October 5th

Thoughts & Actions

18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
24Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised. Amen.
26Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
28Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
Romans 1:18-32 NIV

This is one of the most striking passages in the Bible dealing with the connection between sin in our thoughts and actions.  Paul’s detailed description Man’s spiritual condition shows that not much has changed in 2000 or so years.  Not only did Paul link homosexuality and spiritual depravity, but he also showed how sin in thoughts will lead to sin in actions.  He also showed that left to his own desires, Man can easily descend into increasing rebellion against God. 

Paul apparently was describing a generic group of people from the culture of the day.  They had originally known God, but didn’t glorify him or give thanks to him.  This refusal led to their thinking becoming “futile” and their hearts becoming “darkened” (21).  Turning to idolatry, the people exchanged the truth of God for a lie.  At that point, God gave them over to the “sinful desires of their hearts” to commit sexual sin and degrade their bodies.  Notice that the sinful desires started in their hearts (i.e. thoughts) and led to the sinful acts.    

The people continued in idolatry and God gave them over to “shameful lusts” which included homosexual acts.  The acts were preceded by sinful thoughts – in this case, lust.  Eventually the people decided that it wasn’t even worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God and so they were given over to a “depraved mind,” to do what ought not to be done.  Again, the acts (doing what ought not to be done) were preceded by the thoughts of sin (the depraved mind).  In their final state, the people were filled with every kind of evil. 

I see evidence of the “thought to action” connection almost daily in the emails people send us concerning sex addiction. After feeding their minds with pornography (or other sexualized media) and entertaining lust in their thoughts, people are inevitably tempted to act out their sinful desires.  For some it might simply be to masturbate, while for others it could be going to a massage parlor, or calling a phone sex number, or seeking someone to act out with.  As the daily news headlines confirm, there is no limit to the kinds of evil that sex addiction can lead to. 

For recovery from sex addiction, we must first start retaking control of our thoughts if we hope to arrest the sinful acts.  I found that this is a challenge to do, and can take lots of time and practice to master.  It is possible, though, especially when we have the Holy Spirit’s help and guidance.  We can start by redirecting our thoughts toward God and thanking him for the various blessings in our lives.  It’s kind of like reversing the scenario in the above passage.  By actively retaining God in our thoughts, we’ll begin to crowd out the resident evil.  Through a daily quiet time, we can begin filling our minds with the light of God’s Word through scripture study and meditation. This will help detoxify our minds and dispel the darkness of sin.  Along the way, the Holy Spirit will help us recognize the sinful thought patterns that need to be broken.  As we recognize them, we can then cast them down and out of our minds, while taking every new thought into obedience to Jesus (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).  Finally, we can redirect our thoughts to pure, good and wholesome things (Philippians 4:8).  For more detailed explanation of this process, see Control Thoughts

While these actions may not completely remove a sex addiction stronghold, I believe they will greatly weaken it, such that temptations to act out will be resistible.   

Questions for further thought:

Prayer:

“Lord God in heaven, thank you for the truth of the scriptures. Thank you for the power to live a new life through the Holy Spirit.  I desire to be transformed in my thinking and to live as the new person you created me to be.  I want to think as a son of God, not as a slave to sin.  I repent now from any sin that I’ve been rehearsing or entertaining in my mind, specifically: _________ (list).  Please forgive me for this sin and cleanse my mind with the blood of Jesus Christ.  Thank you for your forgiveness and healing.  Please now lead me in the process of gaining control of my thoughts and bringing my flesh into obedience to you.  I praise you, Lord!  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”