The Power of Thought

November 24, 2021

God imprinted His Divine Image, into the nature of man which draws us toward everything that is morally good and averts him from everything that is morally evil. This inner law works through the voice of conscience, which justly is called the voice of God in man. Because it is an integral part of human nature, it is active in all people regardless of their age, race, education, or development.

Studying the culture and customs of past and present nations, one note that all people, even the most primitive tribes, distinguish between what is good and what is bad, between good man and evil man, between virtue and vice. They all agreed on this, that the good is worth striving for, evil be shunned and that the one deserves praise, the other, blame Though in individual cases they may not be one in denominating the same thing good or evil. Nevertheless they agreed as to the general principle that good is to be done and evil avoided. The occasional discrepancy in labeling some actions as good or evil seems to be derived from the particular circumstances in which a given nation develops. It is a universally recognized principle that one should not do to others what he would not wish them to do to him. Vice everywhere seeks to hide itself or at least to put on the mask of virtue.

The Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Romans explains in some detail how moral law works in man. The Apostle reproaches those who know the written Law of God but willfully violate it. He contrasts them with the pagans who not having a written Law, naturally observe the prescriptions of the Law. By this they show that the process of the Law is written in their hearts which is witnessed by their conscience and thoughts, which either punish or justify one another (Romans 1:14-15). According to Saint Paul, on the forthcoming Judgment Day God will judge men not only according to their faith, but also according to their conscience. Thus even the pagans may be saved if their conscience will witness to God their righteous life.

On the contrary, falling into sin through one’s thoughts may begin from a sinful desire in our heart or something stored away in our inmost mind. Or it may begin with an attack by the enemy from without, which you resist at first, but then surrender to, so that you fall and then get more and more entangled. Or we may become lost in a thought for some moments and pleased with it, but when we come to your senses and wake up we regret and resist it, and so it flees from us.

The more we resist the thought, the more power we gain over it, so that it flees from us, or does not dare to assail us. On the other hand, the more we surrender to it, the more power it gains over us, and the more it is emboldened to attack us.

The rudder to steer the fight is under our control not under the control of our thoughts. Thoughts can really give you quite a shock and cause you grave concern and, depending on your situation, they may even wage war against you. The Lord Jesus Christ said, however, “the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me.” But what about you? When Satan attacks you, will he find he has a hold on you! (John 14:30)The thought will search our heart first of all, to see whether there is anything in it which is akin to itself, since ‘like attracts like’, or whether it can find a point of correspondence to latch on to. If we are faithful in our heart, it will not betray its master with these thoughts, nor let them gain entrance. It will have nothing to do with them, nor accept them, so that the thoughts end up fleeing away from your mind and the devils become afraid of it… However if the heart is not careful about such thoughts and is lenient with them then they get the courage to assail that heart.
There are bad thoughts which enter a clean heart because of its lax or too easy-going attitudes.

There are bad thoughts which come out of a bad heart owing to its lack of purity. That is to say there are bad thoughts which come from outside and others which come from inside. An example of bad thoughts which come from outside, is that of the serpent’s attack on Eve. Eve had a pure heart, but because she wasn’t firm enough with the serpent, the ideas entered her heart and turned into desire and then into action. Referring to those wicked thoughts which come from inside, our Lord said: ” an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil.” (Luke 6:45)

The thoughts may come from the heart, from hidden desires, or they may come from the inner mind, from images, ideas and information stored within. From this mass that has accumulated within, thoughts come at any provocation and for any reason. So take care that what accumulates in you is pure. However, the ideas which come from the mind are less powerful. They are less powerful than the thoughts which come from the heart, because those that come from the heart are mixed with emotion or desire, and are therefore more powerful.

Thus it is easy for a person to banish the ideas which come from the mind. If he seeks to retain them or is willing to accommodate them, and doesn’t resist them, they may move to his heart and become influenced by its emotional reactions and thus grow more powerful… For this reason, a person should guard his heart as well as his mind, and should keep a dividing line between his head and heart. “Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.” (Proverb 4:23). If the war of thoughts comes upon you, and you have a pure heart and are fervent in the Spirit, then it will be a weak fight, and one from which you can escape. But if it comes upon you while you are in a spiritually lukewarm state, or if your love for the Lord has grown cold, ” because lawlessness will abound. ” (Matthew 24:12), then the fight will be a violent one and difficult to escape from. So, pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath… (Matthew 24:20)

Guard your mind so that nothing which could disturb its purity may enter. And guard your senses too, because they are the gates that lead to thought. Guard your looks, your hearing, your touching and the rest of your senses. As you may not be able to prevent your mind from thinking about and being influenced by what you see and what you hear, it is better to be on your guard.
If something unsuitable reaches your ears, comes to your eyes, or enters your thoughts, do not let it go deep within you, but let it pass straight through. Things which simply pass straight through do not have a very powerful effect, but if they go deep, they will settle in the innermost mind and extend their roots to the heart and may reach the stage of causing upsets.

Being able to forget is one of God’s blessings to mankind, by which passing thoughts and transitory sensory perceptions can be wiped away. But the ideas which you allow to enter deeply into you, settle in your inmost mind, and get to the conscious and subconscious, thus becoming difficult to forget. They might then form a reason for a war of thoughts and give rise to ideas, suspicions and dreams and become the source of desires and upsets, and the starting point of long stories.We may need, however, to return to the subject of thoughts again.

Source: Sermon of Bishop Alexander Vasilievich Mileant (former Bishop of Synodal Cathedral Russian Orthodox Church) and Coptic Orthodox Church