Strongholds are those things which control us –they are compulsions. Compulsions are those behaviors that we regret doing, but continue doing. No matter how negative these behaviors are to us and no matter how we hate them, we still do them. When we were very young, we developed patterns of responding to two worlds: our inner world and the outer world. For most of us, the inner world of our thoughts, dreams, feelings, fears, and imagination is even more powerful than the outer world of people, places, and things. As we move through each world, we encounter pain and pleasure. Although we gravitate toward that which gives us pleasure, pain is usually a much greater motivator. This is especially true of emotional pain. The way we respond to emotional pain creates the most important behavioral patterns we have. It is, in fact, these patterns that create the core relationship problems in our lives. I can tell what I really believe by how I respond to life, not what I say I believe. Here’s how the process usually works:
1) We are born and know little if anything about truth; 2) As we’re growing up, the people around us teach us what life is all about – Who I am, Who to trust, What’s good or bad, What I’m worth, What life and this world is all about…and so forth; 3) The things we are told become a system of beliefs upon which we evaluate all new incoming information accepted or rejected as we compare it with our basic beliefs (i.e., Basic Beliefs vs. New Information); 4) Our definition of “truth” becomes whatever it is that we have been taught, and our beliefs begin to dictate our behavior. Then, as other people respond to our behavior, their responses tend to reinforce what we believe to be true.
In John 8:32, Jesus says, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Is it possible to hear truth and not be free? Sure it is! It’s not enough to intellectually know truth. We must know the truth experientially as well. Intellectual knowledge can become dangerous if it is not put into practice. Many people think their intellectual knowledge of Scripture makes them more spiritually mature than others. Yet such people are not always better off for all their so-called knowledge.
God’s Word can be profitable only as the Holy Spirit provides understanding. Scriptural principles that are learned and applied apart from direct interaction with God may be worthless and perhaps even destructive. But when we include God in the learning process, He helps us know and experience the truth.
God makes it clear that freedom is possible if we only put what we know into practice. Although strongholds exist and hold power over people, they are problems that can be overcome.
In 2 Cor 10:3-5, God’s promise is: “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.”
Contrasted against the ineffective weapons of this world, God’s weapons wield His power. And because His power is infinitely stronger than the power of the flesh, only His weapons are capable of destroying strongholds. These strongholds are so named because they are stronger than the flesh. It takes a higher power to destroy them. The flesh is no match for the power of any spirit – God’s or otherwise. Strongholds exist because of the influence of ungodly supernatural forces. They can only be destroyed by God’s Spirit, Who is not only infinitely powerful but also is motivated by love. God is Truth. Satan is a liar. As long as we believe Satan’s deceptions, we will not experience the freedom God intends for our lives. We will live instead as slaves to the strongholds that are built upon false beliefs. So many of the false beliefs we suffer from are negative messages we learned as children that continue to control us. That’s why it is so essential to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor 10:5). This is a key step. It is one of those specific truths that must be experienced – not simply absorbed intellectually. Spiritual maturity means consistently conforming one’s own thought life to the thoughts of God.
THE C.R.O.P. PROCESS – CONFESSION, REPENTANCE, OBEDIENCE, PRAISE
Confession. To confess literally means “to agree with God.” We need to agree with God that our strongholds are evil. We need to acknowledge our sinful behavior as a major obstacle on our road to freedom. True confession of sin is more than agreeing with God about the actuality of sin. It must go beyond and help us to realize the reality of sin’s destructiveness. Until we see evil for what it is, we will never understand the full depth of God’s forgiveness. In addition to helping us see the destructiveness of our sin, confession helps us by revealing the connective ness of our sins. We may confess the sin of lying, and God may show how the lying is connected to pride or a need to keep everyone pleased with our performance. Our sins are usually connected to other sins. If we allow God to show us the connections, we can clear out a network of evil from our lives.
