Flip the Script: The Lies We Believe and the Truth That Sets Us Free
Well, we are continuing in our series called “Flip the Script.” And the idea is that we have an enemy and every day the enemy gives us a certain script to read. And this script is full of lies about you and about who God is. And he knows if he can get us to live by those lies, then he wins. So we’re talking about the truth that sets us free from those lies. And one of the things we’ve said is that a lie doesn’t have to be true to have the power of truth over us. In other words, when we believe a lie to be true then we live by that lie, and when we live by a lie it has the power of truth in our lives.
And so, week one I gave what I thought was a pretty harmless example, just something simple to make the point of how a lie can have the power of truth. And the example I gave was that we tell our kids…we were told as kids…that eating carrots will improve your eyesight. But I said, “You know, that’s not true. It’s just something that was made up to get people to eat carrots. Not a true statement.”
And here’s the thing: We sometimes like a lie because a lie allows us to control. A lie can be more comfortable to live by. A lie can be more pleasurable in the moment. A lie can make us feel happy now if we can live by the lie.
So oftentimes the truth is not something we’re too excited about hearing. The Bible warns of a day where people will come to church and they’ll just want a preacher to say…what Scripture says…to say “what itching ears want to hear.” In other words, “Don’t tell me the truth that I don’t want to hear. Just tell me what I want to hear.” Because we sometimes don’t like the truth. The truth can confront us. The truth can get uncomfortable.
And so, we have said in this series there is an enemy and he despises the truth, because he wants to control and enslave, and the truth is what will set us free. We have said that he has come to steal, kill and destroy. We have said that one of his primary weapons is lying. That’s who he is. He is a deceiver. He is a master manipulator. Jesus says in John 8 that lying is his native language. That whenever he speaks, it’s a lie. And so he uses lies to separate us from God. He hands us a script to read, and he tries to get us to read it every day because he wants that to be our story. But we want to flip the script. We want to claim the truth of God’s Word.
One of the ways the Bible talks about the lies that the enemy tells us is by using a word that we’ll talk about today. It’s the word stronghold. And here’s how we’ll define stronghold. It’s used in a few places in Scripture. Specifically we’re going to look at 2 Corinthians 10. But a stronghold could be defined as “lies of the enemy that we live by.” “Lies of the enemy that we live by.”
And so, when Paul uses that in 2 Corinthians 10 it’s a word picture that he’s pulling up. A stronghold…every significant city, every large town in those days…in the first century…would have a stronghold. It’s an area of the city surrounded by walls. Sometimes the walls had been reinforced multiple times over throughout the course of years. They could be up to twenty feet wide. You’d have chariots running around on the top of the walls. And so, a stronghold is the area surrounded by walls. Sometimes stronghold can be translated as a fortress. And so Paul is going to talk to us about the fact that many of us have strongholds, areas of our life where the enemy has set up some walls. He has told us some lies, and now he has this area. He has this space. It’s like we gave God our house, but we let the enemy have one of the rooms, right? That there’s still this jurisdiction that he has.
And so, he’s writing to Christians…he’s speaking to Christians who have already repented of their sin, who have already committed their lives to God but still have strongholds. They are still believing lies of the enemy and are still living by those lies.
And so, Paul wants us to see that these lies of the enemy have built up these walls and created this stronghold for the enemy. And oftentimes these strongholds can only be broken down with supernatural power. In other words, when we have believed these lies, especially for a significant amount of time and they’ve been reinforced in different ways, what breaks those lies down…what breaks those walls of the stronghold down…is supernatural power. It’s the truth of God’s Word. That’s why the Bible describes itself as a sword. Romans 13:12 calls it “a weapon of light.” It is God’s Word that can set us free, that can break down these walls that the enemy has established through lies.
And so, one of his favorite lies to tell is the lie “You can never change.” “You can never change. This part of your heart over here, it’s mine. This stronghold that I’ve built in your life, it’s never coming down. You are who you are. You’re not going to change. You’ll always struggle with this. You’ll always be dysfunctional like that. This is who you are. You’ve tried to change. It’s not going to happen. You’re never going to change. Things are not going to be different.”
And so, I want you to identify what a stronghold might be. What is an area of your life where you feel like you…you just can’t bring about some change? Maybe it’s a habit. Maybe it’s a sin struggle. Maybe it’s a relationship. But what’s an area of your life that the enemy seems to have established a stronghold?
So I want you to go ahead and identify it in your head. What would that be? If you’re having trouble you might ask the person you came with (or sitting beside). I bet they could tell you. Like, I bet they know what needs to change and hasn’t. We are pretty good at seeing the strongholds in other people’s lives; we’re not often very good at seeing them in our own. If you can’t think of a stronghold in your life, then that’s the stronghold in your life. Like, that you don’t see the strongholds—that’s a pretty big stronghold.
