Monthly Archives: October 2018

Dressed for Battle

Peninsula Community Church 

Dressed for Battle

October 28, 2018 

Ephesians 6:10-13  Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

In today’s world many professions have a dress code of sorts. Football players wear uniforms. These uniforms identity the team, the player’s number, and their name, usually. The uniform in essence serves to identity who they are, whose team they are on, and it provides a level of protection or security. A fire fighter wears turnout gear which includes a helmet, a jacket, pants, boots, gloves, and ID badge. These items are worn to identify who they are and for protection. A police office wears a uniform with a badge, a bulletin proof vest, a radio, and cameras. These items serve to identify who they are and the vest, camera, and radio serves to protect them. The same is true in regards to the spiritual armor Paul calls us to wear. By wearing the armor, we are identified by our Lord and people know what team we are on. By wearing the armor we are protected from the enemy’s schemes. To be effective we must wear it. It cannot stay in the closet.

It is noteworthy that in our passage, Paul instructs us to put on the whole armor of God. As I was preparing for this, I was struck by the fact that he exhorted us to put on the whole armor, the complete armor, all of the armor. The insinuation is that we are not to go into battle half dressed. Doing so makes us vulnerable and gives room for the enemy to attack the areas not covered by the armor. Without the whole armor of God we are in fact set up for defeat because the enemy is very aware of our weaknesses when we are not fully dressed. Our enemy is the master of distraction. He is the master of deception and falsehood. He is the master of distortion and he seems to know right where to attack because he knows the spots that are uncovered. 

We are to put on the complete armor therefore we cannot pick and choose which part we will wear. We must put on the complete armor. Why is this? It is because we are less than effective when we pick and choose what pieces to wear. Paul exhorts us to stand in God’s strength and we do that best when we put on the whole armor of God. In doing so, we stand and do not give room to the enemy. We stand strong so he does not advance against us or the kingdom of God. As believers, we are to stand because God is the One who wins our battles.

In preparing for this, I was thinking about what Paul exhorted us to do. It was critical enough that he said it twice. I had an amazing thought in this regard. If this armor protects us from the schemes of the enemy, then we need the complete whole armor to fight against and counter those schemes. We cannot go into battle half dressed. For example, it is possible that we can put on the helmet of salvation but fail to put on the belt of truth. We are saved, or at least we believe we are, but our actions and thoughts are not founded in truth, because we do not have the belt of truth securely fastened. The result is that we become tormented by falsehoods, lies, and half truths presented to us. We begin to believe the lies and live as if the lies are true. The result is that we believe we need to work harder, strive more, and be more perfect. We can believe that we are never good enough or righteous enough for God. The result is that we are never satisfied with our relationship with Christ, with others, or our circumstances. We feel defeated because we have not settled the truth in our minds that we are believers who are saved by faith and through His grace.

Without the belt of truth, we will have a distorted view of God and of ourselves. From the beginning of time, the enemy has been at work to distort the truth and cause mankind to believe the lie about who God is and what He requires. It is for that reason, so many think that God is angry with them, and that they have done too much for God to redeem them or set them free. The helmet of Salvation along with the belt of truth leads to correct thinking. 

It is also possible that we can have the helmet of salvation on but fail to strap on the gospel of peace. When this occurs, we tend to look to other sources rather than the gospel of Christ to bring us peace. In the end, this causes confusion about our identity and whose we are. In our world today there are so many voices that are speaking into our life. Media continues to tell us we are not good enough unless we drive a certain car. We are not beautiful unless we wear a certain makeup or drink a certain drink. We are not attractive unless we wear a certain aftershave or dress in a certain way. If we could only win the Mega Ball or the Power Ball drawing! These voices tend to give us a false identity. They cause us to strive to be something that God never created us to be. 

When pastoring in New York, I had a lady call me to ask my advice about a very important subject but I had to chuckle because she prefaced the question with “I have talked to my psychiatrist, my psychologist, my counselor, my medical doctor, and my other pastor, and I was wondering what you thought.” One of her major issues was the confusion she had because too many people were speaking into her life and were giving her conflicting opinions. She was not looking for truth, she was looking for the answer she wanted to hear.

