit. "Neither is God worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing." Acts 17:25 True worship is a relationship with God as He, "covenants with them and puts His laws into their hearts, and in their minds." Heb 10:16 It is not about what man does, but about what Jesus did when He died on the cross for the remissions of sins. This truth should help you determine that if there is a relationship problem, most likely you have a stronghold problem.
This understanding will help you to notice that a stronghold is either in your life or in the process of forming. Because a stronghold detracts from the fruit of the Spirit, and performs quite the opposite. The fruit of the Spirit, is just like a "fruit." For instance, an apple, it has a stem, peeling, core, seed, blossom end, meat, and ect. So too, is the fruit of the Spirit, as it has several parts, but all one "fruit:" (Gal 5:22, 23) "love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance." When a stronghold is involved what you will see is the opposite of the fruit of the Spirit. For example, is there a lack of "joy?" Why is there a lack of joy? In the end it is not just the "joy" that is affected, but every component of the fruit will be corrupted. This recognition will lead you on to the problem of what is really trying to take the place of the fruit - a stronghold.
Once you realize and recognize the stronghold exists in your life, there is a process that is involved to bring it down. Imagine going against a military installation, it will be well defended. Satan also has his stronghold well defended, and does not want you to win. He is totally against you and has put together an innovative team that employs his demonic forces in the usage of technical and tactical resources. He believes these give him a decisive operational edge against any attack from you and prevent you from bringing his stronghold down. This is a real thing; that is why the Apostle Paul says in 2 Cor 10:3, "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh." Satan will use the things in this world against us even though he is a spirit being, so we must understand his tools and tactics; and, know what tools and tactics we have to fight against his stronghold.
RECOGNIZE THE STRONGHOLD:
The first thing you need to do is to figure out what kind of tactical stronghold you are dealing with. This is the hardest part, because Satan wants to deceive you about what the real problem is. Many people believe that regular sins are the strongholds, when, in fact, they are just symptoms of the stronghold problem. In order to bring it down, it must be properly identified. In this case, Ezekiel 16:49 & 50 will help illustrate this point. God tells us, in this text, about the "iniquity of Sodom." Most people will automatically associate Sodom with homosexuality, however, this passage does not include this in it's list of Sodom's sins. The reason is because homosexuality was a symptom of Sodom's real problem – it's stronghold! The verses state: "Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good."
Although, this passage helps understand strongholds, it may not be all conclusive for everyone’s personal stronghold issue. Let's start with a precise defining of these sins listed from this passage:
* pride – thinking you are better than you really are or thinking you should be thought of better, deserving of what you want
* fullness of bread – having too much stuff that distracts you from properly serving God, physical things (objects you don't need, excess food, excess money to waste on such)
* abundance of idleness – too much leisure time spent not honoring God (compare how much time you give to God v/s other things. See if it even equals 10%)
* refusing to strengthen the hand of the poor and needy – those lacking, mainly the Gospel, what are you doing to help
* haughty – think that you will not be judged for sin or that you can get away with it
* committed abomination – purposely disregarding God's holiness and purpose for your life, doing what you think is “right” or “good” even if it goes against God’s word, some even twist the scriptures to justify what they are doing.
Now that we have stated these definitions, the key is to see how these might apply to your personal stronghold. Here it is how in an illustrated form:
Suppose a man and his wife are on the verge of getting a divorce, he must ask "why am I about to get a divorce?" He may answer, "because I do not love her anymore." Follow up with the next question, "Why do you not love her anymore?" Answer, "because I found someone else." Follow up again, "Why did you find someone else?" Answer, "because she was not meeting my needs." Follow up again, "What were these needs, and why could she not meet them?" Answer, "The needs were relationship associated and she was not available." Follow up, "Why was she not available?" Answer, "she was working or out with her friends." Follow up, "how did you respond to her working or being gone?" Answer, "I went to the club or was on internet chat sites." Follow up, "why were you going to the club or getting on the internet?" Answer, "I had nothing else to do." Follow up, "why did you have nothing else to do?" Answer, "she was not there to be a part of my extra time."
