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There is no more searching measure of your life than your thoughts. It is one of the easiest tests to apply to yourself. Who you really are is demonstrated in your thoughts. Your thoughts express your inner person your motives, desires, aims, feelings, and the principles that govern your life. Your thoughts and your will are closely related. Your thoughts and your will express and control your soul.
God constantly notes and evaluates your thoughts. To a godly, Spirit-filled person this is usually a comfort and joy. You are glad He knows you through and through. You have nothing to hide. You are totally open to God. Listen to the satisfaction and openness in Davids prayer in Psalm 139: "O Lord, You have searched me and You know me
You perceive my thoughts from afar
Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord" (vv.1-4).
How gladly David opens his heart totally to God as he concludes the psalm. "Search me, O God, and know my heart [also translated thoughts]; test me [also translated probe me] and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me [also watch lest I follow any path that grieves Thee, NEB; or point out anything You find in me that makes You sad, LB; or see whether there is any baneful motive within me, Berk.]" (Psa. 139:23-24).
What does the Bible mean by your thought? It cannot refer to a momentary thought that flits through your mind when you unexpectedly hear or see something. That involved no choice on your part. You cannot be alive and avoid the sights, words, and sounds about you or the tempting thoughts that Satan injects into your mind like a flaming arrow (Eph. 6:16). It is your reaction to these that God notes.
You have constant choice in how you respond to the thoughts that are forced upon you by life. It is when you pause to consider, when you continue to think about them, when you welcome them and come back to them again and again that God evaluates you. When you entertain thoughts, give consideration to them, and especially when you cherish or nurture them, you become worthy of praise or blame. These are the thoughts that reveal you and further influence you. Such thoughts and meditation reveal your heart.
Holiness of life begins in the cleansing, empowering work of the Holy Spirit in your "heart." Your heart, as expressed in your thought life, is the fullest expression of your real self.
No other person can fully know you or measure you because no one else fully knows your thoughts. God does not merely measure your words and activities. He is constantly observing and recording your thoughts. This is an unspeakable blessing for a Spirit-filled Christian who walks in Gods light and is hungry to please God.
Heaven knows you by your thoughts. Even when Jesus was on earth He knew what people were thinking (Matt. 9:4). Your thoughts comprehend all of the real "you." They include your desires, your prayers, your attitudes, your purposes and goals, your joys, your loves, your faith, your determination, your intent, your motives. All you are and all you do is expressed by your thoughts.
Almost always your actions express only a part of your motive, desire, or inner nature. You may love God or others either more or less than you express. Your words are so very important. But of even deeper importance are your thoughts.
Thank God, fellow Christian, that the Holy Spirit is an active, constant, perfect discerner of the thoughts and motives of your heart (Heb. 4:12-13). Thank God that you will be rewarded for your motives, holy hungers, deepest godly longings, for your inner commitment, not only for what you manage to express.
When God sees you, He sees more than your words and actions. He sees you through and through. Gods grace is given to transform you through and through says 1 Thessalonians 5:23. What holy, thrilling surprise and joy at the judgment seat of Christ when longings that characterized your heart-cry, your very soul, receive Gods holy commendation, when your loving thoughts for God and man, long forgotten, are revealed and rewarded.
An example of this is given by Gods revelation through the prophet Malachi. Speaking of God, he wrote, "A scroll of remembrance was written in His presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored His name [in Hebrew: thought upon His name]" (Mal. 3:16).
Both Old and New Testaments illustrate the importance of your thought life and that your thoughts are the measure of your person. "As he thinks in his heart, so is he" (Prov. 23:7, NKJV). "Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matt. 12:34). But always much that is thought and entertained in the heart is never spoken. A persons words may cover up his real thoughts.
The heart itself can be so deceitful that you know it only by your thoughts. "I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct" (Jer. 17:10). You may need the Holy Spirit to help you recognize how your thoughts appear to God. He is called "He who searches our hearts" (Rom. 8:27).
You are no greater than your thoughts, no more holy than your thoughts. You are no more loving, humble, or patient than your thoughts. You are what you choose to think upon. Gods angels know you by your thoughts, and one day at Christs judgment throne the world will know you by your thoughts (Rom. 2:15-16).
A child is known by childish thoughts and a mature person by the maturity of his thoughts (1 Cor. 13:11). The child not merely delights to think on childish interests, he does not know how to discipline his thoughts. He thinks about what he sees and forgets quickly other things. Spiritual childishness and immaturity is shown in the same way. No Christian dare be content until he has brought every thought into captivity to make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). Then "whatever is lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy," these will be the things on which the mature saint thinks (Phil. 4:8).
Measure your life by the extent to which you think of praiseworthy things about people and the extent to which you remember and brood upon unfavorable things about people. Measure your soul by the extent to which you think loving and appreciative thoughts of people and the extent to which you think critical thoughts and condemn other people in your heart, including those who work with you or work for you.
Measure your soul by the memories you cherish about former neighbors, co-workers and friends. Do you remember the beautiful, the lovely, the praiseworthy? Or do you remember the faults, the failures, and the sins? Measure the extent to which you have forgiven others and trust to be forgiven by the Lord to the extent to which you forgive and forget the sins of others (Matt. 6:14-15).
