Last month we began a series of articles on how we are to renew our minds daily. What are the practical day-to-day steps to doing this? As we said, there are eight steps. The first four are simply important attitudes that we must have in order to have our lives transformed.
The last four are the essential steps (the Inner Court Ritual) that we must take each time we quench God's Spirit. These, we mentioned, were the same steps that the priests took in the Inner Court of Solomon's Temple in order to deal with their sin and be reconciled to God. We will begin to discuss these essential steps in our next issue of Personal UPDATE.
We began last month by talking about the first three attitudes or predispositions that we need to form daily. These, as I mentioned, are not steps that we must take each time we quench God's Spirit, but simply attitudes we need to have on in order for our minds to be continually renewed.
In this article I would like to explore the fourth attitude or predisposition and that's simply being willing to take every thought captive and deal with the things that are not of faith. Now, obviously we can't take every thought we think captive. That's impossible! But, we can focus on those daily thoughts that take away our peace-those thoughts of bitterness, anger, jealousy, criticalness, unforgiveness, judge-mentalness, guilt, etc., and begin to deal with these.
Take Every Thought Captive
2 Corinthians 10:5-6 says, "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; and having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled."
We have previously shared in our articles that we are not responsible for the original, self-centered negative thought when it first comes in. It's what we choose to do with that thought that produces the sin or not. If we can simply recognize that ungodly thought and choose to give it over to God, then we have not sinned. However, if we do nothing with that thought, but mull it over and entertain it, it will eventually stir up our self-centered feelings and become sin in us.
Our thoughts are crucial because they are the first to be triggered in the chain reaction of our souls. Our thoughts stir up our emotions; our emotions then influence our desires; and our desires are what produce our actions. This is why it's so very important to take every thought captive. If we do this, then, we'll be able to prevent that chain reaction before it even begins.
It takes constant discipline, however, to recognize our negative thoughts and to renew our minds. Sometimes, it seems like it would just be easier to give in and let our wild emotions rule. But, you know what happens if we do? Our emotions take us captive!
Personal Example: Move Again?
Here's an example of what I mean: In the early 1990s, Chuck and I went through several horrendous years of stretching, testing and trials. In 1991 we lost our ultimate "dream home" in California (which we had just moved into six months earlier), our cars, our insurance, etc., through bankruptcy. In this same period of time, many of our old "Christian" friends turned their backs on us when Chuck's company went under. Many spread libel and slander about us. (In contrast, several of our largest financial investors stood by us, and continue in their support, even to this day.) For me, the loss of my close Christian friends has probably been the hardest part of these last few years.
As a result of the bankruptcy, we were forced to move to a smaller rented home. In June 1992, that rented home turned out to be on the epicenter of a 6.8 earthquake that destroyed most of our personal belongings. (Actually, we were the fortunate ones-the house we were renting was left standing. Houses on both sides of us twisted off their foundations.)
In September of that same year, the Lord moved us to Idaho, and we were so excited and so looked forward to having our own home again. When we got to Idaho, however, we found out that the property we thought had been purchased for us (and into which we had moved all our belongings) had fallen out of escrow. So once again we had to move. Thus, we ended up living in a motel room and at a friend's house for five weeks until the Lord provided a wonderful home for us to rent.
But, this made five moves in two and a half years, besides the three total clean-up jobs after the 7.2 earthquake (15 miles away in Landers, California), the 6.8 earthquake under our home, and a 5.5 aftershock.
None of these moves were my choice! They were forced moves. Now, moving is never easy for anyone. But moving for us was particularly difficult because we had 35-plus years of collectibles (really old and broken now because of extensive earthquake damage); plus all the ministry's furniture, computers, files and office equipment.
In the middle of those two and a half years, every time I would look at my circumstances, I became overwhelmed and paralyzed in my emotions. ("Why God?") But, when I would be obedient and "take my thoughts captive" (whether I felt like it or not), God would always be faithful to remove my confusion, my doubt, my fears and my anger and fill me with His peace and strength. Once again, He would enable me to go on. Taking my thoughts captive was the only thing that kept me sane during this period.
