God’s Word is true, but it’s not safe. It is comforting, but not comfortable. God never intended the words of the Bible to be a pat on the head or an instant blessing on whatever we set our hearts on doing.
Paul describes the Word of God as sharper than any two-edged sword. Have you ever heard the expression “the truth hurts”? God’s Word is truth, and it can hurt. Sometimes reading and applying God’s Word can feel like spiritual surgery. But like the cuts of an expert surgeon, the pain we feel becomes replaced by true healing of our inner, invisible wounds.
The tricky thing is allowing ourselves to be treated by the Master Physician in the first place. I know in my own life, I find it extremely easy to deny, justify and explain away my bad habits, lack of discipline, and poor choices. I struggle the most with a lack of self-control in several areas like speech (disrespectful words), food (overeating breads and sweets), sleep (staying up too late), time (wasting too much time on the Internet), emotions (making emotionally based bad decisions), and actions (making excuses and putting off things I know I should do). It can become easy for me to "hold back the sword," and not allow God to help me overcome in these areas.
A verse that is very helpful to me is 2 Corinthians 10:4-5: "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ."
One time when I was reading this verse, I realized that some of the areas I struggled having self control in were actually areas in which I was being rebellious to God. I had developed “strongholds” within myself. I had areas that were very hard to change because they were comfortable to me.
The word translated as “stronghold” here is translated a few different ways by Strong’s Concordance. In this verse its meaning is:
1) a castle or fortress;
2) anything on which one relies;
3) the arguments and reasonings by which a disputant endeavors to fortify his opinion and defend it against his opponent.
I would like to focus on meaning number 2: “Anything on which one relies.” We all know that we should be relying on God. But how many of us rely on many other things to help us “get through the day”? I know for me it is easy to get into the reward mindset. “I worked very hard yesterday so today I deserve to sleep in, skip my Bible study and just try again another day.” Or “I need another glass of wine because the kids were awful today.” How about “I shouldn’t have said that about her, but honestly after the way she’s treated me, how can I be expected to act differently?”
Getting stuck in a reward mindset can mean that we are on the dangerous road of self-deception. James wrote, “But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). When we justify our bad behavior we fail to allow God’s Spirit to work in us. This is a subtle form of rebellion against God that can occur while we continue to attend church, tithe, keep God’s Holy Days and even do many good deeds.
So let’s not hold back the sword of the Spirit anymore! Let’s humbly ask God to show us the areas that we have strongholds in. Here are some questions you can ask yourself on your journey to bring "every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
1. What are your strongholds? These are areas of your life that you aren’t letting God control.
2. What are your arguments? These are your excuses for not doing what God tells you to do through His Spirit and His Word.
3. Are you exalting yourself against the knowledge of God? We can do this by continuing to do our own will instead of God’s.
I recommend writing out your answers. You may come up with a list of strongholds that have already formed. Do not despair! God loves you deeply and He wants you to come to Him for help from his Spirit to overcome any strongholds you may have. He does not expect you to overcome them on your own.
With God’s help and a humble attitude, you can identify and begin to overcome your strongholds. God sees your wonderful potential! Trust Him and let Him begin this all important spiritual surgery.