What do you think about? What hurts are you nursing? What disappointments? What cares? Will you let Jesus come into those broken places? Will you submit to God’s way of thinking or will you let wrong thoughts run your life?
Jeremiah 29 & 30
1 Timothy 1.1-20
Do Wrong Thoughts Run Your Life?
The Issues of Life
“As in water face reflects face, so a man’s heart reveals the man.”
The heart is mentioned 830 times in Scripture, referring to the inner man. It’s who we are—our mind, our will, our emotions, our intellect.
Proverbs 4.23 says, “Keep your heart with all diligence for out of it spring the issues of life.”
And the New American Standard Bible says:
“Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”
But the New Century Version says it even plainer:
“Be careful what you think, your thoughts run your life.”
What are you allowing into your heart? What thoughts are you allowing to simmer there? What video tapes are you replaying for yourself, instead of thinking as God wants you to think?
Thoughts are not harmless. What we put into our minds by reading and watching is not harmless. What we think about works itself out into our lives.
So first we need to guard our hearts by being careful what we put in through our eyes and ears. But what about the thoughts that seem to spring up as a result of events around us?
Can You Change Your Thoughts?
Some people think we can’t change what we think about, as if, we’re victims of our thoughts. Others, while they would never say that, live as if it’s true.
Have you ever had this kind of conversation in your head? I know I have.
“I can’t believe she said that!”
“What’s wrong with her anyway? Why does she have a problem with me? I’m so sick of it!”
“I should have said … the next time I’m going to put her in her place! Next week we’re NOT going over there!”
“Why didn’t Joe stand up for me? He never does. He lets his mother walk all over me. I never do that with my mom.”
Sarcastically. “His mom knows how to cook! His mom kept the house up! His mom deserves his help!”
And on it goes.
The rest of the day is ruined. You’re in a bad mood and your husband doesn’t have a clue what happened.
If we make it a habit to have those kinds of conversations in our heads, our attitudes will turn increasingly ugly. Before long we’re saying and doing things that damage our relationships, make us miserable, and displease God. It will, also, breed unforgiveness, bitterness, and anger. And if left unchecked, can lead to all kinds of strained relationships, even divorce.
Thoughts are running our lives.
Learning to Think God’s Way
So, how can we learn to think God’s way? 2 Corinthians 10 says:
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 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.
Notice what those strongholds are. Three key words in verse 5 tell us: arguments, knowledge, and thoughts. The strongholds that must be pulled down have to do with our thoughts and beliefs. How do we cast down the thoughts, beliefs and arguments that try to exalt themselves against God’s truth? We must take those thoughts captive by choosing to think the way God wants us to think.
Ephesians 4.22-24 tells us that we are to put-off the habits (habitual ways of thinking, speaking and acting) of the old man and put-on the habits of the new man. The New Living Translation says this new man is “created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.” The thoughts, words and actions that make up our lives should be righteous and holy like God’s.
The way to put off wrong habits is to put on or replace them with right ones. God’s Word is full of specific examples of how to do that. Let’s look at just two of them.
From Philippians 4:
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things arepure, 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.
And from Ephesians 4:
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
In Philippians 4.6 we’re told to put off anxiety (fear, worry, fretting). And in Ephesians 4.31 we’re instructed to put off bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, slander and all types of evil behavior.
Think about Proverbs 27.19 again, “Be careful what you think, your thoughts run your life.” We can’t expect to indulge in fearful, angry, bitter thoughts and somehow put-off fearful, angry words and actions. It just doesn’t work, at least not for long and, certainly, isn’t pleasing to God.
Instead, when we’re worried, we’re to put-on prayer, supplication, and thankfulness. And when we’re tempted to be angry, we’re to put-on kindness, tender-heartedness (compassion), and forgiveness.
We need to develop an attitude of prayer and thankfulness by going to Him each time we experience fear and worry. Then we need to remind ourselves of the blessings in our lives. If necessary, sit down and make a list.
When we find ourselves tempted to be angry or bitter, we need to intentionally choose to think kindly of the other person by giving them the benefit of the doubt and reminding ourselves of God’s love and mercy with us. We should cultivate compassion by putting ourselves in the other person’s place and by remembering our own sin and shortcomings. And no matter what, we need to ask God to help us forgive.
