Our sinful thoughts are still sin. Sin in the form of thoughts still requires the death of Jesus Christ, because we can sin in our own heart, in our mind, in our thoughts. Most people ignore their thoughts, thinking that they're not important. We tend to think that our actions are the most important things.
Our sinful thoughts are still sin. Sin in the form of thoughts still requires the death of Jesus Christ, because we can sin in our own heart, in our mind, in our thoughts. Most people ignore their thoughts, thinking that they're not important. We tend to think that our actions are the most important things.
Many people can disguise what's in their minds; and we say, "Well, we're not mind readers." I say that. "I'm not a mind reader. I can't read your mind." But when it turns into actions, however, sometimes our thoughts are made known, that is, what was there before. We know what was in a person's heart all along, that they were thinking something.
I don't know if any of you watch Dr. Phil. I haven't seen him for a long time, but I remember he has one of these signature phrases when he's talking with people and he's discussing with them some of the really idiotic things they do sometimes and how they wreck their lives by what they do and what they say; and the question he asks them is, "What were you thinking?" Well, I think that question is meant to evoke a certain response. It's to get them to go back and say, "Well, what really was I thinking that lead to this particular kind of an action?"
Now, your thoughts are something very important. In fact, what allows you even to have thoughts, that is, not only your brain...the brain is simply the physical organ, but there is something more than that that allows you to have thoughts. But thoughts that are uncontrolled, undisciplined, and allowed to run their course can turn you into a person that you simply don't want to be.
We were made in a certain way. It's important to rehearse this, if I may, just for a second. God made us physical beings, but He did put a spiritual component from Him that is coupled with our brain. The brain is a very remarkable organ—I suppose that's what it's called—and it has an enormous capacity, and it does a lot of things. It does so many things for us. As a matter of fact, when your brain goes, you go. That's it. It's very important. When I was doing a "first-responder" course and some of these other courses that I think you've even taken, [I learned] there are two things you've got to be concerned about. There are several things: (1) Is the person breathing? (2) Is their heart working? and (3) Do you have any damage to their head. And these are very important questions you've got to ask to keep a person alive. Now, a person can stay alive as long as their heart beats, but something very serious can happen to a person's brain.
Your thoughts are something that you alone are able to, let's say, generate. You can create them and you can control them. Now, when I say thoughts, what do I mean by thoughts? Thoughts in the sense that we have, then, that spiritual component which the Bible calls the spirit of man, which allows us, then, to conceive of a lot of things, to conceive of...we have an imagination, for instance. We can project into the future. We can see causes and results. We can see all of that. We can experience in a very important way, in a deep way, things such as love, for instance, and joy. We have that ability, and God gave us that ability. Now, these are spiritual matters, in that we, as humans, then, can not only conceive of, we can enjoy, and it can become a permanent part of our nature or our character.
Now, we can also hate. We can be people who are generally subject to anger, perhaps a lot of it. Perhaps we can be a negative person rather than a positive person. Our thoughts can go either one way or the other, but our thoughts make us what we are. What we think and how we think determines who we are, what we are, what we do, what we become; and it creates our destiny.
I have here—as a matter of fact, I sent this out by e-mail this morning, if you checked your e-mail—this is a little list that I pulled off the Internet of the character and destiny type sayings. There are a lot of them on there, and this particular website had all of them, or a number of them together. We've heard this before, but you'll see that people have thought these things through in their thoughts; and because they're able to think these kinds of thoughts, they're able to see not only the correlation, but they're able to see a certain progression in what makes us what we are. One from Ezra Taft Benson—he was in the U.S. government at some point in the past—"Thoughts lead to acts, acts lead to habits, habits lead to character, and our character will determine our eternal destiny." Now, there are variations of this, by the way.
Here's one from a person by the name of Frank Outlaw. I have known a few outlaws in my day. This person wasn't...I suspect the fact that he came up with this saying—or let's say he put it together in just this way and published it within his own writings—he was not an outlaw. He says, "Watch your thoughts. They become words. Watch your words. They become actions. Watch your actions. They become habits. Watch your habits. They become character. Watch your character. It becomes your destiny." And there are four or five others. You may have received it. If not, I have a few on the table over there. Perhaps you'd like to pick one up for yourself and just kind of hang onto it, because I think it's all very, very true. Our character is our destiny. But the basis of all of this is, it does begin with one's thoughts, how you think.
There is a book that came out some time ago. I think it's almost a hundred years old now. "As a Man Thinks" or "Thinketh," I think, is the name of it. It is based upon one of the proverbs, "As a man thinks, this is what he is or so he is." (Proverbs 23:7 Proverbs 23:7For as he thinks in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, said he to you; but his heart is not with you.
