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II Corinthians 10:3-5  3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 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. Silent Prayer One of the major ways we demolish strongholds is through prayer.  Ephesians 6:18 Those of you who have committed to praying eleven minutes a day, have you found that it’s easier said than done?  Do you find yourself easily distracted?  Let me tell you if there is one thing that makes the Devil nervous, it’s a praying church.  You want to stir Satan up?  Start praying.  When you signed up to pray eleven minutes a day in 2011, you signed up for a battle with the enemy of our souls.  Perhaps I should have told you that first.  J  Prayer is one of the major weapons of our warfare.  Ephesians 6:18 I want to suggest to you this morning that powerful prayer will be impossible without right thinking in our minds.  Left to ourselves, we have some issues.  We have some mind challenges.  You see, with Adam and Eve’s sin, sin entered the world. We not only inherited a carnal nature, the fleshly nature that lives for pleasure and self-satisfaction, but we also inherited a carnal mind, thinking which is contrary to God’s way of thinking.  That is why we must be “transformed by the renewing of our minds.”  Romans 12:2 MIND GAMES Satan wants to sabotage your mind.  In the Garden of Eden, he didn’t tempt Adam and Eve with lust or greed or power, but with the promise of knowledge, of wisdom equal to God himself.  It was a mind game from the very beginning.  The “Tree of knowledge” was the carrot Satan dangled in front of them.  Satan went after their minds, not by accident, but because that is how he works.  That is his battlefield of choice.  He still works in the same ways today. We must transition from merely living as church-going Christians and start living as warring Christians.  We must wake up on guard and move throughout our day with an awareness that “mind fields” are everywhere.  It’s time to suit up Children of God, time to get our armor on, time to go on the offensive and tear down some strongholds, and time to be alert watching daily for the attack of the enemy.  The Bible says we have special weapons with which to fight Satan.  I believe the first line of defense is the use of prayer and our minds which are capable of demolishing arguments and pretensions that set themselves against the knowledge of God.  God has given us weapons to enable us to capture thoughts that aren’t in sync with God’s will for us.  One of those major weapons is prayer.  That’s one reason why we’re told in Ephesians 6 where the armor of God, our spiritual armor, is detailed that the last thing we read is that we are to pray in the spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  Ephesians 6:18 Being in a constant state of prayer will keep our minds sharp and focused on God’s voice. Listen, you only have to believe one lie to be out of God’s total control and to put yourself or Satan in control. Author Francis Frangipane wrote:  You’ll remember that the location where Jesus was crucified was called “Golgatha,” which meant what?  “Place of the skull.”  If we will be effective in spiritual warfare, the first field of conflict where we must learn warfare is the battleground of the mind.  i.e. “the place of the skull.”  To defeat the devil, we must be crucified in the place of the skull.  We must be renewed in the spirit of our minds.  (pg. 15)  We won’t be able to pray right if we aren’t thinking right.  If Satan can create the least tiny bit of doubt in your mind, those seeds of doubt will cause you to pray amiss or will cause your faith to have a hole in it leaving you with watered down anticipation that your prayers will be answered.   In the NIV, the word “stronghold(s)” appears 50 times; 49 times in the Old Testament and once in the New Testament.  40 of those 50 references refer to a refuge or fortress, a hiding place where a person would run to in order to be safe from their enemies.  That can be a good thing. Psalm 27:1-It’s not surprising that David would speak of the Lord as his stronghold.  He had spent a great deal of time running and hiding from King Saul who was trying to kill him.  For David, God was the stronghold to guard him against fear and to keep him physically safe. The only NT reference to the word “stronghold” doesn’t refer to safety, but speaks about a force that clearly opposes God.  It speaks of a force that can capture and strangle us. The kind of stronghold Paul speaks of in II Corinthians isn’t a physical fortress, but it’s a mental structure.  It is built when thoughts that aren’t of God are laid in our minds and that foundation is built upon by other people’s opinions and life experiences rather than by the Word of God.  A stronghold is “a belief system-a pattern of thinking, attitudes, and expectations-that influences behavior and invites spiritual domination.” –Terry Teykl It could be good or bad.  A bad stronghold, dominates our thinking to the point where God’s voice is drowned out.  