Question #1: I was thinking about what a friend had wrote to me. He wrote: "I've had an epiphany: the reason there are so many "gray areas" in life is because we've reached our conclusions through applications of "gray matter" instead of applications of God's Word. Do you agree?
Response #1: In a way, yes. In my experience and observation, "gray areas" only come up when we are operating from a position of weakness based upon either 1) past mistakes that put us into difficult circumstances that were not God's first-best will for us, or 2) kinks in our hearts wherein through a lack of complete trust or willingness however large or small we allow ourselves to be pressured into rationalizing what in our heart of hearts we know to be the real truth about what we should do or not do, or 3) deficiencies in our spiritual growth (wherein we have not yet come to know the truth about certain things).
It should be noted that every single human being, every single believer, is culpable and vulnerable to all three of the above – it is a matter of degrees. But it is also a matter of direction and velocity. As dedicated believers in Jesus Christ, we should be pointed in the exact right compass direction, straight and true (not off a few degrees, and certainly not off 180 degrees!), and we should be walking briskly up the high road to Zion, growing in Jesus and producing for Jesus day by day. The issue in our fight, our challenge to live as Jesus wants us to live, is not to look backward at past mistakes or to look sideways at present imperfections, but rather to look forward and make it a point from here on out – wherever "here" is – to confess past sins and acknowledge past mistakes and put them behind us, to give ourselves over to the Lord in ever greater trust and reliance no matter what the circumstances may be, and to do our best to learn His truth and grow in as best we can day by day.
The more carefully we hew to the course of spiritual growth, learning about the Word of God and applying it more and more consistently day by day, the more we will find that not only do all of the "gray areas" begin to disappear, but that we also are more willing and more able to walk the path that the Lord is beckoning us to walk exactly as He would have us walk it.
The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
Proverbs 4:18 NIV
In our Lord Jesus,
Question #2: It has been a great while since we last spoke. I have had many trials and tribulations since then. For quite some time I have felt very alone. Prayer, though fervent, seemed to result in a busy signal as it were....even though my heart knew this was not the case. It was as though I was wondering lost - after many years of a solid relationship with Christ.
During this lost time, I was not living as I should have been. From my reading and studies, I try not to categorize sin (i.e. this one is really bad, this one, not so much) - my sin is no less or nor greater than anyone else's, it all separates us from Him....but at any rate, recently, the LORD decided that I needed some discipline. So, He took me out behind the woodshed. Or at least that's what it feels like. Sure worked though. You speak often of your past in emails and what led you to your ministry - have you ever felt like you were taken "out behind the woodshed"? While most effective as method of reform, it surely does sting. I have once again read your studies from 1Peter and Hamartiology of Sin....they have been both comforting, refreshing and a wonderful salve for my spirit.
Can you perhaps illuminate for me how, or why - I had a few bumps....I was ok...then it was like someone turned off the lights. Can I be sure this was a growth process? Just before I was feeling extremely close to our Lord....He was - He is - everything. And, please know, even during my crisis, I never doubted who He was or that He was....it just suddenly went dark. I know I have to brush myself off and pull up my bootstraps. I know we aren't supposed to beat ourselves up or feel overly guilty, but I can hardly believe how easily I was duped. Is there any way to keep this from happening again? Besides locking myself in my closet with my Bible? Which as we both know is not practical - I'm not even sure if it's fair - I don't know if that counts as fighting, really.
Thank you again for all your time, energy, wisdom and effort. I will say it again, until that day when we all are with Him - I truly don't think you will ever know how many lives you touch daily. I have sent many people links to your site when trying to answer questions. People today are so confused about Christ. Even when the lights were off, I wasn't confused. I may have been in the dark - but I knew how to get to the light switch - and most importantly, that there was Light. I guess that's a pretty good metaphor for your site. It's kind of like a way to the light switch.....sometimes, it's a way to the Light.
Response #2: I am sorry to hear that you have had a rough go of it of late, but encouraged to hear that you have come through with your faith intact. I am also deeply gratified to hear that you have found BB 3B helpful et al. – it motivates me to keep plugging away at the next installments of the Basics series (even as I am trying to get finished with Coming Tribulation).
