Every Thought

When we came out of this world we made changes to our lives.  We made many behavioural changes as we came to associate with other believers.  But have we gone deeper than that?  Have we dealt with the innermost thought processes and imaginations of our minds?  Changing the innermost working of the mind is perhaps the greatest challenge we all face.

Before we were called out of this world neither our ways, nor our thoughts were like God’s, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9).  In fact our thoughts were an abomination to Him, “The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the LORD:” (Proverbs 15:26).  How did we, whom God created in His own likeness (Genesis 1:26), become so distanced from Him in our deeds and thoughts? 

Corruption of Human Nature

We were created with an intellect that distinguished us from other creatures.  The intellect known as human nature is the spirit of man, “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him?” (I Corinthians 2:11 see also Zechariah 12:1).  The spirit of man enables us to make choices rather than act on instinct.  So what went wrong?  How did we end up with a mind that is at odds with God’s “…the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” (Romans 8:7)?

At the time of creation our first parents, Adam and Eve, were given the freedom to choose between the ‘tree of life’ which led to eternal life, or the tree of ‘the knowledge of good and evil’ which led to eternal death.  It seems a simple straight forward choice.  But Adam and Eve were persuaded by Satan to eat from the tree of ‘the knowledge of good and evil’ because he told them, “you shall not surely die” (Genesis 3:4).  With one simple lie he destroyed their faith in God (Genesis 3:1-4).  It was a foolish mistake on their part, “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,” (Romans 1:22).  It resulted in the corruption of the spirit in man, or human nature, which became a mixture of good and evil.  Consequently they were rejected by God from the Garden of Eden, “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;” (Romans 1:28).   

It was a subtle move on Satan’s part because he knew that the toxic mixture of good and evil would become inherent, or fixed, in human nature and be passed on to corrupt all future generations, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:” (Romans 5:12).  Through his subtle ploy Satan had brought about the rejection of all of humanity.  He caused us all to sin and come short of the glory that God had prepared for us, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” (Romans 3:23).  Satan was hoping that the corruption of human nature would eventually destroy the human race altogether. 

Moral Decline

Satan who is the god of this world (II Corinthians 4:4) had gained spiritual influence over humanity, “…ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:” (Ephesians 2:2).  He successfully moved the focus of human nature from the spiritual to the physical rudimentary things of this world, “Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:” (Galatians 4:3).   He knew that the desire for riches, power and status that would create envy, “Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?” (James 4:5).  And that envy would lead to conflict, “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?  Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.  Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.  Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” (James 4:1-4).     

The desire for things of this world has also manifested itself in many other ways, “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21).   We have been enticed by envy to our own destruction, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:  But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.  Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1:13-15).  It is important for us to understand the depravity of which human nature is capable.

Moral Corruption

Under the influence of Satan human nature became morally corrupt, “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.  Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:  Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever.” (Romans 1:21-25). 

Our immoral behaviour is not acceptable to God, “Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” (Romans 1:29-32).  He will not allow any form of evil to enter His Kingdom.

The very core of human intellect had been corrupted, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man…” (Matthew 15:19-20).  It had become wicked and deceitful, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).  Even in our best state we do not rate highly in God’s eyes, “...verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity.” (Psalms 39:5). The Hebrew word translated ‘vanity’ indicates emptiness, something transitory and unsatisfactory.

After more than sixteen hundred years of moral decline there was only one man in the last generation before the flood who, “…found grace in the eyes of the LORD.” (Genesis 6:8).  The physical salvation of the human race through Noah foreshadowed the spiritual salvation that would take place in the future through Jesus Christ, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.... …That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:19, and 21).   

Man’s thoughts and imaginations had become predominantly evil as they lost sight of God, “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5).  In Noah’s time life was extremely violent because of man’s corrupt nature, “The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.  And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.  And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” (Genesis 6:11-12).  He saved Noah and his family.

Plan of Salvation

Satan was probably convinced that he had outsmarted God and had brought about the downfall of humanity.  ButGod the creator all things (Revelation 4:11 and Ephesians 3:9) who has power over Satan (Job 1:6-12) knew that our first parents would be tempted to make the wrong choice.  He had allowed humanity to be exposed to evil knowing full well that Satan’s work could and would be destroyed.  Nevertheless He was still grieved at the moral state to which humanity had declined and said that it would not always be that way, “And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man...” (Genesis 6:3).  

