Evil Begins with One Thought.

I was watching a British show about Sherlock Holmes the other day and noticed that in the story a whole family was destroyed by one person with one evil thought that turned into an obsession.

The story was about three sisters who lived together. One of them got married and one of them wanted her husband. It ended in murder of one sister and the other two sisters estranged.

That day, I also listened to a podcast called, Joyce Meyer’s Talk it Out. Three of Joyce’s friends talk about a subject that affects their lives. It’s a lovely podcast.

They talked about “thoughts” and how when they were first Christians, they didn’t understand that thoughts are not always our own, but many can come from God or Satan. I had felt the same when I was first a Christian. I would have evil thoughts and was horrified by them. I wondered if I was really a Christian. But eventually I came to see that the thoughts were temptations from Satan.

I do know the Bible supports this theory. I will share some Bible verses with you.

How Satan speaks to us:

The evening meal was underway, and the devil had already put into the heart of Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.  John 13:2

 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry.

The tempter came to Him and said, “If You are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

But Jesus answered, “It is written: Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:1-4

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can make your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  

Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you will be able to stand your ground, and having done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness arrayed, and with your feet fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.   Ephesians 6:10-17

How God speaks to us:

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.   Isaiah 30:21

 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”  Matthew 16:23

… some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming!”

But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?  Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk?’  But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” Then He said to the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your mat, and go home.”  And the man got up and went home.   Matthew 9:3-7

Jesus said, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. “  Matthew 6:1

How we speak to ourselves:

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone.  But each one is tempted when by his own evil desires, he is lured away and enticed. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.  James 1:13-15

Like the woman in the Sherlock Holmes story, she had a desire. She desired her sister’s husband.

The remedy to these temptations is easy: quote the Bible, as Jesus did, say to God and yourself, “I will not think about this anymore”, and pray for God to help you to throw that thought into the sea.

The quotes I use the most are: “You are a shield around me, my glory and the lifter of my head.”  “May everything that breathes, praise the Lord.” “The Lord is a strong tower I run to and am safe.” “The Lord is the strength of my life and my portion forever.”

Evil thoughts don’t hang around when the Lord is praised.

What to do About Evil Thoughts.

Thomas_à_Kempis_-_De_Imitatione_Christi

Manuscript of Imitation of Christ.

Thomas Kempis has a lot to say about feelings and thoughts in his book, “Imitation of Christ.”  I remember when I was a young Christian, I would get so discouraged by my thoughts. They did make me feel bad about myself. It is nice to know our thoughts are no surprise to God and he accepts us as we are, thoughts, feelings and all other things.

I wish I had learned when I was young what to do with bad thoughts and feelings, but the first I heard about the topic was from Joyce Meyer, who told me what to do about them: Quote Scripture out loud. Or tell Satan to go away. We can do that, Joyce says, because Jesus did and he is our example. Kempis also writes a lot about not finding our comfort from fellow humans – that God is enough.

From the book,”Imitation of Christ” (Abridged),

by Thomas a Kempis.

IT IS GOOD that we sometimes have troubles and crosses; for they often make a man enter into himself, and consider that he is here in banishment, and ought not to place his trust in any worldly thing…

It is good that we be sometimes contradicted; and that men think ill or inadequately of us, even though we do and intend well. These things help often to the attaining of humility, and defend us from vain glory: for then we chiefly seek God for our inward witness, when outwardly we are condemned by men, and when there is no credit given unto us.  

Therefore, a man should rest himself so fully in God, that he need not to seek many comforts of men. When a good man is afflicted, tempted, or troubled with evil thoughts, then he understands better the great need he hath of God, without whom he sees he can do nothing that is good. Then, also, he sorrows, laments, and prays, by reason of the miseries he suffers. Then also he understands that perfect security and full peace can not be had in this world.

That good and sweet affection which thou sometimes feel, is the effect of grace present, and a sort of foretaste of thy heavenly home; but on this you must not lean too much, for it comes and goes. 

But to strive against evil motions of the mind which arise, and to reject with scorn the suggestions of the devil, is a notable sign of virtue, and shall have great reward. 

Let no strange fancies therefore trouble you, which on any subject whatever may crowd into thy mind. Keep to your purpose, with courage, and an upright intention toward God. Neither is it an illusion that sometimes thou art suddenly rapt on high, and presently return again unto the accustomed vanities of thy heart.

 Know that the ancient enemy strives by all means to hinder your longing for good, and to keep you clear of all devout exercises… Many evil thoughts he suggests to you, that so he may cause a weariness and horror in you, to draw you away from prayer and holy communion.

Blame him when he suggests evil and unclean thoughts unto you; say to him, “Away, you unclean spirit! ” “Depart from me you wicked deceiver! you shall have no part in me: but Jesus shall be with me as a valiant Warrior, and you shalt stand confounded. “

‘The Lord is my Light and my Salvation, whom shall I fear?’ “If whole armies should stand together against me, my heart shall not fear. The Lord is my Helper and my Redeemer.”

 

Know Thyself.

Lilien_Hiskia

Many times I have not known myself. When I was in my twenties and divorced, my ex-husband had a girlfriend and lived with her. My daughters would go visit and I hated the fact my ex wasn’t married and living like that. I thought, “I would never have someone come sleep with me with  my daughters in the house!”  Two years later, I did just that.

After a few incidents like that, I was finally humbled to realize I was capable of any sin, no matter what I thought. One day at church we were singing, “I Will Not be Shaken,” and I turned to my mother and said, “On the other hand, who knows WHAT I will do?”

Jesus told Peter, “You will deny me.”  Peter was horrified and said he would never do that. He said he was willing to die with him. The other disciples said the same. We know how that turned out. 

I wondered if God sometimes lets us fall flat on our face so we can see how weak and sinful we are. It humbles us and we realize how we must have Jesus do everything for us. He can keep us from falling, if we acknowledge we have no strength to do it ourselves.

I came across the story of Hezkekiah the other day. It says that God left Hezekiah to show him what was truly in his heart. Verse 26 says his heart was full of pride. The commentaries I read were good and I’m including them.

“And so in the matter of the envoys of the princes of Babylon, who had been sent to him to inquire about the sign that had been done in the land, God left him to himself, in order to test him and to know all that was in his heart.”   2 Chronicles 32:31

Matthew Poole’s Commentary

God left him, to wit, to himself, and his own impotency and corruption. God withdrew from him those supplies and assistance of his Spirit which would certainly and effectually have kept him from that sin, and suffered Satan to tempt him, and him to fall into the sin of pride and ostentation. 

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary.

 God left Hezekiah to himself, that, by this trial and his weakness in it, what was in his heart might be known; that he was not so perfect in grace as he thought he was. It is good for us to know ourselves, and our own weakness and sinfulness, that we may not be conceited, or self-confident, but may always live in dependence upon Divine grace. We know not the corruption of our own hearts, nor what we shall do if God leaves us to ourselves. His sin was, that his heart was lifted up. What need have great men, and good men, and useful men, to study their own infirmities and follies, and their obligations to free grace, that they may never think highly of themselves; but beg earnestly of God, that he will always keep them humble! Hezekiah made a bad return to God for his favors, by making even those favors the food and fuel of his pride.