The Thoughts of the Mind
The churches of Christ Greet You (Romans 16:16)
Text: Matthew 15:16-20
Many of the early philosophers felt that the body was a determent to the soul and the spirit of man. They felt that man perhaps would have been much happier if it were not for this old body of clay which also houses all of these ugly and evil tendencies. Of course, anyone knows that man is going beyond his boundaries when he speaks against God's creation. But it has forever been man's nature to pry into God's business. If God had made our spirits and had not given them bodies to dwell in, man would criticize that. He would be saying, "Why didn't God give man something through which he might express himself?"
The body itself is not evil. When the spirit and soul move out of the body, it has no feelings, desires or anything else. In order for man to be complete, he had to have the body, and God placed every member in the body as it pleased Him (1 Cor. 12). David said, "Man is fearfully and wonderfully made" (Ps. 139:14). God intends for the solutions to our problems to be in Christ, by faith in Him. With proper faith in Him, we can solve all of our problems. My faith tells me God's way is right about everything. The person who knows that God's way is best, never questions Him.
A PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS
There are thousands of people who would not want a penny for their thoughts; they would gladly give them away. But isn't it strange that thoughts build into ideas, and ideas into habits, and habits into characters that have caused so much misery and pain? Right now you are the product of your thoughts. If you are happy, it is because of the way you have learned to handle your thoughts. You have learned to reject the thoughts that are not good and have accepted the good ones. Not only so, but you have learned that new thoughts will knock at your door every day. Some of these thoughts are very difficult for you to analyze and reject. But because you are wise enough to realize that everything that seems good isn't good, you are able to refuse the bad thoughts and accept the good ones.
But to those of you who are unhappy and disgusted with life, it is simply because you have allowed your thoughts to get the better of you. You have allowed things outside yourself to come in and take residence, and these outside thoughts are controlling your whole existence. What you need to do is sit down and examine each thought of your heart, one by one, to see what it is doing for you. Don't try to think of everything at once, that will only confuse you. I am aware that what I am saying is a very difficult thing to do...a very difficult thing to do. The thoughts of your heart are many, and have been accumulating all of your life. You are unhappy because you are worried about so many things and haven't analyzed them.
What I am recommending now and what you’ll hear throughout this lesson is not the work of a day, but of many minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years. But you must start somewhere. There are thoughts in your heart that are responsible for your unhappiness. You will have to be patient and intelligent enough to know that thoughts are the things that are making you unhappy. What you will have to do is take the thoughts out one by one and examine them. You are the best judge of what you think. Just settle down and try to see what is in you: hate, envy, jealousy, fornication, theft, murder, vengeance or fear. Think of the people who bother you: brother, sister, friend, neighbor, relative, husband or wife. Being a child of God will help you discover what's wrong. One needs to be as David, able to pray, "Search me." Once you discover the thoughts of your heart and pull them out, you will begin to improve. No, it will not happen all at once, but recovery is on the way. With God's help, you will come to know yourself. Some of the things you will find out about yourself may frighten you, but that is part of the growth toward maturity and happiness.
Now we want to use twelve points to illustrate what I want to say in this lesson. I believe that twelve will suffice to prove the point I am seeking to get across. God used numbers often in the Bible, and 12 is one of the numbers he used. We read about the twelve sons of Jacob and twelve tribes of Israel. Under Jewish times there were twelve hours in a day. Christ selected twelve apostles. Christ Himself was about twelve years old when He first made his debut into his Father's business. In Luke 22, He told the twelve apostles they would sit on twelve thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Israel. In Revelation, He mentioned a tree that bears twelve manners of fruits. He tells us in symbols that there are twelve gates to the city of Heaven. So we are safe in using the number twelve. I believe that I can fully establish my premise beyond question. We shall use 12 points, but will use many more biblical characters (about 17) to illustrate the heart of this matter. We want to use Adam and Eve and then move on from there.