There are a lot of great people in the world with a lot of worldly wisdom and wise sayings. But, we need more than witty sayings, and worldly wisdom, we need the power of God at work in our life. We need the power of the gospel to guide and direct our steps. We need the wisdom of God to be at work in us. That wisdom only comes from the gospel of Christ. When our feet do not have the gospel strapped on we will be misdirected and misguided. That is why David stated so clearly that God’s word was a light unto his path. It was the source of his decision making and it was the source of his hope (Psalm 119:105). Without the Gospel of peace, we can roam aimlessly through life and never realize that we have been called to a greater purpose. That calling is to influence those around us. We are called to go where God leads and do what God calls us to do. 

We can have on the helmet of salvation but fail to secure the breastplate of righteousness. Without the breastplate of righteousness we can believe that we have to work to be good enough. We try to live by the rules without grace. We try to tow the line without the power of God. We fail to remember that we are righteous by His righteousness. It is only through His shed blood on Calvary that we are righteous. It is imputed to us and not earned. That is truth.

We can have the helmet of salvation but forget to wear the sword of the Spirit. The sword is one of two offensive weapons we have. Without the sword of the spirit we are often more reactive than active. We are often misguided in our focus in terms of our enemy and who that is. Without the sword of the spirit we try to fight battles in a way that God never intended. We try to fight battles that have already been fought and won by our Lord. We become weary and tired because we are fighting with weapons God never intended for us to use. When we surrender to the Spirit, we will have His power to assist us and guide us. 

We can also have on the helmet of salvation but not hold the shield of faith to extinguish the fiery darts that the enemy flings at us. Without the shield of faith we are susceptible to the darts and painful parts of life. Sometimes faith is all we have to make it through. We do not see the future very clearly, but faith keeps us going. We do not know how we will endure, but by faith we keep moving forward. After all faith is the assurance of things hoped for and confidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). The fiery darts seek to cloud our vision, but by faith we see through the darkness to the light of day. 

Finally, we can have the helmet of salvation but miss out on the greatest offensive weapon we have and that is prayer. Without prayer we easily become discouraged and distraught. Prayer is the greatest weapon we have in our arsenal. Prayer is our connection with command central. It is our connection with God alone. It is the source of power. 

As a soldier, you would never go to war without proper training, weapons, and protective gear. The Bible is our training guide. Our life experiences and our spiritual walk become our boot camp. The temptations, trials, and attacks we face are all a part of the warfare. As a Christian engaged in spiritual conflicts, you must never leave home without the armor of God! And let me tell you it is much better than American Express. 

As we close, I came across this prayer in regard to the armor of God. Let me share it with you. Equip me, Lord with the belt of truth. May your truth rule in my heart and be in my mind and on my lips today. Equip me Lord with the breastplate of righteousness. Apart from You there is no righteousness, but through Jesus I have been “born again” and made righteous in Your sight. May I live as a righteous person. Equip me Lord with feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace. May I reflect the Gospel in my words and actions, that through me, with my every encounter, others may be drawn one step closer to You. Equip me Lord with the shield of faith. May I take You at Your word concerning promises about the present and future—promises of everlasting love, abundant life, and so much more. Equip me Lord with the helmet of salvation. Remind me that nothing can separate me from Your love and that I’ve  been saved by grace. In Your grace, help me to say “no” to all ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live a self-controlled, upright, and godly life (Titus 2:12,13). Equip me Lord with the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. May Your Holy Spirit reign in my life and bring to my mind just the right Bible verses to be in my heart and on my lips. May I be “filled with the Spirit” and ready with Scripture as You were, Jesus, when the devil tempted You. And, finally, keep me in an attitude of prayer. Remind me to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions.” Cause me to be alert and always praying for the saints; to be joyful and to give thanks in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

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Preparing for Battle

Peninsula Community Church 

Preparing for Battle

October 14, 2018 

Ephesians 6:10-13  Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

This is the third installment of our stronghold series. Today, we will begin to focus our attention on the preparation needed for battle. As many of you know, I am a football fan and particularly an Alabama Crimson Tide fan. When it comes to football, there are a couple of things that every team understands they need to do before the next game. It does not matter who the foe is or how big the opponent might be, the preparation is generally the same. 

