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So many people allow negative experiences and broken dreams to stop them. Yet God has the power to propel you beyond your disappointments. (Charisma archives)

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Have you ever heard the statement, "Experience is the best teacher"? It's true. The problem is that experience can teach you the wrong things as well as the right ones.

A person who is severely bitten by a dog, for example, generally has a lifelong dislike—and often fear—of dogs. People can have all sorts of fears and phobias because of one bad dream, accident or tragic event in their lives.

When we experience a major trauma or disappointment or live under a particular negative circumstance for a long time, we tend to become hindered in some area of our lives. We find ourselves changing the truth of the Bible, God's Word, and His ways to match up with our personal experiences. We come under a spirit of captivity because our culture or experience has taught us something that is completely different from the ways of the Spirit of God.

Once a spirit of captivity has taken root in your life, you will start to lose your sense of purpose—perhaps not your entire life's purpose, but some aspect of it. You may be bound by a fear of flying, for example, or by a pattern of persistent anger and abuse.

Though you love God with all your heart, your past may have been so dysfunctional and full of hurt that now you cannot seem to break out of horrible habits developed long ago. Even after evil spirits are cast out of you, your mind must be renewed. In other words, you have to learn a new way of living that is according to God's ways.

For example, if your pattern growing up was that your father could never seem to keep a good job or provide a stable income, then without your realizing it, those years in "Babylon" can lead to similar inconsistency in you. You find yourself going through the years not being able to get ahead in life and thus feeling like a failure without any solid goals.

This is how a spirit of captivity tries to destroy your purpose. You have learned something that is not in line with godliness. The demons may have come and gone, but they have left a permanent imprint on you.

Romans 12:1-2 gives us insight into this revelation and provides some hands-on ways we can change wrong mindsets: "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (NKJV).

First, Paul pleads with us to keep our flesh pure. Whatever your flesh has been used to doing, you must take charge and tell it, "No." You could be engaging in a serious addiction or a bad habit of gossip. You might have an excessive need for attention or bad spending habits.

Verse 2 offers further help. It tells us not to be conformed to the world. That means you decide not to play the world's game. You realize that God has a different pattern and that you need to learn how to live by it. That is what it means to be transformed.

Your mind must change what it has felt secure believing and gravitating toward. The New Living Translation says it this way: "Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect" (v. 2, emphasis added). You must go through a process of renewing your mind and relearn how to live after you have been captive to something.

You may need to attend the "school of the Spirit" for a season, learning new mindsets in one area or another because your mind must be rehabilitated. If all you ever knew growing up was drug and alcohol abuse, when you come out of that abusive lifestyle you are required to form a new pattern. Then the next time you are pressed with a trial or the devil beats you down, you won't revert back into the captivity of addiction.

Instead, you will be armed with a new and tested source of dependency—God's will and His ways. Your mind has new "experiences" that it can refer to that have replaced your previous ones. These become dependable weapons during times when your life gets tampered with by the devil.

Effects of Captivity

The Bible says the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy. He uses the spirit of captivity to steal your:

Identity. Captivity keeps you from feeling as if you fit in with the rest of the family of God and being able to see yourself as having an integral part in the kingdom.

Anointing. Captivity causes you to stop sensing God's presence. You lose your ability to worship freely and intimately. When you attempt to worship, you feel empty and dry, and your mind goes back to your problem.

Vision. Captivity takes away your sense of purpose in life. You find yourself wandering from one thing to another, trying to find satisfaction. You don't have any long-term goals, vision or confidence in your talents. You quit using your talents to do anything significant, and your struggles become larger than your goals.

Authority. Captivity neutralizes your warfare. You become paralyzed by certain events and reminded of the times you have failed before. You determine there is no point in trying to overcome the problematic issue in your life because you will probably fail again. You see yourself as an inadequate warrior with little anointing to stand victorious against evil forces.

Confidence. Captivity undermines your confidence. You feel as if you can't finish anything. You become apologetic and unsure of yourself. Even when you venture into something new, you have no fruit to show for it.

Besides stealing from you, the spirit of captivity leaves you feeling:

Surrounded. Have you ever felt as if you couldn't see a way out because there were too many problems to handle? When captivity tries to take all that God has imparted into your life, you feel surrounded and overwhelmed by your circumstances.

Empty. You feel as if you cannot get a fresh word or direction from the Lord. It is almost as if there is some sort of blinder over your spiritual insight. You don't know what Scripture to read or even how to begin in prayer. You become desperate for a word, prophecy, dream or Scripture that will speak to you.

Intimidated. You run from your problems because you are too intimidated to address them.

Confused. Because you don't have a plan for your life, you become confused. Confused people are also divisive and disagreeable. They can't seem to get along with anything or anyone because they don't know where they are headed in life.

Blind. Spiritual blindness prevents you from seeing God's fresh move and purpose. Then you become bound by formula and religion. You can no longer accurately discern the way of God and thus begin to adopt strange ideas and doctrines.

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