In Part 1 I showed you books exist in heaven, some opened for us to see what’s written, others are closed, and opened at a later time.
But either way, God keeps books full of His Kingdom purposes for countries, churches, and individuals.
Before you fully appreciate Conversational Prayer it’s important to deal with strongholds of the mind. Strongholds of the mind kept me in bondage for many years and I couldn’t sense God’s presence and prayer was boring and dry.
In Part 2 God Wrote a Book About You (and How You can Pull Stronghold) shows you:
- What strongholds are
- How do they keep you from knowing God and what He wrote in His book and
- How to detect strongholds in your own mind?
First, I want to lay a foundation for later on when we look at how to detect strongholds in your own mind.
The first time I heard about pulling down strongholds was in the 80’s and it revolutionized my thinking. It was like a light bulb coming on in my mind, giving me an understanding of how to renew my mind.
So before we learn how to apply the practical part, we first need to know what strongholds are.
Valentina is a Christian and a well-informed tour guide in Moscow.
“I was a devout Communist from childhood. I believed the Marxist system to be the best in the world. I believed most people in the West lived in poverty with great scarcity of food and other necessities. Then unexpectedly I was given the privilege of going to London.
Arriving late at night, the first place I wanted to visit the next morning was a supermarket. As I entered the door and saw the vast array of all sorts of food, I stood as if frozen by the shock – suddenly I knew I had believed a LIE!”
Valentina’s testimony describes a stronghold in his mind and how it got there. He first believed a lie. But as the truth stared him in the face in the supermarket, was he going to continue to believe the lie or believe the truth?
A light came on in his mind, and he understood for the first time that he had believed a lie. Instantly the lie was demolished and his mind renewed when he believed the truth.
Paul wrote his second letter to the Church in Corinth because some false teachers and so called “super apostles” were attacking Paul’s character by spreading LIES about him and the gospel he preached. His letter called his friends back to the truth they received when they first heard the true gospel.
What are Strongholds?
Over the last three years, I asked several mature Christians that question. I realized many used the term without knowing what it means. In my search for the right meaning of pulling down strongholds I found some abused it, so we want to know the right meaning because we can’t make it mean whatever we want it to mean.
Years ago I read “Confronting the Power” by Peter Wagner.
“One of the more curious aspects of my pilgrimage into the field of spiritual warfare during the past few years has been the discovery that those who had been talking about it and doing it long before I even thought much about it did not agree among themselves about the nature of strongholds.
They agreed that strongholds provide the forces of darkness a legal basis for doing their evil deeds both in individual people on the ground level and in cities and nations on the strategic level. . . . We have not been sure enough of what we are looking for exactly” (p. 237).
I scratched my head and wondered, what does he mean by “legal basis” because he didn’t explain what it meant. But when Paul wrote his second letter to the Corinthians, he knew what he meant by strongholds, and his readers did too.
When I went back and studied the context (II Corinthians chapters 10-13) I found out right away, that is not how Paul used the term. Looking at context helps to understand surrounding Scriptures.
As I read books and listened to teaching on strongholds over the years, many teachers only use II Corinthians 10:4 to establish their whole teaching about strongholds, so I never bothered to study the context which includes chapters 10 to 13 in II Corinthians.
In 2015 the Holy Spirit took me back again to II Corinthians chapters 10-13 because I sensed I had missed something important.
I prayed and asked the Holy Spirit for His meaning because if we don’t know His meaning we can make it mean anything we want it to mean and end up teaching something the Word does not support.
What did Paul mean by the word “strongholds?”
Do we know what Paul means by strongholds? Yes. We can know what Paul meant by strongholds, and it’s important to understand his meaning, because it will help us in our personal spiritual warfare and in our ministries.
I studied under Bible teacher, Rose Geiman, in the late 60’s and remember her saying,
“Scripture is its own best interpreter. After ascertaining the plain meaning of any portion to the best of our ability, we then carefully and prayerfully study the context to gather further information, looking to the Holy Spirit for illumination.”
So I took that advice and found that strongholds in II Corinthians 10:4 cannot refer to evil spirits, when I studied it in context. It’s eye-opening to find out the entire letter does not mention evil spirits since Paul is writing to bring the believers at Corinth back to their former teacher (Paul), and to the ministry of the one who brought them the Gospel at first.
In chapters 10-13 Paul defends his apostleship and ministry against the lies from the so-called “super apostles” (11:13) who were spreading vicious lies about him (10:2,10; 11:6-7,15; 12:11-12).
The agenda of the false teachers and false apostles was to draw the believers away from Paul and to themselves and separate them from Paul.
