There is an ancient fable about a scorpion and a turtle. The scorpion, a poor swimmer, asks a turtle to carry him on his back across a river. The turtle said, "That’s insane! You’ll sting me while I’m swimming and I’ll drown."
"Dear turtle," laughed the scorpion, "If I were to sting you and you drowned, I would drown with you. That would not be logical!"
Persuaded, the turtle said, "You’re right, of course. Hop on."
The scorpion climbed on the turtle’s back, but halfway across the river it gave the turtle a fatal sting. As they both sank toward the bottom the turtle said, "You said it would not be logical for you to sting me, so why did you do it?"
"It has nothing to do with logic," the scorpion replied. "It’s just my character."
Secret thoughts are just like that scorpion. They will bite you every time.
All men have secret thought lives. The difference is that some of us understand we are in a battle, and have surrounded ourselves with resources to win the battle. Others of us don’t understand the severity of the battle, so we let scorpions hitch a ride.
Until I read in Paul that he struggled with sinful desires just like me, I thought I was the only one. Now I understand that this battle is the "normal" Christian experience.
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? (Romans 7:15-24).
So how can a man gain control over his secret thoughts? Paul went on to explain:
Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:5-6)
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)
The Spirit can do what we can never do on our own. So let’s fix our minds on what the Holy Spirit desires. Let’s take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.
While the sinful desires never fully recede, over time we really do become more like Christ when we live by his Spirit. He changes our "normal." He helps us win the battle.
Together with you in the battle,
Patrick Morley, Ph.D.
Man in the Mirror