Intro: Read with me from our focus passage for this month. Phil. 4:8-9- 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. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.
Do you think much? Mark Twain once said that a person’s real life is led in his head and is known to none but himself. It is not his acts of words that define his life, but his thoughts. Twain went on to write… “All day long, the mill of his brain is grinding, and his thoughts, not those other things, are his history.” (Reader’s Digest [1/93], p. 155).
- The average person has 10,000 separate thoughts each day? That works out to be 5 million thoughts a year. If you live to be 75, you will have over 26 million different thoughts. Already most of you have had over 2,000 separate thoughts since you got out of bed this morning. You’ll probably have another 8,000 before you hit the sack tonight. Then you’ll start all over again tomorrow. Every one of those 10,000 thoughts represent a choice you make, a decision to think about this, and not about that. God gave you 10,000 thoughts today, but it’s up to you what you do with them.
Phil 4:8 teaches us that God wants you and me to control what we think about. In fact, v. 8 is a command – think on these things. We will explore the meaning and application of this command. But first consider the context. As we have noticed, Paul told the Christians here to rejoice and twice he has mentioned the promise of peace.
- Verse 6 – He calls on us to pray (let your requests be made known to God), and promises that the peace of God that passes understanding will guard our hearts.
- Then is verse 8 the apostle calls on us to think on certain things (and do what we see in Paul’s life) and promises that “the God of peace will be with you.”
- Following this Paul speaks about his own contentment v. 10-12.
- So thinking on the right things is a key ingredient to living a life of joy, peace, contentment and consistent obedience.
I. What Paul IS NOT Teaching in Philippians 4:8; The Power of Positive Thinking
A. One popular interpretation of this verse is that Paul is telling us to think positive thoughts. Get rid of all the negative thinking that is so prevalent. Unfortunately, many religious teachers have bought into the doctrine popularized by Norman Vincent Peale and in more recent times, by Peale’s protégé, Robert Schuller. Through their influence, the idea has developed among many churches that it is wrong ever to be negative or critical.
1. The positive thinking heresy has spawned further false teaching in the so-called “Positive Confession” heresy, also called the “Health and Wealth” or “Name it and Claim it” teaching, that whatever you confess positively by faith, God must do it.
2. This false teaching affirms that there is power in faith itself, and in positive words. If you are sick you must claim healing by affirming that “I am well”. A Christian is never to entertain negative thoughts but use positive self- talk and visualize what you desire, so that it will become a reality. This heresy attributes power to faith itself, and says that even if you are sick, you must not give a negative confession by admitting it, but must claim your healing by affirming, “I am well!”
3. These errors developed from the teaching of Ernest Holmes (Science of the Mind), the founder of the Church of Religious Science. Your mind can create reality through positive thinking- you can achieve whatever you believe. These false teachers reference and misinterpret Bible passages such as Phil. 4:8 as support. This is not what Paul teaches here or elsewhere about faith.
II. What Paul IS teaching: We Should Think on God and His Words. Although Paul does not specifically mention scripture in this text, the adjectives he employs point directly to the word and character of God Himself. How can we know what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, virtuous, and of good report? There can be no other standard except God and His words.
A. “Think on these things” – The verb of this passage is logizomai (log-id’-zom-ahee); to take an inventory, estimate (literally or figuratively): to ponder on, think about. One source says this verb means to “Give them weight in your decisions” (Beare, cited by Bruce, p. 145). Allow them “to shape your conduct” (Ralph P. Martin, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Philippians [IVP/Eerdmans], p. 171). In other words, think on these things with a view to doing them.
B. Think on what is TRUE [alethes – al-ay-thace’] The word means, “true as to fact … it denotes the actuality of a thing” (G. Abbott-Smith, A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament ). Is it real? God is the source of truth. He is unchanging Himself as are the moral standards revealed in His Word. Jesus said, “He who sent Me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him.” (John 8:26) Jesus also asked the Father to sanctify the disciples… John 17:17 – Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. Opposed to God and Christ, Satan is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). He can and does deceive. We must put our minds on the things that God reveals as truth, and run everything through the grid of God’s word.
1. Our world values emotions more than truth and is influenced by a culture of so called tolerance that assumes everything must be accepted as equally “true”, even when God plainly declares that there are some things that are an abomination to Him.
2. Truth is also not determined by what works. Just because something seems to make me happy, or accomplishes what I want, does not mean it is true. A lie is a lie; immorality is immorality; covetousness is covetousness.
C. Think on what is NOBLE (Honorable; honest) The word is semnos (sem-nos’); venerable, The word means “that which inspires reverence or awe; dignified, worthy of respect.” It is a character quality required in elders and deacons (1 Tim. 3:8, 11; 1 Tim. 3:4). All Christians should “lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Tim. 2:2).Christians are to take life seriously. We live in light of eternity and the reality of heaven and hell. We can tell a joke and appreciate humor, but our thought should focus on those things that are serious and worthy of respect.
