Monthly Archives: April 2016

Strongholds – The Heart

Peninsula Community Church

Strongholds – The Heart

April 24, 2016

Jeremiah 17:9-10 – The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.

As we continue our conversation on strongholds we will focus our attention on the heart today. Spiritually the heart has been defined as the seat of our emotions. Because of this, our emotions can be an area of our life that is ripe for strongholds to be established within us. The heart is that place where the enemy of our souls negatively influences until we are controlled by unhealthy emotional responses. Today, I would like to look at the susceptibility of the heart to errant emotions. We then will look at what we can do to have a new heart.

Let’s begin with the passage before us today. Jeremiah makes a definitive statement about the heart. He states the heart is deceitful and is desperately sick. The fact is without the Holy Spirit’s intervention our hearts will remain deceitful and sick. This happens because our hearts, as the seat of our emotions, can be wounded by past actions and by the words that have been spoken to us. Most of have used the cliche “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” How many would agree that is a lie? Sticks and stones do hurt us but words also hurt us. Most of the time it is easier to heal from the wounds of the sticks and stones but it is much harder to heal from the wounds of spoken words. Why is this? It is because words go to the depths our psyche. Words wound us. Words negatively effect us.

When it comes to the heart, I would propose this morning that there are several kinds of heart we can experience and all of them can be deceitful and sick at the core. I would suggest that we can have a wounded heart. We can have a hardened heart. We can have a broken heart. And we can have a weary heart. Let’s look at these for a moment. First, the wounded heart. This is the heart that is effected by the hurtful and negative words that have been spoken into our lives or by the failures we have experienced. You know what I mean. We hear words like we are not good enough. We are a failure. We don’t deserve God’s love. We will never change. These words have the potential to wound our spirit and injure us for life. As a result, unless we change we are destined to failure and to fall short of God’s desire for us.

Secondly, is the broken heart. This comes when those we trust have let us down. The spouse we loved, left us. We lost our job. We have had bad medical news. Our children have abandoned the path we have set for them. We have been hurt by infidelity and mistrust. For others it is the loss of a loved one. Each of these create in us a broken heart and broken hearts are not so easily healed. And if they are not healed they can be the reservoir of deceit and pain as everything we do will be filtered through the broken heart. Now don’t misunderstand me please. Brokenness of heart is a real issue. I have lived it myself. I certainly do not mean to minimize any one’s pain but I am also cognizant of the fact that if we do not allow God to bring healing to us the enemy of our souls can use our brokenness as an opportunity for negative influences and for the possibility of strongholds to be developed.

Thirdly, is the hardened heart. The heart is hardened when we refuse to allow the truth to impact our heart or we have been deceived. We see this in the Book of Romans when Paul says that those in the Roman church and in Roman society had rejected not only truth and but they rejected the God of truth as well. Through a rejection of truth, their heart had been hardened. The result was that the truth of God could not penetrate the heart. This occurs in us as well when we either reject the truth or we are deceived. Hardened hearts can also be realized when we continue to suffer from brokenness and wounds. We harden our hearts so we will not suffer any more pain. But the opposite is actually true. Instead healing we receive more heart.

Fourthly, we can also have a weary heart. You know how it is. We can become tired and weary of the things that impact us. We are over worked, and emotionally overwhelmed. A weary heart causes us to want to give up. A weary heart occurs when we confront the same issues over and over again which never seem to be resolved. Our children are rebellious. Our work is topsy turvy. Our family seems to have unresolvable financial issues. On and on it goes. The result is that we feel we want to give up because we are too tired and we no longer have the energy or the will to keep going on.

As we look at the heart we find it is here that the enemy of our souls loves to influence us neagtively. You see even as believers, while satan cannot possess us, he can certainly influence us to make bad decisions and do things that make our life more miserable. He can influence us to hold onto the past and not let go of the emotional bonds that are not easily broken.

But what is the answer and how do we overcome this? How do we experienced a healed heart? First, we must recognize that we need help. We must understand that our heart is broken, wounded, hardened, or weary. We must understand that we need something to change and begin to identify what that is. The problem too often is that we have been convinced this is just the way things are going to be. We are confronted with the messages that there is no hope and there is no means to bring change. We settle for bondage rather than freedom. We are convinced that we will live this way the rest of our lives. But that is a lie from the very pit of hell.

