Police Officer Encounters A Stronghold In The Mind Of A Citizen

If you look at most news media interviews in our culture right now they often escalate into demeaning and hostile interactions. It seems that whatever issue is being discussed they are spun in certain directions according to the narrative in the mind of the interviewer (based on their experience and/or ideology).

There is a spiritual counterpart to this in life among God’s people.  The narratives in the mind affect interactions with others. The good narrative (love) Paul describes in 1 Cor 13:4-7 as ” patient and kind, does not demand its own way… is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged…it expects the best.”  This narrative always promotes positive interactions.  

Paul describes another narrative that destroys relational life called  “strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:2-5). They are often introduced by the enemy or our flesh through interactions, misinformation, and/or offences. If that narratives is playing it will always cause a breakdown in relationships.

Here is a recent video clip that demonstrates how negative narratives prevent good interactions.  A police officer responds to a call about a man selling ammunition on a street corner advertised by a home made sign (not your everyday normal behavior that is somewhat suspicious). The man obviously has a narrative playing his head (the police are bad, out to get me, and government is trying to take away my rights). It has probably been sown by his own beliefs and all the media attention over the recent police related unrest.

You will notice at 1:43 mark that he probably also has a personal offense with this police officer or others from previous encounters (“you tried to harass me before”). Notice how the narrative in his mind caused the interaction (that could have been handled easily with a little cooperation) to escalate into a more volatile interaction. The officer obviously came with a spirit of inquiry as he had to respond to the call but the stronghold in the man’s mind caused it to escalate.  It is a good reminder to keep the narrative of love playing in our mind as we interact with others and “pull down” (2 Co 10:4-5) all others by the Spirit of God.

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Two Important Aspects of Successful Spiritual Warfare Pt 2

warfareIn the last post “The two important aspects of successful spiritual warfare Pt 1” we looked at a couple of essential ideas for success in spiritual warfare that are often overlooked.  They are taken from the often used passage on warfare by the apostle Paul.  Eph 6:10-18  Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.  11  Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.  12  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.  13  Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.  14  Stand firm therefore…

In teachings on spiritual warfare many immediately go to various thoughts about the armor of God but overlook two important features that are essential in conjunction with the armor.  The two issues are “be strong in the Lord and the strength of His might” and “stand firm.”  Standing firm is mentioned three times in the passage.  Standing firm means “To make a stand, to hold, stationary, to hold on, or dig your heels in.”  This is a similar idea Peter used in his instruction on warfare with the enemy.  Peter uses the phrase “resist him, firm in your faith” which is similar to “standing firm.”   1 Peter 5:8-9 NASB  Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  (9But resist him, firm in your faith…

Standing firm or resisting firm in your faith is about holding convictions about our identity and God’s mission without compromise in the face of opposition.

There are always two goals the enemy is trying to accomplish in spiritual warfare.

1. Get us to question identity – Both our identity and/or God’s.

2. From that place of questioning desert or pervert His mission. 

Wilderness Temptation (Luke 4:1-13, Matthew, 4:1-11)

The enemy tried this with Jesus in wilderness temptationthe temptation in the wilderness.  The way Jesus responded gives us important examples in standing firm and resisting.

The first temptation:   The enemy introduced a question about His identity “if you are the Son of God tell this stone to become bread.”   Jesus was hungry after fasting for 40 days.  The enemy tried to get Him to question His identity and then elevate a legitimate need above His mission.  The temptation was to reduce hearing from God and following His mission to a secondary place.   Jesus resisted this by quoting the word of God, Matthew 4:4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.'”

The second temptation:  The enemy tried to get Him to choose a shorter and easier road to fulfilling His mission.   The devil showed Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world” and offered them to Him.  Why did he do this?  This was really part of Jesus’ mission.  All the kingdoms of the world were destined to become His kingdom Revelation 11:15.  Think what he was offering Jesus.  He could forgo all the years on earth with the disciples, the opposition of religious people,and the suffering of the cross.  He could fulfill it now and not have to endure or suffer.