Throughout the week the team and the coaches are reviewing film from previous games and from the games their opponent has played. They are looking for weaknesses, finding strengths, and looking for patterns that can be useful on the field of play. They do not just watch film, they are also on the practice field preparing and running plays that will be used in the game. They are in the weight room exercising and they are doing PT on the field. Why is this? It is so they will be prepared for the battle that will take place on the field of play. They want to be stronger, faster, and smarter than their opponents. 

In this passage, I believe that Paul gives us some insight into how we can prepare for battle against our opponent. We must realize that we cannot wait until we are in the battle to prepare, we do so in advance. When it comes to football teams, they do not wait until game day to prepare. They are preparing everyday for the next game. They prepare physically, mentally, and emotionally. Think about this, can you imagine what would happen if our arm forces waited until the day of battle to prepare and learn to fight. Football teams and armies prepare before the battle. For us, there should be no exception. We too need to prepare and be ready for battle before we face the enemy. We must also acknowledge that our battle does not take place on Saturday at noon or Sunday at 1:00 PM. The fact is we are in this battle every day. 

As we look at Paul’s words, we gain a better understanding how we can prepare for the battles we face. The first insight from Paul is that we need to know our strength. More importantly, from a spiritual standpoint, we must understand where our strength comes from. Even more so, we must know Who is our strength. Paul begins this passage with the words be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Be strong in the Lord! What a powerful request/command by Paul. When it comes to the battles we face we must recognize that our strength is not in our ability, but it comes from the Lord. Scripture is replete with instructions about strength. In 2 Samuel 22:40 we find David making this statement of truth. For you equipped me with strength for the battle; you made those who rise against me sink under me. As we prepare for battle, we must know that our strength comes from the Lord. 

The word used by Paul for strength is the Greek word “endunamousthe.” The root of the word is the Greek word “dunamis.” The idea presented by this word is that the power is resident within. Dunamis is where we get our word dynamite. Endunamousthe literally means to impart ability or to empower. Paul is saying here that we are empowered to fight this battle because of the power that is resident within. As the power of dynamite is resident within the dynamite, so also all of the power we need is already resident within us. The real power of dynamite is not fully realized until the fuse is lit and the powder within the dynamite is ignited. 

Our power comes from God and not from anything we do on our own. That is all of the power we need and it is unleashed when we need it. John Piper reminds us that we are empowered through our union with Christ. Our connection with Christ empowers us and imparts to us great strength. That is why the words of Isaiah 40:28-31 are so awesome. Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Look at the use of the word strength in Isaiah’s passage. God does not tire or grow weary. He is always at work on our behalf. We do get weak and we faint in the activity of life. When that happens, He increases our strength. Secondly, while everyone faces struggles that weaken them and cause exhaustion, those who wait upon the Lord shall see their strength renewed. Think about that. We can be weak and weary, but God’s power, the power resident within us, empowers us to keep going, to keep enduring, and continues to enable us to overcome every issue we face. 

To have that kind of insight brings joy and that joy is found in the wellspring of His strength. In Nehemiah 8:10 we find that we do not have to be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength. John Piper stated that it’s a remarkable point delivered to Nehemiah and a people who were ravaged by war, weakened by insecurities, and constantly reminded of their own fragility. And this is where we find our strength: for life, for pain, for trials, for marriage, for child-raising, for missions, for everything. The strength we need for this life is found in the essential joy of God. Paul also recognized this inherent power when he stated I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). 

Secondly, while we need to know our strength, we also need to know our enemy. In this passage Paul reminds us that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. When it comes to football teams they can get distracted by the hype and the media that is seen and heard. They can focus on the negatives or they can get overconfident in the positive press. They can also get distracted by looking beyond the game they are now playing. They are not in the moment and are looking to the wrong enemy. You see their battle is not with the media or the fans, it is against the team they are playing. 

The enemy also loves to get us distracted to the degree that we begin to fight against the wrong enemy. Know this! Our family is not the enemy. Our job is not the enemy. Our friends are not the enemy. Our enemy is the demonic forces that are at work against us that desire to neutralize us and diminish our effectiveness in the world around us and the community we live. That is the enemy we need to face.