The fact is there is hope. We have the promise for a new heart and new way of life. We have a promise that God will take our stony, broken, wounded, and weary hearts and He will heal them. It is noteworthy that throughout Scripture that God gives us a new heart. He takes our wounded, broken, weary, and stony hearts and gives us a new fleshy heart. Ezekiel understood this when he penned these words. And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God (Ezekiel 11:19-20).

And then in Ezekiel 36:25-28 we find these words. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.

Yes! it is true that within our hearts there is a battle that is raging but that does not mean that we have to continue to live that way. We can choose to allow God to break our stony hearts and renew us with a fleshy, sensitive heart. Why is this critical? It is critical because to have a stony or wounded heart means that God is blocked from doing His work in us. And we need Him to work. By having a fleshy sensitive heart we are empowered to follow God’s commands and to follow His will which leads to receiving all that He has to offer us.

Secondly, we have to hide the world of God in our hearts. There are three passages in Scripture that bear this out for us. First, David stated How can a young man keep his way pure? Notice that David answers his own question. He states we keep our way pure By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes! With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.  I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word (Psalms 119:9-16).

We also find that the temptation of Jesus comes to mind as he was confronted by satan directly (Luke 4:1-13). Notice that in His temptation that Jesus did not use positive thinking. He did not try to hide the problem. He did not justify his actions. What did He do? He used Scripture to counter satan’s ways. You see much of the temptation Jesus was faced was emotional. Notice that Jesus was hungry and satan offered him bread. He was playing with Jesus’ emotions but Jesus passed the test. Finally, the Scripture tells us that when we know the truth, the truth will set us free. For this to happen we must know the truth and that truth must be applied in our life (John 10:10).

Thirdly, we must recognize that this is an ongoing process of healing and restoration. We can never rest on the laurels of the past or on what God has done in the past for us. We must always be aware of the tactics of the enemy. He seeks to capitalize on our weaknesses and our failures. He knows the hot buttons in our life and he knows exactly what will set them off. Have you ever noticed that we are attacked at the most inopportune times. We are attacked when we are tired! We are attacked when we are overworked. We are attacked when we feel under appreciated. We are attacked when we feel that we have been deceived. While I have overcome the enemy over certain things I must be aware that I must consistently resist the devil and his schemes and he has many.

Fourth, we need to shut the door of our heart to the works of the enemy. When we recognize that the enemy is at our door, we must slam the door shut. Remember Cain and Abel. God spoke to Cain and said that sin is crouching at his door. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it. (Genesis 4:4-7). This is the sad part of this story. Cain was warned that the enemy was at the door of his heart and that he had a chance to block his work. The enemy who is a thief was at the door of Cain’s heart to steal his heart, and to rob his brother of his life. Let me ask you, if a thief were standing at your door at home would you open the door and allow him to come in. To do so would not be very wise nor would it be helpful. They would raid your home and take what does not belong to them.

That is why Jesus reminded us that The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). We must recognize the thief for who he is. He is a thief. He is a liar. He is an accuser. The problem for us as Christians is that too often we give the enemy territory in our life that should never have been given to him. We open the door for him to come in and set up a residence which results in us being controlled by lies, distortions, and bondage that is unnecessary. The result is that we begin to die. We begin to become ineffective and we become weakened.

So let us resist the devil and he will flea from us. Stand your ground and be attired in the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18). Through Christ we have a new heart and a new way of living. We do not have to live in bondage or in the distortion that comes. Are you ready to live a new life? Are you ready to be free? After all we are promised an abundant life in Christ. It is a full life filled with promise, hope, and a new vision for what He can do within us.

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Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Strongholds – The Baggage We Carry

Peninsula Community Church

Strongholds – Baggage

April 17, 2016

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.

I ask your forgiveness in the beginning of this message. I know that it will appear that the message will be focused on my life and my testimony. But I ask that you bear with me because as I was preparing I thought there was no better way to express the power of the baggage we hold onto than through my personal testimony. As I share this I do not in any way want to take away from the Gospel but it is the Gospel and the power of Christ that I am where I am today.

With that said in 1979, when I moved to New York City after Bible College, one of the jobs I had was to help refugees resettle to the United States. In particular, we were helping Christians who came from Communist countries and had lost everything as a result of their stand for Christ. In that job one of my roles was to travel to churches to present the program and seek to have churches sponsor refugees. I enjoyed this because I was able to fly around the country and visit some exciting churches and meet some awesome people. On one such trip, upon my arrival back to New York I found out that the person who was suppose to pick me up was not able to do so and I would have to find an alternative way home.

