As Christians our thought life should honor God first and foremost. The Greek word translated “honor” in Romans 1:21 means to make glorious, to adorn with splendor, to make excellent, and to cause the worth of something to be made known. Our thinking should glorify God and adorn Him with splendor. Our thoughts should magnify God daily and give Him the dignity He deserves. Our thoughts should be flooded with thanksgiving to God for His blessings, love, mercy, and grace.
Do your thoughts glorify God daily? Is your thought life a model of honor and thanksgiving to your God? We must never give the glory of our thoughts to another. We can never glorify God with our lives if we are not glorifying Him with our thoughts.
Noah’s thought life was different because he chose to walk with God. It must have been possible for all of those millions of people on the face of the earth to do the same. But in their thinking and ultimately in their hearts, they refused.
Before Noah, Enoch also walked with God for hundreds of years. So all these people had a choice to follow God and let Him govern their thought life, or to reject God and walk in alignment with their own sin nature. In the Hebrew, “to walk” is to form habit patterns that determine your way of life. It is the way we live our lives daily. To walk with God is to form a habit pattern of thought and action that conforms our way to God’s revealed truth.
It is impossible for any human being without God to make life work and keep himself from evil. We must walk with God for life to have true meaning. Walking with God on its most basic level is walking with God in our thought life. Our thoughts should be filled with God’s presence, truth, and nature. A thought life without God is ultimately an exercise in foolishness, and it always leads to dangerous consequences for the heart.
If we do not control our thought life, it has a tendency to run toward evil faster than a speeding train. Without God’s revelation to guide our thought life, it wanders aimlessly in darkness and stumbles into every trap of the enemy. A thought life not centered upon God always leads to rebellion against the way of God.
God cries out to His people to get their thought life in line with His revealed Word.
I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, according to their own thoughts. (Isaiah 65:2, NKJV)
Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:7, ESV)
Every day we should check our thought life and bring it to the feet of our Lord. Our thoughts should be preparing the way of the Lord in our hearts. Each day we should be doing a spiritual check-up of our thought life by asking God to examine our thoughts and reveal to us any trace of rebellion, selfishness, and sin that is dominating our thinking. We should forsake these thought patterns, ask God for forgiveness, and ask Him to cleanse our thinking with the blood of Jesus Christ and return our thoughts to the Lord. Read and study the Bible daily, meditate upon it, ponder it, memorize it and keep it before your eyes. Spend time alone with God every day (one hour minimum) in prayer and praise. Practice the presence of God. Sing daily songs in your heart to the Lord. These daily habits will help you to develop a disciplined godly thought life.
The Devil is always trying to turn our thoughts away from the Lord, and he has a whole arsenal of weapons that barrage our minds with distractions, lusts, images, and temptations to accomplish this spiritual strategy. Thinking is the last filter that any image, word, or idea goes through before it enters the heart. We may be bombarded by images, words, or ideas, but we process them and ultimately accept or reject them by thought. We determine by our thinking what will enter into our hearts.
This is why our thought life is always on the front lines of spiritual warfare as we engage in a thought-by-thought combat for our hearts. We cannot stand for God against the powers of darkness without a vigilant and constant effort of renewing our thoughts and bringing them in line with Scripture. Allowing thought patterns of unbelief, fear, anxiety, anger, lust, and bitterness to govern our thinking is playing right into the enemy’s camp.
God is so concerned with our thought life that He stretches out His arms in love each day with the encouragement to think in a way that glorifies Him. Our thoughts should be holy, for He is holy. Our thoughts should be righteous, for He is righteous. Our thoughts should be just, for He is just. Our thoughts should be love, for He is love. Our thoughts should be peace, for He is our peace. Our thoughts should be joy, for He is our joy. Our thoughts should be compassion, for the Compassionate One lives inside us. Our thoughts should be kindness, for He is kind. Our thoughts should be built upon our great reverence for God. Our thoughts should rest on the mighty splendor and majesty of our God.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8, NLT)
This verse summarizes what should be the makeup of the thoughts that occupy a Christian’s mind. We can use this as a checklist to determine whether our predominant thinking is glorifying God.
