The Battle for Your Mind

The Battle for Your Mind

During long drives, Kathy and I sometimes sit silently, lost in our own thoughts. Then one of us will ask the other, “What are you thinking?” It is amazing where our minds have wandered. Kathy’s thoughts are usually interesting.

My frequent response is “Oh, nothing.” (That is my answer for either: I can’t recall, it was disjointed, insignificant, silly, or I’m too embarrassed to say.) It is easy to let our minds go undisciplined and focus on fears, fantasies, and falsehoods instead of the Lord.

Romans 7:21-23 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

Most Christians have a mental understanding that all things are possible with Christ, that He gives us power to live Christ-like, that old things have passed away, and all things have become new. We believe we have victory in Jesus, but there is an annoying battle in our minds with Satan. His demons tell us lies and create a fantasy world in our mind, a world where all our desires are fulfilled.

“All this pleasure could be yours”, they tempt us, “if you just try it. You can get forgiveness later. After all, you are saved by grace not by works.”

Jesus came, died, and rose again to give us the grace and power to overcome Satan’s temptations. There can and should be increasing victory in overcoming temptation and sin, whether in "thought, word, or deed." But the grace to overcome temptation must first be applied to our mind if the victory is to spread to our actions. God has created us in such a way that our actions follow our thoughts.

Romans 12:2, Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then (after our mind is renewed) you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

The words “transformed” and "renewing" suggests a process. At conversion, God gives us the Holy Spirit, but that doesn’t mean we become instantly mature in the Lord. Rather, the Holy Spirit develops the character of Christ within us by renewing our minds. With the mind of Christ, we are able to do God’s will. This transformation continues throughout our lives.

Galatians 6:3 If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

Too often, we assess our spirituality by our church attendance and how we act in church. A more accurate gauge of our "spirituality" takes place when we are alone with our thoughts.

What do we think about when there’s nobody around to impress? Do we engage in sensual or self-gratifying fantasies? Do we mentally criticize another person or plot revenge for something done to us? Do we desire positions or possessions that God has not given to us? If these are the things we think about, we are programming ourselves for defeat.

We need to wake up and realize we are in a spiritual war. Our enemy brings us evil thoughts that appeal to our fleshly desires. Then he accuses us, “If you were a Christian, you wouldn’t have these thoughts. So quit being a hypocrite and please yourself.”

That is the time to fight back and rebuke this liar by saying, “You are the one who gave me the thoughts, Satan. I rebuke you in the Name of Jesus Christ. Get away from me!” Then immediately draw near to God to refocus on Christ and worship Him.

Fighting this spiritual battle in our mind is important. We cannot be passive. If we do not heed the conviction of the Holy Spirit and we continue to let our mind go undisciplined, we will act on those sinful thoughts and reap the consequences.

The point is this: Our thought life is the foundation on which our actions are built. This is the principle behind Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:27-28, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” In the eyes of the Lord, meditating on the thought of adultery is adultery. The sin takes place in our heart, which is what God judges.

Unfortunately, there seems to be an apathetic attitude among Christians when it comes to this battle for our mind. Some would rather get into the more "spiritual things" of the Christian life and dismiss talk of controlling our thoughts. They believe thoughts are not all that important as long as we follow a prescribed set of "dos and don’ts" in outward conduct. The person who holds these assumptions is deceiving himself. Temptation and sin begin in the mind. We see this in the Garden of Eden and throughout time.

However, in Christ, it is possible to be led by the Holy Spirit, and His fruit includes self-control. Taking control of our thoughts by the power of God leads to a victorious, joyful life.

David told Solomon in 1 Chronicles 28:9 “And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.

Nothing is done in secret. God always sees and He knows the motive for what we do. That’s a sobering fact and should convince us that what we think about can either be a source of joy to God, or a source of grief.

Ephesians 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Most of the time, we think about what we love, which can simply be ourselves and our desires. A deep love for God will motivate our thoughts to please Him.

The enemy also attacks us with fearful and hurtful thoughts. Jesus said in Matthew 6:33-34 “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."

An anxious person constantly thinks about the possibility of future harm or failure. His thought-life centers on a lot of "what ifs." He imagines trouble that may never come to pass and therefore, he misses out on the blessings of the present that come from walking in faith.

Likewise, those who dwell on the past fill their mind with thoughts of "the good old days" or with painful experiences. If we think about past hurts, our emotions begin to relive those experiences. We find that the past has a hold on us, influencing and tainting our present relationships even though the incident may have taken place forty years ago.

The Kingdom of God is a worthy subject for our thoughts. Anxiety is not. Seek God’s Kingdom and His righteousness by thinking about it and pursuing it.

Sometimes we set ourselves up for defeat in this battle for our mind. The person, who listens to music or TV programs that do not edify his spirit, is only fooling himself when he says he’s not paying attention to it. That’s self-deception! Once we hear the message, it’s sent to our brain and recorded in our memory. Advertisers who write commercial jingles know this fact. That is why when we are not paying attention to their commercial, yet we hear the jingle, we catch ourselves hours later find ourselves humming, “I wish I was an…Oscar Meyer wiener”.

Therefore, the input our mind receives does affect us, even though we might not realize it at the time. The mind is like a sponge. Whatever the sponge absorbs will come out when it’s squeezed. Garbage in, garbage out! Likewise, “Truth in, truth out!”

Pressure from trials, crisis, or temptations are ways we all are squeezed. At that point, the things held in our mind are exposed. Instead of controlling our thoughts, we seek self-gratification.

Romans 13:14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

During temptation, stop and think about the consequences of giving in to selfish desires. Also, think about all the lives that will be affected by your decision. This may be difficult while thinking about pleasing self, so God has given us warnings and examples in His Word.