So, identify just what this is. Identify an area of your life where you’ve tried to change. And maybe you’ve read some books, and maybe you’ve attended some seminars, and maybe you’ve tried some counseling, and maybe you’ve promised yourself again and again and again that things are going to be different—but they’re just not different. Do you have it? Have you identified this?
And maybe it’s a little bit harder for you to identify because, frankly, it’s been there for so long. Like, those walls have been established for so long. Maybe since you were a kid. You’ve just believed these lies for so long that you don’t even notice the walls anymore. Or maybe you’ve tried to change so many times that you’ve just kind of…you’ve just kind of given up on it. But here’s the thing about the enemy. He establishes a stronghold, but his goal is to take more and more ground. And so, there is this…there is this war going on. Oftentimes it feels like a civil war where we’re fighting with ourselves about who we are versus who we know God has called us to be. We have some area of our life that we know we have not yet surrendered. We know that we have not yet put it under the authority of Christ. It continues to be a struggle.
And Paul talks about just the frustration of living like that as a Christian, the frustration of committing the house to God and then allowing the enemy to keep a room. And here’s the way he writes about this in Romans chapter 7, starting in verse 15. He says, “I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do the very thing I hate…. But I can’t help myself because it’s the sin inside me that makes me do these evil things. I know I’m rotten through and through so far as my old, sinful nature is concerned.” And just listen to the frustration here as he talks: “No matter which way I turn, I can’t make myself do right. I want to, but I can’t” (vv. 15-18, TLB).
I find that to be just very refreshingly authentic. We don’t often talk this way, but it’s true for everyone here. Every Christian in this room knows what Paul is talking about. We have some struggles. We might not tell anybody else about them. You might not share them publicly. But we have some things—don’t we?—some things we would like to do differently. And it just is…just frustrating.
Verse 18 in the NIV is translated this way: Paul says, “I have the desire to do what is good….” I have the desire to live the way that God wants me to. “…but I just can’t carry it out.”
You see, I think what happens oftentimes in church and in sermons…we focus on desire and we will talk as if…or we will treat people as if…they really don’t have a desire. They really don’t want to make the changes. That really the areas they’re struggling with—that’s really what they want to do. And more times than not, the desire is there. The person doesn’t want to make these decisions. The person doesn’t want to be on this path. They want to do things differently. They want to be who God has created them to be. They have the desire, but they just can’t seem to carry it out. And it’s just frustrating. And it’s exhausting to live that way.
In 2 Corinthians 10 Paul talks to us about the strongholds, about these areas where we just have a hard time changing because we’ve believed the lies for such a long time. And he tells us how to fight them. Second Corinthians 10, verse 3: “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. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (vv. 3-5).
So, here’s what he says. Here’s what Paul says. That, “We demolish the strongholds.” Now how are strongholds defined? As “arguments and every pretension.” So as knowledge, as a way of thinking that sets itself up against the knowledge…against the truth of God. So these strongholds are these lies that violate the knowledge of God. How are they demolished? Well, he says “with divine weapons.” But how are those weapons exercised? He says, “Here’s what you do. Here’s what you do. You take every thought captive and you make it obedient to Christ.”
You take every thought captive. The idea here is that you arrest it. You arrest every thought that is not true. You take it captive. You wrestle it to the ground. You handcuff that thing and you force it into submission to Jesus Christ. You wrestle it to the ground, you handcuff it, and you submit it to Christ. You make every thought obedient to Christ. That’s how strongholds are defeated. Why? Because when we take the thoughts that we’ve been thinking and we change how we’re thinking, we start doing things differently than what we’ve done, right? We take these thoughts that aren’t true—lies that we believed—and we say, “Now wait a second. Wait a second. I’m going to stop for a moment. I’m just going to think about what I’ve been thinking. And I’m going to take this thought captive and I’m going to wrestle it, man. I’m going to wrestle it down to the ground. I’m going to handcuff that thing. And I’m going to shine the light of God’s Word on it, and I’m going to submit it to the authority of Jesus Christ.” Paul says that when you do that—you start taking every thought captive and you start surrendering it to Jesus; you start putting it under His authority—then the walls of these strongholds start coming down. That the truth of God’s Word comes and begins to tear them down.