1. ADAM AND EVE
Let us first look at Adam. Now Adam represents that group of persons who did not think. Haven't you heard people say, "I just didn't think?" Well, Adam was one such person who could say that they acted without thought. But let us look at this non-thinking person. Now, the person who acts without thinking is guilty because he fails to use his mind to guard against matters that will confront him. Adam knew God's will, because God told him that he could “eat freely from every tree in the garden, except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. 2:16-17). But he didn't think about it enough to guard himself against eating that fruit. His mind should have been made up to do God's will, and no matter who offered him the fruit, he would have refused. So not thinking can be as bad as thinking about something. The result is the same.
Let us look for a time at Eve. Eve used her thinking power to a point, but allowed Satan to outwit her (Gen. 3:1-6). She even told Satan what God said, and the results that would follow (death). But she allowed her mind to be overruled by Satan's words. Her thoughts took the throne and her mind became the servant. We should never allow anything, no matter what it promises, to change our mind from what we knows to be the best. The thought can be very powerful, but knowing the results should make us want to do what we know is best. Eve allowed the thoughts of the beauty of the fruit, the taste of it, and the idea of being wise to overwhelm and fascinate her, even to the point of forgetting the penalty (death). One shouldn't allow the promises of anything to make him forget his knowledge and understanding of his mind. Now let us use their son, Cain, as our second point.
Friends, we must use our thinking power to defeat evil thoughts from entering the mind. Cain allowed his own thoughts to lead him away from God in worship. Then when Abel, his brother, did right, Cain allowed his own thoughts to cause him to do evil against Abel (Gen. 4). Now if Abel had not even existed, Cain still would have been wrong. Cain was guilty on at least three counts. First, he allowed his thoughts to lead him away from God in his worship. Secondly, he envied his brother, Abel. Finally, this envy led to murder, for Moses and John said he slew his brother (Gen. 4:8; 1 John 3:12). Cain could have prevented all this by controlling his thoughts with the power of the mind.
But let us clearly point out that thoughts are not the mind, but tools or instruments of the mind. The mind is not itself responsible for all the thoughts it faces, but it is responsible for the use of these thoughts. Thoughts are generated by either external or internal stimuli. By external, I mean what one sees, hears, feels, tastes and smells. By internal, I mean from inside the mind, thoughts arise because of stored away knowledge. One remembers something that appealed to him. You see, thoughts are like things lying around that we make use of when we like. Like silverware, utensils, carpenter's tools, mechanic's tools. One selects whichever one he wants to use for a particular work. So, all kinds of thoughts are available, some good and some bad. With our minds, we select whatever thought or thoughts we wish to entertain. Whether we know it or not, that is what we do. We make our day good or bad by the thoughts we select. So Cain allowed evil thoughts to destroy him.
3. KING SAUL
I will now use Saul, King Saul, the son of Kish, as our next example. Saul was born into a Jewish family that was of the tribe of Benjamin. He had many advantages. It is believed his parents were very religious and pious. He was a very handsome man, but somehow it is inferred that he didn't esteem himself very highly (1 Samuel 9:21). Remember when he was called to be king of Israel, "he hid himself among the stuff"(1 Samuel 10:22). If one thinks little of himself, usually, he is little. But after Saul became king, and won a few victories, he got beside himself. Somewhere the thought of pride was presented to him. Pride comes in as a result of success. One begins to feel that he is important. When that thought presents itself, one should at once deal with that thought and not allow it to overrule his better judgment. The mind has the power to refuse or accept the thought.
Then Saul drifted from one degree of disgrace to another. When David won the victory over Goliath and the women began to sing, "Saul killed his thousands and David his ten thousands", Saul became jealous of David (1 Samuel 18:7-9). Now the thought of jealousy was presented by the song of the women, but Saul could have prevented that thought from taking root in his heart. Jealousy makes one feel that another is trying to take what he has. A jealous man feels that other men want his wife and he feels threatened by this thought. A jealous wife feels that all other women want her husband and she feels threatened by that thought. A jealous child feels that another child or other children will get what belongs to him/her. He is jealous of his parents' attention and wants it all for himself.
