Applying the Brakes: Take Every Thought Captive

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts. 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 Cor 10 4-6)

The brakes are one of our weapons of warfare that are essential, but not often talked about: they are the “check” that we have been given to apply to everything that goes through our heads. Before we draw the sword of the Spirit, before we hold up the shield of faith, the Word encourages us to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (If we are thinking in terms of the spiritual armour of Ephesians 6, we can see this as part of the function of our helmet of salvation: the helmet is our filter that will only allow Kingdom thinking do go on in our heads – if only we would remember that we are wearing it…)

Sometimes the Holy Spirit tells us sovereignly when to brake: we just sense that He is saying “No. Not that.” We’ve all had the times, probably too many to count, when we’ve had that check, ignored it and carried on our own way; then found out when it’s too late and we’re picking ourselves up off the ground why the Lord was stopping us. But we also know the far more satisfying corollary when we feel the check, stop, and then find out what would have happened if we had carried on. Those are good moments on our journey. However I don’t think the Lord wants us to rely solely on His intervention to know when to stop, because His instruction is to take every thought captive, not just the ones He points out. And this is not just about our sanctification: it is, as I have said, about warfare.

It is often said that the main battleground in the spiritual warfare in which we are all engaged is the mind. Sin always starts with a temptation: “But each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”  (James 1: 14) Sin was crouching at Cain’s door, and he let in in (Gen 4:7). It crouches at our doors as well, and we must recognise it for what it is and  keep it out.

Any seed that is left in the right conditions will take root and grow. The devil will sow negative thoughts in our minds at any time, usually seeds of temptation to do or say something unrighteous and unloving. We may not do anything with them at the time, but perhaps we entertain them. They take root and grow bigger. They start to look enticing; we entertain them some more; they start to grow, and like dandelions they get more and more difficult to pull out, until ultimately they give birth to sin and death. These are the thoughts that need to be taken captive and rejected as soon as they land, before the root starts to form.

Again, we may be in a conversation that covers sensitive topics. Something is said that maybe piques the flesh and a defensive reaction rises up. Do we entertain it and let it give birth to destructive words? If we do, sin is crouching at our door, and will jump in as soon as the words come out, because the door is open. Or do we take that thought captive to the obedience of Christ and refuse to give it room? To choose Life in these circumstances we have to die to the reactions of our flesh, but the rewards are always worthwhile. These moments are like points on a railway track, where we have a choice to make: if we choose the wrong way we can be led down a track that will waste time, cause emotional damage and end up just hitting the buffers. If we choose the right way we grow in Christ and sharpen the discernment that makes it easier to take the next thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.

As the spiritual battle around us intensifies, so too does the battle for our minds. One of our best defences is to make it second nature to keep our hands constantly close to the brakes. We have to remember that it is our spirits that are in control, not the slope of the flesh’s path that is enticing us: at every moment we choose to either use them, or to carry on careering down the hill.

Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts,
And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.
(Psalm 51:6)

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