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A few weeks ago, I conducted a survey to determine what some of our greatest triggers are  that get us thinking in a downward spiral of sinful thoughts.

Of those who answered, here are the results (please remember that ladies could vote for as many of these as are triggers for them):

  • reading other people’s FB posts and seeing happy pictures of couples, weddings and babies – 37 votes
  • seeing an engagement ring, a wedding dress, a couple displaying affection – 33 votes
  • seeing families or couples at church or in public who look happy 31 votes
  • when people grill you with inconsiderate questions about “Why aren’t you married yet?” “Aren’t you dating anyone?” “When are you going to settle down and have children?” – 30 votes
  • romantic books/movies/love songs – 27 votes
  • reading about marriage, even books/blogs about how to have a godly marriage – 17 votes
  • reading about becoming a godly woman – 12 votes
  • seeing advertisements for online dating sites – 7 votes

I would love you to stop right now and let’s pray together –

Precious Lord,

Please open our eyes to anything that You see in our lives that we are cherishing and holding on to that is sinful in Your sight. Show us our personal temptations and snares. Show us the ways that the enemy would like to entrap us and destroy our witness for You and our fruitfulness in Your kingdom. Expose his designs and plans. We confess and repent of every single sinful thought that offends Your holiness and we receive all that Christ Jesus has done for us on the cross. We receive Your Spirit. We long to be filled with Your power. Let us walk in righteousness and holiness for Your Name’s sake by the power of Your Spirit living in us. Cleanse us of our sin and show us what changes we may need to make to avoid temptation and what changes we may need to make to protect and guard our hearts and minds to prevent sin from taking root in our lives.

Let’s do a quick review of thoughts that God counts as sin:

  • lack of faith in God – complete unbelief is an unforgivable sin, if we continue as unbelievers until our death (Hebrews 11:6, John 16:9). Thankfully, if we turn from our sin and turn to Christ in faith and trust as our Savior and Lord, there IS forgiveness for us! Praise God!  Then there are issues of having small or weak faith. Please check out this post for more about unbelief and weak faith.
  • disobedience to God/His Word (John 14:22-24)
  • lack of wholehearted love for God, a divided heart/mind that longs for things other than God (Matthew 22:38-39)
  • idolatry/addictions – putting something/someone above God in our hearts, seeking our ultimate purpose in life through something/someone other than God, looking to that thing/person to bring ultimate satisfaction and fulfillment instead of God, building our lives on some priority other than Christ (Ezekiel 20:13, Exodus 20:4, I John 5:21)
  • irreverence toward God – lack of proper fear of God (Romans 3:18, Proverbs 1:7)
  • lack of respect for those in positions of God-given authority over us (I Cor 11:3, Ephesians 5:22-33, Ephesians 6:1, Romans 13, Hebrews 13:17)
  • pride – “I know best.” “I have ultimate wisdom.” “I know better than God.” “I know better than my husband.” “I’m always right.” (Psalm 10:4, Proverbs 16:18-19, Isaiah 14:12-15, I Corinthians 4:7)
  • self-righteousness – “I am so much better than my husband.” “I am so holy. I am much more holy than he/she is. God is really impressed with how good I am!” (Romans 3:10, Matthew 23, Luke 18:9-14)
  • hatred (I John 4:20, I John 2:9-11, Proverbs 10:12, Matthew 6:15, Matthew 5:44)
  • unforgiveness (Mark 11:25, Ephesians 4:26,27,32, Matthew 6:12-15, Colossians 3:12-13, Matthew 18:21-35)
  • gossip (Ephesians 4:29, Proverbs 16:28, 6:16-10, 11:13, 20:19, Titus 3:2, Luke 6:31, James 4:11)
  • lying (Proverbs 19:9, Colossians 3:9-10, Psalm 101:7, Ephesians 4:25, John 8:44)
  • covetousness (Exodus 20:17, James 4:3, James 1:14-15, I Timothy 6:10, Mark 7:20-23)
  • resentment (Mark 11:25, I Corinthians 13:4-8, Luke 6:37, Matthew 6:12-13, I Peter 2:23)
  • bitterness (Ephesians 4:31-32, Hebrews 12:14-15, Romans 12:17-21)
  • malice (Ephesians 4:31-32)
  • lust (Matthew 5:28, Galatians 5:16, I Corinthians 6:18, I Thessalonians 4:3-5, Colossians 3:5, I John 2:16, II Timothy 2:22, Romans 8:6, James 1:14-15, Galatians 6:8, Philippians 4:8)
  • apathy toward God or others (Revelations 3:2 and 16, Zephaniah 1:12-13, Romans 12:11, Romans 12:9-13)

These are things our Lord HATES! They are an abomination to Him. These are some of the things that nailed Him to the cross. He paid for our sins with His precious, holy blood. How I pray we will come to hate sin as much as God does! Once we are believers in Christ, God calls us to give up being slaves to sin and to be slaves to righteousness from this point forward. We are to be dead to sin. We were buried with Christ and our old sinful nature died with Him and was buried. Now, we have a new nature in Christ, a new Spirit (God’s Spirit) and we are to live in obedience to God by the power of His Spirit working in and through us. (Romans 6)

God calls us to live holy lives. He calls us to take every thought captive for Christ and not to dwell on sinful thoughts. (II Corinthians 10:5)

Here is one secret, my precious sisters. We must discover the things that tempt us to begin thinking sinful thoughts and we need to guard our hearts around those things and avoid them whenever possible.

29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. Matthew 5

I think that what we can conclude here, is that if something is causing and triggering sinful thoughts for us (here, Jesus had just talked about lust), then, we need to try to avoid or get rid of the trigger. It is a serious issue.