Finally, while we must know our strength, and our enemy, we must also know our equipment and get prepared for battle. In the case before us, we must put on the armor of God. We must be dressed for war and for battle. We must put on the armor provided for us. When the team enters the field they must be prepared for the game. They suit up. They have on their shoulder pads, their helmet, their cleats, and so on. They are suited up and ready for battle. 

Let me give you one thought about this idea of suiting up and being ready for battle. There this an incredible story in the Old Testament. David had consulted with Saul. David agrees to fight Goliath as no one else was stepping up the plate. After Saul and David agreed to allow David to fight Goliath, Saul offered David his armor. David refused it as it did not fit him because it was not the right armor for him. You see the world will try to get you to wear armor that you were never intended to wear. The problem was not Saul’s armor. The issue was this was not God’s plan. David’s trust was in the Lord. He had learned to rely on the strength of the Lord. It was not the armor he wore, as much as the spiritual armor that protected him and kept him safe.

The world is ready to give us all kinds of armor to wear. It does not mean that the world’s armor is always bad it just means that it is not always the best or God’s best. Think about it. Positive thinking is certainly a mindset we need. But a positive mindset without God creates in us a spirit that is self-focused, arrogant, and self-serving.

It is also important to note that the armor of God is something we wear all of the time. We are active in the battle, not reactive. When the enemy attacks your thoughts, it is not the time to try and put on the helmet of salvation. When the enemy presents you with the lies about who you are, and who God is, that is not the time to put on the belt of truth. When the enemy presents false doctrine that is not the time to try and find the sword of the spirit. We are equipped before hand, because we know we face our enemy all of the time. That is because we never know when we will encounter one of his schemes that want to take us out. Over the next couple of weeks we will review the armor we need to wear and how those parts of the armor is best used for maximum effectiveness. 

For now how are you doing? Do you know where your strength comes from? Do you know your enemy? And lastly, are you prepared for battle by knowing your equipment? Doing so allows us to be effective and gives us the upper hand in conquering the enemy and the strongholds in our life. 

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Strongholds Part 2

Peninsula Community Church 

Defining Strongholds

October 7, 2018 

Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Today, we will look at the second part of our study on strongholds. The goal is to learn about these strongholds so that we can understand how to break free from those things that hold us in bondage. I love the author’s perspective here in Hebrews 12. Lay aside every weight and sin that clings so closely. There are weights and sin that cling to us in such a way that it seems almost impossible to rid ourselves of them. We try but these things continue to arise and continue to impact us in negative ways. It seems that no matter what we do they are always there and we are always dealing with them. It reminds me of the plastic that clings to us and no matter how much we try and rid ourselves of it, it is there. 

As we look at this subject let us take a moment to review how we define what a stronghold is. Last week, we established that a stronghold is anything that diminishes the knowledge of God in our life or reduces how we see ourselves as a creation of God. That is the power and role of strongholds. Because our knowledge of God and our understanding of ourselves as a creation of God is impacted, these things affect us emotionally, relationally, spiritually, and mentally. Our whole man is impacted. Our whole life is affected. These strongholds become weights that minimize our growth and our effectiveness.

Because we have a diminished view of God and a misunderstanding of how God has created us, our relationships and our circumstances are affected. That is why we never truly sin to ourselves. We can say this will not hurt anyone else but that is a lie. Our sin and the strongholds we hold onto impact our jobs, our relationships, our future, and so much more. That is why it is critical that we both recognize and deal with these issues.

When we have issues because of our misunderstanding of who God is and how we have been created, we can believe that it is impossible to overcome the issue because we have sinned too much and what we have done is too great. We are often deceived into believing that we are the way we are and that will not change. Thus we never progress in dealing positively with our attachments and strongholds. We in fact get deeper rather than getting relief. Suddenly, the snow ball effect begins and the small manageable issue is suddenly a giant snowball out of control. Most of the issues we face did not start over night but slowly we become entrapped. The truth in this regard is that is that most of the issues we deal with in life did not happen overnight or in a instant. And yet it seems that all of a sudden we find ourselves embroiled in a fierce battle. 

