by Rick Warren — July 7, 2018
“Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life” (Proverbs 4:23 NCV).
Any time you see people really messing up their lives, you can bet their problems didn’t start with their actions, because their actions began with their thoughts. They lingered on dumb thoughts before making dumb decisions. The Bible says this very clearly — and science backs it up: The way you think determines how you feel. Feelings motivate actions. To change your life, you don’t just work on a bad habit, the action. Instead, you work on what caused it — the thoughts that caused the feelings that caused the action. God says your thoughts control your life.
This explains how affairs happen.
First, you begin by accepting sinful thoughts into your mind. “What would it be like to have sex with that person? Is it so wrong?” You start having doubts, and you start fantasizing in your mind. You begin to think it’s harmless.
But it’s not. Your thoughts produce feelings. And feelings inevitably lead to actions.
You then move into emotional, non-physical involvement. That’s when you start flirting. You start making gestures and comments, subtly or not-so-subtly saying, “I’m available.” Next comes the physical involvement. And finally, you rationalize your actions: “Everybody is doing it. It’s no big deal. We’re both adults.”
Your sinful actions started when you accepted sinful thoughts into your mind.
The Bible tells us in 2 Timothy 2:22 how to manage our thoughts before they ever head down this path: “Turn your back on the turbulent desires of youth and give your positive attention to goodness, faith, love and peace” (Phillips).
The Bible tells us to turn away from lustful thoughts and turn instead toward something positive. That two-step process is how you break a temptation before it ever gets started. You’re thinking wrong long before you’re acting wrong. You stop the cycle by turning your back on those sinful thoughts and turning toward goodness, integrity, love, and peace.
You’re not an innocent bystander to sexual sin. You have a choice.