American King James Version×) And it's one of the most basic truths that you will ever find.
Thoughts that are uncontrolled, thoughts that are undisciplined or allowed to run their course can turn you into a person that is far different than what God intended you to be. And so, the very thing that God wants us to use to enable us to become His sons and to have the kind of destiny with God that we call eternity or eternal life can just as well be our enemy. It can turn you into a terrible person. Your own thoughts can make you a person totally the opposite of what God wants you to be. So thoughts are important, and it's something that we need to be very careful about.
Not all thoughts become actions. I want to make this point here. People say, "Well, I have lots of thoughts." Well, of course you do. But not all thoughts become action. The important point is, no action comes about without first being a thought. So if you want to change your actions, you have to first change your thoughts.
The above quotes that I just gave to you show how small things become great. It's important to realize thoughts are real; thoughts are substantial; thoughts could be even described as things. We tend to think, well, it's something...it's like when I first got a computer, I said, "Well, if I delete this, where does it go?" I said, "What a shame. I don't want to delete this. It goes out into oblivion. It's not here anymore. It doesn't exist anymore. And it goes." Well, those of us who know a little bit about computers—and I know as little as anyone—it's a very similar thing. They even talk about will computers become as intelligent as humans and replace human thought, sometimes. (These articles come out every once in awhile.) But thoughts can come and go. They go off into, well, if something is deleted, it goes into cyberspace. If our thoughts are deleted in our own mind as a result of our own choosing, where does it go? Well, I don't mean to get all involved in that sort of thing, but it's a very similar idea.
Proverbs, chapter 4, verse 23. How important is this? Here are ancient men who understood something very important, similar to what we've been saying.
Proverbs 4:23 Proverbs 4:23Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
American King James Version×— Keep your heart with all diligence...and the word "heart" especially in the Old Testament and even in the New Testament, for that matter, not only has to do with where thoughts come from, but also emotions or the emotive part of the thoughts, because every thought has an intent behind it, and thoughts just don't...they're just not thoughts. You are moved to have a thought by something you see, something you experience. It's generated from within you. You sense something around you, and you have a particular thought. But there is something behind that thought. There is an emotive part to all of that, and it can either be good or bad. It can be positive or negative. It can take you down a certain road. We can get to thinking in a certain way that's going to lead us right to life, as it says here...for out of it, out of what? Out of your heart. It doesn't mean literally your heart, but has to be more, of course, your mind. Your mind as it's able to generate thoughts, but it also has that emotive aspect to thoughts or the emotional part or the intent to your thoughts...out of it spring the issues of life.
Thoughts are never neutral. It's either going to lead to life or, on the other hand, out of it can spring the issues of death. Indeed it can! What you think can lead you right to death. I don't mean physically. I mean to eternal death. What you think and how you act on it and how you respond to your thoughts, what goes on in your mind, can lead you to death. Now, especially sinful thoughts, thoughts that are not according to God's word, thoughts that are, in fact, sin when they come to a certain reality in our mind. Now, character is built from habits; habits are built by actions; actions are created from those thoughts. So it is very important to know what those thoughts are.
Most people don't know what their thoughts are. Their mind just simply goes, and they take no notice of them. Let me tell you something. You're never in neutral if you're awake, if you're conscious. You are never in neutral. You are always thinking something. My wife can see me sitting there staring out off into space, and she says, "Well, what are you thinking?" I say, "Nothing." (Chuckle) Now, that's not true. It shows that some of the things you say that come from what you generate are also not true. Some of your thoughts can be quite wrong, totally wrong; but you might think they're right. We tend to think, "If I think them, because I think them and I'm certain this has got to be true, because I thought it." Well, that's the empirical self that tends to think that, "Why, I wouldn't think anything evil."
I'm going to make a statement here that you might...this is very difficult to grasp this point, but maybe around 90 percent of what we think is not even true. Maybe more than that. Maybe it's closer to about 95 percent. Maybe it's higher than that. You might say, "Well, no, not me!" But just hold that for a while, all right? And "true" has to be that which is absolutely true with respect to what God says is true or what God says is truth and according to God.
We're influenced by so many other things. We have a lot of things that bombard us and help us to form ideas and opinions of ourselves, and we have thoughts. Now, we've been going for about ten minutes here. You say longer than that. OK, well, let's just say we've been going ten minutes. You've got a lot of self talk going on. As a matter of fact, while I'm speaking, you think at the rate of about 1,300 words every minute. You can't read that fast. But that's how we tend to think. Your senses are picking up a lot of things. You're judging whether what I say is right or wrong. Do you want to deny that? (Chuckle) I think I'm right on that, and that is a true statement.