How do these things happen? Let me give you a few things that might be helpful. First, weights occur because of the small steps toward compromise and the result of bad decisions. Strongholds are often the result of a series of smaller steps that we take or a series of bad decisions we make. That is why we say that our choices have consequences. The decisions we make today effect us tomorrow and beyond. We are battling strongholds in our life today because of the decisions we made at some juncture in the past. John Piper has stated that today’s decisions will determine what we will become tomorrow and how we will respond to the knowledge of God. That is so true.

In the Old Testament we find the story of Esau. A series of decisions by Esau changed the trajectory of his life. Esau took the temporary pleasure offered to him by his twin brother Jacob to satisfy his hunger, a bowl of stew. In doing so, he forfeited his future inheritance. He chose the now instead of what was promised to come. He chose temporary pleasure by forfeiting the eternal blessing promised to him as the firstborn son.

What temporary fixes are we choosing today? Is it the bottle? Is it a drug? Is it a sexual relationship? Is it uncontrolled anger? Is it gambling? Is it spending that is out of control? Is it isolation? Is it control? Is it an unhealthy love of money? All these things are temporary solutions but can have lasting effects on us! 

When we choose the temporary over the eternal, the easy over the hard, the false over the true, it leads to deception and bondage. It is possible that Esau lived the rest of his life wondering what life would have been like if he had not made these decisions. As we know the awesomeness of God is found later in his life. Because of God’s grace, Jacob and Esau were reconciled and their relationship was restored. It is amazing that we have the privilege to take steps toward God. There is healing from very bad choice and decision we make.

Secondly, unnecessary weight comes upon us when we fail to endure. We are living in a society that fails to endure in marriage, in our jobs, in the church, and in so many other parts of our life. It is a normal way of life it seems. It appears that a consistent long-term obedience is hard to come by. No one is perfect but when we fail to endure and push through, we can succumb to the bondage of giving up. When things get hard we run. When things are tough we give up. The result is that we begin to live with rejection and without a vision for a new day. We talked about this last Tuesday in our men’s study. We fall into bondage when we fail to endure and live out the promises we made. To fight the battles and overcome the weights in our life we must endure. The reward for those who endure is eternal life (Matthew 24:13). 

Thirdly, weights are realized when we do not walk in forgiveness. When we fail to walk in forgiveness we are prone to debilitating emotional strongholds that can control our lives and our way of reasoning. Forgiveness allows others to control us. By not forgiving others we give control to others. By waiting for someone to apologize before we offer forgiveness gives that individual power over us. It is for that reason that we must learn to let go of the hurt, pain, or anger we experience for our own sake. We need to release others so that a root of bitterness does not grow in us. That is the problem when we do not forgive others. We are filled with bitterness, anger, and hatred. Therefore, we must release others so we can be healed. 

Fourth, weights occur when we do not effectively deal with the hurt and pain we have experienced. Rather than release the pain and hurt we hold on to it. Instead of releasing our hurt and pain we weaponize it. We use it as an excuse for failure. We use it against others. We use it get our way. In fact, we become so good at it that we do not even think we have a problem. We begin to think everyone else is the problem and fail to accept any responsibility for our part of the problem. 

We often use our pain to cover up and hide our issues. We can hide our hurt so deeply that we can believe that we can never love again. We can hide behind the pain so that we protect ourselves from any future hurt, or so we think. We turn to drugs, alcohol, sexual relationships, and so on to numb the pain in an attempt to live a normal life. But, the more we depend on these things the less we live in reality. The less we live with the truth of God’s love for us and the destiny of God’s purpose in our life. 

So what do we do? In this passage, we find a couple of specifics that introduce us to how we should deal with strongholds. We will look at this more deeply next week. The passage begins with the letting go of every weight and sin that clings to us and keeps us from running the race we have been called to. It is amazing that when we start to have problems, these things seem to never let us go but they keep fighting and battling us. They cling to us. No matter how we try they are there.

