In this age of nearly uninhibited and incessant information and entertainment, we can be deluged with tweets, texts, emails, instant messages, talk radio, 24-hour news, 30-second sound bites, the beat of music in my earbuds coming from my iPhone, iPad, MP3, Kindle, etc. The sheer amount of input is enormous.
NEWS FLASH: There is one single place of solitude that can still be found, guarded, and kept to yourself. Really? Certainly, an escape to a South Pacific atoll or an Alaskan wilderness experience may be tempting at times for just that purpose. However, there is a place much closer which can be easily reached, and it is as secretive as you want it to be. Our minds can take us anywhere we want to go. Yes, it is true that our thoughts can lift us away from the most painful, excruciating circumstances to a place of quiet, solitude, and bliss, or they can take us to the dark side of life where the results are most troubling, to say the least.
Clearly our minds are the battleground where our flesh engages in horrific mêlées. And, forgive my bluntness, but there is not a single believer who doesn’t struggle mightily with control of his thought life. Job said, “Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble” (Job 14:1, KJV) The question is not who struggles with this problem? The question is, who gains victory over this problem?
The Lord Jesus taught us where the problem originates: “That which cometh out of the man, that defileth 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: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man” (Mark 7:20-23, KJV).
Someone wisely said: “You break out, break down, or break through.” So, Christian, how do you control your thought life? You can sweat, break out into hives, grow ulcers, cry and be absorbed with self-pity or you can have real victory.
Paul the Apostle reminds us in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (KJV).
The phrase, “to the obedience of Christ,” is objective genitive; it’s really “to the obedience unto Christ.” This is how the Apostle Paul’s expressed the Christian’s freedom in Christ. The Weymouth translation puts it; “For we overthrow arrogant ‘reckoning’ and every stronghold that towers high in defiance of the knowledge of God, and we carry off every thought as if into slavery – into subjection to Christ.”
You do not need me to remind you that this fallen world we are passing through is characterized by things that are just plain false, nasty, wrong, unholy and unlovely ; things that are of evil report, vicious and to be condemned.
There is incredible beauty in nature, and the natural man is capable of thinking and appreciating it along with beautiful music, art, and literature. Yet, for the most part, man places little, if any value, on what is morally beautiful. Would we expect it to be otherwise in a world that sees no beauty in the One Who is altogether lovely?
We are immersed in the wickedness and defilement of the world. It flaunts itself publicly more than ever, reminding us of Sodom. It is heavily retailed to us through all forms of social and mass media. It is gloated over in Hollywood, graphically displayed in places of entertainment, on billboards, phones, computers and notepads and now, even on watches.
How then is the Christian to be preserved from the defiling influences of such a world? Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (KJV).
The end of the verse conveys the idea of “habit of thought.” The margin of the Revised Version says “Take account of.” Yes, we are responsible for our thoughts! Tougher still, we must hold them to high and holy standards! This takes us right back to 2 Corinthians 10 where the Greek language indicates we ought to lay all our thoughts at the feet of the Lord Jesus.
Only by having our minds occupied with things that are true, noble, just, pure and lovely; things that are of good report, virtuous and to be praised, can we expect to have victory in our thought life. “These things” find their perfect expression in Christ and in His people in the measure in which Christ is formed in them. Christ is our resource to lift us above the defiling influences of a world without God. So simply put, character is formed by what the mind feeds on. Thus, the importance of the exhortation, “Think on these things” cannot be overstated. Notice the “thinking” of verse 8 is followed by the “doing” of verse 9. Just as evil thoughts of the heart find their expression in evil actions, so right thinking is followed by righteous acts. Not coincidentally, the end of verse 9 adds, ”and the God of peace shall be with you.” Thinking on things that are morally beautiful leads to doing what is pleasing to God and to enjoying the peace of God.
We spend a lot of time, money and effort on food diets. If you struggle in your thought life, try going on the 3D diet – Daily Data Dump. Proverbs 6:27 says, “Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned”? We wrongly think that as we grow and mature we can handle certain things. However, like children, our minds are like sponges – defilement in, defilement out. It is as simple as that.