I’ve been thinking about thinking. I’ve been thinking about my thoughts. I’ve been thinking about my dreams and goals and ideas. And as I was doing all this thinking, I thought, “I think a lot.”
We all think a lot. Our minds are constantly going. Taking in, processing, memorizing, deciding, choosing. Even in sleep, our minds still dance with dreams. Sometimes the mind wards off sleep, not slowing down for rest, but running rampant with to-do lists, worries and excitements.
The action of thinking is powerful. In our thoughts we imagine, ideas are discovered and grown, we reason and solve problems, we decide between never-ending choices, we remember and we envision.
The action of thinking is also influential. Our thoughts, what we choose to dwell on in our minds, affect our perspectives and attitudes, which in turn affect our actions.
At the beginning of this year, I wrote a post about what God had taught me about contentment during the last year. I also wrote about seeing the need to control my thoughts, to take them captive and make them obedient to Jesus (2 Corinthians 10:5), and that I would be striving to do that in the year to come.
It has definitely been a challenge, as controlling our thoughts can be a real battle. But it has been worth it, as applying God’s Word to one’s life always is.
Like I said above, our thoughts are powerful and influential in our lives. Our thought patterns dictate our lives. That is why it is so important to make our thoughts obedient to Christ, to submit our minds to His control. So that our perspectives, our attitudes, our actions, our lives may be in line with Him.
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
Heart in this verse comes from the Hebrew word leb. As a noun, leb includes not only the feelings and desires, but also the will, the principles and the thoughts of a person. It is the source of all action and the center of all thought and feeling.
Thoughts flit in and out of the mind like birds, some beautiful and singing, bringing forth fond memories and new ideas, while others are ugly and squawk only falsehoods. And then there are the real dangerous birds. These are the birds that elegantly fly into the mind, chirping a lovely song, but a deceitful song. A song masked in pretty notes so it is not easily recognized as destructive and twisted.
We must be careful which birds we let nest in our hearts, because whichever ones do so will lay eggs and bring forth more of their likeness.
How do we capture these elusive birds and tame them, causing them to sing a new song? How do we take captive our thoughts and submit them to God, patterning them after His will?
To start, we must recognize our thought patterns. Our pattern of thinking reveals what we truly believe about ourselves, others and God. So we must learn to decipher those thoughts that are not in line with Jesus, and are destructive to our trusting in and living for Him.
We cannot control many of the situations and circumstances around us. We cannot control how others treat us or what they say to and about us. But, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can control what words we let enter and settle in our minds. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can control how we think on our circumstances and the people we encounter.
As I was learning about contentment, I realized that a lack of contentment in my heart came not from the situations or circumstances I found myself in, but rather the thoughts I let my heart dwell on. The thinking of myself as a failure if any mistake is made. The wondering if I am a disappointment to others. The questioning if I am really lovable.
Do you recognize any such thought patterns in your own mind? Maybe past mistakes come back to haunt your mind all too often. Maybe beating yourself up over your appearance or mistakes has left your heart bruised and battered. Maybe your mind has become a seat of judgement, from which you criticize. Maybe complaints and grumblings have clouded your mind.
Is thinking in such ways obedient to Christ?
To answer that question, we need to determine where such thoughts are coming from. Are they based on God’s truth, or lies?
The thinking of myself as a failure and wondering if I am lovable or a disappointment comes from the lie that my worth is found in success. That I have to be good enough to have love. That if I don’t do things perfectly, I must be a disappointment.
But my identity, my worth, my life is found in Christ, it comes from His love for me. His love that will not be removed. Even when I fail, I am not a failure. Even when I fall short, I have not fallen out of His arms (Philippians 1:21, Ephesians 5:8, 1 Peter 1:23, Romans 8:29-39).
Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
Our thoughts are not to conform to the thought pattern of the world. A thought pattern that is based on falsehoods rather than the truth of God’s Word and character. The mind must be renewed to bring about this transformation and non-conformity.
I want to be transformed. I don’t want to have anxiety in social settings because of a fear of not being liked that’s based on the lie that my security is found in people. I don’t want to be overwhelmingly stressed with responsibilities because of a fear of failing that’s based on the lie that my worth is in my success. I don’t want to take on tasks because of fear of disappointing others that’s based on the lie that their good opinion equals my identity.
I want to be transformed. To be confident in whom I am in Christ no matter who I’m with. To enjoy doing the good works Jesus has for me because I’m honoring Him. To take on challenges and responsibilities not to impress others, but to love Jesus and share His love with others.
In his book The Search for Significance (which I highly recommend), Robert McGee writes that Satan “continues to deceive people, including Christians, into believing that the basis of their worth is their performance and their ability to please others.” He then goes on to put this lie into an equation: Self-worth = Performance + Others’ Opinions
Most often, destructive thought patterns are founded in this "equation". This lie that our worth is measured by others’ opinions and our success. And when we think this way, we eventually begin to live this way, and that is why that thinking is so destructive. Because it will destroy self-esteem, it will destroy trust in God, it will destroy joy and peace.
So this lie needs to be replaced with God’s truth. Our thoughts need to start patterning after God’s thoughts. Our mind needs to become a nest that invites and harbors birds of truth, nobility, righteousness, purity and excellence; birds whose singing is lovely, admirable and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8).
The only way lies can be replaced with truth is to know the truth. Through His Word and through His Spirit, God reveals truth to us.
“[The Father] will give you another Counselor to be with you forever - the Spirit of truth… he will guide you into all truth. He will bring glory to Me by taking from what is Mine and making it known to you.” John 14:16-17, 16:13-14
We must make time daily to learn the truth in God’s Word. We are to meditate on this truth, and hide it in our hearts, our leb (Joshua 1:8, Psalm 119:11). It is from God’s Word that we can know His thoughts on things. His thoughts about us, about others, about who we are, what we are to do, how we are to live.
1 Corinthians 2 says that we have the “mind of Christ”. Reading earlier verses of this chapter reveal that it is God’s Spirit working in our minds, helping us judge (think) rightly about situations, other people and ourselves.
“Put off the old self, which is being corrupted by it’s deceitful desires; be made new in the attitude of your minds; put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:24, emphasis added
To make our thoughts obedient to Christ, we must identify those that are not in line with His truth, what deceit we are believing, and replace the lies with the truth found in God’s Word. By the Holy Spirit, this truth will then direct our thoughts, and the new, righteous and holy self God created will emerge.
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The post Thoughts first appeared on The Overflowing.
Photography by Somin Khanna, found on Unsplash, edited by Jessica Faith
The Holy Bible, New International Version Copyright 1984
The New Strong's Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible by James Strong, copyright 2010
The Search for Significance by Robert S. McGee, copyright 2003