Pulling down Strongholds: Strategies from Ancient and Modern Israel
Messiah conference 2000

Theme: The Spirit of God wants each of you to capture any demonic strongholds that hold you captive
     and strengthen the stronghold of the Holy Spirit in you.

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 says:

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God
to the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing
that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity
every thought to the obedience to Messiah.
     These are fighting words! Themís fighting words...for us! Amen?

Now these fighting words are metaphorical:
     they speak of weapons, strongholds, high things and bringing into captivity,
     yet these are not carnal or worldly weapons, but spiritual ones;
     not strongholds of stone but of imaginations or arguments;
     not high things in high towers but high-falutiní attitudes;
     not taking into captivity enemy soldiers but enemy thoughts.
     I think it would be helpful to consider the figurative aspect of the metaphor a bit more.

What is a stronghold? Why are strongholds important in literal warfare?
     A stronghold is a defensive structure:
     Psalms 9:9 The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.
misgav; properly, a cliff (or other lofty or inaccessible place);
     figuratively, a refuge:--defense, high fort (tower), refuge.
    
So a cliff could be a stronghold, because itís high and inaccessible to oneís enemies.
     1 Samuel 23:14. David stayed in the desert strongholds and in the hills of the Desert of Ziph.
     Or it could be a man-made fortress or tower
     Ps 144:2 [The LORD is..] my goodness, and my fortress; my high tower [misgab, stronghold],
     and my deliverer; my shield, and he in whom I trust; who subdues my people under me.
     Why would a "high thing" like to hang out in a high cliff or a high tower, exalting itself?
     Because itís safe up there!
     If an enemy comes, itís much easier to drive him away from a stronghold in a high place.

You can learn about the strategic importance of strongholds in the history of the wars of Israel.
     While my family was in Israel a year ago, we visited a place called Latrun.
     Itís right off the main highway from Tel Aviv and the airport heading up to Jerusalem.
     That was the problem with this place: itís a stronghold right along the main highway.
     It also intersects with a highway leading from Gaza up to Ramallah,
         two major population centers of Palestinian Arabs.
     The Turks, when they controlled the land, had built this fortress,
         near a monastery and ancient Emmaus.
     Thatís right, the road to Emmaus was the road that led up to Jerusalem.
     The British converted the fortress into a police station.
     When the War of Independence began, the Arab Legion controlled the Latrun stronghold.
     From this perch, they could pick off the caravans carrying supplies up to the Jews in Jerusalem.
     This was one stronghold that had to be taken! It had a stranglehold on Jerusalem!
     Five times, five separate times, the fledgling Israeli Defense Forces tried to take it.
     Again and again the Arab Legionóthe best, British-trained soldiers on the Arab sideó
         drove the attackers away.
     So the Israelis build a "Burma Road" circumventing the stronghold, over rough terrain,
         so the supply trains could get through.
     Thank God for the ingenuity and determination of our people!
     The Arabs still held this fortressówithin five miles of Ben-Gurion Airportóuntil 1967.
     Just before the Ď67 war, Nasser sent Egyptian soldiers to strengthen the Jordanian garrison.
     Fortunately, they had to abandon it during the Six-Day War.
     Now itís a museum for the IDF Armored Forces,
         with an imposing display of tanks, bought, built or captured by the Israeli army.

So now do you see the strategic importance of a stronghold?
     For 20 years that place threatened the security of our people in the heart of the nation.
     For how many years has a stronghold threatened your security in the heart of your thought life?
     Isnít it about time we went up there and captured it?

Can it be done? Hey, David took the stronghold of Jerusalem and made it his capital!
     In 2 Samuel 5:6, The Jebusites taunted David, "You will not get in here;
        even the blind and the lame can ward you off."
     They thought, "David can't get in here."
     But David was determined; and he got in there all rightó
     Joab broke through a tunnel that led to a spring and opened the gates to the citadel.
     Ancient Babylon also was built up as a seemingly invincible stronghold.
     But in Jer 51:53 declared, "ĎEven if Babylon reaches the sky and fortifies her lofty stronghold,
         I will send destroyers against her,í declares the LORD."
     And so he did, sending Cyrus and the Medo-Persians to take the stronghold,
         by diverting the river that flowed through the city and marching in on the riverbed!

God knows all about strongholds and He knows how to take them ó and heíll tell you how to do it,
     if youíre willing to fight!
     When you come up against a stronghold in your life, do you just want to give up?
     Or are you going to willing to fight to take the stronghold?
     Strongholds are captured by people who are willing to fight, people with gumption!
     If you, God will help you. The Word and the Spirit of God will show you how. Amen?

