Personal Spiritual Warfare (Part 3) — Mindsets and Strongholds

Last time, we talked about the spiritual warfare which is waged against us in the arena of our thoughts. Some thoughts come directly from our own soulish nature, but they can also come from outside of ourselves — from evil spirits.

If we let these thoughts flow unchecked, not recognizing their source, we begin to come into agreement with them. Our thinking develops certain patterns, or mindsets — things we believe to be true, although they are not. When that happens, the enemy of our souls is on the way to establishing a “stronghold” — a fortress within our head, from which he can disseminate even more lies. The goal is to paralyze us, so that we cannot fulfill the plans God has for us.

Mindsets are limitations in our thinking which keep us from the full revelation of what God wants us to understand about Himself and about how He does business in His kingdom. They affect how we view our own destiny and the destinies of others around us:

  • “I am a failure / bad mom / inept klutz.”
  • “God loves others, but He doesn’t love me … at least not as much.”
  • “I am not worthy.”
  • “God doesn’t care about my needs / will not answer my prayers.”
  • “Brother Bob is not valuable in the kingdom of God.”
  • “Sister Alicia will never get over her issues.”
  • “My education / ancestry / race makes me superior (or inferior) to others.”

We all have mindsets which oppose the truth of what God says in His Word. While any pattern of thinking which is not in agreement with truth ultimately originates with Satan, the father of lies, not all mindsets come directly from him to us. Most of them begin through things we have repeatedly heard from parents, teachers, or other influencers, especially when we were children. Even more so, painful events throughout our lives cause mindsets to develop without us being aware of them:

  • “It is not safe to trust anyone. If I stay aloof, I won’t get hurt.”
  • “Men are bad, or to be feared.” (“Women are bad, or to be feared.”)
  • “If their family does things differently than my family, they are wrong.”
  • “People from other cultures or traditions cannot be trusted.”
  • “The church is full of hypocrites. I can be a better Christian if I steer clear.”
  • “If I show anyone the real me, they won’t like me.” (So I put on a false front.)

Mindsets also come through things we have viewed, heard, or read in various media. Our TV and computer screens constantly bombard us with ways of looking at life which are not in sync with the Lord. The more we allow these things in, the harder it is to resist them. They reek of me-ism:

  • “I deserve ….”
  • “I am entitled to be anything I want to be.”
  • “If you hurt me, I dump you.”
  • “If it feels good, do it.”
  • “I can do whatever I want, as long as I don’t hurt anybody.” (But you will always hurt somebody with that attitude.)

Even Christian teaching can establish limitations on our perception of God or our interpretation of what the Bible says. For instance, many believers have been taught that the gifts of the Spirit listed in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 ended with the death of the original twelve apostles. Some have been taught that God no longer heals or does miracles. These beliefs are ingrained teaching in some circles, supported by twisted interpretations of isolated verses, although the Bible, read with an open heart, says otherwise.

I often ask the Lord to uncover theological ideas I have absorbed through the years which are widely accepted and yet not true. He faithfully answers that prayer by illuminating Scripture as I read it. I have been surprised at some of the things I have swallowed through repetitive “Bible” teaching — which are not really in the Book at all!

Deceptive mindsets taint us all. It is our lifetime warfare task to discover and remove them by examining them through the filter of God’s Word. The Holy Spirit helps us with this. He brings false mindsets to our attention, one by one. Jesus said of Him, “When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth …” (John 16:13). Our part is to invite Him to reveal these inner mindsets to us and then listen to Him when He does.

Second Corinthians 10:4 tells us, “The weapons of our warfare are … mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.” Once the false ideas we were agreeing with have been exposed and repented of, the devil’s hold on us is weakened in that area. We can, with the Lord’s help, tear down the strongholds the enemy had erected within our minds by renouncing his influence and commanding him to vacate. This will most likely be a process, not a single event.

We should not leave those territories of former evil influence unoccupied, however. The Holy Spirit wants to help us replace our old mindsets with His. We can ask Him to build up strongholds of the Lord in place of the enemy’s strongholds which were there before. The erecting of God’s strongholds comes through absorbing, confessing, and actively believing the Word of God.

Next time, I will share in greater detail how to discern between soulish thoughts and thoughts coming directly from evil spirits.

Previous: Part 2 — Where Did that Thought Come From? 

 

The Intercessor Manual, by Lee Ann Rubsam

Personal Spiritual Warfare (Part 2) — Where Did That Thought Come From?

Winning our personal spiritual battles starts with knowing that every thought which enters our mind is not necessarily our own. Nor is every emotion we feel.

Some thoughts do come from our depraved nature, and those must be continually put to death. Eventually, as we gain ground through absorbing the Scriptures and spending time with the Lord, we develop more and more of a “renewed mind,” as mentioned in Romans 12:2.

