If you've been around Christians long enough, you'll eventually come across this strange teaching: "God requires obedience—even your very thoughts; You need to bring every one of your thoughts into obedience to be truly right with God."
I'd heard this one so often that I simply assumed it must be so—that's the power of "conditioning."
First of all, I've always cringed when I hear people teach that you need to bring every one of your thoughts into obedience. On the one hand, it sounds Christian, doesn't it? Very pious and humble, to say the least. But on the other hand, how do I do that? And if God isn't pleased with me when I don't do it, then He must be upset with me all the time. Secondly, if I'm being perfectly honest with myself, I'm not confident I could actually pull that off. I mean, every thought? That's kind of a tall order.
The "pinch" for me was that I couldn't reconcile that teaching with the grace-based new covenant of God. The teaching makes my righteous works—like bringing my every thought into obedience—the key to my right standing before God. Either their teaching isn't right, or my belief about God isn't right.
So I decided that I'd take a look at the Scripture myself and see what it really says. I was quite surprised at what I found:
2 Corinthians 10:4-5 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,
When I read through this passage quickly, I thought that maybe they were right. Then I slowed down and re-read it several times, trying to see what the passage was really trying to tell me. Then I saw a small word. This is a Grace Aware principle: even small words can make a big difference.
Do you see the underlined word in the Scripture above? It's the definite article "the." "The" always points to something specific, one-and-only-one. It's not talking about just any obedience, it's talking about "the obedience." And whose obedience would that be? The obedience of Christ.
What does "the obedience" look like? Look at this next passage:
Philippians 2:8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to [the point of] death, even the death of the cross.
It's the obedience of Jesus that we're talking about. It's Jesus' obedience in going to the cross, dying for our sins, and making us righteous.
So when you're thinking to yourself that maybe you're no longer righteous, or that perhaps God doesn't love you anymore, or that maybe what you've done has separated you from the love of God, bring that thought to the obedience—the finished work of Jesus, who died to make you right with God.