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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Out of Our Control - Thoughts

  Am I accountable for my thoughts?

Maybe the question draws up images from 1984 about thought-crime and the like, but that is not the kind of accountability I am describing. I am not concerned with whether a human government may prosecute us for our thoughts - that is a different question altogether. To rephrase the question slightly: Will God to judge us on the basis of our thoughts, or merely what we actually say and do? To the end of exploring this, let me direct you to a passage in the book of Luke. Jesus is an infant at this time, being brought to the temple for all of the rituals which accompanied Jewish birth.

And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, "Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, According to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation, Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES, And the glory of Your people Israel." And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, "Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed-- and a sword will pierce even your own soul--to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."
(Luk 2:25-35)
Simeon tells the parents of Jesus that their son will be the salvation of the Lord, prepared for the whole world to see and a light to all people on Earth, but ultimately to be the crowning glory of Israel (although that is in the future yet). They are 'amazed' at the glorious life their son will lead. but then, Simeon blesses them both and turns to give Mary the dark side of the news. Jesus will indeed be the chief corner stone of God's glorious new kingdom, but many will fall on that stone and be broken (Isaiah 8:14-15). He will be something the people will rally against and her heart will be broken. All of this will happen so that men's thoughts may be revealed.

This prophecy spans at least 2000 years, because we have not yet seen its final fulfillment. Two points, the last in the 'good' before the blessing and the last in the 'bad' after the blessing, await Christ's return. Often the prediction that thoughts from the heart of many will be revealed is taken as referring to the hypocrites being separated from the truly faithful by how they react to Jesus. I disagree. Both parts of the prophey fall easily into 3 parts (although 'a sign to be opposed' may be placed in either the first or second category) and are too parallel to ignore. To that end, let me break it up like this: Event in Jesus' Life - good prophecy -bad prophecy. I think this will make the matter plain.

His life -- God's salvation, prepared before all people --  The rise and fall of many in Israel
His death and ressurection-- A light to the gentiles --  A sign to be opposed and a sword which will pierce Mary's soul
His return -- The glory of Israel -- The secret thoughts of men will be revealed

As Paul writes:
For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.


(Rom 2:14-16 emphasis mine)
Our thoughts will most certainly be used against men at both judgments, then. If we are to buy the popular understanding that we cannot control our thoughts, this is decidedly unfair. It is hard to control our actions, harder to control our speech, but to place reigns on our very thoughts! Yet, the Bible not only tells us that we will be judged on the basis of our thoughts, but gives us commands about them. Experience tells us, however, that thoughts are our very front line! I may only control my accidental thoughts by intentionally bringing up others thoughts. This doesn't erase the first thought, just cripples it! How then shall we reconcile these things? The Bible (of course) has the answer:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.


(Php 4:6-8)
And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
The answer to our initial question is then a resounding yes. We will be accountable for our thoughts.  But, we may not have mastery of our thoughts. We are too weak and frail to protect out hearts and minds! But if we take our weakness to God in prayer, He will give us a peace which will protect us, defending our thoughts. Undisciplined thought is a failure on our thought - a failure to turn things over to God and a failure to pray. That is certainly something we can understand our responsibility for and certainly something we may all improve on.

Returning to Simeon's prophecy - All that Christ did happened so that the thoughts of men's hearts may be revealed. Now everything makes sense. We are accountable for our thoughts because Christ suffered and died to give us dominion over our thoughts. We need no longer be slaves.

Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. "The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. "So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.


(Joh 8:34-36)
 
 
Come back tomorrow for the second part of this discussion, as we leave the realm of thoughts and discuss feelings. Is the couple contemplating divorce responsible for the loveless nature of their marriage? Is the homosexual accountable for who he/she cares about? We shall explore this next time. The time after that, we will explore why something internal matters and refute the 'it isn't hurting anyone' logic.

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