God knows and can read our very minds. Why does God want us to bring every thought into captivity? And what are some of these thoughts that we’re suppose to bring into captivity? What do we have to be watching out for?
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Well brethren, who controls your thinking? Do you control your own thinking? Now these may seem like very simple questions, but I think we should ask these questions here of ourselves today, does anyone else influence what you think? Do we always consciously know what we are thinking? How much are our thoughts responsible for our actions? Are wrong thoughts considered sin in scripture? Are we required as Christians to control our thoughts? Do you and I spend enough effort in controlling those things that run through our mind from time to time? How much impact does God and His way have upon our thinking? How important are our thoughts to our lives? How important are our thoughts to our salvation?
Brethren, God knows and can read our very minds. Now I know sometimes that we may find as humans that’s difficult to understand how that can happen, but we all know that God is God and He is a miraculous God and He understands everything and He can read our minds, He actually knows what we are thinking. Let’s turn over to Psalm 139. Brethren, God knows exactly what we’re thinking. He knows when we’re thinking the right thing and He knows when we’re thinking the wrong thing. In Psalm 139 , it says here in v. 1:
Psa:139:1-4 – Oh Lord, You have searched me and known me, You know my down sitting and mine uprising, You understand my thought afar off. You compass my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but lo, oh Lord, You know it all together.
You know brethren, God knows what we’re thinking, He knows the words on our tongue, He knows the words in our mind before they reach our tongue. Let’s go over to I Chronicles 28 and this is David talking to his son Solomon. Here in v. 9 he says:
I Chron. 28:9 – "And you Solomon, my son, know you the God of your father and serve Him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts and understands all the imaginations of the thoughts."
So God understands, He knows our thoughts. Now that may be very difficult sometimes to understand, well how does God know all of the thoughts of all of mankind at any particular time? The answer is of course, He is God and He can do that if He so chooses.
V. 9 – "If you’ll seek Him, He will be found of you, but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever."
Then in Psalm:94:11 , I won’t turn there, but it says, "The Lord knows the thoughts of man, that they are futile." God can read our minds, He knows our very thoughts and so it’s impingent upon us to certainly watch what we’re thinking. God knows our thoughts and the actions that follow those thoughts. You know brethren, God holds us accountable for our thinking. Let’s go over to Isaiah 55, it’s very clear in the scripture that God holds us accountable for our thinking.
Isa:55:7 – Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts …So in other words, God must know those thoughts if He’s declared that the unrighteous must get rid of their wrong thoughts…. and let him return to the Lord and He will have mercy upon him and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. In Jere. 4:14 it says:
Jere. 4:14 – "Oh Jerusalem, wash your heart from wickedness that you may be saved. How long shall your evil thoughts lodge within you?"
And brethren, we know also that from time to time we also have wrong thoughts, we’re human and we’re subject to wrong thinking from time to time. God tells us in Prov. 24 that the thought of foolishness is sin , so therefore we can deduce from these scriptures that wrong thoughts are in fact, sin. So we know that. But what is our responsibility? Let’s go over to II Corinthians 10 now in the New Testament. I think God is showing us exactly what our responsibility is in regard to our thinking. He says here in v. 5:
II Cor. 10:5 – Casting down imaginations …or reasonings, as it says in the margin… and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.
Every thought! Clearly brethren, our thoughts are very important to God and they must be brought into conformity with God and His way of thinking. But why? We know God is very logical, why does He want us to bring our thinking, our thoughts into the captivity of the obedience to Jesus Christ? Why does He want that? Well that’s what I’d like to address in the remaining time here today. Why does God want us to bring every thought into captivity? And what are some of these thoughts that we’re suppose to bring into captivity? What is it that God is really talking about here, what is it that He is referring to? What do we have to be watching out for?
Well first of all, let’s look at some of the types of wrong thoughts that the bible brings out because indeed there are certain wrong thoughts that the bible specifically refers to that we need to be very careful about in order to avoid. First of all, let’s go over to Mark 3 . You know the Pharisees had the problem of wrong thinking? It wasn’t just their wrong actions, but it was their wrong thinking that helped produce those actions.
