Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatever is (3SPAI) true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell (2PPMM) on these things (NASB: Lockman)
Amplified: For the rest, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them]. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
NLT: And now, dear brothers and sisters, let me say one more thing as I close this letter. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: Here is a last piece of advice. If you believe in goodness and if you value the approval of God, fix your minds on the things which are holy and right and pure and beautiful and good. (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: Finally, brethren, whatever things have the character of truth, whatever things are worthy of reverence, whatever things are righteous, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are attractive, whatever excellence there is or fit object of praise, these things make the subject of careful reflection.
Young's Literal: As to the rest, brethren, as many things as are true, as many as are grave, as many as are righteous, as many as are pure, as many as are lovely, as many as are of good report, if any worthiness, and if any praise, these things think upon;
FINALLY BRETHREN WHATEVER IS TRUE :T o loipon, adelphoi, hosa estin (3SPAI) alethe:
- Mt 22:16; Jn 7:18; Ro 12:9; 2Cor 6:8; Ep 4:25; 5:9; 6:14; 1Pe 1:22; 1Jn 3:18)) (Ro 12:9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21; 1Co 13:4, 5, 6, 7; Gal 5:22; Jas 3:17; 2 Pe 1:5, 6, 7
- Philippians 4 Resources - Multiple sermons and commentaries
Finally (3062) (loipon) means literally “for the rest” or “for what remains” and in the present context means “as to what remains to be said.” This is Paul's second use of loipon in this letter (Php 3:1-see note Philippians 3:1). Therefore, obviously loipon does not always imply one is drawing to a close but that there is a transition in subject matter.
Loipon - 55x in the NT -
Matt. 22:6; 25:11; 26:45; 27:49; Mk. 4:19; 14:41; 16:13; Lk. 8:10; 12:26; 18:9, 11; 24:9f; Acts 2:37; 5:13; 17:9; 27:20, 44; 28:9; Rom. 1:13; 11:7; 1 Co. 1:16; 4:2; 7:12, 29; 9:5; 11:34; 15:37; 2 Co. 12:13; 13:2, 11; Gal. 2:13; 6:17; Eph. 2:3; 6:10; Phil. 1:13; 3:1; 4:3, 8; 1 Thess. 4:1, 13; 5:6; 2 Thess. 3:1; 1 Tim. 5:20; 2 Tim. 4:8; Heb. 10:13; 2 Pet. 3:16; Rev. 2:24; 3:2; 8:13; 9:20; 11:13; 12:17; 19:21; 20:5
The NAS renders loipon as beyond that(1), else(2), finally(6), from now on(2), from then on(1), in the future(1),moreover(1), other(1), other matters(1), other people(1), other things(1), other women(1), others(4), remaining(2), rest(26),still(2), that time onward(1), things that remain(1).
As Paul draws to the conclusion of his letter, in this verse he deals with the greatest conflict that every believer encounters - the battle for the control our minds.
Solomon recognized this age long conflict when he wrote…
Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23)
In Proverbs 23:7 Solomon wrote that…
As a man thinks in his heart so he is
Do you want to know what a man actually is? Solomon has just given us the "test". It is not what he says but what he thinks about! What do you think about most of the time? (compare Paul's command to set your mind on and seek "the things above" in Col 3:1- note, Col 3:1 - note)
Believers are in a war for their minds, the world system continually bombarding them using every "weapon" at its disposal - books, magazines, billboards, television, movies, internet, etc. The goal of the anti-god world system is to control our actions by first controlling our minds. We've all heard the axiom "The medium is the message" but the real message is that the medium seeks to seduce our minds into its anti-god way of thinking, introducing distorted euphemisms like "values clarification" in which the individual determines the "values" by which he or she assesses what is "true and honorable", etc, neglecting of course the truth that God absolutely sets the absolute, eternal values. If you think this is "brainwashing" is not an ongoing struggle, then try this little experiment. Using a web search engine like "Google", enter the phrase "Values Clarification" in the query box (be sure to include the quotes). You may be surprised at some of the almost 200,000 hits you retrieve!
The ancient Greco-Roman anti-Christ, anti-god world was not any different from world system of today. And so Paul presents to us and to the saints at Philippi the antidote to counter the fiery missiles constantly coming at the believer's mind. The key word in this passage is Paul's command for us to "dwell" on the list of godly qualities in Philippians 4:8. (see more discussion on the critical verb dwell below)
William Barclay rightly observes that…
The human mind will always set itself on something and Paul wished to be quite sure that the Philippians would set their minds on the right things. This is something of the utmost importance, because it is a law of life that, if a man thinks of something often enough, he will come to the stage when he cannot stop thinking about it. His thoughts will be quite literally in a groove out of which he cannot jerk them. It is, therefore, of the first importance that a man should set his thoughts upon the fine things and here Paul makes a list of them. (Daily Study Bible Series)
In this list there are 8 "standards" by which every child of God can test whether their mind is dwelling on that which is worthy of consideration. This verse is worth committing to memory, so that it is available for immediate access whenever and wherever you find your mind!
Dwight Pentecost offers a practical thought regarding this verse noting that…
The greatest area of sin in the believer’s life is not the area of actions but the area of thought. There is a whole classification of sins that we would have to call sins of the mind. What was the first sin of Lucifer? It was pride. What is that? A sin of the mind. What is lust? A sin of the mind. What is covetousness? A sin of the mind. Greed? A sin of the mind. Suspicion? A sin of the mind. Discouragement? A sin of the mind. We could go on and on. Those sins are more real to the child of God than such sins as adultery and murder and theft. That is a testimony to the fact that there is a warfare going on. Satan is attacking the mind. Therefore this word of the Apostle Paul concerning the use we make of our minds is so relevant to us today: meditate, ruminate, dwell on these things. (Pentecost, J. D. The Joy of Living: A study of Philippians. Kregel Publications)
Pastor Steven Cole (his messages are highly recommended) introduces Philippians 4:8 with the following comments…
Mark Twain wrote,
What a wee little part of a person’s life are his acts and his words! His real life is led in his head, and is known to none but himself. 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).
I would modify Twain by saying that our thought life forms the basis for and is largely revealed in our actions and words. But Twain’s comments correctly affirm that our thought life composes a major part of who we really are.
Jonathan Edwards put it this way:
The ideas and images in men’s minds are the invisible powers that constantly govern them (source unknown).
Thus it is crucial for each of us to bring our thought life into submission to Jesus Christ by learning to think biblically about every aspect of life. One of the most helpful things I have learned about the Christian life is that all sin begins in our thoughts, which the Bible often calls “the heart.” 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, 21, 22, 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. In Philippians 4:8 Paul exhorts us to develop a Christian thought life.
His words should not be divorced from the context. Practicing verse 8 is essential if we want to develop and maintain healthy relationships (Phil 4:2, 3, 5). A Christian thought life is also integral to a life of joy (Phil 4:4) and peace (Phil 4:6, 7) in every situation. Since our thoughts form the basis for our behavior, a godly thought life is also essential for the obedience to which Paul exhorts us in Phil 4:9. Clearly, Paul’s thought life was at the heart of the contentment he had learned in every situation (4:10-12). So Paul is telling us the way to be whole people in our relationships with God, with one another, and within ourselves. But before we look specifically at what Paul is teaching and how to obey it, we need to think about:
WHAT PAUL IS NOT TEACHING: THE POWER OF POSITIVE THINKING.
I need to focus on this for a moment because the Christian world has been infiltrated with the false teaching of “positive thinking,” popularized by Norman Vincent Peale and, with only slight variations, by Peale’s protege, Robert Schuller. If you are at all familiar with the teachings of these men, you know that they are not Christian in any orthodox sense of the term, even though they both have been welcomed into evangelical circles. Through their influence, the idea has crept into the American church that it is wrong ever to be negative or critical. This has resulted in the loss of discernment…
WHAT PAUL IS TEACHING: THE CHRISTIAN’S THOUGHT LIFE SHOULD BE FOCUSED ON THE GREAT TRUTHS OF SCRIPTURE.
Even though Scripture is not specifically mentioned, it is assumed, because it is the only source for knowing what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and of good repute. (Read his excellent message Philippians 4:8 The Christian's Thought Life)
Whatever is true - true as to fact. What is true denotes the actuality of something.
