Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. Genesis 6:5-6
Cigarette packages carry warnings that smoking may be hazardous to your health, but wrong thinking can also be hazardous to your health. In this Genesis 6 passage, we see that God destroyed an entire world because the imagination of man’s thoughts—of their hearts—was only evil continually. God had to eradicate an entire generation because of their thought life. The wickedness of man springs from his thought life. So it is vital for our spiritual, mental, emotional—and even physical—health that we get control over our thought life.
What does the Word of God have to say about the mind and about having mastery over it? In this “Digging Deeper,” we will study how to control your thought life.
This is critical because, as the saying goes, “The thought is father of the deed.” We live in a world that has gone wild. And the problem is in the mind and thought life of people.
You see, a thought must be in our mind before we act upon it. The Wright brothers would never have experienced their first flight at Kitty Hawk if the thought of a plane hadn’t first been in their minds.
Perhaps you’ve heard this quotation:
Sow a thought, reap an act;
Sow an act; reap a habit;
Sow a habit; reap a character;
Sow a character; reap a destiny.
And Galatians 6:7 says: “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”
Mark it down: What you choose to believe, you will do. We do not act upon things we do not believe. We act upon what we do believe. But there is a way to gain control of your mind.
Practical Step #1 The salvation factor
1. Surely it must go without saying: To begin with, you must have a regenerate mind. What do I mean by that? Let’s look.
Turn to 2 Corinthians 4:3:
3 But even if our gospel is veiled [hidden], it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose ___________ the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. 5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
a. Note that the “god” of this world is spelled with a little “g.” Who is “the god of this world”?
b. Why is the Gospel hidden from those who are lost? (What has “the god of this world” done to the minds of those who do not believe?)
c. What is the enemy determined to keep them from seeing?
Notice how Paul uses contrasting images to make his point: “veiled” “perishing” “blinded” “darkness”—then—“light” “glory” “image” “shine” “knowledge” “face.” Paul paints a picture here, darkness contrasted against light.
2. Clearly Paul knows what the Lord Jesus said during His ministry here on earth, found in both Matthew and John. Turn to John 8:12 and John 9:5:
a. Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the ___________ of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in __________________, but have the _________ of ____________.” John 8:12
“As long as I am in the world, I am the ___________ of the world.” John 9:5 says He is the ___________ of the world.
b. Now look back at our 2 Corinthians 4 passage—verse 6. What had to occur for light to be available for mankind?
c. Think about the implications of this statement in verse 6. What does this tell you about mankind’s ability to provide his own light?
d. If God the Father had not taken the initative to “command” light to shine out of darkness, what would our condition be today?
2 Corinthians 4 describes the unregenerate mind—the minds of those who have not been transformed by the Gospel of Christ but remain “dead in trespasses and sins.”
It’s hard for us to think of ourselves as having been “dead” before we came to know Christ. “I was very much alive!” we object. The lost person sees himself as alive and those who follow Christ as pretty much “dead”—a lost cause.
3. God sees it differently. Turn to Ephesians chapter 2:1-3:
a. 1And you He ______________________, who were ____________ in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you _________ walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the ___________, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
A CLOSER LOOK AT “QUICKENED”
Whenever you see the word “quickened,” it means “to be made alive.” Something dead is now brought to life. A mind that is “dead” to God and to spiritual reality cannot see reality as God sees it. As Matthew Henry explains, “Unregenerate souls are dead in trespasses and sins. All those who are in their sins are dead in sins,” and this includes all sorts of sins: habitual and actual, sins of heart and of life. Sin is the death of the soul. He continues, “Wherever that prevails, there is a privation of all spiritual life. Sinners are dead in state…cut off from God, the fountain of life. Just as in law, a condemned man is said to be “a dead man,” everyone who has not been born again (quickened) is spiritually dead even while he lives.”
b. Who (v. 2) is “the prince of the power of the air”?
Without salvation, we walk around with a corrupted mind. Just as a file may be corrupt on your computer and print out only gibberish, a blinded mind is a corrupted mind—it corrupts our thought life.
How does this manifest itself in real life?
As an example, the National Education Association has found that students in grades 7-12 listen to more hours of rock music than they spend in class. The average student spends 10,500 hours—just shy of the entire amount of time he’s in school from grades 1-12. Yet those lyrics are filled with promiscuity, perversion, and fatalism. The NEA attributes many of the 4,600 teen suicides each year to the depression caused by having hours of fatalism repeatedly pumped into their heads. Satan is battling to control the thought life of America’s young people. Someone has said, “Let me write a nation’s songs, and I don’t care who makes its laws.”
