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Capturing Our Thoughts

Capturing Our Thoughts

The Bible is inspired of God (2 Timothy 3:16), the very words of God (1 Corinthians 2:13), and as a result the Bible has always been far ahead of human thinking, ideas and solutions.  As a result, the people who lived in the First Century were not at a disadvantage when it came to how to make a marriage work (1 Peter 3:7), parent and raise children (Ephesians 6:1-4), or even how to stay mentally healthy (Philippians 4:8).  We also see this in the area of staying in control of the thoughts that surface and run around in our heads.

  • The early Christians knew that thoughts produce actions, actions produce habits, habits produce character and your character determines your destiny:  “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts…all these evil things proceed from within and defile the man” (Matthew 7:21,23).
  • If they were listening to Jesus, they also knew that it was a grave mistake to argue that one’s thoughts are just harmless things, i.e., no harm in looking or thinking it just as I long as I don’t act.  “Everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).  Sometimes people naively justify their evil thoughts by saying, “I know I am thinking that, but if the actual opportunity ever arose, I would never act upon it; I know that would be wrong, I am not that bad”.  In fact such is another version of the “I can quit/stop anytime I want to type of thinking”.   Jesus says otherwise.

James 1:13-16

James equally argues that what actually carries us into sin, are our thoughts: “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust” (James 1:14).  Consider the word everyone in this passage.  The process of how temptation works is the same for everyone.  It is not that I can let lust run free in my mind and stay in control, but you can’t.  In fact, in recent years in the news we have seen very intelligent, talented, sophisticated people brought down due to their own lusts.  Evil thoughts can bring you down, even if you are an academic, movie producer, billionaire, politician, famous author, Wall Street investor or an owner of an NFL franchise.

Why is Jesus Needed?

In the quest of controlling my thoughts and keeping my head in check, why do I need God’s help?  Why can’t I just practice this on my own?  Well, consider the following passage and then allow me to make some comments:

2 Corinthians 10:5

“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”.

  • We are all limited and finite.  So on our own we do not have an accurate way of telling the difference between a speculation and the truth.  We do not have an inner compass that automatically detects error (Jeremiah 10:23).
  • That is one very important reason why God has spoken (Hebrews 1:1-2) and His communication has been preserved for us (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  We need an accurate and unchanging standard, or an umpire that emphatically declares which thoughts can be kept and what must be jettisoned.  Thus the statement, “Every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).  Only keep in your head or heart those thoughts and feelings of which Jesus would approve.  The same truth is stressed 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” (Philippians 4:8).

“Every Lofty Thing”

The devil will often appeal to our pride (1 John 2:16 “the boastful pride of life”).  The lofty things in this passage are not noble thoughts, but rather proud thoughts that are raised up against the truth about God.  Such lofty thoughts would include:

  • “If I don’t agree with something in the Bible, then I don’t have to believe or do it, because I know what is right”
  • “I reserve the right to reject anything in the Bible that does not seem right to me
  • “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 below me”
  • “I am smarter and know better than the generation of believers before me.  They didn’t know how to convert people the right way.  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 this, is far more loving that what the Bible says”.
  • “I have discovered something in the Bible that no one has seen before”.

Practical Help

The good news is that all the verses are clear, with Jesus we can control our thoughts.  Paul would have never said, “Take every thought captive”; “Set your mind on the things above” (Colossians 3:2), or “dwell on these things” if such was an impossibility.  So how do we do that?   Consider the following exercise, maybe this will help.  View the thoughts inside your head as an actual person who is sitting or standing next to you throughout your day.  Would you actually keep such a person as your friend?  Would you invite them over again?  Would you ever allow them into your house?

Would You Hang Out With… 

  • Someone who questions the motives of everyone around you.  “Oh, they were only nice to you because…”.   “That person is too good to be true, they are probably different at home or in private”.
  • Someone who is constantly reminding you of what will probably go wrong, “Yea, things are good now, but just wait…”.  “This is too good to last, better prepare for the other shoe to drop”.  “They will probably lose your luggage, I bet your flight will be delayed, just watch, that waiter will get your order wrong”.  “You will probably get food poisoning”.
  • Someone who worries and tends to immediately think of the worse case outcome, “That pain in your back, it is probably cancer”.
  • Someone who discourages you from even starting, “You can help that person, but I bet they will not appreciate your help”.  “Nice idea, but it will not accomplish anything”.  “That would never work”.
  • Someone who does not believe in you.  “You could never do that”.  “You will probably just make a mess of everything”.  “You were never meant to do much in life”.
  • Someone who is constantly running down other Christians or the church.

I think most of us would agree, that we would attempt to stay far away from anyone who fits into the above categories or severely limit our time with them, for they would drive us crazy.  Yet, how many of us, on a daily basis put up with a little voice in our heads that might be saying the same exact things?  Why do we put up with that voice?  Why do we listen to it?  We cannot always stop the voice from completely speaking, but we can say, “Bored with that topic, next one”.  “That is false, tell me what is true”. 

  • If you have voices currently battling in your head, that is good.  For that reveals that at least the bad voice is being challenged.  That means you are alive, that a fight is going on.  Feel sorry for the person who the bad voice says, “Do that, buy that…” and there is no counter argument.
  • The great thing about being a Christian is that the word of God is training your conscience, so that the voice of conscience in your head, not only has good and accurate information but good motives as well. 
  • So as the voices battle, as the old man attempts to speak and the new man responds, be honest enough to see who has the truth.  Who won that debate?  Who really cares about what happens to you in the long run?  Who is being honest?  Who is being naïve? 

Mark Dunagan/mdunagan@frontier.com