The greatest commandment is about loving God and this includes loving Him with all of our minds also where mind is the seat of all thoughts and heart and soul control emotions. Adam and Eve succumbed to the forces of darkness and that which was separated by God from the Light of His glory entered the human soul to exert control. All believers though being sinful by nature are blessed with the indwelling Holy Spirit through faith in Lord Jesus but the darkness also remains within. The fight between the two to control the thoughts and emotions of man becomes evident in our daily lives, the only difference being that the darkness tends to force its way on man while the light of God only guides and desires man to seek His help.
Why do we struggle with our evil thoughts has its origin from the process of creation. God created everything and ‘it was very good’ but then after sometime “God regretted that He had made human beings on the earth, and His heart was deeply troubled” (Genesis 6:6). How did what was very good turn to cause such sorrow? The dialogue between Eve and the serpent reveals the reason – for Eve was being led to follow a different path that was not ordained by God. God visited the first two human beings everyday to reveal His glory to them and to help them become like Him by following the commands given during these daily sessions. On the other hand animals were provided with a definite set of rules and the same were made part of their inner being which guide them through an inner voice. This inner voice is so strong that there is rarely an occasion that an animal will go against that to mate with any other species or violate any other diktat.
The serpent did not ask Eve about the restriction placed by God about the forbidden tree but suggested to her to listen to her inner voice of desire – ‘which also was supposed to be from God’, as was in them. Eve was urged to follow the ways of the animals while violating the God given ways for mankind – to listen to the external voice of God and the inner voice of the flesh (Genesis 3:1; 3). In the same manner the Messiah was also tempted by Satan to listen to His inner voice of physical hunger for food after fasting for forty days. The suggestion to the Lord was – You are the Son of God and are the Creator – why should You suffer deprivation, just command the stones to become bread and eat. Lord Jesus provided the answer to our dilemma – “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:3-4). That is the difference between man and an animal and man is to live by the Word of God available to us through the Scripture. The serpent represents the darkness that was separated from God’s glory – the Light- and this glory was breathed into man by God at the time of creation.
Eve must have seen the forbidden tree in the garden many a times before, but after receiving this new insight from the serpent, she looked at it with a new perspective and found – fruit of the tree was good, pleasing to the eye and desirable for eating (Genesis 3:6). Man’s likeness to the image of God, provided him with inherent power and urge to create and destroy. After commission of sin the balance in these two powers in man, as established by God, was distorted and darkness captured the thought process of mankind towards sinfulness except in rare circumstances when the hidden light in man comes out on to the surface to lead man towards righteousness.
God created the universe for His glory and desires to maintain a close relationship with us. “Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth— everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made” (Isaiah 43:6-7). Till desire overtook man through sin – all thoughts were God centered while man’s sub conscious mind was filled with His glory and darkness created its own imprint thereby altering the thought process itself. Our thoughts are dominated by the one to whom we surrender as slaves to obey – whether to sin towards death or obedience to God to move towards righteousness (Romans 6:16). God commanded Moses to go to Egypt to lead his people out from slavery and made him “like god to Pharaoh” but God also hardened the Pharaoh’s heart to ensure that he would not listen to Moses (Exodus 7:1-3). God is Sovereign over all creation including the mind of man to influence his thinking but like the forces of darkness God does not force anyone to obey Him, for He has endowed us with free will to choose Him or not. The ten plagues that were inflicted upon the Egyptians were intended by God for a dual purpose – one as a punishment for ill treating fellow human beings and second to lead them towards changing their societal norms where Pharaoh was treated as God. On the other hand the tenth one was also to clarify to the Israelites to be totally dependent on the LORD God for their very survival and security and to prove to them the continuance of God’s covenant with them – the covenant that was made with Abraham.
Pharaoh was the most powerful king of that time and Egyptians prided themselves for their philosophers and educated elite. Yet he allowed his thoughts to be governed by an ideology that pitched him in direct opposition with God, the Creator. It is rightly said that thoughts are like birds flying in the air and have no power to influence us till we allow them to form a nest on our heads to finally lead us away from God. At the time of dedication of the Tabernacle, Aaron as High Priest was supposed to offer an atoning sacrifice, first, for his own sins and then for the Israelites. Moses called out to Aaron to “come near the altar”, for apparently he was standing at a distance since the sinful act of the golden calf was probably playing on his mind causing him to feel ineligible and unworthy to perform such a sacred task (Leviticus 9:7) . We were all sinners yet God decided to bless us in His mercy and grace and chose us without anything good in us to make us deserve this and we were forgiven all our sins. Still if we keep on listening to the voice of evil reminding us of our past sins and live a life of unworthiness, we reject what God has already done for us.
King David had committed sin with Bathsheba and repented before God for “God desires truth in inward parts of man” sought cleansing by Him and prayed to God “to create (bara) in him a clean heart” (Psalm 51:6-7; 10). Hebrew word ‘bara’ used by David is the same word used in the creation process in Genesis 1 and he was aware that only God could help him by creating a new and clean heart and thus save him from sinful desires and thoughts. The Messiah also struggled with his thoughts in the Gethsemane Park and prayed to the Father God to ‘remove the cup of His wrath’ from before Him but then submitted to follow God’s will.
