1 Corinthians 4:5
Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.
2 Corinthians 10:5
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;
How much attention do most people pay to the thoughts that run through their mind? In Acts 5:1-11, we find the story of death and disgrace involving two Church members, Ananias and Sapphira. They met their end as the result of a single thought: to pretend that they had given the Church the entire amount of money from a real estate sale when in fact they would keep half of the money. This is just one example from the Bible that shows the seriousness of thoughts. In this lesson we shall study some precepts concerning the thoughts of the normal Christian.
Does it matter what we think about?
Some may question whether there is really any significance to the things they think about. Yet, there are some very strong reasons from Scripture that highlight the importance of our thoughts.
We tend to think as though the contents of our thoughts are totally secret and not known by anyone but ourselves. However, there is One who knows every thought that passes through our minds. This is evident from our text when we consider how it was that Peter knew what Ananias and Sapphira had done. Psalm 139:2 says about God, "Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off". God instructed Ezekiel to inform some wicked men in Jerusalem, "I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them" (Ezekiel 11:5). Jesus showed his Deity many times in the Bible when He knew the thoughts of other men (Matthew 9:4, 12:25; Mark 2:8). See also . We may be able to hide our thoughts from man, but not from God.
Those that pray to God surely know that He knows their thoughts. If we were conscious of the fact that all of our thoughts at every moment are known to God, how would that change the things we thought about? Certainly we would often be embarrassed if others around us could read our thoughts, but how much more broken should we be to realize that God can and does read every thought.
Is just thinking about something wicked really that bad?
The Bible lists sins such as lasciviousness, envy, pride, covetousness, and bitterness. These sins involve the mind and the things we think about, but Jesus carries this a step further in Matthew 5:28. He taught that when a man lusts after a woman that he has committed adultery with her in his heart. Lust is something totally comprised of thoughts in the mind, yet Jesus said that thinking was equivalent to doing. Jesus said in verse 21, "whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment". Anger too has to do with our thinking. Thinking is equivalent to doing. In light of this, we must consider that our thoughts are just as significant as our actions!
If one who thinks about committing some sin is just as guilty as if they had actually committed the sin, surely we would expect to be judged by our thoughts as well as actions. 1 Corinthians 4:5 deals with judgement, when God "will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts". In Ecclesiastes 12:14, we find that God "shall bring every work into judgement, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil". Imagine being judged according to your thoughts! How important does this make our thoughts?
Do all of our thoughts originate from ourselves?
One of the most important precepts for the normal Christian to constantly remember is that Satan is at war with us and the mind is the battlefield. The "shield of faith" is our defense against the "fiery darts" of our enemy (Ephesians 6:16). Faith is something that involves our mind. How was it that Satan was able to get Eve to sin? It started with thoughts! The Bible tells us in 1 Chronicles 21:1 that "Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel". Surely this was accomplished by putting the thought in David's mind. In our text, Peter asked Ananias, "why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost?".
Unfortunately, Satan is not the only one who has the ability to put thoughts into our mind. After casting out the legion of demons from the maniac of Gadara, the Bible says the man was clothed and "in his right mind" (Mark 5:15). Obviously these demons were able to affect his mind.
Does man have the ability to put thoughts into your mind?
We know from experience that even man has the ability to suggest thoughts to other men and influence what they think about. Thus we may safely say that all of the thoughts that pass through our minds do not always originate from ourselves.
Given that thoughts can enter our mind from other sources as well as the wrong kind of thoughts coming from our old nature, it is critical that we be careful to monitor our thoughts and keep them in subjection. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:5, "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". We cannot always control the thoughts that enter our mind, but we can control and are responsible for the thoughts that we allow to stay in our minds.
If we are to keep our thoughts under subjection, we need to continuously evaluate each thought and test whether it is the kind of thought we need to allow. Paul lists for us in Philippians 4:8 the kinds of thoughts that we should permit in our minds: "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". If we find our self thinking about something outside of this list, we simply need to think about something else.
Besides evaluating whether thoughts are good or bad, another method for controlling our thoughts is to fill our minds with righteousness. Reading the Bible, meditating on God (Psalm 77:12, 104:34), memorizing Scripture (Colossians 3:16), remembering what God has done for us (Psalm 105:5), prayer, and singing (Ephesians 5:19) will help ensure that our minds will constantly be filled with the right thoughts.
How much of an effect does our environment have on our thoughts?
No doubt environment has a significant impact on our thoughts. The normal Christian needs to avoid situations which might cause wicked thoughts to arise in his mind. We need to stay away from places where our eyes are likely to see something wicked or our ears might hear something wrong.
We need to stay away from the wrong kinds of people as well. What was it that turned Solomon's heart away from God? According to 1 Kings 11:4, it was his wives! Whisperings, backbitings, and gossip can so poison our thoughts, and if we are not careful it can turn us against that which is good. Proverbs 16:28 even says, "a whisperer separateth chief friends". If we are going to keep our thoughts under subjection, we need to keep control over our environment.