BREAKING DOWN STRONGHOLDS
You own 10 acres. A homeless man comes to you. To be kind, you let him live on 1 acre in the middle of your 10 acres. Within a short time his loud music drives you crazy. You drive past and see his garbage scattered across the 1 acre. Then over time his garbage is blowing all over your 9 acres. You ask him to leave. He refuses. He says he has a legal right to the 1 acre because you invited him in.
This is what happens to us when we let the devil into a small area of our life. The devil quickly gains a stronghold. "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds". (2 Corinthians 10:4). Stronghold means 'fortress'.
The devil builds a strong fortress in our life because we gave place to him in a small area, that 1 acre.
Satan may not possess us but he does dominate us with a favorite sin to which we have given him legal right. We can't get rid of it, even after endless cycles of confession and forgiveness. Satan's fortress in us must be broken down.
Satan begins with our mind. After conversion the devil knows we now belong to Christ so he tries the next best thing - to rob our joy, to keep us down, depressed and frustrated. The devil starts with a thought he brings to our mind. When we linger with that thought and allow it to grow in our thinking, we have given the devil an acre and he quickly expands out to more of us, because we have given him the legal right to do it. That's why 2 Corinthians 10: 5 says "we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."
So a "stronghold" is a fortress Satan occupies in an area of our mind that should've been given over to the Holy Spirit.
HOW SATAN operates
A really vile thought comes into our mind. Where does it come from? It comes from Satan. It's a fiery dart. When it happens we only have a split second to say "No! I won't entertain that! You have no legal right! God help me with my thought life."
Permission leads to progression. If we don't stop the fiery dart Satan fires into our mind, it quickly leads to a choice. If we don't take the thought captive, it very quickly leads to a choice to entertain it further. A mistake repeated more than once is a decision. The choice we make leads to repetitive behavior. Spiritual war is now underway in our mind. We lose the war the moment we entertain the thought. We are no match for Satan. If the behavior is repeated it allows Satan to create a stronghold.
So here's the pattern: an initial thought is allowed to linger, which leads to a choice, which leads to behavior, which leads to repeated behavior, which leads to a stronghold. For a Christian common strongholds Satan builds in the mind are repetitive behaviors such as criticism, gossiping, vanity, judging others, hypocrisy and pride. At the extreme end are addictions such as porn, alcohol, drugs, gambling and violent computer games.
It helps to know how Satan operates. It helps us to be able to at least understand what's going on.
VICTORY OVER SATAN
To break down strongholds Satan has created in our mind, this must be done:
1. We don't resist the Holy Spirit. He has revealed we have strongholds that need breaking down. We now know it. We believe the Holy Spirit has the power to lead us to victory.
2. We choose to repent. We allow the Holy Spirit to lead us to a point where we are brutally honest with God and tell Him about the strongholds in our lives. We call them what they are: gossip, criticism, porn, pride, power seeking, gambling, drinking, vindictiveness, envy, lying etc.
There's no value in saying "I'm sorry and I won't do it again" because within a day or so we'll be at it again. We let the Holy Spirit bring us to a deep, deep level of repentance. The Holy Spirit gives us deep repentance if we don't resist Him and if we linger in the prayer room.
3. We now ask God to cast out the evil spirit of gossip, criticism, lust in the name of Jesus and to break down Satan's strongholds. By doing this we remove the past legal right to our lives that we had given Satan by lingering on his territory.
4. After repenting we'll still be inundated with continuing evil thoughts from Satan. He won't give up. Fueled up in the power of the Holy Spirit we instantly dismiss them and renounce them. We don't try to argue with Satan or to out-smart him. We bring Jesus to Satan and Satan will flee.
The key to all of this is to first be clean (by repenting) and then giving Jesus the master key to all the rooms in our lives. When Satan comes knocking we let Jesus answer the door. This is not sanctified fantasy. It is real. Until you see what a demon-possessed person looks like, you will not treat this subject with the utmost seriousness. It is very real.
Think it through: when we entertain a sinful thought we give Satan the legal right to gain a foothold in our mind. It quickly grows into a stronghold because we gave him the legal right to do that. When we repent we REVERSE this. We remove the legal right we gave him. By repenting we are saying "legal right removed" and allow Jesus to break the stronghold.