Take Every Thought Captive.
We'e all learned a few tricks to keep sin at bay, or at the very least we've learned how to be "better than than the guy standing next to us", but this just seems so far from what God's Spirit (who is living within us) groans for. I suppose we could be content with the classic answer to lingering destructive tendencies in the Christian life by saying that we just have to "hang in there" until we reach the afterlife- just do our best and put up with it until Christ comes back.
But it seems like the New Testament preaches something different- something a bit more miraculous. While humanity would love to simply keep sin under control, God wants to completely destroy it. He wants to set us free from the sin that reigns in us so that He might take His rightful place as our Lord. When we receive Him into our hearts (literally asking God's Spirit to come live within us) we are giving him permission to make true in us what He intends to make true in all creation.
In 2 Corinthians 10:1-6, Paul is writing to a Church that is in need of Discipline. They have drifted from the teaching of Jesus and are seeking to discredit Paul's authority to correct them. They have allowed sin to sneak into their hearts, lead astray their minds, and pull them away from the freedom that they have in Christ. In meekness and gentleness Paul wishes not to punish disobedience but to clear it out of the Church; to wipe out its influence and set God's people back on track. He wishes to expose strongholds so that they can be dealt with.He teaches us that in Christ, we not only have the power to reveal strongholds, but to demolish them completely! He teaches us that God has given us weapons to combat the sin that entangles us.
Now all this talk of weapons and strongholds to demolish sin seems a bit much from a human perspective. This indifference towards sin is rooted in our refusal to admit the deep impact that sin has on us and our deep addiction to it. The world seeks tools to cope with sin and arguments to deny sin, but rarely does it seek weapons to fight it. And when it does, it uses the corrupted power of the devil rather than the power of God that is ours in Christ Jesus.
I want to make one thing very clear. It is not Jesus' intention for us to enter into the Christian life and simply cope with our sin. The very act of drawing close to Him involves giving Him our sin so that He can send it to the Cross to be dealt with.
Think about when Jesus encounters someone who is demonized. His message is not that He has come to give them the tools to cope with the demon, nor is it to teach them that their demon is no demon at all- His message is that they can have complete and total freedom from it! Jesus sets men and women free from demons so that they may never live as demonized people again! Now you may be thinking- "sure, that's all well and fine, but that has nothing to do with me, after all, I'm not demon possessed!" But if you cling to your sin like a baby clutches his blanket - you may as well be! Jesus never teaches the demonized to simply live with their demons, He casts them out. In the same way, He doesn't teach us to simply manage our sin, He teaches us to demolish its strongholds!
Now many of us refuse to allow God to have his way in us because we allow our minds to act as a barrier to our hearts. We allow our logic to take us away from Christ rather than pull us towards Him. But how can this be? Was not our God the author of logic? Shouldn't good logic point us to an accurate conclusion?
But our error is not rooted in logic itself, it is rooted in the foundation of our logic. We build our arguments against God on our attachment to sin which breeds a fear of intimacy. It is the influence of sin in our hearts that builds a predisposition against God in our minds. We search for ways to justify who we are instead of asking God who He wants us to be! And so we keep God out of the inmost parts of our being.
But this is not the Christian life. At its very core, the Christian life is a life controlled by the Spirit of God living within us, not by our old and crucified sinful nature. In order to live fully in this reality we must learn to give our thought life to God's Spirit. We must invite the Holy Spirit to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Him. We are meant to hand over to Him our entire heart, soul, and mind. We must invite God's Spirit to be present in every part of our being, learn to recognize his presence, and learn to obey His voice as He speaks to us.
Now this is difficult for us because we fear an intimacy with God. We fear the ways that He may want to change us. We fear the ways that He might ask us to be obedient to Him. After all, He may require us to give up the things we love. He may ask us to serve Him in ways that make us feel uncomfortable. He may ask us to give Him our thoughts. He may ask us to give Him the blocks we used to build our identity. He may ask us to look foolish for His name's sake. He might ask us for our hearts.
This is hard for us. In fact, it is impossible for us to give our hearts to God on our own. But God gives us His Spirit so that we have the power to give our hearts fully to Jesus. And when we receive Jesus, we welcome His Spirit to make His home in our hearts. But many of us have invited Him to live in the family room, or stay in the guest room, but we refuse to let Him live in the rest of the house. We keep Him out of the bedroom, or the study, or the basement and the closet. We invite Him to be our guest, but we refuse to let Him be the master of the house. We love to hear His stories and dine with Him, but we are ashamed when He wants to get His hands dirty in the deep dark corners. But this is precisely what He seeks to do! And the only way to fully stop Him- the only way to stop His patient persistence- is to kick Him out completely.
But we can't live that way for long. We need to adopt some other way of thinking. We need to invite something else in. Our deep desire to keep the visible components of our hearts clean will force us to take on some other ideology to aid us- perhaps even one that looks nearly Christian. We use our minds to keep God out of the deep places of our hearts. But this is not the way that Jesus intended us to live. In his loving kindness and mercy, He not only forgives us for the ways we have kept Him out, but He waits patiently at the door for us to invite Him back in.
What are the ways that I use my mind to keep God out of my heart? What sins do I cling to that would influence my thinking? What other things do I cling to that would keep me from intimacy with God? What scares me about allowing God to have full control of my thought life? What scares me about allowing God to have full access to my heart?
God, forgive me for the ways I have kept you from reigning in the deep places of my heart. I am sorry for building barriers that have kept you out. I am sorry for the ways I have used my mind to keep you from ministering to the deep places in my life. I renounce every thought, fear, and influence that keeps your Spirit from filling me. Holy Spirit, I invite you to have full control of me. I invite you to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Jesus. Amen.