Is every bad thought which goes round in my mind to be considered a sin? Where do these bad thoughts come from, and how can I stop them from coming?
Not every bad thought which goes round in your mind is to be considered a sin, for there is a difference between being under attack by thoughts and falling into sin through thoughts:
Being under attack by thoughts is when a bad thought harasses you, but you do not give in to it, but rather try with all your heart and might to banish it, even though it might remain for some time. When such a thought persists against your own wishes, it is not considered a sin. On the contrary, your resisting it could be credited to you as righteousness.
But falling into sin through one’s thoughts is when you give in to bad thoughts and begin to take pleasure in them wishing to keep them, and perhaps even create new forms of them…
Falling into sin through one’s thoughts may begin from a sinful desire in your heart or something stored away in your inmost mind. Or it may begin with an attack by the enemy from without, which you resist at first, but then surrender to, so that you fall and then get more and more entangled.
Or you may become lost in a thought for some moments and pleased with it, but when you come to your senses and wake up you regret and resist it, and so it flees from you.
The more you resist the thought, the more power you gain over it, so that it flees from you, or does not dare to assail you. On the other hand, the more you surrender to it, the more power it gains over you, and the more it is emboldened to attack you.
The rudder to steer the fight is under your control not under the control of your thoughts. Thoughts can really give you quite a shock and cause you grave concern and, depending on your situation, they may even wage war against you. The Lord Jesus Christ said, however, “the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me.” (John 14:30). But what about you? When Satan attacks you, will he find he has a hold on you?!
The thought will search your heart first of all, to see whether there is anything in it which is akin to itself, since ‘like attracts like’, or whether it can find a point of correspondence to latch on to.
If your heart is very honest from within, it will not betray its master with these thoughts, nor let them gain entrance. It will have nothing to do with them, nor accept them, so that the thoughts end up fleeing away from your mind and the devils become afraid of it…
However if the heart is not careful about such thoughts and is lenient with them then they get the courage to assail that heart.
There are bad thoughts which enter a clean heart because of its lax or too easy-going attitudes.
There are bad thoughts which come out of a bad heart owing to its lack of purity.
That is to say there are bad thoughts which come from outside and others which come from inside.
An example of bad thoughts which come from outside, is that of the serpent’s attack on Eve. Eve had a pure heart, but because she wasn’t firm enough with the serpent, the ideas entered her heart and turned into desire and then into action.
Referring to those wicked thoughts which come from inside, our Lord said: ” an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil.” (Luke 6:45).
The thoughts may come from the heart, from hidden desires, or they may come from the inner mind, from images, ideas and information stored within.
From this mass that has accumulated within, thoughts come at any provocation and for any reason. So take care that what accumulates in you is pure.
However, the ideas which come from the mind are less powerful.
They are less powerful than the thoughts which come from the heart, because those that come from the heart are mixed with emotion or desire, and are therefore more powerful.
Thus it is easy for a person to banish the ideas which come from the mind. If he seeks to retain them or is willing to accommodate them, and doesn’t resist them, they may move to his heart and become influenced by its emotional reactions and thus grow more powerful…
For this reason, a person should guard his heart as well as his mind, and should keep a dividing line between his head and heart.
“Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.” (Prov. 4:23). If the war of thoughts comes upon you, and you have a pure heart and are fervent in the Spirit, then it will be a weak fight, and one from which you can escape. But if it comes upon you while you are in a spiritually lukewarm state, or if your love for the Lord has grown cold, ” because lawlessness will abound ” (Matt. 24:12), then the fight will be a violent one and difficult to escape from. So, ” pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath… (Matt. 24:20).
Guard your mind so that nothing which could disturb its purity may enter. And guard your senses too, because they are the gates that lead to thought…
Guard your looks, your hearing, your touching and the rest of your senses. As you may not be able to prevent your mind from thinking about and being influenced by what you see and what you hear, it is better to be on your guard.
If something unsuitable reaches your ears, comes to your eyes, or enters your thoughts, do not let it go deep within you, but let it pass straight through.
Things which simply pass straight through do not have a very powerful effect, but if they go deep, they will settle in the innermost mind and extend their roots to the heart and may reach the stage of causing upsets.
Being able to forget is one of God’s blessings to mankind, by which passing thoughts and transitory sensory perceptions can be wiped away.
But the ideas which you allow to enter deeply into you, settle in your inmost mind, and get to the conscious and subconscious, thus becoming difficult to forget. They might then form a reason for a war of thoughts and give rise to ideas, suspicions and dreams and become the source of desires and upsets, and the starting point of long stories…
We may need, however, to return to the subject of thoughts again.