Destroying the Strongholds | 1999-3

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5

The careful reader of the Second Corinthian epistle will note a serious change in the tone of the apostle as he comes to the tenth chapter in which he decides to tackle spiritual bondage. Spiritual warfare requires spiritual weapons if a successful war is going to be waged. No matter who is doing the fighting, and regardless of the circumstances, the war is won only if the effort results in freedom. The apostle Paul intended to see the Corinthians go from bondage to freedom.

There is a haunting paradox about the American Church. Never in our history has the evangelical movement been stronger numerically and financially, while never before has there been so much bondage, deception, division, carnality, self-righteousness, sectarianism, prejudice, compromise, immorality, idolatry and apostasy. A new millennium awaits the Church, and it brings unlimited evangelistic potentials for advancing the Kingdom of God. This makes it all the more urgent that Christians and churches recognize their bondage, select spiritual weapons, tear down their strongholds and break into the freedom in the Spirit to become the forceful witness that God intended the Church to be in every age.

Recognizing our Bondage

About twelve years ago, I received a call from a burdened pastor in the Southwest, inviting me to come and conduct revival services and a School of Prayer in his church. He hoped I could come a day early for prayer and consultation. About six months later I drove into his beautiful city, and as I approached his impressive church building with its charming architecture and manicured lawns, I felt sure that this was probably the church in that fair city. I went inside and found the pastor in his study, and he immediately began pouring out his heart. I shall never forget his distressed look as he said, “Jim, you have to help me! I can’t go on here playing church. When you look at our building and location, when you study our financial and numerical records, and when you see the crowds on Sunday and hear and see their talents, you’ll think you’re in the most wonderful church in the U.S.A. But, my brother, if you knew the mess of their personal and family lives, if you heard them boast of their dreams and how they spend their time, and when you sense the humanism and deadness of our services, you’ll ask yourself why I ever called you. But I called you because before I resign, I want to make one more all-out effort to see God break in on this phony crowd in a mighty revival!”

The pastor and I prayed and wept together on several occasions. We were joined a few times by his wife and a few others. In the very first service, and during several others, the Holy Spirit moved powerfully and several (probably 20 or 30) members came forward to humble themselves and pray. At the close of one of those times of the outpoured Spirit, one dear lady unburdened her heart, saying, “Not since I was a young woman have we experienced anything in this chuch like we have seen this week. Most of our people don’t even know about ‘the open heavens’ that you speak about. Now that we’ve had a taste, I don’t want to let go until the heavens open on all of our people.”

I wish I could tell you that that meeting turned that church around, but that is not the case. Prayer and fasting on the part of a few of us did move the Spirit to release His power. Light was shed, and several people were brought back into the Kingdom. But so many lay leaders and members stayed away from the services, and they were well-represented at the next board meeting and made it crystal clear that the church did not need an emphasis on revival. The brokenhearted pastor resigned. Several families decided they had to go where there was life and fire and vision. The church still goes through its religious motions and still wins denominational awards at the annual conferences. But like the church at Sardis (Rev. 3:1-6), it has “a reputation of being alive” but in Christ’s view it is “dead” (v. 6).

The greatest stronghold in the average American church is that of deception. Like Sardis, we think we are alive but we are dead. Neil Anderson is absolutely correct when he writes, “Freedom from spiritual bondage is not a power encounter so much as it is a truth encounter. Satan is a deceiver, and he will work undercover at all costs.” It will take much prayer and fasting for the Holy Spirit to unmask an enslaved people and cause them to recognize the bondage into which they have fallen.

Selecting our Weapons

We need to realize that there are two different kinds of weapons to be employed in breaking out of spiritual bondage. There are the divine weapons of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God; secondly, there are the human weapons of humility, repentance, obedience and prayer. Only the weapons of the Holy Spirit and the Word have divine power to expose the lies of Satan. Sardis believed the devil’s lie that it was very much alive. Laodicea believed the devil’s lie that it had need of nothing. Thousands of Christians and churches are so deceived today as to think they are ready for revival when the truth is they are ripe for judgment. Only prayer will produce the humility, the conviction, the repentance essential to the obedience that will bring the deliverance from spiritual darkness into which they have fallen.

Breaking Free

Having our hearts purified by faith, breaking free from the strongholds of the Evil One, putting on the whole armor of God, we can in the power of the Holy Spirit hit the front lines and storm the gates of hell. All heaven can break loose in our homes and churches. God will release His power for reviving His people, redeeming the lost, healing the sick, overcoming evil and healing the land.

Spiritual warfare instructor Thomas B. White reminds us, “As an adversary, an opponent of righteousness, God allows the devil a sanctioned latitude to do his dirty work of deceiving men and wreaking havoc on earth. However, he is held on a sovereign string, serving as tempter and moral tester of men.” The Early Church received the anointing of the Holy Spirit and took the authority Christ gave to resist and overcome the Evil One. Throughout the book of Acts we see Spirit-filled apostles and deacons and evangelists operating against Satanic forces just as Jesus had done before them — and with the same results.

Christ now calls His Church to enforce the mighty victory that He won over Satan and evil at Calvary. Christians, we are called to do battle in a spiritual conflict. Because our Enemy is invisible, it requires prayerful attention to be attuned to the indwelling Holy Spirit. Otherwise, we will forget and think that our fight is with flesh and blood (people, institutions, organizations, systems) and we will turn on these with carnal weapons. When this happens we fall back into greater bondage.

Far too long the Church has cut itself off from its source of power and wisdom, and it has been content with its sorry substitutes. This accounts for its spirit of apathy instead of the spirit of authority. But for much of the Church, this is about to change. A new call is sounding, and God is giving millions an ear to hear the Spirit’s urgent call to prayer. A new wind is blowing and God is giving many of His leaders a yearning to hoist their sails and be carried along in power to engage the Enemy.

 

I believe that our Sovereign Christ is preparing His Church to be restored to apostolic power, for grace and gifts for a season of unparalleled revival during which there shall be amazing signs and wonders such as were demonstrated in the Early Church. I believe that God’s Spirit shall be poured out on men and women, young and old, laity and clergy, known and unknown. These Spirit-filled ones shall give themselves to prayer and God shall arm them for battle. Armies shall form to follow the Faithful and True One against the flood of evil perpetrated by the Wicked One, who strikes furiously, knowing that his time is short. And throughout this time there shall come the greatest harvest of souls ever brought into the Kingdom of God in all of the history of the Church!

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