How can we control our thoughts? – We inherit our sinful nature and in that fallen state it is impossible for man to fully control his thoughts but “with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37). Apostle Pail and Silas moved to Berea and “these were more noble than those in Thessalonica” for they – first, received the Word with all readiness; second, searched the Scripture daily to find out the truth and only then believed. This was practiced by them despite the preacher being a learned scholar of Apostle Paul’s stature (Acts 17:10-15). Paul himself warns about false Apostles and deceitful workers operating in the name of Lord Jesus and to beware for even “Satan transforms himself into an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:13-14) but rather we should follow the Bereans example and test every thought/teaching for truth. This requires diligent reading and understanding of the Word of God and every lie can then be countered to bring it subject to the Lord.
Weapons available for war against evil thoughts – The war against all falsehood of the enemy is not according to the flesh and we are also required to use spiritual weapons to bring down all ‘arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). These weapons are – prayer, to connect with God and be empowered; faith in the truth of the Word and God’s promises therein; hope in the eternal salvation through sacrifice of our Savior; love for God and for His created beings and the guidance, correction and empowerment through the Holy Spirit. Our battle then becomes a battle that is fought not with our but God’s power ensuring victory at every stage. Messiah was Himself tested by the tempter in the wilderness by distorting the Word and countered by the Lord through proper Scripture while ignoring certain proven facts in His replies. We can do this by learning Scripture mysteries through daily reading, meditation and seeking help of the Holy Spirit, repentance for any intended or unintentional sins, faith in His forgiveness and starting afresh after every fall. Since we are not alone in this battle we must seek and offer help to other believers through praying for and with them in times of trials and tribulations. Lord Jesus informed Apostle Peter about Satan ‘asking for him to sift him as wheat but assure him that “I have prayed for you that your faith should not fail”. On return to his empowered position in faith, Peter was made responsible to “strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:31-32). Peter faltered but ensured collective prayer and waiting together in one place for resurrection of the Lord though not being fully aware of His plan. These weapons strengthen us on one end while on the other help in remaining humble and overcoming pride.
In any war defense and offensive strategies go together we are then informed about the total range of other weapons available from God for this fight. Our strength is in the Lord and the power of His might while using the protective ‘armor of God’ while identifying the real enemy being not flesh and blood that front for ‘principalities, powers, rulers of darkness of this age, spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places – all demonic forces’. Protection for the waist is with the girdle of truth, breastplate of righteousness, while walking in the Gospel of peace having been shielded by faith to ‘quench all the fiery darts of Satan and his evil forces’. Our headgear would be the helmet of the promise of salvation in the Lord while attacking the enemy with the ‘sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God’. Even when having such strong weapons with us, we must continue in “prayer and supplication in the Spirit, while being watchful” with perseverance and supplication to continue to draw on the power of God (Ephesians 6:10-18).
The sword of the Spirit is to fend and helmet of salvation is to prevent damage to our thought process from the lies perpetrated by the devil and continuous prayer and surrender to God ensures the regular supply of His Divine strength for us.
All of us are daily involved in this fight to overcome evil and defeatist thoughts making us think – is it really possible to control one’s thoughts? Apostle Paul confirms having brought “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5) and every Word in the Scripture is true and God breathed – approved by God through His Spirit and given life. If one believer could do it so can others also, for the same weapons and power is available and operating in all of us. The source of most of the negative thoughts is non adherence to our Lord’s second commandment ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ which in effect implies, love everyone of his creation equally. Where love is there cannot be jealousy, anger, hatred or any of such negative thoughts for forgiveness will prevail. “Be humble towards one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister to one another” (1 Peter 4:9-10) is the answer to control all evil thoughts. Apostle John was taken up into heaven and given the rare insight about rewards system of God. Letters to all the seven churches in Revelation 2 & 3 end with a promised reward to “He who overcomes” and the most important one is kept till the last. “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 3:21-22).
Apparent from this message is that there will always some ‘with ears to hear’ who will not hear and disregard the Word of God and since this exhortation is for all believers, it is possible to overcome for otherwise why would God promise such blessings. Lord Jesus suffered temptations Himself as man and is able to empathize with us and help (Hebrews 2:18) and we can be sure of His help for He is with us always.
Even while undergoing the worst form of punishment for us – scourging and then crucifixion – the Son of God overcame the temptation to seek vengeance on the perpetrators of such heinous treatment to Him. He sought forgiveness for them from the Father teaching us to be magnanimous in every situation, whatever be it, and wish well for others. All Apostles including Paul understood this fact from His sacrifice, resurrection and ascension and adopted this in their lives to have only one mission in their lives to reach out to the maximum people with the Gospel message to offer salvation through faith in the Lord. They were rarely welcomed by all in a place yet they did overcome all thoughts about revenge or refrain though they had the power and authority. If they could, so can we – the only thing is faith and perseverance! But the reward is also unimaginably huge – much more that the effort – are we up to the task – for He is willing to empower!