But there is another source of wrong thoughts: evil spirits. They study our lives, including our words, and thereby figure out what our vulnerable areas are. They then inject thoughts into our minds accordingly. These thoughts are cleverly styled to sound like our own, but they are actually coming from outside ourselves.

This means that when we have an evil thought, instead of being shocked by how bad we are for coming up with such a thing, we must recognize that it perhaps did not originate with us, and we don’t have to buy into it. We immediately reject it, rebuking the evil spirit which planted it. It only becomes “ours” when we accept it and begin to flow with it. A thought caught and rejected in the first couple of seconds has no power over us. It is not sin until we agree and then run with it.

The apostle Paul gives us some ideas about how warfare over our thoughts works:

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh (for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal [soulish; according to the natural man], but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds). We are casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. — 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.

Paul indicates that we cannot succeed in winning the war for our thoughts in our own strength (“warring according to the flesh”). This is why simply pushing away a wrong thought usually doesn’t work: it will keep on coming back, along with a flood of other evil thoughts to reinforce it. Instead, we must use the authority we have in Christ Jesus through His name, depending on the Lord to back us up.

When we recognize a thought which is not compatible with how the Lord thinks, our job is to immediately reject it, and then command the enemy to be silent and flee from us, in the name of Jesus. James 4:7 instructs us, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” The condition is that we stay yielded to the Lord. We put to death our own selfish inclinations. Then, when the enemy tries to manipulate our thoughts, we can speak confidently, “I resist that thought and the spirit behind it. I command the enemy to be gone from me, in Jesus’ name.”

When we are yielded to the Holy Spirit, depending upon Him for His power to be at work within us, our warfare is truly “mighty through God” (2 Corinthians 10:4). However, although we depend upon the Spirit to aid us in spiritual warfare, we cannot passively expect Him to do it all. If that were the case, there would be no warfare about it for us. Instead, He has given us supernatural ability so that we can cast down the wrong imaginations, and we can take every thought captive to make it line up with obedience to Christ (v. 5).

The problem for most of us, though, is that our natural tendency is to carry out life according to the flesh. This means we go by how we feel and what we perceive by our natural mind. We are not vigilant over our thoughts. We don’t pay attention to the steady flow of what we’re thinking, so sometimes we don’t recognize that the mental trail we are taking is off the Lord’s path. This is especially the case once we have developed a pattern of agreeing with wrong thoughts. Those patterns, or mindsets, can deepen into mental strongholds, which we will cover in the next post.

Previous: Part 1 — Intro
Next: Part 3 — Mindsets and Strongholds

 

The Intercessor Manual, by Lee Ann Rubsam

Personal Spiritual Warfare — Intro

We who are intercessors often tend to think of spiritual warfare as an external thing, where we achieve prayer victories for others. We war on behalf of individuals, cities, states, people groups, our nation, and even international situations. But what we often fail to understand or deal with is personal spiritual warfare.

The enemy initiates frequent (even daily) assaults against us in his attempt to render us incapable of carrying out our James 5:16 mandate, “…The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Most of these attacks do not announce themselves with drumroll and trumpet fanfare. They are subtle, meant to distract us or steal our peace and joy. And if we aren’t paying attention, we can easily miss what is really going on.

The greatest spiritual warfare any of us will ever encounter is what rages within our own minds and emotions. We must learn to overcome in this personal arena, for, if we neglect to fight our battles there, we will eventually be rendered ineffective in intercessory prayer as well. The good news is, once we are conscious of the war within and are actively committed to engaging in it, we are already on the road toward winning it.

Perhaps a good place to start is by making sure we’re ready to go to battle. Soldiers go through extensive training and preparation before entering the battlefield. Doing a spiritual health checklist can be part of our preparation. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I invest time in simply being with Jesus, or does all my prayer life revolve around intercession?
  • Do I absorb and meditate on portions of the Bible daily?
  • How is my thought life? How much does it look like Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true … honest … just … pure … lovely … of good report, if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think on these things”?
  • Am I holding offense and bitterness in my heart toward anyone?
  • How do my thoughts and words line up with 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 (the “love chapter”) on a regular basis?
  • Do I carefully monitor what I allow into my inner being through my eye- and ear-gates?

In the coming series, we will examine our personal spiritual warfare task in detail, using Scripture as our anchor. I will also share some practical tips I have discovered through the years for how to gain the victory. As we learn to effectively deal with our own inner battles, we become stronger and more able to take ground for the kingdom of God.

Next: Part 2 — Where Did That Thought Come From? 

