We’re glad you’re back. Have you got a sister or two to chat with? And you may want your journal and a pen. Let’s talk about our thought life, where the battle of obedience takes place.
Father God, open our minds to Your Word.
If you did the weekly study, the first day we asked you to consider the question, “Can you help what you think?” What was your response to the question?
Is it true? Do we have control over our thought life?
Read 2 Corinthians 10:4-6
What are the action words Paul uses in these verses?
Words like destroy, punish, take, do not give a picture of us bowing to every thought and whim blowing through our minds. Paul came to the point of understanding in Christ through the power of the Spirit, we can control our thoughts.
The Message puts it like this:
The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.
The words of Paul signify a battle, and we have powerful God-tools for smashing, tearing down, and fitting thoughts, emotions, and impulses into the structure of a God-shaped life.
What tools do you think Paul is talking about here?
Several years ago, I asked God specifically what the “divine weapons” were mentioned in 2 Corinthians 10:4. The next morning I had three specific things on my mind as the answer to my question: songs of praise, prayer, and thanksgiving.
Well, I couldn’t just accept the answer without finding it in Scripture, so I went looking. I found all three at work in 2 Chronicles 20:1-23. When Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, faced an enemy intent on driving them out of their promised land, the first step they took was to seek God in prayer (2 Chronicles 20:2-13). God responded to the nation’s prayer by telling them: the battle is not yours but God’s (2 Chronicles 20:15). He instructed them where to go and stand to see the salvation of the Lord (2 Chronicles 20:16-17).
In response to their prayer, at the sound of thanks and praise, God defeated the enemy. These are divine weapons.
Divine weapons remind us we are fighting a spiritual battle, not one of flesh and blood as in the days of the kings of Judah and Israel. And when we fill our minds with thoughts focused on God, we don’t have much room for thoughts of the flesh.
This week we practiced putting on the full armor of God found in Ephesians 6. Let’s turn to Ephesians 6:14-18.
Did you notice a difference in your day as you practiced this discipline?
Which piece of armor meant the most to you?
Were there times you became aware of your thoughts and saw them in the light of His truth?
Remember the two items hold in our hands? What are they?
A shield of faith is essential to helping us determine and defend ourselves from allowing tempting thoughts to take root.
Did you notice any thoughts this week you immediately knew were temptations?
I was getting ready for the day when my daughter came to mind. A simple thought about her traveling home in a few days and the bad weather forecast during her time of travel. My first response was to make a mental note to pray for her during this time. And then it dawned on me… Why wait? Pray now!
I prayed a prayer for safety and provision and moved on to my task at hand. All through the day thoughts would come. What if she has a wreck? Gets hurt? Even dies? It was a day of battle. Thoughts came, I lifted my shield of faith and cast those thoughts away trusting God’s plan for her is perfect no matter what the outcome of her travel would be.
How have you experienced this kind of battle? What was your response?
Tempting thoughts are not sin. We all have them. What we do with the thoughts, how we react and the path we choose determines which way a temptation will lead us. Allowing a tempting thought to take root gets us into trouble.
Imagine my thought of my daughter’s travel taking root. What would have been the result if I dwelt on those thoughts? I can tell you because I’ve been there, done that! I would have conjured up every kind of scenario. Even allowed fear to stir up to the point I could think of nothing else. Thoughts of harm and even death would have ruled and reigned throughout the day.
And bam! The sin of worry has taken hold. I wish I could say it might stop at worry and only affect me, but no. Worry drives me to share with others my concern, and now they’re worried too. Sin always progresses… always grows to the point of affecting our relationship with God and others.
So much can be avoided when we recognize our thoughts and take up arms before sin can grow.
Jesus once told a parable about seeds. The seed, being God’s Word, planted in good soil produces an abundance of good fruit. Sin is also a seed and it usually begins with a thought.
When we mull over a tempting thought, we water the seed and slowly it cracks open and begins to take root. Thinking about it tills the soil and prepares the way for root growth and soon a shoot begins to appear. The new growth of the seed takes place underground, unseen. But it doesn’t stop there. Shoots grow outward, break ground and a new plant is born. Eventually a strong tree grows from the tiny seed and it bears fruit as well. This is the picture of sin when it becomes a stronghold in our lives.
It would have been much simpler to let the seed of temptation die before it takes root. Recognizing a tempting thought and casting it out is the work of the Holy Spirit living in us. He is the wind that blows the seed of sin away.
