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Overcoming Strongholds

Peninsula Community Church

Overcoming Strongholds 

July 29, 2018

Joshua 6:1-7 Now Jericho was shut up inside and outside because of the people of Israel. None went out, and none came in. And the LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days. Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. And when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people shall go up, everyone straight before him.” So Joshua the son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the LORD.” And he said to the people, “Go forward. March around the city and let the armed men pass on before the ark of the LORD.”

This morning we will continue to take a look at the battles of the Old Testament. How these battles were won will give us insight into how we should fight the battles we face. As noted last week, each battle described in Scripture is different in scope, different in how it was fought, and different in how God intervened each time. God used different experiences to show how He would intervene and work on our behalf. Each battle won was in fact a miracle that only God could do, so that His name would be glorified and honored. 

Today, we will look at the battle of Jericho. As we review this story, we find an amazing opportunity for God’s power to be revealed. To understand this story, we must begin with the truth that God had commanded Israel to take the land. They had been on the wilderness journey for forty years and had crossed over into the promised land. When they crossed over into the Promise Land everything changed. In the wilderness, God provided for all of their needs. He guided them with the cloud by day and the fire by night. He gave them food, water, and their clothes did not wear out.

You see while they had been given the land, they had to possess what already belonged to them. They had to drive out the enemies that lived there so that they could set up their homes and become the nation that God had called them to be. God would be there for them as He promised in Joshua 1. Listen to the words God spoke to Joshua.“Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.They are in the promise land, but they have to put into action what they had been told to do by God. They were to possess the land. 

This brings us to their first encounter which was the city of Jericho, an impenetrable city. History tells us that Jericho was a walled city with walls wide enough for two chariots to race around the top of the wall. Some historians have suggested that the walls were so reinforced that it would take even the most powerful force over a year to penetrate the wall. They also had enough provisions stored up to last them more than a year. It was a mighty fortress and Israel was ill equipped to take the city. To take the city, God had to intervene.

As Israel approached the city, we find that the testimony of God’s power and His exploits had preceded them. The residents of Jericho knew who they were and what they could do. They ran into the city for protection and safety because they knew the power of God. They knew that God was on their side. In our journey, we need to know that whatever enemy we face is more intimidated by God than we could ever imagine. 

As we look deeper into the story, we find that Joshua sends in a reconnaissance team to survey the land. He wanted to know the enemy and he wanted to know the odds that were against him. What they already knew was confirmed by the team. Their enemy was large, well equipped, and powerful. The city was well fortified and would not be easily taken. The odds were against them, but God was on their side. That is all that mattered. 

After the report is given, Joshua does what all of us need to do when we encounter an enemy that is too big and fierce. He prayed. He sought the Lord. And, because He sought the Lord, God gave him a plan to take the city. Even today, if I had received these orders I would have been concerned. I might have even laughed at the prospect of doing what He commanded. After all, no one had done this before and this was outside the parameters of known warfare methods then and now. Walk around Jericho once a day for six days and then on the seventh day march seven times without a sound or a word. Then on the seventh day and the seventh time they were to sound the trumpet and lift a powerful sound of worship to God.

They received unusual orders, from an extraordinary God. As we know, Joshua obeyed and the walls came tumbling down. Out of obedience to God’s will, the walls began to fall and they crumbled like match sticks. Not a shot was fired. Not a fist was thrown. Not a sword was used. Israel did nothing but be obedient to God’s way of doing things. Israel was victorious because God wanted His name to be made known and because of the promise to Israel that He would be with them and keep them. 

As we look at the city of Jericho, we find that it is representative of the strongholds we face. The way the battle was won was God’s way of saying that their battle was not against flesh and blood, but against the forces of darkness. This walled city represented the principalities and powers that Israel would face. But those walls fell. So will the walls and strongholds of our life, if we are obedient to God.

The question therefore is how do we overcome the strongholds we encounter? I believe that this story gives us some clues. First, we must know our enemy. Joshua wanted to know his enemy and that is why he used a reconnaissance team to spy out the land. He wanted to know the workings of the enemy. The Bible tells us that our enemy is not flesh and blood, but it is the principalities and powers in our life. The enemy we face is liar and he is the father of lies. Strongholds are developed most often by us believing and accepting his lies. Here is a truth however, the enemy of our souls seems to be a formidable enemy just like Jericho, but he will fall because he has already been defeated by God upon the cross. 

