Strongholds are some of the of the biggest hindrances in a human’s life. Through culture and tradition, they can destroy entire people groups. They keep people out of the will of God and away from His blessings. They can keep people in darkness all of their lives.
What is a stronghold?
A stronghold is a predominant train of thought reinforced with reasonings and opinions that are contrary to the Word of God. Strongholds are thoughts, not spirits.
(2 Corinthians 10:5 AMP) “[Inasmuch as we] refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God; and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One),”
Arguments, theories and reasonings are all human thought processes. These processes involve the pride of mankind. When a person is prideful, that person is easily manipulated by evil spirits that instruct people against God. Paul revealed this to Timothy.
(1 Timothy 4:1 ESV) “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons,”
Some demons are teachers. A teacher influences and shapes the thinking of the student. Demons teach and instruct people in many ways, but the demon is not the stronghold. Strongholds are built through the pride of mankind and by demon instructors. The level of deception among mankind in the world is a testimony of the skill and effectiveness of these demon instructors. They have influenced entire nations and they are not novices.
Perpetuated through culture and tradition.
Once a “way of thinking” is established in a people group, whether it is a family, a city, a nation, or more significantly a religion, that stronghold is passed from one generation to the next. The demon instructors don’t even need to be present any longer.
There is a world-wide trend of gatherings of ethnic groups. These groups gather because of what they have in common. What they have in common begins in their minds as a way of thinking. Many borders of nations are being changed and redefined based upon strongholds among people. Strongholds are much stronger bonds than nationalism, or patriotism.
Satan blinds people.
Predominant trains of thought close people off to hearing or seeing something different - that is exactly their job after they deceive a people group.
(2 Corinthians 4:4 ESV) “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
Once a person has been well trained in a “way of thinking” they easily develop a behavior that is called “selective hearing.” When a person operates in selective hearing, they have an unconscious ability to reject thinking that is not in agreement with what they believe. They will automatically not listen to and retain something other than what they hold in their minds.
“Selective thinking” occurs in a subtle way among many people. I see it not only among unbelievers, but among believing Christians as well. Christian denominations and ministry associations are gatherings of “like minded” people. Usually, these gatherings are a good thing as they encourage and support one another in their walk with God. However, they also tightly shut people off from considering any other thinking than what is accepted among the group, whether it is right or wrong.
The following bears repeating.
According to specialists in market research communication theory, in processing all incoming information, people exercise what is known as “selective exposure, selective attention, selective comprehension, selective perception, selective distortion, and selective retention.”
Selective exposure. Because people see and hear only what they want to see and hear, they tend to expose themselves only to messages that strengthen their present beliefs and attitudes, and avoid any messages they perceive to be irrelevant to their needs or threatening to their personal views, opinions, or convictions.
The evidence shows that more often than not a person will avoid a message he needs to hear while the same message will be listened to by those who don’t need it but already believe it. In one study, for example, there was an interesting reaction to articles pointing out the connection between smoking and lung cancer. “Data showed that 67 percent of the non-smokers claimed high readership of the articles, versus only 44 percent of the smokers.”
This principle is also demonstrated by the average gospel service in churches. Those who expose themselves to the message are mostly believers. This helps strengthen their existing beliefs, while those who need to hear it generally avoid it.
Many authorities will confirm that people self-censor or filter out messages that attack their beliefs and practices; that they will actively expose themselves to communications that strengthen their existing beliefs and practices; and will especially do the latter if their beliefs have been challenged or attacked.
Christians don’t think they have strongholds, which is the reason why it is so easy to bind them with them. Even market specialist understand strongholds. The above information is an extraordinarily accurate view of the Christian church.
I will take the information above and take it one step further. Many christians, particularly ministers, when they perceive that their doctrine is being contradicted, will not only seek out ways to strengthen their beliefs, but will attack the opposition. This is the product of extreme insecurity. The counter attack is done in the name of spiritual warfare in defense of God and His ways. All it does is build a stronger stronghold.
This is the problem that Jesus faced. He was considered a radicle that was demon possessed and out of His mind. The religious association He faced had determined and settled their beliefs and Jesus was challenging those beliefs. Rather than listen to Him and work though what He said to them, they decided it was best to kill him in order to preserve the security of their ways. Nothing has changed since then.
Here is a Biblical example of these principles in operation.
