Learning to Reign in the Spirit

David Sanzo

The Bible talks much about the kingdom of God, which is the domain of God’s authority and power at work. In this kingdom, we are called to reign as kings and priests unto God (Revelation 1:6, 5:10). When some of the Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus responded by saying that the kingdom of God would not come by observation (Luke 17:20).

Sometimes we act as if we must wait on God before we can see revival, growth, and the manifestation of the kingdom of God. We fall into a rut thinking that we can do nothing to see signs, wonders, and miracles. We are tempted to believe that we are powerless to work to see truth triumph, righteousness prevail, and godliness to be exalted. We may be conned into thinking that we cannot rise higher.7 But the kingdom of God does not come with observation.

Jesus continued, “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). It is a spiritual kingdom. In part, this talks about ruling our own spirit, ruling who we are as individuals. Learning to reign in the kingdom of God starts with gaining dominion over yourself. The kingdom of God starts within you.

We talked about how the fifth dimension is one of perfect peace and dominion. To gain this dominion and peace, though, we must be in perfect alignment with the laws of life. Alignment in the spirit has to do with inward things, the matters of the heart. In this part of the book, we will be exploring what it takes to have dominion, what it takes to reign as a king in the spirit. We will focus on getting ourselves in a position to be in alignment with God.

Learning to reign in the spirit starts with ruling over our own self, our own spirit. If we are to reign as kings and priests unto God in His kingdom, then we must start with ruling over ourselves. Before we can rule over the world-and the angels, we must be able to rule over ourselves (I Corinthians 6:2-3). If we can be faithful over the little things, then God will make us ruler over the great things (Matthew 25:21, 23). To the extent that we rule faithfully over ourselves, we are able also to rule in the kingdom of God.
Paul wrote,

“Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more” (I Thessalonians 4:1).

The root of the Greek word behind “abound” is perisuo which means to increase, to be rendered more prominent, to be abundantly gifted, richly furnished, and to be possessed of a full sufficiency.8 As we learn to walk with God and to please Him, we will be increased. We will become more spiritually prominent, which, I do not doubt affects our prominence in this world.

This does not mean that we will always meet with this world’s approval (I Corinthians 4:9-13). The world system will always chafe against the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:17). The flesh works contrary to the spirit. It is at a “right angle” with the spirit world.

But we are able to overcome this world (John 16:33). Our victory comes through our faith (I John 5:4). Our victories and our prominence are based in the spirit world (Acts 19:15). As we please God, we will also become more abundantly gifted in the spirit. But all this begins first with learning to please God.9

Ruling over our Vessels

God desires that we should rule over our bodies, souls, and personalities. Paul went on to say,

“For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:

“That every one of you should know how to possess [TO GAIN MASTERY OVER OR TO RULE OVER] his vessel in sanctification and honor” (I Thessalonians 4:3-4).

Every one of us is to know how we are to gain the mastery over ourselves or to rule over our bodies and spirit. We are to learn to gain dominion over ourselves first. Then we pull down the strongholds of the enemy. This is done as we wrestle against the rulers of the darkness of this world and against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Spiritual warfare is done in the high places (the higher dimensions). Many are interested in spiritual warfare and destroying the works of the devil but they fail to understand that before we can successfully triumph over the enemy we must gain dominion over the self. In speaking about the high places, we will include the understanding of geographical locations. But more importantly, we will be referring to places in the higher dimensions. We will be speaking of high places within our lives, within our own hearts. These are the high places within our “vessels.” Finally, we will be referring to strongholds in the spirit world.

I recognize that what I have written here may very easily be misunderstood. I may come down on some things very strongly. I am not saying that they are sin necessarily (as in that which commissions you to eternal damnation). I am simply trying to point out “high places.” I am pointing out the way Satan’s strongholds work.

I do not wish to be misunderstood so please read carefully. However, the best way to keep from being offended is to have an open and honest heart with God and a right spirit. We may encounter some touchy subjects but we are only trying to become willing to undergo the change necessary to rise into the higher dimensions.