Second, we must know what the strongholds in our life are. To know the strongholds, we must know what a stronghold is. Strongholds are reoccurring destructive habits that ultimately lead to our demise. Spiritual warfare’s main playing field is our mind, our thoughts, and our imaginations (2 Corinthians 10:5). A stronghold is a controlling spirit. These controlling spirits come in all sizes and shapes. They come packaged in the form of fear, anxiety, addictive behaviors, false humility, regrets, failures, self esteem, and so on. Someone has said that the things we try to hide and do not want anyone else to see is the stronghold that most affects us. We try to hide our fear, anxiety, and sin. We put up a good front and yet these things left to themselves become the nemesis in our life. They develop into strongholds. That is why the enemy we most often face is not flesh and blood, but it is a power that overwhelms us. 

Third, we must fight God’s way. We must begin in prayer and then take every thought captive to the glory of God. The battles in our life most often begin in our thought processes. We entertain thoughts that do not honor God or serve to move us closer to His purposes. You see it works something like this. We see, hear, or read something that is negative or destructive. Rather than examining the thought through the template of truth, we entertain that thought. Rather than using Paul’s template, in Philippians, we meditate on the thought or idea and rather than consider God’s way we make other choices. How should we process our thoughts? Paul in Philippians 4:8 said this. 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.

Do you see it? Our mindsets and our attitudes make all of the difference. Too often, we relive the lies and the falsehoods that have been propagated. These strongholds become the walls that surround us and the result is we do not live like we ought to. We do not respond to others like we ought to. We walk in discouragement and disappointment rather than in the victory that is ours through Christ. But, if we are obedient to God’s way, the walls can fall. Anxiety will be gone, fear will be dispelled, and sin will be forgiven. Down come the walls. 

So, what are the walls in your life? What walls have been built up so that you are captivated by the power of the stronghold? We must know that God loves us no matter what and he desires to set us free from every stronghold and bondage that is before us. 

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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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.

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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How Easter Gives Hope

Peninsula Community  Church

How Easter Gives Hope

March 13, 2016

2 Corinthians 10:3-6 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

This morning I am excited about this new series. Over the next few weeks we will look at how we can overcome strongholds and mindsets that hold us back from being what we need to be in Christ. This series is a natural outflow of the prayer series we just completed. You see through the movie “War Room” we were challenged to pray. Through small groups we have been challenged to understand the grace of God and the power of forgiveness.

Two weeks ago, we looked at the Lord’s Prayer to gain a greater understanding of how to pray effectively. As you remember, one of the key parts of the Lord’s prayer is praying that God’s kingdom would come and that His will would be done in us and in our circumstances. By praying this pray we are literally asking that God’s Kingdom and His will would invade everything about us. We pray He would invade our minds, our jobs, our relationships, our health issues, and so forth. The fact we are verbalizing the desire we have for Him to rule our life.

That brings us to our study today. While we sincerely pray and desire for the kingdom of God to be established in us, the fact of the matter is there are many kingdoms vying for that position. As we have read in our text today, Paul reminds us that we walk in the flesh. We live in a world that has been subjected to the power of sin and the rebellion of mankind. Because of this, we walk in the flesh and we are subjected to the work of the flesh in our lives. But Paul is also clear that even though we walk in the flesh, as passionate followers of Christ we have a set of weapons that can destroy the schemes of the enemy and the the strongholds that have been established in us.

So what is a stronghold? If you look at the second part our passage for today, you will find that Paul defines the idea of a stronghold. He states 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. So a stronghold is a mindset or thought process that controls our lives. It can be a sin we continue to confront, a shortcoming or failure we continue to experience, a past experience we can’t let go of, or a strong emotion such as fear, jealously, or anger that keeps surfacing. Without dealing with these strongholds they hang onto us and deter us from who we should be. They become a stumbling block and serve to defeat us rather than strengthening us.

As we look into this subject let me give a warning at this stage. We must never become so focused on spiritual strongholds or demonic activity that we fail to see that Christ is victorious in us. To do so gives credit to the enemy that he does not deserve. To do so allows us to justify our sin, our actions, and our negative thoughts. It is more effective to focus on His victory, His word, and His power in our life. That is the message of Easter and it is our message today.

With that said, let me dive into this subject. We must understand that while we have come into a relationship with Christ, we come into that relationship with baggage from our past. This baggage can include but is not limited to various mindsets, emotions that have not been healed, sins that have not been confessed, or a misconceived theology for living. As we live life we are also impacted and affected by the experiences we have and the people we encounter.

