Temptation is another while of the devil, but the Christian can overcome it by putting on the breastplate of righteousness. Only righteousness can turn away temptation. We must learn how to walk in righteousness at all times. In fact, the more we walk in righteousness, the easier it becomes to deal with temptation and the evil thoughts that come into our mind. The Apostle Paul received this wisdom directly from the Lord. So let’s go take a closer look. In a quite lengthily passage in the letter to the Ephesians (See Ephesians 4:17-32), the apostle describes in detail with multiple examples on how this works. He says we must put off the old life by putting off such things as falsehood, anger, stealing, and, unwholesome talk, all bitterness, rage, brawling, slander, and malice. Understand that this list is not exhaustive but only examples of the old life. Secular counselors typically will not discuss this list because this bad behavior is considered biblical sin and it goes against their philosophy that the counselee is simply sick and in need of a label. Most Christians understand they need to put off the old life for which we can get help and direction from the commands of God. But here is the problem; they have not clearly understood the importance of putting something in place of the old life. They have not understood that once you put something off (that is, you have stopped doing it), then it creates a void in your life. Putting off the old life is like removing the trash from your house, sweeping it clean, putting everything in order, but not allowing the invited guest to enter. In the same way many Christians will legalistically stop doing the things they shouldn’t do, but fail to do the things that they should, in so doing they live empty and unfulfilled lives in constant danger of temptation and being dragged back into the same sin.
So here is the point; we must put good behavior and religious activity in place of the old life. The Christian must understand if they don’t, then sin crouches at the door, and its desire is for them. Temptation will always be there when you least expect it. So what must you do? It’s absolutely necessary to not only put off the old life but to put on the new. Again the apostle gives us some examples; put off falsehood, put on speaking truthfully with your neighbor; put off stealing, but on doing something useful with your hands so that you can give to others; and, put off unwholesome talk, put on speech that is helpful for building others up. Dear Christian, we must hold ourselves accountable by discovering something positive (good behavior) to put into our life to replace the bad behavior we have just removed. Again, the list is not exhaustive but gives us some good examples of putting righteousness in the place of unrighteous behavior that you’ve put off. You may need to be a bit creative (or listen better to the Holy Spirit) and discover what you can put into your life once you have identified a trespass and have successfully repented. You will soon learn that you may have a whole catalogue of sins of both omission and commission. We have already seen that God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can handle but will always give us a way out so that we can stand under it (See I Corinthians 10:13). Not only do we have this assurance and the wisdom of putting righteousness in the place of temptation but we also have the power from the indwelling Spirit to say no to the temptation. Christian, you must have confidence that you can say no to temptation and that God will give you the grace to get through your time of temptation.
Evil thoughts are another wile of the devil that can be fought off by putting on the breastplate of righteousness. We simply need to be taught righteous behavior, indeed this is part of our task as a Christian. I would say that nearly every evil action begins with an evil thought in the mind (no doubt the cause of most mental health issues). Some say it’s what you do with that evil thought that counts as if we have it in our own power to think evil thoughts in our mind and not act on them. But I believe common sense, life experiences, and the Bible proves otherwise. A man will eventually do what he thinks, especially if he dwells on it long enough. And the devil knows it, that’s why he keeps bringing up those evil thoughts, putting them into our mind, and hoping that we will dwell on them long enough to put them into action. Now some say that’s not a problem for me because I just cast out the evil thought and all is well. I would be the first one to commend such an action, but there is no guarantee that the thought will not come back again and again when you least expect it.
So what are we to do? What can we do to keep those evil thoughts out of our mind? Once again, the Bible gives us the answer by telling us what thoughts we should be thinking. Jesus Christ said it is not what goes into a man but what comes out of a man that counts. Whatever comes out of the evil intentions of his heart or what a man is thinking is what counts (See Matthew 15:16-20). Just like what we saw previously, when we put off the old life, we need to put something in the place of it, namely the new life in Christ. Well it is the same way with our mind. When we cast out an evil thought, we must put something in the place of it; otherwise, what we have left is a void that is ready to be filled by the devil.So what positive thoughts does the Bible say should be put into our mind? “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). So how often do we think on such things? The short answer is all the time! Life experience proves that when a man thinks on something often enough, it will get to a point where it is most difficult to stop thinking about it. Most obsessive and anxious people can get stuck on the same thought over and over again like a record getting stuck in a groove. Moreover, to think or reflect on something long enough will shape your conduct and promote certain behavior. Therefore, it is imperative to think on those things that stimulate actions that demonstrate Christian righteousness and morality.
As you advance in the Christian life we begin to learn what is true, noble, right, pure, and lovely. When we look at many of the beautiful commands of God it will allow us to taste what is truly good. Like the Psalmist we will learn how to delight in the law of the Lord, and on His law we meditate day and night (See Psalm1:2). We need to learn what is excellent or praiseworthy in order to allow those positive thoughts to occupy our mind. In so doing we will guard our eyes and ears from the many evil things in our society. I cannot overemphasize how important it is to turn away from evil immediately; don’t look at it, don’t listen to it, and don’t embrace it. If it is false, unrighteous, impure, and unloving we must turn away from it. We learn that much of what is in the world today is not excellent, nor is it praiseworthy. This is why it is so important to dwell in His Kingdom – a most excellent way where all is praiseworthy. Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice! The sure proof of your thinking is to invite God into your mind and allow Him to listen to your thoughts. Are they fit for Him to hear?
Clearly positive thinking is always other centered instead of self-centered. No matter what comes at us, we must always seek what is best for others and the satisfaction of God’s holiness. So the point is, we must eliminate the negative thoughts about others and replace them with positive thoughts about their good points and how we can best serve them. To do so will always render a blow to the enemy. I’m reminded of the lyrics of that old song “accent the positive and eliminate the negative,” an excellent motto for every Christian who wants to overcome temptation. Simply stated, God cannot dwell in the presence of one who has his mind filled with evil thoughts. This is the secret of indwelling presence of the God of Peace. He abides where the heart is kept free from evil thoughts and filled with the Spirit of the Son. The more we walk in righteous behavior keeping our minds free from evil thoughts the more we keep temptation from raising its ugly head and far from us. Praise God!
Copyright © 2015 Rev. Daniel W. Blair – Under the copyright law these articles may be used for nonprofit educational purposes. Please do so to strengthen your fellow believer to remain faithful to Jesus and obedient to His commandments.
These are only examples of Biblical Counseling for the Christian believer. Since the details of your situation are fact dependent, you should additionally seek the services of a Biblical Counselor in person along with the help of the Holy Spirit.