What do we do with our sinful thoughts?

During seminary, just about every seminary student gets a part time job. And there are a few places around the seminary that will regularly hire Seminary students. One of these places was called Scott Pump. They assemble water pumps. So, I called them up and asked if there were any positions available and if I could up an application. They said sure. So later that week I drove over and one of the foremen gave me a tour. And after the tour he said, “Well, that’s the place. When do you want to start? And I was a little taken aback by that I hadn’t even filled out an application. I was expecting to go through all the rigmarole. Where you fill out an application, and then you have an interview, and then the human resource person calls all your references. But there was none of that. It was just, “Here’s the place when do you want to start.” Now the reason that happened is because Seminary students who had worked there over the years had built up a good reputation for the Seminary. When considering seminary students the company assumed that these were hardworking, dependable, young men who told the truth. And so when I asked for a job I was given one with pretty much no questions asked.


            But now I want you to imagine something with me. This is kind of ridiculous but stick with me. I want you to imagine that every seminary student had a big flat screen TV floating above their head broadcasting every thought that they had. Do you think seminary students would have such a good reputation if everyone could see what they were thinking? How about you? Would you like to have a flat screen TV floating over your head broadcasting every thought that goes thought your head? No, I don’t think any of us would want that. Because every single one of us has horrible thoughts. Many times, we can keep these thoughts inside, but sometimes they come out with horrible words and horrible actions. But those words and actions always start with a thought, with a desire, with an intention. Well I have some bad news for you brothers and sisters. We can hide our thoughts from others. We can lock them up and vow to never let them out thought words and actions. But in our relationship with God we might was well have a big flat screen TV floating over our heads broadcasting our thoughts. Here are some bible passages that prove that. Psalm 139:2, Jeremiah 17:10, Matthew 9:4


            So according to those passages our thoughts are as clear to God as if we had a flat screen TV floating above our heads broadcasting our thoughts to him. So what does God see on our TV. “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell…


            The shows we are broad casting to God are not rated PG. Our reading says that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgement. In 1 John it says the same thing in even more simple words. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. – John 3:15. Both of these passages equate the emotion and thought of hate with murder. So, on your TV God watches you planning your actions taking the murder weapon engaging in violence and standing over the body of your victim with blood on your hands. God sees murder. And what is God’s punishment for murder? Prison His prison is called hell.


            Murder isn’t the only programing we broadcast to God Jesus goes on to say this: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.


            So maybe outwardly we are perceived as modest and chaste. But our TV broadcasts a different story to God. All our lewd and lustful thoughts are displayed to him in their graphic detail. Even the ones we are too ashamed to even mention. And even if we gouged out both our eyes and cut of both our hands it wouldn’t stop us from having lustful thoughts. And because of that, the labels of modest and chaste don’t apply to us. The label adulterer does.


            You know just this past week I was talking with two different people about Jesus. And both of these people asked the same question just in a little different way. In reaction to my message about Jesus they said, “But Phil, what about the really bad people who do horrible things? will god let them into heaven?” Well I hope God can let people who do really bad things into heaven. Because the way God sees it the murders and adulterers aren’t just those bad people out there who we hear about in the news. No, this room right here right now is filled with murderers and adulterers including the guy up front.


            So how is Jesus going to save us from this one? If even our thoughts and feelings are a violation of the 5th and 6th commandment, how can Jesus save us from our own thoughts? Well in Matthew chapter 5, just a little bit before our reading for today, Jesus said this, ““Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”


            Brothers and sisters, Jesus came to fulfill the law he came to accomplish it. That includes the fifth and sixth commandment. You shall not murder and you shall not commit adultery. The things we have been talking about. He came to fulfill that law, to accomplish it, for you. Because he had no sinful nature, when Jesus was living on this earth his motives and thoughts were kind loving and pure. And those thoughts and motives showed themselves through his kind loving and pure actions. Like when he healed people of their diseases and like when he was willing to associate himself with prostitutes and treat them with love and respect. And brothers and sisters that perfect life has been given to you.


Maybe I can explain the awesomeness of that this way. We have been talking about God seeing your thoughts as if they were displayed to him on a TV screen. Well Jesus hijacked your channel and started showing his episodes and series instead of yours. So instead of seeing your hateful thoughts God sees Jesus kindness and love displayed on your TV. Instead of seeing your lust God sees Jesus respect and honor and his faithfulness to his bride the church. And the best things is this: Even though Jesus is the one who did all that, your name is in the credits. The credits say that this good God pleasing content was directed and produced by you and you are the staring actor or actress.


            So that is good news. Jesus is our savior even from our sinful thoughts and motives. But now I’m sure some of you are asking now what? Thank you, Jesus, for saving me but I still have to live with my own thoughts what should we do about? Should we say, “Well Jesus has pulled a fast one on God the Father so now we can relish all the sinful thoughts we want.” No absolutely not. Jesus did not save you for the purpose of wallowing in your sin. No, he saved you so that you could be his own. So, then what do we do with our sinful thoughts? If we are being perfectly honest brothers and sisters we have to say sometimes it is impossible for us to prevent sinful thoughts from entering into our head. We have a sinful nature that loves to dwell on sinful things. And we live in a world that loves to parade sinful things around and glorify them. So sinful thoughts and temptations are going to occur. However, we can make a decision about what to do with those thoughts. Lets go back to our tv floating above your head analogy. Let’s say a sinful thought pops on the screen whether it is a hateful thought or a lustful thought, doesn’t matter. When that happens first simply acknowledge to yourself what that thought is. that’s lust that hate. And then knowing that you are a forgiven child of God change the channel. Change the channel to something like this. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. That’s the kind of programing Jesus displayed to the Father in your place, so switch your channel to those things. Amen.