So with Saul, he allowed a jealous thought to come in and lodge in his innermost mind. He could have, with his mental powers, thrown that thought of jealousy out. He should have dwelled upon the good that David did. He should have remembered what David did when he stood before that giant and saved Israel. He could have had that thought and would have been happy rather than having the jealous thought that made him sad. He selected the thoughts that made him unhappy.
He allowed these thoughts to drive him insane. David would play music for him and he would try to kill David. His jealousy turned to hate and everywhere, he sought David's life. A jealous person allows that thought to reign in his heart at his own selection. One might say, “I don't wish to have this thought,” but as long as it is there, he welcomes it and allows it to stay there. If a snake seeks to enter your house, you destroy it, and throw it out at once, don't you? So why house a thought that will hurt you and make you unhappy?
This thought of jealousy was on the throne and his mind was the slave. Whenever a sane person is miserable, it is because he/she allows his mind to become a slave (servant) of his thoughts. Saul's thought of pride that led him away from God's command, led to many other thoughts, and eventually to rebellion against God. The rebellion led to his downfall. Then he committed other sins. He tried to do a priest's duty. Also he disobeyed God at Amalek. God then rejected him. All of these evil thoughts came in and controlled him and destroyed him. He didn't have to have these thoughts. Satan, we know, is behind every evil thought, keeping it before the mind. But Saul could have refused Satan's tricks had he desired.
So right now, you have, by choice, the kind of thoughts in your mind. If you have good thoughts and are happy, it is because you by choice and decision of mind selected those thoughts. But if you are proud, jealous, hateful, angry or murderous, it is because you selected those thoughts and allowed them to rule your mind. Jesus taught that our actions come forth from our mind (cf. Matt. 15:18-20). Even though Satan introduces them, you don't have to accept them. We fill our minds with what we want. So one needs to decide what thoughts are best for him.
As we know, David was one of the seven sons of Jesse, who was a shepherd. David was too, a very handsome lad. He was very capable as a shepherd, and delivered the sheep from dangerous animals: lions, bears, wolves, and others. He was dedicated to God even as a youth. We have already talked briefly about the problems he had with King Saul. Well, David replaced Saul and eventually became king over Israel. He was Israel's greatest king. His mind was on God and he served God. Everything seemed to have been going well until one day he took a walk on the roof of his house.
As a rule, he should have been with his soldiers. Strange things occur when people are not where they should be (AMEN). But he was on the house top and saw a beautiful woman taking a bath. This got his attention. Now this was not the problem because this would have gotten any normal, healthy, sane man's attention. However, this scene introduced a thought to the mind of David. What David does with the thought is the thing to consider. He may dismiss the thought, or he may harbor it. If he dismisses the thought of that pretty, nude woman, the problem is solved. But if he cherishes it, and encourages it, it will grow. So David did not dismiss the thought, and it became a problem. He allowed that thought of a beautiful woman bathing to rule him. His mind became a slave of a thought, a lustful thought. Now this one evil thought that was generated by his seeing and desiring another man's wife will lead to other evil thoughts, all of which are allowed by David who could have prevented them.
He could have used his mind to think that matter through. He could have reasoned, “I am a servant of God. I am king of God's people; this woman is another man's wife. I wouldn't want anyone to desire and take my wife. If I do this thing and it becomes known, I will be ruined and shamed.” But he allowed that thought of a beautiful woman bathing, which appealed to him, to dwell in him. Now this thought (a tool of the mind) led to another thought (adultery). When he kept on thinking about that pretty woman, her lovely body, he wanted to have sexual intercourse with her. He harbored that thought until he actually committed adultery with her.
