The captain of a ship on a dark night saw faint lights in the distance. He told his signalman to send the message: "Change your course 10 degrees south."
Immediately he received the response: "Change your direction 10 degrees north."
The proud captain was angry that he was being challenged, so he sent a further message: "Change your course 10 degrees south. This is the captain speaking!"
He received the response: "Change your direction 10 degrees north. I'm Seaman Third Class Jones."
The captain, thinking he would terrify this insubordinate sailor, wired a third message: "Change your direction 10 degrees south. I am a battleship."
The final reply came: "Change your course 10 degrees north. I am a lighthouse."
Don Quixote's Demonic Windmills
I burst out laughing after reading the above illustration. Isn't this the truth? Like Don Quixote fighting those deadly windmills, we humans strut about battling issues, people and things because we are offended and arrogant - not because of a sincere desire to hear or preach the truth.
Joyce Meyer's Babies
Teacher Joyce Meyer says that if she wants to sell tapes, she can't label them with words like "pride" or "selfishness." Her marketing department says tapes with these words don't sell. So, like hiding peas in the mashed potatoes for her babies, Meyer hides the truth in tapes politely called "Boosting Self-Esteem," or "Five Ways to be Successful."
Because of our persistent pride, author Dutch Sheets warns that we present the gospel to the unsaved with an arrogant spirit, but the unbeliever cannot hear the gospel because his mind is overtaken by prideful, satanic evil!
"If the Good News we preach is veiled from anyone, it is a sign that they are perishing. Satan, the god of this evil world, has blinded the minds of those who don't believe, so they are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News that is shining upon them" (2 Corinthians 4:3-4, NLT).
This is illustrated by the story of a woman driving home alone one evening when she noticed a man in a large truck following her. Growing increasingly fearful, she sped up, trying to lose her pursuer, but it was futile. She then exited the freeway and drove up a main street, but the truck stayed with her, even running red lights to do so.
In a panic, the woman wheeled into a service station, jumped from her car and ran inside screaming. The truck driver ran to her car, jerked the back door open and pulled from the floor behind her seat a man that was hiding there.
"The lady was fleeing from the wrong person. She was running from her savior! The truck driver, perched high enough to see into her back seat, had spied the would-be rapist and was pursuing her to save her, even at his own peril.
As was this lady's, the perspective of unbelievers is distorted. People run from the pursuit of a God who desires to save them from destruction."
(Sheets 1996, 161).
"Catch me if you Can"
Isn't this like real life? We want our relatives to be "saved" because we love them and want them to become part of our forever family in Heaven. We want to see them again even after they or we die.
But, they run from us like the naked little toddler screeching in glee, "Catch me if you can….hee, hee, hee." It would be funny if it weren't so tragic. They are laughing their way into eternal death and hell.
In 2 Corinthians 4:4 the Greek word for "blinded" is "tuphloo," which means to dull the intellect, to make blind. The root of this word is "tupho," which means to make smoke - like a smoke screen that clouds the air and prohibits a person from seeing. Finally, from the same root comes the word "tuphoo" (not "tuphloo") which means proud, high-minded and inflated with self conceit. "I don't want to give control of my life over to anyone," a person filled with pride and conceit barks at others as he rails against God.
Pride's Double-Duty Dirty Work
The correlation is clear. Satan has blinded the minds of unbelievers with prideful, arrogant sin. He has also thwarted the effectiveness of the believer's prayers and message with prideful unforgiveness. We are either the captain of that ship fighting the lighthouse, or we are the lady fleeing from her savior. This is pride's double-duty dirty work!
"Knock-Off" the Proud Arguments
This is also why the Apostle Paul taught that "We use God's mighty weapons, not mere worldly weapons, to knock down the Devil's strongholds. With these weapons we break down every proud argument that keeps people from knowing God" (2 Corinthians 10:4-5, NLT).
The NASB states,
"We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5, NASB).
Moving on, just what are the "strongholds" of the Devil? What does this mean?
Strongholds, fortresses, or prisons are those things we really believe - a person's mind-set. They include:
Theories. Philosophies. Religions. Humanism. Theories of Origin, Atheism. Revisionist Histories of nations, cultures, and organizations. Islam. Hinduism. Intellectualism. Materialism. Perversions&internet "porn" - all those things which cause a person to think and act in certain ways even when they are harmful to him.
How do these strongholds blind men to the gospel? Read this very carefully:
When unbelievers hear the gospel "it is filtered through the subconscious where all other information - including all of these "logismos" - is stored." "Logismos" is the sum total of accumulated wisdom and information. It means that unbelievers really don't hear what you tell them. They hear what you are saying plus the inclusion of their mind-sets and beliefs (logismos). (Sheets 1996, 174).
Read that last paragraph again. It is important.
Unbelievers see things through the mindsets and strongholds of Satan.