True ( 227) (alethes) is that which conforms to reality. In the final analysis whatever God says on any given subject is true! The unchanging God and His unchanging holy Word is the final test for truth. You do not have to look very closely to find the Lord Jesus Christ in verse 8 for Jesus said He was "the Truth" and each of these traits is true of Him.
Alethes - 26x in the NT - Matt. 22:16; Mk. 12:14; Jn. 3:33; 4:18; 5:31f; 6:55; 7:18; 8:13f, 17, 26; 10:41; 19:35; 21:24; Acts 12:9; Rom. 3:4; 2 Co. 6:8; Phil. 4:8; Tit. 1:13; 1 Pet. 5:12; 2 Pet. 2:22; 1 Jn. 2:8, 27; 3 Jn. 1:12
The NAS renders alethes as real(1), true(21), truly(1), truth(1), truthful(2).
In John 3:33 the Scripture attests that God is true to which Paul adds Who cannot lie. (see note Titus 1:2 ). So everything God says is true!
John records Jesus' words…
I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and the things which I heard from Him, these I speak to the world.
And so God Who is true and cannot lie stands in dramatic contrast to Satan who Jesus described to the Jews who would soon try to stone Him…
You (Jews who refused to receive Jesus as their Messiah and Redeemer) are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies. (John 8:44)
Paul described Satan as a deceiver writing to the Corinthians…
I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. (2Cor 11:3)
In Revelation John records that…
the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
One who deceives seeks to cause others to accept as true or valid what is false or invalid.
From this introduction, it follows that a vital aspect of thinking on whatever is true means reading, memorizing (see Memorizing His Word) and meditating (see Biblical Meditation) on the Word of God. The remaining seven categories of virtuous thought are all based on the truth of God’s Word. All of them are ways to view the truth of Scripture.
Thinking that is true is not false or unreliable, but genuine and real. When a thought comes racing into (or slithers into) your mind, begin the test by asking is it true? This means we must know the truth ourselves which is why regular serious Bible study is vital to discern truth from error or deception. Now something may be true but still is not worthy of consideration. The last two statements serve as qualifiers "Is it excellent?". "Is it worthy of praise?" If not, then even though it is "true" it is not to be dwelt upon.
Barclay adds that…
Many things in this world are deceptive and illusory, promising what they can never perform, offering a specious peace and happiness which they can never supply. A man should always set his thoughts on the things which will not let him down. (ibid)
Pastor Cole reminds us…
Since as fallen creatures we are prone to Satan’s lies and deception, the only way we can know the truth and walk in it is to steep ourselves in God’s Word. We should know the Word so well that we automatically run everything we encounter through the grid of God’s Word. We live in a day that is geared toward emotions and strongly influenced by the supposed “virtue” of tolerance. Our culture assumes that love means being tolerant and accepting of everyone and everything, even if God’s Word plainly declares that something is an abomination. If you go with the flow, you will be carried far from God’s absolute standard of moral truth as revealed in His Word.
We also must resist the pragmatism of our culture, which determines the true by whatever works. If something works, which means, it brings you happiness (at least at the moment) or it accomplishes what you want, then it must be true. But God’s Word doesn’t always line up with what works. In fact, it’s clear that sin often brings pleasure for a season; if it didn’t we wouldn’t be so enticed by it. Many of the “positive mental attitude” methods are effective in making you a successful sales person. But the question is, Are they biblical? We must test everything by God’s Word, not by feelings or pragmatism. (Read his excellent message Philippians 4:8 The Christian's Thought Life)
Dr. Walter Cavert reported a survey on worry that indicated that only 8% of the things people worried about were legitimate matters of concern (true)! The other 92% were either imaginary, never happened, or involved matters over which the people had no control anyway. Satan is the antithesis of truth for he is the father of lies (Jn 8:44), and he seeks to corrupt our minds with his lies and deception (2Cor 11:3). His mantra remains unchanged after 5000 years - “Hath God really said?” (Genesis 3:1ff).
The Holy Spirit sanctifies our mind through God's truth, His Word…
"Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth. (Jn 17:17)
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (See note Romans 12:2)
On the other hand, the devil tries to corrupt our mind through lies and deception. Whenever we believe a lie, we begin to walk in darkness, the kingdom of Satan! And so we see the importance of Paul's command to continually meditate upon the things that are true.
MacArthur has some insightful comments on those things that are "true":
People no longer ask “Is it true?” but “Does it work?” and “How will it make me feel?” Those latter 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… Too many people go to church not to think or reason about the truths of Scripture, but to get their weekly spiritual high; to feel that God is still with them. Such people are spiritually unstable because they base their lives on feeling rather than on thinking… Salvation involves the transformation of the mind. In Romans 8:5 (note) Paul writes,
Those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh.”
Unsaved, fleshly people have an unsaved, fleshly mind-set. They think as fallen, unredeemed people. On the other hand,
“those who are according to the Spirit [set their minds on] the things of the Spirit.”
Their renewed minds are focused on spiritual truth. Consequently,
Just as the believers’ initial act of saving faith leads to a life of faith, so also the transforming of the mind at salvation initiates a lifelong process of renewing the mind.
Wiersbe adds this practical note:
Wrong thinking leads to wrong feeling, and before long the heart and mind are pulled apart and we are strangled by worry. We must realize that thoughts are real and powerful, even though they cannot be seen, weighed, or measured. We must bring “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (2Cor 10:5).
Sow a thought, reap an action.
Sow an action, reap a habit.
Sow a habit, reap a character.
Sow a character, reap a destiny!
WHATEVER IS HONORABLE: hosa semna:
- Acts 6:3; Ro12:17; 13:13; 2Co 8:21; 13:7; 1Th 4:12; 1Ti 2:2; 3:4,8,11; Titus 2:2,7; Titus 3:14; Heb 13:18; 1Pe 2:12
- Philippians 4 Resources - Multiple sermons and commentaries
Honorable (4586) (semnos) means worthy of respect or entitled to honor. It is that which inspires reverence or awe. It describes those things which are worthy, venerable, august, noble. The idea pertains to whatever evokes special respect.
Semnos is used only 4 times in the NT, here in Philippians 4:8 and in the following passages all describing an attribute of a distinct group of people…
1 Timothy 3:8 Deacons likewise must be men of dignity (semnos), not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain,
1 Timothy 3:11 Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things.
Titus 2:2 (note) Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance.
There are many things that are not respectable, and Christians should not think about these things. This does not mean we hide our heads in the sand and avoid what is unpleasant and displeasing, but it does mean we do not focus our attention on dishonorable things and permit them to control our thoughts. Believers are not to dwell on what is trivial, temporal, mundane, common, and earthly, but rather let their minds dwell on what is heavenly (cf our citizenship in heaven - see note Philippians 3:20), and so worthy of awe, adoration, and praise.
Barclay observes that the Greek word semnos…
… is difficult to translate. It is the word which is characteristically used of the gods and of the temples of the gods. When used to describe a man, it describes a person who, as it has been said, moves throughout the world as if it were the temple of God. Matthew Arnold suggested the translation nobly serious. But the word really describes that which has the dignity of holiness upon it. There are things in this world which are flippant and cheap and attractive to the light-minded; but it is on the things which are serious and dignified that the Christian will set his mind. (ibid)
Ask: Does that to which you are giving your attention have honest value? Does it have the dignity of holiness upon it?
Wayne Barber describes this as
a lifestyle that tells everyone that we are under the Lordship of Christ. It is that which is decent. It is that lifestyle which is attractive to others. Without one's drinking from the well of Christ there will be no lifestyle that attracts others to Him.
Pastor Cole write that honorable…
This means that Christians are to take life seriously. We are not to be silly goof-offs, who treat life as a perpetual joke. We live in light of eternity, keeping in mind the uncertainty of this short life and the reality of heaven and hell. This doesn’t mean that we can’t appreciate clean humor. But our overall tenor should communicate to a lost world that they must stand before a holy God someday soon. Think on these reverent themes. (Read his excellent message Philippians 4:8 The Christian's Thought Life)
WHATEVER IS RIGHT: hosa dikaia:
- Ge 18:19; Dt 16:20; 2Sa 23:3; Ps 82:2; Pr 11:1; 16:11; 20:7; Isa 26:7; Mk 6:20; Lk 2:25; 23:50; Acts 10:22; Titus 1:8
- Philippians 4 Resources - Multiple sermons and commentaries
Right (1342) (dikaios) refers to that which conforms to the perfect standard of God's righteousness. We know from Romans that the "good works" that God requires (they are "right") do not come from our good intentions, but originate out of faith that obeys. Dikaios describes whatever is in perfect harmony with God’s eternal, unchanging standards, as revealed in Scripture.
