It is essential to remember that fleshly thoughts come UP from our heart. Another’s fleshly behavior does not make us react in our flesh. All actions are first thoughts. If someone is blocking our goals, our reaction is first a thought that comes UP from our heart. Evil thoughts proceed from our heart which affect our behavior. Here is an example: someone is driving really slow and you are rushing to get to an appointment on time. What is your first thought? That thought proceeds a fleshly reaction, or a righteous response.
Can we discern between good and evil thoughts? Yes. The more we observe to do by applying God’s truths to our hearts, the more we will discern the difference when an evil thought comes to the surface. Hebrews 5:14 says, “But solid food…” Let’s stop there. What is solid food? It is doctrine that rules our thoughts and actions. It is foundational Scripture that brings correction and changes our thoughts, purpose, and actions. The verse continues, “…belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”
Good and evil are like water and oil. They don’t mix. You either have a good thought or an evil thought. You can’t have good and evil one at the same time. It is the same as to whether we follow our flesh or the Holy Spirit. One or the other. God is good, and there is no evil in Him. However, satan is evil, and there is no good in him. Right now, stop and think. God is Master over all, and satan is subject to Him. Who do you want to serve through your thoughts?
Romans 12:2 in the J. B. Phillips says, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within…” There is a lot of world-flak right now in our country and worldwide. Romans 6:12 says, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.” What are you ‘letting’ in through your eyes and ears? Who are you associating with that influences you? Let us be those who overcome evil with good.
Proverbs 2:1-8 states that wisdom sharpens our discernment. I encourage you to reread them. When their truths are in place, verse 9 says, “Then you will understand righteousness and justice, equity and every good path.” Understanding, wisdom, knowledge, and discretion preserve us in the time of temptation. It is God’s wisdom that comes from above. Here is wisdom derived from evil. James 3:14-15 says, “But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic.”
Lying, self-seeking, and bitter envy come from evil thoughts. They were planted through fiery darts which we received. They seeded deep to do their deceptive work. These three are just a sampling. Paul’s letters are full of truths that counteract each of these and far more. Ephesians 4:25 says to put away lying. Verse 26 says to not let the sun go down on your anger. Verse 29 says to not let any corrupt word come out of your mouth. Verse 31 says to put away fleshly things, or in other words to cast them away. Verse 32 says that we are to forgive as we have been forgiven.
Those verses are a template for righteousness. Righteousness is conforming our thoughts (by washing our hearts with God’s word) purposes (intentions), and actions (the fruit of our thoughts) to God’s will. Spiritual disciplines are essential. However they won’t bring inner change. We have to renew our mind through truth that will set us free and keep us free. That is what it means to overcome evil with good. Hidden lies deceive. Hidden truth pushes the lies to the surface. This is effective warfare. We discern the lie, confess it as sin, renounce it, and affirm the truth. Then we hide additional Scriptures in our heart that will be like sentinels to alert us to future oncoming fiery darts.