Are you in charge of your thoughts? Or are you the product of someone else’s thinking? Do you think for yourself?
I’m not just asking that because advertisers constantly push images on us and try to program us to react certain ways. Neither is this about the media spinning stories to promote an agenda or a political persuasion. Yes, those influences exist. We do have to fight the illusions and lies suggested by those forces. But there is more to it than that.
Ephesians 2:2 says there is an evil, deceptive spirit being behind all this. He is not just endorsing the tangible media that can so easily influence us. He is, in fact, “the prince of the power of the air.” What he is surcharging the air with is something invisible—just as the television and radio broadcast waves going through the air right now are also invisible.
In Revelation 12:9, he is called “the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world.”
He would like you to think that if you follow God, you are not thinking for yourself. However, Satan actually prefers you to think his thoughts—not your own—and to be completely unaware that they aren’t your thoughts!
When people are deceived by the arch-deceiver, Satan the devil, they don’t know they are deceived—a deceived person doesn’t know he is deceived. Satan deceives people into thinking that they are actually thinking for themselves, when only those with God’s truth truly can.
Have you ever wondered how Satan deceives the world? The answer is found in Ephesians 2:2. Here’s the entire verse: “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.”
Author Herbert W. Armstrong explained this verse thoroughly in The Incredible Human Potential. He quoted the Phillips translation, where the phrase “walked according to the course of the world” is rendered as “… drifted along on the stream of this world’s ideas of living …” The next phrase in that translation says those outside God’s Church have “… obeyed its unseen ruler (who is still operating in those who do not respond to the truth of God)” (emphasis added).
Mr. Armstrong stressed the phrase that most just “drift along” with Satan’s broadcasts. He explained that our human spirit is automatically tuned into this “wavelength,” and most are unknowingly letting those broadcasts sway them. “Satan is the unseen one who, unrealized by the people, is actually swaying their minds, leading them in what I term the ‘get’ way.”
In his final book, Mystery of the Ages, Mr. Armstrong wrote: “People simply do not realize that there is an invisible spirit power injecting into their minds these hostile attitudes.”
If we don’t want Satan to take “advantage of us” in this way, as 2 Corinthians 2:11 puts it, that verse says we must not be “ignorant of his devices.” We must know that he is broadcasting and what he is broadcasting.
In fact, the Greek word translated into “devices” in the King James Version is noema, and it is more commonly translated into English as thoughts or mind. Satan’s method is to try to inject his mind or thoughts into our thinking. When we know this, we are better equipped to resist these thoughts.
This Greek word for mind is used in the following verse too: “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Satan, as the god of this world, is blinding “minds” (Greek noema). That’s his business. His mind is blinding the minds of humanity.
This all began when Adam rejected God in the Garden of Eden. “From that moment, Adam and all his children after him were receptive to the sway of Satan. Satan began to work in the mind of Adam, even as God would have worked in his mind had he taken of the tree of life” (Mystery of the Ages). In the same volume, Mr. Armstrong wrote that Satan is “working in—inside the minds of—people.” He explained how “Satan as prince of the power of the air broadcasts—not in words, sounds or pictures, but in attitudes, moods, impulses. … Satan moves on the human spirit within people to move them in attitudes of envy, jealousy, resentment, impatience, anger, bitterness and strife. People have no realization of the tremendous power of Satan. The human spirit within each human is automatically tuned to Satan’s wavelength. It seems as if Satan has surcharged the air over the entire Earth with his attitude of self-centeredness and vanity.”
In The Incredible Human Potential, Mr. Armstrong wrote that Satan “subtilely and invisibly injects into human minds through the ‘human’ spirit his attitude of hostile rebellion. Satan begins implanting this carnal attitude as early in life as the child begins to absorb knowledge and to think.”
Mr. Armstrong emphasized what Satan’s broadcast actually consists of: “He broadcasts in attitudes. He broadcasts in attitudes of self-centeredness, lust, greed, vanity, jealousy, envy, resentment, competition, strife, bitterness and hate. In a word, the selfishness, hostility, deceitfulness, wickedness, rebellion, etc that we call ‘human nature’ is actually Satan’s nature. It is Satan’s attitude. And broadcasting it, surcharging the air with it, Satan actually now works IN the unsuspecting all over the world today! That is HOW Satan deceives the whole world today …. Being invisible, people do not see or hear him” (ibid).
