Throughout my day I ask myself a question as often as possible in the hope of keeping negative agreements at bay. This question has kept me out of the ditch on more occasions than I can count and is the safety net that runs underneath my life at all times, guaranteeing it will catch me in the event I fall. The question is this:How does this thought I’m thinking, this assumption I’m building, or this agreement I’m making line up with the Word of God?

If the thought, assumption, or agreement squares with truth, then it can stay; if not, it has to go—it doesn’t get any simpler than that.

Throughout the Bible—all the way from Genesis to Revelation—warfare imagery is evoked, and in ten out of ten of those occurrences, God is referring not merely to battles fought with hands and feet and horses and shields and swords but to the battles fought in our minds. This idea is what was at the core of the apostle Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthian church to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God” (2 Cor. 10:5). The “demolishment,” according to Paul, would occur as those Christ followers took “captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ,” language considered strong (violent, even?) to first-century ears.

In Paul’s day, one of the ways Roman forces intimidated conquered cities was to chain the governors and other leaders of those cities and parade them through the streets, indisputably conveying the message, “Your situation is helpless and hopeless! Even your leaders have been defeated and shamed. Rome is here to stay.” Roman conquerors were masters of the siege, going to any lengths—starvation, humiliation, rape, and death—to take over the world. It is this imagery Paul looked to when describing how we are to conquer our thoughts.

“Take them captive!” Paul insisted. “Strip them naked until they are totally exposed. Bring them to a place of earnest submission, no holds barred.”

The stakes were high for cities Rome was overtaking, and the stakes are high for us too. If we don’t overtake our own negative agreements, proving their impotence by parading them through the streets, they will fight with all they have to exert their will on us. Thoughts become words, words become actions, actions become habits, and habits form who we are. To take our thoughts captive is to consciously declare whether our lives will be governed by truth or by lies.


This is an excerpt from my new book, Speak Life which releases in September.

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