Proverbs 4:20-27 (Guard Your Thoughts)
20 My child, listen carefully to everything I say. 21 Don’t forget a single word, but think about it all. 22 Knowing these teachings will mean true life and good health for you. 23 Carefully guard your thoughts because they are the source of true life (vs 20-23 CEV).
Here again is another reminder to obey God’s teachings so that we don’t end up in darkness like those in Proverbs 4:19 but have true life and good health. This “true life” is mentioned twice. What is it? First, if there’s a true life, there must be a false life. A false life would be a life that is perishing. A true life is one that is lasting forever. So, through our obedience, we can have eternal life in heaven instead of eternal death in hell.
The proverb says, “Don’t forget, but think about it all.” We should constantly think on the scriptures – every line, every word – and not only what is written in the bible, but what we hear through prayer. We should write it down and review it often. Through constant meditation on the Word, this will help us retain God’s wisdom so we can apply it in our lives.
Carefully guard your thoughts because they are the source of true life (vs 23 CEV).
This is a key scripture. It says a lot to me. It says: What we think about determines our lives now and forever. In other words: my thoughts have the power to alter my quality of life. So it is imperative to get as much wisdom as I can and retain it – my life depends on it.
Trick of the enemy
While we must guard the wisdom God has already given us, there are many thoughts and mindsets we need to keep out. Here is one deception the devil is using in these last and evil days:
“I’m free from the harlot church
and I can rest knowing I know the truth.”
Because you’ve broken away from the harlot church, you’re free from deception. You’re smarter than those who believe in eternal security and who think they can work their way into heaven. You’re not going to give all your hard-earned cash to some preacher because you’re wiser than that. You’re above the deception.
Just because you’ve applied the wisdom of God and left the harlot church doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods yet. You still have to live obediently through grace and the power of the Holy Spirit. Many have exited the false church and gotten stuck in a realm of I-know-better-than-those-blinded-church-folks. They’ll spend all their time analyzing the evils of the institutional church, discussing her deceptive ways and getting stuck on what God has revealed to them. They’re caught up on knowledge and it has puffed them up. They’ve broken free only to be bound by their own pride.
It seems as if they’ve forgotten about the internal work that must go on within their own souls. As born again believers, we still have to kill the old nature. But some people, and specifically, some ministries won’t spend the time to teach on things like this or how to do them. They may mention what you should do, but never really show you how to do it. If the Lord needs clean vessels and renewed minds, shouldn’t these ministries challenge you in these areas? Shouldn’t these ministries focus on your spiritual growth as well as warn you of the deceptions of the enemy? They should. But they seem to stay focused on what’s wrong out there.
Yielding to God, renewing the mind, growing in character, becoming spotless and without blemish is not going to happen for a lot of people who sit and listen to deep, end-time, revelation messages that won’t deal with their growth. I’m not against anyone who talks about the harlot church or the end-time events, but we must all be getting brighter like the dawn sunlight (Proverbs 4:18-19). Righteousness and growth should be evident in our lives. These ministries should be focused on what the error is out there but also how to live and grow in God.
These ministries seem to be sincere, and what they teach is true, but they fail to recognize that the devil is using their own knowledge against them. I use the term “ministry” because this is what these organizations call themselves. Ministry means: service. The ministry I refer to consists of a pastor. A pastor is one of the offices of the five-fold ministry which was designed to perfect the saints to do the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12 KJV). So I have a legitimate concern with a ministry and a pastor that gives very little application that would lead to the growth, maturity or perfecting of the saints.
If these people are calling themselves ministries, they should be up-front with what they really offer. Perhaps they should say something like this:
We are ministry X, we offer knowledge and very little application. We’re not going to help you grow and deal with the very things that will save you from hell. Figure that out on your own time, or get it from somewhere else.
I have actually contacted the ministry I’m referring to. I wasn’t too surprised when they didn’t respond to my email and I could feel the cold-shoulder from one of the leaders who administered the chat system – I know he didn’t like my email. I can only assume the reason behind their very little application is: that the deep, revealed, revelation-knowledge the pastor has received has got everyone puffed up and stagnated – including the pastor.
