What are You Thinking?

What are You Thinking?

During our long drives between Delight and DeQueen, Kathy and I have a lot of time to talk. However, sometimes we sit silent, 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. 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 the fantasies that come along.

Most Christians have an intellectual understanding that with Christ all things are possible, 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 a battle in our minds that makes victory seem possible only in heaven or at some future date. This battle is with the enemy, satan, and he lies to us saying we cannot win, so we might as well give in to the fantasy world satan creates in our mind, a world where all our desires are fulfilled. “All this could be yours”, he tempts us, “if you just worship me.” “Try it and see. You can get forgiveness later.”

Jesus has given 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." Jesus came, died, and rose again to break the power of sin once and for all. But the grace to overcome temptation must first be applied to our mind if the victory is to spread naturally to our actions.

Romans 12:2, Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then 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 Spirit of God goes to work developing 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.

God has created us in such a way that our actions follow our thoughts. Many Scripture verses display this. For example, Jeremiah 11:7-8 says, “From the time I brought your forefathers up from Egypt until today, I warned them again and again, saying, “Obey me.” But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubbornness of their evil hearts. So I brought on them all the curses of the covenant I had commanded them to follow but that they did not keep.’” In other words, they reaped the consequences of their choices, which is what God told them would happen.

In both Hebrew and Greek the words used for "heart" are connected with the function of the mind, the soul of man. God, states that the people acted out what they imagined in their minds.

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

Too often, we assess our spirituality by how we act in church. But anyone can act spiritual at a worship service, so we deceive ourselves. 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? Where do our fantasies take us? Do we engage in sensual or self-gratifying daydreams? Are we criticizing our neighbor or plotting revenge for something done to us? Do we desire positions or possessions that God has not released to us? If these are the things we think about, we are programming ourselves for defeat.

Remember, it is our enemy who brings these evil thoughts that appeal to our fleshly desires. When we resist his temptations, he accuses us, “If you were a Christian, you wouldn’t have these thoughts.” 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. The failure to discipline the mind will ultimately produce bondage to sinful habits. Someone who continues to have sinful thought patterns soon finds it easier to let his mind "fall into a rut" than to steer down the right path. If we do not heed the conviction of the Holy Spirit and continue to let our mind go undisciplined, we will act on those thoughts and reap the consequences of our stinking thinking.

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, entertaining the thought of adultery is adultery. The sin took place in our heart, which is what God judges. Man judges outward appearances.

Unfortunately, there seems to be an apathetic attitude among Christians when it comes to disciplining the mind. Some would rather get into the more "spiritual things" of the Christian life and dismiss talk of controlling our thoughts as some gimmicky type of positive thinking. Others assume that thoughts are not all that important as long as we are able to follow a prescribed set of "dos and don’ts" in outward conduct.

The person who holds either of these assumptions is only fooling himself. Temptation and sin begin in the mind. We see this in the Garden of Eden and throughout time. However in Christ, we are 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.

So, what do we do in order to gain victory in the battle for the mind? God has some apps for that! First, an app that should make us less apathetic is this truth: God can read our minds.

David told Solomon, 1Chron 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 motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever. 

Psalm 94:11 The Lord knows the thoughts of man; he knows that they are futile.

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. Most of the time, we think about what we love. A deep love for God will motivate our thoughts to be pleasing to Him. Therefore, let’s seek Him and love Him with our whole heart.

Another key app is found in Matthew 6:34. Jesus said, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

A worrying 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 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.

Right before He warned about worrying, Jesus supplied another app, "seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness." (Matt, 6:33) The Kingdom of God is a worthy subject for our thoughts - worry is not. Seek His Kingdom and His righteousness by thinking about it and pursuing it.

We are familiar with the saying, “Garbage in, garbage out”. 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, “You deserve a break today at…MacDonald’s." Or you find yourself singing, “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!”

For example, we’ve all known marriages where this was the tragic case. A husband may tell his wife he loves her, yet he entertains exciting thoughts of unfaithfulness. Over time, this husband feels an increasingly strong desire to fulfill these fantasies. It may take years, but if he’s in a time of stress or temptation, his actions may fall right in line to escape his problems and fulfill his fantasy of pleasure. He soon learns the fantasy was a lie. Pressure, crisis, or temptations are ways we all are squeezed. At that point, the things held in our mind or heart come pouring out.

Let’s look again at James 1:13-15. " When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

During temptation, stop and think about the consequences of giving in to selfish desires. Think about all the lives that will be affected by our decision. This may be difficult while thinking about pleasing self, but God has given us an app for that in His Word.

Reread all the consequences that King David, a man after God’s heart, suffered for yielding to the temptation to sin with Bathsheba. 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. Furthermore, it had far-reaching effects over the entire region. 2 Sam 12:14 …”by doing this you have made the enemies of the Lord show utter contempt…”

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

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.

There are several apps in this verse.

1. Submit to God by responding to the Holy Spirit’s leading and conviction of sin. Repent.

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

3. Flee temptation, run to God, pursue righteousness, and purify our double-minded hearts through worshipping God, prayer, and reading the Word.

I Tim. 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.

Instead, we need to replace the tempting thoughts with thoughts that will edify and lift our soul toward God - a favorite verse, or song, or a spontaneous prayer of thanks for every good thing we can think of.

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 work eliminating the effects of those experiences. We need some different memory in our database.

One way to aid this process is the principle of diluting. “The solution to pollution is dilution”. For example, if a truck carrying a toxic substance has a wreck on the freeway, a specialized crew is called to clear the toxins from the scene. To completely clear the contamination, they would have to get rid of the pavement, the dirt, and everything that’s affected. Instead of doing that, they spray a liquid on the contaminated area, which dilutes the toxin, rendering it harmless. In a similar way, we can cancel the poisonous effects of the past to our minds by diluting them and covering 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 process in our lives. 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.

Ephesians 5:26 "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."

This verse is an excellent exhortation for husbands, but the point of presenting it now is for all of us. 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 in Christian living.

Another strong app from Scripture is I 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.

Hebrews 12:2 says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith …" To fix means to focus or concentrate. 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, His apps. It is now time for us to wage aggressive warfare against the enemy of our souls, and that war is not against flesh and blood, but against the satanic realm.

II Cor. 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.

We need to stop consorting with the enemy and thinking about his temptations. 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. God is more than able to overcome the enemy’s tactics against us.

So, what are you thinking? Our thoughts determine whether we are victorious over temptation, or if we will succumb to it and suffer the consequences. Therefore, take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.

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 you, for you belong to him. Even now he wants you to ignore the Word and so great a salvation.

Fortunately, Jesus invites you to “Come”. His blood was given 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 coming forward to give 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.