Don’t think of a white elephant. Too late!
You probably thought of a white elephant.
This prank was first done to me by my youth pastor. And his point was two-fold: first, to prove that our thoughts are very susceptible to being influenced; and secondly, that when we hear God’s commands, our minds immediately are tempted to break those very commands. The human mind is a sponge, absorbing all sorts of fleeting ideas coming from any number of directions. Whether it’s from the internet, media, conversations, music, books, art, or anything else – we are not entirely in control of what thoughts come into our minds.
Add human selfishness to the equation and we have a real mess on our hands: not only are our minds weak and susceptible to be influenced, but we’re equally at fault for biased thinking, self-deception, clouded judgment, suspicion, resentment, and assuming the nature of people’s motives and actions.
But Scripture tells us that, no matter the ridiculous or offensive things we’re prone to thinking – we are nonetheless responsible for what we do with those thoughts.
Paul exhorts us in 2 Corinthians 10:5, to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” And likewise, in Colossians 3:2 to “set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
His exhortation is based on what the disciples observe of Jesus in Acts 1:9-11. After telling them that they will receive power from the Holy Spirit, Jesus ascends into Heaven. This ascension is the very ascension that exalts Christ above every name, power, and principality. Christ is no longer just the humble man we read of in the Gospels but is now the exalted Lord over the universe.
And now, the Lord of the universe, commands us to bring our minds in submission to him. As shown by the “Don’t Think of a White Elephant” prank – this is a difficult task. So how are we to set our minds on things above?
The answer, like most things, is we don’t try to force our minds to have good thoughts. Rather, we bring our thoughts, the good and the bad, always back to Jesus. This is what the author of Hebrews exhorts us in Hebrews 3:1, “Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus,” and again in Hebrews 12:2, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer, and perfecter of faith.”
We may think of the white elephants of life, whether suspicion, resentment, lust, assumptions, but all we must do to be obedient is to bring those thoughts back to Jesus, presenting all the wanderings of our mind to him, and laying them down before him.
Pastor Ryan Lunde
Young Adults Ministry