Have you ever thought that what you think is an invitation to be possessed and controlled by God or possessed and controlled by Satan? About a bad stronghold, Beth Moore said, “It is something that consumes so much of our emotional and mental energy that abundant life is strangled.”  (Praying for God’s Word pg. 3) A stronghold is a pattern of thinking.  Patterns form habits.  Strongholds don’t result from just a fleeting idea or thought.  We’re all going to have bad thoughts pop into our heads from time to time.  The problem comes when we ruminate on them, when we meditate on them, when we entertain them rather than dismiss them.  Because what happens is that a pattern of thinking is established over time.  Patterns are something that become repeated. Attitudes involve our emotions.  They aren’t necessarily based on logic.  You know how much energy flows into a discussion or argument when it becomes emotional.  It gains power and gives forward motion to what we are thinking whether it is good or bad. Expectations-When you are expecting something to happen, you will walk through life trying to achieve that thing.  You make adjustments in your life to accommodate the possible arrival of whatever it is you are hoping for.  People rearrange their lives for all kinds of satanic promises that will never satisfy and that will never be delivered into their laps.  People are often willing to do anything for the promise of knowledge or wealth or power or affection or whatever it is that Satan has whispered in their minds.  As a result, people wake up one day chained to an addiction or lifestyle they would never have chosen had they not believed some kind of lie that Satan had sold as truth.  When you boil all of Satan’s strategies down, the lie he recycles over and over is that you have the right to something.  You have the right to be rich.  You have the right to be sexually satisfied.  You have the right to the same information God does.  You have the right to do as you please.  You have the right to feel good.  You have the right deceive people if it’s for your own good.  You have the right to say whatever you feel.  After all, everyone ought to express themselves.  You have the right to abort a child.  After all it’s your body.  You have the right to get drunk and numb the pain.  What’s wrong with escaping the pain for a few hours and having some fun?  It’s all about me.  Me happy.  Me satisfied.  Me wealthy.  Me successful.  Me, me, me, me, me, me, me. Do you see the subtle approach?  Get them thinking about themselves, Satan says, is the way to keep them from thinking about God and what He wants.  “Get them thinking about themselves and they’ll start worshiping themselves to the point where they will do anything to protect self, pamper self and prosper self and as they do, I’ll be chaining them to me.”  And one day they experience the reality that they aren’t serving themselves, but Satan.  They aren’t free to please themselves, and they aren’t free to enjoy the abundant life God has for them.  Satan will have stolen it from them through the use of mind games. Perhaps you or someone in your family finds himself in that situation.  Today is the day to demolish some strongholds.  Satan may be a smart wrestler, but he’s not stronger than our God.  He may be able to pin you to the mat, but God has provided a way of escape.  Strongholds can be broken in your life.  The first step is to: TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR THOUGHTS This morning I want to help us understand that we are just as responsible for our thoughts as we are our actions.  If we get the thought life right, our actions will take care of themselves. Colossians 3:1-5 1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Is Christ “your life?”  Are you thinking about what pleases Him as you move throughout your day, as you parent, as you make decisions, as you do your job?  You can choose what you will think about.  Where you put your mind will impact how you spend your time.  You can’t dwell on pornographic images and think it won’t impact your marriage down the road—even if you are fifteen and single now.  Our thought life will make or break our destiny.  Folks, this is serious business. When our minds are on Christ, we are thinking in a way that causes a nesting place for the Holy Spirit.  He likes to visit where Christ is exalted because that’s His job description, point to Christ.  He lives to see Christ and the Kingdom of God advance.  He will come and tell you things God wants you to know.  He will tell you how awesome and lovely and amazing you are.  He will remind you that you were worth dying for.  He will deposit reminders that you can do anything through Christ who gives you strength.  He will pump you up so that you can go out in Jesus’ name and work miracles.  He will whisper special information to you that is reserved for those who have a pure mind, for those whose minds are devoted to the things of God. He will teach us how to recognize our enemy and how to demolish him. David prayed, “Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear Your name.”  Perhaps we need to pray this morning, “Give me an undivided head that I may live victoriously.” Take control of your thoughts.  Second: TAKE THE MIND OF CHRIST Put on the mind of Christ-When the enemy can confuse our thinking, he can control our behavior.  