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Strongholds and Restoration

 

Sometimes we give ourselves to everything we know to do and it still doesn’t work. We do what the scripture says to do, we apply the teachings we’ve heard about believing and trusting, and perhaps you’ve given your heart to the teachings in the previous chapters of this book. But we are still frustrated, with no break through, and without a real or consistent encounter with the Lord.

To put a complex topic in very simple terms, there can be things in the way. There are wrong beliefs that we have which are so strong and so ingrained in our hearts and minds, that all of our efforts to believe differently and let go to the truth are unsuccessful. What are we to do if this is the case with us?

First let me tell you there is hope. You have several things working in your favor. Christianity does work. Jesus was raised from the dead. He came out of the tomb with power. He completely defeated sin, hell, and death. The Holy Spirit is alive and He is in you and helping you. You have the Bible and it is the absolute truth. The blood of Jesus cleanses you from your sin. And last but not least, you are in the body of Christ, so there are others available to help you. But even though we have so many wonderful things working in our favor, we still are often hindered within our own selves (2 Cor. 6:12).

When we know the truth in our heads, but we just can’t seem to get it into our hearts, or when we know the truth but are unable to walk it out – it’s usually because we have what is commonly referred to as “a stronghold”. A strong hold can be the result of many things, but it basically boils down to an ingrained pattern of erroneous thinking, bad beliefs, and bad habits.

An important issue needs to be addressed here. The demonic realm is a reality. Sometimes the reason for being so “stuck” in our lives is because of demonic influence. I do not see any evidence in the scripture of a Christian being possessed by devils. However, I do see some evidence of Christians being oppressed by devils (Acts 16:17, James 4:7). Basically, we are saying that a demon cannot inhabit a Christian, but they can influence and effect our emotions and our thinking. Drug and alcohol abuse, a history of the occult, rebellion in our lives, or joining hearts with unbelievers can all invite demonic influence in our lives. I do not believe that every believer who is stuck or has strongholds is demonically influenced, but even if this is the case with you, the suggestions in this chapter should shut the door on the enemy and cause the devil to flee from you (James 4:7).

If you find yourself being unable to encounter the Lord, if you are stuck in your life with God, if you have a strong flesh pattern of unbelief in certain areas, you are in need of restoration.

Here is a very basic outline for restoration in the life of the believer:

1. Expose the lie.

2. Repent of the lie.

3. Believe the truth.

4. Abide in the truth.

I wish the above process were as simple as it sounds, but it is often very involved. Let’s look at the first one, exposing the lie.

A lie is anything we believe that is not the truth. We can have many lies that we believe. We can have one lie that stands by itself, but often one lie has bred more lies. These lies can be bundled together in various ways, but an array of lies usually produces an entire philosophy or paradigm that is contrary to the truths of God. We can develop these lies from childhood, or life’s situations as adults. We all have them, so it is important that we understand how the freeing process works.

Let’s walk through a simple example of step one to see how exposing the lie works.

 
“Martha, Martha”
 

Martha was raised in a typical American home. As a little girl, when she did good things, she was praised. When she did bad things, she was scolded. She rarely received anywhere near the amount of tenderness, affection, and love from her parents that she craved. But anytime she did her chores well, performed well in sports, or received good grades, she got positive attention. The attention she received was always connected to something she did. She never received positive attention apart from anything she did.

This type of feedback set up in Martha a particular belief. She believed that her being loved was directly tied to what she did or did not do. This particular pattern of cause and effect happened so many times that it became completely ingrained in her heart and her head. She was fully convinced that her being loved was only a result of her performance. This was the only reality she had ever known.

Over and over again, Martha hears the truth about God’s love for her. She knows in her head that God loves her apart from her performance and apart from things she does or doesn’t do. But this is not her experience and she is not sure why.

The first step for Martha is to face the fact that something is not working in her life. This is a big first step. If our experience of Christianity is not lining up with scripture and the promises of God, yet we are doing all we know to do, then somewhere we are believing a lie. Plenty of believers settle for a life of meritocracy and shallow Christianity. They are largely unsuccessful in practicing the spiritual disciplines of time alone with God and are mostly unsuccessful in consistently encountering the Lord in real and powerful ways. As a result, to some degree they give up and then spiritually justify the fact that they are living a half hearted life.