Defining the High Places

The Book of Numbers tells an interesting story about how a certain king named Balak began to fear the Israelites. He decided that the only way to gain victory over them was to get a prophet of God to curse them. He found a willing accomplice in Balaam. It took some negotiating but Balak was finally able to enlist Balaam’s services.

Numbers 22:41 records that Balak brought Balaam to the high places of Baal. When the time came for Balaam to find out what God wanted to do in the situation, he had Balak build seven altars. Together, they offered sacrifices to God.

Numbers 23:3 then refers to Balaam going to a high place to meet with God and to try to gain permission to curse His people. God was not pleased with what Balaam had done. In His mercy, God began to work His own will in spite of Balaam and Balak’s concerted attempts to thwart it. I refer to this scriptural passage because this incident records one of the first places in scripture to make reference to a high place.

In this case, this high place to which Balaam climbed was undoubtedly a height in elevation, a geographical location. But what is spoken of in the Old Testament as literal is often a reflection of the spiritual. The natural is often given to us as a picture of the spiritual. The physically high places around them were strongholds of Baal.

When the scriptures speak of a high place, it may be speaking of a height or high place in elevation geographically. At times, the connotation may be of a solitary place. In addition, the term is often used to refer to a place of strength.

In biblical times, most fortified cities and military fortifications were built on geographically high places. This was for strategic purposes. In their times, height was very valuable when it came time for battle.

If a city were in a valley, an opposing army could easily shoot their arrows of fire down into the city. They could more easily catapult their boulders over the walls that surrounded the city. They could more readily send men over the walls into the city in order to gain control over it.

On the other hand, if that city were built on a hill or mountain, it became much more difficult to shoot their arrows first up the hill and then over the walls. In addition, it made it more difficult for the opposing armies to send men over the walls. The people in the city could even use more primitive weapons to successfully resist the attack. As long as you were higher in elevation than the attacking armies, then you could rain down your own arrows or boulders on the enemy with much less effort. So cities and fortresses were often built on high places.

The high places were the locations where strongholds were built. Thus, the high places often became a place of great security. The word “high” was therefore used to refer to strength, power, and authority as well as elevation.

In most cases, as we shall see, the term “high place” refers to a place of worship. This reference is obviously to a physical place set aside for worship. But there is a spiritual dimension to this term as well. As a place of worship, it is a place where one can interact with the supernatural world. A physical place dedicated to worship is a place that has been set aside for the purpose of coming into contact with the supernatural world or the spiritual world.

When we worship God, we come into contact with God. He hears our prayers and answers them. He hears our worship or praise and receives it. When one worships an idol, they also come into contact with the spiritual world. Only now, they come in contact with evil spirits. Paul said, “The things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils” (I Corinthians 10:20). Whether the location is set aside for pagan worship or Christian worship, we understand high places are set aside for interaction with the spiritual world.

Paul said that when people sacrificed to idols, whether they knew it or not they were doing it to devils (I Corinthians 10:20). As long as they were involved in the act of sacrificing they were involved in worship. So it is that when we worship, we are coming into contact with the spiritual world. And a place set aside for worship or prayer is a place reserved for contact with the spiritual world.

Modern High Places

In every nation and kingdom, there are strongholds that help control that kingdom. There are military bases, economic bases, and political bases. These various strongholds are high places. In our modern day, locations that are known as being areas of great dignity
The Command to Eliminate the High Places

Initially, when Israel worshipped Yahweh (their name for the LORD) in the high places God tolerated it. Of course, it was only tolerated as long as they would only worship Him in those high places. If they worshipped other gods, it obviously became unacceptable.

I Samuel 9 records the story of Saul first meeting the prophet Samuel. According to verses 12-14, when Saul came to the city where Samuel was, he was told that he could find the man of God on the way going up to a high place. The people were going to sacrifice there. So we could surmise that at least at one point, it was fairly common practice as well as being tolerated by God.