What would the ingredients label look like on the thoughts that entertain your mind? Is truth an ingredient? Honor? Purity? Are the contents of your thoughts things that God would consider excellent and worthy of praise? Or does your thought life look like a fast-food restaurant full of spiritual junk food?
In our partnership with God, we need to become spiritual repairmen and begin to fix our thought life. We need to become spiritual health specialists and begin to detox our thought life.
Do you want to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength? This love for God begins with your thought life. Do you want to have great faith that will move mountains? This mountain-moving faith begins with your thought life. Do you want to manifest the character and life of Jesus Christ in everything you say or do? Do you want to live with a passion for God and fulfill His purpose for your life? It all starts one thought at a time.
Toxic Thoughts Poisoning our Spiritual Life
As Christians we cannot afford to neglect our thought life. We cannot be fooled into thinking, Oh, it is just a thought. It’s harmless. Toxic thoughts are like a spiritual cancer to the heart.
Dr. Carolyn Leaf, in Who Switched Off My Brain? Controlling Toxic Thoughts and Emotions, explains:
Toxic thoughts are like poison, but the good news is you can break the cycle of toxic thinking. You can reverse the effects of toxic thoughts. And once that cycle of toxic thinking has been broken, your thoughts can actually start to improve in every area of your life—your relationships, your health and even your success. A thought may seem harmless, but if it becomes toxic, even just a thought can become physically, emotionally or spiritually dangerous. Thoughts are measurable and occupy mental “real estate.” Thoughts are active; they grow and change. Thoughts influence every decision, word, action and physical reaction we make. Every time you have a thought, it is actively changing your brain and your body—for better or for worse….Toxic thoughts don’t just creep into our minds as a result of abuse or an especially horrible trauma. Toxic thoughts affect people in all stages of life, in every part of the world, every day. Even something as small as a minor irritation can become toxic, and these thoughts need to be swept away….You have been experiencing the effects of all of your thoughts your entire life and may not have even known it!…In fact, your thoughts create changes right down to genetic levels, restructuring the cell’s makeup. Scientists have shown this restructuring is how diseases are all to take hold of the body….You can take back control of your body and mind! It is possible to lead an emotionally happy and physically healing lifestyle simply by learning to control your thought life.[i]
Never underestimate the power of one thought as it can become spiritually dangerous and lead to an entire pattern of thinking that becomes toxic to the heart. One thought can open up the floodgates to a way of thinking that corrupts the way of God and is the access point for the Enemy to ride into our hearts. One thought can be the first drop of spiritual poison that erects an altar of unbelief in our hearts.
We must learn to think as God wants us to think if we want to have healthy spiritual hearts for the Lord. How we think influences every part of our life. We must become the watchmen of our thought life and with untiring vigilance guard it from being controlled by our sin nature or by the impulses of the world. The battle line is always drawn in our thought life. This is where the war for the heart is either won or lost.
No one understands the danger of toxic thoughts more than God Almighty. He saw toxic thinking grip the hearts of every man, woman, and child on earth. He saw toxic thinking destroy the hearts of the entire human race. He saw the evil that toxic thinking produces in people’s lives. The toxic thinking of men and women whom He created for His glory crushed God’s heart.
To understand why these thought patterns are so dangerous to the spiritual health of our hearts, we must have some understanding of what happens in our brains when we have toxic thoughts.