Over the years I have seen myself and other Christians offered easier paths than the one that God set before them as part of His mission.  In those times a cross is offered as well as a way out.  One of my crosses years ago was leaving an advancing career in law enforcement, taking a 50% cut in salary, and moving my family into an apartment above an old funeral home in a town 5 hours away.  I could have justified avoiding it by rationally thinking “by keeping my current job I can continue to advance and  have more influence, more money to tithe, and continued service in a great church.”  All good things but not His mission.

Jesus refused to take an easier path and resisted the devil firmly  Luke 4:8 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD AND SERVE HIM ONLY.'”

The third temptation:  The enemy introduced another question to His identity and tried to get Him to prove it by taking an action, “if you are the Son of God throw yourself down from here.”  He even added the Bible to the equation,  “it is written HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU TO GUARD YOU…”

This is also a common trick.  The enemy gets us to question our identity or God’s then tries to get us to prove it by doing something,  even a Biblical thing.  It is never a good idea to try to prove God’s, or our identity by doing something, even a Biblical thing in or own effort or leading.  We are only to move in what God is leading us to do.  The motive of proving identity (God’s our ours) is futile when we do it out of our own initiative.

Jesus would have nothing to do with that trick.  He again stood firm on God’s word,  Luk 4:12  And Jesus answered and said to him, “It is said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.'”

After the temptation the devil departed and waited for a more opportune time to tempt Jesus.  Luke 4:13 NASB  When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time.  We must remember that there will always be more temptations and warfare in our future.

Three important points about standing firm in resisting the enemy in spiritual warfare from the temptation in the wilderness.

1. All temptation first tries to get us to question identity, both God’s and ours by the “if, then” rational.  If you are this…then.  If God is really God…then…

2. The nature of all demonic temptation is to get us to desert or pervert mission.   This is done by giving up totally or take an easier or different path than the one God has for us on mission.

3. Resist the enemy by standing on and quoting God’s word.  This is part of “resisting him firm in the faith.”  It is not just enough to yell at or bind the devil.  By firmly declaring God’s word we are reminding ourselves and resisting the demonic by confessing our intension to follow God’s mission with His identity.

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Two Important Aspects of Successful Spiritual Warfare Pt 1

warfareYears ago there was a successful effort by a mainline denomination to remove anything from their music and readings that had to do with violence and war.  They wanted to influence a more nonviolent approach to spirituality and remove anything with a militaristic flavor such as hymns like “Onward Christian Soldiers.”  Since then other groups have followed this example.  Removing words like fight, soldier, and war etc. “promotes nonviolent Christians full of peace.”

The problem with this approach is that it isn’t Biblical.  When Jesus mentioned building His church He immediately connected it’s advance with warfare and the gates of the enemy (Mt 16:18).   The pacifistic approach  removes the idea of the war that is going on over Kingdom advancement.  It will promote a passive lifestyle that just goes with the flow which God clearly frowns upon.   We are always to be contending for Kingdom advancement (Mt 11:12).

1 Timothy 1:18 fight the good fight;  1 Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of faith; 1 Peter 5:8-9 Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion,… resist him, firm in your faith;  James 4:7 Submit therefore to God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you; Jude 1:3 … contend earnestly for the faith; Ephesians 6:10-13.

While the battles ebb and flow and there may even be relatively peaceful seasons (Acts 9:31) the war will always remain until Jesus returns.

Two important parts of successful spiritual warfare

Probably the most detailed passage about spiritual warfare is Ephesians 6.    The background and context of this letter is important.  Paul spent about three years getting the church off the ground in Ephesus (Acts 20:31).  On his way to prison he met with the Ephesian elders and gave them some farewell thoughts.  As he did he had revelation that enemies were going to come into the church and even some of the elders would join with them in trying to destroy what God was doing (Acts 20:29).  While Paul was later in prison he heard reports that the things he anticipated (warfare) were beginning to come true.  His first course of action was to send the letter to the Ephesians.

In the letter he reminds them of God’s eternal purpose carried out through His church (Chapt 1-3), and the details of how they were to practically walk it out (Chapt 4-6).  He ends the letter with the famous instruction about warfare and how they are to fight.

