stronghold.jpgThe problem with being deceived is you don’t know that you are.  Jesus warned His disciples to “Take heed that no one deceives you.” (Matthew 24:4)  He was prophesying about the times of tribulation “when false prophets will rise up and deceive many… lawlessness will abound, [and] the love of many will grow cold.  But he would endures will be saved.”  (vv. 11-13)  What will happen to those that do not endure under the tribulation, deception and lawlessness of our day?  They will not be saved.  Whatever that means, it must mean something.

For me and my house, and the fellowships I serve, it means that we must be prepared with the peace that passes all understanding, and a love for the truth that empowers us to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.  It is the responsibility of all Christian teachers, parents and leaders to prepare their students, children and followers to endure in these days of tribulation, deception and lawlessness.  For those of you that cannot see the spiritual danger of our time, and for those that have chosen to ignore it, I pray that the Lord would give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; for you are already under the deception of the evil one.   

I wonder if any of us can honestly say that we are not captive in some respect.  Are we so naive?

From our childhood, the enemy has used every opportunity to established strongholds of deception in the recesses of our minds.  These strongholds affect the way we receive and respond to information every moment of our lives.  The Bible tells us that we are to be transformed, by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2).  Much of the renewing effort involves the tearing down of strongholds. It is with the heart that man believes, but the mind can be used by the enemy to prevent our hearts from hearing the truth.  I offer a portion of my testimony as an example.

At the age of 12, I asked the Lord to come into my heart, to be my Savior; and He did.  Not knowing the necessity of making Him Lord, I failed to submit to His complete control of my life.  Fearing what might happen if I did, Satan proceeded to build (and reinforce) a number of strongholds in my mind.  In particularly, he used a religion class during my freshman year in college to establish a stronghold of deception regarding the exclusivity of Christ as the way to salvation.  I just could not understand how a loving (i.e., saving) God could be so cruel to those that sought another way.  Oh, the ignorance of youth.  As you can imagine, such a stronghold allowed me to reign over my life, and submit to other masters as I saw fit.  Some would say I was lost; others, backslidden.  The amazing thing is that He never stopped being my Savior; nor waiting for me to make Him Lord. 

In His providence and grace, He made sure a certain book found its way into my hands.  It was Josh McDowell’s More Than a Carpenter; the year was 1985.  For those that don’t know, the thesis of the book is that Jesus had to be a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord.  It was nothing like the emotional sermons that most are caught by; but a logical argument on the validity of Jesus Christ’s claims – a book of reason for the Age of Reason.  And it was a massive assault on a stronghold that had deceived me for years.  Within days of finishing the book, I took the next step in my salvation journey:  I repented of my reign, and turned it over to Him.  The keys of my kingdom now belonged to Him; and He used them to tear down many other strongholds.  The truth has set me free.

So why is this so all fired important?  Why is it worth you reading such a long blog entry?  Well, I believe many in the church today are plagued by strongholds – even the stronghold of thinking strongholds do no exist.  I pray that my testimony will help you see that, like any war in the physical realm, strongholds are strategic in the enemy’s fight against you.  The only solution is a force that will destroy them, freeing us from their deception.  That force is the truth that comes from the very One who is the way, truth and life.   

In closing, I want to warn you about the stronghold of religiosity; for it is deceiving many in the American church.  Simply stated, the deception of religiosity encourages people to pursue and depend on man-made doctrines, instead of an intimate relationship and dependence on the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  It keeps man on the throne, and vehemently opposes any truth to the contrary.  It is particularly difficult to destroy the stronghold of religiosity because it is carefully camouflaged by Scripture.  A good example is the deception that has been established on both sides of the baptism debate.  Tragically, the true effectualness of baptism (God’s work in it) has been lost to both sides, for many decades. 

It is impossible to overstate the importance of an unquenchable hunger and thirst for the truth.  If it does not exist, it must be developed – and continually encouraged.  Isn’t it interesting that the hungry and thirsty are blessed, not the satisfied (Matthew 5:6)?

Praying for your hunger and thirst,