Not long afterwards, he discovered that the woman was pregnant. Then he learned that he had to think of some way to cover his tracks. What he should have realized is that one cannot cover sin (cf. Numbers 32:23). But these evil thoughts are completely ruling him. So he thinks up a way to get out of trouble. He sends for her husband, Uriah, to come home so that he could go and have intercourse with his wife and the baby could be said to be his. But that didn't work because Uriah wouldn't go home. Then he planned for Uriah to get drunk, but still he wouldn't go home. Then another evil thought was to put him on the front line so he may be killed. And that he did. But his sin still was not hidden.
One should always use his mind to consider all the possibilities that might follow an action. When a thought has completely overtaken the mind, it renders the mind incapable of reasoning. Just think, David could have used his mind to dismiss the evil thought about that pretty, nude woman and would have prevented adultery, causing a man to get drunk, and murder. He allowed a passion for sexual fulfillment to cause all that trouble. How many men today have fallen prey to the same thoughts?
5. JOSEPH AND HIS BROTHERS
Joseph was next to the youngest son of Jacob. He was a little special with Jacob. We know the story (Genesis 37). His brothers were victims of envy and jealousy. This came as a result of Joseph's telling a few dreams and Jacob's partiality. Now envy hates to see another get something nice. The brothers were envious of Joseph's coat of many colors. And envy and jealousy are unpleasant fears. Jealousy says "someone is trying to take what I have." The 10 boys felt that Joseph would take their places in their father's heart. They allowed envy and jealousy to dwell in their hearts until it created the thought to murder. And they set out to do it, but ended up selling Joseph to strangers. Their thoughts ruled their minds.
But Joseph is a wonderful example of one who used his mind to control his thoughts. He kept thoughts in a servant's place. What his own older brothers did to him could have been used for the creating of all kinds of evil thoughts in Joseph. He was thrown by his big brothers into a vacant pit. Then they took him out and took his coat of many colors and sold him to a band of Ishmaelites. He might have been driven to self-pity, bitterness, hate and vengeance. To add to all that, Potiphar’s wife lied on him, which caused him to be put into prison. All this would have destroyed many. But in all this, Joseph kept his mind on God. His thoughts of God and the faith which told him God would take care, kept Joseph in line.
Now Joseph was no different from all the rest. I mean he was human and subject to temptations. He simply used his mind to control his thoughts. He determined that nothing would change him from following God. Now every boy and girl, man and woman, can be just as Joseph was. It wasn't easy. It was not easy to love his brothers who mistreated him as they did. A thought of bitterness might have possessed him, but he didn't allow it. He might have been filled with pity and turned to a life of crime, but he didn't. He might have hated his brothers, but he didn't. He might have hated Potiphar’s wife, but he didn't. All these thoughts must have presented themselves to Joseph. Where David saw, lusted, coveted, and took a man's wife, Joseph didn't. He said, "I can't do this evil and sin against God" (Gen. 39:9). He kept his thoughts on God. He selected the thoughts that were best for him and stayed with them. Others must have criticized him, but Joseph knew what he wanted to think about and he did.
When Solomon was anointed king over Israel, he was a very humble and righteous man, who in the beginning asked God for an understanding heart to discern good and evil (1 Kings 3:5-15). God blessed him with great wisdom, and told him that if he walked in his statues and kept his judgment, only good would come to him. But if he served other gods, he would suffer greatly. No man was wiser than King Solomon. God had endowed him with great wealth and understanding of many matters. Even the queen of the South, after visiting with him and talking with him said, "The half was not told" (1 Kings 10:7).
After Solomon was greatly successful, and had built a great house for God and a palace for himself, he began to think of other things. The Holy Spirit said, "Solomon loved many strange women. . . and married 700 of them and had 300 concubines" (1 Kings 11:1-4). They turned his heart away from God, to serve the strange and idol gods of the lands. Now Solomon knew what was right in God's sight, but he allowed his thoughts to wander from God. The reason his thoughts wandered from God is that he allowed Satan to seduce him to leave God's way. Satan knew what Solomon wanted and put that very thing before him in abundance: women, beautiful women. Women turned his heart away from God. He allowed the thoughts to rule his mind to the point that his mind became a slave of his thoughts.
