Bringing every thought into captivity to Christ? How?

I woke up at 2:00 am, my mind thrashing away about things I was falling behind on, the new pains I was getting, the horrible way people dealt with each other in the movie I watched last night, and on and on it went. My mind was all over the place, like a herd of startled wildebeest.

It worried me, because if I don’t have the power to bring just those thoughts “into captivity,” how can I bring EVERY thought “into captivity to Christ,” as Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 10:5?

Well, I’ve clearly learnt that I can’t. Once my mind gets started on something it’s impossible to get it to stop. I’m just like Eve who couldn’t stop thinking about the forbidden fruit, and the Israelites who couldn’t get their minds off wanting what other nations had.

But why would God give us a mind like that? Why give us the remarkable ability to think, but not the ability to control everything we think, as well? Why give us powerful drives and appetites but not a powerful braking system that automatically kicks in every time our thoughts race out of control or drift off course? It’s like giving a teenager the keys to a Ferrari and expecting him to drive at the speed limit. Of course he can’t. So why would God expect us to keep our minds at his speed limits too, when he gave us minds that can’t?

Because, Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:9, our helplessness allows Christ’s power to be made perfect in us. What we lack in our brains is the power of Christ, and what better way is there of¬†helping us admit it and want it, than hurtling through life in a Ferrari approaching a right angle bend and finding the brakes don’t work? That’s me at 2:00 am; I’m a Ferrari with weak brakes, a mind full of racing thoughts I cannot control, and it’s scary, because where might my thoughts take me if I can’t stop them?

We know the answer to that, because look at the state of our world today, with its endless and unsolvable conflicts in families, nations, between neighbours, and even among religious people too, and all because we cannot stop the thoughts in our heads that stir these conflicts in the first place.¬†Clearly, then, we need a power in our brains that we don’t have, and that’s what Paul came to realize, but it turned into something wonderful, because any time his own brain failed him, he could turn to Christ for the power to bring his thoughts into captivity, and Christ’s power was right there for him.


There is a way to solve world problems? Really?

I daydream about a world leader at the United Nations leaning forward to the microphone and saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, I deeply appreciate being with men and woman like yourselves who want to change our world for the better, because I’ve just come to the realization how we can make it better. I know things look grim right now, and we’ve met here dozens of times before and the world hasn’t changed much for all our efforts, but what if the problem at the heart of it all is so simple and obvious?”

A pause to watch the reaction. Some delegates look up with mild surprise and even possible interest. Others sink down in their seats thinking, “Oh no, this is going to be painful.”

Time to plough on. “I’m aware of our history just as you are, that most humans would love peace and prosperity, but crazy people keep messing things up. They think war works. They justify killing innocent people. And while these awful people exist the world will never improve. But one thing they have done for us: We’ve learnt from them where our problem lies. It’s in our heads, because it’s obvious that something has gone horribly wrong in these crazy people’s brains for them to do what they do.”

“But don’t they, in fact, speak for all of us, because in one form or another we’re all just as crazy? We all do stupid things that hurt people. We all have good intentions, but selfish pursuits and motives constantly mess things up. But even the great apostle Paul cried out, ‘Oh, what a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?’ And isn’t that the sad cry of all of us, that at heart we’re all a bit crazy?”

“But Paul also said he’d found the solution, a way round the monster. He even called it a new way, because he’d never experienced it himself before, either. And what this new way involved was simply the injection of Jesus Christ’s mind into his head by God himself.”

“And is that so weird, really, when surely it’s obvious by now we can’t solve our problems on the strength of our own minds alone? So, what if Paul was right, and God really will provide us with a counteracting force in our brains that enables us to do what we know needs to be done? But what’s the alternative? No system of laws we’ve come up with so far has worked, nor has chucking more money at problems. Isn’t it so much simpler just admitting we need help?”

Does God have a deadline?

“You’d better repent before you die,” the preacher yells, “because if you don’t, you’re going to hell forever.”

So is death God’s deadline? But that’s hardly fair on people who’ve never heard of God, or they’ve been given such a horrible picture of him they want nothing to do with him. So what does God do with these people? Does he dismiss them as collateral damage from the wreckage of sin, and cast them off as rejects? Or does he preserve them in some sort of holding tank while relatives desperately pray for their souls to be saved?

But if death isn’t the deadline, what is the deadline instead? Is there a cut off point eventually when God says, “OK humanity, you’ve had your chance, you either repent now, or else” – the ‘or else’ being eternity in hell?

Or does the Bible show that God sets deadlines, not as a final end for those who don’t repent, but as a means to aid repentance?

In Joel 1:15, for instance, Israel was given an ultimatum: “For the day of the Lord is near; it will come like a destruction from the Almighty.” God gave a deadline, promised enormous destruction, and it happened. But was that ‘game over’ for these people forever? No, because Joel 2:28 says, “And afterward…” – and the afterward is very positive. There’s a promise of help and deliverance, a point Peter picks up on when quoting this verse in Acts 2, because Peter knows there’s a deadline coming for the Jews and another dreadful day of the Lord when the Romans would destroy Jerusalem in 70 AD. But the purpose of the deadline was to stir the Jews up to call on God to escape the imminent destruction, not to threaten them with eternal hell, or to make a decision that would decide their eternal future.

God gives deadlines as clear warnings to people to stop what they’re doing and “Come back to God,” Joel 2:13. “And here’s why: God is kind and merciful. He takes a deep breath, puts up with a lot. He’s the most patient God, extravagant in love, always ready to cancel catastrophe.” And when people see God in that light, that he’d rather not cause havoc but he’ll do whatever is necessary to wake people up to the hell they’re already in and the worse hell they’ll be facing in the near future, some do turn to him and escape the hell God is threatening.

So how many deadlines does God give the rebellious? As many as it takes, it seems, because he’s a “most patient God.” Even in his anger and threats his aim is always repentance, because he loves us.