How much do you think about what you are thinking about?
Often our thought-lives receive a relatively small amount of attention when we consider areas of our lives that need to be sanctified. Why is this? Thoughts are easy to ignore and even easier to justify, largely because they only harm the one doing the thinking.
Lustful thoughts. Covetous thoughts. Hateful thoughts. They all seem harmless as long as they never manifest in overtly sinful action. Our thought-life can become a private playground where secret sins are indulged, for seemingly no cost. But is that true? Jesus answers this question with an emphatic: “NO!” Consider his admonition in the Sermon on the Mount.
Matthew 5:27-28 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Wait, isn’t this about avoiding lustful glances? Well, yes but thats not all. The problem is in what we do with the lustful glance. We delight in it. We dwell on it. We fantasize with it. Put differently, the lustful glance connects directly to lustful thoughts. There is a direct connection Jesus is showing us here. Even the language Jesus uses here implies some degree of fantasy occurring in the thought life of the individual. After all, the lustful-glancer doesn’t outwardly commit adultery. But they are thinking about it. The eye is connected to the mind which is connected to the heart. What we look at is what we think about and what we think about is what ultimately shapes our affections.
What we think about is constantly helping or hindering our walk with God. The Apostle Paul certainly saw the direct connection between our spiritual health and our thoughtful life. In Philippians 4:8 he writes: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable if there is any excellence if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
And there is great spiritual gain in pursuing a Godward thought life. John Owen, in his mind-blowing devotional work Communion with God, (This will be the best $6 you spend this year!) he makes this stunningly perceptional spiritual observation:
“Growth in our walk with God is what we are to aim at. Many dark and disturbing thoughts arise to hinder our walk with God. Few can rise to the height of the Father’s love by faith, so as to rest their souls in his love. They live far below it in the troublesome region of hopes and fears, storms and clouds. Abiding in the Father’s love, all is peace and quiet”.
This should be the aim of every follower of Jesus. If we are to become more like Jesus we must intentionally think about Jesus.