Thoughts on Thoughts
Christians are front-line soldiers for Christ. Enduring the fiercest of the devil’s attacks, we stand firm in the faith. Despite the strength of the devil’s weapons, no Christian will ever fly the white flag of surrender. Christ stands before his army a conqueror, having taken, what would have been to us, a debilitating blow so we may stand for Him. We fall victim from time to time to the enemy’s cruelty and deceit, but our Commander is constant. Just as He has been the Arm for His people throughout the ages, so He too is our Arm to help us maintain our position. But to do this we need to know what type of weapons the enemy has. Satan’s weapon of choice against individual Christians is thought. Every factor that dictates our lives; emotion, word, action, stems from our thoughts. The devil knows that if you knock out the foundation, the whole house will fall.
Our world is being unapologetically saturated with the most debasing mentality that people have yet faced. The thoughts and ideas held by the majority of the population hold dear no divine characteristic. The results of which we see played out not only in the news, but in the personal lives of every individual. It is obvious that the great controversy is not just a bloody battle between Christ and Satan; it is equally a battle fought privately between the ears of every Christian; a battle which is gaining in its ferocity.
The issues are not simply a result of a failing societal system and a rapidly regressing public conscience, they are personal attacks designed by Satan on the minds and hearts of God’s people. And what a clever devil he is—an enemy who knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows every thought, feeling, and desire. Our thoughts are his door into our minds, hearts, actions, and lives. When Adam and Eve were created they ruled the earth under God, but the moment they sinned, the dominion over earth and everything in it was given to Satan. Christians have a way out of this though, by claiming Christ as a personal Savior. However, laying that claim is where the real work begins. Our duty from that moment on is to learn to exemplify Him. We are told to look to the life of Christ as an example by which to live; a perfect example. But we fall so short. We try and try again to change what we do and say to imitate Jesus and … we fall and fall again. If we are not surrounding ourselves with things that are Christ-like, if we are meditating on things that Jesus would not have anything to do with, there is no possibility for change. The mind and what goes on in it is the key to absolutely everything in our lives.
“Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character.” Unknown.
In other words, everything starts with our thoughts. They are ground zero. Our words are the result of what we are processing in our minds. It makes no difference whether they are impulsive or well thought through. If we are in the habit of thinking things that we would not want to say aloud, it will come out when we are not guarded, or in times of intense emotion. Focusing solely on changing our words and actions is like taking the cough out of the cold. The cough may go away for a little while but so long as the cold still lingers, the cough and all the other miserable symptoms will recur. The devil knows this and will attack us at the very foundation—our thoughts. The Bible put it very simply; “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7. This is true not just because our true motives, ideas, and emotions, which are not shown to anyone else, are stored there, but because our mentality is exemplified in our lives.
Mark Twain once said, “What a small part of a person’s life are his actions and his words. His real life is led in his head; known to no one but himself.” How true this is. The famous author is saying that our actions and words are only the fruit of the plant, but there would be no plant without the seed—our thoughts. “Great thoughts, noble aspirations, clear perceptions of truth, unselfish purposes, yearnings for piety and holiness, will bear fruit in words that reveal the character of the heart treasure.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 338. Bearing the fruit that Christ says all true Christians will bear begins in the mind. People can attempt to change their actions and words; we can try to change our lives by moving in a different direction outwardly, but without changing how we think, it is a hopeless cause; we will always revert back to the same rut. Jesus likening us to the fruit of a vine is more apropos than many may think. We are the fruit of what we dwell upon. We can try to put on the fruit of Christianity for a time, but if the seed planted is still a thistle, that is what will be produced. We cannot generate fruit unless we change the seed. Our thoughts are the seeds from which everything else in our lives spring forth, and only by dwelling on the fruits of Christ can we produce His fruits.
“It is a law both of the intellect and the spiritual nature, that by beholding we become changed. The mind gradually adapts itself to the subjects upon which it is allowed to dwell.” The Great Controversy, 555. When a vineyard is planted, trellises are erected to guide the vine as it grows. We have trellises in our lives also. The things that we allow into our lives and minds are the trellis and we will naturally grow in the direction in which it leads. There is not one thing in life that we are not affected by. Where and how we spend our time, what relationships we cultivate, the environment in which we live, the media we allow; our thought patterns are affected by all these things, and thus, since our words, actions, and lives are driven by our thoughts, we are affected drastically.
Every person is endowed by the Holy Spirit with a conscience. It is a tool that allows us to distinguish what things we would have in our lives. It is much like a muscle; when it is used, it grows stronger. In neglect, it dissipates into nothing. The same principle applies to our moral lives and what we take in. When our spiritual muscles are growing weak with the relenting of scruples, we lose the muscle we once had and cannot withstand the pressures of the world we once could when we were in better condition. And since thought is a precursor to action, when we allow things into our minds that are questionable, we are weakening our senses to the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit. As the saying goes, “Use it or lose it”. We can strengthen our consciences again only by responding to the slightest of reproofs and reigning in our words and actions based upon those whispers. When we seek to justify ourselves, we are working against the Holy Spirit, and our actions will show it. If we feel a right to thinking or saying or behaving in a way that is against God’s character, we will naturally exhibit those things and grieve the Holy Spirit.
