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"Does man sin in his mind first?" Yes, I believe you are right on target. The following passage in James lays it out in sequence. "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." (James 1:13-15 KJV) According to Strong's, outline of biblical usage for lust is: (I. desire, craving, longing, desire for what is forbidden, lust). Christ stated in Matthew 5:28 "But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings." (Jeremiah 17:9-10) "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do." (Hebrews 4:12-13) When Samuel the prophet was sent by the Lord to the house of Jesse in order to anoint king Saul's successor he was given these instructions: " But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7) I once heard a well know preacher tell his congregation that if they knew what was in the heart of the individual sitting next to them, they would get up and move! He continued by saying, if they knew what was in his heart they wouldn't come to hear him preach. Last he remarked that if he knew what was in the hearts of his congregation, he wouldn't waste his time preaching to them. Isn't God's mercy and grace amazingly wonderful? He loves us in spite of ourselves.
I think that the Bible (including Jesus Himself) makes clear that sin begins in the mind, or, as the Bible sometimes metaphorically refers to it, in the heart (when regarded as the center of emotions, which actually have their source in the mind). This is shown by such verses as Matthew 5:28, Matthew 15:19, and James 1:15. We are all tempted, and that temptation first occurs as a thought. In my opinion, those temptations/thoughts are not in themselves a sin. But when we hold or dwell on those thoughts (rather than immediately rejecting them, as Jesus did when He was tempted (Matthew 4:1-11)), they become sin, even if we never act on them. (For instance, in Matthew 5:28, it is not the act of a man looking on a woman (or even admiring her beauty) that is sin, but (as Jesus said) looking on her with lustful intent, or regarding her from the self-centered perspective of his own sexual gratification (even if that lust is never translated into concrete action).) Paul advised the Christians at Rome to be transformed by the renewing of their minds (Romans 12:2). This also implies that it is not enough to refrain from visible sin. Even the Pharisees were outwardly righteous, but it was in their inner selves that they were full of corruption and sin (Matthew 23:25-28), for which Jesus condemned them. This emphasizes to me how much each of us needs the salvation that God offers in Jesus, for who among us could ever genuinely say that we have never sinned, even in our thoughts? However, one good way to combat such sins is to be thoroughly versed in Scripture, so that any time tempting thoughts occur, we can immediately reject or rebuke them by quoting God's word, as Jesus also did each time He was tempted by Satan.
My short and to the point answer that is just my contribution to the already "excellent answers" given by others is this: God's Word tells us that "For so as a man --(or woman)-- thinketh, so is He". Does this direct statement made by the author of scripture mean that 'any evil thought that man thinks upon is counted as sin? If it is just a quick passing of that thought but is quickly gone from his many, many thoughts in any given day, which is only normal; then I don't believe God would consider this a 'sin'. However, in the example of "When a man looks upon a woman and lusts in his heart for her" would be a good example of committing a sin that had not progressed into 'taking action on that thought'. Jesus tells us this example is a sin! This is what makes a good example that connects first the thought, then the 'desire' or response within the heart. A non-physical action sin. Man sins daily. Jesus Christ paid the ultimate price to provide eternal forgiveness that "cleanses us of any and all unrighteousness". Only Jesus was sinless, only He was our 'Holy example that surpasses all understanding' and only He is "our intercessor to the Father". As Jesus told the woman accused of adultery and was facing the horror of being 'stoned to death' by her accusers: Jesus asked her accusers, "Whom among you is without sin? If ye be, then let him cast the first stone! They thought...and, slowly one by one her accusers put down their stone and walked away. And, so Jesus said to her "no one has found you guilty, go ye therefore and sin no more". ~~Andy~~
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