Samson was a very strong man, physically, perhaps the strongest that ever lived. With his bare hands, he destroyed lions and other great animals of the wild. He single-handedly slew 1,000 Philistines with the jaw bone of an ass [donkey]. He carried the gates of Gaza on his shoulders (Judges 14-16). His enemies wanted to know the secret of his strength. They employed the most likely weapon to discover the secret of his strength; a woman with a smooth tongue. Samson knew that he was not supposed to reveal his cherished secret, but he allowed thoughts of satisfying this cunning woman to cause him to betray his better judgment.
He could have escaped if he had not selected that course. He could have either said no or he could have run away. He could have used his mind to control his thoughts if he so desired. But like so many, he allowed his thoughts, the tools of the mind, to rule the mind and this broke him. He revealed the secret of his strength to her and she told the Philistines and they captured him and put out his eyes, after cutting off his hair. He was blind the rest of his days, because he allowed an evil thought to rule him. How many men have been blinded by this means?
8. AHAB AND JEZEBEL
We may speak of these together (1 Kings 21-22). Ahab, being Israel's king, knew his obligations to God, but he married a woman who worshipped Baal. Ahab allowed his desire to please her to cause him to betray God and Israel. He followed the evil paths, and worshipped Baal and other gods of the heathens. God in his word had said, "Thou [You] shall have no other gods before me" (Ex. 20). But Ahab allowed this woman Jezebel to turn his thoughts from God. He allowed his mind to be ruled by thoughts of evil. He allowed his wife to use his position to fulfill all her evil desires and brought ruin to Ahab and Israel.
Ahab has been called the puppet king, who danced to every whim of his evil wife. Jezebel had a desire to rule and take whatever she wanted, even if it meant murdering an innocent man like Naboth, in order to get the garden Ahab wanted. She used Ahab's office as king and carried out many heinous crimes, and like Ahab, she allowed these thoughts of evil to rule and control her. What they didn't realize, like many people today, is that their thoughts were against God, and that none can sin against Him and get away. God brought Ahab to his death by an aimless arrow and Jezebel by a fall from a high wall and dogs that ate her up.
9. JOSHUA AND CALEB
These men did not allow evil thoughts to rule them; they examined every thought that knocked. Every person has the same opportunity to do evil or good. They made up their minds to do right. It surely cost them. They missed some pleasures and good times, but they wholly followed God (Numbers 32:11-12). They could have been as any other who did evil.
Pharaoh, like all the others, started out a small infant but was never taught of God. Even Pharaoh came to believe he himself was God. People were only things to him. But when he was told that God said, "Let my people go", he asked, "Who is God that I should obey him?" (Ex. 5:1-2). It took plagues of blood, frogs, lice, flies, pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, darkness and even these didn't break him. Only when God slew the firstborn in every Egyptian's home did he begin to realize that there was a power beyond him (Exodus 12). His thoughts of his own might completely had ruled his evil mind. He couldn't bring his mind to accept that there was a God besides himself. His thoughts even brought his army to the Red Sea, and death.
Loved ones, our thoughts make us what we are (Prov. 23:7). If we allow evil thoughts to rule our mind and tell us there is much joy in sin, they bring us to shame and eventually to hell. But if we with our minds control our thoughts and give them to Christ, we will come to a fair haven.
11. VASHTI, ESTHER AND MARY
Vashti was the wife of King Ahasuerus and naturally, queen. Now very little is said of her and her life in the Bible. But one outstanding thing is known about her, her sense of moral uprightness (Esther 1). It was a known fact that the queen was queen as long as she pleased her husband, the king. One day she was asked by her husband to display her beautiful body before a group of drunken lords. Now Vashti had a decision to make in this matter. The thought must have come to mind, “If I do this; I will lower my character and disappoint my God.” I am sure it was not easy for Vashti to give up her position as queen, but she had to make a decision; whether to be queen and wrong, or to be just a plain woman and right. She allowed the best thought to rule her mind. She evidently became just an ordinary person, but on God's scales, she weighed very highly.
