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“Every thought into captivity”

Escaping the “kingdom of noise,” Part 2

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IN OUR LAST THRILLING EPISODE of “The Kingdom of Noise” we saw that Man has a problem in the thought life. We are all like that guy in town who walks in the crabgrass along the fence talking and arguing to himself incoherently. The only difference is we don’t generally do it out loud.

The philosophers of this age have no clue how to fix it (1 Corinthians 1), but the Bible knows both diagnosis and remedy because Jesus is the way and the truth and the life, including in matters of thought bondage. Romans 7:14-21 depicts what this bondage is like, but is bracketed by Romans 6 and 8, which show the way of escape: “he who died to sin should no longer live in it … walk in newness of life” and “no longer be slaves to sin.” Revelation 2 and 3 urge six times to “overcome.”

Martin Luther purportedly said, “You cannot keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.” This is a good illustration. Unhelpful thoughts will continue to be dropped into your mind like bits of grass for as long as you live, but you shouldn’t invite them in, hang drapes, and serve tea. We don’t need to be the guy along the fence.

Repetitive dysfunctional thinking is therefore a sign of spiritual laziness, a failure to work through a mental stuck place to a resolution. It is surfacy thinking that never bothers to get beyond the top layer; an insubstantial foam churned up all the day long. A lot of our thinking is not worthy of the name “thinking.” It is more like Anne Lamott’s demonic radio station piped in in stereo. Paul campaigns against this depressing state of passivity: “Examine yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5). Be unflinching in applying the Word of God—and don’t settle for the first two verses that agree with you.

Scripture talks this way about thought bondage:

“The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5, NKJV).

Notice the language of inner “arguments” and “every thought” and “bringing them into captivity.” This is at least part of “the good fight” Paul says to fight. The ­sovereignty of God (which we are so zealous to guard) does not mean the passivity of man. The Christian life is muscular, or it shipwrecks. Francis Schaeffer was so diplomatic in issuing his correction that many may have missed his critique:

“There is a reality of faith to be acted on consciously after justification. This last point is the point of ignorance of many who stand in the orthodox and history stream of the Reformation” (True Spirituality). God changes us, but it will not go well if we do not cooperate with His grace.

A woman I knew in the ’80s told me how she fell into adultery one passive step at a time. There was introduced into her heart a small seed of complaint about her husband that she did not bother to deal with. Where gratitude once abode, she began entertaining dissatisfaction. This was further fueled by her girlfriend’s words “You deserve better than him.” Add to that cocktail the afternoon soaps (she worked second shift) and you can guess what happened next.

The Tolles and Freuds and Jungs fall short. We can no sooner get rid of an unmanageable thought life by 50 years of couch time with an analyst à la Woody Allen than we can fix our engine problems by replacing our dashboard engine lightbulb.

God has given us the weapons that work in Ephesians 6: pray; obey what you know of His Word; abide in His Word; and hearken to the whispers of the Spirit: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart as in the rebellion” (Hebrews 3:15).

Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is a senior writer for WORLD Magazine. Her columns have been compiled into three books including Won’t Let You Go Unless You Bless Me. Andrée resides near Philadelphia.


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