Mark:3:5 – And when He had looked around about on them with anger, He being grieved for their hardness of their hearts. So what was going on inside their minds? He said to the man, "Stretch forth your hand." And he stretched it out and his hand was restored whole as the other.
See He was not happy with the Pharisee’s thinking on this particular subject; they had hardened their hearts. But how did they do that? They hardened their hearts by thinking about the whole situation and deciding in their minds that they were not going to have this kind of faith, that they weren’t going to believe these things that Jesus was presenting. Let’s look at another one that the bible brings out in Matthew 8 – the type of thinking that God does not want us to have. There are a number of these in the scripture.
Matt:8:26 – And He said to them, "Why are you fearful oh you of little faith?" Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea and there was a great calm.
Fear begins in the heart brethren, it’s a way of thinking and a lot of us today have that kind of fear, whether it’s brought into our lives from our childhood, from our upbringing, taught to fear certain things or whether it’s a lack of faith, or whether it’s something else, where the enemy seems formidable. But God says, Fear not. He says, "Fear not, for it’s your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom." He says in Timothy that He’s " not given us the spirit of fear, but of love and of power and of a sound mind. " So fear begins with fearful thinking. We begin to fear the things that we see with our eyes. God says don’t fear, that’s not the spirit that I have given you.
Another attitude that we can have is found in Matthew 9 , a wrong type of thinking that ends up in a wrong attitude.
Matt:9:3 – And behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, "This man blasphemes!" And Jesus, knowing their thoughts …you see, here it is again, God knowing the thinking that is going on, He can read our minds… " Wherefore think you evil in your hearts? In other words, why are you thinking evil? For whether it is easier to say, ‘Your sins be forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk?’"
So here in this particular situation, they were judging Jesus Christ, they were judging the situation. Where did that occur brethren? It occurred in their minds, in their thoughts. And Jesus rebuked them, knowing their thoughts and saying in essence that they were thinking evil by judging Him. Also then, we can have a problem with that, we can slip into this sometimes subconscious way of thinking, of judging others.
Another one is found in Matthew 18 , let’s look at that.
Matt:18:35 – "So likewise shall My heavenly Father do also to you, if you, from your hearts, forgive not everyone his brother his trespasses."
Here’s another thing that begins in the mind, a lack of forgiveness. It’s something that happens between the ears, isn’t it? It’s a way of thinking, it begins in the thinking process of the mind. No, and we have to make a decision, "No, I am not going to forgive." But as God says, don’t do that –forgive, have mercy on others, forgive them. So our thinking brethren has to be along God’s way, His way of thinking.
What about another area? Let’s go over to the wrong type of thinking found in Matthew 5 . We as human beings are capable of so much in the way of good thinking and we don’t have to think in these ways, we can eliminate these things from our lives.
Matt:5:28 – "But I say to you that whoever looks on a woman to lust after her, commits adultery with her already in his heart."
So in other words, another thing that begins in the mind, another thing, an evil thing that begins in the mind for a person to lust after another individual. And God says this is the wrong type of thinking – it’s the wrong type of thing, that if we continue to do it, we’re on the path to death. What about covetousness – another thing that begins in the mind, where we see something that we think we need or we want and yet we shouldn’t have it. It’s the type of thing that happens to many people in this world and sometimes we don’t realize that we’re involved in covetousness. Jesus said in Matthew:6:21 :
Matt:6:21 – "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
So we have to make sure our treasure is in what God is doing, in His work, so that our heart will be there also and we won’t be thinking things that we shouldn’t be thinking in regard to covetousness. But brethren, these are not the only things where we fall down in our thinking. What about in Matthew 25 , let’s go over there. Sometimes we slip into a negative way of thinking, just negative thinking, which is not godly, it’s not appropriate, when we can end up causing ourselves grief and problems because of this type of thinking.