Dikaios - 79x in the NT -
Matt. 1:19; 5:45; 9:13; 10:41; 13:17, 43, 49; 20:4; 23:28f, 35; 25:37, 46; 27:19; Mk. 2:17; 6:20; Lk. 1:6, 17; 2:25; 5:32; 12:57; 14:14; 15:7; 18:9; 20:20; 23:47, 50; Jn. 5:30; 7:24; 17:25; Acts 3:14; 4:19; 7:52; 10:22; 22:14; 24:15; Rom. 1:17; 2:13; 3:10, 26; 5:7, 19; 7:12; Gal. 3:11; Eph. 6:1; Phil. 1:7; 4:8; Col. 4:1; 2 Thess. 1:5f; 1 Tim. 1:9; 2 Tim. 4:8; Tit. 1:8; Heb. 10:38; 11:4; 12:23; Jas. 5:6, 16; 1 Pet. 3:12, 18; 4:18; 2 Pet. 1:13; 2:7f; 1 Jn. 1:9; 2:1, 29; 3:7, 12; Rev. 15:3; 16:5, 7; 19:2; 22:11
The NAS translates dikaios as innocent(1), just(6), justice(1), right(6), righteous(45), righteous man(8), righteous Man(1), righteous man's(1), righteous men(2), righteous one(1), Righteous One(3), righteous persons(1), what is right(1), who is righteous(1).
Ask: Does that to which you are giving your mind conform to the holiness of God? Is it intrinsically righteous, or is it tainted, shady?
WHATEVER IS PURE: hosa hagna:
- 1Ti 4:12; 5:2; Titus 2:14; Jas 1:27; 3:17; 2Pe 3:1; 1Jn 3:3
- Philippians 4 Resources - Multiple sermons and commentaries
Pure (53) (hagnos) is that which is free from defilement, stainless, that which will not contaminate, that which is "morally and inwardly" pure. The word refers to ceremonial purity, but also to the moral purity that is pictured by the ceremonial. It especially means keeping our bodies undefiled by abstaining from sexual sins (see 2Cor 11:2; 1Ti 5:22; Titus 2:5-note; James 3:17; 1Pe 3:2-note; 1 John 3:3). The saints then, as now, were constantly attacked by temptations to sexual impurity (Ep 4:17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24-see notes Ep 4:17-19; 20-22; 23-24). Paul gives a strong warning to every saint…
do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named (present imperative commanding this to be their habitual practice = to not to even pronounce the name! Or to stop a practice already in existence.) among you, as is proper among saints; 4 and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 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. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them; 8 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), 10 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. (Ep 5:3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10-See notes Ep 5:3, 4; 5-6; 7-8; 9-10)
Hagnos - 8x in NT - 2 Co. 7:11; 11:2; Phil. 4:8; 1 Tim. 5:22; Tit. 2:5; Jas. 3:17; 1 Pet. 3:2; 1 Jn. 3:3.
The NAS renders hagnos as chaste(1), free from sin(1), innocent(1), pure(5).
Barclay adds that when hagnos was…
… used ceremonially, it describes that which has been so cleansed that it is fit to be brought into the presence of God and used in his service. This world is full of things which are sordid and shabby and soiled and smutty. Many a man gets his mind into such a state that it soils everything of which it thinks. The Christian’s mind is set on the things which are pure; his thoughts are so clean that they can stand even the scrutiny of God. (ibid)
Ask: Will it defile or is it intrinsically pure? Will it corrupt your thinking if you give attention to it? Will it stand the scrutiny of God?
WHATEVER IS LOVELY: hosa prosphile:
- 2Sa 1:23; Song 5:16; 1Co 13:1-13; 1Pe 4:8
- Philippians 4 Resources - Multiple sermons and commentaries
Lovely (4375) (prosphile is a relationship word derived from pros = towards + philes = friend) refers to that conduct which is dear to someone. It is that conduct which is pleasing in it's motive and actions towards others. Lovely has the idea of that which is admirable or agreeable to behold or consider. Who is the most lovely One ever to live? Jesus of course and it follows that we should think often of what He has done for us, is doing now at the right hand of the Father and will do in the future. Maranatha.
Barclay adds that…
Winsome is the best translation of all. The Greek is prosphile, and it might be paraphrased as that which calls forth love. There are those whose minds are so set on vengeance and punishment that they call forth bitterness and fear in others. There are those whose minds are so set on criticism and rebuke that they call forth resentment in others. The mind of the Christian is set on the lovely things—kindness, sympathy, forbearance—so he is a winsome person, whom to see is to love. (ibid)
Ask: Will this thing produce concord and rest and peace: Or will giving attention to this thing produce strife either within you or between you and another brother? If the former, then as the saying goes "hold that thought"! If the latter, than cast it aside.
WHATEVER IS OF GOOD REPUTE: hosa euphema:
- Acts 6:3; 10:22; 22:12; Col 4:5; 1Th 5:22; 1Ti 3:7; 5:10; Heb 11:2
- Philippians 4 Resources - Multiple sermons and commentaries
Good repute (2163) (euphemos is from eu = well, good + pheme = rumor, fame; English = euphemism) and refers to that which is well–spoken of, praiseworthy, laudable, highly regarded or well thought of. It is something or someone that deservedly enjoys a good reputation.
Ask: Are we concentrating on the good things we see in others or are we dwelling on their faults and shortcomings?
No Christian can afford to waste “mind power” on thoughts that tear him down or that would tear others down if these thoughts were shared. The believer must major on the high and noble thoughts especially as revealed in the pure milk of God's word and not dwell upon the base thoughts of this corrupt world.
IF THERE IS ANY EXCELLENCE: ei tis arete:
- Ru 3:11; Pr 12:4; 31:10,29; 2Pe 1:3,4
- Philippians 4 Resources - Multiple sermons and commentaries
Note the change in sentence structure introduced by "if". These last two qualities are more generic qualities and serve to sum up the preceding qualities.
Excellence (703) (arete) (Click in depth study) refers to any preeminence (moral, intellectual, military). Arete is a term denoting consummate ‘excellence’ or ‘merit’ within a social context. To the Greek philosophers, it meant “the fulfillment of a thing.” Arete came to mean quality of life which made someone or something stand out as excellent. Arete never means cloistered virtue or virtue of attitude, but virtue which is demonstrated in life. When anything in nature properly fulfills its purpose, that fulfillment was referred to as “virtue' or moral excellence. Land that produces crops is “excellent” because it is fulfilling its purpose. The tool that works correctly is “excellent” because it is doing what a tool is supposed to do. A believer demonstrates moral excellence or virtue by living the way He now has the potential to live (possessing everything necessary for life and godliness, His precious and magnificent promises, partaker of His divine nature).
Arete - 5x in the NT - Phil. 4:8; 1 Pet. 2:9; 2 Pet. 1:3, 5. The NAS renders arete as excellence(2), excellencies(1), moral excellence(2).
In short, arete was a term denoting consummate ‘excellence’ or ‘merit’ within a social context. Exhibition of arete invites recognition, resulting in renown or glory. In Homer arete was used primarily of military valor or exploits, but also of distinction for other personal qualities and associated performance that enhance the common interest. The term is a favorite subject in Stoic thought relating to morality.
Peter uses arete in his description of Jesus Who is the supreme manifestation of glory and excellence (arete). (2Pe 1:4-note). And then Peter calls saints to supply excellence writing…
Now for this very reason also (having everything necessary for life and godliness, having His precious and magnificent promises, so that we might become partakers of the divine nature, for this reason and with His divine supplies and promises), applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence (arete), and in your moral excellence, knowledge (2Pe 1:5-note) (Comment: Cole comments that "Peter uses it as a quality of God and thus as the first quality that we are to add to our faith (2 Pe 1:3, 5). This means that as a new Christian, one of the first things you must do is to stop any behavior that is not in line with God’s moral virtues as revealed in Scripture, such as the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, and Paul’s list of the deeds of the flesh (Gal 5:19, 20, 21-see notes Gal 5:19; 20; 21). To continue doing such things will hinder your growth in godliness. We must focus our minds on moral virtue. [Ibid]).
