"Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires" (Rom. 8:5).What an astounding truth! Here Paul is saying that one's behavior, either ungodly or godly, will be the result of the thoughts he has been pondering! This is why we *must* be more disciplined in our thought life. Paul certainly was. He said he took "captive every thought" (2 Cor. 10:5). He went on to report to the Roman Christians, who were Spirit filled, that they would "be transformed" after their minds were renewed (by God's Word), Rom. 12:2. The key to fruitful Christian living and endurance is pondering thoughts of God, his will for us now and our future beyond the grave. Conversely, pondering thoughts of rebellion or indifference to God's will, will have an adverse affect.
Regarding endurance, we are living at a time when The Parable of the Ten Virgins applies (Mt. 25:1-13). Jesus taught there that 50% (or 5 out of 10) who once had a lamp burning for the Lord will hear when He returns, "I don't know you," v. 12. (This helps explain why so many are so lethargic about the things of God.)
"All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved" (Mt. 10:22).He also told the Christians at Smyrna that they would suffer persecution for 10 days. Then he said:
"Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life .... He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death" (Rev. 2:10,11).These verses spell loud and clear the necessity of endurance for salvation's sake. With this in mind, the writer of Hebrews cited the key to endurance for past righteous people, who were "commended for their faith." The key was through their pondered thoughts! See Heb. 11:35b-39a. They endured torture, refusing to be released, because they pondered the resurrection, v. 35b!
"We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost -- also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!"The devil reminded them of only the good tasting food of Egypt, but not the severe oppression and bitter lives they had. They lost sight of the Promised Land because they focused their thoughts on the present hard circumstances and past fond memories of their former lifestyle. This is the exact way the devil will tempt us to return to the darkness and slavery to sin we escaped from when we got saved. The devil will never remind us of the emptiness of the things of this world we experienced then or the regret, shame and guilt of our sins, but only the "pleasures of sin" (Heb. 11:25) when we were abiding under the wrath of God (Jn. 3:36). He tempts us today to return to Egypt, a type of the world, as he tempted the Israelites then!
Similarly, in Heb. 11:15,16 we read:
"If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country -- a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them."Clearly, this text shows the potential danger of Egypt. The word rendered "thinking" comes from a Greek word in the imperfect tense, which refers to "continuous or linear action in past time." In other words, if their thought life had been continuously on the things of their past life "they would have had opportunity to return" to that lifestyle! This reveals why the devil gives us thoughts of our past life in which we lived when we were "in ignorance" (1 Pet. 1:14). Furthermore, the pronoun "they" refers to the ones cited earlier in Heb. 11 -- Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob! Even such righteous people as these would have been adversely affected by pondering the wrong thoughts, that is, thoughts not in accord to God's will!
The Bible does tell us how we should "remember" our past life, which is diametrically opposed to how the Israelites remembered it. It says our past life, before we were saved, should be remembered as a time in which we were hopelessly lost and without God in the world (Eph. 2:12). Verse 13 shows we should also ponder the contrasting good of our present life because of the blood of Christ. Pondering these kinds of thoughts will assure that we will not become a backslider.
"Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes" (Eph. 6:11).We are clearly told how to win our battle against the devil -- we are to "resist" him (Jam. 4:7b; 1 Pet. 5:9). We do this by resisting his thoughts.
The other source of evil thoughts we must contend with is our own sinful nature (Eph. 2:3). When one gets "born again" (Jn. 3:5; 1 Pet. 1:23), he takes on a new nature, that is, the "divine nature" (2 Pet. 1:4), which refers to our new righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:22-24). These two natures co-exist within each Christian. Hence, there is an internal conflict (Gal. 5:17). The danger of the sinful nature still exists as shown by Paul's multiple warnings to the Christians in the region of Galatia, regarding its acts (Gal. 5:19-21). Therefore, Paul writes:
"So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature" (Gal. 5:16).How are Christians to "live by the Spirit," so they won't gratify the desires of the sinful nature? Again, the answer is found in Rom. 8:5, as mentioned above in this study. In other words, we won't gratify the desires of the sinful nature if our pondered thoughts are in accord with God's will for us. Remember: pondered thoughts produce actions. Paul, knowing how our thoughts affect our behavior, tells us what we must not think about. He said:
"Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature" (Rom. 13:13,14).This is how we "crucify the flesh," that is, how we kill its illicit desires -- starving them to death by not feeding them through our thought life. Rom. 13:14b in the Amplified Bible reads:
"... make no provision for [indulging] the flesh -- put a stop to thinking about the evil cravings of your physical nature -- to [gratify its] desires (lusts)."See Gal. 5:19-21 and Col. 3:5-10 for a list of the desires of the sinful nature.
These are the two sources of evil thoughts that feed sinful desires, "which war against your soul" (1 Pet. 2:11). [Remember, the mind is the battlefield and our battle is against sinful desires.] From the body of the New Testament, it is our own personal choice to ponder certain thoughts. It is up to us to control the thoughts that we allow to come to rest in our mind. We will all do well to accept Paul's advice:
"And set your minds and keep them set on what is above -- the higher things -- not on the things that are on the earth" (Col. 3:2, Amplified Bible).
Lot's wife made the serious and fatal mistake of choosing to ponder thoughts in her heart of her past life in Sodom, even after her deliverance. That led to her own destruction! See Gen. 19:16-26. When Jesus gave the command to "Remember Lot's wife" (Lk. 17:32), he was citing her as an example of one who tried to keep her life and lost it, v. 33. He knew that if we chose to obey him and pondered thoughts of her folly, it would benefit us just as her pondered thoughts led to her downfall! Our pondered thoughts will build us up or tear us down spiritually.
Being restored spiritually, after backsliding to a dead and lost spiritual condition (Lk. 15:24,32), follows the pondering of certain thoughts of the past! This is explicitly shown with the Prodigal Son. It wasn't until he pondered thoughts of his past life with the Father, when he was spiritually alive, that his subsequent wise behavior followed. Again, he didn't come to his senses spiritually, until the right thoughts were meditated upon. He pondered the food that was there. He pondered the possible conversation he might have there with the Father and how he would speak of his sins. These produced actions. See Lk. 15:17-20. His voluntary thoughts affected what he was to become.
Similarly, Jesus said to the church group that forsook their first love:
"Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first" (Rev. 2:4,5).The Lord's advice is identical with the Prodigal's experience. In other words, it is our choice to ponder thoughts that will cause us to draw near to God or to ponder thoughts that will cause us to turn away from God. We choose life over death when we obey God, but we don't obey God until we first ponder the right thoughts!
"... A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life."Again, we "sow" to either of our two natures by the thoughts we ponder. The Greek reveals that the word, "sow" used in verse 7 refers to the habitual. In other words, the thoughts that we continually ponder in our minds will affect us in a good or bad way, depending on which nature we feed by our thoughts or "sow to please." Remember Rom. 8:5,6.
Wholesome thinking clearly centers around reading and pondering God's Word (2 Pet. 3:1,2). According to the inspired writer of Psalm 119, when we are diligent and disciplined enough to hide God's Word in our heart our personal sinning will be impeded, v. 11. [How many Bible verses have YOU hidden in your heart this past month by meditation and memorization?]
Finally, keeping a Scriptural gospel tune in your heart, like Amazing Grace or I'd Rather Have Jesus, will also help our thought life. Such music will benefit greatly during times of depression and anxiety too.
In summary, the four ways to improve your thought life are:
Remember, your thought life is extremely important. Monitor your thought life to make it pleasing to God.
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