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 Overcoming Impure Thoughts by Zac Poonen

God's Word says about Jesus, “He learned obedience and was made complete" (Hebrews 5:7-9). The word "learned" is a word that relates to education. So, what this verse is saying is that Jesus received an education in obedience as a Man. In each situation, He obeyed His Father and thus completed His education as a Man. Thus, He became a Forerunner for us, so that we too can follow in His footsteps, overcoming temptation and obeying God (Hebrews 6:20). Our Lord can sympathise with us in our struggles against temptation, because He too was tempted like us (Hebrews 2:18; 4:15; 12:2-4). The purity of Jesus as a Man was not something that He received on a platter, but one that was acquired through battle. But those battles were not endless ones. Every temptation was conquered - one after another. Thus, over the period of His lifetime, He faced every single temptation that we are tempted by - and overcame.

All of us have lived in sin for many years, and our sinful flesh can be likened to a box full of poisonous snakes that have been well-fed - by us!! The names of these snakes are impurity, anger, malice, strife, bitterness, love of money, selfishness, pride, etc. This box has an opening at the top from which these snakes put out their head whenever we are tempted. We have fed these snakes in plenty during our unconverted days. As a result, they are well-fed, healthy and strong. Some snakes have been fed more than others, and so those lusts have a greater grip on us than others. Now that we have died with Christ to sin, even though these snakes are still hale and hearty, our attitude to these snakes has changed! We have now been made partakers of the Divine nature and "those who belong to Christ have crucified their flesh with its lusts" (Galatians 5:24). Unlike in the old days, now, when a snake puts its head out of the opening of the box (when we are tempted), we hit it on the head with a stick. It goes back into the box. When we are tempted again, the snake puts its head out again, and we hit it again. Gradually it gets weaker and weaker. If we are faithful in each temptation to hit the snake instead of feeding it, then we will soon find the pull of temptation weakening. The flesh cannot be 'shot' or 'hanged' in a moment. It can only be crucified. Crucifixion is a slow death, but it is a certain one. That is why we consider it all joy, when we are tempted (James 1:2) - because it gives us the opportunity to hit the snakes and weaken them. This would not have been possible otherwise.

Consider the matter of dirty thoughts. If we are faithful in this area, we will find that death enters in after a while. This may take some years, if in our unconverted days, we have fed this snake for many years. But death will surely come if we are faithful. One result will be that our dreams will become purer too. Dirty dreams will become more and more of a rarity. If however dirty dreams increase in their frequency, that would indicate that we are becoming unfaithful in our thought-life once again. This is a good test by which we can gauge our faithfulness in our thought-life. Dirty dreams are unconscious sins, and so we need not feel guilty about them (Romans 7:25; 8:1). 1 John 1:7 tells us that the blood of Jesus cleanses us automatically from all such sin, if we walk in the light. Utter faithfulness will bring total victory. But utter faithfulness in the sexual area, for example, involves our not even admiring a good-looking face (in the opposite sex), even when no sexual thoughts are connected with such admiration. This is the faithfulness that Proverbs 6:25 ("Do not desire her beauty") calls us to. It is because very few are faithful in this area that very few come to purity in their dreams.

The subconscious part of us is affected a great deal by what we consciously think about during our waking moments - not by temptations that are flashed into our mind, but by our reactions to those temptations. If our subconscious part gets the message that we hate sin even in our thoughts and attitudes and that we are living before God's face, then it will 'fall in line' with our desire for purity (See Psalms 51:6). The important question therefore is not, "What do my fellow believers think of my purity?" but rather "What message has the subconscious part of me got?" Your dreams will usually give you the answer. Those who are not seeking for total purity can never understand what we are saying here. Those who take their dirty dreams lightly do not realise that these are indicators of unfaithfulness in their conscious thought-life. Such believers will consider what we are saying as extreme and unrealistic, because spiritual matters are foolishness to the natural mind.

The good news however is that no matter how filthy your thought-life may have been, it can become totally pure, if you are faithful in seeking to walk the way Jesus walked. This in turn, will purify your dreams too - although this will take time; the time taken will depend on how much you fed the flesh in your unconverted days. But the strongest snake too can be put to death, through radical faithfulness.

Jesus invited only those who were weary and heavy laden to come to Him. It is only when you are sick and tired of your own defeated life that you qualify to come to Him for victory. The world is full of those who are sick and tired of others and the way that others behave towards them. Some Christians are also sick and tired of compromise and worldliness that they see in their denominations. But these are not the qualifications for victory. Only those who are sick and tired of themselves are invited by the Lord to come. Only those who are thirsty for victory can come to Him (Matthew 11:28; John 7:37). Those who weep each time they slip up in their thought-life and who mourn for their secret sins, will understand God's truth very quickly; while others will consider the doctrine to be heresy - for spiritual truths are not understood by the natural understanding, but rather by revelation that God gives to hearts that mourn over their secret sins. God whispers His secrets (including the secret of a godly life) only to those who fear Him (Psalms 25:14). The 'rest' that Jesus promised to those who were sick and tired of their defeated life was the rest of total victory over sin.


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SI Moderator - Greg Gordon

 2019/8/2 13:54Profile
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 Re: Overcoming Impure Thoughts by Zac Poonen

//Unlike in the old days, now, when a snake puts its head out of the opening of the box (when we are tempted), we hit it on the head with a stick. It goes back into the box. When we are tempted again, the snake puts its head out again, and we hit it again. Gradually it gets weaker and weaker. If we are faithful in each temptation to hit the snake instead of feeding it, then we will soon find the pull of temptation weakening.//

For some reason this reminded me of an episode at the end of Elisha’s life:

“Then he said, “Take the arrows”; so he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, “Strike the ground”; so he struck three times, and stopped. And the man of God was angry with him, and said, “You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck Syria till you had destroyed it! But now you will strike Syria only three times.”
2 Kings 13:18-19

The problem in dealing with thoughts is that it is easy to get tired of striking them down and we give up too soon, instead of crying out to God for help.