Satan is controlling the thought life of so many. But thank God, he doesn’t have to, for God has commanded light out of darkness.
If you are reading this study, it’s likely because you want to learn how to control your thought life. You want practical ways to do that. First and most important, you must be saved—“born again.” Your mind must be renewed.
4. Jesus said in John 3:3,
a. “Truly, truly I tell you, except a man be born again, he cannot ____ the Kingdom of God.” Here we go again with the word “See.” Do you “see” how this is all connnected? Satan blinds the mind. Without the new birth, none of us would be able to “see.”
b. Romans 12:2 explains, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your __________.” The transformation of a renewed mind comes with salvation.
The mind, “seeing,” and salvation are intertwined.
Satan, the enemy of God and His Creation—and you are part of His creation—doesn’t want you to know the gospel of Jesus Christ. As we saw in 2 Corinthians 4:4, he has blinded minds of those who do not believe, pulling the veil of darkness over the mind, lest a shaft of gospel sunlight to penetrate the dark, murky recesses of the soul. The devil wants to imprison mankind in the dark. He doesn’t want God to turn the light on in the soul.
A CLOSER LOOK AT “MIND” VS. “BRAIN”
There is a difference between your mind and your brain. To use an analogy, the difference between “mind” and “brain” is the difference between the piano player and a piano. The player is the mind…the piano is the brain, the instrument by which he plays. The pianist is the mind that uses the brain (piano).
The brain is what the mind thinks with. Some players are better than other. The skill of the player makes a lot of difference in the quality of the music it produces. A man with a bad mind and a good brain is dangerous—he is a clever devil. When you get saved, you don’t get a new brain. You get a new mind. The devil doesn’t hurt your intelligence, he blinds and distorts your mind. As Solomon said, “For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). The great Emerson said the same: “A man is what he thinks about all day long.”
5. The Bible says we have a mind at war with God if we’re unsaved. You will never make a godly mind out of an ungodly mind by trying to train that ungodly mind. It can’t be done.
a. Turn to Romans 8:6-7:
6 “For to be carnally minded is _______________, but to be spiritually minded is _______ and ___________. 7 Because the carnal mind is ______________ against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.” Romans 8:6-7
b. As further proof, look at Colossians 1:21:
“And you, who once were ________________ and enemies in your ___________ by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled. But the natural [unregenerate] man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned….
c. For some of the best news you will ever hear, see 1 Corinthians 2:16:
16 For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him? But we have the _________ of Christ.”
Salvation gives you a new mind. We who’ve been saved now can have the mind of Christ. We literally get a new mind.
THE HEART AND ITS RELATION TO OUR THOUGHT LIFE
God also tells us to… “Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
We talk a lot in the Christian community and our churches about our “hearts.”
We say, “Give your heart to Jesus,” or “Jesus came into my heart.” The above verse says we should “guard our heart.” So what, exactly, do we mean by “heart”? All this is connected to mastery over your thought life.
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE WORD “HEART”
When the Bible uses the word “heart,” we know of course it’s not referring to the organ that pumps our blood. Rather, throughout Scripture the “heart” means the center of our thought life and the seat of our emotions. Notice how closely “thought” and “emotions” are intertwined in the two Proverbs passages above.
As a side note, if you want to do an enlightening study in Scripture, open a Bible web site such as www.biblegateway.com and enter the word “heart” in the search line. Then review those verses for a comprehensive view of our hearts and what God says about them.
You cannot master your thought life separately from your heart.
Remember, we began this study on mastering our thought life with God having to judge the earth as early as Genesis 6 because “…every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually…,” which caused this response from God:
“And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.”
6. Turn to Hebrews 4:12. This verse is more often used to show the power of the Word of God. But it also reveals how closely related our thoughts and emotions are.
a. “For the word of God is quick [alive], and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the ____________ and intents of the ________________.”
So Practical Step #1 must be to commit your life to Jesus Christ and be saved, for your carnal mind, which is at war with God, must be converted. If you don’t start there, you’re never going to go any further.
But suppose you are already saved? The battle is hardly over, as you know. What other steps must you take to get mastery over your mind?
Practical Step #2: the SINGLE-MINDED factor
7. Turn to 2 Corinthians 11:1-3. Paul is concerned. He says to the Corinthians:
3 “But I _______, lest somehow, as the serpent ________________ Eve by his craftiness, so your __________ may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.”
The word “simplicity” means single‑minded devotion. In some places it is translated “sincerity”—the sincerity that’s in Christ, a heart‑felt devotion. Paul uses the metaphor of a wedding—a bride presented to a bridegroom, each having no thought than devotion to the other.