His enemies said:
- He looks weak (10:10)
- He speaks poorly (11:6)
- He is inferior (11:6)
- He’s not a true apostle (12:11-12); and
- He acts greater then he is (10:3)
False teachers spread these lies about Paul and many of the Corinthians accepted the lies without questioning if they were true. Not only did the lies affect Paul but they hindered the believers at Corinth from fulfilling ALL of God’s will. T
hey became a stumbling block to those around them and instead of growing in Christ, they acted more like the world by their actions.
Everyone has strongholds but the bad news is many have never heard of them and do not know how to deal with them. Even whole congregations can have group strongholds like those in the Corinthian church.
If congregations do not deal with strongholds they will hinder God’s will just like the church at Corinth.
Strongholds keep you from knowing God
Paul knew about religious strongholds, all one needs to do is look at his life before meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus. His very actions proved the strongholds started to crumble in the presence of the Lord as his mind was renewed over time.
So Paul knows he’s in a war, a war between lies and TRUTH. Since he personally dealt with his own strongholds, he is now able to help others deal with theirs. He knows all the signs to look for because strongholds once lodged in his mind. He also knows the damage strongholds can do in the body of Christ if they are not dealt with.
In II Corinthians 10:4-6 he tells the Corinthians how he will win the “war” against TRUTH,
“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (II Corinthians 10:4-5).
Paul defines strongholds as:
- arguments, and
- every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and
- bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ
Craig Keener writes,
“Greek sages sometimes described their battle against false ideas as a war, in terms similar to those Paul uses here.”
Paul claims to be doing battle with false ideas. Other Bible translations use “arguments,” “speculations” and “reasonings.” The word stronghold in Greek literally means a fortress. Proverbs says, “A wise person can defeat a city full of warriors and tear down the defenses they trust in” (Proverbs 21:22).
Paul used Proverbs 21:22 to imply the war he was facing was not a literal city but a war in peoples’ minds. He painted a word picture in the Corinthians minds when he used the term strongholds.
He meant they trusted more in their arguments, speculations, and reasonings about who they thought Paul was and totally missed who God truly was because what they believed was not based on truth.
Paul also knew,
“God considers the wisdom of this world to be foolish. It is just as the Scriptures say, “God catches the wise when they try to outsmart him” (I Corinthians 3:19).
By accepting lies as truth, it allows falsehoods to stay in your mind and keeps your mind locked behind invisible prison bars, and you don’t even realize it until truth is revealed to you by the Holy Spirit.
This is one reason that renewing your mind after being born again is so important. That’s why Paul wrote,
“I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (II Corinthians 11:2-3).
We’re not in a power struggle with demons and satan but the power of TRUTH is what shatters the lies we believe about ourselves and who God is.
Even science has caught up with the Bible. Athena Staik, Ph.D. agrees that the mind can change.
“One of the laws discovered by recent findings is the ability of the brain to restructure itself throughout life. This discovery alone tossed out centuries of scientific creeds, which previously held that we cannot do much about set patterns in the brain.”
After our conversion to Christ and we are filled with the Holy Spirit, our minds are not automatically renewed. Our minds are not set in concrete so they need to be renewed because
“we once were dead in our transgressions and sins, in which we used to live when we followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air (satan)” (Ephesians 2:2).
“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14).
When Paul used the phrase in II Corinthians 10:4, “and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God” he’s speaking about pride. God dealt with Paul’s pride and he could detect it in the false teachers and false apostles.
“Of course we shouldn’t dare include ourselves in the same class as those who write their own testimonials, or even to compare ourselves with them! All they are doing, of course, is to measure themselves by their own standards or by comparisons within their own circle, and that doesn’t make for accurate estimation, you may be sure”(II Corinthians 10:12-13).
Paul knew immediately that when somebody or even a congregation behaved this way, it was a sure sign of strongholds and that they were filled with pride.
The false teachers and false apostles were envious and jealous of Paul’s authority and used every means possible to shut him out of their lives.
Proverbs 13:10 says,
“Arrogant know-it-alls stir up discord, but wise men and women listen to each other’s counsel.”
A different Bible translation says it this way,
“Pride only leads to arguments or (The empty-headed cause arguments out of pride), but those who take advice are wise” (Proverbs 13:10).
The arrogant know-it-alls stirred up strife in the Corinthian church and some of the believers and false apostles deceived themselves into thinking they were more spiritual than Paul.
Remember how satan grew proud and vain in his beauty. He started to be envious of God’s authority and began to scheme to overthrow God?
“How art thou fallen fro For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High,”(Isaiah 14:12-14).
And Ezekiel 28:17,
“Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness. . .”