As it says it Hebrews 12:8, we are all God's legitimate children through faith in Christ, and all legitimate children are disciplined in order to correct their behavior – and if we are never disciplined, it only proves that we are not legitimate but illegitimate. So, yes of course, I have had my share. It is true that it may sometimes be difficult to separate what is testing and what is discipline, but, really, it is not so important that we know. As long as we know enough about what constitutes sin to change our ways when that is the problem (and with the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and our consciences, this is not really too much of a difficulty even for very young Christians), and as long as we are determined to stay faithful to Him no matter what pressures we face, then the actual source of our problem is not really the issue. Rather, the issue is how we will bear up under the discipline or the testing – or the combination of the two. The occupational hazard regarding discipline is fainting or losing heart, an essential loss of faith (Heb.12:5; cf. Heb.12:12); the occupational hazard regarding testing is failure through blaming God, an essential lack of faith (Heb.3:12-19; cf. Ex.15:22 - 17:7 etc.). When we receive discipline for failures of which we are well aware, the problem is generally not so much one of blaming God (since we are no doubt instead blaming ourselves rather angrily at the first sign of being uncomfortable with the consequences), but rather of responding quickly, repenting and confessing thoroughly, and taking pains to appropriate the advice of Hebrews 12 which directs our gaze at the silver lining in it all. God loves us even when we fail, and it is really only us hurting ourselves if we insist on "feeling" farther away from God when we are being justly punished. David's example of joyfully returning to the Lord and embracing Him with all his heart after being reproached for his murder and adultery is the one we should keep in mind: yes, the Lord punished him severely, and the discipline went on for years, but He still loved David, still used David, still listened to David, and still showered His blessings down upon David – even in the midst of the most painful part of the discipline. David understood the Lord, His love and His justice, and David's faith and hope and love only grew through his errors rather than declining. It is for this reason that he was always "a man after God's own heart", and we would do well to follow David's example, apart of course from this exceptional failure. Job, on the other hand, was not being disciplined at all. And Job, of course, knew very well that whatever his minor short-comings may have been, they in no way justified discipline of the sort he was receiving. But Job failed to take into account the possibility that he was not receiving discipline at all but testing. In his case, he let his own good behavior work against him (whereas you or I or the average Christian might assume that we were indeed being disciplined, even if it were really testing). Job's patience in this testing too was perfect and proverbial – until his friends showed up and reproached him for sinfulness as the cause of this what they assumed to be exceptional divine discipline. Had Job only understood that the cold comfort of his friends was part of the test, he might have passed this as well, but here he was apparently completely surprised, or at least while able to endure everything else was not able to restrain his anger at being labeled something he was not when in such a plight.
The purpose of discipline is to correct our bad behavior; the purpose of testing is to perfect our good behavior. We need both to grow. Generally speaking, as mature believers we ought to be able to sort out the two, but, being imperfect even as we advance, there will be times of overlap. The important things are 1) not to let anything external stop our spiritual growth and production as far as we are able; 2) not to fail internally through lack or loss of faith. Rather everything depends upon our faith, building it and growing it day by day. This is not a matter of "feeling". I know what you mean and what you are saying, but this is a very important point. We operate on three levels, thoughts, words, and deeds, and through our free will have (theoretically) complete control over them all. In practice, the sin nature, the devil, the weakness of the flesh, the limitations of our circumstances, and our imperfect spiritual state all act as drags upon the "willing spirit" within us. Then too, we often choose wrong, all too often. But if we do not control our thoughts, who does? If we are not masters of our emotions, who is? If we cannot choose our words carefully, then who can? And if we do not take our lives in charge to make the best possible decisions with the goal of maximizing our spiritual growth and production, then who will? All these things are in our hands, and, despite the opposition and limitations we face, we also have some huge advantages. We have the Holy Spirit indwelling us. We have the entire Bible and some means and opportunities to read it and learn it. And we something else, something which to my mind is a very great though underutilized weapon: we have specific knowledge about our situation now and in the future. We know that we are going to be evaluated by the Lord. We know that He is here with us right now, loves us, cares for us, is protecting us, and wants us to do our best for Him. We know that this world is dust, lust, and rust, but that the one to come will be wonderful beyond our capability to imagine at present. And we know that we are going to be rewarded in eternity for all our good decisions and efforts with rewards that please the One we love more than anything and that will bless us for all time to come based upon what we think and say and do here in this world. Therefore we know that taking the spiritual offensive and aggressively so especially in terms of our growth and production but also in terms of applying the truth in everything we think do and say is of the utmost importance – it is more important than anything else in life (and certainly more important than 99.9999% of what the rest of the world thinks is important).