Every Christian woman should learn from this ancient example. Vashti was a woman who regarded modesty as a great virtue. She didn't care what the king did to her. She cared what she did to her character. Many would call her a fool for losing her queenship for “so little a matter.” Some people will sell out all their standards to please a few people in high positions. Some ladies will sell themselves cheap just to please their peers. There is a need for ladies who will maintain their modesty, no matter who may ask them to do otherwise. But in order to do that, one must be in control of her thoughts. She must determine in her mind what standard she plans to live by and then hold to it.
After Ahasuerus, king of Persia, repudiated Vashti, he resolved to find another queen. Esther (a Jewish woman) was chosen throughout all the land to be queen to Ahasuerus, king of Persia. Haman, the king's prime minister, planned to massacre every Jew in the empire. A servant brought to Esther a message from Mordecai, Esther's kinsman, informing her of Haman's cruel design and insisting that she intercede with Ahasuerus, her husband, to spare her people. The Persian law forbade anyone to approach the king without being summoned or they would be subject to the death sentence. Here Esther was faced with that decision to appear before her husband, the king, and be put to death. She could have easily been selfish and said, "As long as it is not me to be killed, I haven't a thing to worry about." But Esther centered her mind on God and trusted him and went before the king. Yes, Esther made the right decision and her people were saved.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, as a young maiden, lived a virtuous life. Mary had made up in her mind many years ago that she was going to live a pure and holy life. I'm sure Mary was among other women who did not live such a life as she did. But Mary trusted in God and He chose her out of all the women in the world to have His Son. Yes, Mary was blessed by God because she had made her decision to live a pure life.
Judas saw what Christ did, but he, too, allowed evil thoughts to fill his heart. The Bible said Satan filled his heart (John 13:27). He allowed Satan to use his mind with thoughts of money and power that caused him to betray Christ. He didn't have to do it. He did what he did by choice. Every person comes again and again to that choice.
Loved ones, the things written about the Old Testament characters we have studied were written for our learning (Romans 15:4). From them we learn that “as a man thinkest in his heart so is he.” Be it known that if a thought is permitted to reign in the mind, it will help form the character. The kind of thoughts that one allows to enter the mind and stay are in accordance with the kind of life he plans to live. If one plans to live a spiritual life, he should allow spiritual thoughts to be a part of his thought computer. You see, every person has so many thoughts that make up his character. When certain things come up, he reaches into his thought file and pulls out the particular thought that will help him to properly appraise a particular thing before he takes action concerning that thing before his mind. When some matters come up abruptly, one needs at once to pull out of his reserve something to help in that emergency.
Many people act simply by feeling. Feeling is a tool of thought as thought is a tool of the mind. Most of us make decisions based on how we feel about a thing. When a certain thing comes upon us usually we act or react without any real thought. If it is a feeling of anger, a feeling of fear, a feeling of lust, we base solely on feelings to make decisions. I say any person is usually sorry for so reacting simply on his feelings. Now feelings are not so easily controlled, but can be, if one trains himself not to be hasty in his reactions.
Those who will not think about the results before they make decisions about themselves will always be tossed and driven from pillar to post. When one makes up his mind about certain principles he wishes to live by, he also has weighed well the reasons for making such a decision or decisions. We, with our minds, SHOULD examine all thoughts thoroughly before we allow those thoughts to be put into our permanent file system that help to make up our total character. One should put every thought on trial and force it to answer every question proving it has the right to occupy a place in his heart. If that thought doesn't measure up to the standard that will prove an asset, then it should be rejected.
The Thoughts of the Mind…The lesson is yours!