God knew that corrupt human nature would inevitably lead to destruction, “…except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved:” (Matthew 24:22).  And had already planned to redeem humanity through His Son Jesus Christ, “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” (1John 3:8).  This had been His plan from the beginning, “Known unto God are all his (Christ’s) works from the beginning of the world.” (Acts 5:18).   

God’s intentions were conveyed to Abraham when He said, “…and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3).  It is through Jesus Christ, a descendant of Abraham (Matthew 1:1-16) that the works of Satan will be destroyed.  Humanity’s relationship with God will be restored so we can receive our inheritance.  He is not going to let mankind, the pinnacle of His creation, be destroyed.

An Incorruptible Nature

To redeem mankind God will replace our corrupted nature with one that is uncorrupted.  When we respond to the call to salvation with sincere repentance and are baptised we will receive the Holy Spirit.  The baptism at which the Holy Spirit is given is the baptism of those who are of age and after repentance are willing to make a commitment under the New Covenant“Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38 NKJV).  The Holy Spirit is the very essence of the mind and divine nature of an incorruptible God (Romans 1:23).  The baptism at which the Holy Spirit is given is the baptism of those who are of age and after repentance are willing to make a commitment under the New Covenant.

Jesus Christ who came to this earth as a human being and openly received God’s Spirit when he was baptised (John 1:29-34) was the first human being to be resurrected, “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.”  (I Corinthians 15:20).  He pioneered the way so we can follow, “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.” (I Corinthians 15:21-23 see also James 1:18).

Transformation

We are in the process of becoming a new creation, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (II Corinthians 5:17). 

This is not something that can be achieved through our own thought processes, “Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?” (Matthew 6:27).  Nor can we do it merely by conforming to a human concept of moral decency or religiosity.  In our corrupt state we simply cannot comprehend the true morality of God, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9). The only way we can come to the fullness of Christ is through a transformation by the renewing of the mind, “… be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2).  The English word ‘transformed’ has been translated from the Greek word ‘metamorphoo’ from which the English word metamorphosis is derived.  Metamorphosis is the process of change.  An example of metamorphosis is process whereby a caterpillar is transformed into a butterfly.  It involves a complete change from one form of creature to another form.   

We will be transformed by the renewing of the spirit in man with the same Spirit that is in Christ, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:” (Philippians 2:5-6).  The Spirit of Christ is also the same as the spirit that is in the Father – it is the Holy Spirit.   Our metamorphosis commences when we receive the Holy Spirit which is the essence of both the Father and Christ. That is what Christ meant when he said, “At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.” (John 14:20). 

With God’s Spirit in us we become His very sons and daughters, “…I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” (II Corinthians 6:16-18). 

As we submit to God that Spirit begins to grow and bear fruit (Galatians 5:22 also see Ephesians 5:9).  The process continues as we strive to follow Christ, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Galatians 3:27).   To put on Christ means to be clothed in Christ’s righteousness, “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.” (Revelation 19:7-8).   

Over time that fruit of the Spirit will mature until we become like Christ, “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:” (Ephesians 4:13).  The process is completed when we are resurrected to eternal life as new creatures, “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.  For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality  So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 15:51-55). 

This is what God promised when He said, “And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:” (Ezekiel 11:19 also 36:6).  Through a new Spirit we can be reconciled to God and forgiven, “Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 18:31).  Although this was addressed primarily to Israel with whom God was dealing at that time it is obvious that this will apply to all those who are to be reconciled to Him.

Spiritual Battle

Having the Holy Spirit is the first step toward salvation.  With it we can enter battle against powerful spiritual influences, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12).  Satan is a powerful spirit being who has influence over humanity through the spirit of man which he corrupted in the first place, “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:  Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” (Ephesians 2:2-3). 

Because we yielded to Satan we were his servants,  “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Romans 6:16).  And in the past we unwittingly yielded to sin, “…as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.” (Romans 6:19).  But now we are able to yield ourselves to God instead, “Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God,” (Romans 5:13).   