So, what might our original self-talk look like:
“I can’t believe she said that!”
“Oh, please forgive me, Lord, I know I’ve said much worse. And my thoughts toward her haven’t always been sweet either. Please forgive me. Give me your compassion for Joe’s mom.”
“Lord, I don’t know what it’s like to have all your children grow up and leave home. Help me to have compassion for her. I might be struggling, too, if I were in her place. How can I show her kindness without worrying about whether she deserves it or reciprocates?”
“I know Joe loves his mom and You do, too. Help me remember that You died for me while I was still a sinner, so I can be an instrument of Your grace in her life.”
“Sometimes I really want Joe to stand up for me, but I know he’s caught in the middle. His mom does need some help right now. Help me to be understanding with Joe and to be a blessing to His mom, even when I don’t feel like it.”
Someone out there is probably saying, “Oh, sure, you want to the think like that about my mother-in-law?! You’re killing me!”
But … isn’t that exactly the kind of radical change to which God has called us?
23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it (Lk. 9.23-24).
So, let’s guard our hearts by choosing not to put in filth, things that breed fear, discontent or lust. And let’s deal with the thoughts that arise from our own sin nature so we can grow in holiness and become more like God.
Today’s Other Readings:
Jeremiah 29 & 30:
An Incurable Affliction
Chapter 30 contains one of the most descriptive pictures of the spiritual condition of the nation of Israel, followed by God’s amazing promise. It’s also a picture of our spiritual condition apart from Christ and the redemption He purchased for us at the cross. Think about each phrase as you reread it:
12 “For thus says the LORD.
‘Your affliction is incurable,
Your wound is severe.
Apart from Christ’s work on our behalf we were totally and completely incurable.
13 There is no one to plead your cause,
That you may be bound up;
You have no healing medicines.
We could not save ourselves. We could never be good enough.
14 All your lovers have forgotten you;
They do not seek you;
All the false saviors we chased after left us abandoned and feeling emptier than before.
For I have wounded you with the wound of an enemy,
With the chastisement of a cruel one,
For the multitude of your iniquities,
Because your sins have increased.
In faithfulness and love He wounded us, so we might come to the end of ourselves and cry out to Him.
15 Why do you cry about your affliction?
Your sorrow is incurable.
Because of the multitude of your iniquities,
Because your sins have increased,
I have done these things to you.
Are you crying out only to get out of the affliction or are you crying out for Him?
17 For I will restore health to you
And heal you of your wounds,’ says the LORD,
By His stripes we were healed from the worst malignancy—the malignancy of sin that kept us separated from God.
18 “Thus says the LORD.
19 Then out of them shall proceed thanksgiving
And the voice of those who make merry;
Jesus said he who has been forgiven much loves much (Lk. 7.47). It should also make us joyful and full of thanksgiving.
I will multiply them, and they shall not diminish;
I will also glorify them, and they shall not be small.
22 ‘You shall be My people,
And I will be your God.’”
What a great demonstration of His faithfulness to those who will accept His gracious offer of salvation!
What Will You Choose?
The psalmist made a choice to believe and to obey God’s Word. He said, “… for I trust in Your word … for I have hoped in Your ordinances … So shall I keep Your law continually … for I seek Your precepts. I will speak of Your testimonies … I will delight myself in Your commandments … and I will meditate on Your statutes.”
We, too, have a choice whether to believe and whether or not to obey.
1 Timothy 1.1-20:
The Biggest Sinner in the World
Verse 15, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”
Here was the great apostle near the end of his life calling himself the “chief of all sinners.”
Earlier in his walk with God he had called himself the “least of the Apostles” and later, “the least of all saints” and now “the chief of all sinners,” not because he was sinning more, but because he understood more and more the holiness of God and how unworthy every one of us is to be called His sons and daughters!
How has God spoken to you today? Did you see a passage in a new light? Did you see an area where you need to grow and change? Did you find a promise to hold on to? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
In the next few days, we’ll talk about whether our faith is genuine, God’s teaching on women and more.
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