The Bible tells us to take every thought captive. (2 Corinthians 10:5) That means that I have a chance to do something about all thoughts that are not well-pleasing to God, before they enter my heart and become a part of me!
“As a man thinks, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7) What we think about is crucial to who we are. Scientists don’t agree on how many thoughts we have each day, but all agree there are thousands of them. Who we are is shaped moment by moment by the thoughts we choose to let into our mind and heart. But how can we control the thousands of thoughts that enter our mind each day? What do we do with the thoughts that are not pleasing to God? How can we, in reality, take every thought captive?
Taking every thought captive – a battle
Often, our thoughts have to be focused on the regular tasks we must accomplish that day. However, as we go through the day, we can catch thoughts and attitudes that are contrary to God’s will and keep them from gaining control of our mind and heart. Paul explains how this is possible: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.’’ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5) It is written that we need to battle to keep our thoughts pure, but it is also written that we have weapons to fight with!
Let’s consider a typical daily situation where I would have the opportunity to take my thoughts captive: Perhaps my supervisor at work gives me a task I hate, and negative, complaining thoughts come into my head. These thoughts are temptations – and I have a chance to do something about them before they enter my heart and become a part of me. It is these types of thoughts we need to take captive by instead choosing to obey words of God such as Philippians 2:14: “Do all things without grumbling or complaining.” Such a choice requires a real battle in our thought life, but the weapons of our warfare – the Word of God and the power of His Holy Spirit – are mighty to help us. By praying to God in the moment when we sense we are being tempted, we can receive power to keep our thoughts pure. Then I have taken the thought captive!
Prepare for war
We must also strengthen ourselves for this warfare beforehand by following Jesus’ example when He was tempted by the devil to turn the stones into bread: “But It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)
God’s Word is our weapon!
For example, if we know we are easily tempted to impure thoughts about the opposite sex, we can take Jesus’ words to heart: “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” (Matthew 5:28-29)
Is it even possible to keep my thoughts pure? Click here for the answer!
If we are prone to anger, we can arm ourselves with James’ exhortation: “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19-20) These words of God are our weapons, and will give us power to take all impure thoughts captive!
Transformation – by the Holy Spirit
By the Holy Spirit we can get grace and power to bring the thoughts into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and in this process, we become transformed into the person He wants us to be. We have the wonderful hope that by overcoming sin in our thought life, we can become a little more like Christ as each day progresses. In this way, we become valuable tools in God’s hands. Allowing this inner work of God to take place in us is the greatest task we can take on in life.
A testimony from someone who experienced the reality of taking every thought captive: