Sunday, January 15, 2017

Can I Change My Thought-Life?

The Bible says to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

How does a person do that?

First of all, as Christians committed to the Word of God in Christ, we hold ourselves accountable to God for our thought-life.

Matthew 5 is a wonderful chapter to read regarding thought-life versus action and Jesus’ call to the unorthodox—by secular humanist standards—response to these juxtapositions.

What we learn from Scripture is that all aspects of life, including thought-life, fall under obedience to God, who can hear everything we think and say (Matthew 6:6; Luke 1:51; 1 Corinthians 4:5; Psalm 139; Jeremiah 17:9-10).

How does this differ from someone who does not have a relationship with the Triune God of the Bible?

Well, in agnostic, atheistic or relativistic-religionist situations, the only person to remain accountable to for our thoughts is ourselves.
(If I have made the decision that everything, including God, is relative, then haven’t I crowned myself God? If I have decided there is no God, haven’t I then assigned myself to be in charge? If I have given up, stopped questioning and decided there are no answers or absolutes, haven’t I made my conclusion an absolute and myself its leader?)

So it follows then that if I have put myself in charge of me, then I have also put myself in charge of not thinking negative thoughts. If I go ahead and think those thoughts anyway, the only person who knows is me. I am in charge of me.

And since I am the only person who knows of the infraction, although I may become extremely frustrated with myself—even depressed—that I cannot seem to change my thought life, the only incentive to change that thought life continues to be me. And so I continue in a vicious circle of wanting to change my thought life, and failing.

God’s accountability is an excellent motivator on several counts: 
Out of His love for us, He has given us salvation and new life through Christ, and His Word and Holy Spirit equip and empower us in this new life.

Out of our love for Him, we will want to please Him. And when we please Him, we realize we are overcoming all sorts of things that we could never overcome on our own, including negativity and other dysfunctional thought patterns.

When we fail, which we find, over time, to be less and less, we have someplace to go with that failure: to God’s forgiveness and the renewed commitment to Him that comes out of that to leave our life of sin (John 8:11).

We know that the only reason we fail in our thought life is because we don’t take our thoughts captive under the authority, wisdom and love of God.

There are religions, philosophies and ideologies that put man at the center of man; man in charge of himself. So if me is the god of me, then I can pretty much get away with whatever I want, or with whatever I am not able to control.

In Christianity, we have the gift of not having to be in charge; in fact, we are commanded not to be in charge, of ourselves.

If I am repeatedly intent on changing something about myself without success, I must honestly ask who I have put in control of this decision to change: myself, or God?

 copyright Barb Harwood

“What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for
‘Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’
But we have the mind of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 2:12-16

“We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” 2 Corinthians 10:12

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” Matthew 6:21-24a (although the context of this verse is within a discussion of money and material possessions, the underlying universal point is that whatever we serve through prioritization, be it our possessions and money or our thoughts and attitudes, reveals where our heart is.)

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8
“Since then you have been raised with Christ, set your heart on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3: 1-3

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature...You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Colossians 3:5a; 7-10

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12-14

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17

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