Day 2: The Battlefield of Obedience
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:5 ESV
I’m an introvert and one of the challenges, even dangers, of introversion is my thought life. Most of the important conversations I’ve had, have all been in my mind. You might describe it as “thinking too much.” There was a time I took every comment, every action whether mine or someone else’s and ran it over and over in my mind. I was like a dog chewing on a bone. I would gnaw and grind every thought. I could stir myself up, predict others’ responses, make plans for every circumstance. At the end of the day, all it left me was weary.
I’m not that person anymore. Oh, I’m still an introvert but my thought life is different. Putting 2 Corinthians into practice, taking every thought captive to the obedience of Jesus, has given me so much freedom. The key for me is recognizing what to focus my thoughts on. I’ve heard others say, “I can’t help what I think!” Actually, you can. Little by little God has shown me how to recognize thoughts that leave me running on a hamster wheel versus thoughts which lead me closer to Him. And when all else fails and I can’t seem to stop the negative… I sing!
One of the most profound teachings I learned as a new Believer was the truth that I could control my thoughts.
I always believed my thoughts were of their own making. They just were what they were and I had to live with them. But when someone told me I didn’t have to think about whatever came to mind, I could change my mind, it was life altering.
The excuse: I can’t stop thinking about it… whatever it was, was no longer valid. In Jesus’s name, I found I could replace negative, fearful, vengeful, sinful thoughts with His Word. With prayer. With praise. With thanksgiving.
Talk about mind blowing!
Obedience to God requires agreement with Him regarding His will and His way.
As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” —1Peter 1:14-16 NIV
Because He is holy, we are to be holy. No longer are we to conform to the world’s way or to the evil desires we had before we knew Him. God’s people are called to be obedient children. Following their Father’s footsteps in the way of holiness.
Holy, translated from the Greek hagios, “fundamentally signifies ‘separated’… separated from sin and therefore consecrated to God, sacred.” God’s grace makes us holy, yet Believers have the responsibility of sanctifying themselves, choosing to avoid sin and obey God (Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words). Separating ourselves from the world and surrendering our lives to Him for His use. This is what it means to be holy.
So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. —Ephesians 4:17-19 NIV
Read the verse again. What does it say about the thinking of the Gentiles? …in the futility of their thinking… Our thinking, where we focus our attention, can be futile if it is not in agreement with God. Futile thinking leads to hard hearts. We want hearts sensitive to God’s way and in agreement with His Word. Coming into agreement with someone is a thought process. We consider whether we agree with a statement or not. To pursue a holy life we must first be in agreement with God about what it means to be holy. Therefore, holiness begins in the mind.
Our priorities should be God’s priorities. This involves surrender of our desires for His desires. Lives wholly surrendered to God look different than those who embrace worldly values. The world lives for itself and works for itself. Disciples of Jesus live to obey and work for Him. The world should be able to identify us by our obedience.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
—Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV
Obedience is external evidence of a change in our mind. The way to have a life that looks different on the outside is to change our will to coincide with God’s.
Surrender is not the surrender of the external life, but of the will; when that is done, all is done.
—Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
The battle of wills takes place in our minds first. We have to decide it’s OK, even good, to be different from others in our world — in our neighborhood, at our workplace, in our family — even though our flesh wants to fit in. The things we allow into our minds can make the struggle easier or more difficult.
Paul’s language in his letter to the Corinthians calling them to make their thoughts obedient to Christ depicts the battle: destroy arguments, take every thought captive. This is war! It requires conscious effort to pay attention to what we think. Do not agree with thoughts that conflict with God’s Word. Be careful what you allow into your mind through radio, television, books, or even conversations.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
—Philippians 4:8 ESV
Once we surrender our minds and hearts to God, obedience will follow.
Talk It Out
Talk it over with yourself:
Are you willing to surrender your entire life to God? Why or why not?
What steps can you take to live holy and guard your thought life?
Talk it over with God:
Ask God to show you the places in your life you have not yet surrendered. Ask Him to help you in the battle to follow Him, beginning with your thoughts.
Examine me, O Lord, and try me; Test my mind and my heart.
Psalm 26:2 NASB95
Exercise Your Faith
Giving thanks can redirect our negative thoughts. In your journal, list three things you are thankful for today. Then thank Him.
Do _________ not ____________ that if you _________________ yourselves to
_________________ as _________________________ ________________,
you are ______________ of the ___________ whom you ______________, either of
________, which leads to ________________, or of ________________________,
which leads to ___________________________? ________________ 6:16