The Lord Jesus makes a remarkable statement to the Father in His High Priestly Prayer as recorded by the writer of the fourth gospel: “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given me to do” (John 17:4). What is noteworthy is that we know that Christ could not lie. We also know that the sole purpose for Christ’s coming to earth and taking on human flesh was in order that He might die and become the holy sacrifice demanded by God to redeem lost sinners from the hell we justly deserve. Furthermore, we know that this prayer was prayed prior to the crucifixion and death about which He spoke in the past tense as if it had already taken place. We sometimes (erroneously, I believe) attribute the truthfulness of this statement to the fact that God lives outside of time. But while that is true regarding the First Person of the trinity, at the time the prayer was prayed, Jesus Christ was very much living within and subject to time. We also attribute the veracity of the statement to the fact that Christ was God and that whatever He had determined to do was sure to be done. That is certainly true. But to leave the explanation there is also to leave lying on the table a profound truth that applies to us as well.
You will recall the proverb of Solomon: “For as he thinks within himself, so he is” (23:7). Christ could honestly say that He had finished the work His Father had sent Him to do because He was absolutely committed to obey the will of His Father “to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8). He thought within Himself that He would do whatever His Father willed Him to do. This determination, we must recognize, was the choice of a human being who had a will but exercised it in favor of God’s will and against what would have been far more comfortable for Himself as a man.
So it is with us. We are what we think within ourselves. The world offers a similar aphorism: “the thought is mother to the deed.” We always do what we have determined to do in our hearts and minds. Our actions are governed by what we think within ourselves. You will also recall that God commanded Abraham to take his son Isaac and offer him as a burnt offering—that meant killing him. But before Abraham actually slew his son, God intervened and stopped the literal slaying, saying, “you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me” (Gen. 22:12). God saw Abraham’s heart and mind, knew that he had willed to obey God, and knew that Abraham would do what was in his heart to do, namely, exactly what God had commanded.
By the same token, the Lord Jesus could warn His hearers that “everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28). Christ was not espousing legalistic doctrine; He was expressing the reality of human existence: as we think within ourselves, so we are and so we do. It is for that very reason that God warns us once again through Solomon: “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” (Pro. 4:23).
We do nothing—whether good or sinful—by accident. As believers, our actions flow down from a conscious choice to obey God and His Word, to honor Him, and to live for Him, or to rebel against Him, to reject His instruction, and to live for ourselves. Our thoughts are not inconsequential then; they influence our will. Realizing this, Paul wrote: “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).
God knows that we will do what we have determined to do in our hearts and minds. The moment that determination is made, the action is as good as done—for good or ill. May we not live with the mistaken idea that our hidden thoughts are of no consequence because no one knows them or because no act has taken place. They affect our will, and our actions follow. Both sin and righteousness originate in our mind and heart. May we guard them knowing that God blesses righteousness but chastens sin.
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