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Strongholds Part 2

Peninsula Community Church 

Defining Strongholds

October 7, 2018 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/messages.

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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The Pathway to Forgiveness – The Benefits

Peninsula Community Church

The Pathway to Forgiveness – The Benefits

January 22, 2012

 Psalm 139:14 – I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

David realized that we are a creation of God. In that creation we were created for a purpose and for a reason. In the creation of mankind it was God’s desire that we align ourselves with His purposes and plans. When we step outside of God’s divine plan we experience hurt and woundedness as illustrated by life itself. When we fail to follow the Ten Commandments for example we find ourselves plagued by guilt and shame. We worry about someone finding out about the real us and therefore we try to hide even more. When we are not aligned with God’s will and His purpose we will lie, kill, covet our brother’s wife and so on. Rather than bringing life this brings death, fear and ongoing issues.

Because we are ­­fearfully and wonderfully made we must learn to walk in forgiveness. Walking in forgiveness is God’s design so that we do not live with fear of reprisal. We live with a short list of wrongs against our brother, family and friends. When we walk in forgiveness and we align ourselves with God’s will in this matter we will experience God’s grace.

It is interesting to note that until the 1960’s and really not until the mid 1990’s that psychologists and sociologists began to exam the benefits of walking in forgiveness. Since that time some amazing facts have been revealed. Of course it is interesting to me that God knew this long before 1960 or 1990 for He challenged believers in the New Testament to live a live characterized by forgiveness. It is for that reason that Jesus would not allow Peter to get away with the minimum requirement for forgiveness.

You remember the story of Peter in Matthew 18 who thought that he was being spiritual by saying that one should forgive seven times. A historical contextual reading of this passage reveals that Peter was saying that if do the minimum amount required have I been successful. Jesus’ reply was no you need to forgive and continue to forgive until your heart is at peace with the other person. This is not as much a verbal forgiveness as it is an inward act of healing and restoration.

Here are the words of the text. Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. In essence Jesus was saying that you will be confronted by reasons to not forgive the other person but you forgive because it is the right thing to do. And every time a reason presents itself to walk in unforgiveness you resist and let God heal you.

Sometimes the only way we know that we have forgiven the other person is when we are confronted by the same person or the same issue. You know that you are walking in forgiveness when you see the person at the end of the grocery aisle and you do not burn shopping cart rubber trying to get down another aisle.

Jesus understood what we are only beginning to find out and that is that when we walk in forgiveness we realize benefits that affect us physically, emotionally/mentally, relationally and spiritually.  By walking in forgiveness we realize the benefits of experiencing the grace and mercy of God in our lives. Let’s look at some of the benefits of forgiving others:

The first of these are the physical benefits of forgiveness. Studies have shown that when people walk in hostility and anger toward others that their blood pressure becomes elevated and that those who are chronically hostile toward another individual has a raised potential for coronary disease. A lack of forgiveness can cause other physical issues such as fatigue, ulcers, loss of memory, misplaced anger and other such issues. However, these studies have shown that when one begins to deal with the issues that have created unforgiveness one’s blood pressure and heart rate are lowered and many of the other physical ailments are either drastically reduced or completely eliminated.

The second benefit is seen in the area of emotional and mental benefits. Paul Meier discovered that those who allow anger and bitterness to rule and reign in their life had a higher potential for chronic depression. One of the primary drivers of this is the fact that the brain communicates by way of electrical impulses. The vehicle used to transmit these impulses is a chemical in the brain called serotonin and dopamine. When one is chronically angry or bitter research has shown that these chemicals are depleted. Because we are fearfully and wonderfully made when we live outside of the will of God in this area of our life there are adverse affects. The most common treatment for this issue in the psychological world is to administer drugs that will help supply these chemicals to the brain. However, as we all know these drugs have side effects that create and cause other issues and symptoms. While these drugs can be good to help someone get there life in balance, drugs alone are not adept at bringing healing. What Meier and others have found is that when one can fully forgive the one that they are angry with or the one who has caused the bitterness in their life the brain begins to reproduce the chemicals it needs again. In fact, studies have shown that if a program of forgiveness intervention is administered many of those currently institutionalized could be released. 

The third benefit is seen as social and relational benefits. This is somewhat easier to understand as we have all experienced the pain of hurt and the wounds that come from others. When we do not forgive or we do not seek forgiveness we feel the anxiety of being near the other person. We feel the need to avoid the other person to the degree that we will avoid them at all cost. We also begin to let out imaginations run wild and we begin to expand our reasons for not liking them some of which may be real and others which may be imaginary.

But when one is walking in forgiveness they will find that they are united with people emotionally. They do not feel the pain that they once felt before. It is for this reason that Jesus gave strict commands on how to handle issues that cause broken relationships. “You are to go to that person and seek forgiveness.” Over seventeen times the scriptures of the New Testament speak of our forgiving others who we have wronged or that have wronged us.

You see the unity of the body of Christ is an important issue for Christ. How many times do you see church’s broken and split by unforgiveness? How many times have you seen families destroyed because one of the parties if not both fail to walk in forgiveness? How many business partners have stopped working together because of misunderstandings that could have been easily resolved by the act of forgiveness?

Does forgiveness bring a benefit to our relationships? The answer is a resounding yes.

The final and most important benefit are the Spiritual benefits that come from forgiving others. In fact this was such a critical component for Christ that on a number of occasions Jesus stated that for God to forgive you must forgive. This seems so counter to what we have learned about God unconditional love. But rather than an indictment against God’s unconditional love what we see here is that when we realize the greatness of God’s love and forgiveness we can’t help but forgive others.

David realized the need of forgiveness and the benefits of forgiveness in Psalm 51. David cried out to God to cleanse him and wash him of his iniquities (v2). In verse 10 David cries out for God to create in him a new heart and to renew a right spirit in him. What David recognized is that when God forgives us we have a greater understanding of what it means to forgive others and how refreshing it is to be forgiven. In verse 12 David recognizes the pain of a broken relationship with God when he asks God to restore to him the joy of his salvation. When we have broken relationships we have a broken spirit that can only be restored through the power of God’s forgiveness. In forgiving others or by being forgiven by another we discover the mercy and grace of God in a new dimension.

God’s plan from the beginning was for us to forgive and keep a short list of wrongs committed against us and by us.

You know how it feels to be forgiven. You feel clean and refreshed. You feel renewed. God wants us free and not bound by past wrongs or evil. How’s your list today? Do you need to seek forgiveness from someone, from God? Perhaps today your issue is not with the church or anyone else but you are angry with God because you feel He has let you down and has failed you in some way.

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