Many Christians are of the opinion that this sort of thing happens "automatically". It does not. The great believers of the Old Testament expended more "mental sweat" than we can probably imagine, concentrating on the Lord and focusing their minds on Him and His truth moment by moment throughout their days. Christians today, generally speaking, come no where near this level of application, even though we have more advantages: it is beyond any doubt easier to do this with the help of the Holy Spirit, and we have Him in us. It is unquestionably easier to do this with the aid of scripture, and we have them plentifully and easily available – and have the New Testament as well as the Old. And at least in this country for most of us it ought to be easier to do this without the grinding aspects of pre-modern life; we have many technological and material advantages: rather than using them for good, however, we have a tendency to get lazy and to forget that we are walking along on a spiritual battlefield.
So there is a great challenge here, and I encourage you and everyone else (including myself) to embrace it to the full. The fact that we do not or at least perhaps to date have not done so fully is not entirely beyond understanding. It is demonstrably hard to do so. On top of that, while we may have a tendency to get sloppy once we get to a point where we really start to feel the Lord's presence and really start to feel we are making strides in defense and offense, sanctification and spiritual growth/production, the devil and his forces are less likely to fall into this trap. Indeed, it is just when we start to make our presence known on the battlefield that he is most likely to counter-attack. So it is not an uncommon experience for advancing Christians to find themselves getting swept right back down the hill they have just labored to take (indeed, in the secular analogy, that is exactly the best time to counter-attack). But the worst thing we can do in such instances is to react to our failures and defeats. That often produces worse results than the initial failure/defeat itself. What we have to do, what I have tried to stress in the Satanic Rebellion series on this score, is to avoid taking things in this life personally. God only has our best interests at heart. The devil is our enemy no matter what we do. And the people and things and circumstances we see around us are usually only distractions that cloud our view of what is really going on in the spiritual dimension. We have a mission, a goal, an objective, and we ought to be making the most of our resources and opportunities to achieve them, not just throwing some resources at this prime reason for our existence only some of the time, but devoting and dedicating ourselves to this critical objective all of the time. It is very easy to lose perspective on this in the world, since it is all invisible. But it is the invisible in which we have faith, and it is the visible that is largely of no value whatsoever.
[Let us] not [be] having [any] regard for what can be seen, but [instead] for what cannot be seen. For the things which can be seen are ephemeral. But the things which cannot be seen are eternal.
2nd Corinthians 4:18
For we are walking [our Christian walk] through faith [in the Living and written Word], not through appearance.
2nd Corinthians 5:7
For victory, we need to keep fighting the good fight of faith every day, every moment. We need to get right back up when we stumble (instead of wallowing), and we need to keep moving forward with resolve after every success (instead of lounging). We need to take full responsibility for what we think at all times and how we feel at all times. We have the right to think about the truth as we have learned it from scripture and to re-orient ourselves to the true priorities of life when we are getting thrown off-balance. And we have the right to encourage ourselves in the Lord through His Word and through the principles of truth we know and believe whenever we are "feeling bad" (as David did: 1Sam.30:6). Life is too short to think things that are not "the above things" (Col.3:14). Life is too short not to feel elated about our status as part of Christ's own body and the blessed hope of the resurrection. And life is too short not to take maximum advantage of the time and free will we have been given down here on earth to earn rewards that glorify our Savior for all eternity – indeed, that is precisely what He wants us to do (see the link: Rewards).
Being disoriented, feeling bad, wandering spiritually, getting involved in sin, getting sloppy about doing the good things we know we should do – these are all symptoms of being spiritually "AWOL" rather than of marching aggressively forward on the spiritual attack (at least to some degree). We can all spend more time in personal spiritual growth, in reading the Bible, in learning from substantive teaching, in prayer, and in the productive ministries we have been assigned – and we can all do them better with the same amount of time, putting in more mental effort, more concentration, more awareness of their true, critical importance, more love and enjoyment, making the effort to truly treasure the things that are truly worth treasuring. This is not meant to hold up an impossible standard. Clearly, we are not any of us going to come anywhere near 100% on this. But if we have this sort of pure, aggressive walk with the Lord as our ideal, hopefully we will be motivated to ever be pushing our personal envelope (and thus less likely to get sealed in it and mailed to the dead-letter office). We can do better. And we will certainly "feel" better the harder we try.
Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind (i.e., get hold of your emotions), be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1st Peter 1:13 KJV
Here are a few links which discuss aspects of the above:
The Battlefield (in SR #4)
Walking with Jesus
Techniques of virtue thinking (in Pet.17)
Satan's Techniques of Temptation
Our New Orientation as Reborn Believer (in BB 4B)
In the eager search for ever more light from Him who is the Light of world.
After reading the Battlefield and Techniques of Virtue Thinking again - an aha! moment.....
I'm just one in an army......eventually bound to be hit by some sort of "shelling"....it didn't kill me. So move on. Is that right? Wrong? It sounds so harsh......but completely takes the "taking it personally" out of it and getting all caught up in the "poor me" thing....makes it much more of a clear battlefield picture - which, in turn, returns the focus to the LORD, our General. That's the real point. We follow our LORD at all costs to ourselves to win the war. Not just battles. I think you're right - because all these things happen invisibly it is easy (not an excuse) to become distracted and wallow and pat ourselves and feel pitiful. As you point out numerous times, as anyone who doesn't have their head in the sand can see - things are only going to get worse. We have to be able to bear up, or even die. It's easy to say - but when the vice gets really tight, that's when your faith has to be really strong. You have to remove yourself out of the equation. I get that - if only for a brief second, but I get it.
I found the following passages and Scriptures most clarifying:
We are not here to do our own will, or to follow our own course, or to choose our own life apart from what God would have us do. Whenever our thinking begins to be dominated by personal concerns to such a degree that we lose perspective about our place in God's plan, our spiritual life is bound to suffer. We have of necessity many ties with the world (family, business, etc.). This is all the more reason to strive to keep God first in our thinking, our conversation, and the actual living of our lives, approaching the distractions of life (whether harassment or enticement) with the proper, professional Christian point of view.
I say this not to put a noose around your neck, but for your own good, [that you may live] for the Lord in a proper, steadfast and undistracted way.
1st Corinthians 7:35
Remember this principle I taught you: A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.
Endure hardship with me like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one on military campaign becomes involved in the affairs of normal life. [He avoids such things] that he may please the one who enlisted him.
2nd Timothy 2:3-4
Virtue Under Pressure: Suffering is the greatest developer of virtue (Rom.5:3-5; Jas.1:2-4; 1Pet.1:6-7). To be successful as Christians, we must learn to put a spin on hardships and reverses which is completely different from the thinking of the rest of the world, "boasting in our tribulations", "counting it all joy", and recognizing that this "testing of our faith is more valuable than purest gold". The fact is, we have not been called to lives of unencumbered luxury, tranquility and prosperity. In fact, the more we grow, the more we can expect to be tested and refined by God. As our Lord has told us, "every branch in Me which bears fruit, My Father prunes it that it might bear more fruit" (Jn.15:2).
Thank you for your wise counsel. I always look forward to Saturdays when you post emails and I have grown so much through using your study guides. I pray the LORD continues to use you for His purposes and that you and your work continue to prosper as He sees fit.
In His Love,
You are most welcome. I very much appreciate your words and your consistent grappling with the truth. I like your perspective of thinking of the Lord as our commanding general. That is surely what Paul is saying in 2Tim.2:3 when he speaks of "the One who enlisted" us. And you are also right on about the fact that things are going to get tougher. In a few short years we may look back on these times and realize that the brutal campaigns we are presently going through then will seem like "basic training" by comparison. All the more reason to build as much faith and grow as much spiritually as possible in preparation.
In the One we plan to follow even unto death, the One who died for us, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I am a Christian and I am wondering some things about my thoughts. Even though I do not wish to, terrible things that I do not want to mention come into my mind, especially when I want to pray, but other times as well. The kinds of things that come into my head come from when I was not a Christian and was living in sin. It scares me to even "hear" vulgar words in my mind. I don't like it. It doesn't happen all the time, but enough to bother me. I strive to follow Jesus down the narrow road and I want even my thoughts to be pleasing to Him. Usually when this happens I just ask Jesus to take those thoughts away, but I really just don't want them around at all. I feel like this is a consequence I have because I was living in sin and I exposed myself to some of these things and now its too late, they are already in my mind. I hope this makes sense. Do you have any ideas or bible verses that could help me?
