What does the Bible say about recognizing and dealing with “strong holds” in our hearts? This question was brought up during a men’s fellowship meeting.
Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” If our own hearts deceive us and if they are desperately wicked, it is difficult to recognize problems with them. That is why the next verse says, “I THE LORD SEARCH THE HEART, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” The Lord is the only One who really knows our hearts. That is why David prayed in Psalm 139:23,24, “SEARCH ME, O GOD, AND KNOW MY HEART: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, AND LEAD ME IN THE WAY EVERLASTING.”
The problem that we are seeing today is that people are looking within themselves or looking to groups of people to tell them their faults, and what to do about them. The problem with that is that it is not what the Bible teaches, but what psychology teaches. Proverbs 18:1,2 says, “Through desire a man, HAVING SEPARATED HIMSELF, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom. A FOOL HATH NO DELIGHT IN UNDERSTANDING, BUT THAT HIS HEART MAY DISCOVER ITSELF.”
Notice that the man truly seeking wisdom “separates himself” — not gets into a crowd. In other words, the Bible says that only God can know our hearts because they are deceitful and wicked. That means that we cannot figure out, on our own, the errors of our hearts. And that also means that a group of other people cannot figure out what is wrong with our hearts, either, because they cannot see our hearts — they can only see what is happening outwardly in our lives. So the only wise thing to do is to get alone with God in prayer and with the Word of God. It is He alone that knows what is wrong in our hearts. I Kings 19:9-12 says, “And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah? And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away. And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: AND AFTER THE FIRE A STILL SMALL VOICE.” If you really want to know if there is a problem in your heart, then you need to get alone with God where you can hear His voice through His Word and prayer.
Promise Keepers had large rallies and had a “loud voice” trying to tell men what they were missing, and that they needed to be held accountable by other men. But it is interesting that attendance at their rallies has fallen way off, and many of them were cancelled. What happened? Their message never was Biblical, and men eventually found that out, once the excitement of the rally subsided. It is unbiblical to trust in another man or woman to hold you accountable — that is God’s place in our lives. He is the only
One who can tell us the condition of our hearts. To trust a man or woman to do that is placing someone else between us and God, and is doomed to leave us still unfulfilled. Jeremiah 17:5 says, “Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.”
Suppose that another person says that I am spiritual, does that mean that I am? No. He only knows what I tell him, and if my heart has deceived me into thinking that I have done some good things in a day, when in fact they were not, then he will not know about those things. And will it give me peace in my heart if another person says that I am really a good guy? No, because he does not really know. He is not omniscient (he does not know everything that I think and say and do in a day). He is not omnipresent (he is not every where at once, so he does not know everything that I have done in a day). Am I supposed to tell a man all of the things that I have done wrong in a day? That would be confessing my sins to a man, when the Bible tells me to confess them to God. I John 1:7-9 says, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Only the Lord Jesus Christ can forgive me and cleanse me.
A verse is misused to support a person confessing his sins to other people. James 5:14-16 says, “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and IF HE HAVE COMMITTED SINS, THEY SHALL BE FORGIVEN HIM. CONFESS YOUR FAULTS ONE TO ANOTHER, AND PRAY ONE FOR ANOTHER, THAT YE MAY BE HEALED. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” The context here is that a person is sick, and is requesting that the elders come to pray for him to be healed. If he knows that he is sick because of a sin in his life, then he should openly confess before those elders that he has sinned and that he believes that God has made him sick as a chastening for that sin. That way, those elders know that he is now repenting of that sin, and they can knowingly ask God to now heal him. The same would hold true if a person has wronged another person, and God thus chastises him for it and makes him sick. Remember that the Lord teaches us to go make things right with those we have wronged, when we are before the altar seeking to be right with God. Matthew 5:23,24 says, “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; LEAVE THERE THY GIFT BEFORE THE ALTAR, AND GO THY WAY; FIRST BE RECONCILED TO THY BROTHER, and then come and offer thy gift.” It would be right to confess our fault to a brother that we had wronged, but to confess our faults to a group of people, or regularly to another person, is unscriptural, and will not help us in the long run. It is placing a person over us in the position that is rightly God’s place. I Timothy 2:5 says, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
The only thing that I can tell you about finding strongholds in the heart and dealing with them is that God alone can point them out to us, and God alone can tell us what to do about them. Thus, we need to daily get with “God alone” in His Word and in prayer. Psalm 25:4-12 says, “Show me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day. Remember, O LORD, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses; for they have been ever of old. Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness’ sake, O LORD. Good and upright is the LORD: therefore will he teach sinners in the way. THE MEEK WILL HE GUIDE in judgment: and THE MEEK WILL HE TEACH HIS WAY. All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies. For thy name’s sake, O LORD, pardon mine iniquity; for it is great. What man is he that feareth the LORD? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose.” Psalm 119:9-11 says, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.”