Taking Our Thoughts Captive by Jim Nelson

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As a young man in my early 20’s, I remember reading the following verse about taking your thoughts captive, and my thinking was how in the world can I do this?  The Apostle Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 10:5; “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ”.

Shortly after that, I was reading the book of Proverbs and the Lord took me to Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life”.  Knowing that the heart includes the mind and all that proceeds from it.

A few years later the Lord showed me Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, 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.”

Clearly, the Lord was showing me that what I think about is very important to Him as we live out our faith day by day.  All true Christians have a deep inner desire to bring honor and glory to our Savior, and this must include our thoughts.

During this time two quotes became meaningful and powerful to me with real-life application;

“Whatever dominates your thinking will dominate your behavior” and

“A thought reaps an act, and act reaps a habit, a habit reaps a character, and a character reaps a destiny”

I heard it said that every sin we commit, we commit twice, once in our thoughts and again when we act upon the thought.  There is a difference between being tempted, (a thought entering into the mind) and sinning (dwelling upon an evil thought and wallowing in it).  One thing I’m aware of is that the sins of our thought life go unconfessed more than any other kind, and a regular confession of these thoughts is both healthy and brings healing.

So you may be wondering, what have I learned over the past 40 years about taking my thoughts captive and making them obedient to our Lord?   Here are a few areas that have been very helpful to me over the years and hopefully to you.

  1. 1. I have come to learn that being in God’s Word every day is a key success factor for me. Memorizing key verses has helped me greatly, every time a sinful thought enters, (pride, selfishness, anger, jealousy, arrogance, un-forgiveness, greed, lust, impurity, lying, the list goes on and on), I will actually quote a supporting verse in prayer, many times out loud. I know I cannot win this struggle in my own flesh, I’ll fail every time! I must have Christ, who lives in me fight the battle. Pastor Tony has been teaching this point to us in the book of Judges, only God can give us the victory!  I love Philippians 2:12, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose “.  Each and every one of us struggles with what one pastor calls our “pet sins”, and we must deal with them with God’s help.  Jesus demonstrated this in Matthew 4, where every time Satan tempted Him, he quoted scriptures and Satan left Him frustrated.  We can have this same victory!
  2. 2. We must not feed our minds with anything that will support sinful thoughts and habits. That’s why Proverbs 4:23 tells us to “guard our hearts”.  Be careful of your friendships, what you watch and read, they can take you down the wrong path.  Some friendships may even need to end.
  3. Live and walk by the Spirit hour by hour, I have learned that temptation will come when you least expect it. Be on guard!  Please study Galatians 5:16, 24, and Romans 8:13-14.  By praying these verses I have actually had sinful thoughts immediately leave me.
  4. We must replace sinful thoughts with godly thoughts and actions immediately. This takes a lot of work and energy at first, but it’s a critical step.  I’ve heard this called the “principle of replacement” by some Pastors.  Ephesians 4 tells us about taking off the old nature and putting on the new nature.  An example could be if you are angry with someone for whatever reason, you should pray for them and do something very kind to them as soon as you can.
  5. Being in fellowship with other Christians has been greatly beneficial to me. I attend two Bible studies every week, and this fellowship helps me with accountability, support, and deep abiding friendships.

In closing, I’ve come to understand that we are in a very real spiritual war, and the Word of God and prayer are effective weapons in this battle against Satan for our souls. I love the old hymn “Onward Christian Soldiers”

Onward Christian Solder,
Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus
Going on before!
Christ the royal Master,
Leads against the foe;
Forward into battle,
See His banner go!

May we rest in Christ alone,
Jim Nelson

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