Because Satan can still influence us through the spirit of man that remains in us we must continue to put off that corrupted spirit and put on the incorruptible Spirit of God, “…That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24).  This is not something we can do without help. 

Although we are battling a spirit being with great power we are not alone, nor without support.  God is in control and He is more powerful than Satan (Job 1:6-12).  Both Christ and his Father will be with us, “… If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”  (John 14:18).  The Father is aware of our needs, “…for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.” (Matthew 6:8).  And Jesus Christ said that he will not leave us without help, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” (John 14:18). 

Having started a work they are not going to give up on us, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” (Philippians 1:6).  Neither must we give up, “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62).   

The changes we need to make are more than superficial.  We need to change what we desire, the way we think and how we reason.

Forsaking Our Desires

Human nature, fuelled by envy and greed, desires the things of this world such as power, status and wealth,“From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” (James 4:1).  But because we now have God’s Spirit we are no longer part of this world, “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.” (Romans 8:9).  Our desire should no longer be for the physical things, but for the things spiritual, “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.” (Romans 8:5).   

Unfortunately these desires for status power and wealth that come from a corrupt nature are still rife on the Churches of God causing many splits, factions and competition that frustrate the work of God.

The Spirit reveals to us the things of God, “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” (I Corinthians 2:11).  When we focus our desire on the things of God the Spirit should quell our desire for the things of this world, “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” (Romans 8:13).  By quelling the corrupt desires of human nature that lead to death and focussing on the right desires wrought by God’s Spirit dwelling in us we will be led to eternal life, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” (Romans 8:14, also II Corinthian 6:18).

If we get our priorities right and seek the things of God first He will provide what is sufficient for us to live in this world, “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?  (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.  But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.  Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” (Matthew 6:31-34). 

Forsaking Our Thoughts

We may be able to keep our thoughts secret from each other, but we cannot keep them secret from God, “Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.” (Malachi 4:16-17).

Having committed ourselves to God we need to exercise the power of the Spirit that he has given to us by resisting Satan, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7).  When Satan flees we can overcome his evil influence with good, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21).  With the spiritual help God provides we can also resist unrighteous thoughts, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD” (Isaiah 55:7).  And we can focus our thoughts on things that are righteous, “Finally, brethren, 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. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9). 

By seeking those things that are righteous we can keep our focus on the goal God has prepared for us, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.  Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.  For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4).  And eventually we will bring every thought into alignment with Christ, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” (II Corinthians 10:5).  God gives us the ability to bring every thought into captivity as we continue to submit to Him.

Forsaking Our Own Reasoning

When mankind subjected itself to Satan human reasoning became foolish, “…when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations (reasonings), and their foolish heart was darkened.  Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,” (Romans 1:21-22).  Human nature was turned against God, “the carnal mind is enmity against God” (Romans 8:7).  Truth became obscured, “the truth of God into a lie” (verse 25) and humanity became motivated by their own desires, “uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts” (verse 24).  Because they could not see or touch God they reasoned He didn’t exist, or that He must be something they could see and touch, “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,  And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.” (Romans 1:22-23).   

This corrupt reasoning, which man will go to great lengths to defend, has created a barrier between humanity and God that must be destroyed.  And it has only been through the sacrifice of Christ that this has been made possible, “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.  For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;  Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;  And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:  And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” (Ephesians 2:13-18). 

Self-justification is a result of human reasoning.  It is easy to justify ourselves even if our words and actions are wrong.  This is an abomination to God, “He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD.” (Proverbs 17:15).  We may fool ourselves but we cannot fool God, “And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him (Christ).  And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.” (Luke 16:14-15).  Using human reasoning to justify ourselves is something we must overcome.

Through God’s Spirit we can tear down the strongholds of our corrupt reasoning, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” (II Corinthians 10:3-5).

With His Spirit in us we can see things that are beyond the capability of the spirit in man and its corrupt human reasoning, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.  But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.  For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.  But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (I Corinthians 2:9-14).   It is human reasoning that is foolish, not the things of God.

Understanding the things of God gives us hope.  Hope and understanding are incentives to become more like Christ in the way we act and think, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.  Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.  And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” (I John 3:1-3).  Hope is the incentive that brings us closer to God, “For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.” (Hebrews7:19).