I don't want to play any tricks on anybody, but we tend to do this. You're sensing things around you. You're sensing how you feel. You're sensing what the person in front of you is doing, what the person next to you is doing. You are casting back over your mind various experiences that you have had that may have reminded you a little bit of what I just said, and your mind goes off on that. You've got a running commentary going on all the time in your mind. Yes, you do. Now, that is operated on a certain level that you may not recognize or it may come filtering through at some point, but you are doing that. Then there is the subconscious that is also going on, but you don't even know about it. And it does affect you. Now, your conscious thoughts are those that you actually know about, that you can actually recognize and those which you choose.
All I want to help you understand is, there are a lot of things that are going on in your head. Right now, as we speak, an enormous amount is going on in your head. You have that ability; you have that capacity to do that. Now, what emerges as it affects your conscious thought, that is, what comes to bear and what you begin to choose is, one might say, the summation of a lot of things that are going on in the background—a lot of self talk, a lot of subconscious thoughts that gradually emerge that you and I begin to choose from and begin to formulate our thoughts, and this is what we eventually are and what we eventually become, in terms of what we say and how we say it and how we feel, and we go along with our feelings quite a bit; and to say that it is all true [our thoughts], we're kidding ourselves. We're kidding ourselves. If you don't believe that, just hang onto it for a while. You may have experienced a certain emotion when I said that. I would suggest that you did. I saw a little smile on some of your faces when I suggested that so much of what you think is not true. You formed a certain opinion about that or you may have agreed with it because, you say, "Yeah, that is right. A lot of what I think is not true because I found out later it's not. And so I do things and I say things..." But you might be surprised, then, how much is actually going on in our minds.
You can only deal with what you know. I don't mean to get too complicated about this, and I want to get this part of the sermon over with first, since you're still fresh, because as time goes...this gets a little bit better, but I want to help you to understand how we think. Now, that's a very simple version that I've put forth. There's a lot more in it than that, but the point that we want to make here in all of this is that it does eventually emerge, what our conscious thoughts are, so God has a lot to say about the thoughts, what comes forth from you and from in you.
We can only change if we change our thoughts. If we can learn to actively recognize thoughts that are not true, thoughts that tend to play to our lusts, thoughts that are appealing to our self interest, thoughts of self pleasure, recognize them for what they are, and then learn to reject them, we can then become a changed person. That's how God shapes us. He wants us to recognize, "OK, get hold of your thinking." That's the point that we want to really get through today: Do we, can we in any way, then, actively, even aggressively, perhaps, take a good look at what we do?
Let me say something else about what humans have the ability to do. We have a certain awareness. All of us have an awareness. We can kind of step back or step out and say, "Wow! This is what I'm thinking." You can do this. You know, people don't! Why don't they? Because why should they? Everything they think is wonderful anyway! People really don't want to do that; and besides, if they did, they might find some things that are not too good, but it's very important to be able to say, "What am I thinking?" Just like the question my wife asks me, "Well, what are you thinking?" And every time that I say, "Nothing," she just kind of walks away, because she knows that's not right. I am thinking something, and what I thought the minute she says it is, "I wish she hadn't asked me that. Why is she asking me that? Why does she want to know what I'm thinking?" Because what if I was really honest with her, you know, in what I was really thinking? So that's a good question, now. What if, right now—well, maybe not right now, maybe later on at some other point—people knew exactly what you were thinking, in technicolor? You know, I mean, it was there in all its flavor and all of its feeling and all of its emotion. Would you be embarrassed? Sure you would!
All thoughts do not turn into actions necessarily, but if you let them stay around for long enough, we begin to think in a certain way because it has become habitual thinking. It's the way we then tend to respond to things. There are certain stimuli, as is said, in our lives, and then we react or respond to that stimuli and then we...it could be past experiences, it could be many things, sometimes unpleasant experiences, and so, then, when something comes up that's similar or reminds us, we react in a certain way. Certain thoughts go down a certain "groove" in our brain. That's the way I like to describe it. We react in the same way, we think in the same way all the time about something; and our reactions probably are not correct. Maybe they are OK, but we wear a certain groove in our brain, if I can put it that way, in which our thoughts go. It's automatic, simply because we have learned or conditioned ourselves to respond or react in a certain way.
Human beings are capable of this. We're all capable of that. And we need to take a good look at how we do respond, how we think, what do we think, what are we thinking, how long has it become a part of us. Has it become a part of what we say and what we do?
