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Keeping a Pure Mind

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
January 18, 2024 3:00 am

Keeping a Pure Mind

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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January 18, 2024 3:00 am

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Grace To You
John MacArthur

What should be going on in our minds? What should be going on in the deepest recesses of our minds and hearts? What should be happening there? I'll tell you what, worship and love to God. Nice to you with John MacArthur.

I'm your host, Phil Johnson. You'd probably never steal a car or falsify an insurance claim or cheat on your taxes or cheat on your spouse. You might never let a day go by without studying God's Word.

There may be a long and commendable list of things you'd never actually do, but what about the things you think about doing? How are you at controlling those aspects of your life, where compromise is easier, and why does that even matter? That's John MacArthur's focus today in a message called, Keeping a Pure Mind. It's part of John's study titled, Foundations Volume 2. Now to see why this message has helped so many and can help you deal with this sin that hinders a relationship with Christ and with others, stay here as John begins the lesson. I think we are constantly made sensitive to the law of God, and you do that through the teaching of the Word, because the culture is just drowning people, including Christian people, in this new morality and this new psychological explanation for iniquity and this new garbage about self-esteem and the need to build your ego.

We know what sin is only as we are exposed to the Word of God, and I think it has to happen all the time. This is not a time for short sermons that are interesting. This is a time for long sermons that are demanding. Keeping a pure life is very, very challenging in this time, and we need to hear the Word of God.

But let's go a little deeper. What is the most serious sin? What sin is most serious?

And I'll tell you what the answer is. The medieval theologians had it right. It's the sins of the mind. It's the sins of the mind. Jesus said it. It's out of the heart that the mouth speaks.

It's what's in the man's heart that comes out that is so defiling. And the real challenge in our lives, beloved, is to keep a pure mind, and that is very challenging. And I believe the only way that's going to happen is to be continually brought, as it were, to the feet of the Word of God and to have it convictingly proclaimed. Actually, the seven deadly sins of medieval theology were not behaviors at all. They were sins in the mind, all of them. And no sin is more destructive to the conscience than the sin that takes place in the arena of the mind. Sins in the mind assault the conscience like no other sins because, listen to me, the conscience is their only deterrent. A Christian friend can be a deterrent to a sin of the tongue, can't he? You're going to watch what you say if you're around another Christian.

Is that not true? A Christian friend, a husband, a wife, a child is going to be a deterrent to sins of action, but the only deterrent that you have in your entire life to sins of the mind is your what? Your conscience. And you need to feed the Word of God constantly into your mind so that your conscience really operates with full power. Your conscience needs to be able to be so sensitive to the sins of your mind so that you can enjoy the kind of thing that Paul enjoyed when he said, our proud confidence is this, the testimony of a good conscience.

You've got to deal with the sins of the mind. Only you and only God know about them. 1 Corinthians 2 11 says, who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Who knows?

Nobody knows, just you in your own spirit. Many people who won't do evil deeds are nevertheless boldly evil in their thoughts. They won't act out evil things because there's peer pressure and there are compelling reasons not to, but they are very involved in evil in their minds. A man who, for example, abstains from fornication for fear of getting caught might convince himself that it's all right to indulge in his own mind in salacious fantasies because he thinks no one will ever discover such a private sin. The fact of the matter is the sin he deliberately entertains in his mind may be a thousand times more evil than anything he would ever think of doing before others. And Scripture says his guilt is the same before God as if he acted it out. That's why his conscience is so demanding, so relentless. You see, to indulge in sins of thought, to indulge in those kinds of things is to molest your conscience directly, and that's to just have unending guilt and the absence of joy. Those whose thoughts are impure cannot have pure consciences. The guilt is inherent in the evil thought. When the thoughts are defiled, the conscience immediately is defiled and the conscience screams. To the pure, said Paul to Titus in chapter 1, verse 15, all things are pure, but to those who are defiled, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. When the mind is defiled, the conscience is defiled. Nothing damages the conscience more than the habit of indulging in evil thoughts. Unfortunately, once it's begun, the practice becomes all too easy. And by the way, this is sin that doesn't need any opportunity.

Have you noticed that? It doesn't require anybody or anything or any particular place. Sins of the mind can happen anytime, anywhere, under any circumstance, and that is why when you begin to cultivate sins of the mind, you are putting yourself in an absolutely terrorizing situation because you can't escape it. There are some sins you can flee, not the sins of the mind.

