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  • Paul Reich

Take Every Thought Captive (Part 3)

A battle is raging for our minds. We must renounce faulty thinking and replace lies with the truths of God's word.

 

Photo by Marina Vitale on Unsplash

 

When I was in high school, I read a poem by Sam Foss called The Cow-Path. It is about a calf whose meandering made a crooked trail that set the course for several centuries of travel. The calf’s path was followed by a dog, a sheep, and the whole flock. The now entrenched path was then followed by countless men until decades later it became a crooked lane, which over time became a crooked road. Years later this road became a crooked village street, which in turn became a crowded city thoroughfare and eventually the central street of a renowned metropolis, followed by a hundred thousand people a day. Foss ends the poem with a moral lesson.

A moral lesson this might teach Were I ordained and called to preach;
For men are prone to go it blind Along the calf-paths of the mind,
And work away from sun to sun, To do what other men have done.
They follow in the beaten track, And out and in, and forth and back,
And still their devious course pursue, To keep the path that others do. [1]

In Foss’ poem, the meandering calf set the course for centuries of crooked travel. The poem’s moral lesson is that men blindly follow crooked thinking and corresponding behaviors – “the calf-paths of the mind” - that have passed from person to person and perpetuated from generation to generation. These “calf-paths” have not only been perpetuated over time, but they have also been reinforced and increasingly entrenched into “crowded thoroughfares” and “central streets” of our society.


These crooked ideas and their resulting behaviors are so thoroughly entrenched that men follow them indiscriminately, accepting them as self-evident truths not to be questioned. To challenge these assumptions is to go contrary to centuries of reinforced thinking, so men continue to blindly and thoughtlessly “follow the beaten track” and pursue the same “devious course.”


Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash


In his poem, Foss doesn’t identify particular beliefs, nor does he provide a basis for determining what faulty thinking has skewed the perspectives and moral highways of current society. Rather, his poem is designed to cause us to reflect on any thinking we have indiscriminately and unquestioningly embraced that has shaped our perspectives and behaviors.


I believe Foss' phrase, “the calf-paths of the mind” is an apt picture for the mental strongholds described by the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. I’ve discussed this passage in my two previous posts, but include it again here for your convenience.


2 Corinthians 10:3–5 (NIV)

3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.

4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.

5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.


As noted in a previous post, Paul was countering heretical teaching that was perpetuated by false apostles. He was demolishing their faulty speculations and arguments and bringing them into alignment with Christ and His teaching. The principles of this passage are applicable not only to faulty teaching that must be cast down in the church, but also to strongholds of faulty thinking erected in our own minds or the faulty thinking so prevalent in society that must be resisted.


Using God’s Word as the plumbline for truth, we must evaluate the mental “calf-paths” that we have blindly embraced. Personally, this will involve examining our self-talk, particularly any thinking that is self-destructive or that sabotages relationships. For example, wounding words and experiences of childhood, whether at home, in school, in church, or with peers may have planted lies in our minds. We may have embraced these lies, only to have them reinforced through additional experiences and habitual self-talk.


Personal lies such as …

  • “I am inadequate.”

  • “I must perform acceptably to be loved.”

  • “I am ugly.”

  • “I’m stupid.”

  • “I am a failure.”

  • “I will never amount to anything.”

  • And others

Lies about God, such as …

  • “God is a cruel judge who is out to punish my slightest sin.”

  • “God is so forgiving that it doesn’t matter how I live; I can do whatever I want.”

  • “God doesn’t love me.”

  • “God doesn’t care.”

  • “God won’t forgive me.”

  • “God won’t accept me.”

  • “God has abandoned me.”

  • And others.

Lies about your identity, your abilities, your relationships, your sexuality, and more may have led to mental strongholds, emotional bondages, and dysfunctional or sinful behaviors. Lies about God or biblical teaching may have hindered your walk with Him and kept you trapped in fear and legalism on one hand, or imprisoned by callousness and sin on the other hand. Self-deception may have tripped you up again and again when facing temptation, forming mental strongholds that enslave you in sinful habits. Behind your relationship conflicts, failure at work, poor decisions, or deep-seated character flaws, may be patterns of faulty thinking that need to be identified and changed.


