(From the Beatitudinal Podcase Episode # 1: Mind Series #1: Take Your Thoughts Captive, Before They Capture You)
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 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: 2 Corinthians 10: 4-5
Being attitudinal, to fiercely live a life of gratitude, is not something that just happens. You’re not going to wake up one morning to find you are keenly alert to the good things God is doing in your life, regardless of the challenges that face you and the difficulties you are going through. This is a counter intuitive thing – a stubbornly persistent, deliberate act that takes faithful practice. Believing that God is good, TO YOU in particular, regardless of how things seem is not always easy, and when you try to do so you will experience not always subtle pushbacks all the way.
Humans and animals alike are living creatures – creations of God – that are distinguished from other static creations like oceans and mountains by their ability to think. The capacity for complex thought further distinguishes humans beings from animals.
While we do all perceive an inaudible voice, we are not always the author of it. Rather than ourselves solely, our thoughts may be from the Holy Spirit, or in utter contrast, from diabolical sources. It is important to be aware of these three alternatives, and to know how to respond in particular to the diabolical source.
The Diabolical Forces of Hell
The Bible clearly teaches that there is a diabolical being – accuser, murderer, thief, liar, accuser, destroyer, slanderer – commonly referred to as Satan (adversary), the devil (slanderer), or the Enemy. The enemy is relentlessly focused on thwarting and harming all humans, with a view of dragging with it – as many as it can – to its already decided doom: eternal torment, cut off from God = hell. Thankfully, it too is subservient to God, a mere created being.
Formerly a chief angel, it led a rebellion against God, resulting in it and all the rebellious angels being expelled from heaven (Isaiah 14: 12-15), from then on serving the evil purposes of their evil commander, the devil. Though it tries to assert equality with God, there are NOT two equally powerful forces of good and evil. The goodness of God is dominantly sovereign, unmatched in majesty and power – the Enemy merely has been permitted a set time to get up to evil mischief, according and subject to God’s Master Plan.
The Enemy seeks to distort our thinking experience, to make it as poisonously negative as possible. Often the battle is won – or lost – in the mind. The good news is that we have the irresistible authority to counter and resist the devil, to ensure our thoughts are powerfully positive!
Diabolically Negative Thought
It is common for the enemy to plant misguided, inappropriate or evil thoughts in our mind while trying to pass them off as out thoughts. The aim is for us to undiscerningly accept them – hook, line and sinker. Another broad strategy is to appeal to our pride by puffing us up to ludicrously think that we know just as well – if not better – than God. Here are four strategic temptations the enemy uses against the human mind:
1. Test God, Because You’re Not Confident of Him.
Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”….Then the devil took Him…on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down….showed Him all the kingdoms of the world …said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”….: Matthew 4: 3-9
Notice how in the attempt against Jesus, the enemy came when it thought he would be hungry, weak and tired. It prompted Jesus to (I) harm himself, (ii) to test God, and (iii) to use scripture wrongly. Characteristically, each temptation was more persuasive than the preceding one, appealing to human weak spots of greed, in the form of the desire for wealth and power.
2. Your Destiny is Wrong
The deceiver tries to get you off plan and off schedule by trying to make you believe the mission you were correctly informed about (in your heart or through a messenger or dream for example) and are in the process of carrying out, is a mistake.
When Jesus confided in His disciples what – with his full knowledge and consent – was about to happen to Him as part of God’s rescue plan for humankind, the devil diabolically inspired Peter to emphatically demur and seek to discourage Jesus by reproaching Him. Jesus knew what was going on, so he incisively dealt with the situation: He resisted the enemy by calling it out. The Bible instructs us to resist the devil and he will flee from you, and that is exactly what Jesus did. He turned to Peter but addressed the diabolical being speaking through him, not Peter himself, saying “….Get behind Me, Satan!….”
3. You are Worthy, You Deserve This
This particular strategy succeeds again and again. It will catch us out if we don’t take care, because it appeals to the foolish pride with which we are all infected as fleshly humans.
The Bible warns us that the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life are not of the Father but are of the world. More specifically, a repulsive list of the outworking of such lusts and pride is provided.
The hallmarks of pride are evident in at least three of the evils listed: jealousy, selfish ambition and envy. The truth is, save in a few contexts (i.e. there is such a thing as godly pride) – prideful feelings are a red flag, a warning that we are under the influence of the deceiver. In fact, overweening pride was its downfall, and pride provided the opening by which it tricked our ultimate ancestors, Adam and Eve, and got them kicked out of Eden.
The devil tried this ploy on Jesus unsuccessfully. It repeatedly tried to kickstart diabolical pride in Jesus, by questioning His divinity, so He would be stung into proving it: “IF you are the Son of God….” emphasis. When this failed, the enemy changed tack, staying with this strategy (pride), but trying to press the God-is-holding-out-on-you-but-you-you-deserve-this button. Jesus sent the devil packing.
Arguments and things that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God are prideful and diabolical. Far from presuming that the trend is of you, when your thoughts assume such qualities, immediately commence a mental and emotional sweep to identify the interlopers, refute the invitation to embrace the wrong thoughts, and reject them firmly.
4. Depression and Fear, Unbelief and Doubt
We are warned that we live in the midst of a spiritual battle that rages on regardless of whether we are aware of it or acknowledge it. Our beings – including our thoughts – are targeted by an unrelenting foe who stalks around as a hungry lion, seeking whom it may devour, (1 Peter 5:8).
Predictably, the enemy does not want Christians to be powerfully armed with their spiritual authority, so undermining faith and stoking unbelief has long been a crucial line of attack (strategy 1 above).
The ‘Enlightenment’, a movement of ideas that emphasized questioning traditional perspectives about life and existence, preferring instead to repose confidence in the ability of reason and science to prove things, played a significant role in this decline. Secularism and the erosion of a belief in any god, let alone the Christian Lord God that is endemic in Western nations are the fruit of this movement.
As a result, in Western Nations, the existential temperature is increasingly cool, and the legal context hostile to Christian beliefs. Surrounded by a culture that decries the straightforward acceptance or adherence to biblical doctrine, it has become a losing battle for many embattled Western Christians, to maintain belief in the literal meaning of scripture. Doubt that the Bible is the Word of God – or that it should be taken literally – is endemic.
Research has shown that rates of depression are lower among persons with (any) religious beliefs, and that among evangelical Christians, depressed persons had significantly lower scores of spirituality than non-depressed persons. In other words, depressed persons were more likely to indicate that they felt unloved by God or were angry at God.
Christian ministers are not immune.