So I began to consider how I was going to get home from LaGuardia Airport which was not as easy as it might seem. The problem was that I had a huge trunk, a large suit case, and a brief case because I had to carry all of the church presentation material with me. Upon investigating how I was to get home I found out that I needed to take a bus from the airport to the Grand Central Station. From there I had to take a subway to Penn Station where I would catch the Long Island Rail Road to West Islip. On the Long Island Railroad I was required to make one transfer. Can you imagine me pulling a 75 pound plus trunk (with no wheels), a large suit case, and my brief case onto the bus, down the stairs of the subway, up the stairs of the train station, and then down the other side to catch the Long Island Rail Road and then to do it all over at the transfer point.

Once in West Islip I called only to find that no one could pick me up. So I had to get a taxi to take me home. So now I had to wrestle with this stuff again. When I arrived home, I drug the trunk, the suit case, and the brief case into the house only to find the person who was to pick me up was watching boxing matches with his sons. Needless to say I was not a happy camper. By the way it took me almost four hours or more to get home from the airport. I laugh at that story now but the fact is the excess baggage I had with me weighed me down and kept me from being very mobile. I had to drag this baggage around with me in order to make any progress at getting home.

While this is a humorous story the fact is that many of us have baggage that tends to weigh us down as we take this journey called life. The writer of Hebrews expresses this as weights and sin. Both the weights of life and the sin (ongoing sin) that possesses us holds us back and causes us to be immobile and ineffective in this journey called life. It is of note that a weight in itself is not necessarily a sin but it is something that is cumbersome, annoying, and it holds us back from being all that we could be, otherwise.

I am sure that you know what I mean. Our collection of baggage begins early in life as we experience the ups and downs of life. For me, it began as a child because when I was just a year old or so I was rushed off to my grandmother’s house to live so that my mom could find herself in Texas. During this time my grandfather who was my best bud died. It was in that moment that I began to pick up the bag of rejection and abandonment. The problem of course was that as I grew older I began to stuff that bag with more and more rejection and abandonment. When I was six years old I moved back with my mom. While living with my mom we moved every year to two years until I was eleven because of my step dad’s drinking problem. At eleven years old I was moved to my aunt’s house because of the issues at home. And after one year with my aunt I suddenly found myself at the doorsteps of my dad’s home in Alabama. Each of these actions added to the baggage I carried. The bag of rejection and abandonment became much heavier. To make matters worse I began to filter everything through the prism of rejection and assumed that rejection and abandonment was going to be a way of life for me.

In addition to the baggage of rejection and abandonment, I also picked up a bag of abuse and wounds as my step dad was abusive physically, emotionally, and mentally. He would punish me with military type punishments. One such punishment was to have me stand six inches from the living room wall with one foot in the air for 45 minutes. If my foot dropped, he would slap me and the time would start over. This was just one case of the physical abuse. In many ways the physical abuse was nothing compared to the emotional abuse I encountered with my dad. By the time I turned eleven or twelve my self esteem was blown and I had experienced the power of insecurity in big ways.

This lead me to take on other baggage such as fear and guilt. I feared for my life as I did not know how my step dad was going to be when he arrived home. I also felt guilty because I felt I was the problem. After all my step dad would regularly remind me that the issues at home were my fault. He would say such things as I was never wanted and that I should have stayed with my grandmother. He would blame me for all of the problems he was facing and would blame me when he and my mom would fight which was often. At 7 years old I began to accept the idea that my parents issues were my fault.

Throughout my life I picked up more and more baggage until I was weighed down and had became immobilized by the baggage I carried. The fact is I knew no better. The fact is that people who were around me did not even know that I was dealing with this burden as I did a great job of hiding my real self. I assumed that this was just the way of life so I had to a accept it and move on. On March 4, 1974, as a teenager, I received Christ and through that action I thought that life would be grand. While I had been forgiven of my sin, I still carried the baggage I had collected throughout my life. In fact, instead of getting rid of my baggage I actual picked up another piece of baggage called religion. Even though I had accepted Christ and I was going to church regularly, I still carried the baggage of my past. Instead of living in freedom, I tried to obey the rules that had been given me. But as I continued my journey with Christ, particularly after my Bible college years, I began to realize that I did not have to walk with the baggage that was weighing me down. I learned that there was a better way of living.