Your Intercession Questions Answered, by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

Your Intercession Questions Answered

Finding God in the Waiting

If we were to take a survey to find out how many Christians would like to hear God personally speak to them, I would imagine the vast majority would say, “Of course I want that!” The percentage would plummet, though, if we asked the same people how many actually do hear Him on a regular basis. Why is that?

Some, unfortunately, have been indoctrinated with the false notion that God no longer speaks to us personally. Others have never been taught how to recognize the voice of God. Still others have bought into the lie that they are unworthy to hear God, that they are some kind of second-class believers in God’s eyes. The truth is, God has promised in hundreds of verses throughout the Bible to help us know His will for our personal lives, to give us wisdom and revelation, and that we will know His voice.

John 8:47 says, “He who is of God hears God’s words; you, therefore, do not hear them because you are not of God.” That means, if you love Jesus, you can hear God. You may not recognize that He is speaking to you, but He really is, and having trouble hearing Him is fixable. If you need some help in recognizing how He is speaking to you, I’ve written an article series on the subject. You will also find that information in my book, Hotline to Heaven: Hearing the Voice of God.

Besides simply not discerning that God is already speaking to us, there may be specific hindrances getting in the way — things we can do something about.

We aren’t giving God the quality time He desires to spend with us. Time is one of God’s love languages. James 4:8 promises us, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you….” He speaks to those who make Him their priority. Yes, He can and does communicate with us at random moments throughout the day. But we are more likely to hear Him then if we have already cultivated a listening ear during a time set aside solely for intimate waiting on Him.

You might be thinking, “I don’t have the first idea how to wait on God.” Here are some suggestions to help you:

  • Choose a Bible verse, read it over and over, and ask God to speak to you through it. You’d be surprised at all the new insights you will get as you do that.
  • Ask God questions. Then give Him time to answer you. He may not speak immediately. He might pop the answer into your thoughts later in the day, or even months down the road, but at least you have given Him the opportunity. I have found that God often doesn’t volunteer what we want to know: He waits for us to ask.
  • Think about Jesus.
  • Think about a character quality of God — His mercy, His goodness, His faithfulness, His justness, His purity.  Then praise Him for that quality.
  • Peacefully pray in tongues. As you do that, the Holy Spirit will often bring inspired thoughts, including interpretation of what you are praying, to your consciousness.

Our brain cells are overloaded with other things. Too much news media, social media, video games, or other ear and eye stimulators can so preoccupy us that it is really hard to hear the Lord above all the noise.

Wrong motives for wanting to hear God. Do we spend quiet time with God because we love Him, or only because we want revelation? That’s a selfish motive. It becomes all about us and what we can get out of God, instead of about giving ourselves to Him.

Sinful heart issues harden us to His voice. If we deliberately ignore what He is saying to us, rebelliously do something other than what we know He is directing us to do, or willfully live in sin, His voice becomes gradually fainter. God may even eventually quit speaking. He usually continues to speak for a while before that happens, trying to turn us back in the right direction. And, because He is so merciful, if He can’t reach us by speaking through other avenues, He will still try to turn us from our wrong ways through our circumstances. Remember Balaam and the angel who stood in his way (Numbers 22).

The good news is, even if the Lord has become silent, once we repent, the lines of communication open up again. I didn’t quote all of James 4:8 a little earlier. There is a condition for hearing attached to the rest of the verse: “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” Repentance goes a long way toward restoring and clarifying our hearing.

While never hearing God is not normal and should be examined for the reason, it’s important to know that every Christian goes through periods when God seems to be silent, through no fault of ours. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we are out of God’s will or doing something else wrong. These are times of growing in faith by learning to trust God in the silence. God uses silent seasons to cause us to seek more diligently for Him. They are a normal part of Christian life. But they are temporary. Continue seeking His company and listening for Him. He will eventually begin speaking again.

How’s Your Social Media Image?

While at a social media site a few days ago, I noticed a post by a well-known worship songwriter. In it, he used profanity. It disappointed me at the time. I marveled at the disconnect between writing songs which glorify the Lord and using language which was so far from how Jesus would speak.

This is not by any means the first time I have seen such language coming from people in ministry. It seems to go on quite a bit, in fact. Maybe in some circles it is considered “hip.” However, I doubt if it is hip in the Lord’s eyes.

I wonder how many of us realize that we are constantly exposing the true condition of our hearts via social media. The things we personally say, “like,” and repost there clearly reveal to everyone the depth of our intimacy with Jesus.

Do we ever stop to consider who might be scrutinizing our witness of Him? Are we perhaps causing other believers to stumble through what they see us promoting? Does it make someone think, “It must be OK, if he’s doing it”? (Or maybe they just struggle with judging us, based on what they see.) How about the nonbelievers’ reaction? Do they say to themselves, “I see that Christians are no different than the rest of us. Why should I even consider becoming one?” Who are we, in our thoughtlessness,  disappointing or grieving?

