Friends, please accept my apologies for the lateness of this post. I have had a heavy programme of meetings, which took up my time.
Few of us would say that we are not troubled with unwelcome thoughts. Our minds are never at rest during our waking hours, and they wander on to subjects which we would prefer not to think about. This is not because we have directed our thought to these things, but because the mind very often seems to ‘have a mind of its own’. One of the mysteries of the workings of our minds is the initiation of mental activity. Some lines of thought are triggered by something seen or heard, but we find ourselves on other lines of thought, and we are baffled as to their origin. Not only baffled, but dismayed that such thoughts entered our head.
We are filled with guilt by these thoughts, and we would love to be rid of them. While we must try our best to fight against such thoughts, we will never get complete victory. Even the saved person, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, can never get total victory over unwelcome thoughts. One day we will be separated from these and all other sins forever when we get to be with Christ in heaven. Until then these thoughts are a reminder to us that there is in all of remaining sin: what Paul calls in Romans 7: 22,23, “another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind”, that is, against what I know to be right. Paul, like ourselves was grieved by this “other law”; indeed he is forced to cry out. “O wretched man that I am!”
But Paul elsewhere does give us some real help in this battle. It is what we might call, ‘Replacement therapy”. In Philippians 4, he is winding up his letter to the Philippians, whom he dearly loved. His desire for them is that they would be “careful for nothing” (verse 6), that is, that they should not be anxious about anything; and that they should enjoy the “peace of God” continually (verse 7). Then, as if conscious of the difficulty of maintaining these things in the face of unwelcome thoughts, he gives them in verse 8 his ‘replacement therapy’.
It comes in the form of a list of good things to think in place of these unwelcome thoughts. Every believer should learn this list by heart, and allow it to rule their minds:
“Whatsoever things are true”. Avoid letting our imaginations drift into the world of fantasy.
“Whatsoever things are honest”. Things which are sincere and wholesome.
“Whatsoever things are just”. Things which are untwisted, and straight forward.
“What soever things are pure”. Things which are morally clean.
“Whatsoever things are lovely”. Things which are in themselves beautiful.
“Whatsoever things are of good report”. This is over against things which come to our notice which are unsavoury: news of the moral lapse of someone we know. The kind of thing which gossips love to hear. Let us not feed our minds on such reports, but on good reports that come to us.
“If there be any virtue”. It may be difficult to find anthing virtuous in the world of today; but if you find any, let your mind dwell on it.
“If there be any praise”. If you can think of something praiseworthy which anyone has done, let your mind dwell on it.
Paul finishes with the simple exhortation, “Think on these things”. The battle against unwelcome thoughts is not easy, but it is a battle which must be fought. Being RightWithGod does not come with winning the battle, which we will never do, but with fighting the battle. This is the good fight.