We are to love the Lord with single‑minded sincerity, no higher loyalty. He must be number one in my life, for a divided mind means a broken relationship.
No one is reading your answers but you. Look inward. Is there anyone, any thing, any goal, any ambition, in your life that supersedes your relationship and loyalty to Jesus Christ? List those things you suspect may be in competition with Him.
You must say with a single mind, “I’m making Jesus Christ Lord over all.”
Salvation is the first step, but even a converted mind may be corrupted. Just because you’re saved doesn’t mean you’re not going to have a battle in your thought life.
Practical Step #3 the stronghold factor
Here is the nitty-gritty. This is where we all live, every day, where the rubber meets the road. The battle is in your mind. That’s why we’ve spent so much time on the mind.
8. Turn back one chapter to 2 Corinthians 10. Verses 3 through 5 comprise a critical, insightful passage on the warfare that goes on in our minds. A book could be written on this one passage alone.
a. Look at verses 3-5, and let’s break it down into sections:
3 For though we walk in the ____________ [our earthly, mortal bodies], we do not _________ according to the ___________ [we cannot depend on oridnary, earthly weapons]. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not _________ [fleshly, earthly—of this physical world we can touch] but mighty in ______ for pulling down _________________________...”
Paul says there is a war. But it’s not a war of the flesh. We’re in a battle for control of our mind.
There is so much in this passage, we could camp out here. Satan wants to control your mind and your thoughts. Remember, “As a person thinks, so is he.” And we act upon what we believe.
It’s like “Capture the Flag.” If Satan captures the hill called our mind—he’s won the battle. So what must we do?
b. If our weapons are not physical and the battle doesn’t involve flesh-and-blood warriors, where is it?
5 casting down imaginations and every high thing that _____________itself against the ____________________ of God…
There’s that word “knowledge” again! Underscore in your Bible the words “imaginations/arguments,” “knowledge,” and “thought.” Compare with our 2 Corinthians 4:6 passage: “6 For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
So Satan is determined. God commanded light to shine out of darkness. We open our hearts (remember, “heart” = the center of our thoughts and emotions) to this knowledge.
c. What does Satan do against that knowledge? (v. 5)
Satan goes full-bore against it. Continuing in v. 5, what must we do to fight against the enemy of our souls?
“bringing every _________________ into _________________ to the obedience of Christ.”
Well, how do we do that? Since our weapons are not physical, then in a practical sense, what do we do?
Of these ungodly, discouraging, defeating, faith-attacking thoughts, one Bible teacher has rightly said, “When that thought comes into your mind, you’ve got about 5 seconds to take that thought captive, or that thought is going to take you captive.” THAT is a thought worth memorizing.
Clearly, Paul says our battlefield is in our mind.
The stronghold factor tells us a corrupted mind must be conquered.
A CLOSER LOOK AT “STRONGHOLDS”
Here is what the devil does. He subtly gets into a believer’s mind and puts in what the Bible calls a “stronghold” (also translated “fortress”). The Greek word means “to make firm.” That is, the devil gets certain ideas, thoughts, or obsessions firmly entrenched in the heart and mind the Bible calls a stronghold. It is a system of thought that brings you, into bondage. The devil uses that system of thought to establish in your mind arguments. (The King James translation calls it “imaginations,” but it is better translated “arguments.”)
It’s the same Greek word we get our word “logic” from. The devil is warring a logistical war against God, and he’s very clever. He subtly comes into the mind of a believer. He implants into the mind a stronghold, a fortress. He gets inside that fortress with logistics, philosophies and thoughts, warring against the idea of God. He is always at war with God, and he uses your mind as a battlefield.
The devil knows if he can control your mind, he can control you, because “as a man thinks, so is he.”
9. What are some of these strongholds in your mind? We don’t have time to dwell on each one, so let’s just list a few (and yes, this applies to Christians). Put a check mark beside those you know apply to you.
_____Compulsiveness. Do you find yourself just “compelled” to do certain things? Acting compulsively. “I don’t know why I do that, I just do it.”
_____Obsessions. Are you obsessed with certain things that you think about all of the time?
_____Fixations. Fears. Do you have fears that lurk in the subconscious of your mind, always there? It’s a stronghold. “God has not given us a spirit of fear.”
_____Bitterness/resentment. Sitting with an open Bible on your lap, down in your heart is a seething cauldron of hate and bitterness. It is a stronghold. You wish it were not there. But you don’t know how to get rid of it.
