Last week, I shared how the Holy Spirit showed me that there were strongholds in my life keeping me from experiencing all He had for me.
Before we go any further, I want to put a few minds at ease. Because I get it. Growing up in the church, I know that many times people hear words like "strongholds" or "spiritual warfare," and immediately they are filled with fear. To many, these words are spooky and scary. They envision demons, exorcisms, and a movie of the week they probably shouldn't have watched in the first place.
Many times, the question comes up, "Does having a stronghold in your life mean that you are demon-possessed?"
The answer is absolutely, 100%, No!!!
It's important to remember that in 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 (where Paul talks about tearing down strongholds), Paul was speaking to the Christian church in Corinth.
As the Fire Bible says: "God's Word teaches that because God's Holy Spirit lives within each true follower of Christ, a Christian cannot be demon-possessed. God's Spirit and demons can never live in the same body. (2 Cor 5:15-16). Demons may, however, influence the thoughts, emotions, and actions of Christians who fail to follow and respond to the leading of the Holy Spirit." (Matt 16:23, 2 Cor 11:3, 14)". (1)
Here's an example to show what this means:
A few months ago, my friend purchased a new house. In the weeks leading up to the purchase, she was so excited. She prayed and asked God to make a way for her to have that house. When the sellers approached her and asked if she still wanted to buy it, she knew it was an answer to prayer. God gave her the desire of her heart.
Eventually, the day came when she and her husband went to the bank, signed the papers, got the keys, and became the home's new owners. The house completely belonged to them. It was a busy weekend as they moved their things in and began to take possession of it.
There was just one thing: in the first week or two that my friend lived there, she struggled to feel like it was her home.
The problem was two-fold:
First, she kept discovering things the old owners had left behind. This included some things that needed to be repaired and some unexpected smells in the carpets.
The other issue was that it took time for her to move all her stuff and set things up how she liked them.
To make the house a true reflection of her, she would have to
1. Get rid of the old owner's stuff
2. Paint and decorate and make the home reflect her style instead of the style of the old owners.
This would take time. As I listened to my friend talk about her frustration, I thought about how this situation was similar to a lesson I had learned while studying the topic of strongholds.
(Sound like a big leap? Follow me for a moment.)
The old owners relinquished all their property rights when my friend became the owner. They couldn't live there anymore. They couldn't even visit without my friend's permission. The house was fully and entirely under my friend's control.
However, as I said, just because they gave up all rights of possession to the house doesn't mean that the old owner's influence wasn't still felt throughout the home. In some areas (like the smelly carpet), the old owners had a strong hold. This influence will remain until my friend finishes getting rid of all the junk the old owners left behind, makes the repairs, and remodels the house to her taste.
The same is true with Christians.
When we accept Jesus as our Savior, He takes possession of our lives. We belong to Him, and the Holy Spirit lives inside of us. We no longer belong to Satan, and we cannot be demon-possessed.
However, just because we are now under the Lordship of Christ doesn't mean that we are immediately and magically changed into the image of Christ. No, this happens over time as we allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives, taking one area at a time, removing our old ways of living and thinking, and replacing them with God's ways.
The technical term for these two processes is "Sanctification."
Sanctification is "the process by which God is cleansing our world and its people. His ultimate goal is that everything—animate and inanimate—will be cleansed from any taint of sin or uncleanness." (2)
Sanctification is cleansing and removing sinful patterns, behaviors, and ways of thinking from our lives.
There are two parts to sanctification. The first comes at salvation when Christ forgives our sins and declares us righteous before God. This type of righteousness is called "imputed righteousness." It means that when we accept Christ's offer of salvation, He gives us His righteousness and declares us righteous before God.
This is God's part. It is step one. However, it is only the beginning of the sanctification process.
The next part of sanctification is our responsibility. This involves the choice of the Christian to "put off" sins and "put on" God's ways.
"Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception.
Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy." (Ephesians 4:21-24, NLT)
It's like changing your clothing. You choose to "take off" the sins in your life—how you lived before salvation—and decide to walk in God's holy ways. This is an ongoing process in the life of a believer. It never ends.
A healthy, maturing Christian will always be in the process of becoming more like Jesus. It's a sign of growth. You are healthy and growing as long as you're fighting for freedom and allowing the Holy Spirit to work on your heart.
Part of the sanctification process is allowing the Holy Spirit to show you the strongholds or the ways of thinking that need to be remodeled because they are still heavily influenced by your old patterns of living and thinking. Then, you work with the Holy Spirit to remove these strongholds/mindsets from your life.
How do you do this? How do you get rid of a stronghold?
First, you have to identify it.
Then, you need to find its source.
Then, you need to see how this way of thinking differs from God's, as the Bible teaches.
Finally, you must choose to replace your old ways with God's ways.
Will it take work?
Is it worth it?
You can't even imagine the possibilities of what your life could be like when you allow the Holy Spirit to do His work in your life, tear down strongholds, and replace them with God's ways. It's mind-blowing.
That's why the enemy tries so hard to create confusion and scare Christians about tearing down strongholds and spiritual warfare. He knows that when we realize that tearing down strongholds and replacing God's ways with ungodly mindsets is a natural part of every Christian's journey, the potential for what we can do in God's kingdom is endless.
He knows that Christians who see tearing down strongholds and sanctification as a natural, normal part of spiritual growth will ultimately win the battle.
Because the truth is that working with the Holy Spirit to tear down strongholds in your life isn't scary, and it isn't spooky. It doesn't require an exorcism or resemble a horror movie. It's simply allowing the Holy Spirit to remove the old thinking from your life and replace it with God's ways.
It should be embraced, not feared. Every Christian goes through it as part of spiritual growth and becoming more like Jesus.
1. Donald C, Stamps, Article: Power Over Satan and Demons, Fire Bible: English Standard Version, (Peabody, MA: Henderickson Publishers Marketing, LLC, 2014), Pg 1608.
2. Horton, Stanley M. Systematic Theology: A Pentecostal Perspective. Springfield, Mo: Logion Press, 1994. Print. Pg 399.
Adessa Holden is an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God specializing in Women's Ministry. Together with her brother, Jamie, they manage 4One Ministries and travel the East Coast speaking, holding conferences, and producing Men's and Women's resources that provide practical Biblical teaching for everyday life.
When asked about herself, she'll tell you "I'm a women's minister, a sister, and a daughter. I love to laugh and spend time with people. My favorite things are chocolate, the ocean, sandals and white capris, anything purple, summertime and riding in the car listening to music. It is my absolute honor and privilege to serve Jesus and women through this ministry."