Inability to control thoughts.

Discussion in 'Spiritual Warfare' started by wretchedworm, Aug 27, 2006.

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  1. wretchedworm

    wretchedworm Puritan Board Freshman


    This is something that I've never mentioned before to anybody but I'd just like to find out something.

    I know as Christians, we become conscious of sin in a new way ever since being born again. Sin becomes so much vile and we often struggle fighting it through the progressive sanctification of our christian life.

    But what I would like to know is,
    Is it that much of a battle, so much as to an extent, to have uncontrollable sinful thoughts, almost as if there's another personality in your head?
    I'd be more specific.

    -split second flashes of sinful acts in your head for no reason. (split second, because you cut them off once they come. but why they come (given the circumstances) is still pretty much for no reason.
    -hearing another voice (and u dunno if its really you or another voice) that blasphemes God for a split second even though u try to fight it and u feel totally wretched after that because u don't want to. (not as often)

    Is this a sign of serious spiritual warfare? (That is I presume most christians don't experience that.)

    Please help. Thanks

    [Edited on 27-8-2006 by wretchedworm]
  2. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    It is spiritual warfare; however, we do indulge it from time to time and make ourselves available to the wiles of the devils.

    Jesus' response to the devil:

    Matthew 4:3-4 3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. 4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

    Our recourse is the same:

    Matthew 26:41 41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

    James 4:7 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

    2 Corinthians 10:3-5 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: 4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

    Philippians 4:8 8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

    [Edited on 8-27-2006 by Scott Bushey]
  3. wretchedworm

    wretchedworm Puritan Board Freshman

    so I take it most christians do not experience this?

    [Edited on 27-8-2006 by wretchedworm]
  4. Croghanite

    Croghanite Puritan Board Sophomore

    I know many who expierience this including myself (split second flashes of sinful acts in your head for no reason). I have also heard Ministers preach on this subject so it must be common enough. Dont think your alone in this.
  5. Swampguy

    Swampguy Puritan Board Freshman

    It only happens to humans. My worst time is going to sleep. It seems like my mind turns against me. What I do is try to review the things that I have read that day from my studies and devotions. Don't let it worry you it happens to all of us. Just don't dwell on these thoughts.
  6. fivepointcalvinist

    fivepointcalvinist Puritan Board Sophomore

    good post; i often have these 'spontaneous' visions or thoughts of doing very evil things but have never had the guts to ask anyone else, for fear of exposing myself for the wretched sinner i am. it seems as though the 'battle' becomes more intense when i begin to pray. im thankful God is wise and forgiving...
  7. Peter

    Peter Puritan Board Junior

    I don't think a I split second thought that you immediately cut off is sin. Its a temptation. What you do with it determines whether it is sin. If you turn it over in your mind it is sinful lust and blasphemy but if you make no provision for it then you have nothing to be guilty of. Also as Scott suggested, I don't even think such thoughts are necessarily of the sinful flesh. If they arise seemingly out of no where they're probably the result of Satanic activity.
  8. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

  9. Laura

    Laura Puritan Board Junior

    Great question, ah, worm. I don't think you are abnormal; in fact I think the thought life is the main battleground for every Christian, and things like this are evidence of it. I would highly recommend a treatise called "The Vanity of Thoughts" by Thomas Goodwin. Here are just a couple relevant excerpts that should help you; but if at all possible, read the whole thing!

    [Edited on 8-27-2006 by Laura]
  10. bond-servant

    bond-servant Puritan Board Sophomore

    I agree. I think we all have these, but we should not entertain them. It can be either spiritual warfare or simply our wretched flesh nature. Either way, you are doing the right thing by not dwelling on them!
  11. turmeric

    turmeric Megerator

    John Bunyan was tormented by this kind of thing for years. He talks about it in Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners which is his autobiography.
  12. jaybird0827

    jaybird0827 PuritanBoard Honor Roll

    I think most Christians experience this. I'm still fighting a battle that intensified nearly 20 years ago. Thankfully the battle is the Lord's; at times I honestly don't know between the fiery darts of the evil one and the corruption that we continue to bear in this life even after conversion.
  13. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    Everyone has this problem. After many years of scripture meditation and prayer the thing attacks less and less. But it doesn't ever seem to fully go away. Luther use to say something about us not being able to stop the birds from flying over our heads but that we could keep them from building nests in our hair.