_____Uncontrollable lust. Some Christians would be embarassed if their fellow believers, their spouse, or their children knew the hold that lust and pornography have in their lives. They’re not able to shake it. It is a stronghold.
_____Distrust. The inability to trust anybody or anything.
These are not just passing things—they are a fortress. Satan, who has seduced you, has moved in and is logistically warring against God with these strongholds.
A carnal mind must be converted.
A converted mind can be corrupted.
A corrupted mind must be conquered.
But Paul says (v. 4) there is hope! He says we can take back the fortress. “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.”
WHAT ARE the weapons of our warfare?
Let me tell you what they are not. They are not carnal, natural, physical, or of the flesh.
They are not education. You’ll never control your mind by education. I’m not against education, but if you educate a man without Christ, you make a clever devil.
Not psychiatry or psychology. They’re good as far as they go. They have their place. But they do not dispossess Satan and take him out of his stronghold. Unsaved people can use education, psychology and psychiatry. But they will not rout the Enemy.
Not positive thinking. Many Christians don’t know the difference between positive thinking and faith. They’re not the same thing. Positive thinking is fine; we shouldn’t go around with negative thinking. But it’s not going to release you from the stronghold of Satan.
Practical Step #4: THE SPIRITUAL WEAPON FACTOR
Human, fleshly weapons all have their place. But the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh; they are:
When you use your spiritual weapons—the blood of Christ, the Word of God, the authority that’s in the Lord Jesus Christ—you can take back that conquered ground you gave to Satan, conquer it yourself, and dispossess Satan. But the only way you’re going to do it is with the authority of Jesus Christ and the Word of God.
When you get right with God and bring “the weapons of our warfare” against Satan, legally you can move him out. That’s the only way you can—with the authority of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I give you authority over all the power of the enemy.”
Weapons indicate a battle. You have to take back a stronghold. You’re going to have to go in there with the Word of God and the authority of God and demolish that stronghold you’ve let Satan establish.
Say, “Satan, I’m not asking you, I’m not pleading with you, I’m not reasoning with you, I am telling you in the name of Jesus Christ and the authority of the Word of God, my heart belongs to Jesus Christ, I’ve confessed those sins, I’ve repudiated that stronghold, I’ve put it under the blood, God has forgiven me, and you have no right, no authority. You are trespassing on my Father’s property. And in the name of Jesus, be gone.”
It is a war, and Christianity isn’t for cowards. That leads us to…
Practical Step #5: the surrender factor
10. Submit yourself to God. Turn to James 4:7:
a. “Therefore ___________ to God. Resist the __________ and he will _______ from you.”
It’s not enough just to take back your mind. If that’s all you do, before long you’re going to be back in the same difficulty.
b. Looking again at 2 Corinthians 10:5:
“…bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”
That’s the surrender factor. You cannot be neutral. Not only must Satan be dethroned; Christ must be enthroned in your thought life.
c. Turn to Romans 12:1-2:
1 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be _____________________ by the renewing of your __________, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
There it is again—our mind.
Is Paul talking to believers or to the unsaved?
Yet he tells them not to be conformed to this world, but be ________________.
Therefore, even after salvation, what must you be continually doing with your mind? (v. 2)
You bring your mind back to Jesus Christ and enthrone Him. You cannot be neutral in your thought life.
This is a glorious thought: No one can think two things at one time! If you’re thinking what is right, you cannot be thinking what is wrong. You can choose your thoughts like you choose your friends. Did you know that? You can refuse to let things into your mind.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if each of us had in our minds what they have at the airport? We need a spiritual “metal dectector,” a buzzer that goes BEEEEP! at the first stronghold thought; screens out every contraband thought; makes us pull “strongholds” out of our pockets and lay them down on the tray. But God has given us the responsibility to do that.
Now you may think what I’m saying is just sanctified psychology. But that’s where you’re wrong. It is the Word of God.
The carnal mind must be converted.
The converted mind must beware lest it be corrupted.
The converted but corrupted mind can be conquered.
The conquered mind can be controlled by bringing every thought captive to Jesus Christ.
And remember, you have about five seconds to take that thought captive, or that thought will take you captive.
The Word of God
The blood of Christ
The authority of Christ
The presence of the Holy Spirit
…then you can say with the apostle Paul, “We have the mind of Christ.”
“As a man thinketh, so is he.”
If you think like Christ, who are you going to be like?
Do you have some “stronghold-demolishing” work to do? Take up that battering ram of the Word of God. You cannot do it in your own strength. Submit yourself, call upon Him, and get to it.