We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5, NIV)
Do you trust your thoughts? Most people do. And almost everyone assumes the thoughts in their head are their own.
But in reality, at any given time, the thoughts you assume to be your own can actually originate from four different sources.
Some Thoughts Are from God
God is able to give us divine insights. For example, at one point Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was. “Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being’” (Matthew 16:16–17).
Peter spoke what he was thinking without realizing the thought had originated from the Holy Spirit.
Some Thoughts Are from Satan
Later Jesus was explaining that he would need to go to Jerusalem where he would suffer, die, and then be raised from the dead. Peter took issue with what Jesus had just said. “‘Heaven forbid, Lord,’ he said. ‘This will never happen to you!’ Jesus turned to Peter and said, ‘Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s’” (Matthew 16:22–23).
Although well-intentioned, Peter had become Satan’s spokesperson, and Jesus, recognizing the origin of the thought, rebuked him.
“We can’t stop the Adversary from whispering in our ears, but we can refuse to listen, and we can definitely refuse to respond.” —Liz Curtis Higgs
Some Thoughts Are from Our Old Nature
Because we are born sinful beings, our natural thinking becomes polluted with concepts that are contrary to God. Paul explains it like this, “The mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind of the flesh is hostile to God” (Romans 8:6–7).
This old pattern of thinking is natural to us even after we become followers of Christ. That’s why Paul also said, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2, TLB). God uses the truths and principles found in the Bible to reshape our thinking patterns.
Some Thoughts Are from Our New Nature
As the Holy Spirit renews our minds, we develop a new pattern of thinking. In 1 Corinthians 2:16, we read, “’Who can know the LORD’s thoughts? Who knows enough to teach him?’ But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.”
To think with the mind of Christ means we now view life through this new filter of his values and desires.
The Importance of Right Thinking
In order to identify a thought that is not from God, ask the Holy Spirit for help. He can expose thoughts and attitudes that are contrary to God’s will and lead you into all truth (see John 16:13). It’s not a sin to have a bad thought enter your mind. It only becomes destructive if you permit it to remain and dwell on it.
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. (Philippians 4:8)