As you can see satan had a secret agenda just like the false apostles did. They resented Paul’s authority and his giftings and in turn turned others in the church against him. Paul knew from personal experience what strongholds can do to a person and how they can keep you from knowing God and His will.
Even our friend Peter teaches us a lesson about self-confidence that’s rooted in pride.
“Lord, with you I am ready to go both to prison and to death. Even though all may fall away, yet I will not.” Can you see Peter’s self-confidence coming through? Peter’s saying, “You just don’t know how strong I am Lord.” Looks like a stronghold to me.
“Truly I say to you, this very night before a rooster crows twice, you yourself will deny Me three times” (Matthew 26:24). And shortly after that Peter denied knowing the Lord three times. But his story doesn’t end there! Jesus said, “When you are converted when you turn around from this, you will be able to strengthen the brethren” (Luke 22:32), because then he would be able to teach others the lesson he learned.
The same thing happens to you too. When we willingly deal with the strongholds (lies we believe) we not only have a greater capacity to know God more but we can teach others the lessons we’ve learned.
Jesus restored Peter.
“Feed My sheep, tend My lambs, feed My sheep, be My shepherd” (John 21:17).
Peter stood up on the Day of Pentecost and preached and three thousand came to Christ and he preached again and tens of thousands came to Christ in Jerusalem.
Jesus says to you too, “I have prayed for you, your faith will not fail.”
The Bible uses the word stronghold as a metaphor to represent thoughts that are based on human ideas. These human ideas are guarded by pride and Paul contrasts human ideas with God’s wisdom and guidance.
Strongholds are a set way of thinking that goes against knowing God and His ways. These strongholds in your mind are like a guarded fortress that blocks out the truth. It blocks out who you are in Christ; and who God truly is. They keep God out and prevent you from knowing what God wrote in His book concerning you.
It’s just as important today as it was in Paul’s day to be aware of strongholds. We must identify and pull them down if we are ever going to live the way God called us to live.
Before we look at II Corinthians 12:20 to see what group strongholds look like, look at how John MacArthur describes the Corinthian culture.
“The Corinthians Paul wrote to are converted but their minds needed to be renewed. Their culture was argumentative. It was a culture of debate. And the people picked their people and their leaders and they were always embroiled with each other. It was a selfish culture.
It was an arrogant society. There were all kinds of tumults and upheavals and anger and disputes and slanders and gossips. That was a way of life, as it is today and they dragged it right into the church and Paul had to confront it all.”
How to detect strongholds in your in your mind.
Paul lists nine strongholds in II Corinthians 12:20-21.
For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be
- fits of rage
- selfish ambition
and verse 21,
“I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged.”
- impurity, sexual sin and debauchery
Each one of these behaviors come out of an ingrained mindset formed over time and rooted in pride. Picture it this way. A farmer has a fishing pond on his farm a quarter mile from his house.
Every day after work, he climbs into his pickup truck and drives out to his pond. At first it’s rocky and bumpy as he drives his pickup truck through the tall weeds and goes around the large rocks blocking his way.
But if you went out and looked at these tracks today you would see two big ruts because he used the same route every day. He could climb into his truck today and because of the deep ruts, not even hold on to the steering wheel.
All he needs to do is point his truck in the right direction and it would coast along because of the entrenched grooves the truck made. Strongholds of the mind are the same way.
Likewise, human thought patterns can be so ingrained in our minds that we don’t even think about them anymore, they seem to be automatic responses or reactions that we have no control over. Our minds can operate like an old-fashioned record player’s needle stuck in the same old groove.
When something gets triggered on the inside of us, the old way of thinking wants to kick in just like that needle getting stuck in the same old groove. But Paul teaches us that we can renew our minds and learn to live out of the mind of Christ.
In I Corinthians 2:16, Paul quotes Isaiah 40:13 and then makes a statement concerning all believers,
“We have the mind of Christ.”
The Christian who is a spiritual “new man” still retains old patterns of selfishness and sinfulness in the soul. These thought patterns often present themselves in “old ways” of behavior that are not a sign of the character of Christ and misrepresent who we are in Christ.
These “old ways” of behavior (strongholds) can be seen in the culture, in families, between friends, and in churches. Now I will define the nine strongholds. Once you have read the definitions, then read the evaluation questions, and mark the questions which apply to you personally.
Ask the Holy Spirit to bring to your mind how often you engage in these actions. We all can behave this way from time, to time, but you want to recognize if they have become so ingrained in your thinking that they now are a way of life.
In addition, remember this is not a one-time thing because strongholds can crop up throughout life. The thing is to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit because He’s the Spirit of truth and desires more than anything for you to be conformed to Christ.
