How to take every thought captive
Have you ever had someone accuse you of something that was not true? Have you ever accused yourself of something that was not true? Either way, whether from you or another person, any false argument launched against yourself can turn into a stronghold in your mind that could be spiritually debilitating.
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. — 2 Corinthians 10:4–5 (ESV)
You are susceptible to false arguments that can control your mind. These recurring thought patterns, when left unchecked, will become the dominating arguments of your mind, even to the point where they become your new truth–your new way of thinking.
A Case Study: Madison was such a person. Fear bound her. Some call it insecurity, which is an appropriate term. She was an insecure young woman, who was preoccupied with the arguments that swirled in her head.
The controlling opinion of others was a stronghold that Madison seemingly could not break. Even though she knew God’s opinion of her was perfect because of Christ, she could not live in the freedom of His empowering favor.
She had learned early in life how performing for others was the way to be accepted. Her daddy taught her this by his passive parenting style, and in the brief moments when he did say something, it was discouraging.
Her childhood experiences helped to shape her as a people-pleaser. She was motivated not to disappoint others so she would not incur their displeasure. She became all things to all people, with the hope of being accepted.
In time, she learned what others expected her to be. Though she was excited during her early years with Christ, eventually the old arguments of being disapproved came back. This stronghold was never successfully broken.
She never learned how to take every thought captive. She learned how to be saved, but never learned how to mature in her sanctification entirely. Her former manner of life, which was corrupt through deceptive desires for someone to like her, had a controlling influence in her mind.
To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds. — Ephesians 4:22–23 (ESV)
She continued to live the way she always lived even though she was a believer. She had not learned how to renew her mind according to true right living and true holiness. She was what I call an unbelieving believer–a Christian who still lives according to an un-Christian quality of life (Mark 9:24).
And to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. — Ephesians 4:24 (ESV)
A spiritual warfare
Madison was in warfare with her mind. She was under attack. According to Paul, this was more than just a human living in a human body while being attacked by the negativity of other people.
Madison also lives in a spiritual world where there are real demonic forces, who are out to destroy the knowledge of Christ that is resident in her. The evil spiritual world cannot utterly destroy any Christian because Satan is not God’s evil equal, but there are demonic forces that would enjoy nothing more than to derail a child of God from making His name great.
- Plan A for the devil is to keep all people from believing in Christ.
- Plan B for the devil is to keep all Christians from maturing in Christ.
Paul called what I am describing spiritual warfare in 2 Corinthians 10:3–6. He viewed his Christian life as a life of spiritual warfare. He knew where the primary battle came from and this knowledge served him well in his fight for his sanctification.
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. — 2 Corinthians 10:3 (ESV)
(1) Do you know you are in spiritual warfare? (2) Do you know there is a constant spiritual battle happening in this world and you are part of it? You are not a sideline reporter, but an active participant.
And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD. — Job 1:12 (ESV)
What Paul is teaching here is not new. Spiritual warfare has been going on since Adam and Eve took their first bite of disobedience. The Devil tried to knock them off, and he succeeded to a degree, and he and his minions are trying to circumvent the work of God in your life too.
(1) Do you know you have weapons to fight these spiritual battles–weapons that are divinely empowered? (2) Do you know God designed these weapons with the power to destroy the strongholds in your mind?
Madison did not know this. One of the tricks of the evil ones is to disorient and deceive. Deception is what Satan did to Eve, which is what was happening to Madison. She, like her predecessor, had bought the lie.
She had learned to believe there is something wrong with her. Owning her faith and living as a new creation in Christ were helpful theological ideas that had a limited effect in her life. She was so wrapped up in her fear that she did not know how to live in the freedom that God’s Gospel provides.
What is a stronghold?
The forces that are against you in the spirit world are no different from the forces that are against you in the physical world, in that they both desire the same thing: to take your mind captive.
The real question is how are you going to respond and fight against the forces that are against you, regardless of what constitutes these forces.
You have the power resident within you to fight against the strongholds that seek to take your mind captive. These weapons of warfare are the divinely empowered truths of the Gospel.
The real question is whether you will use these weapons to destroy the strongholds–the arguments and arrogant opinions that are raised up against God’s revealed truth.
Stronghold Defined: A stronghold is a mental argument you believe that contradicts the person and power of Christ. A stronghold is a thought fortress of arguments designed to take your mind captive and hold you prisoner. These fortresses are designed to negate the person of Christ and His power (the Gospel) in your life.
Madison had bought the lie of insecurity or fear of others (Proverbs 29:25). Her fear ensnared her to a life of bondage, as manifested through people-pleasing, peer-pressure, and worry and anxiety. She was overly concerned about what others thought about her.
She was hyper-focused about nearly everything regarding herself. She second-guessed her thoughts, questions, and comments. She doubted her choices and actions. She anxiously controlled how she looked in public and what she wore.
Satanic forces could not destroy her soul (Plan A), but they could influence her mind until her usefulness in making God’s name great was marginalized (Plan B).
Taking every evil argument captive and making it bow to the name of Jesus was an illusionary, theological pipe dream.
Strongholds in your head?