IF ANYTHING WORTHY OF PRAISE: kai ei tis epainos:
- Pr 31:31; Ro 2:29; 13:3; 1Co 4:5; 2Cor 8:18
- Philippians 4 Resources - Multiple sermons and commentaries
Worthy of praise (1868) (epainos from epí = upon + aínos = praise) is literally "praise upon" and denotes commendation, praise, or approbation (an act of formally or officially approving). It means something which is worthy of being commended. The word can describe the act of expressing admiration or approval, praise, approval, recognition. In the present context epainos describes a thing that is praiseworthy or something that deserves to be praised. So when that thought comes into your mind ask "Is it praiseworthy?" Then reflect upon it.
Detzler writes that epainos is…
Used sparingly in the Scriptures, the basic meaning of this word is "applause." It speaks of expressed approval or public recognition. Usually this praise was addressed to an individual or to an entire community. (Detzler, Wayne E: New Testament Words in Today's Language. Victor. 1986)
Richards in his note on the related verb epaineo writes that it…
means "to commend," and thus "to praise." In the spirit of the OT, this word for praise involves commending God for himself, his qualities, and his works. This word is also used in commending people. Excitingly, we learn that God will commend believers for faithful service. (Richards, L O: Expository Dictionary of Bible Words: Regency)
Epainos is used 11 times in the NT…
Romans 2:29 (note) But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God. (Comment: There is almost a play on words here because Jew [Ioudaios ~ "the praised one"!] is related to the word Judah [Ioudas; cp Gen 49:8] which means praise. Here the praise from God is on those Jews who have received the Messiah as Savior. Vincent remarks that in this context epainos "means the holy satisfaction of God as opposed to Jewish vain-glory." Denny has an interesting remark that "the love of praise from each other, and religious vanity, are Jewish characteristics strongly commented on by our Lord.”)
Romans 13:3 (note) For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same
1 Corinthians 4:5 Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men's hearts; and then each man's praise will come to him from God. (Comment: This refers to the Judgment of believers [see bema] where the motives of deeds done in this present life will be assayed and rewarded or not rewarded. It is of note that the clear implication is that each believer will receive praise from God. This is amazing grace indeed!)
2 Corinthians 8:18 And we have sent along with him the brother whose fame in the things of the gospel has spread through all the churches;
Ephesians 1:6 (note) to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved… 1:12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ should be to the praise of His glory… 1:14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory. (Comment: Vincent writes that the ultimate aim of foreordination is that "Praise is called forth from the children of God by this divine glory which thus appears in grace.")
Philippians 1:11 (note) having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.
1 Peter 1:7 (note) that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
1 Peter 2:14 (note) or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.
There are 5 uses of epainos in the Septuagint (LXX) (1 Chr 16:27; 2 Chr. 21:20; Ps. 22:3, 25; 35:28)
Psalm 35:28 And my tongue shall declare Thy righteousness And Thy praise (Hebrew = tehillah = hymn or song of praise, praise in general; Lxx = epainos) all day long. (Spurgeon's Note: Unceasing praise is here vowed to the just and gracious God. From morning till evening the grateful tongue would talk and sing, and glorify the Lord. O for such a resolve carried out by us all!)
TDNT notes that…
Praise and approval were much sought after in antiquity, though the Stoic tried to achieve freedom from human judgment. In the OT, epainos is the recognition that the community gives the righteous, but especially God's approval. In Philo it is the approval of Moses or God, but sometimes public applause in the Greek sense. epainos may also be used in the LXX for the community's attitude of praise and worship toward God. God's throne is surrounded by doxa and epainos (1 Chr 16:27) (Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Eerdmans)
Vincent writes that epainos is
Commendation corresponding to the moral value of the virtue.
LET YOUR MIND DWELL (meditate, ponder, continually take an inventory) ON THESE THINGS: tauta logizesthe (2PPMM):
- Lk 16:15; 1Th 5:21; 1Jn 4:1
- Philippians 4 Resources - Multiple sermons and commentaries
These things are the eight words used for the values that should fill the Christian’s thought-life or as someone has referred to it as Paul's paragraph on good "mental health". As they are ‘taken into account’, they will shape attitudes and direct words and actions. Just the "sheer weight" of these the positive traits Paul notes demands a zealous rejection of the continual bombardment of our minds by godless, negative thoughts (and pictures) of this world.
Take viewing habits as just one example -- the disturbing truth as demonstrated in a recent nation wide survey is that there is no discernible difference between born again and non-born again individuals regarding the likelihood that they would view adult-only content on the Internet or that they would read magazines or watch videos with explicit sexual content! This negative mindset is exactly what the positive points of Philippians 4:8 are intended to counter and correct. But God's Spirit will not make us puppets. He will give us the desire and the power but we still have to make the personal choice to work out our salvation in fear and trembling! (Php 2:12, 13-see notes Ph 2:12; 13) What does this mean for you? Perhaps you need to stop watching television (not under law but under grace, enabled by the Spirit Who leads you with His holy desires that still call for you to make a choice to follow or not follow His lead! - Gal 5:18-note). Or perhaps you need to ask another believer to become your accountability partner regarding your Internet usage. Jesus made it very clear that we should do whatever it takes, declaring that…
if your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to go into hell. (See notes Matthew 5:29; 30)
Let your mind dwell - You are not responsible for the way others think, but you are responsible as a believer the way you think. Each of the preceding categories are a matter of personal choice. Our choices do matter. We can choose a "thought program" that will yield a Christian mind like Paul (Php 4:9-note) or we can accept the input of the godless world which will yield a mind like Lot who "felt his righteous soul tormented day after day" (2Pe 3:8-note). You cannot serve both "masters", God and mammon (Mt 6:24-note)
The Psalmist gives sage advice
I will set no worthless thing before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; It shall not fasten its grip on me. (Psalm 101:3)
I will neither delight in it, aim at it or endure it. If I have wickedness brought before me by others I will turn away from it, I will not gaze upon it with pleasure. The psalmist is very sweeping in his resolve, he declines the least, the most reputable, the most customary form of evil -- no wicked thing; not only shall it not dwell in his heart, but not even before his eyes, for what fascinates the eye is very apt to gain admission into the heart, even as Eve's apple first pleased her sight and then prevailed over her mind and hand.
He was warmly against it; he did not view it with indifference, but with utter scorn and abhorrence. Hatred of sin is a good sentinel for the door of virtue…
I will disown their ways, I will not imitate their policy: like dirt it may fall upon me, but I will wash it off, and never rest till I am rid of it. Sin, like pitch, is very apt to stick.
In the course of our family history crooked things will turn up, for we are all imperfect, and some of those around us are far from being what they should be; it must, therefore, be one great object of our care to disentangle ourselves, to keep clear of transgression, and of all that comes of it: this cannot be done unless the Lord both comes to us, and abides with us evermore.
In short, believers need to allow Christ to be Lord of their time, whether on the Web or the Tube.
Let… mind dwell (3049) (logizomai from lógos = reason, word, account) (English ~ logarithm) means to reckon, compute, calculate, to take into account, to deliberate, and to weigh. Logizomai refers to a process of careful study or reasoning which results in the arriving at a conclusion. Logizomai conveys the idea of calculating or estimating. The idea is to think about something in a detailed and logical manner.
Robertson says it means a “deliberate and prolonged contemplation as if one is weighing a mathematical problem.”
Ralph P. Martin says think about these things with a view to doing them, allowing them "to shape your conduct".
Logizomai - 40x in the NT -
Lk. 22:37; Jn. 11:50; Acts 19:27; Rom. 2:3, 26; 3:28; 4:3ff, 8ff, 22ff; 6:11; 8:18, 36; 9:8; 14:14; 1 Co. 4:1; 13:5, 11; 2 Co. 3:5; 5:19; 10:2, 7, 11; 11:5; 12:6; Gal. 3:6; Phil. 3:13; 4:8; 2 Tim. 4:16; Heb. 11:19; Jas. 2:23; 1 Pet. 5:12.