I always think it’s fascinating whenever there’s a scientific study or sociological experiment or some psychological practice that affirms the truth of Scripture on accident. Like, they don’t know that’s what they’re doing; it’s just what they’ve done. So, I’ll sometimes, you know, read a scientific study, and they don’t realize that they’ve pretty much paraphrased a Bible verse. And so, I was reading about what’s called “The Law of Cognition.” You’ve probably heard of cognitive psychology, but the law of cognition is this idea that you are what you think about. And so for like the last forty years the dominant movement in American psychology is, of course, cognitive psychology. And the idea is, “You are what you think about.” What you think about determines your behavior. It governs your emotions. It shapes your attitudes. And it all just kind of flows through what you think about. Psychologist Archibald Hart says, “Research has shown that one’s thought life influences every aspect of one’s being.” Well, a lot of research could have been saved if you just read Proverbs 4:23: “Be careful how you think; [because] your life is shaped by your thoughts” (GNT). Same thing. Your life is shaped by your thoughts. That how you think (the script you’re reading) is what determines your story. It’s what determines your life.
So, there’s the law of cognition. There’s also what’s called “The Law of Exposure.” The law of exposure basically says that your mind absorbs…thinks about…it absorbs and then reflects whatever its exposed to the most. So put those together. You’ve got the law of exposure that says, “You think about whatever your mind is exposed to the most.” The law of cognition that says, “Whatever you think about the most is what determines who you are. It determines your story.”
And Paul seemed to understand the law of exposure pretty well. I mean, he talks about it in Romans 8, where he’s expressing how what we think about determines whether the war is won or lost.
So, Romans 8:5 and 6: “Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace” (NLT).
Do you see what that is? It’s just the law of exposure and the law of cognition put together. Paul says, “If you think about these things, then you’re going to give your mind to it.” Well, if you give your mind to those things, here’s where it leads. It determines the course of your life.
And so this is why it all matters. It’s why it matters. The music you listen to, the books you read, the programs you watch, the conversations you have—it all plays a part. It’s all part of the script that you’re reading.
I grew up in a home where my parents, I think, in large part understood the law of exposure, so they limited it, right? They limited our exposure to a lot of things. And it’s harder to do today because everything is everywhere. But my parents limited our exposure. I thought it was just, you know, because they weren’t nice. I didn’t think…you know, I didn’t really understand a lot of this. I just thought they were making things harder for me and that I was missing out on stuff. But they understood it. So you’ll hear students sometimes say things like, “Well, yeah, but the movies don’t affect me that way,” right? “That doesn’t affect me. I like the music. The lyrics…I know what’s right and wrong.” But that’s not true. It does affect you.
The Kaiser Family Foundation did a study and they said, “Kids ages 8 to 18 years old devote an average of seven hours and thirty-eight minutes per day to entertainment media.” Usually statistics like that are kind of throwaway for me because I’m like, “Eh, okay. But that’s … no one really thinks that’s what’s happening. Seven hours and thirty… That’s like fifty-three hours a week. I mean, really? I don’t know.” But then they talked about this term called media multitasking where they said you’re doubling up on your hours. So they gave examples of how increasingly students, you know, will surf the internet while listening to music. Or they’ll watch TV while being on Instagram. And then the hours start to accumulate pretty quickly. The point is we are constantly exposing our mind to certain things. And what we think about defines us. It’s determining who we will be. Some day—ten, twenty, thirty years from now—you will look in the mirror and you will meet someone. And whoever you meet on that day is largely determined by what you think about between this day and that. And Paul says, “It matters.”
In Romans chapter 12 he talks more about the thoughts that shape us and our lives, and he says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (v. 2). This is how we’re transformed: by the renewing of your mind. Or maybe your version says, “By letting God change the way you think.”
And so there are a couple of words here that I just want to point out. Kind of an interesting word in the Greek is the word conform. Paul says, “Look, don’t conform to the pattern in this world. Don’t just…don’t just go along with the thinking of this world. Don’t just do what everybody else is doing, and don’t just think how everybody else is thinking. Don’t just conform.” And this word here…a good word picture to help us understand it is like a baking mold…you know, where you pour the batter…or whatever…into the mold and then you cook it? At first it was formless; it was shapeless, but then it gets baked and it holds the mold, right? He says, “Don’t let the world do that to you. Don’t just…don’t just pour into the standard mold of this world where you just kind of think what everybody else thinks and you just kind of agree with what everybody else agrees with. Instead,” he says, “Be transformed.” The Greek word here is metamorphoo. It’s where we get our word metamorphosis. It’s this complete change. And how do we do that? By the renewing of our minds. And so it’s this idea that what we think about, how we think determines whether we are being conformed by the pattern of this world or whether we are being transformed by the renewing of our minds, by letting God change the way that we think.
And so I just want to give you, as we finish, just a couple of things to think about whenever the enemy starts saying to you, “You’ll never change.” Okay?
So number one is: When the enemy says, “You’ll never change; these strongholds, they’re mine,” you think, “Progress not perfection.”