Removing a stronghold is a different matter altogether, much like the chopping down of a tree. Hard work and toil is needed to remove something so large in our lives. Digging up a root system becomes painful and leaves us weary.
I’ve done the work of cooperating with God to remove a stronghold of sin in my life. It took years, at least a decade, and it took a lot of spiritual fight. Ultimately, the battle came down to whether I believed God to be who He said He was. Did what I believe in my mind come out in my actions?
I do know, if you have a stronghold in your life, it is worth the effort to break free. It is also a way to enlarge your shield of faith. Because as He is faithful to your efforts, your faith in Him is increased.
Recognizing God provides the shield of faith for the purpose of casting out errant thoughts is the first step. The second is to train ourselves to refocus our thoughts.
Read Philippians 4:8
Day 3 of our homework challenged us to personalize this verse applying the things to think about to our lives. Did you make a list of things to focus on when your thoughts seemed to take control? What was your experience?
Not only do we hold a shield of faith in one hand, we have a weapon in the other hand. What is it?
Read Ephesians 6:17
What is the sword we use in battle?
God’s Word is our only weapon, but it is not something we use to destroy others. It is a weapon we use to take down our spiritual enemy. When we notice an ungodly thought taking root, His Word is where we should turn.
What happened when you refocused your thoughts on God’s Word this week?
Temptation is not the only battle we face in our thought life, we also war against attitudes when it comes to obedience.
I was going to the bank when I saw him. A man standing on the opposite side of the road holding a cardboard sign. I knew his need without reading the sign and I passed him by. I was on a mission to get to the bank and thought… I’ll help him when I’m done.
I didn’t go when I finished at the bank, because I wanted to stop in the health food store across the parking lot. I glanced over to see if he was still there. He was and so I continued. I shopped for a few minutes and visited with friends. As I exited the parking lot there he was and so I stopped. Rolled down my window and gave him some advice. My church gives out food… the soup kitchen a few blocks away serves lunch… He nodded and I rolled up the window.
I went to the closest fast food restaurant and bought the man a meal complete with a large milk shake. Food in hand I went back to the place he was, and he was gone. I looked up and down the streets as I drove slowly back to work. This isn’t a large town, where did he go?
I allowed my experience, pride, and excuses to get in the way of God’s plan. I took the bag of food back to work and placed it in the refrigerator. My son was happy to have an afternoon snack.
My youngest feasting on that burger and fries reminded me of what happens when we go our own way. In the end all I did was feed my own flesh. Not a great moment in my week.
How did Moses respond to God’s call? What about Esther?
They both had some pretty great excuses. What excuses do you find yourself making to avoid doing what God is calling you to do?
How did God and Esther’s uncle Mordecai respond?
Honestly, God has an answer for every excuse, and He will listen just like He did with Moses. We should never allow our excuses to keep us from obeying His call.
Read Luke 5:1-11
How did Peter respond to Jesus’ instructions? What do you think His attitude about obeying might have been?
Peter was a fisherman, Jesus a carpenter. What in the world did He know about fishing? Peter and his companions already fished all night, using all their experience and knowledge about fishing, and didn’t catch a thing. Peter may have been suffering from some arrogance, weariness, and looking for an opportunity to show Jesus just how little He knew when it came to fishing. Perhaps he even rolled his eyes and sighed as he said, “Because You say so, I will…”
Peter’s attitude quickly changed to humble conviction at the result of his obedience. He learned an important lesson.
What emotions rise when you think of the word obedience?
As I reflected on my lack of obedience with the man needing food I realized something. I view obedience as bondage. I want to do things my way in my own time because obedience to me is something I want to be free of. I’m a rebellious girl at heart.
I missed the opportunity to connect with God in His work and feed the hungry.
Many of us have an attitude of drudgery and rebellion when it comes to obedience. We want to be free to do things our own way. Only there is no true freedom in our own way, and what we miss is the opportunity to walk side by side with God in the building of His kingdom.
Bad attitudes and wayward thoughts can cause us to live a life of disobedience, missing all God has for us. But once we begin to win the battle in our minds, it’s time to act.
Next week we talk about Obedience — Faith in Action.
Father God, we are so grateful for Your grace and patience as we learn to walk in obedience, fighting the battle of our thoughts and attitudes. Bless us with more insights of the work to be done in our hearts. Prepare us to come before You in humble obedience.
Click here for the PDF of the homework: going-deeper-week-18-obedience-faith-in-action-final