Isaiah 27 & 28
2 Corinthians 10.1-18
Tearing Down Strongholds
What are strongholds?
Verses 3-5, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 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, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
Notice three words in this passage: “arguments,” “knowledge,” and “thought.” The strongholds Paul talks about here are not physical and they are not demonic in the sense of “demon possession” or a spirit holding us captive to some behavior (“spirit of alcohol,” or “a spirit of nicotine,” or “a spirit of lust,” etc.).
They have to do with arguments, knowledge, and thoughts—our thinking, ideas, and beliefs. The strongholds we have to battle are false ideas, false religions, false doctrines, and false philosophies—wrong thinking. We fight them on our knees and with “the Word of Truth.” The way to overcome strongholds is by replacing lies with truth.
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2.15).
It’s easier to see some of the big lies or strongholds that keep people in bondage—lies like false religions and cults. But there are many more plausible lies, lies that are easier to believe and buy into.
- A plausible lie: A woman has the right to do what she wants with her own body.
The truth: “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed and in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them” (Ps. 139.16).
- Plausible lies: Kids are going to have sex. We just need to teach them how to have “safe sex.” Or, God certainly doesn’t expect me to be chaste; after all, I’m only human! Or, that was for Bible times; this is a different culture!
The truth: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification. that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God” (1 Thess. 4.3-5).
- A plausible lie: Homosexuality—God made them that way, so they can’t be expected to change.
The truth: Homosexuality like all sin is part of our fallen nature, but we are redeemable. “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”
- A plausible lie: About dating or marriage—I know he’s not a Christian, but how else is he going to get saved? At least he comes to church with me and I’m sure he’ll become a Christian.
The truth: “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God …” (2 Cor. 6.14-16).
- A plausible lie: God wants me to be happy!
The truth: God does want His children to be blessed, but he first wants us to be holy! “But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Pet. 1.15-16). Happiness if fleeting, but holiness leads to joy unspeakable!
But there are other, more religious sounding lies.
- A plausible lie: How could a loving God send anyone to hell? That’s not the God I serve!
The truth: God isn’t sending us to hell. We’re already lost and He sent His Son to rescue all those who will believe (Jn. 3.16; 1 Jn. 4.9).
- A plausible lie: All religions lead to God though they may call Him by another name.
The truth: Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (Jn. 14.6).
- A plausible lie: Jesus just loved everyone. We should do the same. After all, who are we to judge?
The truth: We should love everyone, even our enemies, but part of loving means there are times when we need to speak the truth in love (Gal. 6.1-2; 2 Cor. 7.8-11; Prov. 27.5-6).
- A plausible lie: It doesn’t matter what I believe about God and the Bible, as long as I love Jesus.
The truth: What we believe about God and His Word as revealed in the Bible matter a great deal. It affects how we handle tests and trials, how we reflect Him to a lost world, the level of our trust, and our ability to have peace and joy no matter what our circumstances. For more on this, check out my post, “Good Doctrine Matters.” In that post I explain how some false doctrines sound good, but have a nasty downside.
We, of all people, should not buy into the plausible lies that the world uses to argue against the truth and keep people in spiritual blindness and bondage! But we also need to be on guard against the religious sounding lies that can destroy our testimonies, keep us discouraged, or cause us to doubt God’s love.
Let’s purpose in our hearts to tear down those strongholds, first in our own hearts, and then to prayerfully share the truth with others.
Today’s Other Readings:
Woe to the Drunkards …
Verse 1 of chapter 28 says, “Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower which is at the head of the verdant valleys, to those who are overcome with wine!”
This passage is written to the ten northern tribes represented by Ephraim. The area where they lived was very lush and fertile. God had blessed them with an abundance of beauty and fruitfulness, but they were puffed up with pride as if they had caused it and had wasted God’s blessings on “drunkenness”—their own sensual pleasures.
Verses 7-8 present a very unpleasant picture:
7 But they also have erred through wine,
And through intoxicating drink are out of the way;
The priest and the prophet have erred through intoxicating drink,
They are swallowed up by wine,
They are out of the way through intoxicating drink;
They err in vision, they stumble in judgment.
8 For all tables are full of vomit and filth;
No place is clean.
Even though this is written specifically to Israel, it has great application to us as a nation and as individuals. The “intoxicating drink” talked about here isn’t just wine or other drugs, it’s anything which dulls our senses or robs us of our ability to be clear-headed and focused on God.
It could be our comfortable lives. It could be concern for our reputations and careers that keeps us from being bold in our witnessing. Or concern that people won’t like us or look down on us. The more we partake of those “intoxicating drinks” of ease and success and popularity, the more we err in vision and judgment. Like Eve we’re so easily deceived into justifying what we want to do. We tell ourselves things like: “How can I witness to them if they don’t like me or if I turn them off?” or “If I’m more successful I’ll have more ability to influence people.”
Even those who are serving God, “the priest and the prophet” sometimes refuse to stand up for the truth, watering down the Word so it’s more palatable, so as not to offend. In so doing we allow people to be more comfortable with their sin. And then we bemoan the fact, but only in the church house with other believers, that the world is “full of vomit and filth”!
Do you ever find yourself saying things like, “I believe abortion is wrong and I could never do it, but I have no right to impose my views on other women” or “I’m a Christian, but I respect other people’s religious beliefs, too.” What are we really saying? “I know murder is wrong but I’m not willing to impose that on others.” “I know Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, but it’s OK with me that other people go to hell believing a lie.” We need to “sober up” and quit justifying our complacency, our closet Christianity, and our compromising.
Don’t misunderstand me. We can’t beat people over the heads with the truth and we do need to demonstrate kindness to those of different religions. But we also need to let God examine our hearts and motives to see if our so-called kindness and respect is really fear and intimidation or drunkenness on the comforts and successes of this life.
“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (Lk. 9.23-26).
Whoever is Wise
This passage talks about the sovereignty of God and how He, “turns rivers into a wilderness … a fruitful land into barrenness …” and on the other hand, “He turns a wilderness into pools of water … He makes the hungry dwell … that they may yield a fruitful harvest …”
In His sovereignty, He has blessed us as a nation and as individuals, too. Even our poor are better off than the majority of people in the world. Yet, we have ceased to honor God for His blessings.
I have posed the question before in various ways, but how long will God allow us to go down this path as a nation? Will it require “turning our fruitful land into barrenness” before we will turn back to Him?
Verse 43, “Whoever is wise, let him heed these things and consider the great love of the LORD.”
Weep with Those Who Weep
“Like one who takes away a garment in cold weather, And like vinegar on soda, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.”
Romans states it this way:
“Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12.15).
And 1 Thessalonians 5.14 says:
“Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.”
In our ministry to others, including our personal ministry to friends and family, we need to be sensitive to their needs. There are times when warnings and rebuke are needed, but there are other times when those around us need to be comforted, encouraged or strengthened. And at all times, we are to demonstrate God’s patience.
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