Intro: What can you do to improve your spiritual life in 2017? We often think of things we can do (pray more, study more, give more, attend more assemblies, talk to more people about Jesus, etc.) or things we can stop doing (wasting time, eating too much, ). But what if we changed our thinking? Would that impact our lives?
• Luke 6:45 – 45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
• Mark 7:20-23 – He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ 21 For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.'”
I recently saw a map of the 50 states with the topic that the people of each state googled the most in 2016. The topics were fascinating, and a bit disconcerting to me. They ranged from the supermoon (Hawaii) to the Mannequin challenge (Mississippi) to Harambe, the gorilla (R.I.) If the subjects of our thoughts are reflected here, we do not think about very many important topics. Maybe it is a symptom of our shallow society.
I. What should we think about? Philippians 4:8-9 – 8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.
A. These verses are familiar to us. They are Paul’s closing words (finally) in his letter to the Philippians. They are often used in a call for positive thinking. Replace those negative feelings and thoughts with more positive ones. If you have viewed these words as a call to walk around with a “glass half-full” perspective towards life, then you have likely missed the point of this verse. Although we do need to guard against chronic pessimism that stifles activity (the scriptures call it fear), the apostle is saying more here.
B. “Meditate on these things” – The Greek word Paul used, logizomai, (log-id’-zom-ahee); in some of your translations is translated as “meditate” and others as “think on.” Brother L.A. Mott observes that this word “involves the use of the mind and the reason: reckon, count, compute, calculate, take into account. After this process of reasoning, then some action must be taken (v.9). But first comes the calculation.” (Mott, p.#106). Brother Mott makes the point that the mediation (or calculation) of verse 8 is designed to lead to the action of obedience in verse 9.
C. The 8 qualities that Paul lists in v. 8 are the mental atmosphere of obedience to the will of God. By thinking on these things we keep ourselves faithful and pure to God.
II. Whatsoever things are… Paul gives us 8 things to think about.
Note: significance of 8? Some suggest there is significance to the number 8. It is the number that represents new life, or new beginnings. It signifies man’s covenantal relationship with his Creator through the physical act of circumcision, which, in the Jewish tradition, is performed on the male child’s eighth day. For the Christian, whether Jew or Gentile, we undergo a “circumcision of the heart” through belief upon, communion with and worship of Jesus, the God-man. The priesthood began on the 8th.
A. Whatever things are True: As Pilate stated, “what is truth,” the world has great difficulty with discerning what is true. People no longer ask “Is it true?” but “Does it work?” and “How will it make me feel?” Those two questions serve as a working definition of truth in our society that rejects the concept of absolute divine truth. Truth is whatever works and produces positive emotions. Sadly, such pragmatism and emotionalism has crept even into theology. The church is often more concerned about whether something will be divisive or offensive than whether it is biblically true. Christians need to focus on truth from its source, and be familiar with the revealed word. John 17:17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.
B. Whatever things are noble / honorable: Semnos (honorable) comes from a word meaning “to revere,” or “to worship.” In its other New Testament uses, it describes the dignified lifestyle required of deacons and their wives (1 Tim 3:8,11) and older men (Titus 2:2). The opposite is what is trivial, temporal, mundane, or common. Our thinking must rise above the world’s.
C. Whatever things are just / right: The most common use of the Greek word “dikaios” is in reference to having an upright, righteous, virtuous characteristic. It describes whatever is in perfect harmony with God’s eternal, unchanging standards, again as revealed in Scripture. Believers are to think on matters that are consistent with the law of God.
D. Whatever things are pure: Hagnos (pure) describes what God in Scripture defines as holy, morally clean, and undefiled. In 1 Tim 5:22 it is translated “free from sin.” Believers are to purify themselves because Jesus Christ is pure (1 John 3:3). It is difficult to find pure things to think about today. (TV and movies are saturated in impurity. Immodesty in clothing; internet images etc.) Job said he made a covenant with his eyes to not look on wickednesss.
E. Whatever things are lovely: This word is made up of two words: “towards” and “friendly”.(appears only here in the New Testament) It could be translated “sweet,” “gracious,” “generous,” or “patient.” Believers must focus their thoughts on what the Bible says is pleasing, attractive, and amiable before God. Do we meditate and contemplate that which is harsh or aggressive. (Retaliation for wrongs, political anger, road rage, etc..)
F. Whatever things are of good report / admirable: This word describes what is highly regarded or well thought of. That which will cause others to be drawn to us. This is not describing a wishy-washy compromising approach to truth or practice. But the early church is described as having favor with all the people because they treated each other with generosity and love. We do not need to build a fence around the building or shun the community around us.
G. If there is any virtue / excellence: Arete – Strong’s says it is “properly, manliness (valor), i.e. excellence (intrinsic or attributed): Vines says it is intrinsic moral goodness. We often connect it with purity.
H. If there is anything praiseworthy: epainos (ep’-ahee-nos); laudation; concretely, a commendable thing: worthy to be commended. Are there many praiseworthy things in the world? Certainly our society get it wrong on what is to be praised. They celebrate immorality (Katelyn Jennings is not a hero). We can celebrate the submissive wife who works in the home, the sacrificing husband who gives up a better job to spend time with his kids; young people who remain sexually pure until they are married.)
III. Meditate on these things…Our thoughts ought to be characterized by things that are “true, noble, just,” etc. These adjectives “…do not represent different individual virtues, as though some things may be true, others honorable, and still others just, pure, lovely or of good report. The several qualities will characterize all Christian values or excellencies, which are turned all around as one might a diamond, so that the light may fall upon now this aspect, now that one,” (Mott, THINKING THROUGH PHILIPPIANS, p.#105).
A. Verse 9 describes the conduct that is produced by this constant calculation. It is consistent with what God has revealed to us. What we have learned and and received in the scriptures. As we read and study the New Testament, there is a pattern we discover there. We find a pattern for the work of the church, our worship and the ordering of domestic affairs in marriages and families. There is instruction that constitutes a pattern for my individual behavior as a child of God. The pattern is not arbitrary. It is true, pure, just, right, praiseworthy.
B. These things to think about are not just abstractions. They had been lived out by the apostles (heard and saw in me). Have you seen these qualities in the lives of others? Do you know Christians who think on these things?
C. These qualities are found in Christ Himself. Jesus is true. Jesus is noble. Jesus is right. Jesus is pure. Jesus is lovely. Jesus is admirable. Jesus is excellent and, finally, perhaps most importantly, Jesus is infinitely and eternally praiseworthy.
Conclusion: A resolution to think differently. Prov 4:23 – Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.