What causes temptation for me may not cause temptation for you. So, our triggers may be different, and they may change over time. But the goal is the same, to live by the power of God’s Spirit, to fully submit to Him as LORD, to examine each thought that enters our mind and reject any ungodly, unholy, unscriptural, sinful thought and to focus our thoughts on the truth of God’s Word alone.

OTHER TRIGGERS:

Many of you shared other things that trigger a cascade of sinful thoughts and temptation for you. I want to share some of these so that we will not be ignorant of the devil’s schemes.

  • man-bashing among other women
  • being sinned against
  • when someone else receives praise, recognition and accolades
  • when I receive praise, recognition and accolades
  • waiting and seeing big milestone birthdays slip by
  • close friends/family begin/continue relationships, some of them younger than me
  • people talking about how amazing their romantic relationships are
  • daydreaming about what it could be like to be married to an unavailable man or an unbeliever
  • obsessing about what it could be like to be married to a believer who is available
  • focusing on my plan and my timing
  • focusing on marriage or having children as my primary goal in life
  • focusing on what I deserve, how I want to be treated, what I do not have
  • focusing on my unmet needs
  • focusing on my circumstances
  • seeing godly men worshipping and praising God
  • praying intensely with a godly man, especially in private – this can be very attractive and sexy to many of us
  • wanting my man to change
  • self pity
  • if and when I do get together with a godly man, it is very possible to begin to put my faith, hope and trust in Him instead of in God. It is very easy to put him above Christ in my heart.
  • when my guy wants to spend time watching TV, watching sports, on his phone, with his friends, with his hobbies
  • PMS/hormones/pregnancy/peri-menopause/illness/exhaustion/low blood sugar
  • seeing someone else’s husband or a godly single man spiritually lead, serve, pray or give
  • hearing/reading a man’s fervent prayer
  • experiencing victory over a sin or trial and then focusing on what a great job I did (pride) or loosening the guard on my heart
  • fashion/hair/make up magazines
  • reality shows
  • focusing on how long I have been waiting for a godly man
  • focusing on how few godly men there seem to be in the world
  • when people tell me I am too picky and I will never get married
  • when people tease me or torment me for my stand for Christ
  • persecution for my faith
  • hearing about or going to weddings or baby showers or friends’ family events
  • celebrity gossip shows
  • being too busy
  • rushing
  • visiting a new church
  • going to the single’s group at church
  • focusing on what I want instead of what God wants
  • worry/anxiety/fear
  • facing the unknown
  • when I don’t feel safe in some way
  • lack of trust in God
  • thinking about how I HAVE to have something/someone to be happy or to be OK (that is not God)
  • misplaced priorities
  • unbiblical thinking
  • watching HGTV, commercials, home decorating magazines, Pinterest, soap operas, social media, seeing luxuries that other people have
  • worldly music/media/books
  • focusing on the things that seem so attractive, mesmerizing, exciting, enticing about a married man or unbeliever
  • comparing my Christian guy to the worldly men I have been with in the past
  • cherishing times of sin and rehearsing the memories over and over
  • reading men-to-men Christian advice blogs/columns/articles
  • hearing sermons about husbands’ responsibilities in marriage
  • hearing sermons about how men should be godly fathers
  • being far from God – clinging to any sinful thoughts, not having time for Bible study and prayer, spiritual starvation
  • a general spirit of discontentment
  • lack of gratitude and thanksgiving and praise for God
  • loneliness
  • when another man gives me his full, undivided attention and makes tender eye contact
  • when another man prays with me or for me
  • pictures of myself (for women who are struggling with body image issues)
  • when I expect a person or something of this world to meet the deepest needs of my soul
  • disappointment
  • researching wedding stuff or engagement rings
  • seeing a good looking man, or an immodestly dressed man
  • a man flirting with me/teasing me
  • confiding deep emotional/spiritual things to close male friends
  • a man hugging me or touching me in a sensual way
  • hearing a godly pastor preach or a godly Bible teacher teach or pray (if I begin to feel attracted emotionally/spiritually/physically toward him)
  • insecurity, self-loathing (trying to find our self worth in something other than Christ, listening to the enemy’s lies and refusing to hear God’s truth about who we are in Jesus)
  • being treated by a man in a way that reminds me of being abused/mistreated by my father/step-father as a child
  • seeing strong, godly leadership qualities in another man
  • not being careful about guarding my heart, mind and chastity
  • not setting proper boundaries with other men, allowing myself to become emotionally/spiritually attached to a married man or unbeliever or a man who claims Christ but doesn’t live for Him
  • having a controlling mother
  • when people are angry with me
  • rehearsing someone’s sin against me over and over again from the past
  • hearing gossip
  • watching scary things on the news (leads to worry/anxiety/fear)
  • spending a lot of time around unbelievers and allowing them to influence me
  • strong emotions

You may be able to add to the list. I am sure it is not remotely exhaustive. I think this is a very important first step as we learn to take our thoughts captive. We must be able to discern the things that trigger us to begin thinking sinful thoughts. Then, we can pray and guard ourselves against them and seek God’s wisdom and His power to help us to face our temptations. We cannot always eliminate the temptations. A lot of these things are not things we can completely get rid of in our lives. But, we can be AWARE of these issues and how the enemy would like to use these situations in our lives. And we can begin to examine our thoughts immediately and reject sinful thoughts and consciously replace ungodly thoughts with truth from God’s Word. We can immediately reject the sinful ways of thinking and choose to thank God, focus on good things, focus on praising God, focus on repenting of our own sin, etc…

The sooner we nip those sinful thoughts by God’s power working in us, the less dominion and control sin will have over us. If we are not thinking sinful thoughts, we are not going to say sinful words or commit sinful actions. Our thoughts are where evil desires begin and then they take root and grow from there. (James 1:14-15)

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ… II Corinthians 10:3-5

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