Dr. Carolyn Leaf, in Who Switched Off My Brain: Controlling Toxic Thoughts and Emotions, says:
Toxic thoughts are thoughts that trigger negative and anxious emotions, which produce biochemicals that cause the body stress. They are stored in your mind, as well as the cells in your body….The surprising truth is that every single thought—whether it is positive or negative—goes through the same cycle when it forms. Thoughts are basically electrical impulses, chemicals and neurons. They look like a tree with branches. As the thoughts grow and become permanent, more branches grow and the connections become stronger. As we change our thinking, some branches go away, new ones form, the strength of the connections change, and the memories network with other thoughts. What an incredible capacity of the brain to change and rewire and grow! Spiritually, this is renewing the mind….The chemicals are like little cellular signals that translate the information of your thought into a physical reality in your body and mind, creating an emotion….Your thoughts create changes right down to genetic levels, restructuring the cell’s makeup….The first step in the process of forming a thought, gathering these electrical impulses, makes sense of the information coming from your five senses. The incoming information then travels through some astonishing brain structures that flavor, enrich and distribute the information all along the way. The information is taken to a place where you decide on the permanence of that information and whether it becomes a part of who you are. The most exciting facts of this journey are the brain’s ability to react to toxic versus non-toxic information and the many opportunities we have to accept or reject incoming information. You can control the incoming information and get rid of what you don’t want before it wires into your brain and affects who you are….After the gathering stage, electrical information created by our thoughts moving toward the front of the brain. The information stays in the hippocampus for 24 to 48 hours….The amplification means the thought is very conscious and becomes “labile” or unstable, which means it is moldable and can be changed….The science of thought demands that change must occur—either reinforcing the thought as it is or changing some or all of it….So if we don’t get rid of a thought we reinforce it. Thoughts are constantly remodeled by the renewing of your mind….When we do this, we actually change the physical structure (called neuroplasticity) of the brain, because thinking causes really important neurotransmitters (chemicals in the brain that carry electrical impulses) to flow. These neurotransmitters…cause changes deep inside the cell, affecting genetic expression and protein synthesis….Remember our behavior follows our thoughts. … Analyzing and addressing our thoughts are key components of conquering the habits and behaviors that seem to hold us hostage.[ii]
Think Like Christ
God sets the standard high for our thought life in the book of Philippians.
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5, KJV)
Think the same way Christ Jesus thought. (CEV)
In your lives you must think and act like Christ Jesus. (NCV)
Have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. (GW)
God would not command this if it was not possible to accomplish with His divine help.
The Greek word translated “mind” or “attitude” is phroneo, and it means thoughts. It is the thought patterns of one’s mind. It is the deliberate setting of the mind upon something through the habit of thought. Phroneo emphasizes the content of the thoughts. It is thinking to the point that thought moves the will, the reasoning, and the emotions. It is thinking with a purpose and a direction as the thoughts bend the mind toward the object of their desire. It is a thought that is cherished to the point that a mental habit is built.
Phroneo is our frame of mind and attitude built by our thoughts. This Greek word is in the present tense, which indicates that it should be a continual, habitual action of our lives; it should be our lifestyle. It is also in the imperative mood, which means it is a command of God Almighty that calls for us to perform this action.
We are to have the same thought life that Christ Jesus had. We are to have the same attitude and habit of thought as Jesus. The purpose and direction of our thinking that moves our will, reasoning, and emotions should be the same as Jesus. We should have the same frame of mind as Jesus in every circumstance of life. The thoughts that Jesus cherished, I must cherish. The thoughts that Jesus fixed his mind on, I must fix my mind on. The thought patterns of my mind should be the thought patterns of Jesus.
The day-by-day habit of our thinking should be a model and reflection of the thought life of our Savior. If we have the same thoughts as Jesus, our hearts will be the same as His. Our hearts will reflect the love, compassion, and touch of Jesus in everything we do or say. What an amazing and inspiring goal! We must reject the toxic thoughts that try to dominate our minds, for Jesus never had one toxic thought. Check your thought habits at the feet of Jesus and ask God whether this is the type of thinking that Jesus had.
We must filter our thoughts through the heart and mind of Jesus Christ. When we are tempted to allow bitterness, unforgiveness, anger, hatred, covetousness, or selfishness to dominate our thoughts, we must stop this way of thinking, because we know Jesus did not think these types of thoughts. God commands us to not allow any thoughts to occupy our minds other than thoughts that would be worthy of Jesus. This is the gold standard for our thought life. We cannot do this in our own ability, but only through the power of Christ that is at work within us.
How did Jesus Christ think? What kind of attitude did He exhibit? What type of thoughts occupied His mind? The Bible is full of examples of Christ’s attitude and thinking in every circumstance of life. The four gospels give us valuable information about Jesus’ life and ministry, and we can vividly see the character of his thought life. Many other books of the Bible also paint a picture of our Savior’s attitude when He lived upon the earth, when He sat down at the right hand of God as our intercessor and advocate, and when He comes back as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We must look at this full spectrum of Christ’s life, from His time in the temple at the age of twelve all to the way to the establishment of His eternal kingdom on the earth, to get the complete impact of His thought life. We need to go no further than the context in Philippians 2 to see what characteristics dominated the thought life of Christ.