In I Chronicles 21:28-30, when David built his altar in Oman’s threshing floor, it was not in opposition to the temple (since it had not yet been built) but in concurrence with it. He did it in obedience to the angel of the Lord and because of the present distress. He was in an urgent situation with lives at stake. In this case, it was not a matter of convenience as much as a matter of obedience to the angel of the Lord. Also keep in mind that the temple was not yet built.

So God initially tolerated true worship being done in the high places. But once they entered into the promised land, they were to follow God’s command that they were to destroy all the high places of the pagans (Numbers 33:52). He left no room for exceptions. He told them to “…destroy all their pictures, and destroy all their molten images, and quite pluck down all their high places.”

In Deuteronomy 12:1-14, Moses reminded them that once they entered the promised land, they were to destroy all the high places and only to worship God in the one place where He decided to place His name. Once the temple site was chosen, it would no longer be acceptable to sacrifice in the exalted (high) places.

In time, God chose Jerusalem as the city where His name would dwell and the place where His Spirit would shine. In our day, God has decided to put His name on a people and His Presence (Spirit) in their hearts. That is now our solitary place (our altar). We do not have to travel to a certain city to offer sacrifice to God and to see the Shekinah glory of God. We can offer sacrifice from the altar of our hearts. We are the temple of the Holy Ghost (I Corinthians 3:16). His glory is to shine from our lives and our spirit.

In Old Testament times, the one place of worship (or the one place of sacrifice) also signified unity. The nation was to be unified in their place of worship. Their focus was to be centralized. In our day, our worship to God must also be unified. We cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). We must choose one and give Him all or we will be serving the other by default. It has been said that either Jesus is Lord over all in our lives or else He is not Lord at all.

We can only serve one master when it comes to our walk with God. We cannot have split
loyalties. Many think that they are serving God while the reality is that their job is their biggest pursuit. For others it may be pleasure. It is not possible for pleasure to be your greatest pursuit and for your master to be the Lord Jesus at the same time. If your chief interest is money, your master cannot be the Lord.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). Our hearts must be pure if we intend to see the glory of God. The term “pure gold” is used to refer to a substance that has nothing else in it other than gold. It has no other chemicals. It is singularly gold. So also if we intend to see the glory of God, our hearts must be pure.

“One moment we make decisions on the basis of sound reason and the next moment out of fear of what others will think of us.” 10 This statement made by Richard Foster reveals what purity of heart is not. Soren Kierkegaard wrote a book with a profound title: Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing. Purity of heart is having a single desire. Purity of heart is not being double minded.

We must have a single focus. We dare not be double minded for James said, “let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:7-8). Our eye must be single. I do not want to be among those who cannot expect to receive anything from God. I want God to hear my prayers.

Spiritual Harlotry

Is it possible to serve the one true God and another god as well? Is it conceivable that we allow high places to remain in our lives while thinking we are serving God alone? Is it possible to live for God without tearing down all of Satan’s strongholds in our lives? Can we love God without loving Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength?

I will answer these questions with a question. Is it possible for a harlot to have more than one lover? This is precisely how Israel is described in Scripture. In fact, one prophet’s whole ministry consisted in showing Israel that they were playing the harlot in their worship of the Lord. That prophet was Hosea. He was even told to go out and marry a harlot just to prove the point.

We play the harlot with God when we think that it is okay to follow after this world. This hurts our relationship with the Husband of the Church.

“You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.

“Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:3-4, NKJV).

Again, I want to be among those who receive answers to their prayers. When I ask, I want to receive. We cannot do things with the stamp of approval from a carnal mindset and still be right with God. “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2). We are to seek out life in the higher dimensions.

If we are looking to two different worlds we will not think right. If we try to serve two masters we will find that we have capitulated to darkness. If we eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, we will find that evil begins to rule our lives. A little leaven will leaven the whole lump. One of Satan’s most successful lies is that “a little bit won’t hurt.” If we have a pure heart, a single focus in our pursuit of God, the whole body will be full of His light (Matthew 6:22). But this requires our eye (desire) to be single.