How we govern our thoughts is indeed an important topic, and I certainly commend your attitude and your desire to make every thought count for the Lord:
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
2nd Corinthians 10:5 KJV
The above should be every Christian's goal, but that does not mean that it is an easy one to attain. Simply put, proper Christian control of one's own thinking can only be potentially accomplished by those who have gained a certain level of spiritual growth, while the day by day, moment by moment struggle to "bring all thoughts into captivity for Christ" is fight that will never end as long as we are in these mortal bodies of indwelling sin, even for the most spiritually mature. Thus this problem is both a strategic one (i.e., first we need to commit to and make significant progress in spiritual growth; see the link: beginning in Peter #13: "The Process of Spiritual Growth"), and a tactical one (how do we actually accomplish this goal of only "thinking what is beautiful"?; cf. Phil.4:8).
There are three areas wherein we exercise our God-given free will, namely, in what we think, what we say, and what we do. The last is hard enough to control, but it should be the first priority for anyone determined to pursue sanctification, the "defense" of the Christian way of life wherein we gain ever greater mastery over sinful conduct (see the link: in BB 3B: "Experiential Sanctification"):
Therefore, my beloved, possessing such promises as these, let us cleanse ourselves from every pollution of body and spirit, perfecting our sanctification in the fear of God.
2nd Corinthians 7:1
Pursue peace with everyone and sanctification, without which no one will see the Lord.
But while it takes time, effort, and spiritual growth to begin to make solid gains in this area, taming the tongue, is, as scripture tells us, virtually impossible (Jas.3:2-10; cf. Ps.39:1-3). However, with God all things are possible and we most definitely are to take ourselves in hand in this important area of self-policing as well. The "last frontier" of "putting off the old man" (Eph.4:22; Col.3:9) is this problem of controlling what we think, a most difficult task as scripture affirms:
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
In my view, controlling what we think is the ultimate "high ground" of the Christian way of life. This is where the battle of our will, our choices for or against God's will, are fought out day by day, moment by moment, step by step. It is also in some respects a somewhat different battle than controlling our deeds and our words. For in those other two areas of behavior, merely doing nothing is sometimes acceptable. Often, just by refraining from acting and by staying silent we are able to fulfill the biblical mandates to avoid sins of word and deed (cf. Prov.17:28; although occasionally inaction is sinful: Prov.24:11-12). But the mind is a vacuum, and if one does not fill it with truth, it will suck up all sorts of depravity; if it is left idle, all sorts of pointless thoughts, fantasies, and vulgarities are likely to begin to intrude. This is so in the case of long term effects (and that explains the process of apostasy; see the link: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death"), and is true in the short term as well (i.e., even if we only let down our guard for a moment we are likely to lose positive control of thinking what is good). That is why scripture in very many places tells us to concentrate, to think, to meditate upon the truth, all the good things we know about the Lord from scripture:
Happy is the man who does not walk in the path of the wicked, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers. His delight, instead, is in the law of the Lord, and he meditates on His law day and night. He will be like a tree planted where the waters divide, which will yield its fruit in its season, and whose leaf will not wither.
Therefore since you have been resurrected [positionally] with Christ, be seeking after the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your hearts (lit., minds) on the things above, not the things on earth.
Personally, I find the above an extremely valuable perspective in this sort of "mental combat". Thinking about the resurrection, about the New Jerusalem, about the end of the pain and toil and tears of this life, about the rewards to come, and about being with Jesus forever, are very helpful in setting aside worldly thoughts. Indeed, most especially we ought to be setting our hearts and minds on Jesus Christ, walking with Him in all our thoughts and prayers and songs in our heart to the Lord.
For this reason I bow my knees to the Father, from whom His entire family in heaven and on earth has received its name, that He may grant you according to the riches of His glory to be powerfully strengthened in your inner person through His Spirit, so that, rooted and grounded in love, Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
Though you have never laid eyes on [Jesus], yet you love Him. And though you cannot see Him at this present time, yet you have faith in Him. For this reason you rejoice with an inexpressible joy that bespeaks the glorious future to come, when you shall carry off in victory the ultimate prize – your life's [eternal] deliverance – which is the very purpose and objective of this faith of yours.
1st Peter 1:8-9
For [Moses] grew strong by seeing the One who cannot be seen (i.e., by keeping his mind's eye on the invisible Jesus Christ).
