Updated: Feb 7
FREEDOM Part 3: Breaking Free
Have you ever felt enslaved to a behavior or habit that you desperately wanted to be free from? Maybe you know someone who is constantly overcome with temptation and is unable to get free of a specific sin.
If transformation is our goal and our desire, it is helpful to understand what holds us back and keeps us from living free from sin. Sometimes it’s as simple as gaining new understanding or having a revelation that changes what we think and believe. We call that the A-ha, the first element in the ABCs of Transformation. That alone can set us on a new path of change and freedom.
But what if that only gets us started and there seems to be something more that grips us with such force that we cannot seem to break free of its devastating influence? Paul alludes to these powerful forces in 2 Corinthians 10:3-4. He calls them strongholds, "For 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.”
I don’t think any of us fully understand how or why some sins are harder to break than others. We get glimpses throughout the Bible, but what we do know is that we need God’s supernatural power for ‘breaking free’, the second element in the ABCs of Transformation.
We are in a spiritual battle and there are times when a sin is so energized or engrained in our behavior that it requires something more than a new revelation or belief. It may have persisted so long that a stronghold is formed; or a stronghold may be a result of demonic oppression as described throughout the Bible. In these instances, we may need to engage in specific spiritual warfare to break the strongholds that have kept us captive.
Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6:12, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
Even the disciples, who walked with Jesus and had wielded the supernatural power to heal and remove demons, came up against situations that seemed to have a greater power than what they had experienced.
In Matthew 9:14-38 we are told that a father brought his son to the disciples and asked them to cast out the tormenting demon that caused his son to be deaf and mute. They couldn’t do it. When Jesus came upon them, He publicly reminded the father and the onlookers that faith was needed. When the disciples asked privately why they couldn’t cast the demon out, Jesus made it clear that more was needed to break the stronghold that the demon had on the boy -- prayer and fasting. These disciples weren’t novices, Luke 9:1 tells us that they had been given power to cast out demons and heal diseases, but apparently this was another level of spiritual battle.
This power to break strongholds is not just for the disciples, we are told that we are given the same power when we believe. Jesus told his disciples to expect the power soon, in fact don’t even start ministering without it. Before he ascended to heaven, he said, “And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.” Luke 24:49
Paul prays in Ephesians 1:10-2:10 that the new followers of Jesus would understand that we have the same power that Jesus had. He begins with “I pray that you will begin to understand the incredible greatness of His power for us who believe Him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God's right hand in the heavenly realms,” and ends with, “For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
Within the church, we can expect that depending on our experience, teaching, background we will have varying degrees of understanding about spiritual warfare. As Christian coaches, mentors or ministers we are most helpful when we approach each person with love and grace, acknowledging our different beliefs and convictions.
We have found it valuable to ask questions of discovery such as “What do you believe might be causing the overwhelming temptation?” or “Are there other areas of your life that are similarly intense forces that you find impossible to overcome?” Depending on the responses, we may have an opportunity to explore more deeply. The goal is to open someone up to the love and power of God that can set them free just like we are promised.
When my son was in college, he had a particularly difficult break up. It was the first girl that he really opened up his heart to. Months after the breakup he was still gripped with anger, pain and hurt. We were riding in the car and he was sharing how sometimes he felt overwhelmed with such a crushing force that he felt powerless to resist it. I felt something rise up in my heart and mind that this was more than just natural pain and hurt, but rather was being energized by spiritual forces in such a way that my son needed extra warfare to break through to freedom.
I began asking him questions to determine if he had a sense of what might be happening. The conversation turned toward a discussion of strongholds and spiritual warfare. When it seemed appropriate, I asked him if we could pray specifically for breaking these controlling strongholds.
I prayed a simple prayer starting with the Scriptures noted above, called on the power of the Holy Spirit of God, and proclaimed our trust in God to set my son free. What happened next was something neither of us have ever forgotten. He immediately felt a lightening in his heart and mind. It was like a pressure had lifted and it changed everything. Throughout the next few weeks and months, he had times of hurt resurface but they were not the energized, overwhelming feelings he had before. They were at a level that seemed normal for what he was going through. And as he continued to lean on Jesus, he was eventually totally free. I am happy to report that a few years later, he met the love of his life and married our sweet daughter-in-law.
My son had experienced something that both my husband and I have also experienced at various times in our lives. When bitterness gripped me to such a degree it seemed impossible to walk in freedom, God’s supernatural power released me and gave me the grace to walk in forgiveness. When caught up in addiction to food God’s power delivered me. Our lives are a testimony to the transformation power of God that provides the revelation of truth, the power to set free, and the grace to align our will with the Lord’s will.
When we are eager for transformation, and we experience a revelation or epiphany of truth and the power to walk free, there is often still more required for lasting change. It is highly likely that we will at some point realize the need to engage our will to sustain the transformation, solidifying the commitment to change.