The NAS renders logizomai as consider(6), considered(2), counted(1), counting(1), credit with(1), maintain(1), mind dwell(1), numbered(2), propose(1), reason(1), reckoned(11), reckons(1), regard(4), regarded(3), suppose(1), take into account(3), thinks(1).
Paul commands on believers to reflect carefully (and continually = present imperative) upon this list of virtues and not just giving it a fleeting glance or thought. This is not an "elective" but a "required" course! The idea is for the believer to continually fill his or her mind with the things listed rather than the trash of this present evil age. Mull these things over. Let your mind be constantly occupied with these things.
Paul is saying take these qualities into account and reflect carefully upon them in order that they may shape your conduct, because how and what you believe affects how you behave. These good qualities are not merely things that are good for the head, but things that need to be transformed into action.
Logizomai was an accounting term and so one gets the picture of taking all of the truths Paul has listed regarding your thought life and putting them in the "calculator" of your human brain, thinking about them and coming to a conclusion and most importantly then letting that conclusion affect the way you live.
The thought Paul is conveying is rendered several ways…
"meditate on these things" (NKJV)
"make the subject of careful reflection," (Wuest),
"think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them] (Amplified)
The present tense and imperative mood commands a continuous action, a call to a spiritual discipline for the purpose of godliness for as a man or woman thinks in their heart so they are (Pr 23:7, cf Mt 15:18, 19).
Meditate on them with careful reflection, not casually and superficially, but constantly and logically. You can mark it down…
Noble thinking produces noble living.
High thinking produces high living.
Holy thinking produces holy living.
And so Paul says let this mindset be your lifestyle. Continually think about these things in a detailed and logical manner!
I am resolved no longer to linger,
Charmed by the world’s delight,
Things that are higher, things that are nobler,
These have allured my sight.
I will hasten to Him, hasten so glad and free;
Jesus, greatest, highest, I will come to Thee.
I will hasten, hasten to Him, hasten so glad and free;
Jesus, Jesus, greatest, highest, I will come to Thee
(Palmer Hartsough) (Play hymn)
The middle voice is reflexive which means that you yourself are to continually initiate this action and participate in the effects or results thereof. It is also worth noting that in the preceding verse (Php 4:7) Paul had assured the saints that God would guard their hearts and mind in Christ Jesus. In this verse Paul is emphasizing that the saints themselves have a responsibility in the matter. God does not garrison the thought-life of a man who does not want it to be kept pure.
As Robertson says
We are responsible for our thoughts and can hold them to high and holy ideals.
Spiritual stability is a product of how we think
Proper thinking is not optional for saints.
Paul's command points out that we are each responsible for what we think about. And don't forget that thinking is as much a choice as doing. Our environment doesn’t push our buttons and make us think a certain way. We choose to think certain ways and about certain things.
Dwelling on these things is very close in meaning to meditating upon them. J. I. Packer says that meditation is the practice of turning each truth we learn about God into matter for reflection before God, leading to prayer and praise to God.
Meditation is the activity of calling to mind, and thinking over, and dwelling on, and applying to oneself, the various things that one knows about the works and ways and purposes and promises of God… It is an activity of holy thought, consciously performed in the presence of God, under the eye of God, by the help of God, as a means of communion with God.” (Packer, J I: Knowing God) (See related resource Primer on Biblical Meditation)
Such saturation with the Scriptures is the secret to satisfaction in the soul.
If it is not true Paul writes, do not let it enter your mind. And the way that you know something is not true is by first knowing what is "true", the pure milk of God's holy Word! How you chose to think (either using the guidelines of Philippians 4:8 or the grid of fleshly, worldly wisdom) will affect your will and your emotions (feelings). There are benefits for right thinking and consequences for wrong thinking. Don't be sluggish. Don't be dull of hearing. Don't be deceived. Do be zealous for God and His Holy Word, living out what you take in. In this He will be glorified.
Harry Blamires has said that while Christians may worship and pray as Christians, they do not think as Christians…
The Christian mind has succumbed to the secular drift with a degree of weakness and nervelessness unmatched in Christian history(Harry Blamires, Recovering the Christian Mind. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press)
Former UN Secretary General Charles Malik speaking to a distinguished audience at the dedication of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College declared…
Believe me, my friends, the mind today is in profound trouble, perhaps more than ever before. How to order the mind on sound Christian principles, at the heart of where it is formed and informed, is one of the … greatest themes that can be considered.”
Dwight Pentecost offers a practical summary of this verse…
God’s standard for His children is that we should sit in judgment upon every thought that flickers through our minds. If it cannot pass the test of ringing true and being of honest worth, righteous, incorruptible, and attractive, it is to be rejected and repudiated. If you introduce one drop of contaminated water into a pitcher of cool water, the cool, refreshing, pure water will not purify that defilement, but the defilement will corrupt the pure; so these thoughts will contaminate your mind. Satan wants to turn your mind into a cesspool and have your mind occupied with that which ultimately must corrupt, defile, and spoil the whole body, distort the life, and produce sin. The battle is not first in the field of action; it is in the field of thought. Transport yourself to the pasture, consider the cow chewing her cud, and learn that lesson from nature that the psalmist learned. Your delight must be in the Word of God, and in His Word you must chew your cud day and night. If the battle is lost, it is lost because you do not meditate on “ these things.” (Pentecost, J. D. The Joy of Living: A study of Philippians. Kregel Publications)
Wayne Barber has some additional thoughts on logizomai in his Word Study of the Month
The apostle Paul in Philippians 4:8 tells the Philippian believers that when they see godly living this should cause them to reason out how and why this kind of living exists. He wants them to see the source from which this kind of living comes.
Now, the whole verse hinges on the phrase dwell on these things. It literally means to ponder these things. The word is logizomai. It is in the present imperative. Always be pondering these things. It means to reason something out. To look at something and see what it is all about and how it came to be. When I get on a 747 to take off from an airport, I am amazed at how that plane can fly. I catch myself sitting there thinking that we are never going to get off the ground. It is like a hotel taking off. But, somehow it does and it causes me to ponder as to what in the world makes this thing work.
You see, Godly living is just not the result of a good intention by a sincere believer. When you see someone living the way God says to live, this should make us sit up and take notice. This lifestyle is the fruit of someone's life when that person is drinking from the right well. Jesus Christ is the only well from Whom we must drink. When He is our life (Php 1:21- note), our attitude of (Php 2:5-note), and our goal (Php 3:14-note), then He is the very source of all that we are and all that we do, the well from which we drink. So much of what is called "Christianity" is coming from the wrong well. The well of sincerity, the well of good intentions, the well of tremendous effort, but still the well of ignorance.
Finally brethren, whatever is true. Now the word true is alethes derived from a which means "without" and lethous means that which is hidden. That which is true contains nothing that is hidden that will cause it to self destruct. You see, any well that proclaims truth, that is not the well of Christ, contains something hidden within it that will cause it to self destruct. In fact, anything that man comes up with and calls truth has something that is destructive in it. So many people think that Paul is saying,
"Remember all that your Dad told you as you were growing up and think on these things".
When my daughter Stephanie was 5yo, she was having a very bad day. My wife told her about Philippians 4:8. She went into her room and when she came out about an hour later she said,
"Well, I've been thinking on the things which are true and lovely".
My wife Diana asked her, what she had thought about she said,
"I thought of teddy bears, birthday cakes and wedding gowns".
Well, while that was cute to us as parents, that was far from what Paul was saying. Paul is saying that all that is praiseworthy comes from the well that has nothing hidden in it that will cause it to destruct. That well is Christ and His Word.
In John 3:33 says that God is true referring to God the Father. In John 14:6 Jesus says I am the Truth. In John 14:17 John is speaking of the Holy Spirit and says that He is the Spirit of Truth. Then in John 17:17 Jesus declares "Thy Word is Truth."
It doesn't take much intelligence to realize where the source of Truth in these verses. Until a person is seeking God in His Word… until a person is realizing that Christ is his life… until a person is living out of God's Word, seeking to allow Christ's life to live through him… it is not until then that his life will take on the characteristics of that which is worthy to be pondered by others.
Paul adds the phrase if there is anything worthy of praise to wrap up anything left out that speaks of a person's lifestyle and then he ends by saying ponder these things.
