Defeating Satan’s Footholds and Strongholds
We overcome Satan’s schemes when we understand how he oppresses us and how we must defeat him. Here are some clear ways to recognize demonic oppression in your life and find victory!
The Evil One and his demons seize opportunities to cunningly influence our thinking in many different ways and to varying degrees. If his schemes remain hidden from our conscience thought, they can form a foothold or establish a stronghold in our souls from which evil spirits can operate unimpeded.
The most common use of the word foothold today is as a place or thing that will support a climber’s foot or as a secure starting position from which further advance can be made. In biblical Greek it can refer to a spot, place, location, room, home, position, tract, occasion, opportunity, locality, region, or condition.
Paul gives us insight into how Satan might establish a foothold in our thinking from which further advancement can be made. He says,
“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:26-27)
In these verses Paul warns us to quickly forgive an offense so that retained anger does not turn into bitterness, because bitterness (long-held unforgiveness) gives Satan a “foot up” in our thought life. It can give him a platform that will support further incursions into our thought life.
Let me illustrate. When I am offended or emotionally wounded, becoming angry or embittered, I may think things such as:
1. If I forgive the person who offended me, he/she will just hurt me again.
2. By holding onto my anger, I can punish the one who offended me.
3. This offense is so egregious, I cannot forgive.
There is no truth in any of these thinking patterns. The behavior that typically follows these kinds of deception is sinful disobedience of Christ’s instruction and example of forgiveness. Through unwillingness to forgive, the evil one gains a foothold—gains ground, a place, or a spot from which to make further advances into his target’s thought processes and actions.
Another of Satan’s deceptive schemes is to establish strongholds in our mind. Look at what the Apostle Paul has to say about this:
“…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 Corinthians 10:3-5)
The Greek word for stronghold is used in the Greek Old Testament several times where it always carries the literal meaning of a fortress. The above passage is the only occurrence of the word stronghold in the New Testament and it is used figuratively to refer to the “strength of false arguments.” The words rendered arguments and pretension in the Greek tell us that the stronghold—the strong false argument—is established by a proud adversary for evil purposes. Look at the way Today’s English Version expresses it:
“The weapons we use in our fight are not the world’s weapons but God’s powerful weapons, which we use to destroy strongholds. We destroy false arguments; we pull down every proud obstacle that is raised against the knowledge of God; we take every thought captive and make it obey Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:4-5, TEV)
Author Mark Bubeck defines stronghold, saying: “a stronghold is an idea, belief, fear, feeling, desire, or anything else (arguments, pretensions against the knowledge of God) that has a strong hold, or a firm grip on, our mind, spirit, body, or heart—enslaving us—motivating us to act out against God’s will through repeated sinful behavior. A stronghold is a believed lie we have allowed to become reality to us and hold us in bondage to sin. It’s a lie that has darkened our minds to the truth of Christ.”
The differences between footholds and strongholds are subtle. But we can make this distinction. A foothold is based upon lies one believes that lead him/her into sin for which he/she remains unrepentant. Continuing to function in that sin gives Satan a place from which to advance against us—to gain more ground in our lives. A stronghold seems to be directly connected to a proudly held strong argument or belief that weakens a person’s faith in God or leads the person away from God. Such false beliefs may stem from apostasy, habitual sin, or from misinterpretations of traumatic events in a person’s life. The false belief is so deeply ensconced in the person’s thinking that Satan can safely operate in the person’s life as if he were protected within the walls of a strong fortress.
Now let’s look at some ways we can give evil spirits an opportunity to establish footholds and/or strongholds in our lives—ways in which we can become vulnerable to demonic attack.
The door for spiritual attack in our life is opened both by the sins we commit and the sins committed against us. A review of writings of the “experts” in the field of spiritual warfare reveals that there are numerous areas of sin through which the enemy gains ground in our lives so that he can harass, oppress, and oppress believers. These include involvement in the occult (false religions), deception, bitterness, rebellion, pride, habitual sin, and generational sin.
Replacing the worship of God with the worship of Satan is the core characteristic of involvement in the occult. The worship of Satan is often hidden in the activities and beliefs of occult groups (occult means “hidden”). Just as Satan in his Temptations of Christ openly offered Jesus ruling power (Matt. 4: 8-9), the occult is seductive and deceptive as it offers power to the seeker. (Deuteronomy 18:9-13).
Bitterness (unforgiveness) is one of the primary areas of vulnerability for many Christians. Some people struggle with bitterness because they have misconceptions about what it means to forgive. Forgiveness assaults the bitter person’s sense of justice. For these, forgiving someone for an offense means to let the offender off the hook. This smacks of weakness and codependency. The opposite, of course, is true.
Forgiveness takes great courage and it reflects the grace and mercy of Christ.
Some do not want to forgive because they want vengeance. And they are dedicated to extracting that vengeance. Some do it with cruel and direct retaliation. Others are more covert. They get their vengeance through gossip, manipulation of relationships, and other passive-aggressive behaviors. Some just enjoy hating the offender.
Hanging onto bitterness is self-destructive and poisons the soul (Heb. 12:15; Eph. 4:30- 32). It is a violation of love (1 Cor. 13:5); it is rebellion against Jesus’ instruction to His followers (Matt. 6:12, 14-15).
1. Forgiveness is not forgetting.
2. Forgiveness is letting go of resentment; we forgive in order to heal.
3. Forgiveness is not seeking revenge (overtly or covertly).
4. Forgiveness is something you do for your sake; it is between you and God.
5. Forgiveness is agreeing to live with the consequences of another’s sin. We pay the price for the evil we forgive, just as Christ did.