So, it is destructive beyond anything else. You think that it's okay because it's not on the outside and everybody thinks all is well, and the truth of the matter is it is worse on the inside because it is undetected by others and therefore breeding habitual iniquity. By engaging the mind and the emotions and the desire and the memory and the imagination, thought-sins, you will turn your soul toward sinful habits that kind of follow a flow. Sow a thought, reap an act. Sow an act, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a character.

Sow a character, reap a destiny. It's a tragic thing, and that is why it is so important that you hear the Word of God constantly and are sensitized to sin constantly. Again, I go back to this issue because it so concerns me.

People can go to many churches over and over and over and over, and sin is never confronted. That may make them feel momentarily comfortable. It does nothing for their long-term conscience. It's not helping.

It's hindering. And eventually those things on the inside will show up on the outside. No one ever falls into adultery. We read about that with pastors and others. No one ever falls into adultery. The adulterer's heart has been shaped by a long process of sinful thoughts and lustful thoughts.

It gets shaped that way. The heart of the thief, it is bent long before his act of thievery by covetousness. All sin is first incubated in the mind. And James says in James 1, 13, Let no one say when he is tempted, I am being tempted by God, for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He doesn't tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. When lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.

Don't be deceived, brother. It all starts inside. Again and again, you remember Christ rebuked the Pharisees because they observed the external ceremonial law, and they neglected the moral part. They were utterly preoccupied with appearing to be righteous, and they were like a tomb white on the outside.

On the inside, they stunk with dead men's bones. He says, Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish.

The outside of it may become clean also. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. For even so you too outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. And do you know the Pharisees had gotten to the point where they actually believed that evil thoughts were not really sinful, just evil deeds? And that's why Jesus said to them, You have heard that the ancients were told, You shall not commit murder, and whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court. You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery. I say to you that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart. Not only is murder a sin, but so is anger. Not only is adultery a sin, but so is lust.

Try to tell that to our culture. What should be going on in our minds? What should be going on in the deepest recesses of our minds and hearts?

What should be happening there? I'll tell you what, worship and love to God. Worship and love to God. When we were saved, we were saved to be true worshipers.

The Lord saved us in order that we might be made true worshipers. Listen to this, to sin in the mind then is to desecrate the very sanctuary where our highest and best worship should be taking place. So, cultivating sins of the mind not only defiles the mind, but it displaces worship for which we were saved.

And there again, it can be defined as a form of blasphemy. Relatively easy sometimes to confess and forsake deeds of sin, words of sin. But the sins of our thought life go unconfessed more than any other kind. They are the sole blackening sins.

They are the character damaging sins. They work directly against the conscience, and there is the conscience fighting with all its worth against this onslaught. That's why the Old Testament says in Proverbs 4, 23, Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life. But you know, beyond conscience, I have to say that God knows our hearts. Acts 15, 8 says God knows our hearts. 1 John 3, 20 says God is greater than our heart and knows all things. David wrote, Thou dost understand my thought from afar and art intimately acquainted with all my ways. So God knows whether we have a lusting, coveting, angry, hostile, selfish, proud heart that is cultivating all of those sins of thought or whether or not our heart is given over to worship to Him. Psalm 44, 21 says, Would not God find this out? For He knows the secrets of the heart. Jesus told the Pharisees in Luke 16, 15, You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts. That which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.

And you know something? What's going on in your heart is the litmus test of your character. Proverbs 23, 7, As he thinks within himself, so is he.

Proverbs 6, 12, A worthless person, a wicked man, is the one who with perversity in his heart devises evil continually. You want to know what you really are? Take a look at your heart.

Take a look at the inside. For as in water, face reflects face, so the heart of men reflects man. Proverbs 27, 19, External behavior is not an accurate gauge of your character. The thoughts of your heart reveal the truth. The thoughts of your heart are only known to God and your conscience. And beloved, it is so crucial that we cultivate a pure life so that we can enjoy the testimony of a clear conscience.

And you know the longer you learn the Word and the more you're exposed to the Word and the more your heart is filled with its truth, the greater will be your love and your worship toward God and the cleansing of that is going to affect a clear conscience. I honestly don't know how men can possibly feed their thought life, filth and foul things and obscenities and wicked things and things which displease God and stand and minister without literally being assaulted by their conscience. Job's comforters, you remember them? They came to him and they falsely accused him and there wasn't anything in his life they could accuse him of, right? You remember Job. He was more righteous than any other man. So what are they going to accuse him of?

