Someone recently wrote me complaining about having unclean or unkind thoughts toward others. Here is some of that reply:
First of all, it's a tad hard to pin down the thought life, and certainly anyone who attempts to "control" his thoughts will find it difficult to do so. You've probably heard the saying, "Don't think about blue monkeys," which of course, immediately makes you think about blue monkeys. The very act of "attempting" to think a certain way, or of trying not to think a certain way, will normally cause a conflict to start inside us, and it's not uncommon to find our thoughts being exactly the opposite from what we think they should be. So obviously then, any "self" attempts to create a certain pattern of thinking in our minds may likely cause the opposite.
Now, notice that Paul does not say to "control" our thoughts in the 2 Cor 10:4,5 passage you bring up. That's what people hear and try to do, but it isn't what Paul says. He says instead that he is not walking by the flesh, i.e. according to law of sin and death that he refers to in Romans 8:2, but that he walks and ministers according to the Spirit, and in the same Romans passage he says that the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set him free from the law of sin and death, and part of that Spirit life is that every thought HAS ALREADY BEEN BROUGHT into the captivity of the obedience of Christ. He is stating that this is a fact about his life and ministry in the Spirit, instead of giving an exhortation to the Corinthians to control their thought lives.
But of course, people have gotten from that that they are to "watch" their thought lives and so I know many people, myself included, who have surmised that meant that we're to consider, analyze, categorize, and do something about every thought that goes through our minds, and further to do our best to "keep out" bad thoughts, whatever they might be, and to somehow generate the right kind of thoughts. Which of course makes us judges of ourselves continually, deciding in our own reasoning minds whether something is good or evil, instead of committing all things unto the Lord and letting Him sort it all out.
However, captivity to the obedience of Christ means that everything within us, as well as everything without us, IS NOW under the obedience of Christ. In other words, EVERYTHING has been eternally captured by Him, so to speak, as Paul said He brought EVERYTHING within His purview when He ascended up on high -- "He led captivity captive ... that He might fill ALL THINGS." (Eph 4:8-10)
So therefore He NOW (not later) fills all things, and that "all things" includes our minds and everything that occurs within them.
So then, with that as our basis, let's consider this "thought" that led you to confess and repent to the Father for having an "unclean thought," after having been horrified and ashamed for having it in the first place.
I'll have to be blunt here, but I think you got fooled on that one by the enemy, because in the realm of our thoughts, just like in the body, something isn't "yours" until you marry it and make it your own. You had this "thought" go through your head, and the thought horrified you (which is normal) but it only became "your" thought when you agreed with the tempter, "that's me thinking that" and then, knowing truly that an "attitude" like that if manifest would be wrong (which is correct), you repented and felt ashamed at having something like that go through your mind.
First of all, did you "will yourself" to have that thought? No, it just appeared in your mind, didn't it?
If that is the case, then why did you own it as if it was yours? Maybe it went across the TV screen of your mind, but don't you have thousands if not millions of thoughts that go across the screen of your mind, to which you give little or no attention? Sure, sometimes things come up that grab your attention more than others, like the thought you described, but still, WHY DID YOU OWN IT? Who said that was your thought?
Every thought brought into the "obedience of the captivity of Christ," means that out of the myriads of possibilities, potentials, considerations, back and forths, musings, daydreams and imaginings that go through our minds on a moment by moment basis, the Spirit picks out the ones that He wants to express by us, and the rest go back into the swirl either never to be seen again or maybe to come around again some other time. Either way, the Spirit of God is in charge in our minds, is He not, and will HE not pick and choose out of all the above things I mentioned, and make his voice clear and true and known?
Is this not God's purpose to do this in us, rather than leaving us to figure out for ourselves something which is impossible for us to do?
Also, we are certain that no thought comes our way, whether "good or bad," that isn't purposed by the Father. If it comes as a temptation, which isn't directly from God but from his convenient agent (Satan) who cannot do more or less than the Lord allows, then its purpose is that by the temptation we might be drawn out and come to a new place of faith and life. And temptation isn't something to be repented of, but rather to count as joy knowing that all this conflict works as an exercise of our faith which is grounded in God only. So if a thought comes into our heads which is accusatory, judgmental or critical of others, it isn't sin. If something grabs our attention that much, then obviously that is happening in the Spirit for some redemptive reason, and OF COURSE, because of who we are (by virtue of who lives in us and that we are now of the divine nature), NO EVIL THOUGHT CAN OR EVER WILL ORIGINATE IN US, and therefore there is no need to repent of them because they are not US!
Instead, we rejoice in everything that comes our way, accepting condemnation for nothing, knowing that Christ, who is our very life and self more fully than we can comprehend, HAS IN THE PRESENT MOMENT brought every thought into the captivity of the obedience of Himself in us, and that He is the doorkeeper, and being the doorkeeper He therefore lets nothing come our way that can harm us, even stuff that comes up inside us in our minds and desires, but instead purposes EVERYTHING that comes our way so that HE might be glorified in us, by continually swallowing up darkness and death and by that rising in us in light and life that goes out to others.
To sum up, we don't judge ourselves, including our thoughts and desires, but trust the Spirit to do with every one of them, whether we think of them as good or evil, what HE pleases, knowing that everything we see, feel, hear, think, or sense, is intended only toward life through love, for us, and out from us for others by the power and life of the Holy Spirit who continually brings forth the life and purpose of God in everything we do.
Again, this is something the Lord does, and not ourselves, and we trust Him to do it.
For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. (2 Tim 1:12)