These follow up questions get us to the main point that the guy had a problem similar to Sodom's: "abundance of idleness" that he claimed was "extra time." This was the stronghold. When it began to form, most would have just saw the sins he was committing along the way, but can you see how they were just symptoms of his idleness stronghold? Satan capitalizes on this, because most people do not see this as a "sin" and would overlook it for the surface issues and never get to the root of the problem. This guy may have hated going to the club or detested the internet, but kept giving in to these because he had extra time on his hands. Some would even dare to blame the wife, but we all make choices when confronting situations in life and the Devil will gladly whisper a wrong choice to you. It may not even seem bad at first; however, he will exploit it and fortify his demonic stronghold!
(Note: if you have problems forming these questions, ask a true Christian for help.)
TOOLS TO BRING DOWN THE STRONGHOLD:
Once you have recognized your personal stronghold, you must employ God's spiritual weapons of attack to "pull down" this stronghold. The Book of Ephesians clues us in to the tools we have available to us in Chapter 6. Here in this passage we have a list of armor items, but recognize, that most of these tools are defensive. However, to bring down a stronghold you must operate offensively! We have two items for this listed in Eph 6:17 & 18: "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" and "Praying always!"
Let me illustrate how a sword works to develop a proper perspective of your mighty "sword." Personally, I like to use a machete when I walk through the woods. It works great to cut small trees and vines, if it is swung properly. With one swing, I can easily slice through a sapling the size of a quarter, but everyone cannot. For example, one day I gave the machete to my son and asked him to cut down a few small tree branches and it was taking him a long time as he would swing and beat these branches to splinters, and eventually gave up on the tool and tried to twist the branches with his hands to break them off. The problem was that he did not know how to operate the "sword." It must be swung at an angle and hit at a firm part of the tree. Since it did not work correctly for him, he was frustrated and gave up on the tool, and tried to do the job his own way. Unfortunately, this is how most Christians respond to using the Bible and trusting God to bring down the strongholds in their life.
With this illustration in mind, we can employ the "sword" of the Spirit. Search the scriptures and find all the verses that speak of the stronghold in question. These must be specific to your stronghold and referred to frequently. Your fight against a certain stronghold will be frustrating if you are using the wrong text to fight it. Remember, a sword is a precise instrument and must be operated in a specific manner. The Word of God is the same. Reading about "love" does not help you when dealing with a "pride" stronghold. Trusting God's word will begin to weaken it and bring it down, but it will take time. Satan did not build it in a day, he was patient and fortified it strategically, forming it according to your personality. Additionally, patience is required when trying to overcome the stronghold.
The second tool available, but often unnoticed and neglected by Christians and teachers when applying the armor of God is praying. This reference is Eph 6:18 which begins with, "Praying always!" This is what holds the suit of armor together and gives more power to the swinging of the sword of the Spirit. Paul also mentions "supplication in the Spirit", which includes fasting with prayer. To be honest, most Christians lack in this area and do not understand the power of fasting with prayer.
Fasting should never be done without prayer and its proper application is given in Isaiah 58. God begins in Is 58:6, "Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?" Through Isaiah, God is explaining that fasting is for bringing down these strongholds that "band you in wickedness," that lay on you "heavy burdens," "oppress" you, and keep you "yoked" to it. The rest of the chapter explains how to perform the fast, but understand the main point of it is to expel evil from your life and to help bring down Satan's stronghold.
Praying is a must! Pray those scriptures we discussed earlier back to God, believe God can work this out in your life, and trust him by accepting and claiming all those scriptures. Remember that prayer is a conversation you are having with your creator, not just you giving Him your wish list. A conversation requires talking and listening, most of the time more listening than talking. If you are not hearing from God, there is something wrong with your prayer time and you must analyze the problem. Is your heart not right, are you unable to focus, perhaps the environment is not appropriate? Try different things: sing a song, read a chapter from the Bible, pray for others first, call someone and ask them to pray with you, etc. Mat 6:9 also can give you a good starting point as the model prayer, which, Jesus illustrated for His disciples when they required help with their prayer life. This really is a powerful weapon against the forces of evil, and very often those with powerful strongholds in their life can look back to when Satan established it, that their pray life was neglected. Now that you know, "Pray Always!"
STRATEGICALLY BRING DOWN THE STRONGHOLD:
Next, we need to discuss a strategy laid out in 2 Corinthians explaining the target areas of the stronghold. These are fortified positions, and once these fall, the stronghold will collapse. Paul says, in 2 Cor 10:5, "Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ."
