My heart is troubled as I consider the sad revelation of so many people who get freed only to return to slavery. Jesus speaks of this in John 8:30-38. It is here that Jesus tells us that the return to sin is the return to slavery. Furthermore, “So if the Son frees you, you will really be free” (Jn 8:36). If we are really free then why do we return? Let us direct our attention to words penned by Paul in Galatians 5:1 where he writes, “What the Messiah has freed us for is freedom! Therefore, stand firm, and don’t let yourselves be tied up again to a yoke of slavery.”
May I suggest that one of the main reasons we find ourselves returning to slavery has to do with our stance. Paul warns us that the way to stay free is by standing firm. This term of standing firm or standing fast in the Greek is STEKO, meaning to stand in persistence and keep one’s footing. This is the same term used by Paul in I Corinthians 16:13 where we are told, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.” I am reminded of the product Stucco and the firm grasp it holds against the conditions of nature. This binding agent is applied wet but hardens to a very dense solid. In many ways we too are to be on guard, persistent toward the forces of the enemy like Stucco to the forces of nature, courageous, and strong. The question is, are we? Are we persistent against the enemy and his desire to bring us back into slavery, or is our footing found in our standing in mush?
Once we have experienced the freedom that can only be given by the LORD, we are to not allow ourselves to be wrapped up again in the slavery that once bound us. This in essence was the true downfall of William Wallace, depicted in the movie Braveheart. Despite his victories in battle, the one loss at Falkirk pushed him to see himself again as a defeated Scotsman. His footing moved from solid and persistent to standing in mush, opening the doors of slavery. When he did pass away, and if he did indeed cry out, “FREEEEEE-DOM,” as portrayed in the movie, was his victory chant only because he would no longer be slave of his own demise? I cannot answer this, but I can take note that for myself I want my declaration of freedom to be one of freedom from the sin that had for so long enslaved me. Furthermore, I want my footing to be solid as opposed to wavering and allowing a return of slavery and bondage. The Messiah’s sacrifice has freed me once and for all, but unless I stand firm I am subject to return.
But let us go one step further. Looking again at Galatians 5:1, and our stance against the enemy, once we have been set free from the slavery we were in, we are urged not to return. Now I want to continue this thought with a look at the strong man as named by Jesus in Matthew 12:29. To understand this teaching of Jesus, let us begin in Matthew 12:22. It is in this portion of scripture that people brought to Jesus a man controlled by demons who was blind and mute. The Bible records that Jesus healed him and the man was able to both see and speak. While some onlookers were amazed and asked, “Could this be the Son of God?,” others said, “This man only drives out demons because he is the ruler of the demons, Beelzebub.” To these ideas Jesus responded, “If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself, and every house divided against itself will be ruined. Furthermore, if I drive out demons in the name of Beelzebub, whose name do you drive them out in? But if I drive them out by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. ‘Or again, how can someone break into a strong man’s house and make off with his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? After that he can ransack his house.’”
In looking at this passage I believe we see a few key points. First, in this passage Jesus is explaining that in order to overturn the works and activity of the enemy, we must bind him. We must go into battle with the name, the blood, and in the power of Jesus and His Word, and neutralize the enemy’s works, dealing directly with the source and binding up the foe so that his hands are rendered useless. It is only in doing this that we will be able to take back what was stolen and halt further negative actions. Second, we must realize the power of the enemy. I say this not as a factor to cause fear, but as a reminder to the weapons of warfare we have been given in Ephesians 6. This enemy inflicting God’s people is strong, and he is titled the “strong man”, but we must not forget that our God is stronger and our God has given us the shoes, the belt, the breastplate, the helmet, the sword, the shield, and the spear with which to battle against him. And third, I believe it is important to point out that a ‘stronghold’ is not only defined as demon possession, but as any strong influence or grip on a person. In our passage the man was titled as a “demon possessed man who was blind and mute.” The blindness and muteness of the man was his stronghold. Other strongholds could be addictions, oppression, obsessions, or hindrances and these too must be bound up.