6. Forgiveness is a crisis of the soul; it is an act of the will—a choice we make even if we do not feel like it.
7. Forgiveness sets the offended one free to heal and grow beyond the pain of the offense.
Jesus described the evil one as a liar and the father or progenitor of lies. “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44) Satan and his army of demons seek to impact our thinking process primarily through deception or lies. The evil one is described as a deceiver and a liar.
We also can be indirectly impacted by the evil one’s deception of others. Paul warned Timothy about deceiving spirits operating in men for the purpose of seducing them away from the truth: “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. (1 Timothy 4:1-2)
Paul tells us in Romans 12:2 that we can be deceived by the world—led by cultural messages, behaviors, and customs into false beliefs. Scripture also teaches that we can deceive ourselves (1 Cor. 3:18). In summary, we can say that Satan seeks to capture our mind, emotions and will through deception. We know that we need to be alert to several sources of deception.
1. Satan and his demons can directly deceive people (1 Tim. 4:1).
2. Other people can deceive us (Matt. 24:4-11).
3. We can be deceived by the culture in which we live (Rom. 12:2).
4. We can deceive ourselves (1 Cor. 3:18).
Although it often is difficult to pinpoint a direct cause-effect relationship between a lie that we believe and the source of the lie, we know that Satan’s power is always in the lie, because he is the father of lies.
Rebellion is failing to submit to the authority of God and to the authorities that He has placed over us in the structures He has ordained. The essence of rebellion is rooted in this question: Who is in control? When we rebel against those God has placed in authority over us we are taking control away from God and claiming it for ourselves. The Bible says this about rebellion: Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness [insubordination] is as bad as worshiping idols. (1 Samuel 15:23, NLT) Witchcraft and idolatry are both on God’s list of “detestable ways.” That makes rebellion and stubbornness [insubordination] detestable to God. How sobering! The Word gives us specific information about those to whom we are to submit—those not to rebel against.
When we behave arrogantly or harbor prideful attitudes, we are emulating Satan rather than being an image-bearer of Christ. Remember that Satan was removed from the presence of God and cast to the earth because of his pride. Notice the connection between pride and spiritual warfare in the following verses:
He gives us more and more strength to stand against such evil desires. As the Scriptures say, “God sets himself against the proud, but he shows favor to the humble. So humble yourselves before God. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. Draw close to God, and God will draw close to you.” (James 4:6-8, NLT) Pride often manifests itself in self-reliance, selfishness, and self-condemnation.
The habitual practice of a specific sin can lead to bondage to “the god of
this age.” In the previous lesson we learned that Paul, using the sin of bitterness
and unforgiveness as the example, clearly identifies this principle. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:26-27) If we habitually remain unforgiving, holding onto anger, we create an opportunity for Satan to establish a foothold or beachhead in our life from which he may advance. This principle works because it is based on the nature of sin. Sin is rebellion against God and rebellion is at the core of who Satan is. He was the first rebel against God and has continued to work his plans against God by tempting man to join with him in his rebellion by committing sin. Demonization can take place when we join Satan in his rebellion by our habitual sin, giving him a place to build a stronghold. Of course, unforgiveness is not the only habitual sin that can give evil spirits entrance into our mind and will. A habitual gossip, liar, thief, etc., can open himself or herself to demonization as well. This principle is at work in the lives of many addicts, too. Drug addiction, sexual addiction, and alcoholism are all forms of habitual sin that open people up to demonization.
People can be spiritually influenced in a negative way by the idolatrous sins of four generations of their ancestors. Look at these passages: “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments….” (Exodus 20:4-6) It is easy to connect the sins of the fathers in a social context. A person who has been physically abused by his father is likely to abuse his own children. Addiction has a genetic component and is easily tracked from one generation to the next. Sexual sin can be observed generation to generation.
Obviously, the grace of God can change any pattern with Divine Power.
SYMPTOMS OF OPPRESSION:
Disinterest in or inability to read Scripture, comprehend the teaching of the Word, or participate in worship and prayer
Possession of items used in Pagan, New Age, Eastern, or Native American worship rituals or in Freemasonry ceremonies
Fearful, bizarre dreams and/or night experiences related to sexual perversion, occultic symbolism, or violence; evil presences, visitations, or impressions of demonic faces
Conscious invitation extended to Satan and/or demons to become involved in one’s life
Systematic patterns of personal sinfulness, i.e., lying, dishonesty, and resentment toward others; sexual acting out; and racial hatred
Personality disturbance, i.e., paranoia, vengefulness, abuse of others (physical, emotional, sexual, or spiritual), self-mutilation, suicide attempts, depression, rebellion, and bizarre, violent, blasphemous thoughts
Addictions to alcohol, drugs, sex, work, food, exercise, internet, or television
Experiencing no relief from medical treatments (including prescribed drugs), personal prayer, or psychological counseling
A family history of demonic influence coming from witchcraft or satanic worship; Native American, New Age, or Eastern religious practices; Freemasonry
HERE IS A POWERFUL PROTECTION PRAYER:
Holy Spirit, the Word of God declares that you are the Spirit of Truth who has come to guide me into all truth. I submit myself to You and ask that You reveal to my mind—or confirm to me—truth concerning these indicators that may reveal where I have made myself vulnerable to demonic oppression (John 16:13). It is the desire of my heart to recognize and destroy footholds and strongholds that evil spirits may have established in order to influence my thoughts and actions (Psalm 21:2; Eph. 4:26-27; 2 Cor. 10:3-5).
I thank You in the Name and Authority of Jesus, the Christ. Amen.