I have known the Lord for some time. I have accepted Jesus as my personal savior and I pray often. Yet, I continue to sin, mostly through my thoughts, and can't seem to stop. I don't carry out my thoughts but can't seem to stop them from entering my mind. What can I do?
- Gordon from Massachusetts
Just thoughts versus sin (Part 1)
I want to start off by making sure you understand that the fact that bad thoughts enter your mind is not a sin. Satan flings lots of garbage into our minds hoping he can make some of it stick. He confuses us into thinking that since it is in our mind, we are the originator of it but that is not necessarily true. He originated it.
Think about a dessert cart at a restaurant. The waiter rolls it by and stops to tell you about each dessert hoping he will entice you into ordering one. The fact that the cart is in front of you does not mean you have consumed the dessert or that you will be charged for it. You can say "no thanks" and the cart will go away and you don't need to feel guilty that it stopped at your table.
Now, suppose you say; "Yes, I'll take that chocolate mousse cake" but to yourself you say; "I'll order it but won't eat it. I'll just let it sit here on my table." That puts you on shakier ground. You ARE going to be charged for it on your bill and it is going to be quite hard not to eat it. This is the example of someone holding onto temptation too long; lingering over it and considering it.
So now you need to ask yourself where you are at in this scenario. You say you don't carry out your thoughts but how long are they sitting? Have you ordered the dessert but now you're trying not to eat it? If you reject every thought which does not match up with the mind of Christ right up front, then you have not sinned just because the thought came in.
I'm going to go on the assumption that you are struggling with lingering thoughts which you are attracted to but don't want to put legs to because you know the actions would be wrong. You've got the dessert sitting on the table; you're just trying not to eat it? Let's talk tomorrow about ways to dump the dessert and then NEVER reorder it again.
Next: How do you deal a death blow to tempting thoughts?
Keeping clean/renewing your mind (Part 2)
Romans 12:2 says; "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…" A renewed mind is less likely to struggle with ordering off the dessert cart and then squirm not to eat it. But how?
I have several suggestions. The first one is this: just who is running this show anyhow? You are not your mind but you control your mind - or should. The spirit realm is a higher authority than the physical realm and must submit to it. If you have accepted Jesus as your savior, your spirit has come alive and has the right to tell your body and your mind (your soul) what to do. Chew on that thought for awhile until you begin to feel the truth of the power you have to decide what comes in and what gets kicked out immediately.
Secondly, let's be practical about your thought life. Examine the triggers you are most usually dealing with. Are they coming from TV images, magazines, Internet? What time of day is most troubling - what circumstances? You should easily recognize a pattern and once you do you can disrupt it. For instance, when I am dieting, I do not even allow myself to go down the ice cream isle.
Here's the other thing I do when I'm dieting: I make sure when I go grocery shopping I'm full - not hungry. What that means to you is that you need to keep your mind very full of "good stuff" so there is no room for the junk Satan tries to slide in. "Whatever is true, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things." (Philippians 4:8)
Can you play Praise and Worship music in the background during the day? How about falling asleep at night with it on? One of my close friends plays the Bible on CD overnight every night. That's a good way to get the Word deep down inside of you. Are you reading Christian inspirational books? What hobbies do you have that are good and wholesome and just plain fun? Do you volunteer anywhere? Fill your life with good and leave little room for temptation to fester.
You mention that you pray. Keep that up and increase it. The kind of prayer to accentuate is deep one on one conversation with the Lord. Fall more in love with God till everything else fades into the background. That's where you want that dessert cart!