Let me share with you a few of the Biblical truths I learned that helped me let go of the baggage in my life. First of all I learned that true forgiveness meant that none of my past issues had to dictate my present circumstances or my future life. You see I had accepted Christ but I had not accepted His forgiveness. I confessed Christ but I not taken what He had accomplished for me to heart. I failed to grasp what Peter had stated in 2 Peter 1:3-5. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. You see one of my problems was that I was relying on my own strength and I was good at keeping all of the rules to be a “good Christian.” I did not fully realize that God had already given me everything I needed to overcome the baggage in my life and that I could be a partaker of the divine nature of Christ which brings freedom.

Secondly, I learned that I did not have to walk in the fear of rejection or abandonment again. The words of Timothy reminded me that God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. You see I had so much fear that I could never be free or so I thought. I was afraid of everything. I was afraid of rejection. I was afraid of being abandoned. I was afraid of the future. But once I grasped the power of the words of Timothy, I now know that I do not have to walk in fear but I now have a power to overcome the baggage in my life.  

Thirdly, as I grew in Christ, for the first time in my life, I began to realize that I was accepted and received by Christ. Even though I had accepted Christ I still struggled with the fact that Christ really accepted me. What I did in life was in fact done to get Christ to love me and accept me. I did not want Him to reject me. After all I felt everyone else did so. As I began to grow in Christ I began to realize and grasp that I was accepted by Christ not because of who I was but because of who He is. Listen to the words of John 1:12-13. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. Look at this, Christ gave us the right. He gave us permission. He opened the door for us to be children of God. You see Paul is saying you are not just forgiven, you are accepted by God as His child.

Fourthly, I learned that I was not responsible for the actions or decisions of others. I also learned that I needed to take responsibility for my life, for who I was, and what I had done. While I had many things done against me I defaulted into the blame game mode. I had become  good at pointing out other’s sin and their shortcomings. I was good at blaming my parents, my step dad, my mom, my real dad, my step mom, my brothers and sisters for my sin and the wrongs I had done. But I had to take ownership of what I had done. I had to own up to my sin. I had to come to terms with the fact that I had allowed baggage to begin to dictate how I was to live.

Fourthly, as the baggage began to fall off, I realized that I had to fill my life with something. According to physics, a vacuum is never empty, it always filled with something. It is for this reason that Jesus Himself explains the need to be filled with all that God is and not to remain empty. “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came. ’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation (Matthew 12:43-45)

You see I can get rid of my baggage but I need to be filled with something good or else I will begin to fill my life with more baggage and I will find that seven more evil spirits will come. You see I need to be filled with Christ’s love and the power of all He has given me. I need to be filled with His word, His spirit, and His power. In so doing, I can let go of all of the baggage in my life and not worry about being entrapped by those things again.

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Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Strongholds – The Mind

Peninsula Community Church

Strongholds – The Mind

April 10, 2016

Romans 12:1-2 – I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Last week, toward the end of the service I made a statement that I want to restate today. Too often we seek forgiveness as a means to deal with guilt but salvation is so much more than guilt management. We must renew the mind and develop our minds to follow after Christ. The goal is to have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5) and grow to be Christlike. In having the mind of Christ we are empowered to overcome the power of evil and thoughts which do not honor God. You see God never intended for us to be just forgiven, but He wanted us to live in freedom (Galatians 5:1). He desires that we have an abundant life not just a mediocre one (John 10:10). Jesus envisions a life for us that is filled with freedom and victory.

To grasp freedom and victorious living we must recognize that the mind is a reservoir of every thought, idea, or imagination we have ever had. It is also filled with everything we have ever learned. Now some of you might argue that point because like me I am sure that you feel that you have forgotten more than you have ever learned. But the fact is it is in there. That is why we suddenly recall a memory or a fact that we thought had been long forgotten. This happens to us when we seek to live a full free life. We think we have won a victory and suddenly out of the recesses of our minds a thought comes. It is our mind reminding us where we have been, what we have done, and what has been done to us rather than what God is doing and can do in us.

