From yesterday, we have this segment about spiritual warfare sandwiched in the middle of two segments relating to the criticisms of Paul. “We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. And after you have become fully obedient, we will punish everyone who remains disobedient.”
and then Paul follows it with:
“Look at the obvious facts. Those who say they belong to Christ must recognize that we belong to Christ as much as they do. I may seem to be boasting too much about the authority given to us by the Lord. But our authority builds you up; it doesn’t tear you down. So I will not be ashamed of using my authority. I’m not trying to frighten you by my letters. For some say, “Paul’s letters are demanding and forceful, but in person he is weak, and his speeches are worthless!” Those people should realize that our actions when we arrive in person will be as forceful as what we say in our letters from far away.”2 Cor 10:3-11
All this for something that is a dead issue. Ah, but is it? I think Paul knows (senses) it isn’t dead. It will raise its ugly head again. It’s a stronghold, it requires spiritual warfare or spiritual strategies. Things which keep coming back and back again require a different approach. These criticisms that keep cycling around the congregation. Negativism that seems beyond the norm. Issues that keep on keeping on. It is surprising how many churches for instance deal with the same class of issues over and over. Oh you thought it was the current pastor but when you got rid of him and you got a new pastor, lo and behold you found you were dealing with the same issues again. The things that happen in families that just keep on cycling from generation to generation. History keeps repeating itself, within the family or household, in the local area or at national level. Chances are you are dealing with a stronghold. Or it may be a territorial spirit. “What are you talking about Ian? This is all new to me.” I don’t know how long we will stay on this topic but it is worth some time and I will be guided by your input and responses as I have on past issues.
We all have ways of thinking and responding. They are conditioned by input we have received. Let me illustrate with the following simple example. I may have been told by my father (and indeed I was) that I would not amount to anything. One comment does not necessarily turn into a stronghold of thought but it may. However if that thought is added to from another sources then the connected thoughts in our head strengthens its hold on us. Add my father’ s comment to those of a woodwork teacher telling me, “You’re useless kid.” Another significant person in my life telling me “You’re hopeless.” these three now become connected and strengthen each other. A stronghold is now building where each criticism adds to the last. All are acting together to convince me of my inability, my looks, my intelligence etc. This is the concept of a stronghold. It translates into a world view or a set of habits that frame who I am. Before long I begin to believe the words. I can become what I am told I am, the way I think about myself influences my perception of my gifts and abilities or lack thereof. It becomes the way we act out of compulsion.
Strongholds can operate at the level of the individual or in groups or at national level. The spirits in the spirit world (not the angels of God) operate on these patterns of thinking within us to keep us in bondage. The enemy of our souls delights to remind you of the same old same old. These things can happen at national level too, over nations. Why is it that certain parts of the world keep experiencing the same kind of excesses or traumas. They no sooner get rid of one burden than they encounter the same thing again but through a different leader. Let me illustrate what I am talking about.
Naziism in Germany is a repeat of what that area has been experiencing for centuries, since the time of the Vandals, the Goths and the Huns. From then until now, neo-naziism is raising its head in Germany again. How can that be? It’s a spiritual stronghold, probably related to territorial spirits. This can happen on the country level or it can be the destructive behaviour set that keeps repeating in the family generation after generation. It is all to do with habitual action that is generated by patterns of thinking that are entrenched. This kind of behaviour is hard to break. It’s a stronghold. When I was in Frankfurt on my way to a conference I decided to walk around the city centre to get a feel for the city while I waited two hours for my train connection . While walking around the central city block and on the street parallel to the main street I happened upon a gang of neo-Nazi youth, complete with skin-heads and swastikas. They were menacing and threatening in their attitude to all they passed. I got thinking how could this happen in a modern Germany that has been through two world wars. Simple, it is a territorial spirit surfacing generation after generation.
I think that is why Paul writes of this even though the relationship with the Corinthians is fine now and the factionalism is a thing of the past. Yeah right! Paul recognises what he is dealing with and keeps pursuing the matter. In my mind it is the only reason that explains why Paul hammers the issue again and again. He knows it is not over yet. This is a particular interesting topic for church life. There’s criticism among the believers that is normal for a group of humans gathered together. But then then is criticism, back biting, factionalism and division that operates on a higher level again. It appears it is what was happening in the Corinthian church.
Next Gem we will look at the details of strongholds, high places and the words used. We need to learn to recognise strongholds and know when we need to resort to spiritual warfare or spiritual strategies. This is where the gift of discernment is useful. We are talking about the Corinthian church where all the gifts were operative but being abused. Oh you mean all these things are connected and interrelated? Duh, Yes!
The Church of the West presents too easy a target for Satan. We don’t believe we are at war. We don’t know where the battleground is, and our weapons are neither loaded nor aimed at the right target.Ed Silvoso
Three eternal truths: things are not what they seem, the world is at war, and each of us has a crucial role to play.John Eldredge
Satan builds his strongholds in the shadows of our strengths.Tom White