And the best way to see Christ is often to imitate Him in all we think and say and do in this life, just as scripture enjoins (1Cor.11:1; cf. Rom.13:14). I do understand that what you are asking is somewhat different, but in my experience and understanding of scripture, if we are fighting a good fight in our hearts/minds, striving to keep our gaze fixed upon Jesus and the truth of His Word, it is much easier to keep bad thoughts from intruding. And the best way to force them out if they should intrude is likewise by replacing them with good thoughts. It is certainly true for anyone who has grown up in this country so replete with negative and godless images (TV, movies, internet) and music and its generally pagan mind-set, that the evil one will always have plenty of ammunition ready at hand in our memories and subconscious to use against us (not to mention in all of the sights and sounds and secular thinking that continually bombards us). Even the most circumspect and godly person would be hard pressed never allow any exposure to such things whatsoever (since these sights and sounds are ubiquitous). So while it is true that we have to accept the consequences of all that we may have done in the past, yet what God is able to do now through the power of His Spirit who dwells within us working together with our spirit through the vivification of the Word of truth we have stored in our hearts through faith far surpasses anything Satan and his minions might wish to do. It is most certainly not "too late", for scripture tells us to forget about our past mistakes once we have repented and confessed and moved on (Phil.3:13-14; cf. Ps.25:7; see the link in BB 3B: "Repentance, Confession, and Forgiveness"). We only need to resist the devil, and he will flee from us (Jas.4:7). In terms of what is going on in our hearts and minds, taking full possession of that promise requires consistent spiritual growth, an understanding of and faith in the ministry of the Spirit to us (cf. Rom.8:9-17; Eph.5:18-19), and a [sometimes] aggressive assertion of our own will in subordinating ourselves to God's will. Our minds, hearts and thoughts belong to us. We do control what we think – or can (even if it is sometimes a struggle). We do control what we feel – or can (even if often we allow our feelings to get the better of us). The spirit is willing; the flesh is weak. We have the power of free will and the unsurpassed power of the Holy Spirit. We are free to use them to the glory of God. We are free to focus on scripture, on the truth, and free to begin to see our Lord Jesus at all times and in all places. For to this we have been called, even if it is no easy calling and even if it requires constant effort and continually scrutiny on our parts.
Let the teaching (lit. "Word") of Christ dwell inside of you richly, teaching and admonishing yourselves with all wisdom, singing in your hearts to God in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs in your gratitude [for His grace].
If [you have] any comfort in Christ, if [you have] any encouragement from [God's] love, if [you have] any fellowship with the Spirit, if [you have] any sympathy and compassion [for fellow believers], then make my joy full by being of one mind, of one love, of one heart, thinking the same thing, doing nothing out of selfish competitiveness or self-importance, but in humility, considering each other as more important than yourselves, with each of you looking out not for himself but for each other. Have the [very same] attitude which also Christ Jesus did.
Therefore I entreat you by God's mercy, brothers, to dedicate your bodies as a living sacrifice, well-pleasing to God – [this is] your "priestly-service" spiritually performed. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by this renewal of your thinking, so that you may discern what God's will for you is, namely what it is good, well-pleasing, and correct [for you to do].
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.
1st Peter 4:1 NIV
In all of the above passages, note that we are commanded to act and engage in this process. It doesn't happen automatically. And, as said at the outset, only by an aggressive and consistent pattern of spiritual growth do we have any hope of doing well in this fight. We need the details of the Word of God – that is the Holy Spirit's "capital", His "leverage" to move the inertia and weight of our sin natures.
This is, admittedly, a short response to a complex question (for example, the subjects of sin and spiritual growth are only briefly touched upon or linked herein, and we haven't even addressed the issue of emotions such as fear and anger and the like), but the subject is one I plan to revisit in much detail in basics part 6A Peripateology, the Christian walk (a ways off at present). However I do have some more extensive writings on the topic already posted. Please see the links:
in Peter #16: Transforming our Thinking
Peter #17: "Imitating Christ: Virtue Thinking".
Walking with Jesus
Basics 3B: Hamartiology: The Biblical Study of Sin
Satan's Techniques of Temptation
Our New Orientation as Reborn Believer (in BB 4B)
You can have victory in this fight. Have faith that He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1Jn.4:4). Continue to pray for God's help in this fight and commit yourself to growing in the Word and to consistently applying that Word to all you think and say and do. That is the main ways to combat this problem, and the Lord will be with you as you do. As long as we are looking unto Jesus in our hearts, the view from our mind's eye will always be blessed (Heb.12:2).
(22) [For you have learned the truth] that in respect to your previous behavior you have put off the old Man, the one that is being destroyed by deceptive lusts, (23) and that instead you are being re-made in the spirit of your mind, (24) and that you have put on the new Man, the one created in righteousness and sanctity of the truth according to God's standards.
In the One we keep on seeing with the eyes of faith, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.