Just as we can live the life of Christ, we can possess the mind of Christ.  Let me warn you, it is completely contrary to our natural inclinations. The crown of thorns Jesus wore may say as much as the nail-pierced hands.  For it sat on Christ’s head which housed his mind.  He willingly chose not to fight back though it was justifiable.  He willing chose to do the will of the Father, even though He could have chosen what would have spared Him.  He willingly chose to forgive those who were hurting Him.  He willingly chose to be the sacrifice for the sins of the world.  All of those activities were battles that took place in His mind, and He won them all! We’re told in Philippians 2:5-8 “5Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (NKJ) Jesus could have entertained thoughts of selfish gain and sensual pleasure, but instead he entertained thoughts of servanthood and submission to the Father’s will.  We can do the same. Christian, it’s time to take control of your thoughts, to take the mind of Christ, and to: TAKE YOURSELF OFF THE THRONE Let me reread Colossians 3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. At the center of the sinful nature is greed, which the Bible says is idolatry.  A greedy person is never satisfied with what he has, and he is usually envious of what other people have. He makes an idol of himself. When we believe Satan’s lie that we have the right to be on the throne of our own lives, we become restless, greedy, looking for this to satisfy and that to satisfy.  You can’t piece together satisfaction with a little alcohol here, a little sex there, a little money here, and a little Jesus on Sunday.  It won’t work.  The alcohol, or the sex, or the money will become a stronghold and will strangle the abundant life right out of you because they feed the appetite of greed which is idolatry.  They have no staying power, no lasting satisfaction, so you have to have more and bigger and more deviant variations in order to get the moment of pleasure you once experienced in the beginning.  It’s a trap.  It’s a lie.  It’s a mind game that Satan plays when he gets you to entertain for one second that any of that stuff will bring contentment.  Only Jesus can satisfy your soul! Look at the story of the Israelites.  You know what the root of their problem was?  It wasn’t unbelief.  It wasn’t that they were whiners.  It wasn’t that they didn’t like to travel.  It was idolatry!!  They loved themselves more than God.  Every time they drifted into sin you can look back and find the root of idolatry at work.  When they worshiped false gods, they grew restless and got into trouble. Why do you think the First of the Ten Commandments is “You shall have no other gods before me?”  (Exodus 20:3)  And the second is “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth below.”  (Exodus 20:4) It’s because when we have those two right, we’ll have the ongoing contentment to know that the other carrots Satan tries to dangle in front of us have no lasting power.  We’ll know nothing can compare to an exclusive love relationship with Jesus.  We’ll know that only 100% surrender to God as our Father will give us peace.  We’ll have the strength to choose to stay away from fleshly and carnal pursuits.  When He is 100% first, we’ll trust Him, no matter what.  Even if we can’t see Him.  Even if life is tough.  Even if it takes a long time to see our prayers answered, we won’t cave and run to anything else for answers or satisfaction. I can say without issue that while God had chosen the Israelites, as a nation, they had never really chosen Him back.  They struggled to be His bride.  What were they doing when Moses went up on that mountain to meet with God on their behalf?  They made a golden calf out of their jewelry.  They built an altar in front of the calf and worshiped that calf as the god who brought them out of Egypt. Exodus 32:4 is heartbreaking.  The golden calf was worshiped as the god who had brought them out of Egypt.  What perversion.  What a slap in God’s face.  After all God had done on their behalf; the raising up of Moses to assist in their deliverance, the negotiating of their freedom with Pharaoh through the sending of the powerful plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, the sparing of their lives time and time again, taking care of their physical needs, and countless other miracles how could they credit and worship a gold blob instead of the One True and Living God?  There was no doubt a stronghold of idolatry in their lives. Are we so different from the Israelites?  We are an idolatry-prone people.  “High places” and “Asherah Poles” are connected to idolatry in the Bible. High places were elevated altars or monuments where the people brought sacrifices and offerings to the pagan gods.  The places were of significance to the people who built the altars there.  Perhaps there had been a military victory or a special religious event took place there.  Asherah Poles were basically sex symbols.  They were symbols of the sensual Canaanite goddess Astarte and were used in perverse sexual practices in pagan religious rituals.  