2 Corinthians 10
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
In ancient times, whenever a victorious army returned home, its leaders would parade captured enemy soldiers through city streets to show the world that the enemy had been vanquished, conquered, and subdued. This was common practice for the Romans and Paul was quite familiar with it. Though some might say sin begins in the eyes of the person who looks at something or someone with impure motives, it’s more accurate to say that sin begins with a single thought. The eyes transmit signals to the brain and that’s where the thoughts of lust, envy, hatred, revenge, anger, greed, or covetousness are stirred.
Now just because an impure or unholy thought suddenly pops into your head, that does not necessarily mean you’ve committed a sin. It’s what you do with that thought and how far you take it that determines if it becomes sin or not. James wrote, “…….but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. The desire James spoke of often begins with a single thought, maybe like some of these:
“I want that and I don’t care what I have to do to get it………”
“It’s just a little white lie……..”
” It’s not really stealing…….. “
“So what? It means more money for me……….”
“I’ll get even with him………. “
“Big deal. Everybody’s doing it………”
“Oh yeah!! Check her out…….”
“It’s just a harmless fantasy. It’s okay to think about it as long as you know deep down you’d never really do it……. “
Those are just a few examples of the thoughts that often precede sin, if we’re not careful. Somewhere in the thought process, before “desire has been conceived”, there has to be an intervention. We have to realize what’s happening, recognize the danger, and do whatever it takes to capture that thought before it becomes full blown sin. On our own, that’s impossible. We don’t have the strength or the discipline apart from Christ. The intervention must come through the Holy Spirit living inside of us.
I know some commentators say Paul was writing about how to effectively rebuke teachers of false doctrine, and that this is not instruction for individuals on how to deal with an ungodly thought that suddenly comes to mind. Whether that’s true or not, when ungodly thoughts invade, recognizing them and capturing them and giving them over to Christ seems to be a good strategy to employ. “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” James said.
Jesus said if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. If your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out. He didn’t mean that you should literally disfigure yourself. His point was, take whatever measures you have to take to avoid sin. It might be an image, or a memory, or some less than appropriate words that pop into your mind all of a sudden. When that happens, if you have to visualize in your mind putting those thoughts in a brown paper bag and tacking it to the cross, then do so. Imagine yourself flat on your face with your arms around Jesus’ feet, if that’s what it takes. Find a a place to pray. Recite your favorite memory verse. Find something that works for you and do it before those thoughts lead to sin. Sinful inner thoughts are every bit as damaging to our fellowship with God as outward sinful deeds. That’s why Jesus said, “Don’t even THINK about sleeping with another woman. Don’t even THINK about murdering someone.”
This has happened to every one of us, probably more than once. And sometimes it’s a struggle and I know it’s not as easy as I make it sound. But when we fill our minds with thoughts of Christ, it’s easier to capture, vanquish, conquer, and subdue those thoughts when they try to invade.