Once you identify any strongholds here is a prayer that you can use to get you started.
- You, oh Lord, are the Most High God. I bow before you and pray that I will recognize any strongholds and take every thought captive to obey Jesus Christ. I don’t come to you because of how good or righteous I think I am but because of your great mercy. I confess the stronghold of (______________________) in my mind and I ask that in your Presence, it will shatter and be replaced with TRUTH. Amen
Once you begin to recognize “old patterns” of thinking you will be quicker the next time to catch what’s happening in your mind and capture every thought that does not align with Christ and make it obey Him. In other words, you say, “that’s who I was before Christ but now I trust the life of Christ in me, I CAN’T but He CAN.”
- Discord –“Disagreement between people. Squabbling, bickering, arguing, and disunity.”
Questions to help you recognize discord.
- Do you have thoughts or feelings of superiority, especially toward those in positions of leadership or authority?
- Do you gossip or share your opinions with others in order to gain a position of superiority?
- Do you repeatedly rehearse quarrelsome words in preparation to win future arguments?
- Some individuals like to“push others buttons” because they enjoy quarreling with and antagonizing others. Does this describe you?
- Do you frequently find yourself in arguments?
- Is quarreling and arguing a normal occurrence in your daily life?
- When in a heated discussion, are you able to choose righteousness and walk away from the situation, or do your purposefully continue to argue?
- Do you look to pick a quarrel or an argument with others?
- Are you resentful toward others and therefore make a point of arguing with people?
- Do you compare yourself with yourself or someone else?
From discord to harmony – “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited” (Romans 12:16).
- Jealousy – “It is the boiling fervency of ungratefulness and resentment concerning what others have or do. Distrust, possessiveness, and over protectiveness. Fearful of being displaced by a rival.”
Questions to help you recognize jealousy.
- Are you able to rejoice in others’ successes?
- Do you feel threatened when others achieve success?
- When God uses someone powerfully, are you able to rejoice, or do you feel overlooked and dishonored?
- Do you struggle with thoughts of dislike or hatred toward people because of their successes?
- Have you consistently asked yourself: “Why does everyone else receive blessings and favor, but I never do?”
- Do you look for opportunities to speak negatively about others because of their successes?
- Do you feel a need to promote yourself instead of trusting God to do so?
- Do you blame everyone else for your lack of success?
From jealousy to trust – “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (Romans 14:19).
- Fits of rage – “Uncontrolled fits of passion and rage wherein one’s fury and temper are so acute that it could lead to life-threatening action are implied by this word. Be furious, be enraged, be livid, have a fit, be steamed up, and foam at the mouth. To rage silently and storm about.”
Questions to help you recognize fits of rage.
- Do you throw things, hit things, or break things when you are enraged?
- Do you use verbal and angry outbursts of words in any of your relationships?
- Do you physically attack people or objects?
- Do you damage property when you are furious?
- Do you behave with uncontrollable irritability?
- Were you exposed to explosive behaviors at home (e.g. angry outbursts from parents or siblings).
- Do you feel a loss of control over your thoughts when you are angry?
- Do you have road rage?
From fits of rage to kindness – “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossains 3:12).
- Selfish Ambition – “Elevate your self above other, to put one’s own interests before another’s. It is a self-above-others approach. Climbing over others to get to the top. Me-centeredness.”Not all ambition is wrong when it’s a strong desire to do or to achieve something, that requires determination and hard work.
Questions to help you recognize selfish ambition.
- Do you believe that getting close to influential people will cause you to be recognized and to receive a promotion?
- Is your motive for relating to others self-seeking? In other words, are you seeking only what you can get out of the relationship?
- Do you have a heart to serve and bless others, or is your main concern to look out for yourself and have influence over others?
- Do you feel the need to dominate situations so you can be seen and heard?
- Do you love others with the heart of God, or do you build relationships only for the benefit they can bring you?
- Do you believe God promotes us in life or that promotion comes from man?
From selfish ambition to others-centered – “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).
- Slander –“Make false and damaging statements about (someone). Defame someone’s character, blacken someone’s name, open-mouthed criticism, public insults, and mud-slinging.”
Questions to help you recognize slander.
- Is it a normal occurrence for you to think or speak about others in a critical manner?
- Does it bring you pleasure and comfort to think and speak critically of others? Do you feel more valuable when you can find fault with someone else?
- Is it easy for you to share negative, critical things about other individuals?
- Do you speak critically about others without going to the person one-to-one and trying to work out the issue in a scriptural manner?
- Have you spoken negatively about a leader or a person of influence to cause others to think negatively of that leader?