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:3, 6–8, NASB)
But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. (Verse 7, KJV)
No Selfishness in Thoughts of Jesus
Selfishness did not exist in the thought life of Jesus. Conceit, pride, or rebellion against God never entered His mind. Jesus emptied Himself and made Himself of no reputation.
How contrary this is to the culture of our day, where everything revolves around the exaltation of self. Everyone is trying to make a name for themselves; everyone is trying to be successful; everyone is trying to become the star of his own world; everyone is worshipping at the altar of self. So many relentlessly pursue fame, reputation, and self-glory. It’s all about me: what I want, what I need, how it makes me feel better, how it makes me look better, how it makes me richer, and how it advances my reputation. Everything people do and everything they think is to promote and advance self, often to the detriment of others. This is extremely dangerous thinking. This sets the heart on a path that ultimately leads to its destruction.
Eric and Leslie Ludy, in Meet Mr. Smith: Revolutionize the Way You Think About Sex, Purity and Romance, describe the danger of selfishness:
Selfishness…that’s the sickness. That’s the problem. It’s that simple to describe. Selfishness is the essence of everything wrong…on planet earth….Selfishness…works underground. Most people don’t even realize it is there, which is precisely why it is so dangerous. Selfishness works in secret, behind closed doors, on the black market, plotting and planning our destruction. Selfishness is the Mob boss of the soul. In fact, without selfishness, you wouldn’t have murder, hate, holocaust, slander, genocide, betrayal….Simply put, selfishness is the sickness behind all other sicknesses….Selfishness is you having the gall to actually sit in the president’s brown leather chair and try to rule over your life as if you were, in fact, the real authority. You are not the rightful authority over your life. God is. But you sat down in the chair and claimed it for yourself….Selfishness is a messy, miserable problem. But there is a way out….It involves giving up your life as you may know it. It involves giving the brown leather chair back to God and allowing Him to rule your life from this day forward.[iii]
Selfishness has contaminated the witness of the church. Spiritualized selfishness has infiltrated the churches and pulpits of our land. Christians often think, “Look how great my ministry is. Look at my good works. Look how much of the Bible I know. Look how much more spiritual I am than people in other churches. I’m glad I’m not like that poor fellow!” This baptized selfishness brings no glory to God. Jesus Christ is not being awakened in our culture by living self-indulgent lives. We have called Jesus Christ Lord in name only as we clothed our hearts in robes of self-righteousness.
Why are we so concerned for making a name for ourselves? Why does everyone have to sing our praises? Why are we so concerned about exalting self at the expense of others? Would we sacrifice our reputation for the Lord? Would we empty ourselves and make ourselves of no reputation?
Self-exaltation was birthed in Lucifer, as he was the first one who tried to exalt self above God. Selfishness is the dominant characteristic of our sin nature and is at the root all sin. Selfishness breeds pride and rebellion against God. We should never let selfishness be the guide of our thought life.
The Bible is clear that nothing we do should be done out of vanity, self-glory, ambition, and pride (Philippians 2:3) The Greek word translated “empty” in Philippians 2:8 was used to refer to pouring something out until there was nothing left. We must pour out of our thinking every vestige of selfishness.
Are you willing to be counted as nothing in reputation and status in order to serve our Lord? Are you willing to be the Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael and C.T, Studd of this generation who gave up all for Christ?
God does not want one sliver of selfishness to occupy our thoughts. He must increase and I must decrease in our thinking (John 3:30). The majesty, honor, and glory of God should be manifested to a faithless world through my thought life, as it molds my heart into a masterpiece that reflects the image of God in brilliant splendor. For Jesus Christ to be Lord of my life, He must first be Lord of my thoughts.
[i] Dr. Carolyn Leaf, Who Switched Off My Brain: Controlling Toxic Thoughts and Emotions, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2009).
[iii] Eric Ludy, Meet Mr. Smith: Revolutionize the Way You Think About Sex, Purity and Romance (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2007), 19,20.