The term here is an athletic term. It refers to the one who runs a race that must rid themselves of everything that hinders them. I have known runners that wear heavier clothing and they wear weights while they are practicing, but when they are in the race they get rid of everything that would slow them down. We must shed the hindrances and the bondages of our life so we can run an effective race for Christ.

The second part of this passage calls us to focus on Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. The point being made is this. We began this relationship with Christ by faith and it is that faith that will sustain us. When we have problems if we are not careful our focus will be misaligned and our hearts will be out of focus.

In the final analysis, we have to make a decision. We have to determine that we need and want to change. We have all heard it said that when they reach bottom they will change. There is truth to that but we do not have to wait until we reach the bottom. We can make a conscious decision to lay aside every weight and sin that so easily besets us or clings to us today. 

It is not easy but this works begins with a decision that we want to change and are tired of the way we have been living, and we are tired of giving control over to someone or something else. It is a decision that we will do whatever it takes to overcome the enemy’s purposes for our live and align ourselves with the purposes of God. Are you ready? I know you can do it! It begins with a simple decision to focus on Christ, the one who is the author and finisher of our faith.

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Understanding Spiritual Strongholds 

Peninsula Community Church 

Understanding Spiritual Strongholds 

September 30, 2018 

2 Corinthians 10:4-6 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, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

Over the last few weeks, and especially this week, our eyes have been focused on the events surrounding Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation. This has unsettled so many on both sides of the issues. The way this has been handled, the words that have been spoken, and the lack of substantial evidence should not surprise us. Let me say this, I believe that Dr. Ford has most likely suffered some traumatic event in her life, but it is unfair to accuse one that seems completely innocent. The Bible is explicit that in the last days we would find ourselves facing the truth that right would be wrong and wrong would be right. The enemy is having a hay day and is causing division on so many levels and not just politically. It is happening in government, yes, but, it is also happening in communities. It is happening in our relationships. It is happening within us. It is happening all around us.

With that in mind I would like to take the next couple of weeks to review the power of strongholds and the various aspects of spiritual warfare. During this time we will look at the spiritual influences that impact our life. We will examine the affect of these spiritual influences on us and on society. We will review the process of how strongholds are established in our life. I ask that you pray as we begin to discuss these things, as I know that we will face opposition and will face our own level of spiritual warfare in greater ways. But, I think it will be worth it. 

As we begin, perhaps it would be helpful to define what a stronghold is and how demonic influences impact us. I love what Max Lucado says. A stronghold is a false premise that denies God’s promises and diminishes the knowledge of God. In our passage today, Paul states that a stronghold  “sets itself up against the knowledge of God.” It attempts to magnify the problem and minimize God’s ability to solve it. That is the greatest impact of a stronghold in our life. It seeks to destroy or negatively impact the knowledge of God in our life. It’s goal is to distort truth and distract from that which is God’s word and God’s truth. Its goal is to keep us from seeing God for who He is and to see how He has created us.

In my opinion this is the bottom line for most of the issues we face. I remind you that these issues in their most basic understanding are not political but are spiritual at their core. The things we face today are a fight for rulership and authority in our life. It is a battle for control. It is a battle for the moral high ground. It is a battle that goes beyond democratic and republican parties. This is not a political battle but it is certainly a spiritual battle for the soul of mankind. It is not an American issue. It is a battle for spiritual dominance and a reset of the Biblical worldview.

Because these are spiritual issues, most of the problems we face are a result of the fact that God’s influence in our society has been reduced and in many cases has been removed. We have removed prayer from the public arena. We have removed God from our schools. We have not asked God to be at the forefront of our decisions and actions. In fact, in many arenas God is the problem and therefore He must be removed. The result of removing God from the public debate is that we are becoming more and more godless as a nation. We are becoming more interested in political power, self-exaltation, and selfish gain than being a God fearing nation. 

I have argued for some time that most of the issues, if not all of the issues, we face today are a result of satanic influences that move men against God. Whatever the issue, it is spiritual at its core. Whether it is abortion, feminism, gay rights, abortion rights, sexual identity, pornography, or any of the many other issues that are at the forefront of our society, these issues are spiritual at their core. In reality it is an argument against God’s design for the world. Many of the issues we encounter are in reality contrary to what God desires and to His character. 