You see he mind is a filtering system where every thought, idea, or imagination is processed. This can include both conscious and unconscious processes which effect and impact what we do and how we do them. It is through these processes that we begin either reject or accept the truth. Most often the truth we receive is filtered through our past experiences and the things that have had happened to us. Once filtered and accepted these thoughts, ideas, and imaginations begin to form and shape who we are and how we respond to life and they begin to define who we are.

Strongholds are established when we begin to believe the lies or begin to follow after the thoughts, ideas, and imaginations which we have allowed into our minds. For example, because of past experiences we often adapt certain views about life in order to function. Let me illustrate this. When you were growing up, you may have lived in a home where abuse was very evident. The result is that you begin to tell yourself that this is the way people are. The result is you find it difficult to trust people because you begin to believe that every relationship you have will end in abuse. At times we reject others not because they have done anything but because we believe that they might hurt us. We therefore live in fear and rejection. It is a vicious cycle of defeat. But God wants to deliver us and free us from these cycles of failure and defeat.

A stronghold can also be established in the mind by way of our personal attitudes. For example, we can be filled with anger or worry which binds us and creates in us a stronghold. Rather than being controlled by God’s peace we are controlled by worry and fear. Our fail safe for dealing with issues we confront is to fall back on worry and fear rather than on God’s peace. The problem is that we attempt to control our fear and worry instead of being set free and established in Christ.

The story is told of the man who bought passage on a passenger ship. He had worked hard to save his money for this trip. The day finally came and he boarded the ship to head to America. Along with his luggage he brought a bag of food and crackers to have in his room. Just as they were about to dock in New York the captain of the ship saw the man standing by the rail. The captain approached the man and stated that he had been missed at the captains dinner. The man explained that he did not have the money to eat at the captains dinner so he had been eating in his room. The captain hung his head with sadness as he spoke to the man. He then revealed that the meals had been included in his ticket price. You see for us we have had salvation purchased for us but we are not taking advantage of the everything salvation has to offer. We have been forgiven, yes, but we have also been given a full and free life. Let’s live like it.

Because the mind is the reservoir of thoughts, ideas, imaginations, and intellect we can be negatively impacted by the stimulus around us. So how do we live in freedom as designed by God. To do so we must fulfill the command of Romans 12 to renew our minds. And how do we renew our minds? We do so by being transformed through the renewal process. The Greek word for transformation is the word metamorphosis. It is the idea of being changed from one thing to another. The classic example of this is the caterpillar which is turned into a butterfly.

With that in mind there is a caution we must also consider. Transformation is not a matter of switching from one list of things to do in the flesh to a list of things to do in the law. When Paul replaces the list of the works of the flesh he replaces it with the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22). You see the Christian alternative to immoral behaviors is not a new list of moral behaviors. It is the triumphant transformation of the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ. It is a new way of living that is not managed by a list of do’s and don’ts, but rather it is a new way of living. Rather than a list of new activities, it is way of being.

When it comes to the mind I propose four steps to overcome and break the strongholds that impact us. First we need to test every thought. To renew the mind we must control the thoughts we allow into our mind. That is way Paul stated in Corinthians that we should take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). In essence, we have to cut off the power of the stronghold at its source. So what are you thinking? The fact is what we think we become. The thoughts we allow in effects what we become and what will eventually define us.

To bring something into captivity means to control, to conquer, or to bring into submission. We take every thought captive. We make our thoughts submit to the obedience of Christ. We make our thoughts to submit to the word of God. The problem however is that my mind does not always mind. My mind wants to do its own thing. That is why we have to make our thoughts obedient to Christ and to His ways. You see the battle for sin always begins in the mind and it has to end in the mind as well. To control our minds and thoughts is to know Christ and His ways. That is the template we must use.

A second thing we need to do is to guard against garbage. The New Living Translation has an interesting interpretation of Proverbs 15:14. It says “A wise person is hungry for knowledge, while the fool feeds on trash.” Nutritionist will tell you that there are three types of food. There is brain food which makes you smarter. There is junk food which is simple calories. Its not poison but it is empty calories. Then there are toxic foods which are filled with toxins that destroy the body. The same comes to the thoughts that we let in. We want the thoughts that are going to make us smarter and stronger.

Paul in Philippians 4:8-9 gives us a secret to control our thoughts and to control against the garbage that comes in. Listen to what Paul says. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

Let me ask you. Do you sit around and listen to gossip and negative comments? What do you watch on TV? What do you read? What do you allow into your mind that impacts and effects who you are and what you are about? When we put in garbage we get garbage out. The opposite is true as well. When we put truth in then we will get truth out. So we must begin to fill our minds with truth and what is pure. When you fill your mind with truth, the truth will set you free (John 10).

