Question from an email friend:
When a person is lusting or angry in thought but not doing the sinful act itself, wouldn’t that be already sinning? If this is so, then how does threshold thinking work since one has already committed the sin the moment lust enters or anger enters the door? Same goes for envy. One can envy without acting it out. Would this be already sinning?
Those are rather convoluted questions! Let’s not kid ourselves. Our life can only be as pure as our thoughts. “The Lord detests the thoughts of the wicked, but those of the pure are pleasing to Him” (Prov. 15:26). That is why the apostle Paul wrote, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8). If you want to live a righteous life, you have to continue with the next verse, i.e. live the truth, do the honorable and just thing, etc. Then “the God of peace will be with you.”
Just as living a righteous life begins by thinking/believing the right thoughts, sinning begins by entertaining wrong thoughts. We don’t do anything without first thinking it, because every action is proceeded by a thought. So when you are first tempted, choose the way of escape by fixing your eyes on Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. Paul wrote, “Everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23).
This really underscores the problem of legalism; priding ourselves for not murdering, envying, or committing adultery, when in fact we have in our hearts. Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matt. 23:27,28).
In our ministry we help people win that battle for their minds, but we do it under the grace of God. Nobody’s thoughts are perfectly pure, and in a real sense we are all guilty of murder, envy, and adultery, but we are forgiven. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1). Let’s be honest with God and ourselves and learn to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog