A Serious Question About Pulling Down Strongholds

by | Mar 1, 2010

Scripture: II Corinthians 10:4

“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds”

I recently completed three sermons for the Revivalist Pulpit entitled “Pulling Down Strongholds in Your Life.”

I talked about the power of the Holy Spirit conjoined with the power of the written Word of God to transform the life of every Christian so that he or she could become Christlike in all attitudes and actions (Romans 12:2; John 17:17).

Then I posed the question, “How can I have the strongholds in my life pulled down—strongholds such as bitterness, ill-will, unkindness, unChristlike temper and anger, envy, lust, jealousy, worry and anxiety, addictive habits, a critical spirit, laziness, self-centeredness, compulsive buying, compulsive eating, or other intemperate behaviors.”

An earnest Christian reader wrote that he was “trying to take the ‘stronghold medicine’ that I suggested but was having some confusion discerning the difference between “traits of carnality,” “strongholds,” and “infirmities.”

He asked, “Which ones do we pull down and which ones does God cast out?” This is a great question, and it deserves a Biblical answer.

First, let’s think together about what Scripture says happens when we become a Christian. Sinners are transformed at the New Birth. We are told that when a sinner repents of his sins and puts his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, he is born again (John 3:3-5; 1 Pet. 1:23).

“if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).

A Christian is said to be dead to sin, to be crucified with Christ, to be baptized into his death, to be buried with Christ, to be risen with Christ, and to be free from sin (Rom. 6:2-7).

He is “in Christ” (Eph. 2:13), and is said to be “holy” and “sanctified” (1 Cor. 1:2).

New Christians must be taught what is sinful and what is pleasing to God.

Paul has to tell the Corinthian Christians to stop their fussing and bickering (1 Cor. 1:10-11).

He had to address their spiritual pride, lack of humility, and abuse of spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12-14).

He had to tell them to stop suing fellow Christians (1 Cor. 6:1-7).

He had to tell the Corinthian and Thessalonian Christians that fornication was not acceptable to the God (1 Cor. 6:18-19; 1Thes. 4:3-8; 1 Pet. 1:13-16).

He had to tell the Ephesians that Christians must not be characterized by lying, stealing, unChristlike anger, coarse and smutty joking, or unkindness to each other (Eph. 4:17-32; 5:1-9).

A Christian must obey continually all that God helps him to understand.

As I have said in other sermons, the only “stronghold” God instantly delivers people from when they are saved or when they become Spirit filled (entirely sanctified), is what they could not stop though disciplined, Scriptural obedience; personal accountability to a mature, wise saint; and the God-appointed means of grace (i.e., daily Bible reading and prayer, fasting, meditation, Scripture memory, faithful church attendance, etc.).

God promises He will not allow Christians to be tempted above that which they are able to bear. For some Christians, God must instantaneously deliver them from one or more addictive strongholds.

The need to teach Christians that they are to stop lying, stop stealing, stop fornicating, stop cursing, stop getting drunk; and that they must be kind and loving to all men may seem shocking to biblically enlightened people.However, one must remember that pagan people must be taught the Bible.

And as they learn biblical truth, God simply requires them to obey all the new information they learn (1 John 1:7). If they know little or nothing of the Bible, and if, for example, their culture taught them that it was all right to “lie” under certain circumstances, such a person would not know that lying is always wrong in God’s eyes (Rev. 21:8).

If they know little or nothing of the Bible, and if, for example, their culture taught them that it was all right to “lie” under certain circumstances, such a person would not know that lying is always wrong in God’s eyes (Rev. 21:8).

There is no list of “carnal traits” that God guarantees to remove automatically.

God does give various lists of sins that a person cannot do and claim to be saved (see 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:5; Rev. 21:8).

But there is no list of sins that God promises to “cast out” or to remove automatically from a person’s life when that person gets saved; nor is there a list of “carnal traits” that are automatically removed from a Christian at the moment he is filled with the Spirit and entirely sanctified.

What God expects of both the baby Christian and the entirely sanctified Christian is to walk in all the light that He gives them (1 John 1:7).

Therefore, whenever a Christian, no matter at what stage of development, becomes aware that there is something about his attitude, speech, interpersonal relationships, or some other behavior that is not in harmony with either a command or a precept of Scripture, that Christian must purpose to walk in the new light God has given him.

Some Christians have misunderstood the necessity of walking in the light at each stage of the Christian life. If, for example, they have been taught that a Christian who is not entirely sanctified will manifest “traits of carnality,” they may assume that as long as they do not profess to be entirely sanctified, carnal attitudes or actions are simply a normal part of the Christian life. This is tragically wrong!

There are only three passages in the New Testament that speak of “carnality” or more properly, “fleshly behavior” in a negative sense.

In the first two passages, Romans 7:14-25 and Romans 8:4-11, Paul uses the term “carnal” in reference to the unsaved. He says such carnal people “cannot please God” (Rom. 8:8), and their end is spiritual death (Rom. 8:6).

The third passage, 1 Cor. 3:1-3, uses the term “carnal” in reference to Christians. But Paul immediately explains what he means by the term in that context. A carnal Christian is a “baby Christian” who acts “carnal” because he does not know any better!

But as soon as he becomes aware that any of his attitudes or behaviors are “carnal” and therefore sinful, he repents and purposes by the grace of God to stop what is wrong and obey all that is right. A Christian can not knowingly allow carnal traits in his life and remain a Christian!

And, all of the “strongholds” I listed in the first paragraph are “carnal traits.” I listed things such as “bitterness, ill-will, unkindness, unChristlike temper and anger, envy, lust, jealousy, worry and anxiety, addictive habits, a critical spirit, laziness, self-centeredness, compulsive buying, compulsive eating, or other intemperate behaviors.”

A Christian cannot and must not knowingly allow any of these “carnal traits” to remain in his life if he wishes to maintain a relationship with a holy God (1 John 1:5-9; 1 Pet. 1:13-16).

Testimonies of deliverance from a besetting sin when entirely sanctified.

Evidently some people have been taught that when a Christian gets entirely sanctified, all “carnal traits” are automatically and instantaneously purged from his life. Or they may have read testimonies of people who said their life was radically transformed when they were entirely sanctified.

Such testimonies usually will speak of the instability of their walk as a Christian, about a cycle of sinning and repenting, and about the frustration they experienced over their lack of victory over a certain besetting sin.

Then they say, “But when I was filled with the Spirit, I was delivered from my besetting sin and entered into a life of wonderful victory.” If you think carefully about such testimonies, you will observe that they seem to imply that God’s grace in salvation, before they were entirely sanctified, was not sufficient to enable them to obey God fully.

Please do not misunderstand me. I am not denying that entire sanctification is an establishing grace (1 Thes. 3:10-12; 5:23-24).

Nor am I denying the empowerment to be a witness that the fullness of the Spirit provides (Acts 1:8). I do know, however, that John Wesley and the early Methodist preachers would have been horrified at such testimonies!

Wesley was emphatic in his assertion that one of the characteristics of persons who are truly born again is that he is empowered by God’s grace to live victoriously over all known (willful) sin. He wrote,

“The Word of God plainly declares that even those who are justified, who are born again in the lowest sense, do not ‘continue in sin.”1

Again he insisted,

“all real Christians or believers in Christ, are made free from outward sin.”2

I am afraid many people unintentionally have watered down the grace of God in salvation so they could exalt the grace of entire sanctification.

Consequently sincere people have been confused and wrongly concluded that only the entirely sanctified Christian can live a consistent, obedient, victorious life. Such is not the case!

God does not promise to deliver His people from infirmities in this fallen world.

There is a difference between “carnal traits” which are sinful and “infirmities” which are not. An infirmity is a state of physical or mental incapacity and includes such things as bodily ailments, sickness, disease, and weakness (Luke 5:15).

In Romans 8:26 Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit helps our infirmities. Paul says we don’t know “what we should pray for as we ought” (KJV) or we don’t know “how to pray as we should” (NASV).

These infirmities may also include such things as forgetfulness, becoming confused or disoriented, misunderstanding what people said, and making wrong decisions based upon faulty data.

Conclusion

The key to biblical victory over all willful sin.

Victory over all known sin is God’s stated will for every Christian (1 John 2:1; 3:4-10).

If you become aware of an area of your life that is not in harmony with God’s Word, and if you find changing difficult, you have located a “stronghold” that God will enable you to remove from your life if you faithfully take His Scriptural medicine.

It is God’s will that any stronghold in your life be pulled down through the power of His Spirit and His Word (2 Cor. 10:3-5).

Notes

[1] John Wesley, “Christian Perfection,” The Bicentennial Edition of the Works of John Wesley (Abingdon, 1985), Vol. 2, p. 106.

[2] Ibid.

 

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