Matt:25:24 – "Then he which had received the one talent …you remember the story… came and said, ‘Lord, I knew that you are an hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not strawed. I was afraid and went and hid my talent.’"
Now where did this begin? This hiding of the talent? This hiding of the talent began in the mans mind, he thought negatively about his ability, he thought negatively about his boss, he thought negatively about the entire situation. Brethren, negative thinking can be so ungodly and anti-God and in this situation, it was. He says here:
V. 24 – "Then the one which had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew that you are a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not strawed and I was afraid …here’s that fear coming in again, fear to get out there and to do the will of God… and went and hid your talent in the earth, lo, here you have what is yours. ’" Take it, I didn’t do anything with it.
Fear is one of the biggest things that can cause that problem along with the negative thinking that’s associated with that. Brethren, these things are ungodly, this is ungodly thinking. You know sometimes we have developed patterns of thinking in our own lives and sometimes it’s not necessarily our fault because we may have been raised in an environment of negative thinking and we pick up what our parents are thinking, we pick up the way they deal with things and maybe we’ve allowed wrong things to come into our lives as wrong things produce negative and wrong thinking and so I challenge you today to think about your thinking because really, when you look at it, you become what you think, you actually become what you think. If you analyze that statement I think you’ll find that it’s very very true.
The second thing that I want to bring out today is that wrong thoughts are not good for us, they’re just simply not good and wrong ways of thinking are not good for us. Let’s go over to the book of Deuteronomy, back to the beginning of the scripture, the Pentateuch, back here in Deut. 5 . Brethen, God knows that wrong thinking, inaccurate thinking, ungodly thinking is eventually going to destroy us if we don’t change it.
Deut. 5:29 – "Oh that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it might be well with them and with their children forever." Brethren, God’s ways, including His ways, accurate, good godly ways of thinking are for our good. Jesus Christ said, "I came that they might have life and life more abundantly." And we cannot have more abundant life if we have negative thinking, fearful thinking, disobedient thinking, we just cannot have an abundant life if we follow those paths.
The third thing I want to bring out today in regard to this matter is, brethren, and this is probably where I have the most to say…wrong thoughts lead to wrong actions. You can’t have a wrong action, in most cases, without wrong thinking. Everything that man has ever done basically has been done with thinking first. Think about that. Genesis 6 – we all know the scripture here, but there’s a point in here I think sometimes we overlook and what God is telling us and what man did back at this particular time, right before the flood. What did He say one of the main problems was with the people?
Gen:6:5 – And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth …how is that, that’s the outcome… and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
You see there’s a link brethren, between thinking and action, our thinking and what our lives turn out to be in many respects. Our thinking determines what we become. If we think like God, we will become sons of God. If we allow Satan’s thinking in our lives, we’ll become more like him and we don’t want that. Let’s go over to Matthew 15, Jesus Christ also referred to this matter of our thinking and what it does produce. In Matthew 15 He identified where these wrong actions come from. Where do they come from? He says:
Matt:15:18 – "But those things which proceeds out of the mouth come forth from the heart and they defile the man."
Brethren, we don’t do anything basically unless we have thought about it first. We have thought about it sometime – if you analyze and think about where maybe you’ve gone wrong in the past, when I think about where I’ve gone wrong and look at it, you’ll see that we probably thought about that in great depth or at least to some degree before we actually did it, there was some thinking involved and that’s why God says that we should captivate every thought, bring every thought into captivity, every thought – and our way of thinking. Reading on here, Jesus said:
V. 19 – "For out of the heart proceeds evil thoughts, murders …now notice that He is saying these actual sins have come from the heart, all of them – evil thoughts have come from the heart… murders …have come from the heart… adulteries …have come from the heart… fornications …have come from the heart… thefts …have come from the heart… false witnesses …have come from the heart… blasphemes …have come from the heart. He says:
V. 20 – "These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands defiles not a man."
So brethren, these are the things and where do they come from? They come from within, so our thinking actually determines our actions and if we’re wondering why we have a bad habit or some other particular problem that comes along, we need to look at our thinking and reverse that way of thinking, change that way of thinking.
