The apostle Paul directs the church in Rome to not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of their minds (Romans 12:2). Then, while instructing the church in Corinth on how to engage in the spiritual battle around them, he directs them to take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).
In a world gone wild, surrounded by the enemies of our soul seeking to distract and destroy us, we desperately need the truths of the gospel applied to our minds daily.
1. Challenge Your Thoughts
Have you ever slowed down to pay attention to what is going on in your mind?
What are you hearing?
What are you thinking?
What are you believing?
We are constantly being informed by words and ideas, worldviews and philosophies. Our personal stories are filled with disappointment, brokenness, and pain. And our hearts and heads have been informed by lies, deceit, and accusations from the world, the flesh, and the devil.
We need to take captive our thoughts and examine them. To take something captive is to take control of it and put it in a controlled environment — like putting a ferocious animal in a cage. Then, we need to take a close look at our thoughts and consider what we are thinking or believing and why.
As we do this, we need to consider if our thoughts line up with what is true of Jesus and our new life in him. Do our thoughts conform to the truths of the gospel. Ask yourself: Am I thinking or believing the good news about God, others, or myself?
The enemies of our soul tell lies about God to tempt us, to breed distrust in relationships to divide us, and to rehearse accusing words in our ears to destroy us. What kinds of words are you hearing in your mind?
2. Bring Your Mind into Submission
As you capture thoughts, invite the Holy Spirit to bring them into submission to Jesus — to the truths of the gospel. We have been given the Spirit to make known the truth about Jesus and to convict us of anything not in line with the gospel (John 14–16).
I regularly invite the Holy Spirit to witness to me regarding who Jesus is, what he has done, and who I am because of his work. If the thoughts or beliefs I am having do not line up, the Spirit makes that known to me as he brings to remembrance what is true of God and of me because of the gospel.
Here are some of the key questions I invite the Spirit to address in me:
- Is this really true, or is this a lie?
- Does this sound like the devil’s accusation or the Spirit’s conviction?
- What am I putting my hope in now: God’s word or work, or someone else’s?
- How do the truths of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection address this thought or belief? What about Jesus do I need to remember right now?
Prayer is not only bringing my requests to God. Prayer is also submitting my thoughts and beliefs to God’s Spirit, so that my mind can be renewed by the truths of God’s word as I submit and listen.
3. Consider the Fruit
As we submit to the witness and direction of the Spirit, we will also experience the fruit of the Spirit.
Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22–23 as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control — a nine-dimensional life that resembles Jesus. The works of the flesh, on the other hand, produces a life contrary to Jesus’s example, such as “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry [making a good thing a god-thing], sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (Galatians 5:19–21).
One of the ways we fight the war of the mind is by considering the fruit we’re presently experiencing, or the fruit we would experience if we engaged a particular thought or suggested action. If the fruit doesn’t resemble the fruit of the Spirit or the life of Jesus, we can be certain that our minds are not presently in submission to Jesus. Instead, we are submitted to someone or something else.
The Spirit brings conviction and leads us in repentance. Repentance is not simply a change of behavior, but a change of belief that produces changed behaviors. We need the Spirit to reveal where we have believed lies and to lead us to the truth about Jesus, granting both eyes to see and hearts to believe. As the Spirit moves, we will experience a change of mind that will change the way we live.
4. Fight Back
The war of your mind is not a passive activity, but an active, vigorous fight, fought with the power of God and spiritual weapons made available to us through the gospel. As the Spirit makes the truths of Jesus known to you, you must hold fast to them (1 Corinthians 15:2), take cover in them, and learn to proactively fight with them.
Paul exhorted the church in Ephesus, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10–11). He then went on to describe the armor made available to us through the gospel (Ephesians 6:14–18).
We do battle by having the truths of the gospel around us like a belt, holding everything else up. Our hearts are protected by the breastplate of Jesus’s righteousness. We have a readiness — a quickness — to run from evil and chase after obedience because we know we are free and unhindered by guilt, shame, and fear. Because of Jesus, our guilt is removed, our shame is covered, and our fear is demolished, for he is victorious over our enemies.
Take up the shield of faith. Believe. Believe in all God has accomplished for you in Jesus Christ. Cover you minds with the helmet of salvation to protect you from the lies, accusations, and temptations you’re bound to face. And wield the sword you have been given, the word of God. Speak the truths of Jesus to confront the attacks of the devil.
And in all of this, continue to depend upon the Spirit in prayer. The weapons will never be enough if you don’t walk in the power of the Spirit who empowers them all.
Take your thoughts captive and examine them closely. Bring them into submission. Consider the fruit. Then fight back with gospel truths. This is how we go to war.