The apostle Paul spoke on these matters two thousand years ago. He said, “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20). Ambassadors act and speak on behalf of the higher authority who sent them. When we don’t do well at accurately representing our Savior, we hurt His cause, even to the point of driving others away from Him.

The Bible gives us guidelines for how believers are to speak:

Do not let any corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth. Instead, speak what is good, for the purpose of building up, so that it may minister grace to those who hear it. — Ephesians 4:29

Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. — Ephesians 5:4 (ESV)

If anyone speaks, he should do it as one who speaks the very words of God, … that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ …. — 1 Peter 4:11

My purpose is not to suggest that we all point the finger at those who use vulgar language or do anything else inconsistent with Christ. Rather, it is about each of us taking an honest look at our own heart. May we not fall into the trap of smugly accusing our brothers and sisters. Romans 14:4 warns against that: “Who are you to judge another man’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Yes, he shall be held up, for God is able to make him stand.” With those we know well, perhaps the answer is to talk with them about how their speech affects us. For the rest, we can always pray for them when we see something amiss. Prayer changes people; judging them does not.

When I come before the Lord in the day described in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, I want to have as little wood, hay, and stubble showing up as possible. I have no desire to provide the materials for the mother of all bonfires! I want to have my actions, words, and thoughts increasingly line up with what Jesus would do, say, and think. The route to doing that is keeping close to Him through prayer and the Word, so that I become more and more like my best Friend.

We have been promised a future “inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, which will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4). Speaking of that day when Jesus appears for His own, 1 John 3:3 sums up how we should conduct ourselves in the meantime: “And every man who has this hope in Him purifies himself, even as He is pure.”

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Lord Jesus, may we endeavor to be the best ambassadors for You that we can be. Help us to guard our words and actions carefully, so that we might elevate all those who observe us into a higher attraction toward You.

River Life: Entering into the Character of Jesus

If You Subscribed and Did Not Get Your Free E-Book

If you have subscribed to Out of the Fire, but have not received your free PDF copy of Overcoming Spiritual Bondage, I am so sorry.

When people who already have a blog account with WordPress subscribe, unfortunately, WordPress does not send me your e-mail address. They send me your user name and a link to your blog instead. And if I cannot find a way to contact you or a way to reach you through a comment at your blog, there is no way for me to send you the book.

If you have already subscribed to Out of the Fire and never received your free book from me, please contact me at leeann@leeannrubsam.com with your WordPress user name. I will be happy to send your PDF to you.

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Thank you! ~ Lee Ann

 

Going Low

One of my favorite quotes by famous people is from John the Baptist: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). I think on it often.

Our natural human tendency is to grab as much recognition for ourselves as possible. Those of us who have a business or ministry are constantly being told how important it is to “brand” ourselves, so that everyone knows who we are and desires our services or products. While some of that may be necessary in a practical, functional sense, the whole “Look at me! See how special I am!” egotism that often goes with it is something that we who are believers must continually resist. Our focus should always be to point people to Jesus, rather than ourselves. John the Baptist understood this, and I am so glad that his response to the temptation to strive for personal honor is recorded for us in the Bible.

There is a special place in our relationship with Jesus, where we develop such an adoration for Him that we actually desire to “go low” — where we want to empty ourselves of the desire for personal recognition, to become nothing, so that He might be everything. To make Jesus famous in all the earth becomes our passion, our obsession, where He alone matters.

Surely this must be what is going on in Revelation 4:10, 11, where the twenty-four elders “fall down before Him Who sat on the throne, and worship Him Who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, ‘You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for You have created all things, and for Your pleasure they are and were created.'” They are totally fixated on the Lord.

I began to think a lot about “going low” a few years ago, inspired by a dream which Julie Meyer shared of seeing God’s throne room. I hope you will listen to her description and that it will stir your heart, as it did mine:

While we are yet in our mortal existence, I am not sure if we can continually stay in that place of going low, of being emptied of self in adoration of the Lord. I would like to stay there, but at present, it seems as though I can only visit for a time. The fallen nature includes a tendency to drift back into pride and self-exaltation, and I find that I must personally battle against that frequently. The apostle Paul said, “I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31), and we must learn to die daily to the old nature’s demands as well.

But my goal is to rest in that “going low” place increasingly, until it becomes more my dwelling place than a visiting place.

If you find yourself falling into the trap of looking for recognition, titles, and honor from people, how about meditating on what John the Baptist said? “He must increase, but I must decrease.” John found peace and rest there. I think we can, too.