18/07/2018: “Strongholds of the Mind | Timothy RIst
- Thomas’ theme for 2018 – “A Real Faith in a Real World”. A vehicle to carry us on our journey to meet this call – “Emotionally Healthy Church”.
- “The forging of a real-world faith means not only that one follows Christ into the Heavenlies to meet God, but that one follows Christ into the corridors of one’s inner space in order to develop the spirit of Christlikeness. And Christlikeness in the inner life means an advancing knowledge of one’s inner self and a growing ability to master it.” [Gordon Macdonald: Christ Followers In The Real World: 1989: pg. 119]
- Psalm 139: 1-6 – key words “you have searched me, and you know me”. It is as if God has conducted an MRI scan of the inner person; the objective for the Psalmist is– the “everlasting path” (vs. 23-24); in New Testament language this means salvation. These few verses are a prayer for a “real world faith” a faith that worships the Father at work in the world, and the Father at work within me (Jesus/Holy Spirit).
- Salvation/Conversion is a process, and not just a once off event [Train stopping at various stations]. All need salvation – Romans 3:23-24.
“Conversion is a continuing process that unfolds one day at a time as we bring more and more of ourselves to God. “Once converted, fully converted,” is a deceptive slogan. It suggests that conversion is a destination where we arrive rather that a road along which we journey. Getting to know who we are, especially those more hidden aspects of our personalities, and consciously yielding them to God who unconditionally accepts us in Christ signposts our way along this conversion road… ‘Conversion is the surrender of as much myself as I know today to as much of Christ as I know today’ “[Trevor Hudson: Signposts to Spirituality: 1995: pg.59].
- The “working out of salvation” means the Holy Spirit must confront the inner person; mind and spirit. On earth, this dealing with the conflict between the realities of the physical and the spiritual is a life long journey with the Father which will end when we die physically; while the life of the spirit continues for eternity. [Romans 7: 14-25]. It is a work that we do in partnership with the Holy Spirit – “Dealing with weeds”.
- A good summary of the continual struggle between the physical/spiritual within us that can also lead to the formation of strongholds is Romans Ch’s 6-8.
- The “mind” is a “mine field” of challenges to spiritual growth. Romans 12:1-2 highlights the need to think differently; 2 Cor. 4:16 – the reassurance that God refreshes and renews his children “inwardly…day by day”.
- Dealing with “Strongholds” of the mind is both a human and spiritual struggle. Human beings are created in the image of God; Gen.1:26 and blessed with the responsibility that follows the gift of the divine image – free will – Gen 2: 17 ff. God expects us to work with him in dealing with strongholds.
- The dynamic tension that exists – “strongholds” have to do with both “spiritual warfare” and “human struggle”. In terms of human struggle: I must learn to deal with the realities of my past, that impact on my present, and make use of physical tools such as a Pastoral Counsellor, or the guidance of Fellowship Group/Bible Study Leaders, have prayer partners, connect with the Pastor/Minister, worship in a community of Christ Followers as part of what it means to be a responsible, life seeking Christ Follower. This involves learning to confront issues of both the past and the present; learning to understand why they have arisen; and developing the tools to deal with them in a healing and empowering manner.
- “Spiritual Warfare” is a reality for the church (Ephesians 6:12) and we are called to engage evil wherever and whenever it manifests, and so spiritual tools are made available to us (Ephesians 6: 13-18). This spiritual battle is not just ‘out there’ but is always focussed ‘in’ the mind. This is where the reality of strongholds is most evident. Beware of the dangers of the “Hollywood image of evil” and demons “behind every bush”.
- A stronghold is a fortress, a place that is difficult to penetrate; a stronghold can have both positive and negative benefits depending on the reason for its construction! A stronghold of faith that stands firm and gives life – is a blessing. A stronghold of negativity; or fear that breaks down life – is a “curse”. A spiritual battle is being waged and recognising that as a reality of how life works in this world, is of vital importance, to personal spiritual health and the work of the Church. When the believer understands there is an ongoing spiritual battle ‘for their mind’; then they can receive the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to renew their mind, and to grow their faith; to win the battle. [Neil T. Anderson: Victory over the Darkness: 1990: 155-175]
- The presents a great challenge to many Christians in our modern world.
- The danger that all the struggles of this life are only seen as spiritual warfare, with the devil at work (this view means the believer is a passive victim; a puppet to life’s challenges, fatalistic world view) then the devil has the advantage (as the Divine gift of free will has been denied). [Illustration- recent protests, Chris de Burgh – Spanish Train].
- The danger in the view that there is no spiritual warfare at play, life is all about human struggle only; here the devil has the advantage too (as the Holy Spirit is denied access to confront, teach and guide).
- In dealing with strongholds we must work with God; it is a partnership; one in which we always acknowledge that God is about his business in this world [Revelation, Salvation, Grace, Forgiveness… all presented to the world by Jesus] and we are sent by God to be his hands, his feet, his voice… Matth 28:18-20. Life according to the Father’s intention is “Wholeness”. Defeating negative strongholds releases emotional and spiritual energy to live life in a whole, complete manner. [Clinebell: Basic Types of Pastoral Care and Counselling: 1984: pg.28-72]
- Practical Exercise: Find a quiet place to sit. Make a list of the Strongholds in your life that are strangling your growth [Negativity, fear, anger, unforgiveness, resentment, hatred, sins that bind you to patterns of behaviour…]. Prayerfully present each one to the Father, remember what happened, recall your responses to the situation… then ask for healing; for forgiveness; for strength… Take this exercise slowly and over a few weeks if you need to and ask for help and guidance on this journey from a trusted spiritual friend, Pastor etc. [Bookmark].