The third thing we can do to battle false mindsets is to feed on God’s Word and learn as much as you can. Be a student of God. This is not learning for the simple goal of learning but our learning must be focused on knowing God and understanding His ways and His wisdom. We do not study to get more knowledge; we study to become more Christlike. We must become life long learners of God’s grace. For example here at PCC we have a number of opportunities for you to learn. We have Sunday School. We have small groups. We have ladies study on Thursday. We have the men’s gathering at McDonalds. We have Sunday worship. We have opportunities for fellowship and to get together. We do this so you have an opportunity to grow and learn.

I am also reminded that Rick Warren has said that truth is never invented, it is discovered. We must discover the truth of the Gospel. We read! We listen! We study! We ask questions! That is how we learn and how we keep on learning. We feed our minds with the word of God because it renews and strengthens us. We feed our minds with the word of God because it begins to change us and begins to transform our thinking.

And finally, let God stretch your imagination. So many of us live under the power of strongholds because we do not know how to live otherwise. To overcome the strongholds in our life, we must believe there is a better way to live. We must believe that God has a plan for your life that does not contain the mindsets and strongholds that have been established against us. When we believe that God has a different plan for us, we really really believe it, and we begin to act that out we will live differently and we will act differently. By allowing God to stretch your imagination of what could be we can then move from a state of forgiveness to living victorious. That is the power of overcoming the strongholds in our life.

So how are you doing? Are you ready to live free?

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Strongholds – Boundaries

Peninsula Community Church 

Strongholds – Boundaries

April 3, 2016

James 4:1-10 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double- minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

As we continue our study on the strongholds that pursue us and enslave us I want to look at a specific area of truth this morning and it is what I will call a boundary mentality. A boundary is a line that marks the limits of an area. It is a diving line. It is also a limit of a subject or sphere of activity. Therefore boundaries are established to aide in understanding one’s limitations in terms of what they do, how they do it, and where. In the Old Testament, particularly, we find that God established boundaries so the Children of Israel would know their limitations and what they could or could not do. These things were established for their benefit and not their harm. As a parent we set boundaries for our children so that they would be protected and would be kept safe. One of the boundaries we set was that they could not play in the street. Why was this boundary set up? It was because we knew that playing in the street was dangerous. We also knew that crossing that boundary could result in negative consequences.

The fact is boundaries are necessary in our lives and we all have them in some shape or form. Boundaries are necessary because they give us guidance and they establish limits so that we know when we are crossing the line into sin, unhealthy relationships, making poor decisions, and so on. The law of God and the Commandments of God are boundaries that have been established to give us the ground rules. They were established not to bind us or take away our fun. They have been established to give us life and liberty.

But even in the best of circumstances what has been designed for our good can become a trap for us. So there can be a problem associated with boundaries, if we are not careful. You see the problem at times is that we allow the boundaries we establish to begin to define us. The result is that too often we are defined more by what we cannot do rather than what we can do. The fact us our boundaries must never define us. We must be defined by relationship with Christ.

One problem with setting boundaries is that too often we use boundaries to management our sin rather than allowing God to change our heart. I have often said that it has been easier for us to establish a law or in this case a boundary than it it is to deal with the real issues of the heart. We can have as many rules and regulations we want but we will still struggle because the heart has not changed. God is after a heart change and not boundaries. When we try to manage our sins, the tendency is that we become more legalistic than we should be. The tendency is that we focus more on the boundaries and what is right or wrong rather than focusing on God. While trying to live for God, we in essence live with a fear of sinning so that we can never be free to be what God has called us to do. I have shared before that I grow up in a legalistic environment. Rules were established to control us and prevent us from sinning. There was no bowling, no skating, no movies, no cards, no dancing, and so on and so on. What a relief later in life to know that I was not going to be condemned for watching a movie or playing cards.