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Todd

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 Re: Overcoming Impure Thoughts by Zac Poonen

It is very important for you to know that the source of these "dirty thoughts" is the devil himself. These are lies that come from outside of you - NOT INSIDE of you. The devil is on the outside of you suggesting lies and thoughts to your mind. He makes you think that these thoughts are actually your thoughts and that they are come from inside you. Now these are NOT your thoughts - they do not belong to the real you and do not come from inside you at all. We often forget who we really are in Christ. We are now the Righteousness of God in Christ, Holy and perfect. We have been made one with God and now are in complete union with Him, entirely by God's doing.

These snakes can just be refused and rejected because that do not belong to to us and are not ours.

Believing the truth in the face of an onslaught of contrary emotions can be trying, but Jesus has already triumphed over your emotions. As the Holy Spirit trains you in these truths, your present victory will become real to you. His victory really is our victory right now, even though darkness may be blinding our eyes to it. God says we don't have to see the victory, yet we can be assured it is ours. It is through the process of learning to believe the truth that we come to know it and see it. It has actually been there all along. As the light in our hearts dispels the darkness, we begin to see what was previously unseen.

It is important to see that the temptation itself is not sin. We sin when we think that the suggested lie belongs to us and embrace it as ours. When a temptation or trial comes to us we sometimes we "embrace" or "hug" it. This is deliberate holding onto a trial or a lie.

Now there is a fight of faith. When we believe the truth, trials and lies will come to persuade us otherwise. We need to stand firm in God's truth but this is not a matter of our own effort or energy. We just decide to believe God's word to us no matter what. As we continue to hold on to agreeing with what God says, we will find ourselves in need of nothing - wanting and lacking nothing. But, if we allow the trial or the lie to get our attention we will get anxious and we will be unstable. The man that endures trials is blessed. These trials and lies are attacks on what we believe. When we don't understand where the trial or lies are coming from we are doomed to fail. Some people try to blame God or even themselves for these wrong thoughts.

Satan is a master at interjecting thoughts into our minds. If we don't realize the thoughts are not our thoughts, then it is natural to accept them as our own. Once we own a thought, once it is "ours". People don't like to let go of what belongs to them. Wrong thoughts become cherished possessions.

The devil is not making any person lust because he isn't. The devil is just planting suggestions and lies. When a believer forgets who they are in Christ they have no defense against thoughts that say, "I am your thoughts." The devil will suggest a thought to us - which is not ours and it does not even belong to us. Then he will condemn us and make us feel guilty for thinking it. That also is a lie. It was never our thought in the first place.

Once we really know that we are truly united with God these thoughts can just be simply dismissed because you know that they can not be your thoughts at all. You have the Mind of Christ, You are complete in Him - lacking nothing, and just like Christ when the devil comes with a lie to you but there is NOTHING for it to grab hold because you are in Him. John 14:30


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Vern

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 Re:

Vern-

You say “We just decide to believe God's word” when we are tempted.

Scripture says to resist, flee, pray, watch, and take thoughts captive.


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Todd

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 Re: resist, flee, pray, watch, and take thoughts captive.

Yes but if we do not take God at His word we are in unbelief which is sin.

How can we stand fast without believing?

Gal 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

2 Cor 10:5, (BBE) Putting an end to reasonings, and every high thing which is lifted up against the knowledge of God, and causing every thought to come under the authority of Christ;



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Vern

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 Re: Overcoming Impure Thoughts by Zac Poonen

What a good word🙏🏻
Tried and true,... there is no question that this is possible and (in my understanding) brother Zac lays out the way to victory- “Only those who are sick and tired of themselves are invited by the Lord to come.”

If we follow Him to this place, then He can complete the work in us... it is conditional and not only must we be willing but we must seek/ask for Him to finish it +

Thanks for sharing this:)


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Fletcher

 2019/8/5 0:41Profile
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 Re:


"But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren."

James 1:13-15

I dont mean to contest anyone but only to show that temptations are not caused by outward sources but by inward longings within the individual caused by the sin that dwells within that person.


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Tyler

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 Re: temptation

When Christ the human man was tempted was he tempted from without or within?

Heb 2:16-18, "For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted."

Heb 4:14-16, "Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."

We do not now have indwelling sin. That was taken care of by our crucifixion, burial and resurrection in Him. Now HE dwells within us. We are indwelt by Christ Himself, and the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwells in our mortal body.


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Vern

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 Re: Lusts

Brother Tyler,

That does seem to present a problem, no?
How can it be as James says and yet Jesus be tempted yet without sin..🤔

The word here interpreted as lust is on other occasions interpreted as desire- (in my understanding) we can have a good and even godly desire but mistakenly seek to fulfill it in an illicit way (sin)... not faithfully waiting on God to do it in His time (obedience)-

Sometimes looking at multiple translations helps to further illuminate scripture, here’s one example-

14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.

Hope that helps🙏🏻





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Fletcher

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 Satan is "the Tempter"

Who does the luring and enticing? Who does the tempting? Paul calls Satan "the Tempter" in I Thessalonians 3:5: "The tempter had tempted you." "Tempter" is the present participle of the Greek word peirazo, which basically means "to tempt." When preceded by an article, it literally means "the (one) tempting." Satan uses temptation to entice us into sin.


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Vern

 2019/8/5 15:37Profile





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