2 Corinthians 10:3-5
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 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...
There is nothing like a stronghold of the mind to keep a person from living a truly free life in Jesus. Strongholds of the mind create mental attachments to persons, places and/or things that are very strong. When the strength of those strongholds exceeds that of our trust and faith in God, we fail to move forward into God's true purpose and plans for our lives.
The Kingdom of God does not come to earth through you when you are not free. Power flows through faith and trust in God that surrenders all to Him. True faith and trust in God is found when our greatest, and indeed only attachment is to Jesus and Jesus alone. Here are three ways we can find ourselves held back from true freedom. Each of these three are mental strongholds that keep us back. They start in the mind, then the body follows the mind.
We value safety over risk.
There is high value placed on safety today. Our culture wears helmets and pads for every activity. We are always looking for ways to be free from any possibility of harm. We seek financial safety by stockpiling money in our markets. We seek occupational safety through excellent performance at work. Following Jesus requires we lay our earthly safety aside and trust God for everything. God asks us to risk everything on His ability, not ours. How is your thinking in regards to risking for God?
We value familiar over unfamiliar.
Having things go predictably gives us great comfort. Many people are shaken by the unexpected, the unfamiliar, and the exceptions to the rules. We set schedules and expect them to be followed. God is much more spontaneous than that. He will call us to unfamiliar places, to be with unfamiliar people, and ask us to do unfamiliar things. Do you thrive on the familiar? Are you happiest when everything goes as planned? How is your thinking in regards to letting God take you into unfamiliar territory?
We value natural over supernatural.
God's supernatural power flows through those who have complete faith and trust in His ability and desire to perform the miraculous in this earth. Our tendency is toward the natural. Whatever we can do in our efforts is what we can do. We trust tangible, hands-on, methodical, calculable, concrete ways over expecting the supernatural to manifest on earth. Do you live out of the resources of the natural world or do you have bold faith and expectation in the supernatural reality of God? How is your thinking in regards to expectantly seeking God's supernatural power in your everyday life?
Begin today, taking every thought captive and submitting them to obey Christ. And be gloriously free in your mind!
Have you ever found yourself in a place of emotional, physical or spiritual weakness? Sure. We all have at times because that's part of the human condition. One of the most beautiful aspects of being a child of God and a follower of His Son, Jesus is that He promises to be the needed supply for the strength we lack. However, I still think we miss the point many times as to just how this happens. Have you ever asked God, "Why aren't You doing something about my weakness?" "Please restore my strength!"
"Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 10:9b-10)
Paul actually enters a place of "glad boasting" when he is weak. How can this be? Because God had just told Him that His grace was sufficient for him. Paul's tone of voice is elevated and his spirits soaring when he is weak. He is elevated in spirit because God has promised what he lacks. It's the promise that causes his soul to rejoice! When we are weak and afflicted there is no cause to bemoan our condition. It's difficult to understand, yes, but if our focus changes to the strength of God, then our minds are fixed on the proper target. In the everyday world most people don't get happy over their weakness. When their strength is restored is when they will throw a party and celebrate. With the child of God, we are given the ability to rejoice when we are weak because the grace of God is there to fill every gap.
Have you ever considered that you are best poised to experience the power of God in ways that are truly authentic and astonishing when you are weak? The strength of God is not necessarily designed to erase your weakness, but rather to display its full and miraculous strength IN your weakness. In other words, in the very midst of my weakness, that is exactly when God shows up and displays His power.
Perhaps our praying in the midst of weak times should change from, "God please remove my weakness and give me strength." ... to "God, I thank you for your grace that is all sufficient to sustain me, and pray my weakness will be the opportunity You need to display Your mighty power through me!" The first prayer focuses on our need, the second focuses on God's power. The first prayer is asking God to do something for you. The second prayer is asking God to do something through you.
If you're in a place of emotional, spiritual or physical weakness today, try approaching your day asking God to do something powerful through you, instead of something beneficial for you.
Thrill seekers are people who are always on the lookout for the next experience that will energize their life with passion, emotion, physical danger, euphoria, joy, elation, or a host of other emotional and physical thrills. In the Kingdom of God, the thrills that God's children experience are not to be like that of the world. There are three primary "thrills" that every follower of Jesus should be seeking after. If we are not seeking for, nor experiencing these three thrills, then lesser, worldly thrills will have to try to keep our attention in church.
What is it like to be a thrill-seeker in the Kingdom of God?
Pastors and church leaders are constantly under the pressure of conforming to the ways of the world when it comes to the church. Whether we like it or not, the world in which we live, work, raise our children, and participate in life, becomes the model we try to superimpose upon the church. Jesus, however, saw things differently. He wants to superimpose His Kingdom in all the earth. He wants to change the world's culture to match heaven, and the world wants to change the church culture to match earth. Ugh. What are we to do?
For one, we can refuse to conform to the ways of this world. As children of the Living God, we must refuse the world's mindset and ways when it comes to the church. Here's a small list of worldly ways many people still want to fashion the church after, and we'd be better off without them.
1. "The Customer is Always Right." In other words, the church serves me and if I'm not pleased, well then I'll just take my worship elsewhere. If the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, where is there room for the consumer mindset? There is no room for consumerism in Christianity.
2. "I'm Entitled to My Opinion." Relative truth has crept in to many of the church's ways. When it comes to the interpretation of scripture and beliefs, the church has become just as susceptible to personal, relative truth as the rest of the world. This should not be so. Increasingly it seems that I hear of people speaking out their personal beliefs and they cannot even support them through the scriptures. Presented with sound wisdom from the Living Word, they will still not change direction and simply say, "well. that's how I believe."
3. "So-and-So wasn't nice to me." This mindset comes from dysfunctional family and organizational systems. The focus is on self and not on others. Feet washing, burden carrying, love extending, compassion giving, merciful servants are more worried about others than they are themselves. The world is full of self-focused ideals, but not the Body of Christ... we are to be others-focused.
4. "There's not a lot going on." Pastors are not Activities Directors, they are Shepherds and Spiritual Guides. The primary activity of all disciples is working to see the Kingdom of God established on earth as it is in heaven. We are all called to the work of ministry for Jesus. Pastors are not called to keep a full menu of activities floating for the people. If you feel there is not enough going on, then commit your life to ministry and do something!
There are many more that could be used as examples, but the point is clear: We should not conform the church to the ways of the world. The church has an identity, purpose, calling, King, ways, empowerment, government, leadership model, economy and life all its own. It is unique above and outside anything the world does.
Refusing to conform is hard, but I'm committed to the Kingdom, not the world. I'm just one pastor, but I will stand before Jesus one day and tell Him with a clear conscience that I contended for His Kingdom always.
Brett Heintzman is passionate about the spiritual formation of God's people. These writings are designed to draw us close to God and to help us live out of the riches of His presence. It's all about being in the world but not of the world.