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Why Should I Take Thoughts Captive? [And What Does that Even Mean?]

During a COVID-19 discussion with a family member recently, my loved one made the remark she was trying to “take every thought captive” according to 2 Corinthians 10:5. It’s certainly right and practical to follow God’s commands from Scripture, especially as we wrestle with how to respond to a global crisis. But what does it mean to take our thoughts captive, and why does God want us to hold our thoughts hostage?

For starters, it’s important to understand the context of 2 Corinthians 10. Paul is defending his authority as an apostle. Toward that end, he’s challenging the way the world views power. The world perceives powerful and influential people in terms of their education level, wealth, charisma, etc. Paul counters that divine power is marked by humility and conforming to the image of Christ. Paul is waging spiritual warfare with divine power, and the Gospel he preaches exposes prideful, sinful hearts and arguments that can lead us astray. That’s why Paul says:

We demolish arguments and every proud thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.

Paul cuts down earthly arguments and discards anything that counters the way of Christ. His mission is to above all else follow Christ. So every argument, every thought must be filtered through the wisdom of God’s Word.

God’s workmanship–his plan for your life–as adopted sons and daughters of God is to transform you. He is busy transforming your heart, soul, and mind through the work of His Spirit. The way He accomplishes this task is through Christ formation. He makes you conformed to the image of the Son. In other words, He makes you more like His perfect Son–Jesus.

28 We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. Romans 8:28-29

So Christians never need to freak out in a crisis. Because God works all things–yes even COVID-19–for the good of those who love God. Does that mean life will be easy? No, not a chance. We’ll have struggles and trials. If you have a pulse right now, I’m sure you can understand that concept in light of the pandemic.

But it does mean God is working through the pain and hardship. We just need to remember to control the thoughts we have by bringing them under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We evaluate arguments, “concerns,” and ideas to determine whether they align with the truth of God’s Word. If they don’t, we say (in my best nsync boy band voice) “bye, bye, bye” and discard them.

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