“’There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.’ And he said, ‘What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person’” (Mark 7:15, 20-23 ESV).
Recently the Holy Spirit caught me lying both to Him and to myself. There were some thoughts bouncing around in my head that were sinful, and I started to pray, telling God that I didn’t want to think those things. That’s when the Holy Spirit brought conviction, a prick in my conscience. I realized in an instant that I really did want to think those thoughts! Ouch!
A thought, in and of itself is not a sin. It’s when we dwell on those thoughts, or move them forward to action, that it becomes sin. As Martin Luther said, “I can’t stop a bird from flying over my head; but I can stop it from making a nest in my hair!”
Truthfully, I found my thoughts pleasant; and the religious part of me was in denial. But I’ve learned that when we determine in our hearts to listen for the voice of God–when we set our resolve to become closer to Him–and when we commit to follow His leading, He does speak to us. I’m not talking about a thundering voice that shakes the earth, or an authoritative speech from a burning bush. I’m talking about that still-small voice inside that speaks softly and tenderly, urging you to change your course.
Acts of sin come from thoughts within!
Yes, all of them. Even those sins that appear to be spontaneous acts have their origins in thoughts and attitudes that we have not rejected, but rather nurtured.
Our minds receive input from external sources, sources that desensitize us to sin. But, we have a choice as to whether we will allow that desensitization. We can stop it from taking root in our thought lives!
This is where we need a filter to sort out good thoughts from bad. A proper filter will sensitize our spirits. It gives us a sort of superpower, enabling us to recognize whether we should or should not allow certain things inside us at all. A proper filter tells us when to turn off the television or change the channel. It tells us when we need to redirect conversations from topics that are not edifying and sanctifying. The Word of God, frequently and consistently fed to our spirits (and I’m not just talking about just the sermon on Sunday!), is just such a filter. The leading of the Holy Spirit is another such filter.
But the Holy Spirit will not fight with us. When we don’t listen and follow His leading, our hearts become hard. Our spiritual ears become dull of hearing as worldly “wax” accumulates from the garbage we hear and don’t reject.
No, nothing we hear or see can defile us. We choose what we dwell on in our thought life. In Matthew 5, the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus takes external sins–such as Murder and Adultery–and points out that that they proceed from what we have in our hearts–e.g. Anger and Lust. He said that dwelling on those things inside is just as bad as committing the acts themselves.
I imagine that His hearers were petrified when they heard Jesus’ words. was no longer enough that we don’t commit murder; now angry, violent, hateful thoughts are enough to make us guilty!
“For as he thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7a NKJV).
We all must break the bonds created by a lazy or undisciplined thought life. I am as guilty as everyone else. Filling our hearts with the Word, and choosing to pull our attentions back to it when we find ourselves straying is more than just a beginning. It is the life of a mindful disciple. Blessings on your week!