Note this important paragraph! “People will feel depressed and won’t realize why. But those unaware of this phenomenon, with this self-centered attitude being broadcast and injected into their unsuspecting minds from earliest childhood, do, to a greater or lesser degree, absorb it until it becomes their normal attitude. It becomes habitual. It does not, of course, exhibit the same degree of effect in all minds—one person will become more evil than another. But the natural tendency is there. They come to have it naturally. It becomes their very nature. And we call it ‘human nature.’”
We can be confident, however, in this: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). What are we resisting? We resist what Satan is trying to inject into our minds! James 4:7 “is speaking of resisting these very self-centered thoughts, attitudes, tendencies and ways which Satan injected into us from childhood and is constantly broadcasting and injecting into unsuspecting minds through the spirit in man” (ibid).
Capture Your Thoughts
We can easily think things and think those thoughts are original with us. But we must challenge our thinking. We cannot just drift along. We must resist some of the thoughts in our very own minds.
In 2 Corinthians 10:5, the Apostle Paul explains this more thoroughly: “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”
The word for thought is the same Greek word (noema) as Satan’s “devices” in 2 Corinthians 2:11. We have to guard our minds because of where some of these thoughts come from.
I’m not just speaking of tempting thoughts to do something, or to go somewhere, or to avoid something we should not do. I’m talking about more subtle things, like thoughts we think are naturally our own when they are not. We might think we’ve come to a certain conclusion or decided that we’re in a particular mood when we’re just the victim of Satan’s injections!
But notice this! “However, no man is impelled to respond to and obey these impulses being broadcast by Satan. Satan has no power of duress to force anyone to think or do wrong. But the unsuspecting automatically do without fully realizing what is taking place in their minds. They ‘drift along’” (ibid).
Satan cannot force us “to think or do wrong.” He’s not “possessing” us when a bad thought knocks on our mind’s door. Thus, we cannot blame him for any wrong thoughts we dwell on. He can put a suggestion in there, but he can’t make us dwell on it mentally.
As Mr. Armstrong explained, we can eventually adopt these thinking patterns as our own habits to the point that, as Matthew 15:19 shows, these evil thoughts become part of our hearts. Jeremiah 17:9 says our hearts are “deceitful above all things.” That is the heart’s number-one condition. It can deceive us!
How important, then, to bring every thought into captivity. Some we must resist. But to do that, we must recognize what those attitudes are. Consider the dozen or so words and phrases that Mr. Armstrong used to define the attitudes Satan broadcasts. We can put them into nine unique categories, and consider each in terms of what we have to bring into captivity, challenge and reject.
Satan broadcasts, as Mr. Armstrong said, attitudes of “anger,” as well as “violence, murder and war.”
This is an attitude with which the world just drifts along, as Ephesians 2:2 tells us. Verse 3 in the same chapter reads: “Among whom also we … in times past … were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”
If anger stirs up in you, challenge it. Don’t just drift along. Don’t just let violent thoughts sway your thinking or become habitual—as with those in the world.
“Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools” (Ecclesiastes 7:9). Don’t just arrive at anger quickly—that’s the wrong spirit! Now, there is an anger that is not sin (Ephesians 4:26), but that is arrived at slowly (Proverbs 14:29), rather than reacting to impulse. If there is a legitimate reason for righteous indignation, then you will come to it deliberately.
In his writings, Mr. Armstrong wrote that Satan broadcasts “rebellion”—specifically an “attitude of hostile rebellion” and “resentment against authority.”
Satan wants you to be suspicious of authority at best and to despise and disobey it at worst. He wants you to resent someone just because they have been placed in charge of something. He especially works on our attitudes toward those placed in positions of authority within the Church. In God’s Family Government, Pastor General Gerald Flurry writes: “Satan broadcasts in feelings, moods, attitudes and emotions. Primarily these negative emotions are aimed at God’s government.”
Ecclesiastes 10:20 says: “Curse not the king, no not in thy thought ….” Don’t even think it. That means bringing these thoughts into captivity and recognizing where they come from.
Mr. Armstrong wrote a lot about the phrase “competition and strife,” which describes another of Satan’s many broadcasts. This is the spirit of me versus them. He used sports to illustrate this principle, stating that the main distinction between certain sports being right or wrong was purely the attitude of the player. “In interschool or intercollegiate competition, or the pro game, the attitude too often is bad,” he wrote in a Sept. 15, 1980, Worldwide News article, titled “All Sports Are Not Banned.” He continued, “[W]hen there is a spirit of hostility toward the other side—then it does break God’s law …. Wherever a game in sports involves antagonists—in hostile attitude to harm the other and/or to ‘GET’ from the other—to get the best of the other—then a harmful, satanic and evil attitude enters in, and the sport is evil, not good. Sometimes there is a fine line between what is within and what is outside God’s law.”