Scripture refers to some who lived for God with a perfect heart. This does not mean perfect in the sense of being without a flaw. We understand that this is not possible as far as human beings are concerned, especially considering our sinful nature. We all have OUT weaknesses.

Walking before God with a perfect heart refers to serving God with our whole heart. Our hearts must be unified in our search for God or our pursuit of Him. Only then can we find Him. “Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). We must not have a divided allegiance. We can only serve one master.

As God tried to teach the Israelites, we must only worship the one true God. Our worship must be directed to Him alone. We cannot split our worship between the Lord and some other god. And we must have one place of worship (I am not talking about a physical place but I will speak more on that later).

Looking the Other Way

After the temple was built, the Israelites neglected to obey God’s command to destroy all the high places. As long as these high places were around, people continued to offer sacrifices there. It was a temptation that was too easy to resist.

In fact, rather than destroying them, they often continued to erect them. When the high places were built after the construction of the temple, at the very least they were built in competition with the temple, which was the one chosen place of worship. Sometimes they were made in direct opposition to the temple as a result of rebellion.

Obviously, it was more convenient to offer a sacrifice in a high place than it was to travel to Jerusalem to do so. The high places were so much closer. Going to Jerusalem was so much work and trouble. In our lives, tearing down the high places will not be as easy as allowing them to exist. Tearing down the high places and going only “to Jerusalem” will seem such an inconvenience. But do not let convenience dictate your walk with God. If you are going to be a disciple, you must be willing to deny yourself and take up your cross. Do not worry. The reward of dominion will be worth it.

When Solomon and the congregation went to sacrifice in Gibeah in I Kings 3 (where God appeared to him and gave him wisdom), he went because the tabernacle of the Lord was there (II Chronicles 1:3-5). It was expected that he go where the tabernacle of the Lord was.

Up until the time the to temple was built, the Israelites were expected to go to wherever the tabernacle of the Lord was. When there was no distress pressing them, as there had been in David’s aforementioned example, they were expected to travel to the place of the tabernacle.

Solomon, though, did not always do this.

“Only the people sacrificed in high places, because there was no house built unto the name of the LORD, until those days.

And Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father: only he sacrificed and burnt incense in high places” (I Kings 3:2-3).

Some things God allows. However, just because He allows it does not mean that He is pleased with it. The mention of Solomon going to the other high places is recorded here as a statement of disappointment. But when he went to the place of the tabernacle to sacrifice, God rewarded him greatly.

As a result of Solomon seeking the Lord on His terms, he was granted wisdom from God and turned into a builder. Wisdom turns people into builders of one sort or another. Wisdom builds rather than destroys.

It is wise men that build nations, organizations, churches, families, and people. They build these things up rather than tear them down. Foolish people tear things down. Any fool can cause a nation to self-destruct and decay in immorality. Any fool can run an organization into the ground. Any fool can steer a corporation into bankruptcy. It takes wisdom to grow a company, to gain market share, to succeed.

Foolish men and women split churches through rebellion. Fools destroy families and people. Foolish people destroy their brothers and sisters with their tongues. But wise men and women will build or edify them. “Through wisdom is an house builded” (Proverbs 24: 1 -4).

When God gives us a gift, we can use it for good or for evil. At first, Solomon used his wisdom to build the temple in Jerusalem and his palace. Then he began to build great cities and storehouses in Israel.

But in his old age his ungodly wives turned his heart away from serving only the one true God. “His heart was not perfect with the LORD his God” according to I Kings 11:4. Verses 5-8 show how he began to worship other gods and eventually used his gift in building things to make that which displeased the Lord.

He began to build high places (places of worship) to other gods. These were strongholds for the pagan gods. How was Solomon able to make such a big surrender to the enemy considering his earlier walk with God? Big surrenders result from many little surrenders. We, too, sometimes take a gift that God has given us and use it to do things that displease Him.