To fully understand this battle our discussion must not begin at the fall of mankind or focus on the post fall condition of man. We must begin our story earlier in the narrative. The fact is we must begin with the intent and desire of God in the creation. Therefore it is necessary to  begin with the creation and not the fall. That is why it is not a mistake that the Biblical story begins in Genesis 1:1. The first chapters of the Bible teach us that God created something beautiful and wonderful. After each day of creation, God proclaimed His work “good.”

But why start here? We do so because we need to be reminded that in creation we were fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). We were not only created out of the dirt of the earth, but we were created in the image of God. That should mean something to us. Because we are created in the image of God, we have value and we have a purpose. This also means that every life has value no matter who the person is. He made an amazing creation created in His image and filled with His breathe.

But as we know, by way of the historical perspective of the Bible, there was a problem. Because of the fall of mankind, what God created was contaminated by sin. If you will for a moment think about life in the Garden of Eden before the fall. Man walked with God and He had an acceptance with God and with each other. That was priceless. They walked in an innocence that was pure and perfect. In the Garden, man was called to have dominion over the earth and the animals of the earth. So, we find that in the Garden of Eden mankind had acceptance, he walked in innocence, and he had dominion over God’s creation.

But, as we know, that all changed on the day Adam and Eve sinned. All of life was pushed out of kilter. From that day forward what was once so easy for mankind had now become a battle. What God had given man and the essence of creation has been defamed and destroyed. With that said let me make sure that we know that while the situation has changed we are still valuable in the sight of God. We are still a creation of God. That is why the process of redemption is to restore mankind to His original purpose. Redemption provides us with acceptance. We are given  forgiveness which is restored innocence. And dominion over all of creation has been restored.

As we consider this in relationship to the theme of strongholds, we begin to realize that humankind’s attributes before the fall become glaring needs after the fall. First of all in the Garden mankind walked in acceptance. But after the fall acceptance by God and subsequently by others was replaced by rejection. The result was a need to belong and because of sin it became more difficult to feel accepted. The problem is exasperated when we are rejected over and over again. The result is that we begin to feel rejected as a person and we begin to think that rejection is a way of life for us. Because of the feeling of rejection we strive more and more to be accepted and loved. In our effort to be more accepted and loved we succumb to peer pressure to be liked and loved. If we are not careful we will do whatever it takes to be accepted by our peers, our coworkers and our family. We end up in a vicious cycle of wanting acceptance but we experience rejection. The result is that we allow a stronghold of rejection to establish a false kingdom in our heart. When this happens we filter our decisions and the actions of others through the filter of rejection. Because we feel rejected, we lose the will to try.

Secondly, because of the fall of mankind innocence was replaced by guilt and shame. The result is that too many people have a poor sense of self-worth therefore they strive to find their worth and value in people and things rather than in Christ. The advertisement world plays on the need for self worth. If you buy this car, shop at this store, wear this brand of clothes you will have worth and you will be accepted by your peers. Striving for a sense of worth can cause a stronghold to be established as we will do anything to feel worthy, even if it is a false worth. You see we strive for self-worth by doing things we believe will fill that void in our life. We work harder and do more and yet we feel more shame and guilt. To make things worse we begin to filter the activity of our through shame and guilt which inevitable brings more shame and guilt.

The third aspect here is that dominion was replaced by weakness and helplessness therefore we have a need for strength and self-control. People attempt to meet this need by disciplining themselves or by trying to control others. Trying to control others is in reality a symptom of insecurity and a lack of self worth. In essence, we try to satisfy the need for dominion by trying to control others. Control is a stronghold that is sin’s answer for lost dominion. On the other hand while we try to control others we also try to control ourselves. We do so through strict and extreme efforts to discipline one’s self and one’s actions. We try to manage sin rather than dealing with sin. The result is that we are led to a spirit of legalism, perfectionism, and self-destruction. Additionally, when we try to control ourselves and control others we are never satisfied so we try and control more. Thus the stronghold only gets stronger.

As we bring this to a close today, I read this week that as believers we are not trying to become saints we are saints who are becoming like Christ. That is so true. That is why we do everything we can to bring every thought into captivity to the glory of God. We filter everything not through the hurt or stronghold but through the filter of God’s word, His redemption, and His power. In our HVAC systems we have filters that take out contaminates and dust out of the air. If that filter becomes clogged it will not allow the air flow through the filter and then there are problems. The same goes for our mind as well. We need a new filtering system. That is what we will be talking about over the next few weeks.