Now, here's the issue up until now. Let me just summarize this. We think thoughts all the time, good and bad. We cannot NOT think. Thoughts can just run rampant when they are not tempered by something stable. That can happen to us. God knows our thoughts. God knows the ones that stick with you, that become what you are. Thoughts are the basis for actions. We are known by our actions, and one can guess a person's thoughts by their actions. Thoughts can lead to sin or thoughts can lead to righteousness. The prevalent trend is that our thoughts will lead to sin.
All right, now, let's stop there. The big question is, can we do anything about them? Can we control them? Or are we in the habit of doing anything about it? Are we aware of what is playing in our head at any particular time? You can act, as I suggested, in a certain way that is different than your thoughts; but if the thoughts prevail, your actions will catch up with your thoughts. It will come out. As hard as you try not to, and say, "I know I think this. I know I feel this. I've always felt this. I'm not going to let it show." Wrong! It will show. Somehow, some way, it can't help but come out.
Genesis, chapter 6, verse 5. Here's God making an observation. I would say it's more than an observation. It's what He knows that man does.
Genesis 6:5 Genesis 6:5And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
American King James Version×— 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.
"...was only evil continually." Now it says it [wickedness] was great. What happened? Well, evil is evil, but, of course, there is something that was happening here over a course of about 1,556 years from the time man was created to when God made this statement. He said, "Now it's great!" So what happened? It got worse. The prevailing trend, apart from God—remember, God was removed or God removed Himself from man. God said, "OK, you work things out for yourself." Without God, without a reference, without something to say, "Here's what you should do and what you shouldn't do. Here's the way you should act. Here's how you should be. Here's what My laws are," what is going to be the prevailing tendency? It's going to be toward evil. In fact, it went toward evil very quickly, because He makes the statement here that every intent of his thoughts now was evil.
Was it that way with Adam? Well, I don't think so; but in time, we find not only the thoughts, but every intent of the thoughts was continually evil, to the point where God says, "This is not recoverable." God says, "There's only one way to deal with this," and so He destroyed them. But look at the figures here, about who made it, who resisted the trend, who did not permit what was going on around him to affect his thoughts. First of all, this shows people can control their thoughts. This is the way we were made. You have the ability to be aware of your thoughts and your intents, and you can change. Yes, you can! However, apart from God or without God, the prevailing trend is going to be straight down, to where [as in Noah's day] you've got only one person, perhaps some of his family who would have been positively affected by Noah in his actions and in what he said in his teachings, obviously, to his own family. God saved them. So you don't find very many people coming out of this.
So, apart from God, the capacity for man to head down the wrong way is just so great that very few people had the truth. Very few people could understand the truth. Very few, if any, could just grasp what was going on and see clearly what truth was. And Noah was one of these people. He said, "I just refuse to go along with this. I will not go along with this." And he was not going to be affected by it. He obviously was able, then, to step back and take a look at his thoughts. Now, I don't think I'm drawing too much from this, because the rest of humanity went that way. It tells you here, not only does God know the thoughts, but He knows the intent. As I said, thoughts are not just innocent. They have a motive to them. There is an intent. But we find the prevailing trend was toward evil. If you add it up, overwhelmingly, it is toward evil. That's simply the way it is.
I Chronicles, chapter 28, verse 9. We're going to see exactly how much God is so concerned about what goes on between our ears. What happens here?
I Chron. 28:9 — As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. Wow! He searches this. He knows this. He wants to see what a person will do and what a person will think. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever.
So God knows what goes on in our minds. Any time we forsake God, we might have to ask, "Well, what are we thinking?" Something's going on in our minds, first. So God knows our thoughts. He's deeply interested in our thoughts. Why is this so important to God? It determines our actions and our character; and, as I said, we have a lot of thoughts. Some stick, and those thoughts that stick are what we become. Others are dismissed. But we will gradually be affected by the prevailing thought of the time; and we get this, many times, from our environment. Things that happen around us, things that we are exposed to, in the form of culture or habit of peoples around us or practices of the world in which we live or what we see coming to us in the form of images or what people say to us or our relationships with people, and just so many past experiences. We are affected by that and our thoughts are shaped by that. In other words, we absorb the environment around us. This is what happened at the flood. We absorb the environment around us; and this, then, becomes how we think, what we think, and the prevailing thought. So it's not something that we can just simply let happen. They must be managed. Thoughts have to not only be managed—I want to show you that—they have to be more than managed. They have to be actively brought into subjection, as the Bible says.
