Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Our thoughts have tremendous power over our lives. Most sins originate in our minds. Therefore, what we allow our minds to dwell on usually results in an action. Take worry for instance. How many nights have you spent awake going over a problem? You recount the details over and over and over until, before you realize it, you have spent the better portion of your night in stress instead of peaceful sleep. Or how about that coworker who was rude to you yesterday? Instead of forgiving them and praying for them, you replay the conversation so many times that by the time you see them again, you are cocked, loaded, and ready to fire! And then there is the sin of lust. A person may see someone they find attractive, spend countless hours thinking of that person, imagining scenarios where they talk to them or are actively involved with them. This is a sin when one or both persons are already in a marriage relationship.
Thoughts that are not from God must be stopped immediately. 2 Corinthians 10:5 “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.” Our thoughts must be brought under the authority of Christ. If you are unsure of where a thought has come from, stop and ask yourself if it is honoring to God. If the answer is no, pray for God to remove it from your mind. Having sinful thoughts is not a sin. It is when we let these thoughts take up residence in our minds and hearts, and then act on them that we are led into sin. We need to renew our minds every day. This can happen in our daily quiet time through reading God’s Word and through prayer. Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Ephesians 4:22-24 “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” 1 Peter 1:14-16 “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.'”
Our thoughts are greatly influenced by the world we live in. Many Christians have a hard time separating themselves from their old way of living. Music, TV programs, movies, and popular hang-outs like bars may still seem attractive and have a considerable pull on us. When we understand that we are to be in the world but not of it, we then should try to separate ourselves from our old lifestyle. Peer pressure and ridicule for being different may lead us to give in, even if just a little, to things which can plant bad seeds in our minds. Listen to Ephesians 5:3-7 “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.” The Bible calls us to be separate from the world. Not as an unkind punnishment, but to protect us. Proverbs 23:7 (Amplified version) “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he”.
Lets now look a some of the sins of the heart.
Hatred. The Bible says that if we hate someone in our heart, it is like committing murder. Matthew 5:21-22 “You have heard that it was said to our people long ago, ‘You must not murder anyone. Any person who commits murder will be judged.’ But I tell you, don’t be angry with anyone. If you are angry with others, you will be judged. And if you insult someone, you will be judged by the high court. And if you call someone a fool, you will be in danger of the fire of hell.”
Lust. Adultery can be a sin of the heart as well. Matthew 5:28 “But I tell you that if a man looks at a woman and wants to sin sexually with her, he has already committed that sin with her in his mind.”
Envy and jealousy. Read about the prodigal son in Luke 15, and King Saul’s jealousy toward David in 1Samuel 18.
Bitterness. This comes from an unforgiving spirit where grudges are held and grow into revenge. Matthew 18:21-35.
Retaliation. Romans 12:19 “My friends, don’t try to punish anyone who does wrong to you. Wait for God to punish them with his anger. In the Scriptures the Lord says, ‘I am the one who punishes; I will pay people back.'” 1 Peter 2:23 “People insulted him, but he did not insult them back. He suffered, but he did not threaten anyone. No, he let God take care of him. God is the one who judges rightly.”
Critical spirit. Quickly pointing out the faults in others while ignoring our own. This has its roots in pride. Luke 18:11 “The Pharisee stood alone, away from the tax collector. When the Pharisee prayed, he said, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not as bad as other people. I am not like men who steal, cheat, or commit adultery. I thank you that I am better than this tax collector.” Proverbs 6:16-19 “The Lord hates these seven things: eyes that show pride, tongues that tell lies, hands that kill innocent people, hearts that plan evil things to do, feet that run to do evil, witnesses in court who tell lies, and anyone who causes family members to fight.”
All of these attitudes of the heart keep us from walking in holiness before God. We must be diligent at uprooting these as soon as we are aware of them.