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Body, Soul and Spirit – Whatcha Thinking?

Peninsula Community Church

March 16, 2014

Philippians 4:8 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.

A number of years ago I took a course on counseling where the teacher focused a portion of her teaching on what she described as stinking thinking. What she was communicated was that we can so easily allow our thinking to be manipulated and distorted by faulty thinking, lies and distortions. Our thinking can become distorted through the outside voices of our lives. These are the words spoken to us by a spouse, a friend, a parent, a boss, and others. This also includes the words we speak to ourselves. These are the inward voices of condemnation and distortion about who we are, what we are becoming, and about the circumstance of our lives.

Faulty thinking are those lies and distortions that we have allowed to enter our mind and eventually into our heart. Once a thought has entered the heart, the heart directed to action by that thought. 

The truth is, when we do not bring faulty thinking into captivity, we risk that thinking becoming a part of who we are. We risk having faulty thinking dictate our response to life. We risk having faulty thinking create a stronghold in us that refuses to allow the truth of God to settle within us. It fights against or it neutralizes the truth of God because of the power we give it.

What exactly is stinking thinking? Stinking thinking is a result of a truth being rooted in a false reality and/or deception. It is truth that has been distorted so that we are walking in deception and in blindness to the reality of God’s word and the way things could be and should be. Stinking thinking places more value on perception and distortion than on truth. Now let me say this to you. I understand that this thinking, at times, is all we know. It is all we understand. This is true because of the experiences we have had. This is true because of what we have been taught. This is true because of how our families trained us or what they modeled as truth. Sometimes, as a result of this we have been deceived to believe that there is no hope and that there is little or no way out of the bondage we find ourselves. While this is the way things are, it does not mean we have to stay in this place.

Let’s do an evaluation. And be honest. Are you a pessimist or an optimist. Is your glass half full or is it half empty. The problem too often is that even an optimist can be a pessimist at heart. They present a good front but when they are alone they beat themselves up and distort the truth about who they are. When you encounter a difficult issue what kind of thoughts do you have? When someone mistreats you, what kind of thoughts do you have? Do you live positively or negatively? Have you ever known someone who always considered the negative side of things or the worse case scenario on anything and everything. When confronted with a negative, do you throw your hands up in despair and believe there is no hope and all is lost. It is my belief, and I believe that scripture bears this out, that one of the tools that the enemy of our souls will use in the last days is despair and hopelessness. When we walk in despair and hopelessness, we will be distracted and miss the good that God is doing in us and through us which leads us into deeper confusion.

Before we move forward with this let me say that there is more to this than just adjusting our thinking. Changing our thinking must lead to a change of action. This requires us to get the truth established in our minds so that we act out the truth of God’s word. We must surround ourselves with the disciplines of right thinking, prayer, and study of the word. Our actions must be motivated to change and align themselves with God’s will or else we will miss the mark. 

The apostle Paul is clear about where the focus of our thinking should be. Paul sets forth the parameters and the template through which we can begin to take every thought captive to the glory of God. Paul’s admonition is to think on the right things. Paul instructs us on how to change our thinking. We are to think or meditate on:  what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise

The first item on Paul’s list is to think on what is true. The root word for true means “constant.” It means to be found unwavering. It also means to be upright. Having this word first is not a mistake because the truth effects everything else. At least two realities are revealed. First, there must be a solid, nonnegotiable point of truth in our life. Our current society has made a tragic mistake in that they believe that truth has become relative to one’s own processes and what one thinks truth is. But, we must have a mooring for truth, or else we can believe anything and everything. We have people, yes even Christians who believe anything because they have had someone share it or say it and they take it face value. There is no filter for truth in their life.

Jack Graham in his book “Unseen” had this to say about this. He stated “The reason we need to focus on truth is that “for every action you take, your brain creates a neurological pathway that paves the way for familiarity, so that the next time you take that action, your mind already knows what to do.”

We also must resist the pragmatism of our culture, which determines truth by whatever works. If something works, which means, it brings you happiness (at least at the moment) or it accomplishes what you want, then it must be true. But God’s Word doesn’t always line up with what works. In fact, it’s clear that sin often brings pleasure for a season; if it didn’t we wouldn’t be so enticed by it.

