The business of sanctification interests me. Yes, we are saved (if indeed we are born again), yet we are being saved, and one day we will be finally saved. It’s that being saved that we will look at today and, in particular, strongholds of sin. Personally, God powerfully delivered me from alcoholism – from bondage to freedom in a split second. However, my indwelling sin is gluttony, of which alcoholism is a subset. It has been a battle of mine for years.
On one hand, Paul reassures us that God will deliver us. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) On the other, he commands us to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (v. 2:12) My friends, mortification of sin is like a two-sided coin. One comes with the other. Strongholds are destroyed by our own efforts yet by God’s power, alone. “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (v. 2:13)
Personally, I experienced several major cycles of weight gain and loss. I have long known that this was a spiritual issue. Pride tore apart whatever progress I made. I took my eyes off Jesus and all my efforts became futile. Somehow, I needed to get beyond myself to enjoy the destruction of this and other strongholds.
Nothing happens without genuine repentance. My friends, it is neither easy nor fun. I cannot beat sin on my own. Jesus claimed that job for himself. To think otherwise is idolatry. Still, I have a role to play. I simply need to learn to accept, welcome, and embrace the role of supporting actor. Jesus is the star of the show.
The process of renewing my mind (see Romans 12:1-2 and 2 Corinthians 10:3-5) started with a deep dive into a couple of Puritan books, “The Christian in Complete Armor” by William Gurnall and “The Mortification of Sin” by John Owen. It was evident that my sin was seriously interfering with my walk with Jesus and the only way out was through hard, painstaking work. Spiritual discipline was my roadmap for the destruction of strongholds.
I also engaged with an accountability group. I highly recommend Annette Reeder of The Biblical Nutritionist. It turns out that God has a lot to tell us about food throughout the pages of our bibles. If we pay careful attention and do as he commands, it will go well with us. Imagine that!
Helping Others with Strongholds
As mortification of this sin comes closer and closer, I feel more and more joy! Like a new believer, I want to share this treasure that I have found. While many appear curious, few, if any, so far, take my message to heart.
Yes, we must want help to receive it. We are back to that two-sided coin. I know that God can change a stubborn heart (Proverbs 21:1). Where does that first spark of desire to change come from? I believe it is from God and not ourselves because He alone is good. (See Eph. 2:8-9)
Yet now that I am enlightened, to what lengths am I responsible to persuade others? Paul was tireless. How may I help others find relief from their strongholds?
Two bible passages shook me into submission. The first, “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:27) Incredibly, I joked about overeating to justify my actions or deflect attention from my sin. I jeopardized my ability to reach others with the gospel by the indwelling sin that I could not hide. That really troubled me.
The other regards Abraham. Twice, he told others Sarah was his sister (rather than his wife) to save his own hide. Both times, powerful men took Sarah as their own. God delivered from each. It is the second man that I want to talk about.
God came to King Abimelech in a dream and said, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.” (Genesis 20:3) But Abimelech had not touched her. God replied, “…, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her.” (v. 6)
Could it be true that the limiting factor of our own sin is God himself? If this is the case, could it be that God has so far limited the extent of my sin? What if, in my stubborn rebellion, he turned me over to my sin that I might learn the hard way? (Ps. 32:6, 1 Cor. 5:5, 1 Tim. 1:20) I would have no one to blame but myself.
It was clearly time for me to take care of my side of that two-sided coin. Now, I want to share my story with others, that they may find freedom from their strongholds.