    As Bunyan's inscription on the inside of his bible use to say.... This book will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from this book.

    Renewing the mind is an all important life long pursuit.
  14. wretchedworm

    wretchedworm Puritan Board Freshman

    Thank you so much for all the replies.
    It's comforting to know that I'm not alone in the fight.
    Sometimes it just drives me to my knees but I'll just have to remember the battle is the Lord's. :)

    In Him,
  15. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Evil thoughts, even flashes, arise from a man's own heart, and are an evidence that all the imaginations of man's heart are only evil continually; these still continue to plague the regenerate until the day that the Lord is pleased to deliver him from the body of his death.

    Concerning remedies, we can all profit from William Perkins' biblical advice in a Treatise of Man's Imaginations.

  16. Larry Hughes

    Larry Hughes Puritan Board Sophomore


    Let me offer you some help, some Gospel help, because I know what you are talking about.

    First, we all have them in varying degrees and according to our experiences and individual peculiarities.

    Second, and this is crucial, you must understand the real definition of "œsin" per fallen man and it is NOT, I repeat, NOT just immorality. This is crucial. Sin is truly "œbeing curved in upon your self" good or bad, thought, word and deed. As Augustine said if you understand this condition, THEN you can begin to understand that sin can "œtake on quite a NICE gloss". The opposite of sin is as Christ said utter love toward God and altruistic love toward my neighbor "“ that is to say utterly curved outward and away from self "“ especially toward gain toward self.

    Here in lies the true bondage of the will "“ so fallen EVERY attempt we make to "œjustify or sanctify" ourselves becomes sin (curved inward upon one´s self), even if and especially if it has "œholy" addendum to it. E.g. You cannot stop thinking about yourself by trying to stop thinking about yourself, and any attempt you make at it, even if it saves the whole world, is in sum total to "œsave yourself" and thus worse sin, yet "œvery clean looking".

    So what if you stop thinking ill thoughts by some "œinward" power of will. All you´ve done is to make yourself a devil of high piety, and you will certainly condemn others for not attaining this "œhigh" religious attainment and at length at least in your mind you will persecute them.

    The more and more "œlaws" you are given to "œattempt to stop this inward struggle" will avail you absolutely nothing - for even if you cease, you are still curved inward upon yourself (i.e. sin). It takes great self energy and self focus to so "œcure" such inward things of the self, and the more you do this you will be more tightly curved inward. In essences worse a sinner than before, but "œcleaner" in product.

    The cure is this, Christ has died for even your inner thoughts. His love is so great for you that it covers those for the rest of your life. License to sin? Hardly, only the Pharisee would disdain the Gospel so and ask that question in order to subvert the Gospel, the despairing sufferer of the Pharisee´s heavy burden sees it as life rather than foolishness.

    The only way to true godly love is to not command it. Love cannot be commanded else it is false. This is why the Law can only "˜point to´ love and never give the power. For love that is done by constraint, fear of punishment or hope of reward, is no love at all, but again the inner curving of sin. Only a love from outside of us, Christ crucified, gives us the power. It says, "œI took care of that for you 2000+ years ago for you and there´s nothing left for you to do." Only THAT kind of love can give you the power to go on and actually love.

    One cannot even command "œstop focusing upon yourself" for that forces one to actually focus on one´s self. Only a continual refreshed fixing upon the Cross of Christ can "œpull us out of ourselves". Thus, Paul said "œthe Gospel is the power".

    The LAST place you need to be LOOKING, the WORST advice you can be given is to look inward or toward religious attainments. When you struggle inwardly say to yourself and Satan, "œI am baptized and though I am a great sinner STILL, I have God´s sure promise of eternal life, forgiveness of sins and cleansing from all my sin." Then go on with your day. As we are more and more certain of God´s grace for us, we are more and more able to love in the true sense of love which is the sum of the Law. This IS having the Law written upon the heart. NOT in commands with threats of punishment or hope of reward or selfish attainments of "œsanctification" which are in the end utterly selfish and worse sin, but to NATURALLY love without "œtrying to love". But this can ONLY be had if we are fixed upon Christ crucified FOR US. And this can only be had if shepherds placard Christ crucified constantly to you for you.

    Yours truly,

  17. panta dokimazete

    panta dokimazete Panting Donkey Machete

    The difference between temptation and sin is dwelling.