Measure the extent to which you are one with Christ by the readiness with which you forget material things and lovingly think of Him, by the joy with which you turn from thoughts of people to thoughts of Him, by the constancy with which your loving thoughts of Him occupy your free moments.
Measure your faith by the extent to which your heart is filled with thoughts of joyful expectation, trust, and praise. Measure your lack of faith by the extent to which you have anxious thoughts about the tomorrows, by the amount of time you spend fearing and worrying, by the number of things that you let trouble your thoughts. Measure your faith by the extent to which the peace of God rules your heart (Col. 3:15) and by how filled your mind is with praise and thanksgiving to God.
Measure your humility or lack of humility by the extent to which you remember and repeat in your mind the praises other people give you. Measure it by the extent to which you hunger for and are disappointed if you do not receive praise from others. Measure your lack of humility by the extent to which you remember your own good deeds and forget the good deeds of others. Measure your pride by the extent to which you mentally contrast the poor performance of others with your own actions.
This measure can be applied quickly and easily to any aspect of your spiritual life. Measure your worship of God by the greatness, joyfulness, and constancy of your thoughts of Him. Measure your love of Scripture by the amount of Scripture you have stored up in your heart and the extent to which you meditate upon it. Measure your watchfulness for your Lords return by the extent to which His coming motivates your actions and is the subject of your prayers.
It is out of the abundance of your heart and your thought life that your words come forth. It is out of the abundance of your heart that your life is built. God measures your acts and words, but above all He measures your thoughts. He measures and rejoices to see your reaction to thoughts that are repulsive to you and that you put from you as quickly as possible. He measures the thoughts that are your joy, that you cherish and meditate upon over and over. From this He knows the extent to which you hate what He hates and love what He loves.
Perhaps one of the most uplifting examples of a Christian whose thought life was saturated with Gods presence and Gods love was John Fletcher, the co-worker of John Wesley, who was said by Wesley to be the godliest person he had ever known. Fletcher had been a person with a strong temper, and he often lay on the floor in agony of heart and pleaded and prayed for hours and sometimes the whole night to be delivered. He received an overwhelming experience of being filled with the Spirit. God manifested His love to and in Fletcher until he feared he would die of the glory. Wesley testified that from then on for more than thirty years, until Fletcher died, "no one ever saw him out of temper, or heard him utter a rash expression."
It is said that following his encounter with the Holy Spirit, Fletchers every word seemed to be prayer, praise, or spiritual truth. "Every word that fell from his lips appeared to be accompanied with an unction from above." He seemed to live and think and talk in the Spirit. He was called "an angel of a man."
Fletcher was called "apostolic" in his preaching. Often the buildings could not hold the crowds, and people stood outside listening in through windows. For three years he was top official of Trevecca College in Wales, the school founded by Wesleys friend Lady Huntingdon. The headmaster under Fletcher said, "He was received as an angel of God." When Fletcher was present, students laid aside everything to listen to him. He spent hours on his knees praying for the students. Once he was so overwhelmed with the Spirits fullness and power that, like Moody when he was Spirit-filled in Boston, Fletcher called out, "O my God, withhold Thy hand, or the vessel will burst!"
Fletcher and his wife "kept heaven in their home," continually sang doxologies, were constant in prayer and unwearied in labor for souls. John Wesley frequently stayed in their home and wanted Fletcher to be his successor, but Fletcher died many years before Wesley.
Fletchers thoughts were so full of prayer and praise that his greetings when meeting one of his friends was, "Do I meet you praying?" Often he would drop on his knees as he entered a home and pray for all present. If anyone spoke an unfavorable word about anyone, his usual reply was, "Let us pray for him."
At times he would get so hungry for prayer that while talking to others he would say, in the words of Matthew 26:36, "Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder" (KJV). His greatest joy was to spend time in his prayer room. He was constantly giving thanks to God. "His heart was always in a grateful frame, and it was his chief delight to honor God by offering his praise and thanksgiving. Frequently he has broken out in a strain of holy rejoicing." He was said to labor constantly "to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5).
As Fletcher lay dying, his thoughts were filled with God. Again and again he said, "God is love! It fills me every moment! God is love! Shout! Shout aloud! Oh, it so fills me that I want a gust of praise to go to the ends of the earth!" When he no longer had strength to speak, someone asked him to raise his right hand if Jesus was still present with him and heaven was opening before him. He raised his hand.
It is your thought life that molds you into Christs image or into the image of the world and Satan. It is your thought life that proves the extent to which the Holy Spirit fills you. It is in your thought life you respond to the work of the Spirit that can lead to the transfiguration of your whole character and soul, into the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:13).
Measure your life by your thoughts, for this is the measure Satan applies, this is the measure the angels of God apply, and this is the measure of the Holy Spirit Himself (Heb. 4:12). Measure your life by your thoughts today and you will have nothing to be ashamed of when the motives of your heart are revealed on the judgment day of Christ (1 Cor. 4:5). Measure your life by your thoughts, and if you stand approved you will have confidence before God (1 John 3:21-22). Measure your life by your thoughts, and humble yourself in the sight of God that He may renew your mind and may mold you according to His will (Rom. 12:2).
Dr. Edwin Orr wrote a song that echoes Psalm 139:23-24:
"Search me, O God, and know my heart today;
Try me, O Savior, know my thoughts, I pray.
See if there be some wicked way in me;
Cleanse me from evry sin and set me free."