Control Thoughts 

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Controlling our thoughts is perhaps the most difficult task of walking in freedom.  Pornography is a powerful source of sinful images that our memory can easily recall.  If you have been letting sexual fantasy run wild in your thoughts, you're probably wondering if its even possible to get control over the thoughts.  What is impossible in our own strength is possible when we have the Holy Spirit helping us.   Our responsibility is to work in partnership with the Holy Spirit to bring our thoughts into obedience to Jesus.  

Brainwashing:  Earlier in Freedom Journey we mentioned the problem of the memories that sex addiction causes.  One of the challenges we face is to stop lusting over those memories.  I have found it helpful to first ask God for help in washing the sinful memories out of my mind.  A simple daily prayer to pray is:

"Father God, please wash my memory with the blood of Jesus and help me die to any sinful pleasure I have in it.  Please forgive me for any sin I have committed in my thoughts. Thank you, Father.  In Jesus' name I pray, Amen."   

The basis for this prayer is found in Hebrews 9:14 and Hebrews 10:22.  These verses state that Christ’s blood cleanses our conscience from our sinful works so we can serve God.   If I'm tempted to recall the memories each day, I then verbally apply the blood of Jesus to the memory.   I say something like, "The blood of Jesus cleanses my mind from that memory." I often repeat this until the temptation subsides.  

In addition to the problem of sinful memories, we have spiritual enemies (Ephesians 6:12) who are masters at tempting us in our thoughts (examples: Luke 4:5-6, Acts 5:3).  These temptations cater to our minds' natural evil desires (Matthew 15:18-19).  Satan's goal is to persuade us to engage our imaginations and lead us to sin.

The power of the imagination:  Our imagination is a powerful gift from God.  Imagination is a collection of focused thoughts that creates a reality in our mind.  As we are made in the God's likeness, our imagination is a scaled down version of God's imagination.  God spoke the universe into existence from his imagination.  Similarly, we can create things in our imaginations.   For example, with one glimpse at a porn picture, I can imagine what it might be like to have sex with the person in the picture.  Where the picture only gives me a visual impression, my imagination fills in the rest of the details: sounds, feelings, words, scenario, etc.  Through such a fantasy, I commit sexual sin with the person in my mind (Matthew 5:28). 

Satan has been baiting people's imaginations ever since the Garden of Eden.  He enticed Eve to imagine having God-like knowledge.  She wanted the knowledge, she liked the fruit's looks and she saw it was good for food.  The combination of those factors motivated her to sin.  Satan himself fell to sin by using his imagination to envision himself exalted like God.  Satan said in his heart, "I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain.  I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High"  (Isaiah 14:13-14 NIV).  Satan was cast out of heaven as a result.  Likewise, using our imaginations sinfully places an obstacle between us and God.  Thankfully, we have the power to control our thoughts and honor God with them.

What to do when we're tempted

God gives us clear guidance on what to do with sinful thoughts.  We are to take every thought captive and to cast down every sinful imagination (2 Corinthians 10:5).   Let's dig deeper to discover how to do this.

Take the thought captive:  When evil thoughts come into our mind, we must recognize them, arrest them and command them to submit to Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).  We have about  2-3 seconds to make the decision not to sin with the thought.  After that point, we're much less likely to stop resisting the temptation.  

The scripture tells us to restrain evil thoughts for good reason.  When police officers arrest a criminal, they restrain him with handcuffs so that the criminal can not do more harm.  Likewise, we restrain evil thoughts so that they can not cause more harm by getting our imagination and memories involved with a sinful fantasy.   

How to take the thought captive:  State audibly, if possible, "I take that thought captive to the obedience of Jesus and I bind that thought from corrupting my mind in any way, in Jesus' name."   In addition, we can:

Cast the sinful imagination down:  After you take the evil thought captive, cast it down and send it away.  

Reject it: The idea is to reject the thought as you would close your door on a person trying to rob your home.  A simple rejection statement is, "In name of Jesus, I reject (or rebuke) that thought and imagination.  I send you to Jesus right now."  

State the truth: A powerful way to secure your rejection of the evil thought is to state the truth that destroys the lie.  Every evil thought is based on a lie.  Being familiar with the Bible will help us recognize lies, because we will know the truth.  We can then apply Bible verses that destroy the lies by verbally or mentally proclaiming them.  Jesus demonstrated this when he  withstood Satan's temptations by speaking the applicable scriptures (Luke 4).  Here are some sample scriptures for fighting sexual temptations:

  • Matthew 5:28 "But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (NKJV)

  • Luke 11: 34 "Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are bad, your body also is full of darkness."  (NIV)

  • 1 Corinthians 6:18 “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.” (NKJV)

  • 2 Corinthians 10:-4-5  "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" (KJV)

  • Philippians 4:8 "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things." (NKJV)

  • Colossians 3:1-4 “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (NKJV)

  • For more verses, see Bible verses on temptation

Redirect thoughts:  A final action to take is to redirect our thoughts to something pure (Philippians 4:8; Colossians 3:1-2).  We have to take action to get our minds out of the danger area.   For example, when I am fighting a temptation, I will recite some Bible memory verses for several minutes until the temptation has subsided.  Examples of additional things we can do:

  • Pray
  • Praise and worship God  
  • Play a praise and/or worship CD to create a God-focused atmosphere
  • Change our location, and get out of the temptation area
  • Call a friend and ask for prayer

We may have to repeat the above steps several times before the temptation subsides.  It requires persistence and resolve to stop giving in to evil thoughts.  When we repeatedly exercise our power to choose righteousness, our "spiritual muscles" will grow stronger, making it easier to resist the next temptations we face.

If you don't have a plan for memorizing Bible verses, please take a moment to devise a plan that will work for you.  For example, the simple plan I use is to write down verses that I find when I do my quiet times.  I write them on 3 X 5 index cards and then review the verses until I have them memorized.  When I have about 12 verses memorized, I will start a new group of verses.  The scripture memory work has helped me tremendously in resisting temptation.  The more I memorize, the more ammunition I have available to destroy the lies that come my way.  Another option is the Topical Memory System offered by Navpress, which provides categorized scripture cards and a plan to memorize them.  

Personal Application Questions

  • What sexual memories are causing significant problems in your daily thought life?
  • What are two steps you can take each day to wash those memories from your mind?
  • What is the unique power of the blood of Jesus regarding our conscience? (hint: Hebrews 9:14)
  • In what ways have you been using your imagination for sin?
  • Within the first few seconds of a temptation, what actions should you take with the evil thought? (hint: 2 Corinthians 10:5)
  • What is the danger of not restraining or binding an evil thought?
  • What are three elements of casting down the evil thoughts/imaginations?
  • What spiritual warfare tactic did Jesus use against the devil during his temptation in Luke 4:1-13?  How important do you think scripture memory is in using this tactic?
  • In what ways will you redirect your thoughts during the next temptation you face?   

Next page:  Practical examples

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