Practice the "Replacement Principle"

by Mary Whelchel

Here is one of the most unusual illustrations that Jesus ever gave: "When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, I will return to the house I left. When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first" (Luke 11: 24-26).

It almost sounds like it is an exercise in futility to get rid of evil spirits. The enemy certainly will not give up trying to control your mind, and when he sees you are serious about cleaning out the wrong thoughts, he will redouble his efforts to come back and occupy your renewed mind with even more evil thoughts. But when he returns and finds your mind is occupied and filled with the right kind of thoughts, he is prevented from moving in again. This is known as the "replacement principle."

It is not enough to know that a particular thought pattern is wrong; you must also make a fast decision to replace it with a thought pattern that is right.

You can replace untrue thoughts. A great many of your untrue thoughts are fearful thoughts; worrying and wondering about what might happen, what tragedy could descend upon you, or what could go wrong. Quote Psalm 27:1,3 when those thoughts enter your mind: "The Lord is my light and my salvation-whom shall I fear?" Or read Matthew 10:28-31, Is. 35:33-4, or Hebrews 12:3.

You can replace ignoble thoughts. Thoughts that criticize and judge others are never noble. Keep reminding yourself that the critical things that come out of your mouth begin in your mind. If you stop the thinking, you'll stop the words. Often the thing you criticize others for is an area in which you frequently fail yourself. Read Romans 14:10-13 and Matthew 7:1-2.

You can replace impure thoughts. Impure and immoral thinking is so commonplace in society that all of us need to be cautious in this area. Think about the second coming of Jesus Christ. "We know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure" (1 John 3:2,3).

You can replace unlovely thoughts. When you start to feel sorry for yourself and organize a pity party, your thoughts are immediately in the unlovely category. Thankfulness is a sure cure for self-pity. Start reciting all you have to be thankful for. Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thess. 5:18).

You can replace thoughts that are not admirable. "Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you" (Rom. 12:3). Let Jesus be your example of humility, servanthood, thinking the best of people, and always focusing on our Father in heaven. Read Philippians 2:5-8, and 1 Corinthians 4:7.

A moment of decision: it's not easy to replace wrong thoughts. The moment of abandoning the wrong thought and forcing yourself to think correctly is a moment of struggle in most minds. And sometimes it's necessary to replace wrong thoughts every minute or two. But don't let that discourage you. Keep applying this principle. Just keep replacing. You're changing habits that are ingrained, and you're in a warfare with your enemy. So don't give up; just replace the wrong thought with the right thought as many times as necessary.

Mary Whelchel is founder and host of the radio program The ChristianWorking Woman, heard across the country and internationally. She is also director of Women's Ministries for the Moody Church in Chicago. She is a frequent speaker at retreats and has authored several books, including If You Only Knew, How to Thrive From 9 to 5, and The Christian Working Woman.

©1998 Cook Communications Minisries. What Would Jesus Think?

by Mary Whelchel. Reprinted with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.