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Saturday, 12 March 2011

When evil thoughts molest.

Recently I was reminded of the words of the hymn “When morning gilds the skies, my heart awaking cries . . .” Verse 4 goes as follows:

When evil thoughts molest,
With this I shield my breast,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
The powers of darkness fear
When this sweet chant they hear,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

Evil thoughts are no respecter of age or gender, and they arrive like sudden unwelcome visitors to disturb the soul. I thought to myself, ‘what does the late Selwyn Hughes have to say about it? – ‘Is there really a remedy, or are we doomed to repeat the same sins until we shuffle off, or Christ first comes?”

In his Christian Counsellor’s pocket guide (1) Selwyn assures us there is a remedy, if we are willing to take the medicine:

This is a battle of the mind. To win it you must heed the Apostle’s words, ‘Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.’ To have a mind like Christ in this evil world may not be easy but all heaven is on your side in the issue. , God is not merely concerned with getting you out of evil but in getting the evil out of you. This is how it can be achieved. Firstly, read much of your Bible. Fill your mind with the clean healthy, positive statements of Scripture. Dwell long on the purity of its inspiration. Secondly, concentrate your thought life on Christ. Evil thoughts are not expelled by dwelling upon them; they must be outwitted and to do that there is no better way than by letting the Lord come right into your mind. Evil thoughts will not stay long where He is present. Thirdly, you can outmanoeuvre evil by blasting it in prayer. Prayer can bulldoze a way through sinful thoughts right into the clear presence of the Throne of God. There you breathe a purer atmosphere. Remember in all this that the battle is not yours but Lord’s. Your own strength will fail. He never fails

I found this helpful, because reading it oriented my mind immediately away from myself to Jesus Christ (“May Jesus Christ be praised”!). Secondly, the emphasis on “Read much of the Bible.” Yes, we pride ourselves on reading the Bible daily, say, for 20 minutes. I wonder whether that qualifies as reading “much”. Thirdly, “dwell long on the purity of its inspiration.” For me, the changes in the latest critical text of the Bible - where words are added, left out, or changed – do not speak of the purity of God’s inspiration. They speak of the opposite – corruption. We need to be able to trust every word that God says, and know it comes from the Throne room. So, when I read KJV Luke 9:56

For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.
I trust it is an accurate saying of Jesus my Lord. That’s what the Church has always believed, until 1881. Doubtless, the Holy Spirit did not let us down in preserving His very words. Purity of inspiration is not much use, without purity of preservation. Textual critics admit they lack a proper history of the Greek Text to explain satisfactorily how changes came into the original Text through the centuries. Believe the “Received Text” of the sixteenth century, when it was first committed to the printing press. You’ll find it in the KJV, and 99.9 % of it also is in the NKJV. Better still; study the Greek and Hebrew for yourself, then no one can accuse you of supposed myopia - of being a “King James only” Bible reader.

Anyway, back to the Selwyn Hughes quote. I like the way he said: “Evil thoughts . . . must be outwitted.” This makes the point they often come unbidden into our minds, and seemingly against our will. This applies to fantasies of the imagination, negative thoughts towards others (how they look, how stupid we may judge them to be, how superior we may feel– or the opposite, or our anger about them or towards them). Unkind or untrue words expressed, simply prove to ourselves we are harbouring evil thoughts, and that these do not pass the tests, which the Apostle gives us in 1 Corinthians 13. We outwit these evil thoughts by first confessing them to God as wrong, secondly praying for the person victimised by them, and also turning our thoughts towards Christ. Think about him! Why did He suffer so much, when in a sense he didn’t need to? What drove him to the Cross? Have you plumbed the depths of the greatest most significant event to ever occur on this planet? Why aren’t we thinking about it more, then?

Why did He love me, I never can tell!
Why did he suffer to save me from hell?
Nothing but infinite grace from above,
Could have conceived such a story of love.
(1) Selwyn Hughes’ Christian Counsellor’s pocket guide is (1972) now out of print.

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