With confession we are dependent on the Holy Spirit to show us: (1) our surface sins, (2) how each sin might be connected to other sins, and (3) the extent of destructive evil in our lives due to our sins. Attempting to discern these things apart from the Holy Spirit will only lead into morbid introspection and the unveiling of hurts that will not be comforted. The Holy Spirit knows exactly what and how much we are capable of handing.
Repentance. The concept of repentance is one of “turning back.” Through repentance we turn from our self-willed approach to life and reestablish a face-to-face relationship with Jesus. We often think repentance involves promising to do something to become more worthwhile to God. By focusing on our performance, we miss out on what it really means to be in a relationship. When we truly relate to God, we can do no less than relate to Him as LORD. We must accept His leadership and lordship in our lives through the Holy Spirit. Some of us find it hard to accept a complete yielding to God, especially those who have lived with great hurt in their lives.
Ironically, the more we need to control this yielding process, the less control we have. Fear begins to rule because we feel if we lose control something bad will happen to us, something hurtful, so we refuse to yield to anyone – including God.
Trust is a precious commodity. The Lord challenges us to: “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him” (Ps 34:8). Through repentance we “turn back” the control of our lives to God. He’s the only One capable of handling it without all the hurts and fears that would otherwise result. Associated with repentance is reliance. For too much of our lives, we have relied on the patterns of childhood. We cannot be in a state where we are not reliant on something or someone. We will rely either on the patterns of our flesh, or the guidance of the Spirit. Scripture states this clearly in Galatians 5:16 when it says, “Walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh” (NAS). Unfortunately, we often try to turn from something without turning to the God who can set us free. Pray for the courage and exercise of faith that only God can give so that you can repent and rely on God.
Obedience. In the step of obedience, we need to turn our attention to God’s power. By the time we discover strongholds in our lives, we also see that we are incapable of doing away with them using our own power. If we are to discover what God can do through us, we must learn to respond to Him differently than we have in the past. If we have failed to respond to Him, or have responded in wrong ways, we need to change how we relate to Him. If our confession and repentance are genuine, we should see things from God’s perspective. Obedience shouldn’t seem like an unpleasant alternative. It’s a change of response that we should be more than willing to undertake. If we have prepared through true confession and repentance, we have tapped into God’s power to confront the darkness of our souls. Does this mean our battle against evil is won? Not by a long shot! That’s why obedience is such an important step. Continued obedience results in continued victory. But it’s easy to revert to our old, self-centered ways. When we seek to take back the control of our lives, we set ourselves up for failure. Yet God is quick to forgive us when we see the error of our ways and turn back to Him. When it comes to obedience, we can learn by trying even if we fail. A far worse mistake is to refuse to change how we respond to God and fall back into the same patterns that have always controlled us.
Praise. We are commanded throughout Scripture to offer praise and give thanks to God. Probably praise is the highest form of spiritual warfare. After genuine confession, repentance, and obedience, praise is not optional – it’s automatic. The first three steps will produce freedom from our strongholds and an overriding sense of freedom in our lives. As we experience this freedom that only God can provide, our hearts will praise Him.
AN EXAMPLE OF HOW THE C R O P PROCESS WORKS (With Bitterness) –
Confessing Bitterness. We need to pray that God will search our hearts and find anything that might be there which would trace back to bitterness. As we yield to the illumination of the Holy Spirit, we might recall events we have not thought of in years. Allow the Holy Spirit to bring the truth to light. It’s also important not to argue with the Spirit when such things are revealed. Our first instinct will be to defend our actions. Often, we give ourselves permission to react in destructive ways – rebellion, drug use, sexual activity, withdrawal, self-will, or passivity. Things such as these can be connected to bitterness, and we need to deal with each stronghold. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how these responses have destroyed or limited your life. Take your time. Unless you experience with God what these improper responses have done to your life, you will not be ready to go forward. When God says you have seen enough and you have confessed these things, then you are ready to go to the next step.