I don’t want to see anyone fall away to hell. I didn’t write them to be critical, but I wrote out of love and concern because I’d been blessed by their revelations. Before emailing them, I prayed about it first, even twice, asking the Lord, “Am I seeing this wrong?” But God wouldn’t tell me I was wrong. Believe me, I want to be wrong. I liked those people. The ministry had blessed me but I had discernment and because I seen what was going on, I voiced my concern. There was no response.
To everyone reading this: Pastors cannot stop at knowledge, they must give practical application. Leaving you with a bunch of knowledge in your head and nothing more is a disservice.
I know what some may say, “We’ll, just get what you’re not getting from somewhere else.” And this is what some will do (as I do), but like most people, they’ll sit in a “knowledge ministry” and think that this is all there is because knowledge is all the teacher/pastor brings. Most people are captivated by knowledge but never have any action because they’re … captivated. Sheep are dumb and knowledge will puff them up (1 Cor 8:1) and puffy heads can easily neglect their own spiritual growth. Sheep need balance, this comes with application. Now, if the sheep, after receiving application, still remain stagnated then that’s their problem, but at least the pastor did his full duty.
I have nothing against the ministry, their members or their teachings. I have nothing against knowledge itself. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t get knowledge – we all need to know things – the bible keeps telling us to get knowledge. Nor am I envious of their knowledge, because I have it as well. My concern is not for myself, but more so for the pastor and the sheep who sit under ministries such as this. My point: We can’t get caught up on knowledge and become stagnated in our growth.
How to guard your thoughts – 6 Steps
It would be wrong of me to not give some application after writing about another ministry who gives very little. And I guess, from this point on, I will always have to give application – I’ve got no problem with that. Here’s how to guard your thoughts. This scripture comes to mind:
Casting down [demolish/smash] imaginations [arguments], and every high thing [proud thoughts] that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5 KJV).
I’ve tried this and it’s very difficult because our thoughts are not tangible. If little word bubbles appeared above my head I could easily shew them away, but that isn’t the case. Guarding our thoughts work like this:
1. Two kinds of evil thoughts
First we must recognize that there are two kinds of thoughts here. Ones that we cast down and ones that we capture and bring into the obedience of Christ. The ones that we smash are completely evil – we demolish these with the Word of God. The others are half-true – we keep these – but we remove the erroneous parts by correcting them with the Word of God.
2. Stop, be patient and examine
We must be patient with ourselves and examine what we think about. Ask yourself, “Are these evil or righteous thoughts? Would Jesus approve of these thoughts?” The beginning of putting up a guard is the willingness to stop and deal with your thoughts. This is the difficult part – I’ll explain why later.
3. Know the word of God
We must know what God has said in advance. In other cases, our conscience will tell us what’s right and wrong. When things come to mind in which we don’t understand, we should ask the Spirit and he will reveal whether it’s right or wrong. Then we can make a mental note next time that thought comes up.
4. Acknowledge the evil thought
When you hear an evil thought, you should call out that thought whatever it may be: bitterness, depression, discouragement, lies, lust, pride, whatever…
5. Speak the truth of the the bible
After identifying the thought as partly true, you say something like, “This is only half true, but the bible says this…” What you are doing is bringing the thought into the obedience of Christ. You are correcting that thought and making it obey Christ. You can verbally speak the word of God out loud or say it in your mind. If the thought is completely evil, you obviously don’t allow it to linger, you are to smash it with what God has said. Evil thoughts + The Word = demolition:
Whosoever shall fall upon that stone [Jesus] shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder (Luke 20:18 KJV).
Let Jesus, the Rock, grind that wicked thought to powder!
Battling thoughts is difficult because many times, thoughts come in bunches and you get overwhelmed to the point that you start acting on your thoughts without thinking about them first. I’ve given up many times in the battlefield of my mind because it seemed as soon as I smashed one thought, here comes the enemy with five more.
6. Helmet of Salvation
When I mentioned how I was getting my butt kicked by the devil, the Holy Spirit said this to me: Keep the helmet of salvation on and your thoughts and mind will be guarded. What the Holy Spirit is saying is:
Declare that you’ve put the helmet of salvation on by quoting or knowing the scripture (Eph 6:12-17) and believe that you’re protected. Jesus is the one who protects you. He is the helmet. When proud thoughts and arguments come, they’ll bounce off your helmet. It’s not that you don’t have to fight anymore, it just means that you’re on guard simply because you confessed so. When I say confession, it means that you are acknowledging and agreeing that you’re in a war and that you have purposed to protect your head with Jesus’ help (the helmet of salvation).
