I want to be different in the days ahead. I want to break free from some encrusted attitudes. I want to set old fears aside and know victory over behaviors that have become unhealthy habits. I want to see God “create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me.” And mostly, I want to experience the Holy Spirit’s work of “restoring in me the joy of my salvation.”
How about you? Would any of these make it onto your list of hopes for this year?
The problem is, I wanted these same things in 2016, and 2015 and 2014 … Truth is, I’m not making much progress in accomplishing these resolutions. So why will 2017 be any different?
My hope for real change in 2017 comes from 2 Corinthians 10: 3-5. Paul is defending his ministry when he writes,
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
This is warfare language, and Paul frequently applies it to the Christian life. What if we did the same? What if we understood that following Jesus will always put us in direct confrontation to the enemy of Jesus? What if we took this battle as seriously as He did?
My friend John Bishop writes of this cosmic, spiritual warfare,
There was spiritual warfare before creation, warfare in the Garden, warfare throughout the history of Israel, warfare at Jesus’ birth, warfare on the Mount of Temptation, warfare throughout His ministry, warfare in Gethsemane, warfare in the cross, warfare in the establishment of the church, warfare throughout church history and warfare throughout our world today and warfare will mark the consummation of all things and the restoration of God’s kingdom.
As we begin a new year, it is critical for us to acknowledge that this warfare is aimed at us. Not just collectively, but individually. The enemy seeks our destruction and his tactic is to set up “strongholds” in our lives. A stronghold is defined as a “vise-grip” and a “fortress.” These are places where we have allowed the seeds of sin to blossom into attitudes and behaviors that are at war with the values of the kingdom of God to which we belong.
Strongholds in the spiritual realm have an added debilitating dimension. We dress them up in positive spiritual garb in order to ignore them or deny them altogether. What does that look like?
It is bitterness, hopelessness and cynicism all dressed up as “just being realistic about the world.” It is anger and divisiveness decked out as “protecting the truth.” It is greed and stinginess made justifiable as “smart financial planning” and self-interest and selfishness parading as a twisted form of stewardship. It is the fear and anxiety we hide behind our persecution complexes. These and other strongholds will threaten our witness and rob us of our joy if we continue to live with them. It is time to confront them and drive them out of our life in 2017.
Do you want a different story to unfold for you in the days ahead? Then we must understand two very important truths about our life with Christ.
- God secured the final victory, and
- God provides everything we need for daily victory.
My military friends have taught me a wonderful lesson about the purpose of the weapons of warfare. It has changed my entire approach to the process of destroying the strongholds I have allowed to develop in my attitudes and behaviors. Here it is – a weapon is anything you use that destroys the enemy’s ability to wage war against you.
Think about that in regards to the strongholds in your life. Wherever the enemy has your attitudes in a vise-like grip, wherever there is a fortress of wrong, hurtful, destructive habits and behaviors, we have been provided with weapons to destroy them and set us free.
What are these weapons of warfare that are so powerful they destroy the enemy’s ability to maintain these strongholds in our lives? They are going to surprise you. Here are the five most powerful weapons God makes available to us every day for just such a victory in our lives:
- Clear Conscience
I am going to expand on each of these in the coming days. I can’t think of a more hopeful, powerful and peaceful way to start 2017 than by using God’s weapons to destroy these strongholds and be set free to live fully for Christ in 2017. I hope you’ll join me.