Martha is different. She is going to face the music that her experience does not match what the scripture teaches that God loves her unconditionally, apart from anything she does. She is going to embrace the truth that in her Christian experience, she has a real hard time knowing God’s love unless she is doing something for God. She is going on a quest to get healing for her life.

Even though Martha has faced the truth, she is still in step number one – finding the lie she believes and exposing it. Martha is going to seek help in order for her to complete the first step. First she goes to Jesus Himself. In prayer, and with all the heart and strength she can muster, she begins to ask the Lord for help. Her prayer sounds something like this: “Lord Jesus I need your help. I long to know your deep love the Bible talks about, but Lord I have to be honest that something is in the way of me knowing you in this way. I know that you’ve done everything for me. I know that you have poured your love out on me, I know in my head that you have lavished your love on me, but I just don’t get it. Lord, I ask you to help me, show me, teach me, speak to me. I’ll do whatever it takes to cooperate. Amen.”

Martha is depending on God to give her an answer. She is asking with all of her heart. Next, she explains and shares her dilemma with the others she is walking with in the church. They pray for her and they counsel with her. She is actively listening for God in their prayers and in their counsel. She knows the answer is coming soon, because she knows her Father heard her prayer. She just doesn’t know when, how, or through whom it is coming.

After sharing with the church, Martha then searches the scriptures asking the Lord to speak to her. Then one day she sees it. She reads a story about a lady just like her. The Holy Spirit reveals to her the lie in her heart. She no longer has only the concept of her lie, but she actually sees it inside herself. She finally sees her strong belief that she feels like the Lord would be more pleased with her if she were to do things for Him, instead of just sitting at His feet. Her heart is pierced. She is so thankful and so relieved that the Lord showed her the lie in her heart. Martha may have other lies she believes that are affecting her life, but she is off to a great start.

This example of Martha is just one way that our lies can be exposed. The Lord can speak to us through people, situations, scripture, prophetic words, the counsel of others, through dreams, visions, or He can just speak to you directly. But no matter how it comes, the Holy Spirit is the only one who can give revelation and actually show us our hearts. The prerequisites to step number one are facing that you have a lie and then asking and seeking wholeheartedly.

Step 2 – Repentance of the Lie

Now it’s time for step number two: Repenting of the lie. This can be a difficult step. But again, the Holy Spirit is our helper. Anytime we repent of something we must begin with humility. To repent of a lie, we must humble ourselves. The problem with strongholds and flesh patterns is that they are deeply ingrained. They are called strongholds for a reason. We have extremely deep convictions concerning our lies. We believe them because the lie has proven itself true to us over and over again for years. It is our reality. It is not usually easy to repent of a lie when it is a stronghold or a flesh pattern we’ve had for years. There can be much emotional pain and agony attached to our lies. I won’t go into the details here. But let’s suffice it to say that the deeply ingrained lies we have are there because we are fully convinced that they are true. Let’s get back to Martha and use her example to see how to repent of a life long lie we’ve believed.

Martha sees her lie. Now she needs to repent of it. The problem is that even though she sees the lie in her heart, she still believes the lie is true, even though she knows it is false. She sees now that her lie is that God is only pleased with her when she is doing things for God. She sees the truth in the scripture that God loves her apart from what she does or doesn’t do. But getting it from her head into her heart is a different story. Repentance must be of the heart.

To begin the repentance process, again, Martha humbles herself. Concerning lies, humbling ourselves is saying “I don’t know”. Saying “I don’t know”, is adopting the attitude of releasing strong confidence that you are right in your lie. Martha was extremely confident that her lie was the truth. Life has taught her that love is tied to her performance. She would fight you tooth and nail about it and no one could tell her otherwise. But as she humbles herself concerning this issue, she becomes like a child who doesn’t know. With the help of the Holy Spirit, she repents of her adult, strong willed stance that the way she sees it is indeed the truth. Sometimes our resistance to letting go of lies is an issue of self protection. In other words, because of various hurts or wounding we may have experienced, we adopt lies in order to protect our hearts from being trampled again. There may be resistance to letting go of lies because of the risk of “what might happen again to me if I do”. It may take some time and heart wrestling to let go of a lie.

Martha let’s go of her lie by saying in her heart, “Lord I really don’t know. I let go of my arrogant position. I am a blank page. I release and let go of my opinion”. This is repenting of the lie. She has let go of her strong feelings and strong position of knowing what she thinks the truth is.

