This is a continuation of my Proverbs studies. In this post, we examine chapter 4, verses 20 through 23. Originally published 10/24/10, updated 02/22/17.
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 (Proverbs 4:20-23 CEV).
Here again is another reminder to obey God so that we don’t end up in darkness like those in Proverbs 4:19, but receive 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 lasts forever.
The proverb says, “Don’t forget, but think about it all.” We should constantly think on the scriptures—every line, every word. We should write it down, if we have to, and review it often. Through meditation on the Word, we can retain God’s wisdom.
Carefully guard your thoughts because they are the source of true life (Proverbs 4:23 CEV).
This is a great proverb; it says our thoughts have the power to alter our quality of life. So, while we must hold on to the wisdom God’s given us, there are other thoughts and ideas we must guard against.
5 Steps to guard your thoughts
This scripture comes to mind:
4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; 5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)
The passage reveals we fight a spiritual war and the battlefield is in our minds. God has given us spiritual weapons to “pull down strongholds,” “imaginations,” “high things,” and so forth.
Using these weapons can be difficult because our thoughts are not tangible. If little word bubbles appeared above our heads we could easily shew them away, but that’s not the case, instead, guarding our minds work like this:
1. Know the word of God
We must know what the Bible says concerning right and wrong; this means we need to be students of the scriptures. When we don’t understand certain passages, we must ask the Holy Spirit, and he’ll guide us into all truth (John 16:13). Then we can make a mental note next time the thought comes up.
2. Think about what you think about
We must be patient and examine our thoughts. Stop and ask yourself, “Are these evil or righteous thoughts? Would Jesus approve of these ideas? Do they glorify men or God?” There are two kinds of thoughts to beware of: 1) blatant falsehoods and 2) half-truths.
3. Reject blatant falsehoods
When you hear something that’s completely false, absurd, ridiculous, and downright wicked, you must stop it in its tracks and call it out, whatever it may be: racist, proud, perverted, discouraging, distracting, whatever; these kinds of thoughts must be completely rejected.
4. Speak truth to error
Other thoughts are half-true, these must be held captive, and the wrong parts corrected by the Word of God. What you’re doing is bringing that thought “to the obedience of Christ.” You are correcting it and making it obey Christ.
Monitoring our thoughts can be difficult because, many times, ideas come in bunches and we get overwhelmed to the point that we just act 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.
5. Put on the Helmet of Salvation
When I mentioned being overwhelmed by so many thoughts, the Holy Spirit said to me, “Put on the helmet of salvation, and you’ll be protected.”
… take the helmet of salvation … (Ephesians 6:17)
He elaborated, “Rely on Jesus as your only defense against the enemy, and he’ll prevent the powers of darkness from bombarding your mind.”
It’s not that we stop guarding our thoughts, it just means we put our trust in Christ to block the enemy. Putting on the helmet means we acknowledge we’re in a war, Jesus is protecting our mind, and we’re incapable of doing it ourselves.
With this humble military mindset, we reject any thoughts that don’t align with the Word, and Christ prevents us from being overwhelmed while making sure nothing harms us.
If we don’t engage the battle and stay on alert, Jesus won’t protect us. Jesus is the helmet, and he blocks the enemy’s entry into our mind as we monitor our thoughts according to the Word of God. As we control our thoughts and trust in Christ, we’ll 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 this reason: lying will only take down your guard.
The devil is a liar. Those who tell lies will give the enemy unlimited access to their mind. If you lie, you must confess your sins, repent, and be washed in the blood of Jesus (1 John 1:8-9), so demons don’t gain entry.
I’m learning that we lie most when we act more spiritual than we 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,” or 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 it still lingers.
Fasting weakens the flesh and strengthens us to keep fighting; this really works. I say this from experience. A few days without food and the sinful nature will put up less fight.
As we keep reciting scripture over our thoughts, evil “imaginations” 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. The Bible says, “And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him [Jesus] for a season” (Luke 4:13). The devil is always circling around to take another stab at us.
As we mature in Christ, the thoughts will become more complicated, with more half-truths rather than blatant lies; but we’ll get the victory.
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 remain focused by acknowledging we’re in a war. 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’re headed.” What’s straight ahead? Where are we going? Of course, that’s eternity with our God (John 17:3).
Biblically, the narrow road is depicted as straight, but there are broader paths that lead to death. Turning aside could mean allowing the devil to distract us; this is why we must stay in the Spirit, and we will endure to the end (2 Timothy 2:12).
Warfare can seem hard, but with practice and reliance on the Holy Spirit, the load is lighter. And as always, “We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us” (Phil 4:13). With Jesus’ help, we can destroy evil thoughts and guard the precious wisdom that brings eternal life. May we guard our minds with the helmet of salvation.