In my previous post, I listed three helpful steps for taking thoughts captive: 1) Recognize, 2) Renounce, and 3) Replace. In that post I covered the first step, Recognize, providing a number of biblical insights for recognizing thinking that is not in alignment with Christ’s character or His teaching. Now in this post, I will discuss the second step, Renounce, and in my next post we will look at the third step, Replace.


2. Renounce


Though I am separating the Renounce step from the Replace step, they are really two sides of the same coin. As such, I have found that these two steps work interactively and may be completed simultaneously. On some occasions, they may even be reversed for reasons that will become apparent in this post and the next.


To recognize faulty thinking requires that we are continually in God’s word and inviting Him to search our hearts, exposing any thinking or behaviors that are harmful or not pleasing to Him (Psalm 139:23-24). Once we recognize faulty thinking, we need to renounce it. Sometimes this simply means rejecting the lie and replacing it with new insights that come from continually exposing ourselves to the truth of God’s word (John 8:31-32, 17:17). I’ve done this many times in my life. Times when I’m reading, studying, or meditating on Scripture, or times when I’m praying, reading a book, listening to a sermon, or in conversation with a fellow believer, and the light of understanding illumines my mind. On these occasions, I simply embrace a truth or even a clearer understanding that exposed limited or faulty thinking about something I previously believed.


Many times, degrees of ignorance, misunderstanding, or faulty thinking simply need to be replaced by embracing the truth as we grow in our understanding of God’s word. Just as mental strongholds and demonically influenced patterns of thinking can be built one lie at a time, godly fortresses can also be built one truth at a time. As misunderstandings and lies are exposed in the light of truth, embracing the truth and reinforcing the truth through continued exposure to God’s word will build new “pathways” and “roadways” of thinking and behaving. Much faulty thinking can simply be overcome by the law of displacement which we will talk more about in my next post.


However, I have found other times that faulty thinking is so entrenched in my mind that I have had to consciously renounce lies I have believed, and with continued affirmation of the truth, replace these lies with new "pathways" of truth. Other times, I have experienced demonic imposition of thoughts and found taking authority over those thoughts and casting them down in the name of Jesus to be most helpful, and sometimes necessary. When I experienced the demonically imposed thought to throw my one-year-old son into the North Saskatchewan River, followed by ongoing condemnation, and nightmares (see previous blog post), I cast down those thoughts in the name of Jesus. In times of spiritual attack when I have found my mind bombarded by unwelcome thoughts, I have found it useful to audibly take authority and renounce these thoughts in Jesus’ name.


Before resisting the devil, we must first be submitted to God. James writes, “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:6–7 NIV). By submitting to God, we come under His authority, and it is only under His authority that we have authority over the enemy. The centurion that implored Jesus to heal his servant understood this truth.


Matthew 8:8–9 (NIV)

8 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.

9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”


Matthew tells us that Jesus marveled at this man’s faith. He understood that there are structures of authority that grant authority and require obedience. He recognized Jesus’ authority over sickness and the demonic realm, and he knew that if Jesus exercised His authority and simply spoke the word, his servant would be healed.


If we are not submitted to Jesus, we do not have authority when we use the name of Jesus to resist the devil. In the book of Acts, Luke describes an occasion when some Jewish exorcists were trying to use the name of Jesus to cast out a demon, “the evil spirit answered them, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?’ Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding” (Acts 19:15-16)


Submitting to God may require confession of sin. Unconfessed sin blocks fellowship with God (1 John 1:5-7) and evidences an aspect of life that is not surrendered to Him. Confess any known sin, confess any thoughts you have entertained that are not of Him. Agree with God about your sin and ask Him to forgive you. The Bible promises, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 NIV).


Learn to walk in submission to God, confessing any sin as you become aware of it, giving Him your cares, yielding your plans, and surrendering all aspects of your life and relationships to Him. Then from this place of submission, cast down any thoughts that are contrary to His character, His purposes, and His truth as revealed in Scripture. When necessary, renounce lies or imposed thoughts in the name of Jesus.


