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Clean Up Your Thinking

Time to Take Out the Trash

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Trash.jpg
Marwood Jenkins / Getty Images

Are you plagued with negative thoughts about yourself and others? As Christians we may not even realize how our wrong thinking is affecting our concept of God. Don't let trashy thinking litter your mind and ruin your life. Jack Zavada shows us how to clean up our "stinking thinking" and take out the garbage.

Time to Take Out the Trash

Twenty miles from my home, near Pontiac, Illinois, is one of the largest landfills in the United States.

Every day, a steady stream of trucks drive down the interstate highway from Chicago, hauling huge trailers of trash. This landfill is four stories high and covers hundreds of acres.

Two truths about trash are obvious:

  1. It can cause health problems.
  2. It doesn't leave by itself. On a regular basis, you have to take it out.

The same is true of the trash that accumulates in our minds. If we don't take it out, it can ruin our lives.

Trashy Thinking About Others

Most of us have developed a bad habit of judging other people without knowing all the facts. Jesus plainly warns us: "Do not judge, or you too will be judged." (Matthew 7:1 NIV).

When we judge others, we put ourselves in God's place, taking the authority reserved only for him. We forget that other people are fighting their own inner battles and sometimes that conflict shows itself in irritating actions. But if our own behavior is imperfect, why do we expect better from others?

We can remove this kind of trashy thinking by practicing compassion and forgiveness. Only when we treat others the way Jesus treats us will we demonstrate the kind of love he wants us to have.

With his help, we can do this. We can make a little progress every day until we reach the point that we "do to others as you would have them to do to you." (Luke 6:31 NIV)

Trashy Thinking About Ourselves

Ironically, most of us are even harder on ourselves than we are on others.

Like our nonbeliever brothers and sisters, we also get caught up in our society's culture. Every day, the dominant message it sends is You don't measure up.

Whether it's a women's fashion magazine, a TV commercial about exercise equipment, or an ad for the latest automobile, this daily bombardment tells us there's something wrong with us that their product can fix. So we buy whatever they're pitching, only to find that after a few weeks (or even sooner), we feel as empty as we did before.

We need to take out this trashy appraisal of ourselves and replace it with God's view of us, expressed in his love, forgiveness, and acceptance. One glimpse of the cross is a stunning reminder of how precious we are to Jesus.

Trashy Thinking About God

Our most damaging trashy thinking is about God. Maybe we never express it openly, but our actions reveal our beliefs. We plunge ahead on our own because we think God’s not trustworthy. We stagger under the burden of guilt because we think he’s not forgiving. And worst of all, we feel alienated and alone because we think he doesn’t love us.

The best way to rid ourselves of these wrong ideas is to read God’s autobiography, the Bible. The Gospels in particular reveal what God is truly like. Jesus tells us, "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father." (John 14:9 NIV)

By comparing our beliefs to the truths in the Bible, we can identify our misconceptions and start to remove them. Taking out these trashy thought patterns takes courage and work. Because old habits are so hard to break, we need to ask God for help.

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit is eager to collect all our trashy thinking and take it away "…as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." (Psalm 103:12 NIV)

Our success may be spotty. We may backslide. We'll go right back to our old ways unless we consciously catch ourselves and say, "No, that’s trash. It’s bad and it has to go out."

But even if it takes constant vigilance, this is a clean-up job that’s well worth it. There’s no better time to start than today.

Also from Jack Zavada:
Life's Toughest Decision
Loneliness: Toothache of the Soul
The Christian Response to Disappointment
Too Proud to Ask for Help
Lessons from a Carpenter
Lifestyles of the Poor and Unknown
How to Survive a Power Failure
A Message Meant for Only One Person
Is Ambition Unbiblical?
Mathematical Proof of God?
Can Christian Men Succeed in the Workplace?

Jack Zavada, a career writer and contributor for About.com, is host to a Christian Web site for singles. Never married, Jack feels that the hard-won lessons he has learned may help other Christian singles make sense of their lives. His articles and ebooks offer great hope and encouragement. To contact him or for more information, visit Jack's Bio Page.

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