What is Taking up the Cross #4, Strongholds

Hi all,
Last week I told the stories of 3 people who crucified old ways of thinking so they could begin thinking new thoughts: The teen who stole from stores and ran with the wrong crowd, the promiscuous girl trying to fill the void in her heart thinking each guy she had sex with might be ‘the one’, and the corrupt businessman who requested cash payments and then didn’t report the income.
 
All 3 put their old thoughts to death on their mental cross that they might take up new life in their thoughts: The teen stopped stealing and broke his friendships with that crowd in spite of taunts and jeers, the girl kept relationships pure and focused on knowing her heavenly Father though now rejected by peers and the boys she’d once slept with, and the businessman who stopped asking for cash and when paid in cash, reported it properly while his peers shook their heads not understanding this sudden ‘religion’ in his life.
 
I closed by asking, what if they did not crucify those thoughts?
What if each person continued their walk with the Lord, but in that one area of thought in each of their lives, they rejected revelation from God and stubbornly refused to crucify old thoughts? What if they kept those old thoughts and protected them instead? Maybe because they liked being accepted. Maybe because they enjoy the feeling they got from the sin. Maybe because they believe they won’t have any fun if they give it up.
 
They are still believers, but the first occasionally steals from stores and keeps those old friendships while also going to church and Christian concerts. The young lady loves God, but loves the attention and temporary high of promiscuous sexual encounters as well, and tells herself she is more discerning in who she sleeps with now, and the corrupt businessman, a leader in his community on the outside but with this one area he refuses to let God influence his thoughts.
 
When a person rejects revelation from God in an area to hold onto their own thoughts, each of these thoughts manifest as occasional actions which then become regular habits, which then becomes lifestyle, and the person is then ‘past feeling’* in that area - the thought is now a stronghold. *Ephesians 4:19
 
How strongholds develop – not crucifying wrong thoughts
There is a passage in II Corinthians 10:4-5 commonly used in ‘spiritual warfare’ teaching, but when used that way is at least in part, in error.
 
“…we don’t war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but powerful to God for bringing down strongholds, reasonings bringing down, and every high thing lifted up against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought captive to the obedience of Christ..” II Corinthians 10:4-5
 
The weapons of our warfare are for pulling down mental strongholds which are reasonings, not about demons. This is how thoughts are crucified. You pull them down when they life up against revelation and knowledge of God’s thoughts on the matter.
 
The word ‘stronghold’ means ‘fortress’ - it is a military term, meaning a person like the young thief, or promiscuous woman, or corrupt businessman with ungodly thoughts would guard those thoughts as a military fort or castle might be defended, arguing or digging in one’s heels to resist other’s opinions or ideas.
 
These thoughts are strongholds defended by the person, meaning God’s thoughts and everyone else’s on the matter are shut out. That is what makes it a stronghold. There is no reasoning with such a person yet holding onto their well guarded reasoning means they shut out God in that area, and others, eventually making themselves an island all alone in their singular thought in that protected stronghold.
 
By contrast Romans 12:2 says to “Don’t be conformed to this world, but become transformed (Greek: metamorphosis, to undergo a metamorphosis) by the renewing of your mind…”  
 
There is no other way to grow as a disciple of Christ, for the word disciple means ‘learner’. Learning means examining and accepting new thoughts in place of old. You want to change your life? Start with killing your old thoughts and taking up new life in Christ’s thoughts – about everything!
 
Like the young woman who slept with man after man thinking each might be ‘the one’ to fill the void in her heart, so too many Christians run to and fro to this conference and that, looking for ‘the one’ that will fill the void in their heart or heal them or heal their family, choosing to ignore the hard work of actually becoming a disciple and battling old thoughts with new, taking the old captive and then killing them on their own cross. Difficult, tortuous even, but that is why the Lord used the cross as an example. He knows the difficult process, but there is no other way.
 
Success against strongholds
For me it was that I didn’t like myself. When my dad left our family when I was age 11, that rejection hurt all the way to my core. I was direction-less, searching for a father, for acceptance, for self-worth. As many children do, I blamed myself at least partially for their divorce, and hated myself for it.
 
After I was born again and baptized with the Holy Spirit I still had this stronghold of a self-hatred and rejection of myself, and no direction in life as a result. I just didn’t care. About anything.  
 
But I began doing what the Bible said – renewing my mind and therefore underwent a transformation in my thinking. Every time a thought of rejection or hatred would come into my mind I would counter that thought with another; “I’m no good so not even the Father can use me/Jesus died for me so of course the Father wants me and can use me for His will.” “I hate myself and feel trapped/The Father loves me unconditionally so He has to have a plan for me.”
 
And many other mental battles like that. Those ungodly thoughts did not go willingly to captivity on their cross – I had to march them down one by one as each reared its ugly head in my mind, and see to it each died in the presence of revelation from my Father which revealed each as a liar.
 
I had to counter thoughts like that nearly every day, for about a year before His thoughts became first nature, and I knew I was loved unconditionally and I could trust Him. I refused the idea of not growing in Him – I wanted all of Him and the only way to know Him was to think like Him because He sure wasn’t going to start thinking like me.
 
It was a similar process forgiving my dad, which I did at age 16, but it took 10 years before the feelings lined up with my decision. I had read in Mark 11:25 Jesus said ‘When you stand praying, forgive…’ which meant forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling. So I decided to forgive though I still felt hurt, rejected, and angry at the injustice of it all.
 
Those were genuine and justified feelings and I wasn’t going to be religiously manipulated into denying the facts of the situation – it was not right that he did what he did and I was right to feel angry and rejected. But those facts had nothing to do with my decision to forgive him. The forgiveness was instant, the feelings I had to work through because my hurt and the injustice was legitimate and real, took 10 years.
 
Every time one of my siblings would bring up ‘the divorce’ it would stir strong emotions of hatred, anger, rejection and more, all over again. But I had to mentally and with determination, counter every thought of anger and hatred towards dad with “I forgave him years ago so feelings settle down because he is already forgiven.” I did that over and over and over again through 10 years.
 
It wasn’t until I was 26, looking at my wife and sons and wondering how in the world my dad could walk out on us when I was young, causing a huge void in my life making my teen years incomplete, that I realized the final piece of injustice I had to resign myself to was that I didn’t have teenage years with my dad. Once I settled it that I would never get my teen years back, somehow becoming okay with that though unjust, as I was then in my 20′s and there was no turning back the hands of time, the final feeling of rest and peace lined up with my decision 10 years earlier to forgive. Now I had the memories but no longer any hurt attached to each memory. He had been forgiven 10 years earlier, but now my feelings lined up with the decision.
 
There is no other way to grow in Christ than to do the dirty work of countering each thought of man/Satan with the thoughts based on revelation from the Father. It is a process, but the end result is a transformed mind and life. You can do it.
 
New subject next week, blessings!
John Fenn

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