It means, when I wake up, I’m on alert and on guard. I have a military mindset. Therefore, I’m prepared to smash anything that comes my way that is not of God. I have agreed to engage the war and the Lord will help me. As I think this way, my helmet will protect me, and most importantly, I don’t have to fight as hard because the Lord will fight with me. Without the helmet, my spirit can fight but it will usually be overwhelmed. With Jesus’ help, I can’t lose, and he’ll take the blunt impact and repel any additional thoughts that seek entry.
And take the helmet of salvation (Eph 6:17)
Some people say that the helmet is our belief that we are saved and that this item is already on. But God wouldn’t tell us to put it on if it was already on. Putting on the helmet says you will fight against evil thoughts and you will win only with the help of Jesus.
Now, exercising faith does come in as you must believe that Jesus will protect your mind as you fight these thoughts. If you don’t believe you will win with Jesus’ help, you won’t. If you don’t engage the battle and stay on alert, Jesus won’t protect you either. Jesus is the helmet and he blocks the enemy’s attacks as you purpose to fight thoughts that are not of God. Believe that you can win with Jesus’ help and you will have the victory.
Finally, stop telling lies. Verse 24 says, “Never tell lies or be deceitful in what you say (CEV).” This passage comes right after “guard your thoughts” for a specific reason: lying will only take down your guard. This is plain and simple. The devil is a liar. Those who act like him will have unwanted entry by him and no protection from Jesus. If you lie, you must confess your sins, repent and be washed in the blood of Jesus (1 John 1:8-9) so that the demons don’t gain entry.
I’m learning that we lie most when we act as if we’re more spiritual than we really are. Another area of lying is when we confess our sins, but we don’t call the sin “sin”. We call our iniquity “a mistake” and/or we accuse and shift the blame to others. This is all lying and we need to stop it. We must take full responsibility for our sin and call it exactly as God would label it. Through this process, we can stay honest, humble and protected.
The hardest part about this war is our flesh’s reluctance to fight in it. You’ll find yourself reluctant to use scripture, or to even open your mouth and rebuke that thought only to find the thought still lingering. Fasting weakens the flesh and allows our new spirits to engage the war without so much drag from the old man. This really works. I say this from experience. A few days without food and the flesh will put up less of a fight.
Once we keep reciting scripture over certain thoughts, they won’t come up as much, but the devil is always waiting for you to take your helmet off, so don’t. Keep the helmet on at all times even though thoughts stop coming because they will always return. The devil loves to get us feeling over-confident and then he makes his grand return. As we mature in faith, the thoughts will become more complex with more half-truths rather than blatant sinful thoughts.
Keep looking straight ahead, without turning aside. Know where you are headed, and you will stay on solid ground. Don’t make a mistake by turning to the right or the left. (vs 25-27 CEV)
We stay on guard and focused by believing we are in a war for our own souls and the souls of others. I believe a daily reading of Ephesians 6 will keep us military minded. The above scripture says to “keep looking straight ahead and know where you are headed.” What’s straight ahead? Where are we going? Of course that’s to Jesus Christ and an eternity with him (John 17:3). We long to be with Jesus for all eternity, we long to see others come to repentance and be born again so that they too can have the chance to experience Love forever.
The narrow road to God is always depicted as straight, but there are other, broader, paths around it that lead to death. Turning aside while on this narrow road depicts paying attention to the devil; and what the devil distracts us with is often very tempting. This is why we must stay in our bibles, stay connected to Jesus Christ, and focus on the reality of this spiritual war and the grand prize we are surely to win if we endure to the end (2 Tim 2:12).
This stuff is hard, but with constant discipline, the right fellowship, guarding our thoughts and staying focused on the prize it will become a habit. And as always, “We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us” (Phil 4:13) and “Nothing is too hard for us to bear” (1 Cor 10:13). With Jesus’ help, we can beat all evil thoughts and guard the precious ones that bring true life. May we guard our minds with the help of Jesus Christ.