There is still one more factor I want us to look at in relation to our freedom from strongholds, but before we go on, I set before you a challenge. We have looked ever so briefly at the stance we are to make after freedom, and we have looked at Jesus’ words concerning binding the strong man. So my challenge to you is to consider what strong man is inflicting damage on you. What addition, oppression, obsession, hindrance, ailment, or harassment is keeping you enslaved? That is your stronghold, and that needs to be bound. Do not let it continue to keep you as the slave or victim. In the mighty name of Jesus, and in whose blood you have been washed, bind the enemy! It is for freedom that Christ has come to set you free.
To wrap up this detail of the strongman and our stance against him, I feel we need also to consider the words of Matthew 12:43-44. It is in this section of scripture that Jesus notes a very valid point in relation to spiritual warfare. “When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order.” Quickly defined, once a spirit is cast from a person, the spirit begins to find a new place or person to inhabit. If it cannot find one, it decides to return to its previous victim only to find the place swept clean. The spirit then makes a decision to go and retrieve seven spirits more wicked than itself and bring the whole gang to live in this victim. In the end, the condition of the man is worse than when he started. It sounds hopeless, yes? It sounds as though we will never know freedom. But wait, it gets better and there is hope. I pray I do well to explain this to you as I have been learning this myself.
It is no secret to any of you who follow my writings that for many years I was bound in my own personal addictions. I too was bound by a stronghold. Many times, starting at the age of twelve, I would go up for prayer to be delivered from this strong man’s grip. Yet it seemed that with each prayer the deliverance only lasted three days at most. It wasn’t that the prayers weren’t working, but rather that I was the problem. In some instances I did not really want it to go while in other instances I didn’t have the strength to say no to its temptations. What I realize now is that God did bring deliverance with each prayer, but I was subject to the warning Jesus gave concerning the return of the spirit and his friends. This in part had to do with my stance, but also in the term “swept clean”.
First allow me to point out that a spirit cannot enter a person’s body without legal right. A spirit gains legal right based on the doors we open. Obvious doors are occult activity, witchcraft, and the like, but doors can also be opened because of thievery, pornography, anger, lies, and the like. Any action that is disobedient to the Word of God becomes an open door that the enemy can come in through. In opening the door even a crack we allow the access of the enemy. If the enemy is not cast out, as it will not voluntarily give up its position, it will stay for the long haul. However, when the enemy is cast out, the once victim now free man has a clean house.
It is important to point out next that this spirit will return as Jesus said. The spirit remembers its past home and decides to return. But what will it see? If the spirit finds the home empty, then he apparently has the legal right to return back to that person. Now I know what you are thinking because for so long this was my thought also. Isn’t empty good? Yes and no. Empty in the sense of no evil spirits, yes. Empty in the sense of not embracing of the Spirit of God also, no. If the evil spirit sees it was kicked out but that the place has not been re-inhabited with the Spirit of God, then he will work hard to return. This then shows us the importance of filling the empty places of our life with God’s Spirit, knowledge, presence, and grace, allowing ourselves to grow and mature in Him. It is when we fail to do this, and the single enemy spirit returns to see no change, that he calls for his seven buddy spirits which all then take their legal position in the believer, making the end worse than the start.
In many ways it is like a circle. A person is freed, the strong man bound and defeated. However, without us taking our stance against the enemy and filling this empty voided area with growth in God, we become subject to another, more forceful attack. Furthermore, the doors we open, whether on purpose or not, give the enemy legal right to infesting us. As such, we need to walk carefully. I will admit that growing up, my parents seemed to have so many rules about what we could and could not do that I felt I was unable to have much fun. There were rules concerning the music we listened to, shows we watched, and peoples’ houses we went over to. But now as a parent myself, and as one who is not wanting to let the enemy in, I find myself being the same way with my children. I do not want to give the enemy grounds to come in. I was bound for way too many years to let anyone go on without this warning. So in closing of this topic, I urge you once more to name the stronghold in your life, bind it in Jesus' name, and receive your freedom. Remember this next portion too, though, that we need to fix our stance and find a growth toward maturity in Christ so that when the spirit returns, and it will return, that it does not find an empty place but rather a place inhabited by God’s Spirit.