HOW'S YOUR THOUGHT LIFE ?
In the “physical world”, it has been said that “You are what you eat”. And there is definitely some truth to that. We would suggest that in the “spiritual world”, you are what you think. Proverbs 23:7 says “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” Ralph Waldo Emerson said “Beware of what you set your mind on. For that you will surely become” and “A man is what he thinks about all the day long.”
Although your thought life is invisible (only you and God know), your thought life greatly determines who and what you are, and who and what you become. Our thought life, therefore, is of great importance.
God cares about your thoughts. In Matthew 17:25 we read: “And when he had come into the house, Jesus anticipated him, saying, “What do you think, Simon?”…” We understand a question like this to mean “What is your opinion about that?” Opinions are the results of thoughts. The things you are thinking about right now may well become the opinions you will hold to in the future.
God cares what you think about Him. In Matthew 22:42 Jesus asks the Pharisees “What do you think about the Christ?”
God cares what you think about others. Paul writes in Philippians 2:3-5 “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,”. Right thinking leads to proper attitudes which leads to effective service.
God cares what you think about yourself. Romans 12:3 “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.”
If God is so concerned about what we think about, it seems like we should also care (and take care) what we think about. If our thoughts are corrupt, then we are corrupt! In Matthew 23:25-28 Jesus says ““Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
Other examples are found in the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 5:21-22 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment” and in verses 27-28 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Where do thoughts come from?
Science knows somewhat about the brain, but not so much about thoughts. They think that thoughts are basically neurological responses to stimuli and that those responses are shaped by memory, past experiences, etc. From these thoughts, language and communication develop. To whatever extent this is scientifically true, we do know that thoughts seem to originate from some kind of stimulus. That being true, how important is it to be careful what stimuli we allow to enter into our thought processes.
The initiation of thoughts can come from numerous sources – we should simply be aware of this!
Satan and his cohorts can be a source of thoughts.
People say things all the time that enter our thoughts – often it is gossip, lies, and other unprofitable things that occupy our thoughts. Sometimes those thought-initiators are overt and obvious, sometimes they are subtle (like the serpent with Eve in the Garden of Eden).
Everything we see and hear (books, magazines, newspapers, internet, television, radio, “my music”) has the potential to shape out thinking! Think about that thought!
Our own hearts can be the initiators of thoughts – Matthew 15:19 says “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts,…”
God can also initiate thoughts! He certainly does so through reading and/or hearing His Word – if we would only take the time to listen!
Do you doubt that much of our thinking is sinful? In Genesis 6:5 “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Here are some examples of sinful thinking:
Thoughts of harming others
Thoughts of revenge – anger begets anger
Thoughts that are foolish (Prov. 26:4) – foolishness begets foolishness
Fear-full thoughts – Fear begets fear “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Tim. 1:7)
Worry – sometimes caused by a divided mind (peace of mind requires singleness of mind). Sometimes cause by unstable emotions. James 1:8 tells us that a double minded man is unstable in all his ways. Worry begets worry. Worry looks all around, but faith looks up!
Thoughts of self-pity – which beget more thoughts of self-pity, and actually manifests self-love, which is not a healthy characteristic. Self-pity is often based on a prideful esteem of one’s self and manifests a latent desire to magnify one’s self. Pride begets pride. Simone Byers once wrote “I’d love to buy that guy for what he’s worth and sell him for what he thinks he’s worth.” Paul approached it differently in Romans 12:3 “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.”
Idle thoughts – which lead to idle words – which lead to idleness. Matthew 12:36 says “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Proverbs 19:15-16 reminds us that “Laziness casts one into a deep sleep, And an idle person will suffer hunger. He who keeps the commandment keeps his soul, But he who is careless of his ways will die.”
Temptation comes as thoughts! James 1:14-16 warns us “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.”
We began with the Proverb: “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” A lustful heart will have lustful thoughts. Contract that with a loving heart. Lustful thoughts are prideful thoughts, selfish thoughts and self-gratifying thoughts. Lust is all about taking. Love is all about giving. Lust never truly satisfies – love does. Lust demonstrates immaturity, love demonstrates maturity. Lust actually leads one away from faith – love and faith go hand-in-hand.
