Friday, June 26, 2009

Taking Our Thoughts Captive

As believers in Christ, there are many aspects of ourselves that we are to seek to ‘train’ in righteousness with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit and the word of God. Aspects such as the words of our tongue, the actions of our hands, and the attitude of our hearts. Exhortation is also given in Scripture on several occasions regarding ones’ thoughts.

Thoughts are powerful things and can often shape, alter, or add to who we are as a person. Some thoughts may never be expressed verbally or in action—they may be something that no other person knows as they can be deeply hidden . . . yet the Lord knows each and every one of our thoughts. 

As the Psalmist declared: “O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down. And are intimately acquainted with all my ways” (Psalm 139:1-3). 

How very true this is! There is nothing about us that is hidden from the Lord . . . He is all-knowing, and He “searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts” (1 Chronicles 28:9).

Each and every day we have a great many thoughts, and the Lord knows each one of them; and these thoughts can either be ones that are pleasing to Him or displeasing to Him. As believers in Christ, it is our responsibility to follow the command to “examine everything” (1 Thessalonians 5:21) to find which of these areas our thoughts fall into. 

Is it a thought that is in accordance with Scripture? Is it contrary to it? Or is it a ‘neutral’ thought? Is it a thought that is in harmony with the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23)? Or is it a thought that is borne from our sinful and fleshly nature?

As the apostle Paul shared in 2 Corinthians: “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,” (2 Corinthians 10:5). This verse is perhaps one of the most powerful and convicting verses in Scripture in regards to ones’ thoughts, as it leaves no exceptions . . . every thought is being brought captive into obedience to the Lord. 

But, what does it mean to “take captive”? Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language states that ‘captive’ is to “take prisoner; to bring into subjection.” When something is taken captive, it is captured and is at the command and sway of whomever has captured it. Here in this verse, Paul is sharing what he and others are doing, which we should also do ourselves (1 Corinthians 11:1), and that is to strive, with the Lord’s help, to take captive all of our thoughts in obedience to Christ.

This is not an easy thing to do! It seems that thoughts can regularly pop into our minds and we wonder where they could have come from; or, the thoughts may arise from a condition of our hearts (whether they are angry thoughts, impatient ones, etc.). This is why the ‘taking captive’ is spoken of in the present tense as it is something that we must regularly do with all of our thoughts. It is not a one time occurrence, but is to be a continual part of our lives.

Practically speaking, though, how do we do this? Several things come to mind which include: prayer; commitment; reading, studying and applying the word of God to our lives; and seeking to fill and occupy our minds with those things that are pleasing to the Lord. The latter, working in conjunction with the others mentioned, can have a profound impact. 

We must train our minds in how and what to think, and we must put forth effort to transfer our thoughts to the things of heaven as opposed to that which is worldly. As it states in Colossians: “Therefore since you have been raised with Christ, keeping seeking the things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above and not on the things that are on earth for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-2). 

If our minds are set and fixed on the things above, where will ungodly thoughts have a place? Where will they be able to find a stronghold in our life? Again, this “setting our minds” is not a one time occurrence, but it should be a continual practice in our lives. Just as a person cannot run a marathon without training, neither can we set our minds on the things above without training. And in order to run a marathon, consistent practice, work, and time must be given to reach the end goal. This is the same with us with any aspect of our walk with Christ.

A verse in Philippians specifically addresses what types of things we should be thinking about . . .

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Philippians 4:8

The definitions in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible of some of the words in Philippians 4:8 help us to gain a better understanding of what is being spoken in this verse . . .

Honorable (semnos) - reverend i.e. venerable, spec. serious

Right (dikaios) - correct, righteous [right with God], by impl. innocent

Pure (hagnos) - free from ceremonial defilement, holy, sacred

Lovely (prosphiles) - pleasing, agreeable

Good repute (euphemos) - well reported of

And in addition to these, anything that is true, of excellence and is worthy of praise.

These are the types of thoughts that as believers in Christ we should seek to dwell upon. These are the types of thoughts that please the Lord; and these are the types of thoughts that if our minds are filled with them, will leave no room for thoughts that are contrary to the word of God.

Ultimately, one of the most important reasons for seeking to set our minds on the things above, to dwell upon those things mentioned in Philippians 4:8, to guard our minds, and to bring our thoughts into subjection to Christ is because of our love for the Lord. 

Several times in Scripture it is said that obedience to Christ will be a result of our love for Him . . . “if you love Me you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15; see also 1 John 5:3). And the first and greatest commandment is this: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind’” (Matthew 22:37). 

Out of love for the Lord and of a desire to please our Father, may each one of us strive to, like Paul, bring “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” Ephesians 4:22-24

-Posted by Sarah


  1. Wonderful post, Sarah. This is something I so need to work on. It is so easy for me to become discouraged and begin to focus on what is not going right in my life rather than keeping my focus on Jesus.

    May the Lord bless you this evening!

  2. Thanks for that, it is always something I can work on. I am going to show that to a friend of mine. She loves this topic!!

  3. Thank you for your encouraging comment, Joy! This is an area that I, too, am working on in my life. Like you shared, it is easy to become discouraged instead of having our focus on the Lord (and it seems that this is especially the case during difficult and trying seasons of our lives.) May each one of us continue to grow in having our hearts and minds fixed on the "things above"!

  4. Thank you, Desiree, for your comment! We hope that what was shared in this post will be a blessing to your friend. :)

  5. Thank you for your wonderful post. I find that early in the morning is the best time for me to read God's word and really have my alone time with our Lord~just like David did. It is true that we have to keep renewing our minds everyday and keep our eyes on Jesus. In this world we must be very careful to discern what is honoring to God and what is shameful to Him~with the Holy Spirit's help. God bless, Rose

  6. You’re welcome, Rose! And thank you for the words of wisdom that you shared in your comment . . . they were a blessing and encouragement to us! And yes, how very important it us to each and every day spend time with the Lord in prayer and reading His word. It is through this that our hearts and minds can indeed be renewed and focused upon Him!