DEAR FATHER PAUL: I am a fifty-two year old happily married man who has been a Christian and gone to church for decades, but I find myself constantly bombarded by evil thoughts … mostly about promiscuous sex.
I have never acted on any of these thoughts, but I have been unsuccessful in getting them to stop. How can I get these thoughts to stop? No Name Please.
DEAR NO NAME: First, understand that you are not alone. In my ministry, I have counseled hundreds of both men AND women who are buffeted by unhealthy and unwelcome thoughts. And not only thoughts like yours, but also thoughts of anger, bitterness, resentment, guilt, depression, fear, hopelessness and the like, none of which come from God, but all from his (and our) arch enemy, Satan.
It is a great comfort to know that even the Apostle Paul, who wrote half of the New Testament, himself had to deal with unwelcome and unwanted, but difficult to control sin in his life own life. Paul writes these words in Chapter Seven of the New Testament Book of Romans (New Living Translation). “The trouble is not with the Law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. Oh what a miserable person I am. Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?”
So have hope. The great Saint Paul was just like you and me.
When we truly become Christians, the Bible, in II Corinthians 5:17 says (New International Version) we become “a new creation: the old (man) is gone, the new has come.” But sadly, many of us find, like Paul, that the “old man” continues to try to claw his way back into our minds again and again.
The truth about sinful thoughts, however … is in this illustration … while we can’t stop noisy, obnoxious crows from flying around overhead, we DON’T have to allow them to build a nest in our hair! That’s up to us!
Many will say that “you just need to pray more, read your Bible more and be more faithful in church attendance.” But while all of these are good and are commands (not suggestions) from God, many people do all of these with zeal but still find themselves having to deal with sins that originate in the mind.
The solution? Lets go back to Romans 7 where Paul has just seemingly thrown up his hands and said, “Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?” He answers … “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ, our Lord.” We must therefore, like Paul, FALL IN LOVE WITH JESUS, TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY either for the first time, or all over again. There is both a natural and a spiritual truth here. Its just this … when I fell totally and completely in love with Judy at Carson-Newman College in 1961 (yes, I really am that old) I STAYED IN LOVE WITH HER UNTIL TODAY … for the next fifty-seven years! And, because of that love, I didn’t spend lots of time thinking about other women. Why? Because I was always in love with her and thinking about her.
Second, we must continually renew (make new) our minds in Christ. Paul says this in Romans 12:2 … and it goes to the heart of the problem. (NIV) “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but (instead) 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.” Basically, we all need to do “a mind transplant” on ourselves … often. A constantly renewed “new mind” in Christ is of major importance.
Lastly, God never commands us to do something that is impossible for us to do. Otherwise if he has to judge us someday for failing to do what he commands, he would be judging us unjustly and it is impossible for God to be unjust. So his command to control and discipline our own minds and thoughts found in Philippians 4:8 is ultimately doable for every single one of us. Paul says, (NLT) “And now dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. FIX YOUR THOUGHTS ON WHAT IS TRUE, AND HONORABLE, AND RIGHT, AND PURE, AND LOVELY , AND ADMIRABLE. THINK ABOUT THINGS THAT ARE EXCELLENT AND WORTHY OF PRAISE … THEN THE GOD OF PEACE WILL BE WITH YOU.”
Bottom line … good thoughts do and will indeed drive out and replace bad thoughts!
DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION? Send me your question at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will try to answer your question in the paper.
Father Paul Massey is Canon to the Bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South of the International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church and is assigned to the Cathedral of Christ The King in Sharpsburg, Georgia.