Deception is the glue that holds every stronghold together. Let’s reflect on this concept: nothing is bigger or more powerful than God; therefore, anything other than Jesus Christ mastering the Christian’s life can keep its grip only through pretension and deception. Remember, Satan is the father of lies.1 No truth is in him. However, his specialty is twisting a lie until it seems true. The list of lies we often believe when we are held in a stronghold can be unlimited. Consider just a few examples:
- I can never be victorious over this compulsion. I’ve had it too long.
- I can’t help the mess I’m in. I’m caught, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
- It may be a stronghold, but I really need it to get by.
- I am absolutely worthless nothing but a failure.
- I’m in control here. This is not controlling me.
- This isn’t doing me any harm. I can handle it.
- I’ll know just when to stop.
- After all I’ve been through, I deserve this.
- There’s nothing wrong with this relationship. People just don’t understand us.
- Everyone thinks these kinds of thoughts most of the time. I’m only human.
- God may work for other people, but He doesn’t work for me.
- I’ll just have to wait until heaven to get over this. Real victory isn’t possible on earth.
- God can’t possibly fill the void in my life. I need something more.
- I am too emotionally handicapped to ever be OK.
- It’s hopeless. I’m hopeless.
Sometimes we’re very aware of tolerating or even fueling a lie. Other times, we are caught in such a web that we can no longer see ourselves or our situations accurately. It’s not always clear when we’re being deceived, but one sure sign is when we begin to deceive. All you have to do to locate Satan in any situation is look for the lie. How do we recognize a lie? Anything we believe or act on that is contrary to what the truth of God’s Word says about us is a lie. Second Corinthians 4:2 tells us how to respond to such things: “Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the Word of God.” This passage helps us identify four of Satan’s specialties that must be renounced and rejected by the believer in order for him/her to walk in victory: secrecy, shame, deception, and distortion of Scripture.
As you consider each one, you can readily imagine how deception permeates all four and how interrelated they are. Satan’s plans toward the believer are always the antithesis of God’s. Our Redeemer wants to loose us from the closets of secrecy and bring us to a spacious place of joy, freedom, authenticity, and transparency. Satan wants to keep us bound in secrecy where he can weigh us down in guilt, misery, and shame. Oh, beloved, I know from experience that so much of the shame we experience is wrapped up in the secret. In fact, the enemy knows that once we expose the secret places of our lives to the light of God’s Word, we’re on our way to freedom.
I’m not suggesting that the only way to be free is to stand up before our congregations and tell every detail of every sin we’ve ever committed or considered. The King James Version translates James 5:16 far more accurately than several other versions: “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed” (emphasis mine). Some of the other translations say, “Confess your sins to each other…” (emphasis mine). The original word translated “faults” in the KJV and “sins” in the NIV is paraptoma, which means “fault, lapse, error, mistake, wrongdoing.” Contrast 1 John 1:9 where we are told, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” The original word for “sin” in this verse is hamartia, meaning any way in which we miss the mark and any “aberration from the truth.” James 5:16 refers to the confessions we make to others, while 1 John 1:9 refers to the confessions we make to God. Please notice the slight contrast between sharing our faults, weaknesses, and mistakes with others and confessing every detail of every sin to God.
If we’re going to live in freedom, we have no choice but to renounce every single secret place of sin in our lives to God, exposing even the smallest detail to the light of God’s Word. This is the means by which God injects truth in the inner parts.2 I have also found incalculable help and freedom in confessing details of my past sins and strongholds to a few other trustworthy, mature believers for the sake of accountability. There are a couple of people I really trust who basically know every detail of my life.
Living a consistently victorious life takes courage! But this courage leads to a glorious, indescribable liberty! What relief awaits you if you really decide to let God’s truth set you free…then keep you free. Be willing to ask God on a regular basis if you are overlooking or denying a stronghold in your life. Because of my past track record, I’ve had to learn to dialog openly with God about areas of my life that are at risk: areas where I’ve been defeated before or circumstances that suddenly result in anger or insecurity. I also ask Him to help me discern the very first signs of Satan’s deceptions in my life.
Let’s reiterate, however, that the most effective way to veer from deception is to walk in truth. Third John 4 says, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” The wonderful news is: the joy that results from your walk in truth won’t just be God’s. It will be yours, too. As Christ said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
1 John 8:44
2 Psalm 51:6
Adapted from Praying God’s Word: Breaking Free from Spiritual Strongholds by Beth Moore, © 2000 by Beth Moore, Broadman & Holman Publishers.