Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Just One Thought

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:5

I had a bit of a revelation the other night, and it came, of all places, from an old black-and-white movie.

TCM ran Carbine Williams, a bio-pic about Marsh Williams, a convict who invented a new kind of mechanism for a repeating rifle while he was in prison. It was later used in the M-1 Carbine, many thousands of which were carried by American soldiers in WWII. Jimmy Stewart played the title role, and did a great job. The story is that Williams was arrested for moonshining, and during the arrest a federal agent was killed. Nobody knew who fired the fatal shot, but Williams had made a vague threat against any "revenooer" who came on his land, and he was railroaded into prison. He actually pled to a lesser charge, then was suddenly sentenced to 30 years at hard labor by a new judge. He was a bitter, angry man, who had a talent with all things mechanical, especially firearms.

After some conflict with the warden, Williams was sent into The Hole, a small steel box, "until he begs to come out." He stubbornly stayed there for 30 days, until the prison doctor freed him. Later, the warden befriends him after Williams saves the warden from a rattlesnake bite.

It's a good picture, as evidenced by the fact that my daughter sat through about half of it without once asking to change the channel.

The scene that caught me came after the episode in The Hole. Williams is on his bunk, measuring and drawing something on a piece of paper. He hears a footstep and hides the paper, but the warden comes up and demands to see it. It is a detailed draftsman's drawing of a new rifle mechanism. The warden wants to take it, but Williams begs the warden to let him continue, then starts to talk about his time in The Hole.

"Did you know you can't think of two things at one time?" Williams asks.

The warden is puzzled, but interested, and Williams goes on to say how in his time in The Hole, he began to think of those Indian fakirs who lay on beds of nails. He realized that he couldn't think about the pain he felt if he occupied his mind with something else. For him, that something else was designing the rifle.

"At first, I couldn't think for more than 15 or 20 seconds about it before thinking about how much my back hurt again," Williams went on. "But I kept at it, and later I was able to go three or four hours without thinking about my back at all."

"Did you know you can't think of two things at once?"

That question really hit me. Something I tell the men in my accountability group is that you cannot think about nothing. If I tell you not to think about monkeys for the next ten seconds, your thoughts will be filled with monkeys. The secret is the thing Carbine Williams discovered. You have to think about something else. You have to take that thought captive.

Satan assaults us every hour of the day with things we shouldn't think of or dwell on. For men, it often takes the form of lust. That's just where men are most vulnerable. Our society is not exactly a modest and chaste one. Right? So the seeds of lust are always there. We can't just not think about them. We have to think about something else to push that thought out.

No, I'm not telling you to design a new rifle. I am saying that we should replace the thoughts we know shouldn't be there with ones we know should. The best thing to use is the scriptures.

When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness after 40 days of fasting, he used hunger, pride, and power to tempt him. He twisted the scriptures to make his points. Jesus answered him each time from scripture, essentially cutting him off at the knees.

We should do the same. Memorize scripture. Hide it in our hearts. Use it. When temptation comes, and it will, take that thought captive with one of God's promises. Recite a psalm. Fill your mind with the goodness, holiness, mercy, justice, power, and majesty of God. Remember the cross. Remind yourself how God redeemed Israel from Egypt.

Remember, the battle against sin is the battle of the mind. I've become convinced that this is the secret of those we know as great saints. They become so focused on God that other thoughts are driven out. Me? I'm just getting started.

Take that thought captive.

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