Spiritual Help

God gives His Spirit to us so that we can know what He has planned for us, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” (II Corinthians 2:12).  And to know His mind, “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” (II Corinthians 2:10).   

With this knowledge we can identify and put a stop to the corrupt behaviours that come from our own mind,“Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:  For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:  In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.  Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;” (Colossians 3:5-9).  We do this by resisting the thoughts that generate them, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55:7).  

As more is revealed through the Spirit of God our desire to learn increases, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:” (I Peter 2:2).   As we learn our priorities will change, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.  Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:1-2).  

Gradually we will move out of the darkness of this world into the light of God’s way, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:  But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.  The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.  But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:19-23). 

As we gain more control over our desires, thoughts and reasoning we can bring them into captivity, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.” (II Corinthians 10:5-6).

Temptation

As long as we are in this world we will not escape temptation.  Temptation does not come from God, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:  But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.  Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1:13-15).

We are tempted by the worldly desires of our own corrupt nature which is under the influence of Satan to whom all humanity has submitted, “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” (Ephesians 2:2-3).  

Christ to whom we now turn for salvation knows that we suffer temptation.  As a human being he was tempted directly by Satan (Matthew 4:1-11).  He was aware of human frailties.  He said, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41).

The Spirit he has given us is one that has power, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (II Timothy 1:7).  He has given us power to resist the temptation and draw closer to God, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.” (James 1:7-8).  We will be blessed for our efforts, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” (James 1:12).  We will blessed by a God who was planning our salvation before we even turned to Him, “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,  Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)  And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:  That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-7).

If we can endure without submitting to the temptations that appeal to our human nature we will be perfected in the fruit of God’s Spirit, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.  But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” (James 1:2-4).  As we are perfected our desires will align with those of God and be fulfilled, “Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” (Mark 11:22-26).  Our corrupt desire for power, status and wealth will be replaced by the desire for goodness, righteousness and truth which are the fruits of God’s Spirit (Ephesians 5:9).  Our desire becomes the same as God’s - for a righteous outcome, “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” (II Peter 3:13).  

If we desire the fruits of God’s Spirit our behaviour should change, “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.  And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.  And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.  And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” (Colossians 3:12-17).

If we lack any of the fruit of God’s Spirit we need to ask for them, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:  For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened… …If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:7-11).

If we lack wisdom we need to ask for it, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (James 1:5). 

Conclusion

There is a concept in this world that Christians should be perfect in their behaviour and many will criticise us when we fall short of how they expect us to behave.  But the change from the old man to the new is a process that takes time.  And although the process may sound straight forward the battle to change behaviour and to control our thoughts and imaginations is not an easy one.  It can take a lifetime to achieve.  It can be difficult and tearful.   And there will be times when we may be so greatly troubled and stressed by our thoughts and imaginations that we cannot focus, or coherently pray for the help to overcome.  When faced with that situation rest assured that help is there, “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” (Rom 8:26-27).

We are all at various stages, struggling with different problems battling to bring our thoughts into submission to make the changes required.  We are all faced with temptations which may cause us to falter now and then, or fiery trails that seem to crush us.  Each is at a different level of conversion under Christ’s individual supervision.  That is why we are told not to judge one another, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.  And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” {Matthew 7:1-3).  We simply don’t know how much another person whom we may have seen falling into temptation in the past, has repented and changed since then.  We are not to judge them, or what God is doing in their lives. 

We may not even see perfection in ourselves but God sees us as His children with His nature being developed in us, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (I John 4:4). 

Even the Apostle Paul decades after his conversion still struggled with the remnants of his human nature, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.  For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.  Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.  I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.  For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:  But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” (Romans 7:18-23).

While it is important that you have care and concern for your fellow brethren it is extremely important that you are also working toward your own salvation.  Pause and think about the progress you have made in yielding to God.  Ask yourself; do I desire the things of this world more than the spiritual, do I justify my actions with human reasoning and have I successfully brought every thought into captivity?   Be honest because you need to, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).   There is no room for complacency.  If you need help to accomplish these ask God.  He will help because He wants you to succeed. 

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