This is the third post in a series of articles on the topic of spiritual warfare—identifying the enemy’s schemes and tactics against us.
According to Dr. Steven Standiford, chief of surgery at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, unforgiveness makes people sick and keeps them that way. As a matter of fact:
UNFORGIVENESS IS CLASSIFIED AS A DISEASE IN MEDICAL BOOKS.
In other words, unforgiveness is killing us.
And do you know who is behind all unforgiveness? Satan! Don’t believe me? Remember, the Bible tells us in John 10:10, that the thief’s (Satan’s) purpose is to steal and kill and destroy us.
I vividly recall a memory from several years ago when I asked God this question, “What’s getting in the way of having the deep relationship that I desire with you, Lord?”
The words no sooner left my lips when I saw in my mind’s eye, a quick vision of myself…and I was angry. Really angry.
I shook my head saying aloud, “Anger. You’re telling me that anger is getting in the way of my relationship with you?”
And then I knew— deep within my spirit—anger had lead to unforgiveness. Unforgiveness to bitterness. And bitterness was keeping me divided.
Divided from God.
Divided from others.
That day, my journey to forgiveness began. I call it a journey because it’s been a process. I first had to acknowledge that unforgiveness was there.
Could unforgiveness be an issue in your life right now?
I realized it was poisoning and dividing my life. God also made it clear to me that because of my unforgiveness, I had allowed Satan a foothold.
“And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.” Ephesians 4:26-27(emphasis mine)
The enemy is constantly looking for any sinful activity that a believer is not submitting to the Holy Spirit, and then exploiting it. Anger that leads to unforgiveness is one of his favorites.
A foothold that is not recognized and dealt with quickly becomes a stronghold.
Stronghold is a military term. It simply means a well-fortified place; fortress. Like a beachhead in military strategy becomes a base for further invasion of enemy territory.
This is what Satan looks for—places of weakness to enter (foothold) to make his beachhead (stronghold). He usually finds a way in through sin and then sets up camp. I would like to note that not all anger is a sin. Anger that leads to bitterness is the sin.
Satan’s goal is to keep a Christian in bondage to his/her strongholds, thereby disabling the Christian from being a light that leads others to Christ.
Is there any area in your life that may be a foothold or even a stronghold allowing the devil to keep you stuck and divided?
Strongholds inevitably lead to division. One cannot be taken captive by a stronghold and effectively serve Christ. A division takes place.
One of Jesus’ final prayers for us was for unity—to be one. He prayed this at the Last Supper just before he went to suffer and die for us:
“I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.” John 17:22-23 (emphasis mine)
Notice in the scripture above that when we are ‘unified with the Spirit’, the world will know Christ’s love through us. Satan doesn’t want us to have unity which is an expression of God’s love. He goes to great lengths to keep us divided by whatever means he can.
Satan wants to divide:
Satan wants to divide us within our minds with:
So what’s a Christian to do about strongholds that lead to division—specifically unforgiveness?
WHY DO WE NEED TO FORGIVE?
Jesus asked us to forgive those who have hurt us, not just for their sake, but for our own.
My friends, life is certainly more tragic than orderly. We all know that bad stuff happens. We all have our share of good times as well as bad times. Sometimes bad things are by accident or an event of nature, and other times it’s because of the thoughtless or deliberate actions of another.
Whatever the reason, unforgiveness is a sin and it’s toxic.
We forgive because we have been forgiven by God.
Who are we not to forgive, if He has forgiven us?
Jesus has always known what today’s medicine is now claiming:
UNFORGIVENESS IS KILLING US
UNFORGIVENESS IS DIVIDING US
LEARNING TO DEAL WITH STRONGHOLDS GOD’S WAY
A key passage in learning to deal with strongholds is James 4:7
“ Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (NIV)
From this scripture, we learn the two key elements in dealing with spiritual strongholds are: Submission and resistance.
Submission to God and resistance to the devil.
STEPS TO SUBMITTING TO GOD:
“People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.” Proverbs 28:13
Renounce sin. This means we resolve to turn away from the sin.
Receive God’s forgiveness.
“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” 1 John 1:9
Forgive those who have wronged us.
Jesus is our example. When Jesus was being nailed to the cross, he said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’
Commit ourselves to God’s truth as the basis for our lives.
“Teach me your ways, O Lord, that I may live according to your truth! Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you.” Psalm 86:11
HOW DO WE RESIST THE DEVIL?
A simple answer is, we must utilize God’s strategies and weaponry from the Bible.
Next week we wrap-up our series on spiritual warfare by unpacking the key scriptures on God’s weapons that give us the power to resist the devil. Until then, here’s step five in our Spiritual Warfare Plan of Action.
SPIRITUAL WARFARE PLAN OF ACTION
Step One: WAKE UP AND STAY ALERT
Step Two: PRAY
Step Three: KNOW THE TRUTH OF GOD’S WORD
Step Four: UNDERSTAND SATAN’S TACTICS AND HOW HE USES OUR WEAKNESSES
Step Five: ROOT OUT STRONGHOLDS
My friend, if you are feeling uneasy after reading this post on unforgiveness, it’s likely that you may be feeling the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
Conviction from the Holy Spirit is a good thing.
It’s good because it alerts us to trouble, heals us, comforts us, and teaches us God’s ways.
So if you recognize that you may have allowed Satan’s one-two punch of unforgiveness and division to become a stronghold in your life, it’s time to do something.
Yes, right now.
I invite you to pray to forgive others, forgive yourself and if needed, forgive God. You may want to copy and paste these prayers to keep in your Bible or confide in a trusted friend, Pastor, or spouse so they can pray with you.
Father God, no words can express how bad I feel that I have broken your heart because of my unforgiveness towards___________. You have forgiven me of my sins, so I realize that I have no right to hold onto this cancer of unforgiveness. But Father, I have some hard layers on my heart that need healing. I cannot do this alone. Please peel back the layers and give me a brand new heart. Those hard layers have kept me divided from You and others for too long.
Thank you for Your forgiveness. Without it, I am nothing. With Your forgiveness, I am whole again! In the name of Jesus, Amen.
Holy God, I can’t seem to shake the hold unforgiveness towards_______ has on me. I am wallowing in the anger I feel. I know I shouldn’t think vengeful thoughts, but I have. I realize you are calling me to a better way. A way of forgiveness. But Father, I need You to give me the strength to forgive_______. I want to forgive them completely right now, for good. I’m done with holding these grudges!
Please cast the devil’s evil ways from me. I want to look at these people and see lost souls that need You. Have Your way with me, God. I love You and thank you for Your patience with me. In the name of Jesus, Amen.
Oh Lord, I don’t want to be bitter. I don’t want to be resentful. But the truth is, I am! I hate these anxious feelings that have been eating at me. I’m so sick of feeling sick from my anger towards You. I vacillate between guilt over it and not caring. But the reality is, I do care. And the truth is that I feel You let me down. I want to forgive You for______________.
I now realize that I cannot live with this separation. I don’t want the enemy to keep me in this stronghold of anger any longer. God, I know You don’t need my forgiveness. You want me to forgive You for my sake. I admit, that I need Your help to do that now. Today is the day. I don’t want to carry this burden any longer. Come in Lord Jesus and give me a brand new heart to forgive love, and serve You again. In the name of Jesus, Amen.
Please join me next week for our final post in this series on spiritual warfare—identifying Satan’s strategies. If you missed the others see This Means War. Second post: Satan’s Calling Cards Part one Third post: Satan’s Calling Cards Part Two