Getting Rid of Strongholds (part 1)

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. 12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:5-14)
Paul has defined for us the theological tension of the Christian life – the fact that we live in the “now” and “not yet” of the Kingdom and in the “now” and “not yet” of our own personal development into the likeness of Christ. But Paul does not leave his readers to meditate on these tensions in an abstract way. Paul roots them in the realities of our daily lives. Paul names the real sins that we struggle with – sins such as anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language. This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list, but a sample of our ongoing character issues. Although we all have occasional slip-ups, Paul is focusing here on any sinful behaviour that grabs hold of a person’s character and becomes part of who they are. These are root issues, so they need to be rooted out of us. We need to be proactive in identifying the fleshly sins within us and allowing the Holy Spirit to replace them with the character of Christ.

Why does this matter? If I am securely redeemed in Christ why do I need to go through this arduous business? I can give you at least three reasons:
  1. Ongoing sin distracts us from our Kingdom calling – our enemy the devil loves to get us caught up in sin, as the time it uses and the sense of guilt it creates in us rob us of Kingdom activity and authority.
  2. Ongoing sin causes harm to us and those around us.
  3. Ongoing sin gives the devil a foothold and a potential stronghold in our lives

This third reason is absolutely crucial. If we do not take sin seriously in our lives, then we can easily move along the following scale:
  • Occasional sin to repetitive sin
  • Repetitive sin to a sinful habit
  • Sinful habits to character weakness
  • Character weakness to spiritual stronghold

A stronghold was a portion of a castle that could be defended by a single soldier. It was an impregnable place to hide in the time of attack. A spiritual stronghold is therefore a part of our character in which the devil can hide. Sometimes this is a place where the devil’s lies can hide. Sometimes it is an area of our lives where we are open to attack from demons. You don’t have to have a demon to be oppressed by one through a spiritual stronghold – but here’s the good news. We do not have to live with such strongholds in our lives. In the power of God we can deal with these areas of our lives, putting them to death before they do the same to us!
First, we identify the sins that often catch us out and bring them honestly before God to receive his forgiveness. Second, we identify why we get caught out in this way (what lies are we telling ourselves?) and we bring those lies under the power of the truth of God’s Word. Let’s do that together right now.
  1. Spend some time today before God with a pen and a piece of paper. Being honest with yourself, write down any sins that regularly catch you out. They might be in the areas that Paul mentions in this passage, but don’t feel you are limited by these categories. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you in this process – if we come honestly before God then he will show us areas that we need to bring before him.
  2. Having written down these specific areas of sin, repent of them and receive God’s forgiveness towards you. God has not brought these things to light to condemn you, but rather to set you free.
  3. Speak this verse from 1 John 1:9 over yourself: “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and he will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Father God, I thank you that I do not have to be trapped in repetitive sin. Help me to keep a short account of my sin with you so that I do not develop any strongholds in my life. Protect me through the presence of your Holy Spirit and the power of your Word. Keep leading me into freedom so that I may bring your Kingdom power and love into every area of my life and into the lives of those around me.  Amen.
Today’s Everyday Devotions were written by Simon Elliott, who is executive pastor of our church.
If you have time, consider carrying on your conversation with God using one of our helpful Prayer Pathways.
Today’s Everyday Devotions have also inspired a devotional video that you can watch on our YouTube channel.
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