Winning our personal spiritual battles starts with knowing that every thought which enters our mind is not necessarily our own. Nor is every emotion we feel.
Some thoughts do come from our depraved nature, and those must be continually put to death. Eventually, as we gain ground through absorbing the Scriptures and spending time with the Lord, we develop more and more of a “renewed mind,” as mentioned in Romans 12:2.
But there is another source of wrong thoughts: evil spirits. They study our lives, including our words, and thereby figure out what our vulnerable areas are. They then inject thoughts into our minds accordingly. These thoughts are cleverly styled to sound like our own, but they are actually coming from outside ourselves.
This means that when we have an evil thought, instead of being shocked by how bad we are for coming up with such a thing, we must recognize that it perhaps did not originate with us, and we don’t have to buy into it. We immediately reject it, rebuking the evil spirit which planted it. It only becomes “ours” when we accept it and begin to flow with it. A thought caught and rejected in the first couple of seconds has no power over us. It is not sin until we agree and then run with it.
The apostle Paul gives us some ideas about how warfare over our thoughts works:
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh (for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal [soulish; according to the natural man], but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds). We are casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. — 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.
Paul indicates that we cannot succeed in winning the war for our thoughts in our own strength (“warring according to the flesh”). This is why simply pushing away a wrong thought usually doesn’t work: it will keep on coming back, along with a flood of other evil thoughts to reinforce it. Instead, we must use the authority we have in Christ Jesus through His name, depending on the Lord to back us up.
When we recognize a thought which is not compatible with how the Lord thinks, our job is to immediately reject it, and then command the enemy to be silent and flee from us, in the name of Jesus. James 4:7 instructs us, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” The condition is that we stay yielded to the Lord. We put to death our own selfish inclinations. Then, when the enemy tries to manipulate our thoughts, we can speak confidently, “I resist that thought and the spirit behind it. I command the enemy to be gone from me, in Jesus’ name.”
When we are yielded to the Holy Spirit, depending upon Him for His power to be at work within us, our warfare is truly “mighty through God” (2 Corinthians 10:4). However, although we depend upon the Spirit to aid us in spiritual warfare, we cannot passively expect Him to do it all. If that were the case, there would be no warfare about it for us. Instead, He has given us supernatural ability so that we can cast down the wrong imaginations, and we can take every thought captive to make it line up with obedience to Christ (v. 5).
The problem for most of us, though, is that our natural tendency is to carry out life according to the flesh. This means we go by how we feel and what we perceive by our natural mind. We are not vigilant over our thoughts. We don’t pay attention to the steady flow of what we’re thinking, so sometimes we don’t recognize that the mental trail we are taking is off the Lord’s path. This is especially the case once we have developed a pattern of agreeing with wrong thoughts. Those patterns, or mindsets, can deepen into mental strongholds, which we will cover in the next post.
The Intercessor Manual, by Lee Ann Rubsam