    Glad someone posted on this - I also appreciate the fact that I am not alone - mine seem to be cyclical. Go for weeks without them, then an onslaught for several days.

  18. Peter

    Peter Puritan Board Junior

    Not all evil flashes darted on the soul are of the sinful heart. Christ himself experienced this Matt 4 and he was holy, harmless and undefiled.
  19. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Our Lord's temptations were presented to him externally, and not one evil thought or desire ever flashed, not even momentarily, before His holy soul. Man is responsible for every thought and desire: ""out of the heart proceed evil thoughts," Matt. 15:19.
  20. Augusta

    Augusta Puritan Board Doctor

    That is awesome Larry. You speak my language or something. I have to copy this down. The Lord has blessed you with insight and the way of explaining it. God bless you. :)
  21. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis


    I agree so much with the general tenor of your post that it pains me to disagree with a particular part of it. But it is not sin to do something out of hope of reward or for fear of punishment. Moses had respect to the recompence of reward, and Jesus tells us to fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Moreover, Christ commands our love, and requires obedience to His commandments as a proper expression of love to Him. "Fight the good fight." "Run with patience the race that is set before you." This requires striving on the part of believers. Blessings, brother!
  22. Bladestunner316

    Bladestunner316 Puritan Board Doctor

    YOUr not alone brother!!
  23. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    :ditto: Repentance and faith are commanded. God commands all men everywhere to repent Acts 17:30.
  24. regener8ed

    regener8ed Puritan Board Freshman

    I constantly hear thoughts that tell me "God hates you!" "You are damned." These are usually mixed with vile blasphemous cursing. "You are a blankety blanked loser..." etc.

    I have noticed that these types of thoughts are more prevalent when I feel humiliated in some way. This makes me feel even worse because I hate that when I feel personally embarrased the first thing that comes to my mind is blasphemy against my Lord and Savior. What a self-centered wretch I am.

    Many times I even find myself saying these things out loud to myself. It is awful and I feel very guilty when I find myself thinking or uttering such filth. Sometimes I find myself wondering whether or not a truly regenerate man could ever utter such horrible blasphemy. I constantly repent, and I know that Jesus is faithful to forgive us our sins. My prayer is that He will replace these blasphemous thoughts with thoughts of praise and adoration.

    [Edited on 8-29-2006 by regener8ed]
  25. VirginiaHuguenot

    VirginiaHuguenot Puritanboard Librarian

    This extract from Wilhelmus a Brakel's The Christian's Reasonable Service, Vol. IV, pp. 242-246, though lengthy may be helpful:

  26. Laura

    Laura Puritan Board Junior

    Andrew, thank you! That was well worth the length. :) This especially stuck out to me:

    Probably the scariest time in my life was when I gave an attack like this far too much thought, and it got so out of my control that though I knew it was utterly ridiculous and could point out the several reasons why I should leave it alone, it kept coming back, and coming back, and coming back until I was too terrified to let myself fall asleep, lest I wake up in hell! I am so thankful that older and wiser believers have taken the pains to record their experiences in this and understand them rightly.
  27. BaptistCanuk

    BaptistCanuk Puritan Board Sophomore

    Jon, you aren't alone. :handshake:

    I struggle with this as well and it's as if it's not even me saying these things to myself. It really does feel like it is the devil and all those who said the things they've said about me in the past. It is a horrible situation to be in and it makes me want to :banghead:
  28. BaptistCanuk

    BaptistCanuk Puritan Board Sophomore

    Thanks for posting that excerpt Andrew. It was very informative and I've seen evidence of those things myself.

    If I shared some of the spiritual warfare "happenings" from my past, I have a feeling Christians would say I'm nuts. Well, just the ones who really don't believe there is a devil.
  29. regener8ed

    regener8ed Puritan Board Freshman


    I'm glad I'm not alone. Thanks. :)
  30. Larry Hughes

    Larry Hughes Puritan Board Sophomore

    Rev. Matthew,

    I appreciate your thoughts, critique and kind words as always.

