When I was first saved over 10 years ago, God delivered me from significant sins and gave me new life in Him. But over time, I ended up walking away from the Lord and returning to every sin God had saved me from like a dog returns to his vomit (Proverbs 26:11). I never stopped believing in God; I always knew that Jesus Christ was Lord. But, just like the devil and all the demons, while I may have believed in Jesus, I no longer bowed my knee to Him and submitted to Him as my Lord (James 2:19).
Had I died or Jesus returned during my period of backsliding, I would not have ended up in Heaven. But praise God for His mercy and that He is continually drawing all men to repentance! (John 12:32, Acts 17:30) Since recommitting my life to Christ almost 4 years ago, I’ve been asked what caused me to backslide in the first place. My walking away from Jesus is a long story, and the Holy Spirit revealed a lot to me about the sin in my heart the day I rededicated my life to Him. But it can all be summed up in one sentence – I did not control my thought-life.
The Bible tells us to take every thought captive unto the obedience of the Lord (2 Corinthians 10:5). Every thought?!?! Yes! Every thought. While we cannot control the fleeting thoughts that pass in and out of our mind, we absolutely can control the thoughts we choose to give our time and attention to. Why do we need to control our thoughts? Because our thoughts become our desires, and the Apostle James cautions us that “each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire is conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. James 1:14-15. We must take captive our thoughts before they become wicked desires that tempt us to sin.
But how can we take control over our minds??? With God.
1. Know God’s word and APPLY it to every area of your life – “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.” James 1:22-24. When I was first saved, I was a hearer of God’s word, but I wasn’t a doer because I would allow my thoughts and desires to govern what I did and said, rather than God’s word. God’s perfect Word must be the standard against which we judge and discern everything.
2. Be in an intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit – “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” John 14. The Holy Spirit is a promise and a gift from God to help us walk according to God’s ways. I used to only pray first thing in the morning, and then never again throughout the day (unless maybe if I needed something). But how can I possibly expect the Holy Spirit to teach me if I only speak to Him once a day? When you are in constant communication with the Holy Spirit, seeking His guidance in all things, He will tell you immediately when your thoughts go against God’s word and He will convict you immediately when your desires go against God’s ways. You just have to hear His whisper and obey.
3. Guard your heart and mind – “Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23. A thought begins in the mind, then turns into a desire of the heart, which then leads to an action if left unchecked. I didn’t guard my heart against worldly influences or my own fleshly desires because I thought that once Jesus first saved me I was good to go.
Yes, Jesus had made me new, but I wasn’t faithfully walking out my new creation each and every single day. The Apostle Paul explains that we must, “put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:24.
Guard your heart against sinful thoughts and protect your heart against sinful desires so you can walk in true righteousness and holiness in Christ Jesus.
One year after recommitting my life to Christ, I was at our church’s Women’s Retreat, crying out to God in a panic. I had been faithfully and diligently seeking God each and every day that whole year, but I was worried that I might backslide again. I walked away before, what would stop me from doing that again? I was praying and sobbing, telling God that I never want to leave Him again. I was telling Him how grateful I was to be His and how much I love Him, and that all I wanted was to stay on His righteous path.
I remember specifically asking Him, “what can I do? How can I make sure I walk according to your ways all the days of my life??” This is the verse God gave me in response. It was literally written on an anonymous notecard that I picked up outside the sanctuary:
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” Ezekiel 36:26-27
Praise God! You see, God has already given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). We just need to actually apply it.