There is quite a bit of secular literature on this subject and I’ve got a couple of short things that I wanted to bring to you today. I have a book here called "Yes You Can." It’s by an author by the name of Jack Collins. Now a lot of these particular books, you know they’re a pull yourself up by your bootstraps, but they also have some truth in them. I’d just like to read what some of this says here today brethren, because I think it’s important for us to realize where our thinking comes from and do we need to change some of our thinking? Do we need to do some self-analyze and look at, Why do I think that particular way? He says here on page 5, " The strangest secret is a simple story based on a self-fulfilling prophecy. We become what we think about …there it is… and we achieve what we think about. Life really is a full-time, never ending self-development course, it is never about what we can be …although I disagree with that… it’s only ever about what we are willing to be." He may have a point there.
Reading on page 7 of this book, just another short quote, he says: "In hundreds of interviews recorded in the media with the world’s top athletes, each has consistently said that in order to win they have to see themselves winning in advance." Brethren, we have to do the same thing. We have to see ourselves winning in advance. Like that man who took his talent and buried it, he didn’t see himself winning and we have to be careful as Christians too to see ourselves winning the race, no, not blindly assuming that we’re going to be there and that God will accept us as we are and all that kind of thing. Brethren, we know that eternal life is a free gift, but we have some race to win here, like the apostle Paul said, to win against ourselves. He goes on and says, "In their preparation, they visualize their performance for weeks prior to the actual event." We have to visualize success, knowing that if God is with us, who can be against us? We can win, we can be there, we can win.
Carl Lewis, one of the famous all time greats in track and field, when asked how he won so often, replied, "I win because I see myself winning in advance and I win because I expect to win." And there’s a number of other examples he goes on about here. He says on page 15, the last quote from this book, "We will always become what we think about. This is an unalterable law of the universe; it is impossible for you to constantly hold a thought in your mind that will not in some way manifest as reality in your life. So that what you think is critical to your health, wealth and happiness." And brethren, I think the bible would support that, from what I read in the scripture. We have to be very careful what we think. God says think positively, don’t have fear in your heart, have that expectation that we are going to win, we’re going to be successful, we are going to overcome, we are going to overcome those problems, those difficulties that we wrestle with from time to time and how many of us wrestle with individual little problems from time to time? Maybe a bad habit of some particular thing or another, something maybe you’ve wrestled with for ten or twenty years even or longer or something you just began wrestling with.
Brethren it comes down to our thinking, we need to think about that particular subject the way God thinks about it and reflect on overcoming, thinking about overcoming that and not dwelling on the problem itself. If we dwell on the problem itself, it’s always there, we have to move forward.
I have another book here; I think is a particularly good one written by Dr. Richard Gillette, " Change Your Mind, Change Your World ." It’s an excellent book, it has a lot of good things in it and a lot of good examples. I’d like to read a couple of things here from this book today because I think this is very good material and it’s based on a lot of research that they have done, I mean technical research that’s been done out there that you can’t deny. "People may die exactly on schedule after being told the time of their death by an authority!" This is what they’re saying! "Why? Because if they’re told that, they begin to think that and it actually affects their body and their mind. Whether it’s a witch doctor in Africa or a modern doctor anywhere, answering the dangerous question, ‘How long do I have to live?’ when a doctor tells a patient, ‘You probably have six months’ it can be a death sentence." Because our minds have so much power over our bodies. And brethren, if you extrapolate this type of thing over into our spiritual lives, if we tell ourselves we cannot overcome, we’re giving ourselves a sentence. We have to tell ourselves, yes, I can overcome, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. We have to be careful what we believe and not believe those things that are not true. There are many well- documented cases of people surviving diagnosis of terminal illness through their own belief. One person describes in her book " Why I Survived Aids " how through changes of self-concept and as a result of acting on these changes, the impossible occurred. Our minds have great power over our bodies. Her HIV positive test results came back negative. Quite often beliefs about the body are not held consciously and may be held symbolically. Colin Parks who worked at some institute in England found that "elderly wives or husbands are three times more likely to have a heart attack in the six months after losing their spouses, than non-bereaved people of the same age." The hearts of the widow seems to be literally broken. "Beliefs where the conscious are hidden, whether direct or symbolic, have a powerful affect on our bodies and minds."