Oh, how we need to come back to the right well. To drink from that which has within itself nothing that would cause it to destruct. To live lives fired by the power of God and fueled by His Word. To live in such a way that others have to stop and ponder our lifestyle. And when they look deep, they do not see us, but they see Christ in us.
Pastor Steven Cole concludes his message on this verse with an excellent discussion of application…
Proverbs 4:23 (see notes) says,
Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.
Patrick Buchanan has observed,
The food that enters the mind must be watched as closely as the food that enters the body (Reader’s Digest [11/89], p. 203).
Frank Outlaw wrote,
Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become actions; watch your actions, they become habits; watch your habits, they become character; watch your character, for it becomes your destiny (Reader’s Digest [date not known]).
To obey what Paul is saying, we must exercise control over our thought life. This involves at least five things:
1. We need the mind of Christ through conversion.
Before a person knows Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, he has a depraved mind (Ro 1;28-note). He lives in the lusts of his flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind (Ep 2:3-note). God must supernaturally raise us from our state of being dead in our trespasses and sins (see note Ephesians 2:1) and impart to us a new nature that is able to obey Him (Eph 5:22, 23, 24-see notes Ep 4:22; 23; 24). Paul says that
the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him (Ro 8:7, 8, 9 -see notes Ro 8:7; 8; 9).
As he goes on to explain, the Holy Spirit gives us the power to put to death the deeds of the flesh and to live in obedience to God.
2. We must clean out and block out sources for sinful thoughts.
We cannot have a pure thought life without first ridding ourselves of things which defile us. It would be like trying to clean yourself while you’re lying in a mud hole. The first step is to get out of the mud and get to a source of soap and water. 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 cannot grow in holiness.
I am aware of the wise warnings against using words like ‘all,’ ‘every,’ and ‘always’ in what I say. Absolutizing one’s pronouncements is dangerous. But I’m going to do it anyway. Here it is: It is impossible for any Christian who spends the bulk of his evenings, month after month, week upon week, day in and day out watching the major TV networks or contemporary videos to have a Christian mind. This is always true of all Christians in every situation!” (emphasis his).
Amen! It needs to be said: 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. If something is polluting you or tempting you, get rid of it and make plans to avoid it!
3. Take in God’s Word from every source.
Read it daily. If you’re not a reader, listen to it on tape. You have no excuses for not saturating your mind with Scripture. As Kent Hughes also says,
You cannot be profoundly influenced by that which you do not know (p. 77).
I cannot encourage you enough to memorize verses that relate to problems you struggle with. (related resource Memorizing His Word) Unless the Word is in your heart, God cannot use it when you are tempted (see Jesus’ example in fending off temptation, Mt 4:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10,11). You do not need to read the newspaper every day, but you desperately need to read your Bible every day! It’s like a daily shower--it cleanses off the dirt of the world (Eph 5:26-note).
4. Expose your mind to the teaching and examples of the great Christians down through history. (See related resource Christian Biography)
Listen to and read sermons from godly men. The sermons and commentaries of John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, J. C. Ryle, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and other giants of the faith are available in print. (Ed: Listen to John Piper's excellent biographies of these men at Biographies) Read the biographies of these and other godly men and women. With a few exceptions, avoid most of the modern Christian best sellers, and spend your time reading the works that have stood the test of time. These men walked with God, and they will feed your soul.
5. Listen to wholesome music, especially the great hymns of the faith.
I enjoy many of the praise choruses, especially those that are taken directly from Scripture. But also, some of the great hymns have a history of sustaining God’s people down through the years, and they are doctrinally meaty. The Wesley’s used hymns to teach theology to many who were illiterate. Get recordings of the great hymns and play them until you know them by heart. They will fill your mind with wholesome truth.
A number of years ago, the news media picked up the story of a woman known as “Garbage Mary.” She lived in a smelly Chicago tenement amid mounds of garbage. She spent her time rummaging through trash cans. She would bum cigarettes off her neighbors. Police took her to a psychiatric hospital after she was stopped for questioning and found to be in a confused state of mind. When they went into her filthy apartment, they were astounded to find stock certificates and bank books indicating she was worth at least a million dollars. She was the daughter of a wealthy Illinois lawyer. It’s a pathetic story, but it pictures the lives of many professing Christians, who could be immersing their thought life in that which is true, dignified, right, pure, lovely, of good repute; that which is virtuous and worthy of praise. But instead, they surround themselves with moral filth, wallowing daily in raunchy TV programs, polluting their minds with the sordid stories of this condemned world, rather than focusing their thought life on the things of God and Christ.
An old Indian Christian was explaining to a missionary that the battle inside of him was like a black dog fighting a white dog. “Which dog wins?” asked the missionary. “The one I feed the most,” replied the Indian. Paul says, “Feed your mind on the pure truth of God’s Word.” (Read his excellent message Philippians 4:8 The Christian's Thought Life)
A Powerful Lesson - In 1892, John Hyde boarded a ship in New York harbor and set out for India. His goal was to proclaim the gospel to people who had not heard about Jesus. During the next 20 years he earned the nickname "Praying Hyde" because he often spent hours and even many days in prayer for the salvation of nonbelievers and the revival of Christ's followers. On one occasion, Hyde was upset about the spiritual coldness of a pastor, so he began to pray,
"O Father, you know how cold—"
But it was as if a finger stopped his lips from uttering the man's name. Hyde was horrified when he realized that he had judged the man harshly. He confessed his critical spirit and then determined not to focus on the shortcomings of others but to see them as individuals whom God loves. Hyde asked the Lord to show him things that were "of good report" (Philippians 4:8) in the pastor's life, and he praised God for the man's virtues. Hyde learned later that during this exact time the pastor's spiritual life was revitalized.
Let's not be faultfinders—even in prayer. We can follow Paul's example of focusing on what God has done and what He can do in the lives of others (Ephesians 1:17, 18, 19, 20, 21). Instead of praying against people, let's pray for them. —J E Yoder (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
Father, give me the wisdom to know how to pray for others—with kindness, not criticism; with love, not anger; with grace, not judgment.
Be a grace-giver, not a faultfinder
THINK ON THESE THINGS - The best way to keep evil ideas out of our minds is to concentrate on things that are good and pure and beautiful. The mind cannot be entirely at rest; it is not a blank. Hence the exhortation is given to think about right things. We are to be occupied with the Scriptures, with loving attitudes and holy de-sires. We must look only on worthy things and meditate primarily on that which is of good report. To praise rather than to criticize is our first duty. As we thus allow the Holy Spirit to bring every thought into captivity to Christ, we will find that good deeds will automatically flow from such lofty and spiritual attitudes. Like our blessed Savior, we too will then go about "doing good" (Acts 10:38).
A college girl who was a fine scholar and had a noble spirit volunteered to be a counselor at a girl's camp. Despite her abilities, she was required to peel potatoes in the kitchen. The head mistress of the camp, realizing that this was quite a menial task for such a talented and highly intellectual girl, exclaimed, "It's too bad that a young woman of your education should have to peel potatoes." The girl who was a splendid Christian looked up brightly and replied, "But, Miss Baldwin, remember, I don't have to think about potatoes while I'm peeling them." The application is obvious. You can keep your soul out of the dust no matter what your task, if you center your thoughts on the things mentioned in our text. Let the Holy Spirit discipline your mind by dismissing suspicion and replacing it with hope and trust. Forego grudges. Flout envy. Be appreciative, be kind, be gentle. Rejoice in the Lord a little more. Take pleasure in beauty and virtue. Clear away the cobwebs of doubt, frustration, and anger. Let your mind dwell on Christ and He will beautify your life. (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
Think truly, and thy thoughts
Shall be a fruitful seed;
Live truly, and thy life shall be
A great and noble creed. — H. Bonar
You're not what you think you are; but what you THINK—you are!
THINK TOGETHER - An executive of the world's largest toymaker said, "We are such a machine in terms of what we deliver on an annual basis that it doesn't allow time to think."
In an effort to stimulate creativity, this company is taking selected employees out of corporate headquarters and encouraging them to think together in new ways. For instance, when asked to devise a method to prevent an egg from breaking if dropped from 14 feet, one group went beyond the conventional approach of trying to cushion its fall and created an egg bungee cord.
What about us? Are our lives so focused on activity and production that we don't take time to think? In Paul's letter to the Philippians, he told them to meditate on things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, and of good report (Php 4:8). What would happen if we began this kind of thinking together in our churches and homes? Might we discover creative, God-given approaches to problems that seem to defy solution? Would our perspective on life undergo a radical change?