Remember all the consequences that King David, a man after God’s heart, suffered for yielding to the temptation to sin with Bathsheba. Why is that lurid tale in the Bible? It is a valuable lesson for us. Not only did it lead to more sin in his life, the consequences destroyed his family, and brought disgrace to his name and God’s Name. The same will happen to us and it is in the Bible to warn us and teach us not to do the same thing.

God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ provides forgiveness, but there are still consequences from sin. Not only will sin create problems in our life, our sin will cause unbelievers to have contempt for Christianity and Jesus Christ. Unbelievers expect us to do better than they are doing, even if they don’t like us. “At least, we are not hypocrites”, they tell themselves.

Romans 2:23-24 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

Sometimes temptation crosses our path when we have no desire to sin. David wasn’t expecting to see a beautiful woman bathing that fateful night, but after he saw her, the tempting thoughts came to his mind. Temptation isn’t sin, but if we think about the temptation, we usually wind up rationalizing the sin (Did God really say? Or one time won’t hurt.). At this point we are "enticed" by our own evil desire.

Our response to temptation should be: James 4:7-8 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Notice there are several actions we are to take:

1. Submit to God by saying “No” to the temptation and “Yes” to God.

2. Resist the devil by taking authority over him in the Name of Jesus Christ. He will flee.

3. Come near to God. That means quit doing whatever is contrary to God’s will, get away from the temptation, pursue righteousness, align our thoughts with God, and let Him wash our double-minded hearts through worship, prayer, and reading the Word.

1 Timothy 6:11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.

A point to remember is that we can’t flee from what we still hold in our mind. We can’t just make our mind go blank. We can’t decide not to think about something, because that makes us think about it. We must take action. We need to replace the tempting thoughts with thoughts that will edify and lift our soul toward God. Fight the tempting thought by reciting a favorite Bible verse, or hymn, or give a prayer of thanks for every good thing you can think of. In other words, change the channel of what is showing in your mind.

Philippians 4:8 says, Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."

Everything we have ever read, looked at, heard, and experienced is recorded in our memory. If the sum of our life experience is negative and self-gratifying, that database of memory can have a powerful influence over our present circumstances. It’s important that we go to battle, eliminating the effects of those experiences. We need some different memory in our database.

One way to aid this process is the principle of dilution. “The solution to pollution is dilution”. While we cannot rid our mind of the past, we can cancel the poisonous effects of the past by diluting them with God’s Word. In other words, we need to be brain-washed.

Don’t be disturbed by that word. We are already brain-washed by the enemy through TV, internet, all media, and deceptive teaching from others. How else has homosexuality gone from being a sin, to a mental disorder, to an alternate lifestyle, to a privileged right? I will tell you; by taking God out of school and society, and brain-washing the population.

Yes, our brains need to be washed, and it is Scriptural to allow the Holy Spirit to do it. Subconsciously, we have let Satan and the world pollute our minds with their garbage. Fortunately, we can stop that and make a deliberate, conscious choice to let Jesus wash our minds with the water of His Word. And that is exactly what He wants to do.

Ephesians 5:25-27 "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless."

As we meditate on the Word and act on what it says, Jesus cleanses and purifies us, preparing us to be His Bride. The disciplines of Bible meditation and Scripture memorization are important tools, which not only bring cleansing, but also help us remain faithful.

1 Peter 1:13-14 “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance."

A person involved in warfare doesn’t casually or passively wander into battle. He does whatever is necessary to prepare himself, insuring the best possible chances for victory. Preparing our minds means being totally submitted to the Holy Spirit and the grace He gives us. Don’t settle for partial victory, or compromise, or conform to evil desires. Don’t quit if you lose a battle. This is a lifelong war. Repent and become obedient again.

The primary way to discipline our mind is to learn to focus our thoughts on God, His ways, His Word, and His character. The more we gaze upon Jesus, the more we will be drawn to Him. As we quit focusing on ourselves and the world, and start fixing our eyes on Jesus Christ, there is a growing dissatisfaction with anything that distracts us from seeing Him clearly.

The bottom line is this: There’s a battle for our minds, and we cannot be passive spectators assuming that God will take care of it all while we do nothing. God is already doing His part to convict, expose, and bring healing. He has committed Himself to bring us victory if we will follow His instructions. Now is the time for us to wage aggressive warfare against the enemy of our souls (mind, will, and emotions). And that war is not against flesh and blood, but against the satanic realm. We need to stop consorting with the enemy and thinking about his temptations.

2 Corinthians 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

God’s Word gives us no excuse for not developing a renewed mind. Victory can be accomplished if we will simply devote ourselves to God’s Word and His Spirit. Jesus has given us authority to use His Name against Satan, and He is more than able to overcome the enemy’s tactics against us if we will focus our mind on Jesus and obey Him. Therefore, take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.

So, what are you thinking about? Our thoughts determine whether we are victorious over temptation, or if we will succumb to it and suffer the consequences.

Unfortunately, if you do not know Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, you have no power over the enemy’s temptations. Satan has his way with your mind, for you belong to him. Even now he speaks to your mind, telling you to ignore the Word of God and so great a salvation.

Fortunately, there is another Spirit speaking to you. It is Jesus inviting you to come to Him. His blood was shed for your forgiveness. He wants to give you His Eternal Life in place of the death and wrath of God presently upon you. Won’t you exchange this sentence of death today by giving your life to Jesus?

Confess Jesus as your Lord and Savior, repent of your sinful life by putting it to death in baptism, and receive a new life by the power of the Holy Spirit. Then you will have grace to overcome all the temptations of the enemy and live in the blessings of Almighty God.