And so we have to be careful what we believe so that we don’t believe those things that are untrue. Satan would like for us to believe brethren, that we cannot overcome a particular problem, that we cannot be in God’s kingdom, he would want us to believe that and sometimes I think some of us have begun to believe those things. Negatively thinking, like the man who buried his talent. "Well, if I’m not going to make it, what’s the point of trying?" No, we can’t think that way, we have to think positively, think about how God will help us, think positively, eliminating the fear, eliminating the negativity and believing that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
Just one more quote from this book here, "In the same we hypnotize ourselves with less deliberate beliefs which over time change our bodies and our vitality. If a man believes ‘I am inadequate" he actually starts to feel weaker.’ You know you will feel weaker if you start thinking that way. It is a physical sensation. Then he says to himself in effect, ‘Well, I must be inadequate because I feel so weak.’" It’s a circular thing. "The more he imagines himself as weak, the weaker he feels. This process is used positively in visualization techniques in which the body is pictured as healthy in order to cure an illness." There are so many examples here in this book about how people have been actually cured by thinking positively. And brethren, I think there are some tremendous lessons there, some tremendous points to absorb and to take in and to think about. Why do we need to bring every thought to the captivity of the obedience of Jesus Christ? Because God says it’s for our welfare, it’s for our good, it’s so that we will live, so that we will be successful Christians and we should be using Jesus Christ as a sieve, so to speak, to say, Would Christ think this? Would He think this way? You know it says in Proverbs:23:7 :
Prov:23:7 – As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.
As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he – that’s what the secular literature is also saying. That we become what we think. If we think we’re not going to be successful, we probably won’t. Brethren, we have to think the way God wants us to think and with God on our side, brethren, who can be against us? What can be against us? As long as God is there, which we know He is, as long as we do our part, we are going to be successful. We won’t be like the man who buried his talent, we’ll be there. Every thought must be subject to the scrutiny of Jesus Christ. Christ and His way must be the filter through which we think. Satan tries to use our thinking brethren to accomplish his purposes. Have you noticed that? He tries to put in an evil thought, maybe a wrong judgment about somebody else comes into your mind, a spouse, a mate, a brother in the Church. A wrong thought comes in, brethren we have to kick it out, just like Jesus Christ did when Satan tempted Him.
God tells us we must protect our minds. One final scripture, let’s go over to Proverbs 4. We have a responsibility to protect our minds and not allow the wrong thing to come in which will produce wrong thinking and wrong actions. Prov:4:23 , just a short scripture, but very to the point and tells us exactly what we need to do.
Prov:4:23 – Keep your heart with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life. How much more poignant and significant can it get? For out of our heart are the issues of life.
Brethren, our thoughts are the basis for our actions, our thoughts can be good or bad. We need to understand that our thoughts have to be in conformity with God and His ways. We need to re-align any wrong thinking that we may have, whether we’ve picked it up from parents, picked it up from mates, picked it up from people in the world or picked it up because we’ve allowed wrong things in our own lives. We need to re-align our thinking so that we think the way God does. We need to think as sons of God in training. But we need help, don’t we? And we need a lot of it. We cannot do it on our own, we’ll fight a losing battle if we try. The world, Satan, is too strong. Our own human nature is too strong. Brethren we need help, we need to be rescued, we need the help of the holy spirit and tomorrow, that day that comes, the Day of Pentecost will help us understand more about that holy spirit, how it can work in our lives and how it can give us the power to bring every thought into the captivity of the obedience of Jesus Christ.