One thing you should bear in mind about a stronghold: itís a place, not a person.
     A stronghold is only a threat if there are enemy soldiers inside.
     Indeed, a stronghold can also be a place of comfort, a safe place:
     For example, in 2 Samuel 22:2-3, David said:

The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock,
in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation.
He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior--from violent men you save me.
     The person or persons inside the stronghold could be your enemy or your friend.
     In a spiritual stronghold, there could be demons or the Holy Spirit.
     But just as a physical stronghold is not an enemy soldier, nor is a spiritual stronghold a demon.
     A spiritual stronghold is a habitual pattern of thought, built into oneís thought life.

Satan and his minions want to capture the minds of people: the mind is the citadel of the soul.
     He who controls the mind controls a very strategic place!
     Romans 8:5-6:

Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set
on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit
have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death,
but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.
     If you want the abundant life and peace that Yeshua promised,
     you must let his Spirit capture the stronghold up there!
     Nor only is our conscious mind the target:
     Proverbs 23:7 says, "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he."
     In Matt 12:34-35, Yeshua said,
For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.
The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him,
and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.
Strongholds are also storage places, holding food, water and weapons.
     A stronghold gets stronger as more stuffómore thoughtógets stored in there.
     In the life of the mind, the stuff that you were once aware of gets stored up in unconscious memory,
         but it can make a stronghold a tough nut to crack!
     A stronghold is a way of thinking and feeling that has developed a life of its own in a person.
     It might be a rut of depression or recurring unbelief or habitually bad temper.
     That was a stronghold in my life, but with Godís help, not any more!
     It might be a repeating pattern of failure:
     Sometimes a stronghold will cause you to provoke others to reject you
         (without necessarily knowing youíre doing it)
     It might be a stronghold of resentment or worthlessness.
     If a child is sexually molested and/or badly verbally abused,
         a stronghold of worthlessness may build up a stockpile of negative thoughts:
     "Iím guilty. Nobody could really love me. Iím good for nothing. Iím ugly."
     She might actually be beautiful ó and certainly is beautiful in the eyes of God.
     But a stronghold gets filled with arguments like these:
        "Nobody would like me if they really got to know me. Nobody really knows me.
         Nobody really cares for me. Nobody really wants me for me."
     Now all these thoughts may be a pack of lies,
         but they can be a stronghold keeping out the truth of Godís love.
     Such a person may hear a message about Godís love, whether from a pulpit or a friend,
         but it goes in one ear and out the other,
         bouncing off the walls of a stronghold of rejection or worthlessness.
     You almost hear the truth come to set you free, and then comes another thought,
         "Yeah, but what about...?" Or "You just donít understand...."
     And out comes another string of lies, excuses, smokescreens, shot down by blocking spirits.
     Thus a stronghold creates inner captivity to deception and misery.
     A stronghold keeps a person from thinking clearly, accepting the truth,
         repenting of sin, and receiving deliverance.
     A stronghold can keep a unbeliever from hearing the good news.
     A stronghold can keep a believer from hearing the fullness of the good news.

So how do you take a stronghold?
     First, you have to see it, so you know what youíre dealing with.
     Itís kind a hard to take a stronghold you canít even see.
     But strongholds of the mind can be hiddenóevil things hang out in darkness.
     Satan is the prince of darkness, but Messiah is the prince of light.
     You have been called out of darkness into his wonderful light!
     Nevertheless, if there is an old, sinful pattern of thought in you,
         that is a place of darkness, a stronghold.
     Ephesians 5:11 urges us to "have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness,
         but rather expose them."
     If you want to let the light of God expose the darkness, you need an attitude of humility,
         willing to let the light of God reveal the darkness in you.
     In Ps 26:2, David prayed, "Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind."
     Can you agree this request?
     If not, if you are not willing to let God reveal any strongholds in your life,
         then the first stronghold you may have to start tearing down is pride!
     Who was the first to be guilty of pride? Satan! Massively so!
     Pride is the armor of Satan ó he uses it to keep demonic strongholds hidden.
     Pride keeps people from ever seeing that they are trapped in demonic darkness.
     The Spirit of God is determined to bring down the stronghold of pride.
     Isaiah 25:11 says,

God will bring down their pride despite the cleverness of their hands.
He will bring down your high fortified walls and lay them low;
he will bring them down to the ground, to the very dust.
     If pride is bad news, how much more is humility good news!
     James 4:6, "God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble."
     This is a promise: humility release grace, the power of God to save you.
     James 4:7 continues with another promise:
         "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."
     Satan canít stand humility! It breaks his power over you!
     But God loves it! "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up."
     The sacrifice of Messiah is a perfect shelter of grace enabling you to look at your needs.