(Matthew 13:15 AMP) “For this nation’s heart has grown gross (fat and dull), and their ears heavy and difficult of hearing, and their eyes they have tightly closed, lest they see and perceive with their eyes, and hear and comprehend the sense with their ears, and grasp and understand with their heart, and turn and I should heal them.”
The people Jesus ministered to had selective hearing. They had the ability to hear and see but they just tuned it out. This is why Jesus told parables - the people would only listen to stories.
When a thought becomes a stronghold.
We are to be people of belief - solid, unshakeable belief. By definition, a person of conviction has no shadow of doubt. Our convictions are not to be personally formed or variable upon circumstance, but be those of the Word of God as they are meant. We conform our convictions to His Word.
As humans, we don’t always get everything right. This is one reason there are so many different Christian denominations. Groups of people have become convinced of different things, all based upon the Bible. Each one thinks and believes that they are right, but they are not all right. If all of us were right, we would all believe the same thing. The truth is, we are right about some things, maybe most things, but not in everything.
Strongholds form as groups of people become more and more self-affirming and less self-examining. They become unteachable, self-asserting and ultimately exclusionary. The proof is that a person must ascribe to the tenants of faith in order to belong to the group. It is interesting that you can become a member of the Body of Christ by believing that God rose Jesus from the dead and that He is Lord. However, you cannot become a member of a church until you take their membership classes and agree with their other beliefs. I believe that in one of the visions of Jesus that Kenneth E. Hagin had, Jesus indicated that He did not recognize denominations.
The Apostle Paul wrote 2Corinthans 10:1-13 to the church at Corinth. It was not written to the unbelievers in the world. Incorrect and false teaching had been brought into the church and was accepted by them all to the point to where they were opposing Paul. In the church world, it often takes one prominent person with a lot of influence to declare a doctrine, and that doctrine is then accepted and believed because of who said it. It then becomes a stronghold. Ultimately, it becomes error, or even heresy, to disagree with it.
I ministered in a church of about 150 on a Sunday morning. I asked the congregation if any one could tell me where to find this scripture, “for we walk by faith, not by sight.” Everyone could quote that part of the scripture but not one adult knew where to find it in the Bible. An eight year old child raised their hand and gave me the scripture reference of 2Corinthians 5:7 because it had been their memory verse. Those adults had heard that scripture quoted from the pulpit and on TV many times but did not know where it was in the Bible, or more importantly, why it was in the Bible. They just believed who said it.
We should at least be good Bereans.
(Acts 17:11 ESV) “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so”
To examine means: to scrutinize and investigate. Most Christians do not really study the Bible. They may read it, but they don’t methodically study it for themselves. They trust a notable minister, who they believe has studied it, to tell them what it means. I hear Christians quoting notable ministers all of the time, but they cannot find the scriptures themselves. Now, in many churches, the scripture text for the sermon is projected on a screen so the congregation doesn’t even need a Bible.
On the other side, a process is necessary to qualify true Christians, particularly for ministry. The Bible commands us to qualify people based upon belief in many areas. It even tells us to exclude fellowship with some that call themselves Christians if they hold certain behaviors. In the Bible, some were even turned over to Satan because of their beliefs and actions.
The right stronghold.
Every human is comprised of strongholds, some strong and some weak, some good and some bad. The strength depends upon the extent of training and discipline to a particular “way of thinking.” There is a presumption that all strongholds are evil, but they are not all evil. A stronghold is just a structure like a castle that is protecting something. What it is protecting can be evil or good.
Our God is a strong tower.
(Psalms 61:3 KJV) “For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.”
The right stronghold is protection from the evil. God is right, He is strong, and He will not change. We want to build into our children unshakable doctrines of God in their lives.
(Proverbs 22:6 ESV) “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Training produces an unchangeableness in a person. When the training is properly in God’s ways, it keeps us walking with God all of our lives.
(1 Corinthians 15:58 KJV) “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
There is a time and need to be unmoveable, and, unchangeable. The decision to be unchangeable needs to be made very carefully in prayer and study.
The eyes of our understanding.
Until the Spirit of God reveals something to us, then we don’t really know it yet. Humans have memory and intellect, but spiritual understanding comes only from God. God must open our eyes.
(Ephesians 1:17–18 KJV) “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,”
Understanding takes place in the heart, or spirit, of man. It is not a conclusion arrived at by an intellectual thought process. Most human intellectual thought processes concerning religion are bricks in the tower protecting something that is not right. God has to reveal truth to us.
