KEY SCRIPTURE 2 Corinthians 10:5
"Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;"
I recently read an unnerving but accurate quote, "If Satan can talk angels out of Heaven, he can talk you into Hell."
We touched on the topic of imaginations a while back, but I thought we could delve a little deeper since the intent of our key scripture is the beginning or the end of a serious Christian's overcoming life.
When C.S. Lewis wrote, "the safest road to Hell is the gradual one, " he spoke of spiritual warfare and the imaginations of Christians.
Controlling what enters our imagination is difficult but not impossible.
In John 10:3, Jesus instructs that the Porter only opens the door of the sheepfold because he recognises the Shepherd's voice. Imaginations wouldn't be a problem if our Shepherd's voice was the only one we heard. But it's not the only voice we hear, is it?
Satan is ever-beckoning us to hear his voice in its many convincing disguises. His efforts to camouflage wrong thoughts and feelings as right ones have destroyed individuals, families and churches through time, with us rarely pointing to him as the source. Our commitment to purity can help us distinguish our Lord's voice from Satan's and give us control.
As a budding royal priesthood showing forth the praises of Him who has called us out of darkness into his marvellous light (1 Peter 2:9), we see the need to guard what we imagine and keep our mind for Christ. Not everything that enters our mind should be allowed a seat out our table! Like an event bouncer evicting troublemakers, we need to evict many thoughts swiftly with no discussions. GET OUT!
When we remove those restrictions and think on anything, many of those ponderings are the fiery thought-arrows direct from hell lit from the sides of the pit itself.
Firstly, there are two types of lusts—those we don't want and those we want; our imagination reveals which ones go or stay. We cast out the 'bad' lusts— those we judge as vile or repulsive, but we leave to door open for the 'good' lusts—those we enjoy and use from time to time. The good lusts we let incubate.
Because of this disobedience—our refusal to submit to God our King over these imaginations—Judges 21:25 is perpetually applicable, "In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes". Without control of our imaginations, we do what is right in our own minds.
When Samuel wrote that, God and His Law were to be the rulers of a person's heart and mind, and projecting out from that, the heart and mind of the nation. But the people rejected both God and that Law that would have sheltered their imaginations from evil thoughts. Yes, God's Law can do that as it operates through our love for God, knowledge of evil, and mental self-control. (Accordingly, self-control or temperance is the final fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:23). They rejected God's parameters and thought whatever 'came to mind'.
Then what happens to society? It swiftly deconstructs. People's judgments on thoughts, feelings and actions become corrupt and disunified, contrary to when they were under the Law. They now differ widely one from another. As with Babel, where God disconnected people due to sin, we likewise become separated from each other on those deeper levels by thinking and doing what we want. We create divisions, despite speaking the same language. Society fractures and becomes unruly, and lusts dominate. The Church mirrors this to some degree, but people don't see it that way.
Our real desires
We say we want all lusts to go. We proclaim that we'd love to kick them out, never to return. Yet, we invite some back—wrong or distorted emotions, nonmarital sexual desires, or pride. Upon specific triggers, we become temporarily ruled by a range of other gods. Anger, unnecessary frustrations, fornication and adultery, depression, coveting, gluttony, strife, uncleanness, envy, idolatry, smugness, rude words, and a bucketload of other inclinations rule us for a time. These gods should be enemies, but we find they covertly remain our companions, occasionally being invited back in. While they stay on our invitation list, God does not and cannot entirely rule our lives. Consequently, we are never wholly free in the head or heart. We haven't yet "surrendered all!"
This predicament leads to the human's two moralities that God wants permanently sorted. One is shown and the other hidden. Hence, Jesus highlighted Nathanael out of all His other followers when he said, "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!" (John 1:47)
The Body of Christ will have no schisms, fractures, deceitfulness or deceived imaginations.
One of our primary jobs is to eliminate wrong imaginations and incubate the right ones, which we often think is impossible. The thought template for Moses' judges was, "Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness;" (Exodus 18:21). These characteristics were to be established in their hearts and minds, not just in lip service; God calls us to a minimum of this level of purity.