The root of the problem is that boundaries, like the law of the Old Testament, point us toward what sin is and it defines sin but the law does not and cannot save us from our sin. Deception and bondage come when we believe that if we tow the line and do everything right then we will accepted by God. Jesus warns us about this kind of mindset. He reminded us that there would be many who will stand before God that will be able to describe their list of accolades and abilities. Even though they have an impressive resume of successes, the sad commentary was that they did not have a personal relationship with the very one they were trying to get approval and acceptance from. Jesus reminded them that many will cry Lord Lord and yet God will deny them entrance into heaven because they were not true passionate followers of Christ (Matthew 7:21). With that said I want to be clear that God does want us to obey His commands but we must never do so apart from a relationship with God.

A second problem with setting boundaries is that too often it too easy to move and change the boundaries. This is especially true when we no longer like a particular boundary or rule. The result is that we no longer have a fixed focus on truth in our lives. If we believe the boundary is no longer appropriate or it no longer serves its purpose we simply move, remove, or redefine the boundary. When we are with Michelle’s family one of the things we love to do is play games. But we always have a problem. There are those around the table that at some point during the game who decide to change the rules. They change the rules because they do not like the rule or they feel the rule is not benefitting them.

We see this being played out in our society in a big way today. Drugs are now being legalized. All forms of sexual sin are being normalized. Rebellion and anarchism are being praised as a way to overcome those we do not agree with. Our boundaries and our moral footing have moved and have been changed. Think about this if you will. It is very similar to dieting. I am sure that none of you have done this but I have. You say I will have an extra donut now and then tonight I will eat less but that never seems to happen. The problem is that once we have moved the boundary of what is acceptable we have the tendency to allow other things in as well.

This also reminds me of a story I heard a number of years ago. A group of boys in Philadelphia went into a local store and switched as many price tags as they could. They never stole anything but they simply switched the price tags on as many items as they could. When morning came, the store opened as usual but something was different. Both the customers and the store owners were shocked to find that the prices had been changed and the price tags had been switched. That happens to us. The price tags have been switched and the boundaries that once stood firm have been moved. The enemy of our souls loves to switch the price tags so we no longer value what God values and in so doing we move the boundaries.

The third problem with setting boundaries is that too often we live as close to the boundary as we can. By living on the edge we can be easily pushed into sin or into a wrong pattern of thinking. The closer we live to the boundary, the greater the temptation is to be sucked into a lifestyle or a sin that is knocking at our door. The other problem is that when we live at the edge of the boundary the lines of right and wrong begin to blur. It is here that we fall prey to the lies, the accusations, and the doubts of the enemy. It is way too easy for the lies, accusations, and doubts to become a part of who we are. In essence, we flirt with sin and we flirt with stepping over the line. All it takes is a slight nudge by the enemy to cause us to step over the edge.

And finally, the greatest problem with setting boundaries is that when we live near the edge of the boundaries we set there is a tendency to live further from God. The tendency is to focus more on the boundaries and what we can do and what we cannot do rather than trying to live close to God. In other words, rather than living close to the edge, lets find out what God is saying and do that. Remember our verse this morning that says“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double- minded.

Let me ask you today, do you have a security in the lines you have drawn. Or, do you rest in the power of Christ to accomplish His will in your life. Please note, I am not asking or even suggesting that you remove the boundaries you have set. I am simply saying that your trust must be in God and not in the boundaries we set. What if we changed our focus? What if we focused on Christ who offered us the cross and the resurrection. Let me say this and I hope you hear this. The walk of a Christian is not sin avoidance. It is Christlikeness.

Rather than boundaries we should ask what would honor God? What would cause His glory to be manifested in and through my life. You see setting boundaries focuses on forgiveness and that is so important but Christ died for more than our forgiveness. Too often we want the removal of guilt and not the work of Christ in us. Know this Christ died for more than the removal of guilt; he has called us to live a vibrant abundant life filled with joy, peace, and love. We are more than forgiven, we are called to Christlikeness. It means that I allow God into every area of my life. I receive victory because I am forgiven but I live in victory because I seek to be Christ like. You see the gospel has to be more than guilt removal it has to be a way of life. It is “life abundantly lived.” So are you living abundantly or are you living close to the boundaries?

So what do we do with this? First, what boundaries have you set in your life? Do you focus more on the boundaries that have been set than on Christ who died and gave Himself for us? Second, I suggest that you refocus your life to move closer to Christ than living on the edge. You will find that the temptation toward sin will be diminished. I am not saying that it will be annihilated but the temptation to be pushed over the edge is diminished. And finally, if we want to know how to live closer to God we must know the word. We read it. We memorize it. We live it. That way we can be victorious in all we do.

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Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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