What do you think about?
When you’re alone, no TV, no work, no friends, no Internet, what occupies your mind?
The Apostle Paul had a lot to say about thinking. And perhaps one reason that Paul’s “thoughts on thoughts” speak so loudly to today’s Christian is that he so well anticipated the issues of our day. Take this verse, for example:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.Phillipians 4:8
To be sure, in Paul’s day, men (and women) had sinful thoughts. Lust, theft, drugs, murder – all of these were common 2,000 years ago, just as they are in our time. However, unlike today, they didn’t have endless media messages bombarding their minds. Messages promoting sin, making light of it, or even glorifying it are everywhere, surroundng us with ideas about how to live our lives in ways that don’t honor God and his son, Jesus. Thinking about praiseworthy things is so much more difficult now, when we have no choice but to see messages that are most decidely unpraiseworthy.
And that fact makes Paul’s next admonition, in a different letter, all the more important.
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.2 Corinthians 10:5
Interesting choice of words, “taking thoughts captive.” It’s not as simple as just “thinking of something positive” when impure or immoral thoughts cross your mind. That’s the mantra of the “power of positivity” crowd. It helps, but it’s not enough. No, Paul’s language suggests something stronger, more intense, and longer lasting. The definition of “captive” in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary is equally telling: “taken and held as or as if a prisoner of war.”
And as Paul again points out, in yet another letter and with equal eloquence, an unseen war for our very souls is exactly what we’re facing.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.Ephesians 6:4
In my next few posts, I’ll explore what it means to take our thoughts captive, and in turn to make them obedient to Jesus. It’s a lot to take in, and I hope you’ll join me on this journey.