"Meditate on these things" is a great command. Obeying it with our families and other believers could open doors of discovery for helping others, serving God, and living for Him. Now that's something to think about! —David C. McCasland (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
Lord, help us to think of the right and the true,
The pure and the noble—it all points to You;
For if we consider what's worthy of praise,
We'll then want to live for You all of our days. —Fitzhugh
Right thinking leads to right living
PHILIPPIANS 4:8 - WHILE driving, I sometimes see vultures soaring high overhead, swooping down, and then rising up again with the air currents. Every so often, I see a small group of them sitting on the roadway tearing apart the carcass of some unfortunate creature. These ugly birds are on the lookout continually for what is loathsome and repulsive!
Some people are like that. Nothing seems to satisfy them more than what is sinful, corrupt, and immoral. The books and magazines they read, the TV programs they watch, the conversations they engage in, and the activities they pursue reveal a vulture-like appetite.
How much better is the spiritual diet the Bible suggests: "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" (Philippians 4:8).
What kind of food do you prefer? Don't be like the vulture. Rather, "as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby" (1 Peter 2:2).—R W De Haan
PHILIPPIANS 4:8 - PASTORS, public speakers, and writers do a lot of listening and reading to find information, illustrations, and better ways of expressing truth. I listen to radio talk shows while driving, and I have a book or magazine in hand while watching a ball game on television.
What happens with all this input? My mind processes it, and it becomes a part of me. Then when I write or speak, it comes out in my own words.
This process of absorbing words and ideas is not unique to speakers and authors. Everyone takes in vast amounts of information every day. And living as we do in a world system with god-less values, we are bound to take in a lot of garbage. What we can't avoid we need to reject before it becomes a part of the way we think. If we fail to be discerning, our minds will be defiled. But if we find pleasure in what is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, and of good report (Philippians 4:8), these good qualities will become a part of the way we think, act, and speak.We can't avoid hearing bad thoughts and ideas, but if we process them through God's filter of truth, we can turn them around and use them for good.—FM (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All right
PHILIPPIANS 4:8 - ANYTHING that dims my vision of Christ or takes away my taste for Bible study or cramps my prayer life or makes Christian work difficult is wrong for me, and I must, as a Christian, turn away from it," said J. Wilbur Chapman.
The apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, summed it up this way: "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" (Philippians 4:8).
With those things filling our minds and with the Holy Spirit leading us, we can develop guidelines for living that will honor God. Doing so will liberate us from "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" (1 John 2:16). Then, no matter what trials and temptations may threaten us, we will have a standard to live by.
The Christian life is not a collection of do's and don'ts; it is a daily walk that is guided by the Holy Spirit who indwells us. He can help us establish self-control and give us direction through the principles in Scripture. With His help, we can set good standards for our behavior.—P R Van Groder (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
Cafeteria Christianity - In his book Thinking in the Future Tense, Edward B. Lindaman refers to "the cafeteria culture of our age." It's the tendency to shy away from life's unpleasant disciplines and seek only what brings immediate pleasure.
Christians are not exempt from this tendency. Some persuasive preachers promote an "abundant life" of success and prosperity through positive thinking, more faith, or giving money to get God's blessing in return.
The Bible, of course, teaches us to think positively (Phil 4:8) and to give liberally (2 Cor. 8:2). But much "prosperity preaching" lacks the nourishing truths of Christ's sacrifice for sin and His demand for godly living. Our God is not only loving, good, and generous; He is also righteous, holy, and demanding. He hates sin and will not compromise with evil.
It's wonderful to hear about the blessings Christ offers, but we also need to experience repentance and self-denial. The picking and choosing of a cafeteria-style Christianity is no substitute for a well-rounded diet, which includes the tough truths of taking up Christ's cross and following Him (Mark 8:34). That kind of nourishment stimulates the growth of spiritual muscle and Christlike character. And I need all of that I can get, don't you? --D J De Haan (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
From subtle love of softening things,
From easy choices, weakenings;
Not thus are spirits fortified,
Not this way went the Crucified. --Carmichael
To be conformed to Christ, let God's Spirit form Christ in you.
PHILIPPIANS 4:8 -An office supervisor instructed her secretary to alter some question-able financial records. When the secretary refused, the supervisor asked, "Don't you ever lie?"
For many people, both public and private honesty is an obsolete virtue—a moral remnant of bygone days. Integrity is more complex than simply refusing to lie. Integrity means speaking out when remaining silent would convey the wrong impression, and it means doing what's best for others even if it causes us harm.
Sa'ad, a sensitive, hard-working man who lives in Zarayed, one of Cairo's garbage dumps, works long hours collecting trash. He is one of thousands of Egypt's garbage collectors who struggle to survive, but who seldom break out of their hopeless prison of poverty. Often he clears little more than fifty cents a day. One day Sa'ad found a gold watch valued at nearly two thousand dollars. He could have sold the watch and made a better life for himself and his family. He could have reasoned that he needed it more than the owner or that it was God's justice that allowed him to find the watch. But he didn't. He returned the watch to its owner. Sa'ad is a Christian and believes it's wrong to keep what doesn't belong to him.
If this kind of honesty is not evident in our lives, we need to reexamine ourselves. Jesus is the Truth. Truthfulness, therefore, must be the way of life for all who follow Him. —D. J. De Haan (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
Some people are honest only because they have never had a good chance to steal anything.
What's The Connection? - The image on the TV screen captures our attention and we sit down to watch. As we flip from channel to channel, is there any connection between what we decide to watch and what is in our heart? Does our faith in Christ have anything at all to do with our TV choices?
In a world of falling standards, we must think through this question: How does our relationship with Christ affect our TV viewing habits?
One secular writer speaking about today's television programs said, "The notion of indecency has become obsolete." He is suggesting that a standard has been pushed aside. What is that standard? I believe it's the moral standard found in biblical teaching.
Most TV productions are not governed by the guidelines God wants us to follow. The Bible tells us, "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" (Philippians 4:8). It's hard to do that when we're being bombarded by the ungodly images presented on television.
Let's ask God to help us make godly choices in what we watch on TV. —Dave Branon (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
Sow a thought, and you reap an act;
Sow an act, and you reap a habit;
Sow a habit, and you reap a character;
Sow a character, and you reap a destiny. —Anon.
Character is formed by making choices in one direction
PHILIPPIANS 4:8 - Our society needs a good dose of old-fashioned honesty, particularly among its leaders. In business, in politics, in school, in the home, and even in the church, we are seeing less and less of this vital quality—especially in money matters. Under-the-table deals, unrecorded trans-actions, padded expense accounts, forgotten debts, and unpaid traffic fines are the order of the day. The rule seems to be, if you can get away with it, do it.
We need to recapture something of the spirit and moral character of the sixteenth President of the United States. Throughout Lincoln's professional life as a lawyer he always had a partner. Frequently, Abe would go out on a circuit to handle legal matters while his colleague stayed at home. When he completed a case, Lincoln often collected the fee before he returned to the office. He always divided the money in his billfold, carefully wrapping his partner's half in a piece of paper on which he wrote his name and the case for which it was received. In this way, if anything happened to him before turning over the money, no one could dispute the amount and for whom it was intended. This practice may seem trivial, but it was totally in keeping with the man we have come to know as "Honest Abe."
We all should make it our goal to live in such a way that the word honest sounds right in front of our name. —D. J. De Haan. (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
Don't talk cream and live skim milk
THE GIFT OF THOUGHT - In some ways humans are inferior to animals. I have seen some incredibly strong men, but never one "as strong as an ox." Men can run 100 meters in under 10 seconds, but that doesn't begin to compare with the speed of a cheetah. There are people who have an uncanny sense of direction, but even they can't explain how migrating swallows can return unerringly to the same place year after year.
Yes, some animals are intelligent, but none of them can think as we can. No animal could ever have developed today's amazing society with all its medical and technological advances.
A human's unique ability to think enables him to have thoughts about God and eternity. The famous American poet Walt Whitman found this to be troubling. He said that he often envied the cattle that graze contentedly in a meadow, because they never worry or dwell on troublesome thoughts.