So, yes, it does take constant discipline and effort to catch our negative thoughts and deal with them, and it is hard. But, you quickly find out that there is no other choice!
I received a letter this week from a group of ladies who asked, "Nancy, why is it so hard to daily make faith choices? Does it ever get easier?" I answered them back just as I said above. "Yes, it does get easier, when you finally realize that, if you want to walk in the Spirit, there is no other choice but to choose God's way. It reminds me of the Scripture in Matthew 7:14, "...straight is the gate and narrow (hard) is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."
Since we are exploring the importance of "taking every thought captive," I thought we also might explore where our thoughts come from. How can we tell the difference between God's Thoughts, our own thoughts, and the thoughts that Satan inserts into our souls?
God's promptings come in that still, small voice that immediately bears witness with our spirit that it is, indeed, God's voice. We usually will have an immediate peace. God's Voice encourages us and always draws us closer to Him. Now often, the Holy Spirit will need to reprove us and convict us of sin, but still, His voice will always push us towards Jesus (and towards being more loving), rather than away from Him. We should always be leery of anything that pushes us away from God (or away from being loving) or removes our peace. If that is the result of the thought, it's probably not from the Holy Spirit.
God's voice is always going to be in perfect agreement with His written Word. Any voice that does not corroborate with what God's Word says, should be immediately rejected. God's voice always confirms His Word. The way I weed out a lot of spurious thoughts is by saying to myself, "If Jesus were standing here beside me now (bodily), is this what He would be whispering in my ear?"
Thoughts "Not From God"
Thoughts that are not from God have two other sources: the flesh and Satan. Thoughts that are from our flesh are sometimes harder to distinguish, because Satan often uses things of the flesh (our self-life) to cause us to sin. Our negative thoughts that are not led by the Spirit would be "things of the flesh"-anything that is not of faith. These are self-centered things that need to be immediately confessed (especially if we have held on to them for any length of time), repented of, and given over to God, so that Satan won't be able to use them to bring us down.
It seems to me, that things of the flesh go away pretty quickly if I'm faithful to acknowledge them, confess them, repent of them and give them over to God.
Now, most of the thoughts that God will reveal to us will be of the flesh, and will go away pretty quickly if we are faithful to go through the cleansing steps. However, some of the things that will come up have been long-standing strongholds of the enemy and these he won't let go of easily. So don't be dismayed if certain thoughts do reappear.
Actually, what happens is: God takes our negative thoughts and emotions the moment we give them to Him; but often, it takes awhile for our feelings to align with the faith choices we have made. And this is where Satan tries to make us think that God has not been faithful and that He hasn't taken these things from us. Satan wants to use these in-between times to destroy us. God, however, often lets us go for awhile to strengthen our faith. Will we keep on believing Him, even though we don't see or feel any evidence of change?
Again, God is teaching us to walk by faith, not sight or feelings.
Satan, of course, wants to use our negative "feelings" to destroy us. What God means for good, Satan, obviously, wants to kill us with. It's important for us to understand that God often uses Satan - as His own tool - to help bring up some of the ungodly and self-centered thoughts and emotions that we have erroneously programmed into our hidden chambers. Remember the Scripture, "The Lord thy God will send the hornet among them, until they who are left and hide themselves from thee, be destroyed." (Deuteronomy 7:20)
Once these negative things surface-even though it's through Satan's promptings-we have a choice: God wants us to give Him these buried things and be freed of them forever; Satan, of course, wants us to crumble in confusion and discouragement over them. Satan's motive is to get us to push these things back down in the secret part of our soul, which will again imprison us and motivate more ungodly actions.
