“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” –Philippians 4:8
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will.” -Romans 12:1-2
“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” –Colossians 3:2
What do these verses have in common?
They teach us that we must guard our thoughts!
Why does this matter?
Our actions stem from our thoughts.
Christians are called to live “like Christ.” “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus walked.” -1 John 2:6 “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” -Romans 8:29
The purpose of our lives is to glorify Him. “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen” -Romans 11:36 “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your father in heaven.” -Matthew 5:16
How can we guard our thoughts?
Manage our input. Our input will affect our output. What are we putting in our mind by what we watch, listen to, talk about, look at, etc.? This is not an easy or an instantaneous thing. It is a slow and difficult process. I promise you, though, as you fill your mind with His word and with things that glorify Him, those former things won’t seem so important. You won’t want to fill your mind with “junk.”
Media is a big area of input for us today. Many people have media access 24/7. As you know, those people making movies, TV shows, music, books, magazine articles, etc. do not usually follow the standards of the Bible. Our world has adopted a policy of “anything goes” or “if it makes you happy or feels good, it can’t be bad.” If we don’t guard our minds, we too will conform to the patterns of this world. Obviously we have to live in the world and we can’t hide ourselves away in a cave in the wilderness away from people and any contact with the “outside world.” This isn’t what God wants us to do either. He tells us in Matthew to “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” When we live differently from the world and we follow the standards of the Bible, we will be a light unto the world.
What are some practical ways to guard your thoughts?
Read your Bible. Have a daily time that you spend reading, meditating, and praying. I personally do this in the morning. It starts my day off in a good way. I enjoy reading His words every morning and I marvel at how He is revealing His truths to me. “…man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Deuteronomy 8:3
2. Read the thoughts of fellow Christians.
I really enjoy reading books, articles, and blogs by other Christians. Most often, I feel that these people are much smarter than me and they make me think of things I never would have thought of before. This can be very encouraging. However, I warn you to never let these people’s words replace the words of God. Make sure that what these people are saying lines up with what the Bible says.
3. Monitor your media input.
-Music: Many Christian songs have a very powerful message when you really listen to the words. These songs can help you worship when you’re doing every day tasks like driving. I would challenge you to listen to only Christian music for a couple of weeks and see if it doesn’t make a difference in your attitude and the things you think about.
-Movies & TV shows: I am becoming more and more shocked at what they are putting out there via movies and TV shows these days. It is hard to find decent movies to go and see. For this reason and due to high movie ticket prices, My husband and I hardly ever go to the movie theater. Movies were the first area where I felt convicted to watch what I put in my mind. There is a wonderful website that has helped me monitor this. Plugged in Online is a Christian website that reviews movies, TV shows, music, games, etc. When I am thinking about going to see a movie, I always check it out on this website first. It will tell you EVERY thing that is a negative in the movie. Then, you can decide if it is something you feel you should be watching. I highly recommend you bookmark this page.
-Books, magazine, internet articles: While standing in the checkout line at a grocery store, you can view the headlines of magazines and quickly see what the world values. If you read these things too much, you will come to value them too. If you like to read, as I do, it is important that you also monitor the types of things you are reading. I used to be an avid magazine reader, but I realized that the things those magazines were telling me were not matching up with God’s word. In the same way, books can often be as bad as movies in terms of their content.
I could go on and on talking about media. We also have to be careful of the videos we watch on sites such as YouTube; the things we view on Facebook, blogs, and Twitter; the websites we look at, etc.
Are your friends building you up or bringing you down? Again, you cannot cut off all communication with nonbelievers. You can, however, limit the time you spend with them. You can remain friendly without being best friends. This is probably one of the most difficult steps.
Giving up any of these things can be difficult, but Jesus addressed this in his Sermon on the Mount when he said, “if your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” –Matthew 5:29-30
None of this is easy to do. It goes against what’s “normal.” I continually fail at this myself. Thankfully, God extends grace to us and gives us the power we need to do things that may seem impossible. Remember that sanctification is an ongoing process.
How do you actively guard your thoughts?