Some will take their gift of a good singing voice or some other musical ability and use it not to edify and build up the people of God but rather to encourage that which is wrong. Others take the gifts God has given them in administration or organization and use it simply for this world’s wealth or maybe even to build a system of criminal activity. So they use their gift for organized crime rather than to work good. Still others will take the good looks or attractive bodies they were blessed with and use them in prostitution or some act of pornography. Yet others will take the natural strength they have and use it for violence.

We can use our talents and skills for various means that may even be “good” but if we exalt those things higher than our service to God, we build high places in our lives. These high places will prove to be our downfall as they proved to work towards the downfall of Solomon spiritually.

Eventually, the Lord determined to take the greater measure of the kingdom away from him. If we insist on building high places in our lives that displease God, is it unthinkable that He would be moved to take at least a measure of the kingdom away from us? He did say, “I am the Lord, I change not” (Malachi 3:6). Which kingdom is it that we are involved in? It is the kingdom of God of which Jesus spoke. Faithfulness over the little things such as the high places will make us ruler over great things. (Matthew 25:21, 23).

Approved High Places

In honor of Solomon’s father (David), God waited until Solomon died before He tore the bigger part of the kingdom away from him. Jeroboam then led the northern ten tribes in revolt against Solomon’s son, Rehoboam.

When Jeroboam gained the bigger part of the kingdom, he feared the return of his followers to the house of David. So he built two calves for the northern tribes to worship. This way they would not have to go to Jerusalem to sacrifice. Notice that he did not necessarily introduce other gods to them. He did not send them to other gods. He simply told them that these calves were the gods that delivered Israel out of Egypt (I Kings 12:28-31). This was a perversion of the one true God. Surely they had been delivered from Egypt but it was not the result of some golden calves made by man.

I suppose &could be said that Jeroboam tried to worship the one true God with false images. But even if this-was so, he violated the Ten Commandments by using the false images.

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:

“Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:3-5b).

As if that were not enough wrong done, Jeroboam went beyond the making of the golden calves to making a “house of high places” or an organization of high places. He established a system or worship based on using the high places.

For this cause God sent a prophet to him with a message of judgment. According to I Kings 13:6-7 and 33-34, Jeroboam was moved but did not change. Too often we allow ourselves to be moved without determining to change. Scripture states that “this thing became sin” to his house. Why? Because they went from bad to worse. They descended into downright idolatry.

With these high places, they established strongholds for the enemy in their own land. More dangerous than the enemy without is the enemy within. And when you allow the enemy to build strongholds within your gates, you set yourself up for a fall.

The people of Israel may have started worshipping God in the high places but they soon slid to outright paganism. They quickly went to worshipping false gods in those high places. Eventually, God brought those northern ten tribes into captivity because of their sins.

Jeroboam’s sin was the beginning of the end for the northern tribes of Israel. Because of their pride and unwillingness to submit themselves back to David’s authority, they never did repent. This caused them to invent another way to worship God. But God was not pleased with it.

“Lord, help us not to allow convenience or our flesh to dictate our walk with you. Let us not be guilty of spiritual harlotry. Strengthen us to stop the enemy from building strongholds in our lives. Help us to be unified in our spirit and will when we come to you. Help us to rule over our vessels with honor and in sanctification. In Jesus’ name.”

7 Of course, without God’s help, we can rise no higher than the fourth dimension. No creature can rise any higher than one dimension from their normal state on their own (e.g., a dog can rise no higher than the third since his normal state is found in two dimensions).
8 “Perisuo,” The Analytical Greek Lexicon Revised, ed. by Harold K. Moulton (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1978).
9 This is not say that we earn any gift from God by merit. It is only to understand that God has put certain laws into place that govern the way He operates. He is a rewarder of those who will diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). He rewards those who take the time to learn His ways.
10 Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline (New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 1978), Revised Edition, 80.

The above article, “Learning to Reign in the Spirit” was written by David Sanzo. The article was excerpted from Chapter eight in Sanzo’s book The High Places.

The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.