Thoughts govern what we speak. I want you to notice what Christ said. Matthew, chapter 12, verses 34-37. He says:
Matthew 12:34-37 Matthew 12:34-37  O generation of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
 A good man out of the good treasure of the heart brings forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.
 But I say to you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
 For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned.
American King James Version× — "Brood of vipers!" This is mainly to the Pharisees who were the religionists of the day, who, because they claimed to know God's will, should have, since that's what they claimed. So He says, "Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." Now, can we do any different? Not really. It's impossible. What's in our heart, that's eventually what we speak. We can couch it in nice terms. We may not even want to say it, but we will eventually. Some way, somehow, it's going to come out. "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. 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."
We see evidence of that as Christ gives us a scenario in some of the parables where they confront the Master or they confront the Judge or they confront Him, and they have to give an answer for what they did and what they said. And that answer better be good, whatever that answer is; and we're all going to be doing that. We're going to be giving an account. But if your heart's right, you don't have to worry about that. It's not a matter that, "Well, I know I've got all these things going on in my head and I think these things and I feel these things, but as long as I say what's right, it's going to be OK," that's not going to work for Christ. He already knows the intent.
You say, "Does God really know my thoughts?" Sure. So does the devil. You see, these are spiritual matters. When you think a thought, that's a spiritual thing. Let me ask you this: How many of you pray out loud? We have one or two, a few, OK. When you're alone. But you don't have to. You can pray in your mind, you know, in your own thoughts, can't you? You could pray while you're sitting here. I don't think any of you have, unless you've been praying for me, saying, "Help this guy, Lord." But you can. You know you can. So, how does God know? God can read your thoughts. Can God read your intent? Absolutely! Do you have to say the words? No. Now, it's verified by the words you say and it's verified for everybody else by the words you say. So we speak according to what is in there.
There's an interesting statement in Job 20:2 Job 20:2Therefore do my thoughts cause me to answer, and for this I make haste.
American King James Version×. Here is one of Job's friends who says this to Job, and he's about to answer Job. He's sitting on the edge of his seat and he's so worked up here, he's just got to answer. Here's what it says...this was from Zophar, by the way, who begins his discourse to Job:
And he's going to tell Job. Now, I've got a question here. He feels very strongly about this. This is what it says, "My anxious thoughts just compel me or make me answer." Does it make it right or true? Now, you know what God said about these three fellows, Zophar being one of them. He says, "They didn't speak what was right about Me." Oh! Well, they thought it was. After all, if they felt that strongly about it, it had to be true because they thought it! Well, that's, as I said, that's the empirical self. "My anxious thoughts make me answer." Hmm.
Mark, chapter 7, verses 20-23. Let's notice what Jesus further said.
Mark 7:20-22 Mark 7:20-22  And he said, That which comes out of the man, that defiles the man.
 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:
American King James Version×— And He said, "What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye..."
What's an evil eye? Have you ever had the evil eye? Somebody will think that's some kind of a magic, sort of a superstitious thing. It's not. It's just the fact that you have an evil motive or intention or an accusation toward someone. "I know that person meant that. I know what that person's thinking." That person may not be thinking that at all. But that's what YOU think. Have you ever done that before? Sure you have! We all have! That's what is an evil eye. So just because we're so certain a person has done this or done that or thinks that or is doing this or this is what his intent is, does that mean it's right? No, it means we're thinking it. That's all it means. It doesn't mean it's correct at all.
Continuing verses 22-23 — "...blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man."
So this is something that you and I can generate. We can generate all that Jesus said is here. He didn't make exceptions. He said the heart of men, generally, this is what comes from within us. Why? Because we think it. He's saying, "These are the thoughts. Out of the heart of men proceed evil thoughts." Thoughts defile us. Where do they come from? Let's take this further.
James, chapter 1, verses 12-15.
James 1:12 James 1:12Blessed is the man that endures temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to them that love him.
American King James Version×— Blessed is the man who endures temptation...Hmm. Endures temptation...for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
Now, what do we mean by enduring temptation? Well, that means the person who, over a period of time, when there are certain thoughts from whatever source they come, does not succumb to that and he endures the temptation, and he chooses to obey God rather than listening, one would suspect, to his own thoughts. This is one of the things we have to do in order to change those thoughts. You can't just let them run. You can't just let them go. You have to endure the temptation.
Verses 13-15 — Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 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.