Talk about being “in your face” towards God! We have different “high places” that we worship.  We worship money, success, traditions, doctrines, and achievements of men.  We deify power, wealth, beauty, and education and are seduced by sensuality in all forms.  We live in a new era of sexual perversion.  Technology has become a breeding ground for sexual sin.  Technology isn’t inherently good or bad, but the abuse of its use has become an open door for Satan. I want to say a word about sexting, and I’m not just talking to the teenagers in the room.  Sexting-sending sexually explicit text messages, sending pictures of your naked body or other people’s naked bodies, sexual exchanges via web cams, pornography available in an instant on screen is a feeding frenzy for the flesh.  It’s idolatry with the greed for more, more, more at the heart of it. At the heart of every stronghold is idolatry.  Our affection, our attention, our energy, our pursuits rally around that thing or experience, making it what we worship.  Listen, the first time you act on a thought that is contrary to God’s Word will be the first time you have made it an idol and it have invited it to spiritually dominate you to some degree.  The first time you act on it, you give it the right to speak to you and you create a relationship with it to where you have to listen.  What you are mesmerized by, what you are awed by, what you are enthralled with or enchanted by, what you are impressed by or even inspired by has the potential to overtake God’s rightful place in your life and the minute He becomes second, you’ll compromise in one if not several other areas in your life.  Take yourself off of the throne.  Repent from the sin of idolatry.  Surrender your life, your thought life, your dating life, your married life, your work life, your money life, your relational life, all of it to Christ and live to think and do what pleases Him alone. Take control of your thoughts, take the mind of Christ, take yourself off the throne and: TERMINATE ONE-PERSON CONVERSATIONS The minute you start debating with yourself you’re headed for trouble. “Should I or shouldn’t I go there?  It’s just this one time.  It’s a special occasion.  It won’t hurt anyone.  I can put a limit on myself so things don’t get out of hand.  It won’t become a habit.  I can dip into some cash at work now because I’ll pay it back later. What the government doesn’t know won’t hurt them.  It’s a dumb rule anyway, right?” Refuse to debate with yourself.  If Satan can get you talking to yourself, the conclusion you will come to will be from yourself and we can all predict how that will turn out. Don’t fall for it.  It’s a trap!  Don’t debate earthly, carnal, fleshly ideas!  Demolish them!  “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.”  II Cor. 10:5 The minute you open your mind to anything that goes against God’s way of thinking and doing, you put that experience, that person, that opportunity, that pleasure in the place of God.  Don’t converse with those kinds of ideas.  Capture them.  Make them mind God instead of making a god out of them. You can do that by taking those thoughts to God in prayer immediately. A lifestyle of prayer will take away opportunities for Satan to establish strongholds in your life.  Instead, choose a Divine Stronghold through prayer. Divine Strongholds-“A state of total surrender to the mind of Christ in which He is the Most High God, and everything bows to the knowledge and experience of His Presence.” –Terry Teykl Stay in a state of surrender through the weapon of prayer. Take control of your thoughts, take the mind of Christ, take yourself off the throne and terminate one-sided conversations.  The reality is for some of us here this morning, we need to back up.  Before we can use any of those constructive, prevention and offensive strategies we have to do some destructing.  Some of us are sitting here with strongholds in our lives.  They keep us from sleeping well, enjoying life, having quality relationships, and responding to invitations like we’re going to have in just a minute.   The final thing some of us may need to do today is to: TEAR DOWN STRONGHOLDS Jesus came that you might have true life and true freedom!  He came to set loose anyone who is captured by anything.  He wants to set some people free this morning. Matt 18:18-20 18 I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.  19 Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.  20 For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” Where Satan has built a stronghold, it can crumble if we bind him in Jesus’ name and agree in Jesus’ name that it is so.  One lie Satan is whispering in this sanctuary right now is that you can do it by yourself later.  It’s another mind game.  He wants to get you by yourself and then convince you it’s not necessary.  Did you hear Matthew 18?  If two of you agree and ask in Jesus name, it will be done.  Quit letting Satan divide and conquer you.  There is power in agreement.  There is power in the prayers of two or three gathering together.  Don’t leave today with a stronghold.  Tear it down in Jesus’ name.  Let us pray.
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