Repenting of Bitterness. Bitterness and its related behaviors are the products of a self-willed life. The thought of living any other way will be frightening. You may have heard about, talked about, and sung about the lordship of Christ for most of your life. But at this stage, when you actually begin to experience it, you may experience a sensation of death within your soul. You are, in fact, putting to death your old ways of responding to life. This will feel uncomfortable and frightening at first. As we repent and turn back toward God, there will be an awesomeness about the experience. We clearly see who we are only by first seeing clearly who He is.
Obedience as a Replacement for Bitterness. Much of our behavior is not what it should be due to the bitterness we have harbored for so long. God has shown us the problem areas and we have repented of them by agreeing that they are wrong and seeing the extent of their destructive influence. But now we have to replace each of those errant behaviors with obedience to God. In some cases, we already know what we’re supposed to do. In other instances, however, we might need to continue to search God’s Word and seek His will for how to stop being so bitter. Again, take your time. God does not reveal problems without also revealing solutions. As we begin to conform to His will in the ways we know how, we will begin to see what we need to do in the other areas as well. It is through obedience that you see God’s complete power over the stronghold of bitterness.
Praise for Victory over Bitterness. The struggle against bitterness has been a long and difficult one, even with God’s help. It has taken time and energy to see the extent of the effects of bitterness in your life. It has been painful to repent of each of these things. Replacing improper behaviors with godly ones has taken a lot of effort as well. When you experience release from the devastating weight of bitterness, joy will fill your soul. Praise will flow from your lips. This newfound feeling of freedom will affect everything you do. You don’t have to understand it. You can’t understand it. Just enjoy it and appreciate it. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7).
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER –
Going through the C.R.O.P. process will be difficult at first. But as you begin to use the steps of Confession, Repentance, Obedience, and Praise on a regular basis, the process won’t seem nearly as cumbersome. Since you are following the same pattern, you’ll quickly become accustomed to going through the steps. When handled correctly, these steps are weapons. No stronghold – not even Satan himself – can stand against them. Strongholds can only be formed when you let a problem go unattended for a long period of time. When you were younger, you didn’t know any better. Your strongholds took advantage of your childhood patterns, your fears, and your desire to avoid pain at any price. Now that you can see things a bit more clearly, you can eliminate those strongholds. They will try to come back. However, you will have destroyed the power of Satan in those stronghold areas. So as long as you continue to draw on God’s power to face down your strongholds, they should never regain control.
AVOIDING COMMON FAILURES AND SETBACKS –
“I’ve tried this before, and it didn’t work for me.”
Some people don’t give it a chance. These doubts are what Scripture calls “fiery darts” or “flaming arrows” (Eph 6:16, NAS). Go back through the process and see where you may have gone about it in an ineffective manner.
“My case is worse than other people’s. God can’t fix me.”
This excuse limits God’s power. You will remain in bondage if you think God is not strong enough or willing enough to set you free.
I’m afraid. What happens if I try and fail?”
Many people continue to do nothing because they fear the solution won’t work. What do you have to lose? It’s as if one has lost most hope of getting well and isn’t willing to risk the little that remains. As long as you do nothing, you can hope your problem will go away by itself. The thinking is if I try something else and fail, the little hope I have will be lost. However, without overcoming this passivity by taking some kind of action in God’s power, the problem will never go away. Indeed, it will only get stronger and harder to deal with. If we direct the little bit of faith we have toward God, He will provide us with “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Eph 3:20).
“I don’t want the responsibility of freedom.”
While some people are afraid of seeking freedom and not succeeding, others are reluctant to risk freedom because they fear they will succeed. They realize their strongholds are a prison, yet they’ve learned to cope with them. They now know their way around. The pain is intense, but they are managing it…so far, at lease. They may even realize that it’s a fairly sick way to operate, but it’s gotten them this far, hasn’t it? It scares them to consider change. If they become free of this stronghold, what will happen? The thought of freedom is just too scary.
“I gave it a shot, but forget it. I quit!”
Some people simply quit too soon. The pain generated by trying to break free seems too much for them. Jut when they get to a breakthrough point, they give up. Quitting before acquiring freedom makes it very difficult for a person to attempt the C.R.O.P. process again. Patience and perseverance are required to get all the way through.