PROGRAM W-1730 – Part II
I have demonstrated how Philippians 4:8 gives us clear guidelines into which our thoughts must be confined. Those guidelines are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable.
Did you take my challenge? Did you examine your thoughts, one by one, checking them out to see if they meet these requirements? Did you think about what you were thinking about? I hope so. If you did, you may have discovered that much of your thinking failed to fall within the acceptable boundaries.
Undoubtedly you saw that critical thoughts don’t fit. Negative thinking is way off limits. Complaining thoughts are never lovely, and proud thoughts are rarely pure or true. Bitter thinking is never noble, and self-pitying thoughts are anything but admirable or lovely. Applying these guidelines to our thinking really illuminates how much of our thinking is wrong!
To think correctly, we must think biblically. To think biblically, we must know God’s Word. To know God’s Word, we must spend time reading, studying, listening to, and absorbing it. That must be our highest priority. Whenever your spiritual life is out of sorts, it is because your thinking is out of sorts. And your thinking gets out of sorts when you don’t know God’s Word, you don’t spend significant time in God’s Word, and/or you choose to disobey what you do know about God’s Word.
The parameters for our thoughts, from Philippians 4:8, are strict guidelines. They may appear impossible to you, or perhaps legalistic or restrictive. But hang in here with me, because the best is yet to come. There is freedom and great reward for right thinking, and it is totally possible for you to bring your thoughts into captivity, if you really want to!
I can testify that captive thinking becomes more attractive the more you practice it. When I was first starting to practice this principle, I found myself one day getting into some self-pity thoughts—the “poor me” syndrome. It was a way of thinking that was fairly common for me before, but I had come to realize that self-pity thoughts simply don’t fit the guidelines and, therefore, must be abandoned.
On this particular day, as I caught myself starting to feel sorry for myself, I stopped and said to myself, “I don’t want to be depressed. I don’t want to be blue or down. I will not think these self-pity thoughts.”
Those thoughts were now distasteful to me. I had enough experience at changing my thinking to realize how much better it is not to indulge in self-pity thinking. Don’t get me wrong: that was not the last time I’ve had thoughts of self-pity. It is a continuing lesson to learn. But each time I am tempted to indulge in self-pity, I remember how much better it is to change those thought patterns, such that there are fewer and fewer self-pity thoughts in my mind these days.
Once you get into the habit of screening and testing your thoughts, then the question is, “How do I stop thinking the wrong thoughts? I can determine they’re wrong, but I can’t stop thinking them?!”
Here are two things that have helped me immeasurably:
The first is what I call the Replacement Theory—replacing wrong thoughts with right ones. This theory works because it is a biblical principle. Isaiah 26:3 tells us, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” In Hebrews 12:2-3 we read: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. . . Consider [or think constantly of] him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Fixing our eyes means concentrating our thoughts on Jesus.
We have a replacement thought as Christians that is guaranteed to work every time we need to replace a wrong thought with a right thought. That replacement thought is Jesus Christ. When in doubt, think about Jesus!
For instance, I struggle with proud thoughts. But if I replace proud thoughts with thoughts about my Savior, and I think of all he has done for me and his incredible humility, the proud thoughts have to go. They cannot occupy the same space with thoughts of Jesus Christ. They are incompatible.
Thankfulness is a sure cure for self-pitying thoughts. Start reciting all you have to be thankful for, and the self-pity has to stop.
I don’t mean to imply that it’s always easy to replace wrong thoughts. It isn’t. The moment of abandoning the wrong thoughts and forcing myself to think correctly is a moment of struggle in my mind. Sometimes I have to replace wrong thoughts every minute or two. But don’t let that discourage you. Keep applying this principle. Keep replacing. You’re changing habits that are ingrained, adjusting thought patterns that have been long-established in your mind, and you’re in a warfare with your enemy. So don’t give up! Continue replacing the wrong thoughts with the right thoughts as many times as necessary.
The second thing that will help greatly in creating a right thought life is to carefully guard what you put into your mind. You’re probably aware of the expression “Garbage In, Garbage Out” as it relates to computers. Nothing could be more true of our minds, as well. If you put garbage into your mind, your thought life will reflect that input.
What do you read? Trashy novels, trivial magazines, and secular newspapers? Do you spend more time reading God’s Word and good Christian material than you do reading the world’s literature, even if it’s not necessarily evil? You will never change your thinking if you’re reading trash, or you’re failing to read the Bible, consistently giving it top priority over all other reading.
What do you look at on television and at movies? If you spend hours watching television, chances are you’re pouring lots of trash into your mind. Those soap operas and situation comedies are full of immorality and non-Christian lifestyles. If you’re pouring that stuff into your mind, forget having a good thought life. It won’t happen. If you’re going to change your thinking, it’s highly likely you’ll need to change your television and movie habits. Keep this in mind—you don’t want to be laughing at what grieves the heart of God.
What do you listen to? Are you soaking up the world’s music? Much of the lyrics are absolutely evil. You may think that those lyrics don’t get to you and you just like the music, but you’re wrong. Those lyrics get into your mind. If the lyrics don’t meet the thought standards of true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable, you should not listen to that music.
What kind of conversations do you listen to? Do you subject yourself to off-color conversations, gossipy conversations, and critical conversations? Your thinking won’t change with that kind of input entering your mind.
Reprogramming your mind requires careful screening of all that enters it. Think of your mind as a large container. Over this container is a screen, called true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable, which filters everything that enters it. As long as you keep that screen tightly fit over the entrance to your mind, you will screen out the wrong thoughts. An amazing thing to realize is that lifting that screen even for a moment is dangerous.
I remember one night, I had planned to do some writing. I was getting ready to begin, and I had meant to turn off the television after watching the news. Right at that moment, a TV movie came on, and I looked at it a couple of minutes, intending to turn it right off. Unfortunately, I got hooked. The next thing I knew, two hours had passed—I had watched the whole thing. While I wouldn’t call it X-rated, the subject matter was not first-class—it was about some adulterous affair, making adultery look sympathetic. For days I couldn’t get that junky movie out of my mind. Furthermore, I had wasted my whole evening!
I don’t do that anymore because I don’t want to face the job of cleaning my mind up from all the trash that gets in. It takes a long time to get those trashy thoughts out.
If you will change the input into your mind, you’ll be amazed at how your thinking will change. Scripture memorization is a fantastic way to program your mind correctly. Good reading has helped me immensely. And, of course, essential is the Word of God, poured into your mind regularly and systematically.
Anytime we neglect pouring God’s Word into our life regularly, we can expect wrong thinking to take place. That will then result in wrong actions, in problems, in frustrations, and in dilemmas. Our American mind-set is to look for quick fixes, short cuts, and instant solutions. Right thinking doesn’t come in a pill you take once a day. It comes mostly by spending time with the Lord, saturating your life with his Word, and getting rid of the junk you’ve been allowing into your mind.
For right thinking we are promised two wonderful things, found in Romans 8:6: “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.”
Life and peace. You can’t buy them, you can’t earn them, and you can’t manufacture them. They come to you as a result of having a mind set on the Spirit of God, having a mind controlled by his Spirit, and having a thought life that stays carefully within the acceptable bounds of true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable.
If you’re really tired of the ups and downs of your life, and hungry to know freedom from sins and attitudes that weigh you down, learning to bring your though patterns under control is the doorway to freedom. This is meant to be the normal life of every Christian, but few ever discover it. I hope and pray I’ve been able to help some of you, who are willing, see how you can transform your life by renewing your mind and bringing your thoughts into captivity. I can testify to you, as one who is still learning to practice this principle, that it makes wonderful differences in your life, and is well worth the effort.