“It is not necessary that anyone should yield to the temptations of Satan and thus violate his own conscience and grieve the Holy Spirit. Every provision has been made in the Word of God whereby all may have divine help in their endeavors to overcome.” God’s Amazing Grace, 73.
If a garden is not carefully tended, weeds will overtake everything that was once beautiful and thriving. It takes no work at all, no effort, for something to be destroyed. The mind can be an amazing tool if properly maintained; however, the slightest neglect gives the devil room to come in, for an idle mind is the devil’s playground. We must constantly be educating ourselves in Christ. If our minds are stagnant for a moment, or if we allow thoughts in that are directly contrary to Christ, we are giving the devil a space to force his own agenda. Satan’s portal of entry into our lives is through our minds, and he will put thoughts in our heads without our permission. He is invasive and forceful. God, on the other hand, is not. His principles are based on love, and He is ever patient and gives us freedom of choice. If we want Him and his attributes in our lives we must seek it out, and there is nothing that pleases Him so well; He wishes us to seek Him and His kingdom. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33. Satan wants to dominate us, and since he is the only one that will invade our lives where he is not wanted, is it any wonder that we would tend to think things that Christ would wish never to enter our heads? Thoughts are so very fleeting; they come and go even without us being aware of them sometimes. It is something like breathing. We do not need to try to have a thought come into our minds, just like we do not need to try to take a breath. It would, in fact, take quite a concerted effort not to breathe or think.
We should not let anything into our lives that we would be ashamed to dwell on in God’s presence. He is always aware of what we are thinking, saying and doing. Nothing escapes His omniscience. What if our thoughts were known to those around us? What if we each wore a neon sign that exposed every single thing that crossed our minds? There is absolutely no doubt, in this case, that we would control our thoughts, and if there was a fleeting thought that came across our neon sign that we would loath to share, we would quickly change our train of thinking rather than dwelling upon it. Why, though, would we be so very concerned with a neon sign that would expose us to other people, when we broadcast our every notion to God?
I have often chuckled at the stupidity of the devil when he called a “secret” meeting of the angels in heaven to turn them against God. What was he thinking? God is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent; yet we share in the devil’s stupidity in believing that if we just think, we are getting away with something. But this is obviously not the case. “Guard your thoughts, close the door to temptation. Do your work as in the sight of the divine Watcher.” Counsels on Health, 341. Rather than condemning us though, God simply asks us, to revert our attention back to Him.
We must control what thoughts come and go, but given how quick and unbidden they are, it is quite a challenge. The mind needs to become educated by the character of Christ. When we focus our attention on worldly pleasures, we are starving our spiritual beings. The whole of a person’s being operates on one basic principle: what we put into it, we will get out of it. If we only ate food that lacked the nutrition our body requires to maintain itself, our physical health would plummet, and our quality of life would deteriorate also. Likewise with the mind; if we feed our minds with things that are nonsensical and of an immoral nature, we are starving our mental, spiritual, and emotional beings, the effects of which will show in how we feel emotionally, what we say, and how we act. God is our teacher and wishes to train our minds to dwell upon His attributes and to think as He would think, and behave as He would; be one with Christ as Christ and the Father are one (See John 17:21), beginning with everything that we dwell on and allow into our minds and hearts. It is more difficult to retrain than to learn, and it will not be an easy task. Doing so requires us to be surrounded only by those things which are holy, things in which God may be present. When we become accustomed to things that are distasteful to God, we must retrain our spiritual and mental tastes. The devil ensures that sin looks far more glamorous and appealing and satisfying than does holiness and purity. It takes discipline and self-denial to train the mind simply to want something different. Constant prayer that God would give you a desire for things that are pleasing to Him is also needed, and while He is working on your heart and mind, work hard to eradicate anything that may be displeasing to Christ. He is desperate to work with us, but refuses to play tug-o-war with us. So long as we are on the same side of the rope as Jesus, He will help us, and the devil will fall.
There is nothing that a person exhibits—thoughts, words, or actions, that has not already been processed in the mind. An impulsive word may come out unbidden, but is the direct descendant of a thought pattern. If thoughts are habitually pure and kind, there is no possibility of having anger and hatred come out. It would be like planting a grapevine and coming out with a thistle. It simply does not happen. This is why we are told in Philippians 4:8, “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, 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.” In these things the Holy Spirit can work with us. If we do not grieve Him in our thoughts and in what springs forth from our thoughts, Christ can dwell with us and guide us. Only in Him is there purity and beauty, and only through Him can we ever hope to eradicate anything unworthy of God’s children.
Alicia Freedman is currently working on our LandMarks team and can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.