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The author of this article admits she finds it easy to deny, justify and explain away her bad habits, lack of discipline, and poor choices.
Paul describes the Word of God as “sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12). Sometimes reading and applying God’s Word can feel like spiritual surgery. But like the cuts of an expert surgeon, the pain we feel is eventually replaced by the healing of our inner, invisible wounds. The tricky thing is allowing ourselves to be treated by the Master Physician in the first place.
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. A helpful verse 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."
On one occasion when I was reading this verse, I realized some of the areas in which I struggled to have self control were actually areas in which I was being rebellious to God. I had developed “strongholds” and these areas were very hard to change because they had become comfortable for me.
The word“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 we should be relying on God, but how many of us rely on 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 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 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 where we have strongholds. Following are some questions we can ask ourselves on our 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, but don’t despair! God loves you deeply, and wants you to come to Him for help from his Spirit to overcome. He does not expect you to do it on your own. God sees your wonderful potential! Trust Him and let Him begin this all important spiritual surgery.