He explained that this “fine line” is determined by attitude. “Satan is the author of competition based on hostility, harm to the opponent, getting by taking from an opponent—to his harm or loss. God’s way is love toward neighbor equal to love of self.”
This leads to our next category of broadcast from the devil—what Mr. Armstrong described with the words “hate,” “hostility,” “bitterness” and the phrase “hostile attitudes.” This is more than just hostility with an athletic competition—it’s hostility in general everyday circumstances as well. Maybe you have the thought, I just don’t like them. That is one of Satan’s broadcasts!
We have that hostility toward God’s law especially. Romans 8:7 says that “the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” The Greek word for enmity means hatred. Have you ever thought that you didn’t like a particular law of God? That is in our mind if we are not led by God and if we are drifting along with Satan’s bitter broadcasts. We will hate it, and we therefore cannot be subject to it.
“Deceitfulness” is another component of Satan’s broadcasts that Mr. Armstrong wrote about.
The Bible discusses the deceitfulness of our hearts. Scripture also discusses the deceitfulness of lust, sin and riches—meaning we can be tricked into thinking those things are good.
Falling under the category of deceitfulness would be Satan’s common tactic to broadcast suspicion and skepticism. Satan tries to inject attitudes into our mind of thinking everything could be a deception—to get in a habit of doubt.
This is easy work for the deceiver of the whole world. Revelation 20:3 says that, when he is put away for a thousand years, he will “deceive the nations no more.” This passage also shows that he must be released a little season after that. And what’s the first thing he does? Verses 8-10 show that he starts deceiving again!
Satan will have been gone for so long that probably no human alive will have any idea what that broadcast was like. This passage indicates that some will quite easily be deceived. They probably will think they are the ones coming up with these ideas! But Satan is the deceiver, and he is a liar (John 8:44).
This is why we must bring every thought into captivity—we can’t trust one! That is what we must be distrustful of.
Mr. Armstrong wrote that Satan broadcasts “envy, jealousy, resentment.” Despite the various warnings against jealousy and envy, we can so easily fall prey to these attitudes.
James 3:14-16 warn us of harboring these kinds of thoughts: “But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.”
One way Satan convinces us to hold envy in our hearts is by broadcasting attitudes, feelings and thoughts of exclusion: that of feeling left out.
No matter what group we are in, Satan aims to make us think that we don’t belong. Whether it’s because of our race, our gender, or our place in a group or family, he wants us to feel that others are purposely locking us out of opportunity.
He is broadcasting the idea—especially to young people in God’s Church—that you don’t fit in; you don’t belong here. God is excluding you.
But God is not exclusive! 1 Timothy 2:3-4 say that He wants “all men to be saved”! If you feel God doesn’t want you, then you are listening to lies!
A major way Satan broadcasts, Mr. Armstrong wrote, was through “vanity,” through “self-centeredness” and through “selfishness.”
Face it. We think about ourselves a lot. Mr. Armstrong astutely explained how this aspect of our human nature is at the heart of what sin is: “God’s spiritual law is expressed in just one simple four-letter word—LOVE. We apply that law to given circumstances. … Sin … began with the super archangel, the cherub Lucifer. … The wisdom of his mind was lifted up in vanity. This violated love in the form of obedience and submission to God. A spirit of competition entered his mind. … Sin, spiritually, is self-centeredness, self-exaltation, desire to be beautiful, vanity, coveting, desire to get and take, to exalt the self, jealousy and envy, competition, oft-resulting violence and war, resentment and rebellion against authority” (Worldwide News, Nov. 16, 1981).
Often our vanity manifests itself in the form of insecurity. Take, for example, how Satan constantly pummels young girls with attitudes of being ashamed of their bodies. That is not much different from what he did in the Garden of Eden.
“And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons” (Genesis 3:7).
Were Adam and Eve blind before they ate the forbidden fruit? No. Did they not previously realize they weren’t wearing any clothes? No (Genesis 2:25). What changed? Something in their minds. There was shame and insecurity where there had not been. They were now more susceptible to Satan’s “devices”—his mind!
When God quizzed Adam about what happened, Adam said: “I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself” (Genesis 3:10). In verse 11, God replied: “Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?”
Where did Adam’s fear and insecurity come from? It was as if someone told Adam he was naked. “Yes, WHO put the sense of shame about sex in the minds of Adam and Eve?” Mr. Armstrong asked in The Missing Dimension in Sex. “It was Satan who had been telling them things!”