As we endeavour to follow Christ's footsteps, we look at our exceptional brains. They are machines that never turn off, thinking all day and dreaming of a night. That's what makes our key verse so critical. We are to put on His Mind (1 Corinthians 2:16). God gives us a deposit of the mind of Christ upon Salvation (2 Corinthians 1:22. Lit: an earnest.) and expects us to grow to maturity and innocence in Godliness, in the purity of thought and feelings. Everything must conform to the obedience of Christ. Like putting the right oil in our vehicles, we must select the right thoughts to lubricate our minds.
How do we cast down imaginations?
Let's make no mistake. God sees and understands all imaginations. (1 Chronicles 28:9). Nothing is private. It's not Big Brother, but Big Father. He must see everything. There are no shadows in Heaven, and our imaginations can bring secret shadows.
For casting down, Strong's Concordance G2507 has the Greek word kathairéō, which means to pull down and destroy. Much like King Hezekiah did when cleaning out the idols from his dominion, and didn't rest until everything idolised was pulled down and destroyed, in some cases crushed to powder. We search diligently and honestly for the idols in our lives. Those emotions, thoughts, and actions that resist the teachings of Christ and the adorning of the fruit of the Spirit.
If we don't hold ourselves to that high degree of commitment to freedom, we will always remain at the behest of Satan upon those triggers.
The first thing is to establish our baseline. We must decide, beyond a shadow of a doubt, to what extent we want to be clean. This audit is where the rubber hits the road on inner truth. If we desire 100%, we can no longer justify our error-ridden thoughts, feelings and actions. This decision shows the amount of love we have or don't have for our Saviour.
Next, we document the types of wrong thoughts and feelings we have during a typical day and a terrible day. e.g. Anger, "I was furious at Bob for saying those words, even though they were true." sexual deviance, "I found myself looking at a girl with lust, but only for a few seconds.", hatred, disloyalty from others, etc.
Then, being brutally honest (often we are not. We convince ourselves we are right when we are wrong), we record the patterns.
E.g. What triggered the incident. What led up to it. What thoughts, feelings and actions followed it (How passionate or indulged in it did we become?). This work is essential. If we don't know our enemy's tactics and what exactly they produce in us, we can't differentiate when the enemy seeks to enter and plant his influence.
Recognising our patterns, habits, and triggers allows us to see them coming and divert to good thoughts. As we put some serious Christianity into overcoming (doing some hard yards), Christ will have the victory, and you will be free of that issue. Maintaining your freedom, you can then move on to your next obstacle.
Many scriptures show what we should reject. In Galatians 5:19-21, we see the works of the flesh, which all start in the mind. For instance, we throw out sexual fantasies inside or outside marriage, uncleanness or desires for promiscuity, lasciviousness or lust for drunkenness and partying. We also discard witchcraft or taking note of horoscopes, tarot cards, hand-readings, etc. And we dispose of the more minor issues, those bursts of short-term anger or hatred, argumentative tendencies, imaginations of violence, and our visions of envy or any form of coveting. We put anything similar in the same rubbish bin.
What is our life like after we have cast down imaginations?
Imagine the inner peace? Consider the cleanliness of your mind and heart? Now, when you see or hear something that would typically trigger a wrong thought or emotion, you don't even recognise it. How easy would it be for the Lord to speak with you, then? Especially in times of adversity when our imaginations are ripe for losing control?
Don't you think you can be that clean?
Too often, we think we are stuck for life in the mental wrestle between good and evil, right and wrong, holy and unholy. But there are steps upward in maturity, and we can have purity of mind if we choose.
2 Corinthians 10:4, "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; "
All those strongholds, the thoughts, emotions and consequential actions that have plagued us for years, can be cast down and crushed to powder if our desire is great enough.
PRAYER Today's prayer: Dear Lord, I need a lot of work on my imagination. It's only after an incident I differentiate between what God wants and my thoughts, which is too late. Please help me walk a new path of stopping the trash before it gets into my head. Of seeing those thoughts coming so I can reject them.
Photo by Inja Pavlic