I'll tell you what. They accused him of a dirty thought life. Zophar came and said to him, Job 20 verses 12 and 13, evil is sweet in his mouth and he hides it under his tongue. Though he desires it and will not let it go, he holds it in his mouth. In other words, he's really wicked on the inside.

You don't see it and you don't hear it, but he's all foul on the inside. The picture he painted of the evil thinker is vividly true. Evil thoughts are like candy to them. To the evil thinker, they derive great satisfaction from their imaginary iniquities. They savor their evil fantasies. They relish them like a choice morsel of sweetness under their tongue. They roll them around in their imagination. They return to the same wicked musings from which they can glean illicit pleasure over and over again.

They mull them over like an animal chewing the cut, bringing up the favorite evil thoughts time and time again to react anew in the mind. This is what they accused Job of. But Zophar misjudged Job.

Job had carefully guarded himself against that. This is what he said in Job 31, 1, I have made a covenant with my eyes. How then could I gaze at a virgin?

I don't do anything. I don't look in any direction that's going to cultivate an evil thought. He knew God was the audience to his thoughts. He says this, Does he not see my ways and number all my steps? If I have walked with falsehood and my foot has hastened after deceit, let him weigh me with accurate scales and let God know my integrity. And then Job denied that his heart had followed his eyes.

He denied that his heart had been enticed by another woman. That would be a lustful crime, he says, an iniquity to be punished by judges. To hide iniquity in the bosom, he said, would be to cover one's transgression like Adam. The very thought appalled his righteous heart. Now Job was very aware of the danger of sinful thoughts. He consciously, deliberately set a guard on his heart to avoid such things.

And then you know what else he did? He even offers a sacrifice to God just in case his children sinned in their hearts. When the days of feasting had completed their cycle, that Job would sin and consecrate them, rising up early in the morning and offering burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts. This Job did continually, concerned not only about his own thought life but the thought life of his own family. That's why the Lord said, there's no one like him on the earth.

He's a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil. So, this whole matter of sins of thought has to be dealt with if we're going to deal with the conscience, if we're going to liberate our conscience and enjoy peace and joy and happiness and bliss in Christian experience. If you want to quiet your noisy conscience, you've got to deal with your thought life. There are three ways the mind engages in sin.

I'll just mention them and then I'll stop. Sins of remembering first. To cherish the memory of sins past.

To bring back a lurid memory of a bygone sin is to repeat the sin all over again. Not long ago, I baptized a man who was a former homosexual, transformed by Christ. His life was changed.

His circle of friends was changed. He removed himself as far as possible from anything that was at all reminiscent of the past life. He wasn't tempted by old lovers. He wasn't tempted by homosexuals around him. But you know what he had unceasing temptation from?

Take a guess. His memory that cycled back through all the illicit relationships of his past. Memories so vivid, so embedded in his brain that he thought sometimes he would never be able to overcome them. All the vile relationships of the past were stored there. And if he wanted to, he could say no to those temptations.

And if he wanted to, he could say yes and cycle back through the filth of the past. Sin has a way of impressing itself on our memories with vivid sensations we cannot shake off. I'll tell you, I grieve when I know that young impressionable people in their teenage years are going to go sit in a movie theater and watch people who are 18 feet high in vivid drama carrying out sexual activities and assume that those images may remain in the minds of those young people forever, at least in this life. You can't get out of them.

You can't dismiss them. And Satan can cycle you back through those, and your flesh as well can do that. And this isn't unique to sexual sins. Some people love to rehearse the memories of the time they got angry and poured out vengeance on somebody they resented, or the time they lied and got away with it, or they relished the time they cheated on their income tax. All kinds of temptations come from memory. Satan will try to take you back through the garbage of your past, and once you implant a lurid image in your mind, you can't take it away.

It's there. So one way we sin in the mind is through remembering sin in the past. Secondly, sins of scheming. The mind, like we saw in James, begins to lust, and it spins its desire into the imagination and develops the full fantasy, and it schemes and plots and plans the presumptuous premeditative sin. And then it becomes the third kind, imaginary sin. The scheming could actually end in a real action of sin, but there are sins of imagining, purely imaginary sin, committing adultery in the heart, murdering in the heart, coveting in the heart, being discontent with what you have, with your place in life, daydreaming about being married to someone else, musing about a luxury that you want in your life, indulging gluttony in an imaginary binge. Literally millions of people live in this kind of fantasy of sin.

And you know what I believe? You heard this theology of positive confession? I believe for the most part it's nothing but fantasy sinning. It is not godly, it is not virtuous, and it is not faith.

