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One of the most comprehensive acts of judgment that fell upon all of mankind was the flood. Consider the Lord’s reason for this judgment in Genesis 6:5, “ The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” It was the rampant wickedness upon the earth that led to the flood, but it was also the evil thoughts of mankind. It was those thoughts that justified God’s almost complete destruction of all living things. How often do we consider that our very thoughts condemn us before God? As Jesus states in Matthew 15:19-20b, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.” Earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes it very clear that anger at our neighbor is committing murder from our hearts, and to lust is to break God’s commandment against adultery. Our very thoughts defile us. Our thoughts condemn us. Our thoughts affirm that we are sinners before a holy God. Who can stand? How do we stop the onslaught of these evil thoughts that threaten our peace of mind and heart? You and I must declare war. 

Paul, in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, states the importance of waging war on our thoughts:

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…

There is a call to war in this passage—a call to take every thought captive in order to obey Christ. Paul gives a statement of encouragement that you and I do not do this on our own but that we have been given a “divine power to destroy strongholds.” This divine power God gives his people to destroy strongholds is granted to us by the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit at work in us as Romans 8:5-6 declares, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” Imagine a battleground; there are always two sides —just like our heart—the side of the flesh, which is the desire to gratify our lusts and the side of the Spirit. The side of our flesh desires anger to destroy others and longs for us to pursue our passions into the grave. A complete picture of this is found in James 4:1-4, 

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

This is a battleground that we all lose daily when striving in our own flesh and strength—none of us have the ability to stand. 

You and I are condemned by our thoughts, for as we know in Psalm 139:2—the Lord knows our thoughts from afar off. No matter where we go, in the heights of the air, or in the depths of the sea, or in the innermost darkness of the grave—our thoughts are known by the Maker of the heavens and earth. Yet we can take comfort in Psalm 139 because just like David, we too have a desire that the men of blood would depart from us (Ps 139:19)—that those thoughts of suicide would leave us forever, that we would not be weighed down in our hearts by anger at a family member that quickly turns into a bitterness that rots our outward flesh. We desire to not have those intrusive thoughts that take our Lord’s name in vain (Ps 139:20), or thoughts that speak wickedly against our Lord and Savior, or even those thoughts against our fellow believers called by His name. 

Within David’s heart you hear the same frustration that we have against our wicked thoughts, “Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies” (Ps 139:21-22). David is pursuing the only one who can bring him up out of the battlefield of his own heart: “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps 139:23-24)! He clings to his Maker for deliverance and clings to him for life and peace.

Just as David declares in Psalm 139, there is hope for us—the salvific reality that we are no longer alone in the battle of our thoughts as believers because the Savior is on our side. Christ Jesus died for our sins so that we could be set free from the bonds of our flesh, from the bonds of our sinful thoughts, and receive full forgiveness. Christ rose from the dead and ascended so that the Holy Spirit would descend upon his people. As Paul states in Romans 8:15, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” We who are in Christ have this beautiful new reality that we now live according to the Spirit because he is at work in us. Always propelling us towards peace and life everlasting (Romans 8:13). 

There is still a battle, but you and I must imitate David when the thoughts hound our waking hours. When we are overcome and distressed by those impertinent thoughts that weigh us down in our hearts and mind, we must seek to put the lustful thoughts to death by clinging to Christ and asking for forgiveness while completely laying the thoughts at his feet. His feet which were pierced for our sake—His feet which were pierced for our sinful thoughts. He invites us to come and not only come, but to also be clothed with his righteousness and his armor, which will allow us to combat the thoughts when they threaten our peace (Eph 6:10-20). 

Going back to Genesis, there may be a time in your life when it feels as if your thoughts are the flood waters of Genesis—a flood that threatens to destroy you from the inside out, but do not forget that just as the flood had an expiration date—we can have hope that so will our persistent thoughts. After 150 days, the flood receded from the earth, and God, in his kindness, acknowledged that the evil thoughts of mankind would continue, yet he promised to display his grace and mercy and to never flood the earth again (Gen 8). To never again destroy every living creature—a promise he makes with the sign of a rainbow. This is God’s covenant of grace that he lavishes upon all of mankind. Then—just like in the Garden of Eden—he bids Noah and his family to be fruitful and multiply to fill the earth (Gen 9:1-17). There is good that comes after the flood, there is blessing that the Lord brings after the hardship of destruction, and it comes out of the abundance of his love. The call for you and I is to see our thoughts as God sees them. To have the same response towards them as David, and ask the Lord to search our thoughts to truly know us and give him all of our thoughts—for he will lead us in the way everlasting, and there will be a day when we will discover a time of peace from war within (Ps 139:24; Ps 27:13-14).

Here are a few resources for further study on this topic: A Still and Quiet Mind: Twelve Strategies for Changing Unwanted Thoughts by Esther Smith and Safe & Sound: Standing Firm in Spiritual Battles by David Powlison 


Kirsten holds a BA in Theological Studies from Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Florida and a Master of Arts degree in Christian Counseling from Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC. She decided to pursue counseling while living in Florida, but was further affirmed in her decision after working as a second-grade teacher at a Christian school where she taught the children of military families. She serves both the women and children of the surrounding Auburn area through biblical counseling, and she is delighted to take part in the work of the Lord that is being done at the Owen Center. She is also a Certified Christian Trauma Care Provider—Level 1.