Yes, it leads to death, but it starts, then, with something that goes on in the heart, that goes on in the mind, that we generate within ourselves simply because it's been a part of our past experience. We generate certain thoughts that are appealing, that appeal to our lusts in some way. It gratifies the self; that is, the mind of the flesh. You see, temptation is the introduction of an enticement to sin, either through our environment...it comes from someone or someone else or through what we see in the form of images, simply the way other people do things. There are plenty of temptations or sources of temptation. Or directly by someone who speaks to you a thought. Can the devil do this? Why, yes. We're going to see in a minute that he can. But it plays on something that appeals to you, something that will gratify the self; and it can be sparked by something external, but it so easily appeals to something from within. So they do come from within, and it plays on our minds. It just works on our minds, and it's there.
Now, would we recognize such thoughts if we had them? Or if we recognize them, do we think that they're that serious? We can have an awareness, and we should have an awareness. As I said, if there's nothing else that you're going to get out of this, it is for us to somehow take a step back, take a good look. What am I thinking? What's going on in my mind? And sometimes we don't. We are unaware of what is going on in our minds, and we don't see what's really happening because we are willing to be led that way. And we are all too willing to be deceived sometimes, because the appeal is there. You can be deceived. You can build up a certain case in your mind, you can formulate plenty of ideas in your head that are not right, that have no basis of truth; but it's easy to do.
Jeremiah said this in Jeremiah 17, verses 9-10...you're familiar with it. We've said it over and over again to try to convict people, convince people about what goes on in a person's heart.
Jeremiah 17:9-10 Jeremiah 17:9-10  The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
 I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.
American King James Version×— "The heart is deceitful above ALL things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" Now, we have the ability to know, to a large extent. Yes, we do. Now, if you really want to know, God has the ability to really cut through and get down to the heart of things, as it were. God can do this. He said, "I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings."
Now, God will do that. He is able to search that heart. He is able to know exactly what goes on. You may not. Now, I'm here to tell you that you can. We can just kind of all sit back and take a deep breath and we can paint a pretty bleak picture of it; but I will tell you this, that through the mind that God gave to you, you have the ability to step out and have an awareness of what goes on in your mind. But most of the time, we don't! I'm simply going to tell you, we do have that ability. That's the way God made us, to be able to say, here's what our thoughts are. "Here's what my feelings are. Here's what my emotions are," and to, indeed, look at them objectively IF we want to. But I'm saying, we don't. Most of the time we don't. We are quite empirical, if you use that word. The Bible speaks of the "carnal" mind or the "fleshly" mind, it just tends toward that.
Now, it can come from several sources. Acts, chapter 5, verse 3, let me just cover this quickly. Peter said:
Acts 5:3 Acts 5:3But Peter said, Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?
American King James Version×— But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?"
Verse 4 — "While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God."
He makes two important statements here. Perhaps they could be turned around a little bit. "You conceived this thing in your heart. When you did this, this was something that appealed to you." Don't ask me why. Something about the person, something about his past experiences, something about the way he thought in the past, something influenced him, some exposure to this or that. Who knows? And his wife was in with it. It was simply, let's say, a predisposition in the way they thought. "So why have you conceived this thing in your heart?" Then he says, he said it first, "Why has Satan filled your heart?" Let me just put it this way: if you give him [Satan] an open door, he'll walk through. That is the devil. If you show a certain tendency toward gratifying something about what you want, what you want to have, the desires of the flesh, something that appeals to you, and you dwell on that long enough, you have done what? You have opened the door to the devil, and you have let him in; and the devil, then, is able to give to you a whole lot more reasons, more than you ever thought about to start with. But, at least, you were able to generate some of this.
A scripture came to mind, and I wanted to...it just went from me. Let's notice in...see, I don't have control of my thoughts here (chuckle), but I wish I had captured that before, and I didn't.
"but Thy law do I love."
You are going to have to say, "I don't want this! I hate vain thoughts. I see what it does. I see what it does to me. I see what it does to my attitude. I see how it makes me think toward other people, which is not helpful." David said, "I see what it does. I hate it. But Your law do I love."
How did he know what vain thoughts were to start with, if it wasn't for the law of God? You see, the Bible encourages the control of your thoughts and to forsake them when they are evil, and that's the only way that we are ever going to change, is to deal on this very fundamental level.
Isaiah 55, verse 6, God says this:
Isaiah 55:6-9 Isaiah 55:6-9  Seek you the LORD while he may be found, call you on him while he is near:
 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, said the LORD.
 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
American King James Version×— Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, the unrighteous man his thoughts! Don't even go back there to those thoughts. Forsake them. Let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways," says the Lord. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts."