Once you recognize the stronghold, the next step to bringing it down is repentance.
     Be honest before God, and humbly let the Spirit expose the stronghold in the darkness.
     Pray, "Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind."
     When the Holy Spirit shows you an area of darkness, repent.
     You may need to overcome the instinct of defend yourself.
     You may need to silence the little lawyer who steps out of a dark corner of your mind,
         pleading, "My client is not so bad."
     If you let him, that whiny defense attorney will defend you just fineó
         but youíll never see whatís wrong in you, nor face what needs to change.
     Who is the best defense attorney of all time? Yeshua!
     How does He defend you, how does He justify you? By his blood.
     So you donít need to justify yourself. Let him do it.
     A broken and contrite heart he will not despise.
     Suppose a stronghold has gotten pretty entrenched and strong?
     Sometimes a frontal attack on a stronghold doesnít seem to work. What should you do?
     Jewish soldiers tried to capture the Old City of Jerusalem with a frontal attack
         a couple of times in the War of Independence,
         but as soon as they got up to the gates of the Old City, and were thrown back.
     Hereís how the IDF took the Old City in 1967:
         They swept around the city to the north, then seized the Mount of Scopus,
         then kept on going up to the Mount of Olives, to the eastó
     I've seen a picture of Israeli generals looking down at the Old City from the east!
     Thus, having surrounded the city, they were able to cut off supplies and reinforcements.
     Though the Jordanian army tried to send reinforcements up from Jericho,
         this time they were thrown back!
     When the Jordanian general inside the Old City realized he was surrounded,
         he realized, "resistance is futile," so he cut his losses and fled the city.
     Then the Israelis were able to break into the city with relatively little resistance.
     So, this is how successful military planners usually do it:
         surround the stronghold and cut off its supplies.

Does this strategy also apply to spiritual strongholds? I think so....
     Something like this strategy was at work in the battle of Jericho.
     Who gave Joshua the strategy for taking the city? The angel of the LORD.
     What was the strategy? March around the city for seven days then blow your trumpets!
     Hereís what I think they were doing, in the Spirit:
     They were surrounding the city, with obedience to Godís word, with faith,
         with the praises of God.
     Thus they cut off that city from its supplies, from the realm of darkness.
     As the power of faith grew in the hearts of the marching people,
         the power of the walls of Jericho grew weak.
     How do you surround a stronghold of negative thinking, bad old speculations? How about praise?
     Psalms 32:7. "You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me
         with songs of deliverance
."
     Surround the stronghold with the praise, singing psalms and spiritual songs to God.
     Demons canít stand praise! Praise is a powerful way to bring a stronghold.

For every negative stronghold, thereís a powerful way to surround it with opposite truth from God.
     If you are struggling with a stronghold of depression, surround it with hope.
     If you are struggling with a stronghold of rejection, surround it with acceptance from Abba.
     If you are struggling with a stronghold of unresolved anger, surround it with forgiveness.
     If you are struggling with a stronghold of fear, surround it with the knowledge of Godís love.
     If you are struggling with a stronghold of failure, surround it with the victory of the resurrection!
     Once youíve identified a stronghold, go to the Scripture, and study the opposite truth from God.
     If the stronghold is rejection, study all that the Bible says about Godís acceptance.
     Use a concordance or a chain bible or topical bible.
     Then surround that stronghold with the word of God!
     Listen, once the enemy sees heís surrounded by humble submission, praise,
         and the word of God, his resistance will quickly weaken, and if he isnít gone already!

Can we take a moment to pray about this?
     "Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind."
     Show me any areas in my life that I have not fully surrendered to you.
     (If you recognize any area of chronic sin strengthened by negative thinking,
         take a moment to confess it to the Lord, now.)

     Lord, forgive me of compromise. Give me the courage to pull down every stronghold within me
     without reluctance or willful deception in my heart.
     Thank you, Lord Yeshua, for forgiving and cleansing me from all my sins,
         and breaking every curse against me, on the cross.

     By the power of the Holy Spirit and in the Name of Yeshua,
         I bind any satanic influences that were reinforcing compromise and sin within me.
     I submit myself to the light of the Spirit of Truth to expose any strongholds of sin in me.
     By the mighty weapons of the Spirit and the Word, I proclaim that each evil stronghold is coming down!

     I purpose to surround this evil stronghold with praise and affirming truth from the Word of God.
     I purpose to take every pattern of negative thinking captive and bring it to the obedience to Messiah.
     I purpose, by the grace of God, to follow through until even the ruins of this stronghold
         is removed from my mind!
     I purpose to think about whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure,
         whatever is lovely, whatever is admirableóif anything is excellent or praiseworthyó
         I will think about such things.
         I will talk about such things. I will get involved in such things.

     I purpose, by the grace of God, to build up one stronghold within my mind and my heart:
         the stronghold of the living God!
     "The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous will run to it and be safe."
     In the shelter of your presence, O God my Savior, you will keep me safe.

In Yeshuaís mighty name, Amen.