To say, I want a new Rolls-Royce or a new Cadillac or a new house or a better job or more money, and I'm going to believe God for that, is not a righteous act of faith. It is an iniquity. It is a fantasy sin. It is a lust.

It is covetousness. And so the mind can sin by remembering, by scheming for sins in the future, and by developing imagination. The psalmist said, created me a clean what?

Heart, O God, so that He could have a clear conscience. Let me just have you listen to what I say and then we'll close in prayer. How are you going to deal with the problem of sins of thought? First, confess it. Identify it and forsake it.

Whether it's immorality or anger or vengeance or bitterness or covetousness, discontent. Secondly, refuse to entertain that thought. Make a covenant with the Lord to think on things that are honorable and right and pure and lovely and good. Then feed on the word which, when hid in the heart, prevents sin. And then avoid evil attractions.

Don't expose yourself to things that provoke sins of thought. And then cultivate the love of God. It is my prayer, my desire for you, that you will glorify God, you will honor your Savior, you will enjoy the blessing, the triumphant bliss of a clear conscience, and that you'll be able to say with Paul, our proud confidence is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity we've conducted ourselves in the world.

What a testimony. Father, work that in every heart. Cleanse every heart. And may we have an affirming conscience, the joy and the peace of an affirming conscience. Thank you that forgiveness is available.

And it's not just a feeling, it's a fact. Given to one who asks, for if we confess, you forgive. Create in us a clean heart, O God.

For Christ's sake. Amen. Well, John, a question related to today's lesson, and I'm eager to hear your answer on this. Can a believer expect the fight with sinful thoughts to get easier as life goes on? Or does the battle look and feel the same no matter how long you've been engaged in it?

Well, as somebody who's been engaged in it for a long, long time, I can tell you it's very different now than it was when I was very young. And that's what sanctification is. There will be a decreasing frequency of sin. There will be the weakening of certain temptations. That's what sanctification is, is you're more and more conformed to Christ as you are more and more obedient, and as 2 Corinthians 3, 18 says, changed into his image from one level of glory to the next.

That is telling us there's a progression in sanctification. I'm not what I ought to be, but I'm not what I was. And, you know, at my age, living all these years, am I tempted with certain things?

Sure. But the things that were a strong temptation when I was much younger have dissipated because I have grown healthier in my spiritual life, more robust in my commitment to Christ, and deeper in my knowledge of his word, which is what sanctifies me. And yet, conversely, it gets more frustrating as it goes on.

Yeah, that's what I was just going to say. But when you sin less, you may hate it more because it has become more distasteful to you. I mean, the more you're sanctified, the less you sin, the more you hate the sin that is there. So the way to answer that question is when young people say to me, Well, I get victory over sin.

Yes, you will. You'll feel better about your sanctification in one sense, but in another sense, you'll feel worse because the more sanctified you are, the more you understand the horrible character of sin. So it's a wonderful thing to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ.

It's a glorious thing to have triumphant experiences as you grow that sanctify you and the flow of Scripture affecting dramatic change in your life. But at the same time, you hate the sin that remains. To help you with that and all the temptations in life, I want to remind you again of the booklet Hacking A Gag to Pieces. We'll send it to you. It looks at a story in 1 Samuel 15 about Saul's failure to utterly destroy the evil Amalekites, which is what God commanded.

And ultimately, it's a story of what happens when you only partially deal with sin. Hacking A Gag to Pieces is yours for the asking free of charge. That's right, friend. If you're frustrated in your struggle with sin, call us or go online and request your free copy of John's booklet, Hacking A Gag to Pieces. Contact us today. Our number here, 855-GRACE, and our website, Hacking A Gag to Pieces takes you to Scripture's answer on how you can kill sin in your life. Again, for your free copy of the booklet titled Hacking A Gag to Pieces, call 800-55-GRACE or go to And when you finish reading Hacking A Gag to Pieces, let us know how it helped you in your battle against sin. We'd also love to know if you've been encouraged by John's teaching on the radio, and especially if the Lord has used this ministry to bring you or someone you know to faith in Christ.

Email your story to letters at, or if you prefer regular mail, you can write to GRACE2U, Box 4000, Panorama City, California 91412. Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson, with a question you've probably heard Christians described as adopted children and new creations, but have you ever heard them described as slaves? John MacArthur will show you what it means for Christians to be slaves for Christ. That's the title of John's lesson tomorrow. Join him then for another 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time on GRACE2U.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-18 05:45:19 / 2024-01-18 05:55:43 / 10

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