In our passage today, we are confronted with the idea of spiritual warfare. We fail too often because we fail to understand that we are in a battle and it is a battle for truth and righteousness. It is not just any truth or righteousness, as defined by those around us. It is a matter of what God believes to be true and what He believes to be righteousness. You see once we move off center, in regard to God’s truth, we subject ourselves to strongholds and negative spiritual forces. 

So what do we do. First, we must be aware that the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. Here is the point we do not fight like others do. We fight with God’s arsenal. Look at what Paul says in Ephesians 6:12. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Notice here that our battle is with spiritual forces whose purpose is to destroy our view of God. If these forces go unrestrained, they will hold sway over this world and will control our thoughts. 

Here is the truth, our battle is not with liberals or the unsaved. Our battle is against demonic forces that influence people with negative attitudes and false doctrine. When God and God’s truth is rejected long enough, God will allow man to believe whatever they want. He will allow man to do whatever he wants. That is what Paul says in Romans 1. Those who refused to acknowledge the truth and refused to acknowledge God, as God, have become futile in their thinking and their hearts have been darkened. 

Sadly, today we are looking at hearts that have been darkened by sinful choices and their thinking is futile as a result of rejecting God. They have become futile in their thinking which blocks truth. It is noteworthy that the word futile comes from a Latin root word that means “leaky.” Because they are futile in their thinking, they are incapable of producing any useful result. Why do we scratch our heads at some of the decisions those without Christ and those who have been captivated by demonic influences make? It is because their thinking is futile and is not producing any positive results. Their hearts have been darkened. That is why many can do horrific things without batting an eye or thinking twice about it. 

Secondly, in this process, we must not attack people but we must attack problems. That is why Paul states that our warfare is not of the flesh but it is spiritual. The enemy loves to get us to the point where we make the person the problem, but it is the spiritual dynamic that is at work and that makes the difference. Certain people are the tools of demonic influence but they are not the problem. The stronghold in their life is the problem. Rather than attack the person, we must address the spiritual influences that affect them so they are healed. 

Thirdly, we must pray for those who are darkened in their thinking. Judge Kavanaugh’s daughter had the right idea. We need to pray for those who would attack righteousness and a Godly worldview. I wonder if we realize how powerful a tool we have through prayer. Here is the problem so often. We are quick to post our views on Facebook, and talk around the tables at McDonalds, and the water cooler at work, but how much have we really prayed? How much have we humbled ourselves so that we are coming from the purity of a heart that is focused on God’s will and purpose? Certainly we are angry and we a filled with sadness about a process that has become convoluted. We are dismayed at the level of spiritual influence that is working against the knowledge of God, but in all of that we must focus our attention on our own heart. Last week we talked about giving grace. Grace is given when we humble ourselves before God and focus our attention upon Him with prayer.

2 Chronicles 7:14 comes to mind in this moment. Listen to God’s words. Then the LORD appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. Did you notice what this says? If we do these things God will answer. There is hope in prayer. 

Fourth, we must destroy the arguments and lofty opinions about the knowledge of God. How do we do this? We present the truth. We live the truth. We breath the truth. Truth is the best way to destroy arguments and lofty opinions. Paul continues to tell us that we must take captive those thoughts which diminish the knowledge of God in our life. This is both a personal response and a corporate response. But, we cannot have a positive corporate response if we are not willing to deal with our own futile thinking and the places where our hearts are darkened. 

As we close, let me give you three things that help us take other thoughts captive and that should encourage us. First, God is the origin of all things. He is the creator of all the heavens and the earth. He has it under control. Secondly, He is the Lord of all things. Congress is not Lord! President Trumpet is not Lord! God is Lord. He has been and continues to be our Lord. The enemy’s work does not change the fact that He is the Lord of all things. Thirdly, we are accountable to Him for all that we do. One of the things that rubs man the wrong way is to present an authority higher than he is. We do not want to surrender to any one. We are our own god and we are self-sufficient to the degree that we do not need anyone else in our life. But we must recognize that we are not our own god. We live in authority to God who is higher than all of us. That brings healing and that brings us hope in a convoluted and a spiritually bankrupt world. 

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Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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