Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

Overcoming Strongholds
Pastor Steve Schell
Revelation 2:12, 13
What a situation! The Lord tells the church in Pergamum that they just happen to live in the same city where Satan dwells. And please notice He doesn’t tell them to move. That would be my first impulse, to move to another city. Who wants Satan for a neighbor? But instead Jesus simply tells them to be overcomers, in other words, to live out their faith right where they are. Now of course the devil’s influence is everywhere, but there was something unusually horrible at work in Pergamum. It wasn’t just like every other city in the area. It was a stronghold, a place where Satan’s presence was openly at work.

Now you and I don’t live in Pergamum, but the concept of places and situations and even people where darkness seems to have an unusual grip is not unknown to us. Who among us has not driven through a particular place feeling strangely uneasy, or worked where we felt oppressed just being in the building. Or who hasn’t had a family member seem to fall under a spell and become an entirely different person whom we barely recognize anymore? The fact is all of us are intuitively aware that such strongholds exist, but we may not have known what we were dealing with or what to do about it.

Today we’ll look more closely at the city of Pergamum and then reflect on the authority and responsibility given to us to bring down such strongholds. I have no doubt the believers in Pergamum learned to use the same “weapons” we’ll talk about now.

Why did Satan live in Pergamum?
The Lord introduced Himself to this church as the “one having the sharp two-edged sword.” Believers in that city had already faced the threat of the Roman two-edged sword. One of their members named Antipas had died a martyr’s death very likely because he refused to participate in the worship of the Roman emperor, and participation in that worship was considered a loyalty test to Rome (Rudwick, see note in DBS). Anyone refusing to do so was considered a traitor, so the church constantly lived under the threat of the sword.

There were in Pergamum numerous temples to various pagan gods and goddess (Zeus, Asclepius, Athena, Dionysus) but such temples existed in every city in the region. Their presence did not make Pergamum unusual. What set this city apart was its temple to the worship of the Roman emperor (Rudwick). It hosted the first such temple built in Asia (about 29 B.C.). The deification of a political leader combined with the threat of physical violence if anyone does not worship that leader is the very essence of the spirit of antichrist. So Pergamum was enduring a foretaste of the antichrist spirit. It had a strong, active Satanic presence hovering over it. They were already living in the terrible spiritual climate of the last days.

Why is this hard for us to believe?
Most of the world believes and operates in the spiritual realm. They think of life as involving a physical and spiritual dimension. But you and I live in a part of the planet that doesn’t. We think the spiritual world is mere superstition, and our “priests” are constantly trying to reinforce this view by proving the universe has no creator and that humans are highly evolved animals with only a body and mind which cease to exist when we die. This worldview can be called “western rationalism” and is centered in Western Europe, the United States, Canada and Australia. And notably all these were Christian in their history. What happened? In my opinion, as the western church died spiritually our faith became increasingly powerless. We said we believed in God, but all other spiritual expressions were viewed as primitive superstition (angels, miracles, demons, visions…). In effect, the “church” became the most secularizing force on earth. Everywhere we went, in a generation or two, our children became functional atheists. So today even in a Pentecostal church many of us feel uncomfortable talking about spiritual strongholds. The subject itself embarrasses and slightly frightens us.

What is a stronghold?
1) A mind where Satan’s lies are unquestioningly believed.
• Deception is the foundation of Satan’s power.
2) A place where a demonic influence has taken up residence.
3) A culture in which evil has become an accepted part of everyday life.

Where do we encounter strongholds?
Family, work, cities, regions, churches
What is the prevailing spiritual climate in this region?
• Sorrow, loneliness, sexual temptation, broken families & communities, distrust of leaders
• Apathy (who cares!), depression

Who is responsible to overcome strongholds?
There are situations which are so evil that the Lord will tell us to leave. But usually He will empower us to destroy the stronghold.
• Matthew 13:31, 32 – We are the “seeds” He sows (Mt 13:36-38)

What are our weapons? (2Co 10:4, 5)
1) Prayer: consistent, prolonged, agreeing, faith-based
2) Worship: God’s presence opens the barrier
3) Power gifts: undeniable reality
4) Prophetic modeling: doing the opposite of the prevailing spirit (John Dawson)

How do we break down strongholds by prayer?
1) Consistency
Jesus tells us we are not heard for our many words (Mt 6:7), but He also tells us to pray always and not lose heart (Lk 18:1), so the key is consistent praying over time, not lengthy prayers.
• It can take years to change the spiritual climate of a place
• Dabbling in prayer just stirs the hornets’ nest
• We need to understand the power of prayer and commit to it as long as it takes
• Isaiah 62:2-12
2) Agreement
Jesus told us something powerful takes place when believers pray together (Mt 18:19)
• Overcoming strongholds is a task that ought to be done in community. It’s very hard to do alone because of spiritual opposition.
• We need to be around people with a gift of faith who can set the pace.
• The weekly prayer meeting
3) Prophetic Accuracy
More than we realize intercessory prayer and the prophetic gifts are meant to work together. When we pray God gives us prophetic insight into how to pray and what to do.
• Romans 8:26 “we do not know how to pray as we should…”
• There’s a key to every lock, but only God can show us that key (specific actions, right timing…)
• Prophetic prayer: we find revelation coming out of our mouths we didn’t even know to pray.

What are the spiritual strongholds we face? Does it seem like the power of the enemy is overwhelming? Thankfully, it’s not! God has give us weapons to tear down strongholds. But we must recognize those weapons and learn how to use them properly to overcome.

1) Have you ever watched a stronghold on a person or a place give way and God’s presence take over? Describe what happened.
2) Who do you know who prays for you regularly? Do their prayers make a difference in your life?


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