From slander to speaking in a fair and just manner –“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).
- Gossip –“Engage in gossip, spread rumors, spread gossip, dish the dirt, whisper behind someone’s back and blabbermouth. A person who habitually reveals personal or sensational facts about others.”
Questions to help you recognize gossip.
- Do you gossip on a regular basis?
- When you are pulled into a conversation in which gossip is occurring, do you excuse yourself, or do you stay and entertain the discussion?
- When you are asked to hold something in confidence, do you share it with others anyway?
From a gossip to being trustworthy – “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret”(Proverbs 11:13).
- Arrogance – “An exaggerated sense of one’s importance that shows itself in the making of excessive or unjustified claims. Conceited, self-importance, puffed-up, big-headedness, snootiness, pretension and struts around like a peacock.”
Questions to help you recognize arrogance.
- Do you think you are always right?
- When you are right, is it necessary for you to point that out and make others state that you are right?
- Are you defensive when others try to bring you correction or offer constructive suggestions on how you can improve?
- Are you argumentative on a regular basis?
- Are you stubborn to the point of being unteachable?
- Do you think everyone else is always wrong but that you have the answer to every problem?
- Is it difficult for you to admit your own faults?
- Do you sincerely apologize to others when you have wronged them? (If you never take the initiative to say you are sorry, this is an indicator that pride is at work.)
- Do you dominate conversations in order to keep the focus on yourself and what is important to you?
- Can you genuinely listen to others?
- Are you angry and determined to be heard and always have the last word?
- Are you critical and judgmental, and do you enjoy voicing such thoughts?
- Do you believe that it is prideful for you to receive a genuine compliment? When God has worked through you in a supernatural way, do you use terms or phrases such as “God did it all, and I had nothing to do with it?” If so, you may be walking in the deception of false or excessive humility, which is the same thing as pride.
From arrogance to being considerate – “. . .to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone”(Titus 3:2).
- Disorder –“A state or situation in which there is a lot of noise, confusion, disturbing the peace, everybody does what’s right in his own eyes and disorder can rise up as the result of divisive teachings not supported by God’s word.”
Questions to help you recognize disorder.
- Do you think the teachings you have received are all correct, even if people have counseled you otherwise?
- Do you believe that the revelation you receive from God is somehow higher or more elite then the wisdom others have received?
- When wise and proven spiritual leaders offer you guidance and counsel, are you teachable, and do you have a heart to reevaluate your beliefs and opinions?
- Do you find your thoughts are consistently drawn to unscriptural teachings and beliefs? If so, is this pattern in your family line?
From disorder to order –“But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way”(I Corinthians 14:40).
- Impurity, sexual sin, and debauchery: “Expands the concept of sexual irregularity beyond the sexual acts themselves to any act and attitude that is defiling, unclean, or indecent; to anything other than the pure, clean and proper use of our physical bodies as the purity of God’s character is expressed in us.
Derived from the Greek word for “prostitute” which is the root of the English word “porno”. It refers to any sexual activity outside of God’s intended context of marriage between one man and one woman. It is broader than just premarital fornication, as translated in some versions of the New Testament.”
Questions to help you recognize impurity, sexual sin, and debauchery.
- Do you spend more and more time watching pornography online or viewing pornography in books or magazines?
- Do you feel like you are no longer the one in charge – the compulsion is stronger than your will power?
- Do you turn to pornography as a way to cope with stress, anger, loneliness, boredom, or feelings of low self-esteem?
- Sex outside of marriage has become a pattern for you and you can’t stop it. Does this describe you?
- Even since coming to Christ you are still involved in sexual uncleanness.
From impurity, sexual sin, and debauchery to purity and faithfulness – “But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband”(I Corinthians 7:2).
“God’s will is that your lives are dedicated to him. This means that you stay away from sexual immorality”(I Thessalonians 4:3).
NOTE: Some of the questions that helped you identify strongholds were taken from “Defeating Strongholds of the Mind, A Believer’s guide to BREAKING FREE” by Rebecca Greenwood.
Finally, As you can see, I’m not talking about behavior modification or trying harder to be a good Christian, but “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).
When you finally come to the place and say “I CAN’T,” that’s the place you come to believe, I “CANNOT” produce the Christian life that God promises. I must depend on God to produce that PROMISED life in me.
God wrote a book in heaven about you and imagine that your greatest desire in life is to please your Father. As every stronghold is replaced with TRUTH, you now have a greater capacity to know and be obedient to ALL the will of God.
And your Conversational Prayer life will be richer and sweeter as you hear His voice.
to be continued in Part 4 – God Wrote a Book About You (and Your PROMISED Life in Christ)