(1 Corinthians 2:12 ESV) “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.”
We have been given the Spirit who is from God that we might understand, not our brains. Our minds are very important to the process, but understanding comes by way of the Spirit of God. The spiritual process of gaining understanding can at times be a tremendous battle.
Apostles anointed to deal with strongholds.
People, on their own, don’t seek to change thinking that they believe to be true. Most churches minister to strengthen and confirm the accepted beliefs for which the people have gathered. Personal growth in accepted collective beliefs occurs in church, but not much else. In the doctrines that are God revealed, discipleship occurs, which is what the church is for. But, what if something is not Biblical? People with unbiblical strongholds don’t know they have them, that’s why they have them.
The Apostle Paul had to challenge false doctrine in the church.
(2 Corinthians 10:1–8 ESV) “I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!— I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. Look at what is before your eyes. If anyone is confident that he is Christ’s, let him remind himself that just as he is Christ’s, so also are we. For even if I boast a little too much of our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be ashamed.”
False apostles had brought in false doctrines into the Corinthian church and those doctrines had become accepted among them. Now, Paul had to root it out - of the church.
Paul said that it takes “divine power” to destroy strongholds. Human arguments and opinions that are against the knowledge of God require divine power to change them. People have to be convinced of something different than what they presently hold as beliefs. Apostles have the authority to do this, if they will use it.
These strongholds are not demons, they are thought processes opposed to the knowledge of God. They are reasons guarding a false doctrine. These thoughts need to be destroyed.
A demon cannot be destroyed and Paul said he would destroy the strongholds by the power of God. However, a thought within a human can be destroyed and replaced with another thought, but only as the power of God convinces them. Often, ministers try to deal with demons when the real problem is the human’s lack of understanding. Dealing with a demon does not change the thinking of a human. The thinking of a human can only be changed if that human is convinced of something other than what they believe. When a person’s understanding changes, a demon’s access to that person is ended (in that area of thinking).
(John 1:5 ESV) “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Light dispels darkness and darkness is only removed with light. Darkness without light is just more darkness. Unless the light shines, darkness prevails.
It is also true that you cannot reason with a demon. We must use our authority against demons. Paul made it clear to us that demons blind people to the truth (2Corinthians 4:4). But, dealing with a demon does not shine the light. Even in the natural realm, I have never seen darkness overpower light. Darkness only prevails because a light has not been turned on. I have traveled much of the world, and in the darkest countries I have been in, it is the lack of light that permits darkness to prevail.
God has made this clear in scripture.
(Hosea 4:6 ESV) “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge;”
(1 Corinthians 15:34 ESV) “Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.”
Lack of knowledge of God is what destroys humans, not demons. The devil works to deceive and blind people from receiving the light of God’s Word because that light will cast him away.
Apostles are anointed to change minds by the power of God.
The power to convince.
Paul understood what it takes to change a human mind - the power of God.
(1 Corinthians 2:1–4 ESV) “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,”
Paul spoke of two things - a demonstration AND of power. These two things are not the same thing, but from the same Spirit. One is a manifestation, and one is the power to convince. Some other translations of 1Corinthians 2:4.
Tay - “God’s power was in my words, proving to those that heard them that the message was from God.”
Wey - “the convincing power of the Spirit.”
Amp - “And my language and my message were not set forth in persuasive (enticing and plausible) words of wisdom, but they were in demonstration of the [Holy] Spirit and power [a proof by the Spirit and power of God, operating on me and stirring in the minds of my hearers the most holy emotions and thus persuading them],”
Paul knew that humans have to be convinced by the Spirit of God rather than by human reasoning. He made a conscious decision to lean on this power to convince. The convincing did not occur because of a manifestation of the Spirit, although there was one. The Bible does not endorse believing because of a manifestation of some kind. Manifestations confirm the Word. Faith in manifestations is the way the devil will deceive multitudes.
(Matthew 24:24 AMP) “For false Christs and false prophets will arise, and they will show great signs and wonders so as to deceive and lead astray, if possible, even the elect (God’s chosen ones).”
We now live in the day of great signs and wonders being done by false prophets. Multitudes of people will follow them because of the manifestations and because they do not know the Spirit of God. False prophets are not outside the church, they are inside the church and “arise” within.
A true disciple of Christ knows his Master. Therefore, he recognizes those whom His Master sends. He also recognizes the truth and rejects error which keeps a stronghold of error from being built into his life.