It also means that we are not to be naive about life. He does not say to be positive thinkers, but we are to be truthful thinkers. We do not reject reality but rather we focus honestly and factually on the issues we face. Sometimes we need to ask ourselves a question. The thing that I am entertaining, is it true? Is that the way my spouse, my friend, my boss would act? Did they really mean that? Sometimes we continue to feed ourselves falsehoods and lies. We begin to entertain imaginations about others but we must meditate on what is truthful. 

If we want to be a better person and have a better sense of life then begin with truth as a gateway to right thinking. This means we must eradicate the lies that are presented to us. Lies about ourselves. Lies about God. Lies about those with whom we are relationship with. Lies about our goals and reason for living. You see as fallen creatures we are subjected to Satan’s lies and deception. We are prone to self deception. Remember that the devil, sleuth foot, satan, whatever you call him is the master at distortion. He can take even precious spiritual traits and ideals and distort them so that we believe a half truth.

Listen to what John 8:44-47 has to say about this matter. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

How do we know the truth? We read the word of God because contained within these words are the ways of life. How to live. How to act. How to freely live. For that reason, we must pour  ourselves into God’s Word and allow God’s Word to be poured into us. We should know the Word so well that we automatically run everything we encounter through the grid of God’s Word. However, if you go with the flow, you will be carried far from God’s absolute standard of moral truth as revealed in His Word.

Recently, someone shared a story about a letter they had received that devastated them. It had wounded them deeply because of the words written within the context of the letter. After we talked, I made a suggestion to them. If you do not need to keep the letter throw it away because every time you read it, it will cause a negative reaction. If you feel you do need to keep the letter, put it in an envelop, seal the envelop, scotch tape it closed and never read the letter again unless you have to. In this way, the truth of God’s love and purpose cannot be distorted in your life. 

As I close, let me ask you what things do you need to throw away? What things do you need to seal away so they do not impact your heart or mind again? What kind of unhealthy thinking do you have. Let us pray.

 

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The Body, Soul, and Spirit, The Soul Part 3

Peninsula  Community Church

The Body, Soul, and Spirit – The Soul Part 3

March 9, 2014

 2 Corinthians 10:4-6 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

As we look at the first passage, we see a couple of truths that stand out. First of all while we walk in this flesh as human beings, as believers we do not wage war in the flesh. If we battle with weapons that are motivated by and nurtured in the flesh, the outcomes are not spiritual and are most often not productive. When we battle in the flesh, we are driven by what satisfies the emotions, the will, and the five senses. When we are motivated by the flesh, it is easier to accommodate false beliefs and to compromise biblical beliefs by surrendering to a false world view than it is to stand on Biblical truth.

To overcome the flesh we must be walking in the spirit, but what does that mean and what are the rewards. Some of this can be cleared up by understanding Paul’s writings in Galatians 5:16-26 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident:sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self- control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

When we walk in the spirit and therefore refuse to use fleshy weapons, Paul gives us a promise that we will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Notice this is more of a promise than it is a command. To use fleshly weapons is to submit to the desires of the flesh but to walk in the spirit is to surrender our lives to Christ to His ways of living, thinking, and doing life. In the passage, we have a comparison of what the flesh looks like and what the spirit looks like. What a difference. Look at the comparison of the flesh as it defines the actions taken and the fruit of the spirit which deals with the character of the believer.

Let me ask you a question? Have you ever witnessed someone who has seemed to be a solid believer in Christ, only to find that at some point in time they do things that reveal that their inward life does not match the outward life they present in a big way. When this occurs, it is very possible that they were using the weapons of the flesh and not the weapons of the spirit to fight their battles. They were in essence facing a level of dissonance which brings their life into confusion. Too often, they live at a level of a hypocrisy. The reason most often for this is that they have been living and battling from the flesh and not a spiritual perspective. The fear of being exposed established parameters in their life where they only allowed you to have entrance into certain parts of their lives. The problem reaches a climax when we touch on a subject or issue they have not presented to God or for that matter they do not have a desire to surrender it God. The result is rejection, isolation, and ejection of the friendship. They would rather hide or run than deal with the truth.

The second idea presented here is, as believers, we have been give divine power to destroy strongholds. To understand this, we must understand what a stronghold is. In biblical times, Paul’s readers would have understood this terminology more than perhaps we do today. A city would establish a fortress around the city for two reasons. One it would protect the people within the fortress but negatively, it often closed the city off from the rest of the world.