An example is the relative who is sickened by the name "Jesus." Ask them why they are NOT sickened by the name Muhammad or Buddha. (They rarely can answer why). When pressed further, the relative may tell you that books such as Sinclair Lewis' Elmer Gantry or other stereotypes bother them and they don't like to see anything that looks like it.
Strongholds and mind-sets, friends. Prejudices. Spin. Programming. Brainwashing.
Another example is the atheist who proclaims that "more people are killed in the name of religion than anything else." I have some background in historical methodology, and I am telling you that this is patently false. It is revisionist history.
The truth is that more people have been killed in the name of nationalism than anything else. This includes Stalin's regime, Marxist governments, the murders in Cambodia during the Viet Nam war, Hitler's murderous spree, and so on.
"Don't Confuse Me with Facts"
But, facts don't matter. Figures don't matter. You may offer documents, proof, statistics, original photos - none of it matters. To the atheist who believes that more people are killed in the name of religion, nothing changes his or her mind. These are the strongholds and mindsets Scripture warns us about.
Besides, what if more people WERE killed in the name of religions? Would that make all religions wrong?
No. Of course not.
Is it the religious beliefs or is it man who teaches murder in the name of religions who is at fault? Is it possible that men are inherently evil, filled with sin?
We Don't Battle Humans
This is why Paul said that "we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds" (2 Cor. 10:3-4).
This is why Paul said "we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12, ESV).
The Manchurian Candidate
This is the stuff that made the movie, The Manchurian Candidate so fascinating. The movie told the story of a man who was brainwashed by his own mother to murder a presidential candidate. Her son was "programmed" to react to key words. Trigger words induced him to think certain thoughts, to feel certain ways, and to behave in murderous ways.
This is what we are up against when fighting strongholds and mindsets.
Make Apologetics Secondary
The study of Apologetics or evidences as a tool of witnessing can have little effect when presented to many of the unsaved. No matter how much proof we offer to unbelievers it matters little without tearing down speculations - or their "logismos" first. The Holy Spirit needs to quicken the heart and then cut through the prejudices and brainwashing.
And, as unsatisfactory as it may seem to us, our role in this is through prayer. "Lord, please destroy the stronghold of …." Maybe we need to become a little more proactive in our prayer life.
The second part of our battle against strongholds and mindsets is to fight "every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God" (2 Cor. 10:5). This has to do with intellectual snobbery and pride. Argumentation and debate do not win this fight. But, prayer does. "With these weapons we break down every proud argument that keeps people from knowing God" (v. 5, NLT).
Use Prayer Against Thgouths&Temptations
The final aspect of strongholds and mindsets is to "take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5b, ESV). The Greek word for "thought" is "noema" which also means plans, schemes, devices or plots. These are the thoughts Satan bombards against unbelievers to keep them blinded to the truth (2 Cor. 4:4):
"Satan, the god of this evil world, has blinded the minds of those who don't believe, so they are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News that is shining upon them" (NLT).
Summary Suggestions for Prayer
- In prayer ask God to remove Satan's blinding of the unbeliever.
- Ask for the Holy Spirit to protect him.
- Ask to bring people of faith around the unbeliever.
- Ask to cast down pride, rebellion, or anything that exalts itself against God and the gospel.
- Pray to take down strongholds and mindsets - thought patterns, opinions, programming and brainwashing that keep one from belief.
- Ask to bind thoughts and lies Satan would use against belief.
- Ask to place the armor of God on the unbeliever (Eph. 6:13).
Our Weapons not Machetes or Nuclear-Tipped Missiles
The weapons of our warfare are not machetes, machine guns, or nuclear-tipped missiles. They are faith, hope, love, prayer, God's sword - the Word, and the Holy Spirit. Read Ephesians 6:13-18 for details.
"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Cor. 10:3-5, NIV).
Holy Bible, English Standard Version. 2004. Wheaton, ILL: Crossway.
Holy Bible, New Living Translation. 1996. Wheaton, ILL: Tyndale.
Life Application Study Bible, NIV. 1991. Wheaton, ILL: Tyndale in cooperation with Zondervan.
Ryrie Study Bible, NASB (Chicago: Moody, 1995).
Chip Ingram, The Invisible War (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006).
www.walkthru.org. Available in CDs.
Joyce Meyer, (Joyce Meyer Ministries, P.O. Box 655, Fenton, MO 63026). www.joycemeyer.org.
Beth Moore, Praying God's Word: Breaking Free from Spiritual Strongholds (Nashville, TN: Broadman&Holman, 2000).
Dutch Sheets, Intercessory Prayer (Ventura, CA: Regal, 1996). VHS, Gospel Light.
Authors Valorie Emilio holds an M.A. in History from UCLA having specialized in early church history. Ken holds an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Louisiana Baptist University.