“[W]e are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Cor 10:5c
I believe that the basics of the Christian life – basic blocking and tackling – happens between our ears (in our minds). Every sin either starts with a thought or consists of a thought, so how we handle our thoughts is critical.
Sometimes I feel like I have a random thought generator in my head. There is stuff that God hears and I hear that I would never share with any human being (except perhaps an accountability brother). Talking with guys, I believe a lot of men have the same experience. Where do these thoughts come from? I’m not exactly sure, but it is usually safe to assume that such thoughts come from the world, the flesh, or the devil, or some collusive combination.
What do we do with those thoughts? My current Paul (Christian mentor) says we need to change the channel of our minds. But how actually do we do that?
From martial arts, I’ve taught myself to think in terms of “the instant of the thought.” Some martial arts teach actions at the instant of the punch, the instant of the grab, or the instant of the kick. We train to respond immediately and reflexively in those instances. I believe as intentional Christians, we ought to train ourselves to respond immediately and reflexively at the instant of a thought.
I see this modeled by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In Matthew chapter 4 and Luke chapter 4 Jesus faced temptation by the master deceiver and master accuser. Jesus responded in the same manner each time: He said, “It is written” and then He recited Scripture. That was sufficient in every instance to shut down the temptation. Although it is not specifically stated in Scripture, Jesus appears to me to have responded immediately – at the instant of the temptation.
What do we learn from this? One thing we learn is that it is possible for us to shut down temptation by reciting in our minds, or perhaps even verbalizing out loud, memorized Scripture. What would that look like?
In my own life, in Cleveland, when the ladies’ overcoats come off for spring, and my eyes glance, I recite Job 31:1, “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a maiden.” When I am in a situation with food, where I am tempted to overeat, I recite to myself one or more parts of Proverbs 23:1–3.
My goal is to react at the instant of the thought. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say that the initial random thoughts are “free,” but we are held accountable for what we do with them. When we react quickly by reciting memorized Scripture to change the channel of our mind, we leave ourselves less time to get into trouble.
The goal is to train ourselves to respond with scripture immediately. Sometimes a single verse is sufficient. Sometimes, though, much more is required, e.g., several verses specific to my temptation and, perhaps some more generic verses, such as 1 Cor 10:13 or 2 Cor 10:3-5. Sometimes I need to recite 2 Cor 10:3-5 in it’s entirety several times. This is usually sufficient to intentionally change the channel of my mind.
For me, this looked like:
* Memorizing generic verses, such as 1 Cor 10:13, 2 Cor 10:3-5, and Phil 4:8-9.
* Committing to myself to use those verses at the instant of the thought.
* Identifying areas of weakness for me.
* Identifying and memorizing Scripture verses that pertain to that area of weakness.
* Reacting at the instant of the thought.
If you know where your weak areas are, great. If you don’t, ask your wife or kids, or your Christian accountability brothers. They very likely know. Any number of brothers on MIM can help you find verses if you’re struggling to find pertinent verses.
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