A practical biblical method to stop a sinful thought from becoming a sinful action Our minds are battlefields where godly thinking is relentlessly attacked by believable lies and deceptive fantasies. Using biblical models, historical figures, and real-life case studies, Taming Your Private Thoughts provides a biblically based process for getting the thought life under Christ's control and avoiding the consequences of sin. This is not just a book about positive thinking or denying the presence of sinful thoughts, nor does it offer quick fixes or easy formulas. The book includes: *Honest examination of the problem of wrong thinking for men and women, young and old *Straightforward case studies that demonstrate the consequences of sinful thinking *Biblical solutions for breaking vicious thought cycles and finding peace of mind *Discussion and reflection questions *An appendix of Scripture
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Jay Dennis (DMin, Fuller Seminary) is senior pastor of First Baptist Church at the Mall in Lakeland, Florida, and author of 'The Prayer Experiment Lab Manual. He has a weekly television program and a daily radio broadcast. SPANISH BIO: Jay Dennis es el pastor principal de La Iglesia del Mall en Lakeland, Florida, y autor junto a Marilyn Jeffcoat de The Jabez Prayer Experiment (El manual de laboratorio del experimento de la oracio de Jabes).
Marilyn Jeffcoat (M.A., Reformed Theological Seminary) has served as a researcher, writer, and editor of numerous articles and books, including The Prayer Experiment. She holds degrees from Columbia College and Reformed Theological Seminary and is a doctoral student at Trinity Theological Seminary. SPANISH BIO: Marilyn Jeffcoat es la persidenta de Total Sculpt, y ha trabajado como investigadora, escritora, y editora de numerosos libros y articulos.
Taming Your Private Thoughts Copyright 2002 by Jay Dennis and Marilyn Jeffcoat Requests for information should be addressed to: Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Dennis, Jay, 1959- Taming your private thoughts : you can stop sin where it starts / Jay Dennis and Marilyn Jeffcoat. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references. ISBN 0-310-23811-0 1. Thought and thinking---Religious aspects---Christianity. 2. Temptation. 3. Sin. I. Jeffcoat, Marilyn. II. Title. BV4598.4 .D46 2002 241'.3---dc21 2001005897 Softcover ISBN 0-310-26359-X. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version. NIV. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means---electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other---except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior permission of the publisher. Interior design by Todd Sprague Printed in the United States of America 04 05 06 07 / .DC/10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 1 It Began Just as a Thought NEVER HAVE I FELT MORE UNDONE. Hot streams of tears cascaded down my cheeks as I sobbed. I repeatedly cried aloud, 'Oh, my God, what have I done, what have I done!' Each mile that I drove, I became more consumed with sheer panic coupled with overwhelming remorse and unbridled anger at myself for allowing this to happen. Unable to drive any farther, I found myself slamming on the brakes and pulling over because I was feeling physically ill from the gut-wrenching pain. The place where I stopped my car is the place to which I regularly retreat for solitude and quiet time with God. It is the idyllic location where I run after work and unload the day's burdens on an understanding heavenly Father. It is also the beautiful setting where I regularly lead a men's discipleship group in the challenge to embrace uncompromising devotion to the Lord. Now, from the perspective of where I was crouched beside my car, my favorite place---where so many things in my mind had been settled---seemed foreign and anything but peaceful. I could not believe I was there and in this horrible mess. When I was finally able to stumble back into the car, I turned off the engine and just sat there in the darkness. All I could hear was my rapid breathing and pounding heart. Okay, let me think. I have to pull myself together. What am I going to say? The first question she is going to ask me is 'Why, Jay?'---a question I now am forced to stop and ask myself. We had often talked about how we didn't have to worry about this happening to us. Now, here I was being faced with sharing something that would break her heart into a thousand pieces. This is the woman who was there for me during the sacrificial seminary years when I was preoccupied with graduate and postgraduate courses. She is the one who stood beside me through unbelievably tough church situations where most people would have said, 'I didn't sign up for this.' What a fool I have been! I just crushed her trust and communicated by my actions that 'I don't love you like you think I do.' Oh, God, I have given up all we had taken years to build. . . and for what? An adrenalin rush? A testosterone thrill? A short-lived pleasure? An adolescent fling? I now realize---all too late--- that I got major ripped-off in that exchange. Things will never again be the same. How will I tell my son . . . my daughter? How can I possibly look into the eyes of that young man who implicitly trusts his dad and say, 'Son, Dad has been unfaithful to your mother. Life as we have known it has ended.' How can I peer into the loving eyes of a young lady who has put her dad on a high pedestal and say, 'Honey, Dad has made a selfish choice that is going to change our family's future.' What about the people I serve as pastor, who look to me as their spiritual leader? Will their view of God---and Christian leaders---be forever altered? Will the people that came to Christ under my ministry someway feel that their decision wasn't valid? Will those I baptized or married feel like it wasn't God-blessed? I'm through! I'm done! It's all over! I've thrown everything away! What took many years to build was torn down by one choice . . . one disastrous choice. There's no rewind button on this one. But there is a S.T.O.P. play. I cannot tell you the pleasure---and relief---it gives me to tell you that none of this has happened. I have often used such mental rehearsals of potential consequences as a deterrent to dwelling or acting on sinful thoughts. Such a painful exercise has often served as a powerful reminder to me that I never want to go there. It's not worth it. Unfortunately, I have known too many Christian men and women who either did not adequately rehearse the consequences of potential sinful choices---or simply chose to act in spite of their better judgment. How Could a Man of God Do That? It began just as a thought---and then a fantasy. Jack thought he could handle indulging in a mental fantasy world. After all, his marriage was shaky---it had been for years---and he craved the intimacy and excitement he lacked with his wife. In interviewing him for this book, Jack painfully recounted how at first it was 'just thoughts' that he let linger. While this caused him feelings of great guilt, he began to desire stimulation beyond what his mind alone could supply. Jack began watching inappropriate shows and movies on television---sometimes peering at the scrambled images of cable premium channels to which he did not subscribe. This initially did the trick in satisfying the growing sexual appetite in him. During this time, Jack and his wife were living separate lives---under the same roof. For a long time they had been functioning---and growing---apart. A sexual relationship between the two of them had been nonexistent for years. One day a young woman came to see Jack for marriage counseling. Up to this point in his ministry, this seasoned pastor had consistently followed all appropriate counseling guidelines. This session, however, proved to be a turning point by opening up a world of fantasy that he did not know existed. A shift happened as a result of a decisive session that day: Jack was introduced to the Internet as a vehicle for sexual exploration in a way that enticed him to check it out for himself. Concerning this turning point, Jack explains, 'At first it was simple. I had never been unfaithful in the entire sixteen years of marriage---not even remotely close. I swore I would never be. I discovered I could see pictures on the Internet, and no one would ever know. It was terribly wrong, and I cannot believe I let it happen.' He soon became involved in cybersex via Internet chat rooms. This led to telephone calls to cyberpartners and ultimately to a rendezvous with a woman he had met online. Jack was serving as the president of a denominational conference when he met this woman in another city. They ended up committing adultery. Jack says, 'There was no excuse for it. It was wrong and it was sin. We both knew it!' But they kept on meeting each week---on his golf days and any other time he could possibly arrange in his schedule. Eventually Jack's wife found out about the affair. Soon his church leadership was informed of the double life Jack had been leading. He lost his pastorate, his marriage, and his family. Jack now looks back with remorse over losing everything. 'I walked away with nothing. Everything in my life was gone. I lost everything of value to me. I was unemployed. I became completely broke with no job, no skills, and no reputation. Calamity after calamity came. I felt all alone. I would not pray, because I knew God
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