    I think the point is that love cannot be commanded and "œbe" love if then obeyed out of fear of punishment or hope of reward. True love that the law is summed up as and points to is that which arises without a command "to love" and is completely altruistic. I use the term "œaltruistic" but if there is a better term for utterly outward serving without any inward or personal gain, then I´m all for it. The "command" depends upon how one "hears it". Remember the Law is always requiring of the heart and not necessarily the outward deed like human law does. Human law could care less whether we love the "œspeed limit or not", whether we do it to avoid a ticket (punishment) or gain the "œreward" of not getting a ticket, it is only concerned with the outward action being obeyed. Human law, thus, cares less if one fumes about it and rages within about it or does it for personal gain. Not so with the Law of God which is in summary love toward God and neighbor.

    I'll try but might blow it, here goes:

    The Law commands love but this command can give no power whatsoever to be fulfilled by the flesh, flesh = all that is fallen about man, rather it only "œpoints". Why? Because the old Adam is fallen and cannot help himself at all because his condition is fallen. That´s why it is crucial to see sin as a condition and not so much as "œacts". The acts, good or bad, are more the effect of the condition of the heart. A man may kill a man outwardly and reveal to the eyes of men his inward being. But a man may not kill a man outwardly and his sin is unrevealed to the eyes of men as to his real inward being. So, if we out right sin (theft, murder, adultery - thought, word and deed) or if we avoid all of these in deeds or even words and even to some degree thoughts in order to either justify ourselves before God or for "œsanctification" (I use "œ" to indicate it as really false sanctification) both are absolutely worthless and complete sin. The man who attempts to "œjustify" himself by "œdoing and being good" is obviously sinning because his "œlove" is utter selfishness and all that he does, he does for himself. Similarly in some views of sanctification. Because ANY attempt I make to save or sanctify myself by "œdoing good" is in the end analysis utterly sinful because of the inward turning. This is one part of why the "œLaw" of God, and specifically the Law of God, though holy and good in and of itself, causes the "œside affect" of arousing the sin nature, that is the inward turning by rank sin or false saintliness. And it is especially the Law of God so named that causes this revelation of the sin nature. In causing more inward curving, either direct gross sin or "œclean" holiness (false righteousness), it increases sin as Paul says. This increase reveals it more and more. Thus, Paul could say I would not have really known what coveting really is unless the Law said, "œdo not covet". In fact this false sanctification led the "œlaw abiding Jews" to crucify along with the immoral Romans the Son of God. Because who really wants to be against God? It was their pursuit of "œrighteousness" that led to them crucifying their Saviour (and us as well). Not even atheist want to be against God per se if you examine them long enough, what they and all mankind is up to is self justification and sanctification in many forms of religious doings and irreligious doings. But what is constant in both the false saint and open sinner is this "œinward curving". And the false saint is worse for he will rise to the level of murder, the very thing he despises in the open sinner, either in his heart or actual doing as history testifies unto, and label it righteousness. At least the open murderer knows better he is doing it for himself. No man CAN love if it is commanded under a scheme of fear of punishment or hope of reward. Those "œwhips" will turn him inward more than ever and even if he acts in motions of outward doing unto a loving act to his neighbor, his heart is only doing it for himself. Which brings us back to true love and what the Law is really pointing to that man can NEVER DO, not unto justification and not unto sanctification.

    Only the Gospel can provide the beginning relief whereby man can say, "œIN Christ alone I am a Son of God and this can never be lost, SO now having all the treasures I will ever have in Christ and hoping (certainly expecting them), I can NOW give my gifts to my neighbor." As Luther said, "œGod does not need your good works but your neighbor does." And here is the big point; even though I don´t do ANY of my works well or good or perfect in thought, word or deed they are still love because NOW they arise naturally from a heart that is set free to love, sense God does not need my works and Christ has done all for me, even when I so imperfectly love, I can love. Because if you set out to love someone with "œperfection mind", guess what, your back to selfishness. What you do is just serve your neighbor, trusting so in Christ, so assured, look to the neighbors need without any "œfine print" in your mind as to "œjustification" or "œsanctification". All of us have experienced and done our selves those false "œholiness" acts under the guise of "œgrowing in Christ" to someone, yet in reality we were looking utterly unto ourselves. And even if you do have the "œfine print", you just go on and do it, because you and I cannot love purely as we so desire. You give up on that and trust Christ alone. ONLY the Gospel sets a man free to actually make a real effort at love, the Law with fear of punishment or hope of reward attached to it ONLY sets and inflames the flesh, and ESPECIALLY the religious flesh. E.g. If the speed limit is purely in one´s view a man´s law that is one thing, but if I attach that God´s demands it as obedience, then it takes on a whole new dimension for the religious flesh.