D. Think on what is JUST (right) the word is dikaios (dik’-ah-yos) – equitable (in character or act); by implication, innocent, holy (absolutely or relatively): This word is used of God Himself and Jesus – God is righteous or just. 1 John 2:29– He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him. John also writes, “Little children, let no one deceive you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil” (1 John 3:7-8). To think on what is just means to think on the righteous nature of God and to model our behavior after Him.
E. Think on what is PURE – (hagnos) The word refers to ceremonial purity, but also to the moral purity that makes one prepared for worship. It is also translated as chaste, as it is used to describe behavior that is not tainted or defiled by moral or sexual impurity. In Ephesians 5:3-5 Paul warns, “But do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” It is increasingly easy to access impurity and put on thoughts on it. (internet – pornography – impure speech).
F. Think on what is LOVELY– prosphiles (pros-fee-lace’); friendly towards, i.e. acceptable: This word occurs only here in the New Testament. It means what is pleasing, agreeable, and attractive. Evil can appear attractive, but this word must be taken with the context, meaning that which is both pure and attractive. There are those things that are harsh and repulsive to the common mind. The entertainment world thrives on presenting such things for their shock value. When one focuses the mind on these images he can become unlovely as well.
G. Think on what is of GOOD REPORT –euphemos (yoo’-fay-mos); (admirable)This comes from a compound word meaning to speak well of something (our word “euphemism” comes from this Greek word). It refers to something that “deservedly enjoys a good reputation” (F. F. Bruce) Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13, love believes the best about another person, it refuses to believe an evil report about a brother or sister until there is certain evidence to establish it. Opposite of this are the demeaning and denigrating words and actions we find so prevalent in our culture of criticism and outrage – especially in divisive politics.
1. The next two adjectives that Paul uses are prefaced by the word “if” —if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy. This seems to be Paul’ manner of summarizing the list – if there is anything else that is virtuous or worthy of praise, then add these to the list.
H. Think on what is of VIRTUE– (excellence) arete (ar-et’-ay); properly, manliness (valor), i.e. excellence. This is moral virtue or courage. Goodness of action. (2 Peter 1:5 – add to your faith, virtue…) It points to those things that give humans their worth, both to God and to each other. Again we are called to look to God’s words to define what is virtuous.
I. Think on what is PRAISEWORTHY –epainos (ep’-ahee-nos); Laudation; a commendable thing: KJV – praise. The word is used both of what is praiseworthy in God and in people. God is praiseworthy in every regard. Christians should focus on the character and actions of God as revealed in scripture. We must also think about what is commendable about others, rather than concentrating on their faults or weaknesses. Even unbelieving people can be kind, caring, and loving. Ultimately those qualities, even in unbelievers, do not bring glory to the person, but to God.
III. How do we obey this command? First we recognize that it is possible to guard our minds. We can control the focus of our thoughts. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”
A. Bringing thoughts into captivity… The apostle Paul elsewhere speaks of this task in connection with our spiritual battle against evil. 2 Cor 10:3-6– For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 6 and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled. Our success in this spiritual struggle against sin is accomplished in the mind. (ours and those who would be brought to Christ through us) Our thoughts must be captured and brought into submission to Christ.
B. Sin proceeds from within… Jesus taught that all sin begins in our thoughts.. in our hearts. Jesus said, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man” (Mark 7:20-23). No one commits these outward sins without first having committed them in his mind. If we want to grow in godliness, we must win the battle over sin on the thought level.
C. Block the sources of sinful thinking…We cannot have a pure thought life without first ridding ourselves of things which defile us. If we allow things into our lives which promote sensuality, greed, sexual impurity, crude language, violence, hatred, love of self, or anything else not pleasing to God, we will practice impurity and fail at being holy people. You will not be a godly person if you do not control the TV, videos, movies, music, magazines, books, and even the radio programs you take in.
D. Absorb God’s words – Think on His Things. Phil. 4:8 emphasizes the positive. It is not just a matter of avoiding bad thoughts. If we would be joyful, peaceful, contented and holy people we must think on the things of God. These thoughts originate in His word. Read it daily. Saturate your mind in it. You cannot be influenced by what you do not know. Memorize it. Unless the Word is in your heart, God cannot use it when you are tempted.
Ps 1:1-3– Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. 3 He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.
Conclusion: You’re not what you think you are, but what you think, you are.
One final word and I am done.
If you are a Christian, you have within you the power to obey this command. You can literally change your mind if you want to. How? By remembering that all that is best is embodied in a Person! I speak of Jesus Christ.
- He is the Truth!
- He is the Most Noble Son of God!
- He is the Standard of Righteousness!
- He is the Fountain of Purity!
- He is Altogether Lovely!
- He is the Admirable Savior!
- He is the Source of All Virtue!
- He is worthy of all praise!
If you link yourself with him, you are joined with the highest moral power in the universe. He is the embodiment of everything Paul has commanded us to think about and do.
Put your mind on Jesus. He has certainly put His mind on you.