“Impatience” is another word Mr. Armstrong used to describe Satan’s broadcasts.
Sometimes we think we just can’t wait for something. We are sure of it! But is that being suggested and broadcast to us?
More typically, our impatience is manifested in our dealings with other people. We’ve just had it with them.
The Apostle Paul wrote that we must be “forbearing one another in love” and do so “with longsuffering” (Ephesians 4:2). This takes patience—which must begin in our minds.
Mr. Armstrong also used the phrase “lust and greed,” as well as the word “wickedness,” to describe Satan’s broadcasts.
When God experiences something wonderful, He wants to share it with as many as possible. The attitude being broadcast to us, however, is that when we experience something good, we want to hoard it and keep it to ourselves. Otherwise, it’s either not as special, or we won’t have as much. Swayed by Satan’s thinking, we don’t want to share—whether it is a possession or a person.
This would also apply to really wanting something we don’t have. Society is set up to pump those types of suggestions at you—trying to convince you that you just can’t be happy until you have the newest and latest thing. This type of thinking can so easily become habitual. But that is why we have to bring our thoughts into captivity. Challenge them. Don’t just be a product of someone else’s thoughts!
“For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another” (Titus 3:3). This verse mentions a lot of those traits we’ve already studied.
See, we might think we’re “free” if we just take whatever we lust after, but we are really just serving those lusts—like a slave. And that is exactly how Satan wants us!
For those categories discussed above—based on words and phrases that Mr. Armstrong used to describe Satan’s broadcast—the first letter of each subhead put together spells the word archdevil. How fitting since the great dragon was once the great Lucifer, and he went from being an archangel to being an “archdevil”—an arch-deceiver, in fact. But we see his devices—his mind! Even just knowing that is empowering of itself.
We also have to resist those thoughts. We do that by putting different thoughts in. Use the opposite thoughts and attitudes to the ones described above.
Instead of anger and violence, put in thoughts of peace.
Instead of rebellion or resentment, dwell on the loving God behind those in authority.
Replace thoughts of competition with thoughts of cooperation—thoughts of hate and hostility with those of outgoing concern. Dwell on honesty and trust, being happy for others’ successes.
Cultivate thoughts of serving others and cutting them some slack. Be content with what you have, and dwell on sharing with others.
What’s more, because we have to resist these attitudes and thoughts, the Bible reveals we will have a higher reward in God’s Family!
The time is coming soon when those broadcasts will be shut down! Revelation 20:1-3 describe an angel who will take the devil and “shut him up” for a thousand years “that he should deceive the nations no more.” Can you imagine what that will be like even though we have all grown up in a world where the air is surcharged with all the wrong attitudes?
Meditate on what it will be like without all the above attitudes being injected into human thinking. Imagine impulses or attitudes of suspicion and skepticism gone from the air, impulses or attitudes of jealousy when something good happens to another person, impulses or attitudes of inadequacy always coloring what you hear said about you, impulses or attitudes of self-consciousness, of second-guessing authority or directions, or of feeling excluded because of some imagined reason.
Now, those thoughts won’t automatically be gone. Again, humans have acquired those attitudes as habit, and it will take a while to break those thought-habits. But what we look forward to is the removal of Satan’s part in broadcasting those impulses. How could that not be palpably noticeable?
For the time being, we can recognize Satan’s thinking and resist. We don’t want an arch-deceiver doing our thinking for us. We do want another mind in us—the mind of Jesus Christ, by the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit. But we don’t drift along with that mind, nor is there any deception involved. God says in Isaiah 1:18 that we can, in fact, reason with Him.
God doesn’t just take over our minds and think for us. There is no mind control there. Rather, we are in control of our minds! We prove that this is the better way and choose to think this way. We consciously request that God put the mind of Christ in us. We constantly have to stir up that way of thinking. Eventually, for our youth who mature, it is due to God’s Holy Spirit having joined with their human spirits.
You could therefore say that we think for ourselves, but not by ourselves.
“Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind …” (1 Peter 4:1).
The “prince of the power of the air” wants you to passively drift along. By contrast, this verse says we are to arm ourselves with the same mind as Christ. It’s active. It’s like loading a weapon.
Yes, godly thinking can only come from God’s Spirit. But that Spirit is leading the young people in God’s Church. You have a choice as to where your mind is. Even now you can challenge and bring captive every thought.
You can be aware of Satan’s “devices”—his thoughts and his mind. Don’t drift along! Challenge your thinking! And consciously arm your mind with godly thoughts!