Do you know what God is saying to people? He's saying, "I don't think the way you think. I don't think your thoughts. It's not Me. I never did, never have. It wasn't a part of Me, but I understand it's a part of you. I understand it's a part of the world in which you live. I understand it's a part of your environment. I understand that the devil is there. I know he can put things into your heart." God knows that. But He says, "Now, I want you to forsake those thoughts. I want you to deal with them. But you have to do it with Me." This is what He's saying. You've got to do it with Him. He's put us in the position to where you have an ability in the most fundamental way, with your own awareness, with the ability to think and to choose and to make those kinds of decisions. Yes, you do.
Let me tell you something: A person can make some headway. They really can. Of and by themselves, apart from God, they can. Will they always be successful? No. Will they be absolutely sure of their reference? No, they won't. God is the reference. God's law. David said, "I hate vain thoughts, but Your law do I love." It is God's law or the word of God that gave him his reference to compare what he is thinking in his heart, and he had to go down that road. If he didn't go down that road, there was no way that his thoughts would ever be dealt with.
II Cor. 10:4-5 — For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments...arguments come from thoughts, by the way...and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing EVERY THOUGHT into captivity to the obedience of Christ...
Notice — "every thought" — now, this is a very aggressive statement here. It's not something that says, "You know, I just have God's Holy Spirit and it will all just sort of happen." Is that right? No. You can be among God's people. Can it happen? Some. Sure. People have changed. Let me put it this way: Do we change by osmosis? You know what osmosis is. That's a biological term. It has to do with organisms that soak up something from outside through their own cell walls, the wall of the cell, and they are nourished that way. Do we change simply because we are in a different environment or location where there is no temptation and there is less of a problem with sin? Yes, we can. Maybe sometimes we think this is conversion, which is a change in our lives which involves a change in our thinking, so sometimes a person changes when they go to church and their fellowship, for the most part, may be with church people, and there is a change in a person's life, just because it's easy to change. But when you get to a different environment, the person changes back or he reverts to what he once was, so an inner change simply has not taken place. But he says here, he says it in an aggressive way. It doesn't just happen. People can come and be in the right environment and, simply because the environment is good, they can, in turn, also be good. That's a wonderful characteristic. You can affect people in a positive way. That's good. There's nothing wrong with that. He says here, however, he is extremely aggressive in the statement he makes, when he says to bring every thought into captivity, and he says you don't do it by the flesh. It's not carnal. He says our warfare is not carnal, you don't do it by the flesh or by human strength or by force that we can exert on them. However, he uses the term "warfare" here and military superiority, similar to where you can bring people, through military might...when they went in and they captured a city, they brought those people into captivity, and those people belonged to the person who took them into captivity. You know what he's saying to do? He says, "I want you to do that with every thought!" For that, you've got to be delivered. You have to be aggressive. It doesn't just happen simply because, well, we hope it happens. There's something active that has to occur.
Ephesians 3:16-17 Ephesians 3:16-17  That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;
 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
American King James Version×— ...that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man...well, now, that's where the thoughts come from. That's where the intent comes from...that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love...
He's not saying that just because we get baptized and have the Holy Spirit—I think Mark said that—that all of a sudden you're going to change. No, there's something you have to do, too. This is why you were given a will. This is why you were given a brain. This is why you were given a mind. This is why you were given the Spirit of God. This is why you were given the capacity to choose. This is why you were given the ability to be aware of your thoughts. You are given all of this. It's a fantastic gift that we were given; and God says, "Now I want you to use that. That's the way you can become everything you should be, but you do it through the Spirit of God." OK? "I've given you everything you need." Now you have to go to God and you have to, then, put this into action in that way.
God expects us to deal, not only with our thoughts but with our intents, to recognize them. Even when they are not of God, He expects us to do that. We say, "Well, it's beyond me. I've got my thoughts all over the place." OK, well, let's talk about that. Let's go first of all to Hebrews, chapter 4, verse 12.
Hebrews 4:12-13 Hebrews 4:12-13  For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened to the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
American King James Version×— 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. How do you know? You wouldn't, unless somebody said it first. There is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
We will give account. Now, He is a discerner of the thoughts and the intents of the heart. The word of God, then, is something that you have to have. Remember, David had the law of God that helped him to understand vain thoughts. If you didn't have that, you wouldn't know. You've got to have a reference. You've got to have something you always go to, and one of the main weapons you have is the word of God, and the power of it is this: When you read it, when you are aware of truth, when you are aware of righteousness, you know what obedience is. If you never had it taught to you, you would have no idea. You wouldn't know what exalts itself against everything God is and everything God stands for. [With God's word] you could see it. You could recognize it. If you don't know God's word, there is no way that you have any type of a weapon against what is going on in your head. Now, you've got to put something in. Remember the computer? Input and output. You've got to put it in, and you have to put in God's word. Let me show you very directly, very clearly here. Matthew, chapter 5, verses 27-28. What does the word say?