The first area of attack are the "Imaginations." Imaginations are a reckoning, computation, reasoning that is hostile to faith, and an effort to make your conscience feel better about failing as a Christian. These imaginations are the stronghold's way of deceiving you by altering the truth and making you see it differently than what it really is. Romans 2:15 helps to understand how this works by explaining that the stronghold will make your mind either "accuse" someone falsely or "excuse" the reality. The whole verse states, "Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another." Let's refer back to the illustration of the husband with the stronghold of idleness. He may accuse his wife and blame her for his personal sin. In his mind this transfers accountability to someone else, and he will believe that the situation is her fault and that he did nothing wrong.
The other side of that is "excusing" the stronghold by minimizing it. You may hear phrases like "everybody makes mistakes," "were not supposed to judge," "God will forgive them," or "God made me this way," etc. While these excuses to a certain point contain some truth, strongholds go to the heart of an individual and reveal that their heart is not right with God. Again, this is a method of transferring accountability away from the individual. The stronghold still does not want to be recognized fully and appeals to the emotional side of sin with both of these diversion tactics. Can you see how both "accusing" and "excusing" are emotional appeals? These both try to bypass the rationale of God's Word and beg for sympathy.
The point is that you cannot trust feelings. The imaginations area of the stronghold relies on this heartfelt condition, but the scriptures warns us from Jeremiah 17:9 that "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" Do not pass the blame of the stronghold to someone or something else by accusing them nor excusing it. Take ownership of it and see it for what it really is: a horrible sin, that is detested by God, it is gross, disgusting, and an undeniable evil straight from the depths of Hell. Repent! of it and see it as God sees it. That stronghold will soon be at the mercy of the Great I AM; for which, He has NO mercy for strongholds!
Another area of attack against a stronghold is referred to as a "high thing" in 2 Cor 10:5. A high thing will seem to be very important you, even more important than God and service to Him. Here is a couple of questions to ask yourself about this part of the stronghold: "Does it lift up God?" "Does it help or cause you to sin?" If it does not lift up God and it contributes to the stronghold, you must somehow change its purpose in your life or get rid of it. If it helps you sin, you have to get it away from you. Recognize that this may be an instigator of many "symptoms," which are the sins that are associated with the stronghold. For an example, look back at the illustration again of the husband with the stronghold of idleness. Is the internet a "high thing?" This should be an easy one, "yes!" It could be used to lift up God, but in this case it does not, it actually helps him sin by giving him access to make him lust after someone besides his wife. If you have a stronghold in your life, EVERYTHING must be examined to determine if Satan is using it against you to hold you in bondage of the stronghold.
The scripture supports this examination process in many places, here are a few. Psalms 101:3, "I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me." This may take an extreme amount of courage and will power, or even get a true friend to help you by becoming an accountability partner, helping you overcome this portion of the stronghold. High things are things that a person feels are very important to them, even if they realize sin is involved with its usage. It is mentally challenging and a person may even try to weigh the "good" and the "bad" concerning it, then excuse the bad because there is some good that may come from it; just like with the internet in our illustration. However, if a stronghold is involved, and sin results when it is utilized, the scripture says in James 3:11, "Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?" "No, it does not!" If it is used at all for evil it is a high thing that will exalt itself according to 2 Cor 10:5, and you have to shut it down. If you fail to do so, the stronghold will remain in control of you. Basically, It will come down to what is really important to you, the stronghold or a God honoring life!
The third area that you must attack in a stronghold are "thoughts." These thoughts are lies from the Devil. He tries to make you think that the stronghold has a "good" purpose, and this purpose positions itself in your mind to generate an idea of expected outcomes from the liar's perceptive. Let's examine the husband again with the idleness stronghold. His thoughts stirred him to "think" that his needs were not being met and he "thought" someone else could and/or would. The Devil's tactic worked very well in this case as it often does with those who struggle with strongholds. It is cleverly disguised as a thought that the person believes is his own and contributes to the strengthening of the "imagination" area of the stronghold. Satan uses a person's thoughts against them as testified from 2 Cor 2:11, "Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices." This device is to mess with your mind and blind a you from the truth, especially, the truth of the gospel of Christ; whose light, if you accept, will expose what Satan is accomplishing in your life. (2 Cor 4:4) Do not let Satan fool you with this scheme of his! Allow and accept the logical outcome and Biblical end of your thought process, if it shows a result contrary to God's way, then you are dealing with a stronghold.