Spiritually, a stronghold can be defined as a wall that has been built in the mind that protects the mind. A stronghold is a mindset or a point of operation within a person that holds the believer captive or he is incapacitated because of it. These things are initiated for several reasons. For one we have been hurt before and we decide that we will not allow people to hurt us again, so we wall up our minds to any future relationships. Because we have been hurt, it is extremely hard to let others in. This mindset may have been established because of a doctrinal position that minimizes the truth of God’s word or diminishes the value of God in our lives. This happens too often because the false doctrine appeals to our flesh and not the spirit of God within us. I could offer many other examples but I think you get the picture.

The ideas and thoughts that make up the stronghold in our minds are based on the lies that challenge the truth of what God has revealed about Himself and about ourselves. For our discussion today,  a stronghold is a mindset, an epicenter, of unbelief that exalts itself over God and keeps you from maximizing your potential in God in every area of your life. It’s possible to be active in the church and say the hallelujahs but be locked off from God’s glory which makes you a functional unbeliever in different areas of your life. 

I love what Mark Twain said about the thoughts we had. He wrote, “What a wee little part of a person’s life are his acts and his words! His real life is led in his head, and is known to none but himself. All day long, the mill of his brain is grinding, and his thoughts, not those other things, are his history.” (Reader’s Digest [1/93], p. 155).

Strongholds are also describe as an “argument or high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. Strongholds are erected through our thought life and what we allow to be planted in our minds. Paul continues to express at least two of these strongholds that effect us. We destroy arguments and lofty opinions raised against the knowledge of God. Notice here that the scripture does not say against God alone but against the knowledge of God. You see the problem that exists is that once our understanding of who God becomes distorted, we find that we become mentally disabled emotionally and spiritually. 

These arguments most often are couched in terms of the lies that are spoken into our lives. I often  go back to the events involved in the creation but they are helpful reminders to us that lies and distortions have been a part of our existence before the fall of mankind. The serpent did not outright lie, he simply distorted the truth of what God had spoken. What lies keep the Gospel from dominating your thought life? What strongholds have been setup in your mind, that hinder the sanctifying work of God in your life? What sinful thought fortresses reside in your head? If you remember the story of creation, you will see that from the beginning of time man has dealt with the issue of the lies that are spoken. As we continue to focus on the truth, rather than lies dominating us we will find that we are more successful in following truth. 

To understand strongholds, we must understand what causes them to occur. As we have discussed before, we find that there are several sources for the strongholds that exist in us. These strongholds can be initiated because of the experiences we have had. If we are continual rejected, we tend to believe that we are rejected as a person and we will believe any negative act initiated toward us is an act of rejection. This view can lead to a mindset and therefore a stronghold that we are rejected. A second source is the lies and falsehoods that are communicated to us and in us. If we do not take these lies into captivity, we can begin to be controlled by the lies. A third source of strongholds are the beliefs and doctrine we hold to. And finally, the influence of our family can be a source of strongholds in that we experience a lack of love, acceptance and encouragement, so we begin to believe that we are unloved, not accepted which results in us walking in discouragement, doubt, and depression. 

Let us look at just one of these sources, lies. I would propose that are many lies that effect us.

For example, there are the lies you tell yourself: I have to be perfect. I can’t make any mistakes. I am a failure. I am a mistake. I must be happy. I need people to agree with me all the time. I can’t shake my past. 

There is a second level of lies that are communicated to us. These are the lies the world tells you:  I’m only human; everybody does this. Do whatever it takes to reach the top no matter who you hurt in the process. Your value is determined by what you possess, and who you know.

Thirdly, we are impacted by the lies communicated through our relationships: It’s your fault. If I had not married you… You make me so mad. Why can’t you be like so and so? I wish I was like so and so.

Fourth,  we must deal with the lies that distort the Gospel: I must earn God’s love. God won’t protect me. God does not love me. I can do what I want and God will forgive me. If I were more spiritual I would not struggle like this. God will bless me if I obeyed. 

And finally, we have the internal lies that come in the form of the questions we ask: Does God really hear me? Does God really love me? Has God abandoned me? Why does God not stop the pain?

So how do we deal with these things. We do so by taking every thought captive. We in essence lay these lies being spoken into our lives against the template of God’s word. It is the truth of God’s word that sets us free. We will look at this next week. 

 

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