That word “be transformed” is in the present tense. The idea is that it’s ongoing. The work is ongoing. That we are in the process of growth. The enemy will try to discourage you, and every time you’re tempted, every time you struggle, he’s going to say, “See, I told you. That’s just who you are. You’re never going to change.” And so you think, “Progress not perfection.”
Now look, when you become a Christian and you surrender your life to Christ, you are perfected. In other words, you are made perfect before God. So that the Bible says, “When you stand before Him you are without blemish or defect.” But Paul talks about the fact that he wants to achieve what he’s already attained. In other words, we are made perfect. It’s justification. We are justified through our faith in Jesus Christ. He makes us right. He makes us righteous. But we’re not there yet. He’s made us that way, but He wants to progress us so that that’s who we are. That’s who we really are on a day in and day out basis. Now that’s sanctification.
And so Paul talks about that in Philippians 1. He says, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (v. 6, NLT).
So you know, the good news is that the work will one day be complete. The bad news is, not in your lifetime, you know? It’s when Jesus returns. Until then, we’re all growing up, right? We’re all on the path of growth, but we’re not there yet.
So you think, “Progress not perfection.”
Secondly, when the enemy is telling you you’ll never change, think, “God’s power, not my power.”
If you think it’s all about you and your determination and you’re going to self-help your way to destroying those strongholds—yeah, it’s not going to happen. The Bible says, as we looked at in 2 Corinthians 10:4, “The weapons we fight with, they have divine power.” They have divine power. It’s God’s power. So that the word “be transformed” that we looked at, it’s in the present tense, but it’s in a passive form, meaning that it’s not something we do to ourselves; it is something that is done to us. So that when we take every thought captive, as we begin to take every thought and wrestle it to the ground and handcuff it and submit it to the authority of Christ…as we do that, He begins to do His transforming work within us. It’s not on the outside; it’s on the inside. And then He changes us through the power of the Holy Spirit from the inside out.
And there’s just so much power in filling your mind with the Word of God. I just really want to challenge some of you with that before we go. That it’s…you know, the Bible is not just a storybook. It’s not just something you read and then it’s, you know, a chore that you’ve taken care of. It’s not a decoration that just looks nice sitting out on the table. It has supernatural power to it. It’s one of the reasons why… Do you ever wonder why it’s so hard to just pick up the Bible and read it and why we reach for so many other things? It’s because there is an enemy, and the last thing he wants you to do is pick up a sword. And the Bible has supernatural power. I would challenge some of you, and I often do this, to memorize certain verses that will combat specific strongholds, specific lies that the enemy has told you. But if your power to tear it down…if that’s coming from within yourself, if it’s coming by your determination, it’s not going to work out for you. It is through prayer. It is through being discipled, living in community with others. It is through studying the Word of God.
So look, I know that the enemy will…I mean, I know that he’s giving some of you the same script every day. And every day he’s just telling you, “It’s too late, man. It’s too late. This is who you are. You’re never going to change. Here’s the script for today. It’s going to be the same as yesterday. You’re going to play the same character in the same script. It’s not going to be any different. Your marriage isn’t going to be any different. You’re not going to change. Do you know how long it’s been? You’re going to keep being this way.” And you keep reading that script and you’ll think, “Well, maybe that’s just who I am. Maybe I just have to kind of live with this stronghold in my life.” I’m saying, put the script down and start reading from a different script. Flip it. And you start telling yourself the truth about God’s power in your life.
I love Ephesians 1, verses 19 and 20, that talk about God’s power at work within us. Those verses tell us, “…how incredibly great is His power to help those who believe in Him. It’s the same mighty power that brought Christ from the dead…” (vv. 19-20, TLB).
And you know what? You start reading that script. You begin to say over and over, “Yeah, I believe that.” If you believe that, where every day you wake up and you say, “You know, here’s what’s true about me. What’s true about me is that I have been bought with a price. I am empowered by the Holy Spirit. What’s true about me today is that I have the power to change—not because of me but because of who Jesus is in me. What’s true about me is that the same power that brought Jesus back from the dead is at work within me. And if that power can bring Jesus back from the dead, then that power can change me.” And you start reading that script and you start letting that be your truth, you stop believing the lies and you start believing what God has said? The strongholds will start coming down.
God’s Word has the power to tear them down. His truth has the power to set you free. Jesus said in John chapter 4, “I have come to set captives free.” That’s why He came. He announced it. He said, “Hey, just so you know. Here’s why I’m showing up. I am showing up to declare war on the strongholds in your life. I am coming in. I am coming onto the scene, and I’m taking down the walls.” He has come to set us free from these things that have held us captive. Jesus said in John chapter 8… He said, “The truth is what will set us free.” But in John 14 He says, “I am the truth.” It is the power of Jesus that can finally set us free.