Finally, the fourth area deals with securing the areas that you have attacked: "imaginations, high things, and thoughts." Even though you may have won a battle against a stronghold, does not mean that you have won the war. You still have to deal with it and understand that this is a weak area in your life, so you must prepare to keep the stronghold from regaining strength again. Knowing your weaknesses and failures are valuable information as you walk with the Lord, because now you know that you must rely on the Lord to get you to the next level of your Christian life. Proverbs 3:5 & 6 holds the key, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your path."
The awareness of the stronghold and its potential activity in your life will allow you now to develop a plan of defense that will actually defeat it before it has an opportunity to rebuild itself. This plan can also fortify you against other types of strongholds that Satan may have planned for you in the future. To develop this active plan let us talk about 5 steps that will secure your stronghold destruction plan.
Five Step Plan to Defeat Strongholds in Your Life “LEARN”
Step 1: L = Learn all the verses dealing with the particular stronghold
Learning the verses that speak against your stronghold will help you in your fight to keep it at bay and allow you to take a fresh hold on your life. Deuteronomy 6:5-9 explains that we have to have the scriptures continually in front of us, on the walls, on the door, everywhere you look; you need to be reminded by the scriptures. There is extreme power in the scriptures. The Bible says in Hebrews 4:12 that the "word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." You need this "sword" to cut away the avenue of sin and potential start of a stronghold.
Step 2: E = Exchange the instigator of the stronghold with something holy/accepting to God
Exchanging the instigator of the stronghold with something holy/accepting to God means, that when the temptation presents itself, you have a prepared object or idea to which you respond to. In the movie "Fireproof," Kirk Cameron's character was prone to look at pornography. As he was trying to get a handle on it, the temptation presented itself again on his computer, so he threw his computer out in the yard and beat it to pieces. If this is what your plan is, Do IT! If the temptation comes to your mind, think about a family member: mother, wife, children, friends, church, church members, etc. Plan that whenever the temptation comes up that you start praying for this person. Make a plan to Exchange!
Step 3: A = Avoidance
Avoidance keeps you away from the triggers that cause you to sin. 1 Thes 4:3 states that "this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain" from sin. Hebrews 12:1 teaches that there are sins that individuals are prone to commit, in fact, it states, "that doth so easily beset us." These are sins that we actually like, but can lead us in a terrible direction, and are usually the symptom sins of a stronghold. Allowance of these will secure Satan's work in your life, so avoiding the objects that lead to sins is not cowardice, it is SMART!
Step 4: R = Read Proverbs and James monthly
Reading the Books of Proverbs and James monthly will increase your spiritual endurance, especially when followed. These scriptures offer principles that help you pursue holiness. There are 31 chapters in Proverbs, so read a chapter a day of each month. Watch your wisdom grow and develop! James is very similar to Proverbs, but just 5 chapters, and offers very practical New Testament principles. Apply these principles to your daily walk and watch God revolutionize your world and turn you from someone who struggles to someone who is "more than a conqueror with God." (Rom 8:37)
Step 5: N = Not forsaking the assembly
Not forsaking the assembling yourself with other believers according to Hebrews 10:25. You are not alone in your troubles unless you choose to be. The Bible tells us that "iron sharpeneth iron: so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend." (Prov 27:17) You need other Christians and they need you just as much. Also, there is the way that God inspires the preacher to preach what you need or to encourage you if you have had a bad day or week. Go to church, make it a priority in your life to be there as much as possible, and watch God work in your life. Have confidence that "He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." (Phil 1:6)
CONCLUSION OF STRONGHOLDS:
Perhaps bringing down a stronghold seems like an impossible thing; know this, it is the Holy Spirit inside of you that does most of the work. If it feels like you are trying to do this on your own, perhaps you really just need to be saved. Consider this, can you recall when you were changed by the Holy Spirit? You may not remember the actual day, but you should know that there was a day and it should be one of the best days you remember in your life, how you felt, where you were, and know God spoke to you. If you do not, "TODAY is the day of SALVATION!" (2 Cor 6:2) Know that "God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (Jn 3:16) "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" according to Rom 3:23 and that "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life" Rom 5:8. Jesus paid these wages for you on the cross and made a way for you to be with Him in Heaven when you die, by offering the forgiveness of your sins, if you will REPENT! Call upon the name of the Lord Jesus, "for whosoever shall call upon His name shall be saved!" Rom 10:13 "Confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus Christ, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, and you will be saved." Rom 10:9. God does not want you to live a life controlled by the strongholds of Satan. Commit yourself to God today, turn from wicked ways, and live a victorious Christian life!