God is the truth, and His purpose for coming to this world was to transform you so you could walk in His truth. The Devil’s job is to disrupt the truth God provides by motivating you to believe a lie. He hopes to set up deceitful strongholds in your mind.
- I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 3 John 1:4 (ESV)
- When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. — John 16:13 (ESV)
- Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. — John 17:17 (ESV)
(1) What lies keep the Gospel from dominating your thought life? (2) What strongholds have been set up in your mind, which hinder the sanctifying work of God in your life? (3) What sinful thought fortresses reside in your head?
Lies you tell yourself — I have to be perfect. I must be happy. I need people to agree with me. I cannot shake my past. I deserve better than this.
Lies the world tells you — I must be true to myself. I am number one. I am only human; everybody makes mistakes.
Lies you say in your marriage — It is your fault. If I had not married you. You make me so mad. Why cannot you be like so and so? I wish I were like so and so.
Lies that distort the Gospel — I must earn God’s love. God will not protect me. God does not love me. I can do what I want, and God will forgive me. If I were more spiritual, I would not struggle like this. God will bless me if I obey.
Lies from the questions we ask — Does God really hear me? Does God really love me? Has God abandoned me? Why does God not stop the pain?
When these types of thought-fortress-lies continue to roll around in your head, they will take your mind captive and will move you out of line with the Gospel (Galatians 2:14). Outside Gospel lines will ultimately reduce Jesus to become less than what He should be and the Spirit’s power in your life will be reduced to less than what it can be.
Fighting the fight with God’s truth
It is essential that you arm yourself with God’s truth to overcome these strongholds–these thought fortresses. You cannot arm yourself with fleshly weapons. If you do, you may feel as though you have won the battle, but it will be more lies heaped upon the original lies.
Fleshly weapons come from your human strength. Here are a few that are commonly used to fight the lies listed in the above section:
There are plenty more. You will notice how not all of these things are necessarily bad. It is when you use them as the means to feel better about yourself or to pull yourself out of the dumps, while not living in the freedom and the power the Gospel provides.
Ultimately, these things will not work. They will further enslave you while creating more dysfunction in your relationships.
Spiritual warfare looks different. Spiritual warfare contextualizes itself in the Gospel–the person and work of Jesus Christ–on your behalf. He is the one you need to cooperate with in the battle for your mind.
I am going to take each lie noted above and pull it through a Gospel filter. I am going to lay the Gospel hammer on it, to crush its head (Genesis 3:15), which I hope will be the beginning of your personal journaling to take your thoughts captive.
Lies you tell yourself — I have to be perfect.
You do not have to be perfect. In fact, if you try to be perfect, you will be rejecting the righteousness of Christ, while choosing to hold up your righteousness as the answer. Not accepting Christ’s righteousness is another gospel–your gospel of self-atonement. Not admitting the truth of your imperfection makes you a liar (1 John 1:8).
Lies the world tells you — You must be true to yourself.
You must be faithful to Christ. He is the one you live for, not for yourself. Living for yourself is the lie of the world–a self-centered, anti-Christ way of thinking. You are to die to yourself while fully trusting Christ, who knows better than you do.
Lies you say in your marriage — It is your fault/I deserve better.
You will never be happy if things always go your way. You will implode through your frequent imbibing of self-centeredness. You are called to be content as you learn how to be sufficient through Christ rather than your personal preferences or what may even be good desires (Philippians 4:11–13).
Lies that distort the Gospel — I must earn God’s love/God won’t protect me.
Jesus Christ died for you on the cross. He, who was in the form of God, took on the form of a servant to rescue you. There is no greater love than a man who will lay down his life for another person. (Read Philippians 2:5–11; Romans 5:6–9; John 15:13)
Lies from the questions we ask — Does God really hear me?
The answer is similar to what you just read in #4 while adding to this a correct understanding of a theology of suffering. You are called to suffer, but if you equate suffering to God distancing Himself, you will not be able to understand God the way you should (1 Peter 2:18–25).
Madison’s battles were not primarily against the people in her world. Sure–her daddy did give her a raw deal. She also had some other bad things happen to her, which were caused by others.
Her battles go much deeper than the things done to her. She is in a spiritual battle with the evil influences of this evil world.
When Satan tempted Christ, there would not have been a temptation if Satan could not deliver on what he was offering. Your temptations come when your desires are influenced by Satan, and the temptation is real because he can give you your evil desires.
When your desires cooperate with evil influences, you can rest assured a stronghold will be set up in your mind. When those lies take your brain captive, your body will follow suit.
When you immerse your life mostly in the things of this world and its influences, you will be coerced, controlled, and captured by the things of this world–and that warfare will be in your mind.
A Gospel-informed mind can quickly take renegade thoughts captive to obey Christ, but you must take the battle in you seriously because your enemy takes it seriously. You must be influenced more by the Spirit to desire the things of God. It is also essential you surround yourself with people who can help you in this battle for your mind.
Call to action
- There are several questions throughout this article. Will you journal them before the LORD?
- What lies do you believe?
- Have they developed into strongholds?
- What has been the fallout from such strongholds?
- Will you enlist the help of others to help you destroy these strongholds?
Originally published at Rick Thomas.