What should our response to thoughts be? Actually, it depends. But before we list possible responses to our thoughts, we must have a framework for those responses. That framework is supplied to us in Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
God’s Word must be the governor over our thoughts. With that said, me must be careful to be aware of our thoughts and to respond in an appropriate, Biblical and Godly manner. To some thoughts we must consent, agree and affirm because they are true and right and good, etc. By affirming these right thoughts, we will strengthen our ability to respond rightly to other thoughts in the future. Some thoughts need to be rejected immediately – and if you do so with a Biblical basis, it will be easier to not allow that thought to pester you. The proper response to some thoughts is immediate confession and repentance. Other thoughts will require prayer and proper meditation – ruminating on good thoughts is a good way to “overcome evil with good”!
What “tools” are available to help with your thought life? Here are a few “thoughts”:
Radical transformation – Romans 12 begins with this: “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
Watchfulness – regulate the stimuli/inputs to your thought processes. Remember the old “GIGO” computer adage - garbage-in, garbage-out. Curtail the godless inputs into your thoughts. Give serious consideration to the words of the first Psalm: “Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, [don’t entertain thoughts based on the worldly ‘wisdom’ of ungodly people] Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.” Meditate, ruminate, think more! about the things of God and His Word and we trust your thinking will be transformed and you thoughts, words and deeds will move away from sinful things to Godly things. It might also do us good to keep in mind the warning from 1 John 2:15-17 “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”
Discernment – this may well be part of Watchfulness, but we are exhorted to “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God;” (1 John 4:1)
Mature – Grow up! Mature out of, away from sinful thoughts. Paul writes in 1 Cor. 13:11 “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
Take Action – the change you may need will not happen by osmosis or some passive mode. YOU must take some action! Here are a few thoughts along these lines:
Put off sinful thinking and put on Godly thinking. Psalm 94:11 says “The LORD knows the thoughts of man, That they are futile.” And Ephesians 4:22-24 says “that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”
Get rid of, and avoid, the “triggers” that lead you into wrong thoughts. Romans 12:14 tells us to “make NO provision for the flesh” – this begins with our thoughts!
Exercise discipline in your life: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,” (2 Cor. 10:4-5)
How do we do this? Here are some thoughts about proper thinking:
Godly thinking is foundational to Godly living.
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Col. 3:1-2)
“Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior,” (2 Peter 3:1-2)
A quote from a greeting card says “The happiness of your life is in direct proportion to the character of your thoughts”.
We want to conclude our thoughts with Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate [ think! ]on these things.”
Let’s just run thru that list again:
1. True Thinking – thing about truth, things that are true. Don’t waste your time with lies, rumors, false teachings, etc. God is true – always! Jesus is Truth – “grace and truth came by Jesus Christ”. Truth includes that which is real, not wishful thinking or fantasy. “The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts.” (Psalm 10:4)
2. Noble thinking – Think honorably and honestly. Think about important things, not trivial things. Write down what is really important to you in life and then see if your life actually matches your priorities.
3. Right thinking – “just” thinking. Proverbs 12:5 says that “the thoughts of the righteous are right”. Think right, be right, do right. To be “just” includes being fair and unprejudiced in your thoughts of others and your actions towards them (for example, see James chapter 2).
4. Pure thinking – means undefiled, not stained by or mixed with sin. “To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled. “ (Titus 1:15)
5. Lovely thinking – has to do with thinking about lovely acts towards others. “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24)
6. Admirable thinking – good report, good news! Admirable thinking looks for the good and not for the faults. “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;” (1 Cor 13:4-6)
7. Virtuous thinking – thinking about excellent things – not simply “good” things, but “excellent” things – set your sights high. Think about the best things!” And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Col. 3:23)
8. Praise-full thinking – We should be pre-occupied with praise to our God!
In 1 Cor 2:16 Paul says “But we have the mind of Christ.” Do we?
SELAH - THINK ON THESE THINGS