    The Law for the Christian has fear of punishment and hope of reward removed by the Gospel, then it becomes "œcontent", this is what a Christian looks like, BUT and this crucial, without the thundering of the Law. Then and only then is the heart set free. Or as the Word says, "œWe love BECAUSE He first loved us." Not "œWe love IN ORDER that He would love us." The former is the way the law is written on the heart, the latter is the stone and dead letter. To have the Law on the heart is to have it so naturally arise that there is no indifference to it and ESPECIALLY no command needed for it. In this life we may only taste this, but in the life to come it will be perfect without resistance. In the next life you will not hear the Law commanding love, you will do it utterly naturally which IS in the end the true love to which the Law now points. We see this in sin but ironically are blind to it in love. We need no Law or command to sin. We need no Law that says by thought, word or deed to kill, gossip, slander, commit adultery, promiscuity, theft, slough and etc"¦ These the flesh, fallen flesh, does NATURALLY. These, even as you quoted correctly, NATURALLY arise from the fallen heart of man. No command is needed. In that sense, the naturalness of the fallen heart to do these things like the heart beating itself sans command, shows forth a "œlove" for them. We so love to do them that we do them without a command to do them. But you see, this love set on twisted objects should be the way true love toward God and neighbor acts, without command to do it. God should not have to say to His Sons "œThou shalt"¦" We should do them naturally if we had not fallen. Christ did not need "œthou shalt"¦" He so pleased His Father because He utterly loved His Father even unto death on a Cross. So, if one is doing them because of "œcommand", one hears it so and then "œacts", then know for sure it is false. Human level: I do not need a command to change my babies diaper, they need it changed for their own good and well being. I don´t need a damn command in order to be more "œsanctified" or "œholy" to do this. They need me and I do it. This is the kind of godly love the Law IS in reality.

    E.g. You may hear the Law thunder, "œLove your neighbor as yourself". You may hear "œcommand" with fear of punishment or hope of reward. But then you will only sin more than before serving yourself either as to justification or pseudo holiness, and you will be fine looking to the eyes of men on the outside and receive accolade and praise from men. Churches will love you and clean neighbors will love to have you next door. Ghandi would make a fine neighbor and a fine tither and a very devout church goer. But if one hears "œLove your neighbor as yourself" with the certainty, assurance and boldness of the naked Gospel for one already, then one can really begin loving one´s neighbor. Even if and especially if some selfishness is mingled with it. In a sense our remaining and mixed sin help us to stay humble and dependant upon the cross. For the Gospel says, "œChrist has done it ALL, you literally have nothing left to do." See THAT totally frees you to work love, true love and the "œcommand disappears".

    Love cannot be commanded and attained. It can be commanded to show that it cannot be attained, the Law to the flesh. But it cannot be commanded and then fulfilled. This is why Christ alone could fulfill the Law. He was not fallen and no selfish need was in Him, He needed not GAIN anything by the Law for He already had all. In fact His utter giving of Himself was the real Law, love, in action and truth. You see He gave without any gain to Himself in any way, in fact it was sacrifice and condescension for Him to do. Christ needed no "œcommand" in order to obey the command for the law or love of God perfectly flows from a heart more pure and holy than we can dream of. This is the holiness of God that the sinner cannot look upon and live, and not the pagan idea of "œholiness" that some think of. They think of purity and holiness in a pagan way, like a tyrant god who is legally flawless, our minds so fallen make an idol of God and picture His holiness in a legal way. But in fact it is His utter love and lovliness and kindness that is His Holiness of the highest. It is THIS that the sinful flesh cannot STAND or live to see. The hell of hell will be mostly in that men will realize they spurned the Highest Whose love is so giving and utterly selfless, this is why they will gnaw their own tongues. It is utterly frightening to ponder!

    As the reformers were very clear; a man cannot in any sense of the word become "œgood" by doing good deeds. To pursue either justification or sanctification THIS way is to pursue the devil´s religion. Good deeds come from the tree that is ALREADY good, by imputed righteousness and grace. That was Christ´s point about good fruit not coming from thorns and vice versa. He was not saying by way of command you "œmust do good" to "œbe good". He was saying, "œYou must utterly and passively trust in Me alone for you or all is lost period."


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