Discipline Your Thought Life
By Brian Green
A Christian whose thought life is controlled and submitted to God is open to godly change in the rest of his life. But if that Christian’s mind wanders from the things of God, it will be hard for him to receive the instruction that God is trying to impart for his growth.
Everything you do goes by and through your thoughts. Your effectiveness as a Christian is determined by how clean your thought life is. The Bible explains this principle by saying,
“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” (2 Cor. 10:4-5).
God wants us to bring our thoughts into control. He wants us to stop evil imaginings. Thoughts must not be left to wander wherever Satan might like them to go. We need a good grip on the reins of our minds.
Your thoughts meter what is in your heart. The Bible says, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh” (Luke 6:45). If you are troubled by ungodly thoughts, you need a change of heart.
Certainly a victorious walk with God must begin with a saving relationship with Christ. From that point, one of the basic ingredients which will set him apart from the rest of the world is a disciplined thought life, affecting everything he does.
The Bible says “the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11:26). We see that they were called Christians because they were disciples. That means all Christians were ardent followers of Jesus, rather than simply part of an organization that called itself a church. Sadly, many Christians today do not measure up as disciples….
A disciple’s attitude is to press in, to strive for excellence, to be temperate in all things. This attitude begins in the thought life of a Christian.
“God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart” (Gen. 6:5-6).
I haven’t found any place in the Bible that says anything positive about imagination. God says, “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, 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” (Phil. 4:8).
Anger is not on that list. Neither is bitterness or unforgiveness. If ever your mind wanders into an area not listed among the things the Bible teaches we should be thinking on, quickly take control. Get your thoughts back into the area God wants them in.
If you are confused and restless, then you are probably not listening to the right source. The Bible says, “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace” (1 Cor. 14:33). God wants you to be “renewed in the spirit of your mind” (Eph. 4:23). Realize that Christ gave Himself for the church “that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word” (Eph. 5:26), knowing that you are part of the church.
Whenever an ungodly thought pops into your mind, you must make a choice. Choose not to entertain that thought, watching it like a secret movie. Rather, choose to cast it out in obedience to Christ.
You cannot justify evil thoughts by saying, “I’m not hurting anybody or offending anybody.” In being disobedient to Christ, you are allowing vain imaginations to destroy you. Ungodly thoughts that are allowed free reign will bring confusion and trouble.
Put Down Pride
“God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (Jas. 4:6). God doesn’t like proud thoughts. Proverbs 6:17 lists even “a proud look” as one of seven things that are an abomination to God. If there is pride in your thought life, it can get wounded. Then thoughts quickly turn to anger, bitterness and unforgiveness.
Proud people also tend to wonder sometimes why God isn’t doing things the way they think He should. And they disagree with church doctrine….
One way to determine whether one’s thoughts are disciplined is to watch for the fruit proceeding from his life. Jesus said His people would be known by their fruit, not by miracles and signs and wonders. The proof is in quality living: good marriages, victory in trials, capable leadership.
“Shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some” (2 Tim. 2:16-18).
It grieves God’s heart to see His people pulled away by brethren who are devoid of discipline. If a problem or a complaint about your church or its doctrine is lodged in your thoughts, deal with it correctly. Rather than spreading it like gangrene, go to your leadership for counsel, direction and, if necessary, correction. Realize that you may be wrong. If your mouth spreads corruption that leads others astray, God will hold you accountable.
Sometimes a problem in a person’s thought life is self-condemnation. But God says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1).
If you know to do good and don’t do it, you are sinning and you will suffer for it. Self-condemnation weakens the Christian. He thinks, “I failed. I know I’ll never make it. I’m not good enough. God doesn’t love me. Nobody here likes me. Nobody will talk to me.”
Think now. Are those the words of a God who wants to strengthen and build you and His church? Get your thought life disciplined and sanctified before God, and you will be able to keep that kind of thought from troubling you. The devil is compared to “a roaring lion” (1 Pet. 5:8). That roar may be loudest right in your thought life. If you listen to it, giving heed to whatever lie he tells you, then you will feel condemnation.
If you wake up late for church and you don’t feel like getting out of bed, you will either feel convicted or condemned. If you feel convicted, you will repent and say, “God, I failed. I’m going to get up and go to church even if it means getting there in the middle of the sermon.” Conviction will cause a godly response that leads to victory.
But if you feel condemnation, you will say, “I’m just no good. God can’t use me anyway. I might as well give up. I think I’ll go for a drive somewhere.”
One failure is just a beginning. What goes on in your mind will then determine if that failure will lead to growth and victory or if it will wear you down. Conviction is healthy; condemnation is sickening. Conviction draws you toward God; condemnation pulls you away. And it all happens in your thought life.
Of course, God doesn’t want us to sin, and the key to resisting sin is also resident in our thought life.
“Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him. Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man: but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (Jas. 1:12-15).
Every one of us faces trials and temptations. Probably the most common one I hear is financial worry. This is what the Bible says, though:
“Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Tim. 6:6-10).
As a person rushes to get more and more, he realizes that he really has less and less. The bondage of financial worry can be a bad blemish in a Christian’s thought life, robbing him of victory in many areas. Deal with your finances. Keep this in balance.
Get rid of any excess old baggage cluttering your mind. The Bible says “the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Heb. 9:14).\
Disciplining your thoughts is a minute-by-minute, day-by-day process. It means working on the big areas of ungodliness in your mind as well as the many little areas. When your thought life becomes disciplined you will be able to handle more responsibility in the kingdom of God.
The undisciplined person is like a worker who comes to work a little late, works for 15 minutes and then sits down to talk to someone. Then he goes and gets himself a drink of water, works a few minutes and then wanders off again. He’s not accomplishing the job he has to do. He can’t handle responsibility.
God wants each of us to be able to do the job He has for us. Responsibility is the ability to respond to situations that face us. That will come only through a disciplined thought life. There are other benefits from a thought life given over totally to God. Probably the greatest is the promise that God will “keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee” (Isa. 26:3).
Your mind is a battleground. How disciplined your thought life is will determine how much victory you will see in your life, how much peace you will find.
– Condensed and used by permission from The Gospel Truth.