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While visiting a Christian counseling ministry last month, I skimmed through one of their booklets. The author mentioned his thought life, and the way he reacts when he catches himself thinking pessimistically. He urged his reader to do likewise. “We must take every thought captive and make them obedient to Christ,” he commanded, “or else we will be guilty of having a weak mind.”
He went on to discuss the various verses in the Bible that urge us to think about things that are true and praiseworthy – excellent advice to be sure – but, it was that phrase, “take every thought captive,” that remained in my mind for days to come.
Take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ? Really? Because in reality, it would be maddening to pause and pay attention to every single one of the thoughts that race through your brain. I do not think that a Christian should or even possibly could accomplish such a feat.
Those who disagree with me will say, “but this verse is in the Bible!” . . . Okay. But where, and in what context?
The verse is found in 2 Corinthians 10 verse 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.”
Does this section in Corinthians have anything to do with a person’s thought life? No. Paul is describing the spiritual warfare he is involved in, and how he is working to “capture” every false teaching and “make it obedient to Christ.” In case it has been a while since you have read that section, here it is:
By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you—I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” toward you when away! I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 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. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.
You are judging by appearances. If anyone is confident that they belong to Christ, they should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as they do. So even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than tearing you down, I will not be ashamed of it. I do not want to seem to be trying to frighten you with my letters. For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.” Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present. (2 Corinthians 10:1-11)
Christian leaders pull the phrase “take every thought captive” completely out of context and they turn it into a command. That command becomes a law, and law leads to sin. Since this ‘law’ is impossible to obey, the Christian has now become a law-breaker, a sinner, and is left feeling even more miserable than before.
“…the power of sin is the law.” 1 Cor 15:56
And law-breakers feel ashamed, so now the person trying to obey this principle has been driven away from what they really need to help them overcome sin – they have been driven away from the love and acceptance of their God. Right? ‘Cause they assume God is ashamed of them! Not only is that NOT true, it is the exact thing that Paul was fighting against. (I’ll expand on that in Part 2 of this message which I’ll post in a week or two.)
Going back to 2 Corinthians, Paul uses the phrase “taking every thought captive” to talk about the battles he fights in this spiritual war. Like any war, there are captives, or prisoners of war. The captives that Paul and Timothy take are thoughts, arguments or false assumptions that set themselves up against the truth found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Paul says that he takes these false ideas captive so that he can lock them up as prisoners, so that they can’t escape.
Paul is discussing this topic in 2 Corinthians 10 because the people in Corinth had been judging him, and saying that he is timid in person, but bold in his letters. Paul argues that, first of all, what he is in his letters is the same as what he is in person, in his actions. And second of all, the judgments that people are making against him are not important because his real work is in a war (that cannot be seen).
He tells the Christians from Corinth that it doesn’t matter whether they think he is bold or timid. What really matters is that he is fighting to proclaim the gospel. He is tearing down strongholds of lies and falsehoods, and making them obedient to Christ, to the truth. He is working alongside the Lord Jesus and using the power of the gospel to capture false ideas — false ‘thoughts’ that are disobedient to Christ — and through his teaching ministry he is making these erroneous thoughts and ideas obedient to Christ, who is the truth.
Paul says that his weapons have divine power, because the gospel that he preaches is the power of God.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. (Romans 1:16)
The power of the gospel is found in the fact that Jesus Christ took away the law. He accomplished the Law for us, so that we may rest in Him. We are obedient to Him if we are resting in the finished work of Jesus Christ. There is no work for us to do; we do not have to take every thought captive, and we do not have to do anything else to make ourselves complete. All He asks of us is that we believe Him (trust Him, rely on Him, depend on Him). That is the only work that He requires.
The only work left to do, is to fully believe in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”” John 6:28-27
It was 1992, I was a new college graduate who had moved back home, and I was at some nightclub in South Florida with my sister and her group of guy friends. One of the guys and I were dancing together when he asked me about my recent conversion to Christianity.
“Cindy tells me you are very passionate about the whole Jesus thing. Do you actually believe what you are being told at church?”
I was thrilled with his question, because it was the perfect opportunity for me to share the gospel for the very first time. It seems odd to me now that I could have such a serious conversation while grooving to pop music on a dance floor . . . but at the time it was perfectly natural. He listened patiently as I began my explanation with the Garden of Eden.
I kept talking for an entire hour.
I didn’t know how to explain the gospel simply and concisely! Oh Lord, how embarrassing. I don’t even remember that young man’s name, but God bless him for hearing me out.
And, if you don’t mind, may I please explain the gospel to you right now in a simple and concise manner??? I promise; I’ll be quick.
The gospel is the good news, or the glad tidings, of Jesus Christ. It’s good news because He came to solve the problem that plagued humanity. As I told that anonymous guy on the dance floor: the problem began in the Garden of Eden.
Genesis 2:15-17, The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
Adam and Eve were given one commandment to obey, and they failed. They ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They chose to reject God. So on that day, He left. They lost the life of God, the Holy Spirit, which had been breathed within them . . . and they died (Gen 2:7).
You and I are born into this world “spiritually dead.” We are all born in the image of Adam. We are empty. We are blind. We are lost. (Haven’t you noticed?)
Romans 5:17-19, For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.
Humans are born in the image of Adam, not in the image of God. Death reigned from Adam to Jesus. Life reigns from Jesus until eternity, until forever! 😁
God came to earth as the promised Messiah to the Israelites; the prophet that was foretold and expected for thousands of years. He was born as a baby and was called Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
After living a perfect life according to the Law of Moses, He was put to death; His death paid the penalty that was required for sinners under the Law. He was then buried in a cave; hundreds of Roman soldiers guarded that cave for the following three days.
But you can’t kill God, so on the third day, He rose again; His body was resurrected from the grave. Having died for the sins of the world, the world is now forgiven of all of its trespasses against God. The slate has been wiped clean so that anyone who wants to be saved, can be saved. You are saved by receiving the resurrected life of Jesus, by inviting His life – which is His very Holy Spirit – to come and live with you for all of eternity.
Romans 5:10, For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
His death, His burial, and most importantly, His resurrection made it possible for humanity to be saved; to be made alive; to receive His resurrected life, His Spirit, that would resurrect US from the dead.
That life that Adam and Eve lost? It has been restored.
Have you been restored? Have you been made alive? Have you believed in the gospel?
Hearing this message with faith, is what allows a person to be saved from eternal death.
Kind of an important message to share. . . . even if you are on a dance floor.