While many teach on different aspects of the armor of God  from that passage they often miss the two most important points of successful warfare, being strengthened in God and standing firm.

Eph 6:10-18  Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.  11  Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.  12  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.  13  Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.  14  Stand firm therefore,

Being strong in the Lord is the first, most important aspect in successful spiritual warfare.  Many mistakenly think “being strong in the Lord” means positive emotions (feeling strength) or the elimination of enemies.  Being strong in the Lord is a supernatural strengthening that happens with Jesus.  In speaking of the latter days the Bible says that both difficulty would come but also God’s people would display strength in the midst of it.

2Ti 3:1…last days difficult times will come.

Luk 21:26 men fainting (faint or swoon away) from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world

Dan 11:32 “By smooth words he (Antichrist) will turn to godlessness those who act wickedly toward the covenant, but the people who know their God will display strength and take action.

Christians often find themselves in various combinations of four states when the difficulty of warfare comes.  They are challenged by circumstances, deceived by the devil, weakened through discouragement, or strong in the Lord.  David found himself in this spot at a place called Ziklag.  While he lead his troops into battle the enemy made a raid on his camp while they were gone.  The enemies destroyed it and took their stuff (possessions, children, and wives).  It was also especially difficult for David because he was not only was overwhelmed by his own sense of loss but his own men blamed him to the point of threatening to kill him.

David’s first course of action was what every Christian should do in warfare and what Paul prescribed in Ephesians 6, “David strengthened himself in the Lord.” 1Sa 30:3-6  When David and his men came to the city, behold, it was burned with fire, and their wives and their sons and their daughters had been taken captive.  4  Then David and the people who were with him lifted their voices and wept until there was no strength in them to weep..6  Moreover David was greatly distressed because the people spoke of stoning him, for all the people were embittered, each one because of his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God

In the midst of warfare we all usually feel week and overwhelmed.  That is actually a good place to be in because it puts us in a great position to receive “the Lord’s strength.”  Paul actually “gloried in his weakness” because he understood it was the best place to be strengthened by God  2Co 12:10  Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

How does the Lord strengthening work?

Probably the best scripture that describes how the Lord’s strength comes in thtable for mee midst of warfare is Psalms 23.  Psa 23:1-6  The LORD is my shepherd… (4)  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. 5)  CEV You treat me to a feast (prepare a table before me), while my enemies watch. You honor me as your guest, and you fill my cup until it overflows. (6)  Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

I have had this happen many times in my life.  The enemies are all around and I feel very weak and defeated.  I want to either run away or figure out how to defeat the enemies.  That isn’t the most important order of business in those times.  God doesn’t take the enemies away but spreads a table out right in the midst of them.  It is like coming across a heavenly picnic right in the middle of a battlefield.  Our fist instinct is to ignore it because we are at war and enemies are all around trying to destroy us, but we must not ignore the table.  The first order of business is to sit down to eat.  This is the first act of successful spiritual warfare.

As I sit with Him I take my eyes off of the enemies and focus on Jesus.  He begins feeding me and  I begin to change on the inside.  I become more aware of God’s goodness than the enemies efforts   I begin to feed off of Him and gain strength to the point “my cup overflows” with the power of His Spirit.  It is the great exchange, I lay my weakness and fear before Him and He gives me His strength.

When I get up from His table I am in a different condition “strong I the Lord,” and from that posture I can deal with the enemy in an effective way.  Jas 4:7-8  Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  8  Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

We must receive His strength (draw near to God) so we can effectively “resist the devil.”  Sitting and feasting at the Lord’s table isn’t a waste of time but the most effective act of war we can do.  What do we do there and how do we eat?  We give Him praise and worship, we draw near to Him with thanksgiving, we “magnify the Lord” (make Him bigger in our eyes), and we end up being reminded (speaking to ourselves) of God’s greatness and hope for the future.

Psalms 42:1-11…(5)  Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence…(10)  As a shattering of my bones, my adversaries revile me, While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”  (11)  Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.

From that posture we will get up instead of give up and are able to fight effectively in the “strength of the Lord.”

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