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What does it mean to take every thought captive? How do you develop a healthy Christian mindset? This simple Bible study helps you practically apply these truths and take your own thoughts captive.
Your mind is one of the most powerful parts of who you are. Spiritual battles are won and lost in the mind.
Your thoughts determine your actions, every single time.
It’s pretty trendy to talk about how your mindset matters these days. And they’re not wrong. It’s so important, God talks to us about in the Word and tells us how to master our Christian mindset.
We are commanded in Scripture to take every thought captive. But, what does this mean?
What does it mean to take every thought captive?
Paul states that he and his fellow workers in the ministry:
…destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.2 Corinthians 10:5, ESV
Before we can dive into the meaning of the phrase “take every thought captive to obey Christ”, we must first look at the context of this statement.
When Paul wrote his second letter to the Corinthian church, he was writing to a congregation that was up to their necks in trouble.
A group of false teachers had come into the church and had swayed a majority of the congregation against Paul and toward their own beliefs.
They had presented letters of recommendation, which coupled with their flashy personalities and grand words, made them appear to be wonderful leaders with great power and authority.
And the people followed them without question.
Paul, deeply concerned about the situation currently brewing, wrote to defend his authority and teachings.
In the first few verses of Chapter 10, he urges the church to heed his words so that he would not have to be “bold” on his next trip to see them.
He then uses war imagery, invoking terms such as “stronghold” and “take captive”, to convey the reality that his ministry was a spiritual battle of confronting worldviews and beliefs that are set against God and ensuring that in their place are beliefs and thoughts that are in obedience to Christ.
Sounds a little (a lot?) like ministry in today’s churches, doesn’t it?
But I digress…Given this context, what does it mean to “take every thought captive”?
Well, there are a couple of ways to approach this: in the church as a whole and in your personal life.
Taking every thought captive as a church community
In Paul’s context, he saw it as his responsibility, as well as that of a church, to examine the thoughts and worldviews of other believers and to discern whether or not they were in submission to Christ.
For him, taking every thought captive meant thoroughly analyzing the beliefs of other leaders and congregation members and arguing against anything that was not in alignment with the Gospel.
It was up to the church to listen, study, analyze, discern…and respond appropriately. They did this together.
It’s so essential to remember the importance of Christian community and that God intended for us to be apart of one.
This way, even if you are starting to be lead astray, those in your community can help reset your Christian mindset and redirect you back toward the Word.
None of us is immune to deception or distraction, and even knowing Scripture won’t keep us out of sin 100% of the time.
That’s where community comes in!
Your personal Christian mindset
Paul’s directive to take every thought captive was also very much an individual one.
If you’re to be able to discern whether someone is teaching the truth and whether a congregation is submitted to Christ, you also must examine your own beliefs and worldview, viewing them in light of what Scripture tells you.
Your personal beliefs, thoughts and desires need to be brought into submission to Christ’s Lordship.
And to take it a step deeper, any time at all you have a thought that threatens God’s authority in your life or leads you away from a life of reckless abandon, you must take it captive and cast it down.
Your thoughts may be hidden from sight (for now), but they are very powerful and will indeed direct the course of your life.
Why is this important?
Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace .Romans 8:5-6, ESV
As believers, it is actually a matter of spiritual life or death.
To set our minds on the things of this world, or to allow our minds to dwell on anything that leads us away from the Truth and away from God, will ultimately lead to destruction.
But, to set our minds on Christ leads to peace with God and true life in Him.
Entertaining thoughts that ought to be taken captives will lead us toward unintended idol worship.
What does it look like for our thoughts to be taken captive in obedience to Christ?
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.Philippians 4:8, ESV
A mind filled with things that reflect His character which is good, just, pure, excellent and worthy of praise. This is a submitted thought life.
How to take every thought captive
Knowing what it means to take every thought captive still doesn’t help you have a healthy Christian mindset. To do that, you have to be very intentional.
Let’s look at how Scripture directs us to grow our Christian mindset in alignment with God’s Word by taking every thought captive.
Turn your thoughts away from worldly concerns
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.Colossians 3:1-3, ESV
This passage echoes the instructions of Jesus in Matthew 6:33 to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness…”
Let me ask that you hang with me through this whole discussion, okay?
Rather than allowing our minds to dwell on temporal, worldly things, such as what outfit we will wear tomorrow, what meal to cook on Friday night, the newest home decorating ideas, or the latest church gossip, we need to continually shift our focus toward Christ and His Kingdom.
It is His Word and His work that should be the centerpiece of our lives and at the forefront of our minds.
Now, that doesn’t meant thinking about those things is sinful or wrong. Not at all.
What it means is keeping your priorities first and not being consumed by thoughts of things that have no eternal value.
So while you can truly enjoy decorating your home or checking out fashion trends and shopping for a great outfit, what shouldn’t happen is those things replacing your time reading the Bible, praying, or caring about God and people.
This isn’t an either/or situation for all of your thoughts; it’s about priorities.
However, there are worldly thoughts that incite our passion (politics, perhaps?) and our emotional thoughts and opinions on these topics can pull our mind away from Jesus and focus them on proving ourselves to be “right” or “heard” or “validated.”
And this is a very slippery slope into an unhealthy Christian mindset that spends more time furthering a cause than the Kingdom.
Renew your mind & turn your thoughts to God
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.Romans 12:2, ESV
It is in training our minds and allowing God to transform our thoughts that we are able to discern what is true.
So, how do we renew and train our minds?
There are several practical ways to do so:
Spend time in the Word
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.Psalm 119:11, ESV
It is by reading the Bible, and meditating on it throughout the day and night, that we begin to see our minds change and become conformed to God’s heart.
Take time each day, whether it be for 15 minutes or an hour, and spend time reading the Bible.
Memorize verses that speak of God’s character and our relationship to Him.
Talking with God goes hand in hand with reading and dwelling on His Word.
Ask him to transform your mind and shape your thoughts to match His.
We should surround ourselves with other well-grounded believers who can encourage us, and even hold us accountable to the truth of God’s Word.
Having people who can speak the truth to us is essential for the training of our minds.
Find trustworthy, mature believers, who can pray with and for you, and who can help you check your thoughts against Scripture.
Both personal and corporate worship are important for the shaping of our minds.
Listening to the Word being preached, singing songs of praise, and all the other elements of a worship service or personal prayer time are all crucial to the cultivation of minds set on truth.
Listen to worship songs, join in worship with other believers, set aside time for your own worship time. Listen to sermons by reputable pastors.
There are many solid Bible teachers who have written books covering topics such as theology and what it means to live out the Gospel.
Ask your pastor or trusted mentors for recommendations for further study.
Your Christian mindset today
When you focus too much on yourself and your ‘growth mindset’ apart from the Word, you can’t truly have a Christian mindset.
While mindset books, affirmations, and an understand of neuroscience can help you enhance your life, it’s essential to never let them lead you away from God’s truth.
The challenge with most mindset teachers today is they forget the fundamental principle of taking every thought captive that exalts itself against God’s authority in your life.
They lead you down paths that seem Biblically sound. Some talk of listening to angels or guides or consulting the signs ‘from God’ (but watch out – this is usually astrology or fortune telling wrapped up in a churchy looking bow).
Their teachings are actually anti-Biblical, but when you stop submitting every thought to Scripture and just start using reason and logic you can easily be lead astray.
In fact, many encourage you to meditate and follow your thoughts; instead, you should follow God’s Word, meditating on it, and know that is the only way to truly take every thought captive and have a strong Christian mindset.
So, my friend, get into the Word and start taking those thoughts captive!