But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” Genesis 3:9-11 (ESV)
You have probably heard it said that the battleground is in the mind, which is true, but even more, it is in the heart. Once the battle for the heart is won, the next step is to retrain our minds to think what is true. Adam and Eve lost the battle because Satan won their hearts, turning them from God by promoting a distrust of his motives. Faith dwells in the heart, as does hate, doubt, and any number of other God-blocking attitudes. The heart is the residence of what Paul called “strongholds.” He goes on to describe the nature of these strongholds, which are actually fortresses of the mind. He calls them “logismos” or logical arguments, lofty speculations of the mind that seem entirely reasonable based on what we have been told or how we have interpreted our life experiences. These militate against the knowledge of God and his truth, bringing us into bondage.
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NASB)
Satan planted the seed of a lie in Adam’s heart there in the garden, which took root and produced rebellion and the fall of man, bringing death and destruction upon the entire human race. Believing lies has consequences, and none of them are good. Even in their pristine newly created state, Adam and Eve were susceptible to lies. How much more are we who were born with sin natures inherited from our ancestors. What we believe in our hearts does not always line up with what our minds think it believes. What we believe in our hearts usually surfaces when enough pressure or pain is exerted on us. People say some amazing things when they hurt enough. When our buttons get pushed, out pops what the heart believes. The famous French Christian philosopher wrote, “The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.”
When we believe a lie at the heart level, it creates a pattern of thinking in our minds. We tend to replay these messages over and over to the point where we speak and believe the lie and act accordingly. When we believe something at the heart level, no amount of reasoning will prevail over the lie-based stronghold. It takes divine weaponry to break through. The Holy Spirit is able to do this, and he uses truth.
Jesus is the Truth and he sent the Spirit of Truth to guide us into all truth. The Word of God is truth and is our infallible guide, but since we often approach the Word on a mere intellectual level, it may not set us free until God opens our hearts to receive it. Truth can break through in our lives when we allow the Spirit and the Word to enter our darkened hearts. Repentance, which basically means “to change the mind,” is the first step in our being “reprogrammed” to think according to truth. Once we gain the breakthrough, which happens when lies are identified and renounced, and truth is understood and accepted, the next step is to train ourselves to think soundly in accordance with truth. This is an ongoing battle.
For example, if your parents did not spend much time with you when you were small and tended to point out your faults instead of encouraging your successes, you might grow up believing the lie that something is basically wrong with you and you have little value and little to offer. You may have an underlying expectation that everyone close to you will eventually reject you, leaving you alone and afraid. Depending on your personality, you might respond to this by being angry, rejective toward others, depressed, addicted to a pain reducing drugs, or detached from life. You may have thought this way for so long that it seems normal to you. When God’s truth breaks through, teaching you that your value depends on what he paid for you (Christ’s blood) and upon what he thinks of you (He chose us from before the foundation of the world. (Eph. 1:3-6), you may have an epiphany of insight coupled with heartfelt repentance for believing the lie that God did not care for you and had abandoned you. This is a wonderful beginning, but afterward, however, it will be necessary to “fight the good fight of faith” by continually renouncing the old patterns of negative thinking when they try to reassert themselves. Perhaps a friend or loved one will do something hurtful, and we will find ourselves thinking about how worthless and abandoned we are again. It is at this point that we must catch ourselves and remind ourselves of the truth according to God’s Word. Paul put it this way:
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2 (NLT)
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8 (NLT)
For those of us who are old enough to remember the old phonographs that played vinyl LP albums, when the record was scratched, the needle bumped back so that it replayed the same segments over and over again. This is the way we tend to obsess on negative lie-based thinking, replaying it over and over in our minds with serious negative consequences. If a person wanted to play the rest of the song, he or she had to lift the arm of the player over the scratched area and gently place the needle on the record again. Similarly, if we find ourselves obsessing on lie-based thinking, it will be necessary to force ourselves to start thinking according to God’s truth.
One of the greatest ways to do this is to praise God for the very things that we think are so negative. For example, using our previous example, we might say: “Lord, thank you that so and so treated me hurtfully, because I know that you are working all of these things for good in my life. (Romans 8:28 and Ephesians 5:23) I ask you to bless the one who hurt me and to glorify yourself in this situation. Thank you for making me address these wounded areas in my soul so you can heal them. Thank you for the person you are changing me to be. Help me not to base my happiness on what others say and do. I rely on you alone. I only believe what you tell me. Amen.” Praise, according to some, is the highest form of thought. I believe that it is. It aligns us with God’s truth and with God himself. Try it. It will set you free.
Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. 32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32 (NLT)
The next time you find yourself thinking negatively, ask yourself: “Who told me to think like this?” Satan is the accuser, but God is the Author of faith, hope, and love. He placed all condemnation on His Son; so, we do not have to hear that voice any more. Refuse to listen to and repeat the accusations of the devil and live as if God’s Word is true, because it is.