Therefore, if you have confessed, repented and given your negative thoughts and emotions over to God and they don't seem to go away (i.e., you still "feel" them), don't give up and say, "Oh, this just doesn't work for me!" That's exactly what Satan is hoping you'll do. Recognize it as a battle. Know that you'll win if you will just persevere.
God is the One, in His timing and in His way, who will align your feelings to match the faith choices you have made. And, I assure you, He will be faithful to do as He promises.
Something to keep in mind, the deeper the wound, the longer it seems to take for our feelings to align with our choices. Use your weapons of warfare: God's Word, His Blood, and His Name. Fast, pray and have others pray for you. God promises us that if we do our part, He will do His! (Be sure to also put on the full armor of God in Ephesians 6.)
"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);...." (2 Corinthians 10:3-4)
Satan's voice is very different from God's. He speaks to us in a loud, shrill and demanding voice. It's an urgent, "do it now" kind of a thought, and it often prompts unrest and doubt.
Satan uses all sorts of tactics to condemn us, make us feel guilty and like failures as Christians. These kinds of thoughts will always push us away from God. So, recognize thoughts like, "Oh, it doesn't work for me," "God doesn't care," "His Word is not true," "He doesn't love me," "He isn't faithful." Know where these kinds of thoughts come from and reject them.
Satan's three main tactics come fromGenesis 3 and also from Matthew 4:
1) "Don't obey God's Word; follow your own feelings and thoughts."
2) "Don't trust God to perform it; trust in your own abilities.
3) "Don't give God your will and life; follow what you want. You're Number One."
Watch out for these thoughts! If you can spot Satan's tactics ahead of time, it will help in knowing how to fight.
Satan's Subtle Tactics
Something that Satan revels in doing, is causing us to dwell in our past by imagination and fantasizing. Satan loves to prompt thoughts of "how wonderful it used to be," in contrast to, "how horrible it is today." The enemy will do anything he can to produce dissatisfaction with today and he's a master at doing this.
One lady, recently separated from her husband, shared a few weeks ago, "The thing that draws me down faster than anything else is remembering what we used to be like." She and her husband had a "storybook" marriage. They met in grammar school, went out in high school and married in college (he was the football star; she was the head cheerleader). They even had two adorable children and that pretty little house in the country with a white picket fence!
Thoughts of "how it used to be" and "how it could have been" pulled this woman down into the pits faster than anything else. That's our imagination working. Watch out for it! Catch those negative thoughts and choose to "deal with them" rather than entertain them.
2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us what we are to do with these kinds of thoughts. "Casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God." And, then we are to, "...Forget[ting] those things which are behind, and reach[ing] forth unto those things which are before." (Philippians 3:13)
Imagination and fantasizing can simply be entertaining negative thoughts. This is not forgetting the past, but dwelling on it and trying to figure it out for ourselves.
God's answer is, "Submit yourselves, therefore, to God. Resist the devil ("have a readiness to revenge all disobedience"), and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you...." (James 4:7-8)
It's critical, therefore, to be aware of, recognize, and catch the ungodly thoughts as they come in. We are to refuse them, crucify them and annihilate them. And, we do this by giving them to God.
We must recognize that we are in a mind battle and whoever controls our thinking, will ultimately control our lives. We will win the battle, if we just know the attitudes and the essential steps to renewing our minds.
So, in review, the four critical attitudes we must have "on" daily are:
1) Presenting our bodies [to God] as living sacrifices.
2) Denying ourselves (our own thoughts, emotions and desires that are contrary to His).
3) Obeying God's Will (being willing to get up and do exactly what He has asked us to do).
4) "Taking every thought captive" and revenging all disobedience.
"I beseech you therefore, brethren...be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed (how?) by the renewing of your mind, so that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:1-2)
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To be continued next month: The first step of the Inner Court Ritual-Recognizing, acknowledging and experiencing our ungodly thoughts and emotions, so we can give them to God. This article has been excerpted from Chuck and Nan's book, Be Ye Transformed.