Matthew 5:27-28 Matthew 5:27-28  You have heard that it was said by them of old time, You shall not commit adultery:
 But I say to you, That whoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.
American King James Version×— "You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.'" Those of old were the rabbis. They didn't tell them all the truth, and so, the Pharisees had a certain standard. "But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
How would you know if it hadn't been said? How would you know if you didn't have an authority that you could have full confidence in and it was said to you? Now you have something to compare your thoughts with. Otherwise, you wouldn't have it. The word of God is the most powerful thing that you can have, then, to take a good look at what goes on on the inside of you. When you try to do it yourself, you will justify. You will deceive, and you will rationalize, you will blame, you will excuse, you will do everything, and you will wind up deceived. You really will. It takes the word of God. Now, coupled with that, you see you need, of course, the Holy Spirit, too.
You see, the devil doesn't want you to know your own thoughts. He wants you to accept your feelings. There is so much clutter around us that we don't take the time to slow down our thinking and to realize that sometimes it's out of control; and when our thinking is out of control, our lives are out of control, as a result. And we don't know where to go for a handle. How do we get a handle on this? How do we slow this thing down? How do we get it back into control? Well, you just can't let your mind get away with anything! You really can't. You've got to exercise the control and the will to do so; and you do so, then, by understanding what God gave you to be able to do this. And then you turn to Him for the reference or the standard; and that is His word. And then, when that's in your heart and that's on your mind, you put it there, then you have something to confront your thoughts with. Otherwise, you don't.
Psalms 139:23-24 Psalms 139:23-24  Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:
 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
American King James Version×— Search me, O God, David says, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts...that is, OK, if I'm put in a certain situation, what will my thoughts be then? Maybe my thoughts are OK now. Put me in a certain situation, now, let's see what they are...and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
I took my wife's computer down to the thing to get it looked at because it was getting slower and slower, and pretty soon it just locked up. I said, "Do you turn it off every day?" She said, "Well, no." I said, "Try doing that," and it still didn't work, so I had to take it down; and they said, "Did your wife buy a program and put it on there to kind of deal with some spyware or something?" I said, "She probably did." He said, "Look, this thing has gone in there and it's so cluttered up, it has just taken over everything." You know, that's the way it happens sometimes. This world can just clutter everything up around us, and we don't know where we are sometimes. We have to step back, step back and find out, take a look at it. Put your head through a diagnostic. You are capable of doing this. You are able to do this. God made you able to do this.
All right. Don't expose yourself to anything that you're going to have to deal with later—bad images, ideas of other people that are just totally wrong. You've got to be in control. Don't expose yourself to temptation. "Well, if I'm tempted, I get stronger." You'd better...don't even go down that road. Don't even think about that.
Is it true? Is it true? We are to ask ourselves. We know it's true because we think it. We know it's true because, "I feel so strongly about this." We just know it's true. Not so. Not so. Only God is true.
Philippians 4, verse 8. Let's conclude here because he says...it's very interesting why he says this.
Philippians 4:8 Philippians 4:8Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
American King James Version×— Finally, brethren, whatever things are true...he says, "I want you to think on these things." The word in the New King James says "meditate." He says, "I want you to think about it." Whatever things are true, not false, whatever things are noble, that is, of high character, whatever things are just, that is, they are right and just, whatever things are pure, no bad motives, no bad intent, whatever things are lovely, that which is pleasurable to people in a right and proper way, whatever things are of good report...How many times do we latch onto bad reports? How many bad reports do we give? How many bad reports are we going to give when we finish the services today? "Do you know what I thought about that sermon? Do you know what that minister did? Do you know what this person said?" How many bad reports? OK, now we can go down that road if we want to. You can really go down that road. You really can. I want to tell you something: I don't think it's a good idea...if there is any virtue, not bad things, virtue. Once again, issues of character here...and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
He does expect us to exercise discipline, to make choices in what we think. You are going to change when your thoughts change. You've got to turn the thing around. If you are always going down the same direction, always going down the same road with the same kind of thoughts, the same kind of attitude, the same kind of feelings, the same kind of emotions, you're going to have to get hold of it and turn it around. Now, God says you can.
There's a lot more we can say about this. I think, as you can see, we can get into all kinds of various subjects that have something to do with it; but I simply want to introduce to you the idea today that you can change. You really can change. You can change your mind. You can change your thoughts. You can think differently. You can, then, become a different person.