We know from Romans 8: 6 that the spiritual mind leads us to life and freedom, while the carnal mind leads inevitably to death and slavery, so we can predict where this is going to end up. Our problem is that while we know we need to set our thoughts on higher things, the strong tendency of our mind is to stay with what is familiar and safe (remember the leeks and onions?). Our task is made even more difficult by the fact that we have been practicing the old way of thinking for so long that our thoughts have developed into a little internal community of thoughts and emotions the Bible calls a stronghold. We can define a stronghold as a network of thoughts, emotions, mental impressions, imaginations and muscle memories that negatively color our perceptions and influence us to misinterpret incoming information. A stronghold comes to have a “mind” of its own and can significantly influence the way we approach life. When thoughts are repeated frequently enough, they begin to come into our conscious awareness so easily that they appear to be automatic. Strongholds produce negative automatic thoughts with cruel efficiency and frequency. Strongholds are frequently activated by situations where the potential for conflict and emotional pain is high. This explains why so many of our behaviors under stress appear to be beyond our consciously control.
Consider the man who rages out of control, and verbally abuses his wife with curses and degrading epithets and then later remorsefully promises that it will never happen again. Because this man has cultivated a stronghold of anger, he really is not in control of his actions at the point where the outside event or stimulus triggered his violent response. This is why he will very likely fly into another rage again with little provocation. Because he is responding to internal orders from the stronghold, he is not processing the event with a clear and objective mind. He is not in control of his own behaviors because he is not in control of his thoughts. To be technically more accurate we would say he is not in control of his actions (cursing his wife) because he is not in control of his physiological responses. He is not is not in control of his physiological responses (accelerated heart rate, tensed shoulders, adrenalin pumping and clenched fists) because he is not in control of his emotions (anger) and he is not in control of his emotions because he is not in control of his thoughts (“she never shows me any respect,” “why doesn’t she listen to me?”). It’s difficult to change our emotions quickly. Neither can we easily change our physiological responses, although we can learn with practice to moderate some of them quite effectively. Likewise we cannot readily change our behaviors if they have been initiated under orders from a cruelly rigid stronghold. They are for all practical purposes, automatic and may well be beyond the conscious control of the individual. The only way we may alter or change this type of behavior is to go to the source and the source is invariably the thought.
The good news is that strongholds can be neutralized or demolished as the Bible states in II Corinthians 10: 3-5. In order to accomplish this task, we must learn to take “every thought captive” until they conform obediently to the heart and mind of Christ. This is not an easy task, but it can be accomplished. It is done by replacing the old inaccurate negative thoughts with new accurate positive thoughts anchored in the pages of scripture. We continue to do this until our minds are clear of the negative automatic thoughts that cause so much damage. The intentional focus and consistent practice that scripture meditation requires makes it a powerful and effective tool for accomplishing that task. This is especially true of the Anchor Points meditation system that will be described in the next section.
Not only are our thoughts renewed by meditating on the Word, but the deeper underlying assumptions that we build our world around are also challenged. This world view or schema as therapists sometimes refer to it, exerts a very powerful influence on how we see the world. The Word provides the blueprint for helping us turn automatic negative reactions into intentional godly responses. Because the Word is “sharper than a two edged sword and can rightly divide between soul and spirit” it is invaluable in helping us navigate through the critically fine points of decision we face daily (Heb. 4: 12). Only the word can give us the discernment we need to distinguish between the thoughts and the intents of our own hearts. We will learn more about this at a later time. At this juncture, suffice it to say that the word supplies us with all we need to correct this universal problem of changing our wrongly directed thoughts.
To summarize, if Christians are acting out of the unconscious inner directives of a deeply embedded stronghold, we must find a way to sever the connections to that emotional landmine. Only then are we free to walk in perfect obedience and power as directed by the Holy Spirit. This is what Paul is referring to in the fifth chapter of Galatians is his discussion of walking in the Spirit. We will never be able to walk in the Spirit with any real degree of success as long as we are under the influence of the voice of the flesh (Galatians 5:17). And we will never be free of the influences of the flesh if our spirits are malnourished and our minds are not renewed.
We must find a way of digesting the word of God so that our hungry souls may be strengthened. Scripture meditation is a powerful way of assimilating the Word. I would like to introduce the reader to a system designed to make scripture meditation and memorization accessible to anyone who desires to have a more intimate walk with God. The Word is a table set where the appetites of our longing hearts may be filled. The Lord has given us an open invitation to join Him at that table. There we may spend precious moments communing with our Lord, coming to know his heart and receiving abundant nourishment, instruction and blessings from his generous hand.