It has been said that our thoughts produce actions, actions produce habits, habits produce character, and character determines your destiny. The way we think and what we think can have profound ripple effects in our lives. Jesus said as much in Mark 7:21-23. He said that it is out of the hearts of men that produce evil actions. We can see that our thoughts are incredibly powerful so in this lesson I want us to consider what the Bible has to say about capturing our thoughts.
Are My Thoughts Really That Powerful?
Some maybe saying, “They’re just thoughts in my head. They’re harmless! I think you’re making too big of a deal about this.” Or others maybe saying, “As long as I don’t act on them, I’m free to think whatever I want to, I don’t see the Bible condemning thoughts.” Well, here is what Jesus had to say about that:
- “but I say to everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court…” Matthew 5:22a
- “but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:28
Anger and lust are emotions and emotions area provoked by our thoughts. So, Jesus warns us about our thoughts because they eventually do become us. No one accidently murders someone or trips and falls into adultery, it begins somewhere and that is in our thoughts. “For within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts” (Mark 7:21).
When Lust Has Conceived – James 1:13-16:
James makes the point that “each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust” (James 1:14). Note where James says, “each one.” We are all tempted the same way. So that means that some can’t lust run around in their minds and remain in control and others can. No one is able to remain in control when they are giving free reign to lust in their minds. We have seen the last few years the wealthy, the powerful, the pro athlete, the academic, etc. be brought down because of their own lust. Make no mistake, thoughts that revel in sin, that seek to pleasure our sinful desires, will bring ruin in our lives.
Why Jesus Is Needed:
So, what help does God provide? Why do I need God in the quest of controlling my thoughts and keeping my head in check? Consider this passage:
“We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5
- This is one of the many important reasons why God has spoken (Hebrews 1:1-2) and His revelation was preserved for us (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We need an objective, accurate, unchanging standard that cuts through all our self-delusions to tell us like it is. To show us what thoughts can be kept, and which need to go! Hence why Paul says, “Every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
- We are to keep in our heads only the thoughts and feelings that Jesus would approve of. This is the truth expressed in Philippians 4:8, “Whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything, worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”
Every Lofty Thing:
The lofty things in this passage are not noble thoughts but rather proud thoughts that are at their core opposed to the will of God. The devil will often appeal to our pride (1John 2:16 “the boastful pride of life”) and that appeal can lead us into this lofty and boastful thoughts. Such lofty ideas would include:
- “If I don’t agree with something in the Bible then I don’t have to believer or do it, because I know better.”
- “If I don’t feel it, I don’t have to do it or believe it.”
- “I live in a modern age, I am an enlightened individual, and so the teaching given to past generations in the Bible is no longer applicable or suitable for a person of this age.”
- “I am smarter and know better than the generation of believers before me. They didn’t know how to deal with the lost. They didn’t know how to grow a church, etc.…”
- “My idea, or way of doing something, is far more loving that what the Bible says.”
- “I have discovered something in the Bible that no one has seen before.”
The great news is that all the verses are clear, through Jesus we can take every thought captive. If this were not the case Paul would not have said so. How do we do that?
- Begin to renew the mind (Romans 12:2). This happens first when you become a Christian at the moment of baptism (Romans 6:3-5; Titus 3:5) and it continues day by day (Colossians 3:10 “and having put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him”). The mind of this verse includes our “inner thoughts, drives, and desires” (McGuiggan 349). This renewing to a true knowledge takes place through the word itself and so we must engage with it daily to be renewed.
- This renewing must be accompanied by the right attitude. I must want to be renewed. This attitude is spelled out for us in Matthew 5:29-30. We must be willing to not hold anything back from God. This attitude is seen in the man who sold all that he had to buy the field in which he found a magnificent treasure (Matthew 13:44).
- Through the word I must train my senses to discern good and evil (Hebrews 5:14). Discernment is the ability to judge well. It is an essential skill in all areas of life and no less important for what happens in my mind. One verse that helps us discern rightly our thoughts in Philippians 4:8. If I am just beginning to transform my mind, I would take Philippians 4:8 and commit it to memory and recite it several times a day. Let it be your filter.
Would You Hang Out With…
A helpful exercise for our thoughts. I want you to think for a moment as I describe a hypothetical person and ask yourself would you hang out with, invite into your home, be friends with such a person?
Would you be friends with someone…
- Someone who does not believe in you and takes every opportunity to remind you of that.
- Someone who is constantly negative and tearing down Christians or the church.
- Someone who automatically assumes the worse about everything. “That pain in your back? Probably a tumor. That compliment they just gave you, it’s probably because they feel sorry for you.”
I think we would all agree that we would not like being around such a person for a long period of time. Yet, how many of us, daily, put up with our own inner voice that says the same things?
While we cannot fully stop that voice here is what we can do:
- We can say “board with that topic, next one.”
- “That’s not true, tell me what’s true.”
- An extremely helpful one for me has been “We’re not carrying that brick around today.”
The great thing about being a Christian is that the word of God is training our minds and our conscience. So that means the more we train the more our conscience becomes stronger, has more accurate and truthful information, and has good motives.
If you have voices battling in your head, that is good. That means the negative side is not being left unchallenged.
So As the voices battle, as that old person of sin attempts to bring you back down and your new person in Christ responds, be honest enough to see who has the truth. Who is really being honest? I tell you it is the one who has eternity on the horizon.