The Bible frequently calls us to put off sinful and worldly thinking and behaviors and to put on new thinking and behaviors (Romans 8:5-8, 12:2; Ephesians 4:17-32; Colossians 3:1-17). A number of Bible passages emphasize the focus of our minds, contrasting types of worldly thinking that should not dominate our minds with types of spiritual thinking that should permeate our minds. The biblical terminology for focusing one’s attention is “set your mind on.” Here are some New Testament passages that contrast wrong and right thinking.



As already noted and as we will continue to see in my next post, renouncing the lies of faulty thinking and replacing those lies with biblical truth are two sides of the same coin, and are often done in tandem. The point is not to simply renounce lies and cast down faulty thinking, thus leaving a void that was once filled with a lie. We cannot renounce lies unless we first recognize them as lies. We will not recognize lies unless those lies are exposed in the light of truth.


However, exposing a lie does not necessarily mean that someone will embrace the truth. There are those who choose darkness over light and lies over truth because they want to stay in their sin (John 3:19-21). Once lies are exposed, we must choose to renounce the lies and embrace the truth. Sometimes, this is simply a matter of embracing truth, other times this requires intentionally and actively renouncing and casting down lies that have formed thinking strongholds in our minds.


Taking every thought captive may also require recognizing and renouncing the “crooked calf-paths” of worldly thinking that have permeated our society, and, in some cases, even the church. The ingrained narratives of modern society have been reinforced one lie at a time over many years. Several of the major underlying ideologies that permeate western society are scientific naturalism, moral relativism, and secular humanism. These underlying worldviews have infected every aspect of society and have shaped the minds of many Christians as well. Riding on the backs of these underlying and pervading “calf-paths” of our day, other ideologies such as cultural Marxism, critical race theory, and social justice [equity vs equality], are currently vying for dominance in our society.


Entire books have been written on these matters and it is not my intent to address them at this time – only to note that these “calf-paths” are becoming well-worn. Even Christians are increasingly embracing these ideologies based on brief sound bites of information without serious investigation into these ideas in light of the truths of Scripture. It is alarming how the progressive church movement has embraced many of these woke ideologies and how many leaders of Bible-based churches have yet to become aware of these powerful forces, let alone address their destructive influence on members within their own congregations. For now, let me simply recommend several helpful books in a footnote. [2]


Closing


There is a battle raging in our world today. It is not a physical battle of military might, but a battle of ideologies, a battle for the minds of people. It is a battle of truth and error, of light and darkness, a battle between God’s forces and the forces of the evil one. The weapons of the enemy are lies and deception, the ideologies and purposes of fallen man, fleshly and worldly thinking, and any argument or speculation that exalts itself against God. These weapons must be countered with truth and honesty, the ways and purposes of God, biblical and Spirit focused thinking, and spiritual weapons to cast down every wrong imagination and idea that exalts itself against God, and in their place promote a true knowledge and intimate experience with God.


This requires that we recognize the lies of the enemy that have invaded our minds and our society. It requires that we renounce and cast down faulty thinking in all its forms and that we replace these lies with biblical truth. In my next post, I will explore the last of these three as we look at building new pathways of thinking and the law of displacement.


Because I will be taking some vacation time in September and teaching college courses in October and December, and due to a major health crisis in my family (perhaps I will share more in the future), I will continue to post only once each month (possibly twice monthly) until the new year, 2022. Please keep my family and me in prayer during the weeks and months ahead as we walk the difficult road that is before us.



REFERENCES

[2] Suggested reading: Baucham Jr., Voddie. Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism's Looming Catastrophe. Salem Books. 2021.

Childers, Alisa. Another Gospel?: A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity. Tyndale House Publishers, 2020.

Longshore, Jared; Baucham, Voddie; Cline, Timon ; Coppenger, Mark; Longshore, Jared ; Nettles, Tom; Vegas, Chad. BY WHAT STANDARD?: God's World . . . God's Rules. Founders Press. 2020.

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