What are some of the problem areas in a Christian's thought life?
The Bible addresses lust, both the general desires of the flesh against the will of God and the specific desires the Lord Jesus links with fornication (Matthew 5:28; 1 Thessalonians 4:5). This second, impure lust may involve what is not natural (Romans 1:27) or what is youthful (2 Timothy 2:22), but is always immoral. Various circumstances of life may contribute to these thoughts, but do not justify them before God.
Worry is a problem to Christians. When the Lord said, "Take no thought, saying, What shall we eat?" (Matthew 6:31), He was not condemning taking forethought, but having anxious thoughts, worry. Such thoughts follow Satan's suggestions that God's care is not sufficient (compare Matthew 4:3 with 6:32). When the mind becomes preoccupied -with such material concerns, the door opens to inordinate desires for material gain - covetousness.
Unforgiving thoughts (Matthew 18:35), spite, revenge, and nurtured anger (Ephesians 4:26) are harmful intruders in a Christian's mind. Assuming malice in another person's actions is evil thinking (1 Timothy 6:4).
A proud heart, which exalts self and belittles others (Philippians 2:3), is sin (Proverbs 21:4).
These are the weeds that grow native in our mind, but never found a place in the thoughts of our glorious Lord.
Am I accountable to the Lord for my thoughts?
Eventually, the Lord will manifest our thoughts at the Bema, for Paul says, -Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who... will make manifest the counsels of the hearts" (I Corinthians 4:4). Presently, we are likewise accountable because our thought life molds our actions; eventually that defines who we are (Proverbs 20:11; 23:7). In addition, God appreciates right thoughts, even though a believer cannot do what he was thinking (2 Chronicles 6:8), but inappropriate thoughts grieve God, even though a believer does not do what he was thinking.
We are accountable for our response to God's Word, which includes l Peter 1:13, "Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind." In Bible times, when a man was going to walk or work, he would "gird up" his robe with a belt, holding the flowing ends of his clothing so they would not hinder him. Our thoughts, like the flowing robes, naturally go in many directions. If we do not bring them into control, they will hinder us in divine things now and will cause us loss when we stand before the Lord.
How can I change or control my thought life?
Paul's statement, "Think on these things" (Philippians 4:8), shows that we can choose the focus of our thoughts.
A controlled mind (1 Peter 1:13) characterizes normal Christian living. The power of the Spirit of God within and of devotion to Christ produces obedience to God's Word and likeness to Christ. Spiritually healthy habits - reading and meditating on the Word of God, confessing sins and communing with the Lord in prayer, maintaining wholesome relationships with others, and participating in the spiritual activities of an assembly -preserve us from most problems with an unholy thought life. Healthy Christian thinking is the byproduct of healthy Christian living.
A history of bad habits in thinking, of spiritual departure, or of inappropriate responses to circumstances in life will deepen problems in a believer's thought life. Replacing these habits with spiritual habits helps to change our thought life.
The remedy is focusing on Christ's loveliness and on things positive and Christ-honoring (Philippians 4:8).
Here are 4 suggestions:
1. When facing conditions that trigger wrong thoughts, read conveniently placed index cards on which you have written relevant Bible verses. This allows God's Word to speak to and strengthen your mind.
2. Prayerfully eliminate idle time, lonely interludes, or physical tiredness.
3. Cultivate the companionship of an omniscient God.
4. Carefully select your food. Some "food" you see and hear will sow seeds of wrong thoughts. Replace this with spiritually strengthening food. Listen to and sing songs rich in Biblical truth. By these means the word of Christ will dwell in you richly (Colossians 3:16).
Is there help when I fail in my thought life?
Failings need not produce hopelessness, for "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Philippians 4:13). Therefore, despite our failure, we have a Savior who can deliver us from sin's power. Resolving the problem through human determination or methods is inadequate. If the means is not spiritual, the result won't be spiritual.
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). Immediate confession of wrong thoughts restores communion with the Lord, which provides the strength needed to withstand temptation. Confession is not a process that strengthens our resolve; it is an immediate return to normal Christian living.
Trying to force wrong thoughts from the mind only makes the problem worse, reinforcing wrong thinking. Replace wrong thinking with right thinking. Turn to Christ. Enjoy the wonderful contrast He is to all our miserable failures. D. Oliver