Step 3 – Believing the Truth

God is in the process of renewing our minds. Our minds need to be re-taught from all of the lies we believe. Once we see the lie (step one) and once we’ve let go that our lie is reality (step two), we are now emptied. We are a blank page that is ready to be written upon. Continuing with a child like, humble, unknowing heart posture (I cannot stress that enough), Martha begins to confess the truth (Romans 10:9). She may not believe it yet, but she says it out loud, “Lord, the truth is that you love me, apart from anything I do. Even if I do great things for you, you will not love me anymore. Even if I mess up and sin, you will not love me any less. You love me apart from all of my doing. You love who I am. And who I am is separate from the outward things I do.”

Martha begins to meditate on this truth. She says it out loud often. She prays it, she reads scripture on it, and she practices it. She is dependent on the Holy Spirit to help her believe it. As it becomes the theme of her life for a season, it soon begins to sink in. She is aware that she has heard this truth before, so why couldn’t she believe it the first time she heard it? It’s because the lie was in the way. We cannot put something where something else already is. Until the lie was exposed and repented of, the truth had no place to take root. The truth she heard so many sermons about, was only a concept in her head.

Step 4 – Walk it Out

As Martha now believes the truth. She now has to complete step number 4. She has to abide in the truth. We’ve devoted an entire chapter to abiding, so we won’t go into extreme detail here. But simply put, the word abiding means “to continue”. Jesus uses the word abiding in John chapter 15. Any truth we receive or believe does us no good unless we abide in that truth. Many believers have breakthroughs with the Lord on many issues, but they do not continue in the truth.

Abiding is like trying to dig a well. As we are digging a hole for our well, we discover rocks and hard soil in our way. Once we remove the rocks and hard soil, we must continue to dig and allow the hole to fill up with water. If we don’t keep the capacity of what we’ve already dug, naturally and over time, the hole will gradually fill up with soil again. Our spiritual growth is much the same way. As we are digging to create more capacity in our hearts for the Lord to fill us with spiritual water, we must maintain the ground we’ve gained. Or, we can lose it. Abiding is a big deal.

After a few weeks of Martha’s breakthrough in exposing her lie, repenting, and believing the Lord, she notices some of her old beliefs creeping back in again. What does she need to do? How does she gain the ground back that she once had? She should do the same thing she did to start the process! She exposes her lie again. She confesses it to the Lord, forsakes it, and re-engages to believe the truth again. Only this time, it is not as difficult or near as long of a process as it was at first. She has not lost much ground (soil in her well) because she is keeping short accounts with the Lord.

 
Faith the Size of a Thimble
 

The scripture tells us “…do not despise the day of small beginnings.” (Zec. 4:10). Even if your faith in some areas is the size of a thimble, there is an amazing mystery of the Kingdom on your side. If you use what you have, God will give you more. It doesn’t matter how small your capacity in an area may be. Even the tiniest crumb of faith God will increase, if we are faithful to give ourselves to that crumb.

In John 6:9, we have an account of a multitude of people following Jesus. A multitude is a very large number of people. As it gets later in the day, the multitude of people are getting hungry, but there is not enough food to feed them all. A young lad volunteers his loaves and fish. Jesus takes the loaves and fish and multiplies them to feed the entire multitude.

In the same way, we have a multitude to feed. There are tremendous requirements on each of our individual lives. There are people all around us who need our time, our love, our resources, and our attention. There are huge demands on our time, including our functions at home with our family, our function in the church, and the requirements of our daily jobs. And when our lives are over, God will require a fruitful return from what He has sown in us. Are you aware that there is way more required of you, than what you have to give?

To run your race well and to finish, there must be a supernatural increase. How will it happen? It will take a lad (humility) with an eager heart saying, “I’ve got some fish! I’ve got some loaves!” God will take your small amount of faith in any area and use it to feed the multitudes, if you will faithfully and eagerly offer to Him the little you do have.

Don’t be discouraged if you are stuck or if your experience is not lining up with scripture. There is always hope with the Lord and nothing is impossible with Him. He does not turn away His children if we will only humble ourselves and ask Him. He is kind to lead us into the truth. In fact, He is more interested in our growth than we are.

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