Friday, August 16, 2013

The Stronghold of Unforgiveness

When our boys were little, and maybe not so little, they loved to watch wrestling on tv. They knew all the wrestlers by name, and they believed it was the real thing when they threw each other out of the ring and made those threats!! (back then it was a much cleaner sport than today and not as inappropriate for children. My how things have changed!) But as much as they loved to watch wrestling, they loved to do it even more.

As they got older, they made up wrestling names for each other, their cousins and their friends. Their favorite place to wrestle was on the trampoline, and as a boy Mom, I lived in panic that they were going to get hurt or hurt another "wrestler."

I must say, they did not learn those wrestling moves from the tv; when they were small, their favorite wrestling opponent was their Daddy. If you are familiar with wrestling, then you know that the whole objective of the sport is for one wrestler to "pin" his opponent and make him "give". When it looked like the one on the bottom couldn't get out of the hold he was caught in, the other wrestler would say, "Do you give?"

One day David and Jeff (he was 3 or 4) were wrestling and David had him "pinned" (yes I know, David took it seriously, too) and he said, "Do you give?" Jeff said with much conviction in his voice, "No way, there ain't no forgivin'!" That soon became our little family joke and when one of us would say, "I'm sorry", the other would say, (jokingly of course) "Ain't no forgivin".

I know people and you do, too, who approach everything in life with the attitude, "I don't forget and I don't forgive. I don't get mad, I get even." And if you listen to kids, and sadly, some adults, I think you'll find that too many of us wear a grudge like a badge of honor.

I recently watched a documentary about the gangs that were formend in the slums of NYC in the late 1800s and the first gangs were formed as a way to retaliate against anyone who crossed them. Human nature says, "You hurt me, you hurt mine, ain't no forgivin', I'll get you back!"
But, if you are a Christian, if you are a believer, God has a different agenda for you and me. do we respond when someone hurts us deeply? What if the person who hurt us refuses to acknowledge the hurt or take responsibility for it? If I forgive them, does that mean they get away with it? And what happens when you get your feelings hurt at church; do you quit going to church, look for another church, start your own? And for heaven's sake, how many times do I have to keep forgiving the same person for the same thing over, and over, and over?

Unforgiveness, left unchecked, has the potential to become a stronghold and literally take over my life. It will consume me, because unforgiveness is probably the most exhausting spiritual struggle we face. And the reason it is so exhausting is because like all spiritual battles, it takes place in our minds and our emotions long before we act upon it.

Stronghold is a term used in the Old Testament to describe a place where God's people could escapte to when they were attacked by their enemies. These were often caves or a barricaded canyon that had been stocked with water, food and weapons. Guards were always on duty at every town and province in Israel, and had as a part of their armor the horns of a ram. At the first sign of an attack from an enemy, they would blow a certain signal from those horns, and the people would know to stop what they were doing and quickly gather their families and head to the stronghold. From that stronghold they could unite their army and defend themselves for days, weeks, even months. David had several strongholds scattered around Judah when he was running from Saul.

In the New Teatament strongholds take on a whole new meaning. The Apostle Paul wrote about strongholds from a spiritual perspective and in 2 Corinth. 10:5, Paul gives us the definition of a spiritual stronghold; a spiritual stronghold is "anything that sets itself up agaisnt the knowldege of God." God is truth, but the stronghold is a lie. The lie competes with the truth and can become a dominant factor for control. That is how it sets itself up against the knowldege of God.

Strongholds can be anything from compulsive eating, to paranoia, bitterness, jealousy, pride and unforgiveness. No matter the stronghold, they all have one thing in common; our enemy, Satan, wants to keep us so wrapped up in oursleves and tied to our strongholds, that we will not acknowledge it or identify it. He knows that once we identify it, we will fix it. He doesn't want us to fix it, because he knows that when it's fixed, we will start living up to our full potential in Christ. And that is my desire for you and for me; that we live up to our full potential in Christ.

There is only one way to pull down a spiritual stronghold; by using the mighty weapons of God . (2 Corinth. 10:4) Our imagination takes place where? In our minds. (v5) Carnal means worldly, and carnal weapons do not stand a chance agaisnt spiritual strongholds; only the mighty weapons of God will pull down a stronghold. And God's weapon of choice to demolish a stronghold is the Sword of Spirit, His Holy Word.
(Eph.  6: 17)

In 1 Corinth. 2:16, God wants you and me learn to think with the mind of Christ. And to think with the mind of Christ means we have to "pull down anything that sets itself up against the knowledge of God."

I heard it described this way; it may not be the greatest of examples, but bear with me and I think it will make sense, hopefully.
Think of your mind as the walls of a room and your thoughts are the wallpaper. You know your thoughts are wrong (your wallpaper is wrong), so you have to change your way of thinking (pull down that old, ugly wallpaper). You sure don't want to leave the wall looking like it does, you have to re-wallpaper. But this time, with the old way of thinking (the old wallpaper) torn down, you can now start putting up the truth and you start thinking with the mind of Christ.
John 8:32; "You will know the truth and the truth will set you free."

We handle our lives like we do because we think like we think. Change our way of thinking and we change our own lives, but it won't stop there; we'll change the lives of our children and the atmosphere of our home. When we "throw down" (v5) our own reasoning (imagination) and throw down everything that thinks it knows more than God, and "bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ", what stronghold can stand against the "knowledge of God"? I can't think of a single one; not even unforgiveness. Whatever stronghold has you consumed and bound up today, make it your prisoner, (take it captive) and bring it to Jesus. He will see to it that your stronghold obeys Him; what better fate for a stronghold! (Mark 1:24)

So...when my feelings are hurt and that person refuses to acknowledge she has hurt me, I forgive her so that I am free from the burden of thinking about it all the time, and so that I am not hurt all over again each time I see her; not so she will get away with it. She only gets away with hurting me when I refuse to forgive.

When my feelings get hurt at church, I obey Matt. 18:15.

When I get tired of forgiving the same person over, and over, and over, I remember Jesus' words to Simon Peter in Matt. 18:21, 22. (something like 70X7...)

And yes there is still a lot of wrestling going on in the Noffsinger household, only this time it is David and the grandkids. He's still doing the "pinning" and there still "ain't no forgivin" going on.

I'd love to hear from you. Send me an email or comment on the blog. Thanks for all your encouragement and comments.


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