As Christians, we know that the ability to think is a God-given gift. But sad to say, we can misuse it by entertaining thoughts that are vulgar, foul, and mean. Paul told us to meditate on whatever is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, virtuous, praiseworthy, and of good report (Philippians 4:8).
Lord, help us to discipline our thoughts. —Herbert Vander Lugt (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
Of all God's creatures only man
Can worship, meditate, and plan;
The gift of thought sets him apart
To love the Lord with all his heart. —D. De Haan
Godly character is shaped by godly thoughts.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.
The God of Peace. We last spoke about the peace of God which, like a white-robed sentry, keeps the heart with its affections, and thoughts, with all their busy and sometimes too promiscuous crowd. We have now to speak about the God of peace; and blessed though the peace of God may be, to have the God from whose nature peace emanates is infinitely preferable. One main constituent of our text is the word think; another the word do.
Thinking and doing are the conditions on which the God of peace will tarry in the heart. To think rightly, and to do rightly--these will bring the blessed dove of heaven to brood in the nest of your soul. Almost everything in life depends on the thoughts, as the forest lies in the acorn, and Scripture itself lays stress upon this. The wise may says: "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life;" and, again, we have it: "As a man thinketh in his heart so is he." In this context we notice that the peace of God is to keep our thoughts; and, again, our text says: "Think on these things." The control of your thought, the government of your mind, this is all important for three reasons.
THINKING AND DOING.
(1) Because thinking about things prepares you for doing them. If you allow a matter to revolve in your mind, if you turn it over and over and consider it from every aspect, and dwell upon it, it becomes comparatively easy to do it. It is as though the thoughts lay down the tram lines, upon which presently the car of action proceeds. The thoughts lay the wires which presently convey the message. No doubt many of you have again and again experienced this, that when you have come to some great crisis in your life, you have passed through it with perfect ease, because you had so often rehearsed the matter. When you came to act, it was as though you had passed through the experience before, your thought had so entirely prepared you for it. It is of the utmost importance therefore that you take care what you think, because thought is the precursor, herald, and forerunner of action.
THOUGHT AND CHARACTER
(2) Thought is also important, because it has a reflex effect upon the whole character. As you think, so you are almost without knowing it. Wordsworth refers to this; he says:
"We live by admiration, love, and hope;
As these are well and wisely fixed,
In dignity of being we ascend."
If a man cherishes bad thoughts, almost unwittingly he deteriorates; he cannot help it. There is a profound philosophy in Rom. 1, where it says that because they refused to retain God in their minds but cherished their vile lusts, God gave them up to their passions to defile themselves. If a man is perpetually cherishing unholy, impure, and untrue thoughts, he will become an unholy, impure, and untrue man. Our character takes on the complexion and hue of our inward thinking. If a man is ever cherishing noble thoughts, he cannot help becoming noble; if he is generous in his thought, he will be in his act; if he is loving and tender in his thought, he will be loving and tender in his bearing. Thoughts are the looms in the wonderful machinery of the inner life, which are running day and night, and weaving the garments in which the soul shall be arrayed. If you will care for your thoughts, the thought will mould character reflexively and unconsciously.
THOUGHT AND IDEALS
(3) Thought affects us because we naturally pursue our ideals. Columbus, after long thinking, came to the conclusion that the earth was round, and that conviction determined him to launch his little boat and steer westward. Washington thought that government must be based on universal suffrage and free vote of the people, and this led to the formation of the United States. Wilberforce thought that every man was equally free in the sight of God, created and redeemed to be responsible to God only, apart from the holding of his fellow-man. Young men and women may read these words in whom great thoughts are formulating themselves, and if they are not to be mere enthusiasts, mere weak dreamers, the time must come when they will yoke the car of their thought to the star of their ideal, and presently a life will tower up before their fellows that shall leave a definite impression for blessing upon the race. If you are to be any more than a dreamer and enthusiast, young friend, your thought must, sooner or later, take shape in your industry and energy, even in the sweat of your brow, and the suffering of martyrdom.
Thought Often Unnoticed. It is a remarkable touch in John Bunyan's description of Ignorance, as he walks beside the two elder pilgrims, that he says: "My heart is as good as any man's heart"--and adds, "As to my thoughts, I take no notice of them." Probably there are scores of people who take no notice of their thoughts. They leave the castle gate of their soul perfectly open for any intruder that may wish to enter, either from heaven or hell; and so it befalls that the thoughts of the world, of vanity, of impurity, thoughts which are inspired by demons, but which are arrayed in the garb of respectable citizens, pour into the great gateway of the soul, filling the courtyard with their tumultuous uproar. Without discrimination, thought, or care on their part, they allow themselves to be occupied and possessed with thoughts of which they have every reason to be ashamed; they teem in and out, and do just as they will. This is the reason why you sometimes find your heart filled with passion; it is because Guy Fawkes has entered in disguise with his fellow-conspirators, and under long flowing robes has introduced explosives. This is why our hearts become filled with hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness, with thoughts against God, and against our fellows. We do not watch the great courtyard gate.
Think Reverently. Think carefully, think reverently, says the Apostle; take care how you think. We might almost say you can live as you like, if you are only careful how you think. At the great dock gates they will feel down the casual labourers before permitting them to enter the great warehouse, and again when they come out. We are told that in some of the great hospitals they will search the visitors, especially on Sunday afternoon, lest they should introduce deleterious food, which might neutralise the physicians' treatment. When there was the dynamite scare in London, how carefully the policeman examined everybody who had business in the House of Commons, lest a bomb might be introduced. If only we had a scrutator standing at the door of our heart to examine every thought as it entered; nay, if we could have there the Angel Ithuriel, of whom Milton speaks, and the touch of whose spear showed that the devil lurked in the toad that squatted by Eve's ear and whispered her his secret, how often in what seems a respectable thought entering the courtyard gate we should discover a traitor, who had come from the very pit to set our heart on fire with sin.
The Conflict of Thoughts. It would appear that to arrest the tide of evil thoughts that threatens us is what St. Paul means when he says he is crucified with Christ. When newly converted there is nothing that we suffer from so much as the collision between the intrusion of those thoughts and the new divine principle, which has entered us. Just for a few hours watch carefully at the gateway of your hearts, and see if it be not sometimes almost an agony to exclude those which you must suspect. In beginning to do this, many would learn, perhaps for the first time, what the Cross of Christ means. It might bring the very perspiration to your forehead, in the awful conflict against certain fascinating thoughts, so winsome, so bright, so attractive, that offer themselves with the most insinuating grace. In earlier days, when one's standard was not quite so high, when one was less aware of the insidious temptation that lurks in the most graceful and attractive thoughts, one would have permitted them to enter, but now how great a fight goes on at the great gate of the soul, not only against bold bad thoughts, but against the more pleasing and seductive ones.
But supposing we were left merely with this constant watching and antagonising of evil thoughts, life would be almost intolerable.
Remember, therefore, that not the negative only but the positive, not destruction only but construction, is the law of the Christian life. Not the grave of Christ, but the resurrection power, is our hope; and hence St. Paul says, "Think on these things"--and he gives you six standards of thoughts.
Let these six sisters stand at the gateway of your soul, and challenge every thought
(1) Think on the True.
"Whatsoever things are true." Keep out of your mind the false, but admit the true, because every life, every government, all politics, all business, all great commercial undertakings, all books and systems, which are not founded upon truth crumble sooner or later. If you could visit this world in the future, you would find that the falsehoods which now stalk across its arena, and seem as strong as thistles in spring, will have passed away. Consider things that are true.
(2) On the Honourable.
"Whatsoever things are honourable." The word in the Greek is grave--reverent--respect-compelling--every-thing which is respectable, which makes for itself a court of respect. Exclude from your mind all that is dishonourable, and admit only what is worthy of God.
(3) On the Just.
"Whatsoever things are just." Be absolutely just to other people in your estimate, in giving them their dues. If they be above you, criticise them justly; if on your level, deal with them as you would wish them to deal with you; if beneath you, be just. Everything unjust in speech or habit prohibit; everything which is just foster.
(4) On the Pure.
"Whatsoever things are pure." Here is the fight for a young man's life, to arrest the impure, however bedizened and bedecked, and to admit into his heart only that which is perfectly pure, pure as the lily, as God's ether, as the light.
(5) "Whatsoever things are lovely."
That conduct which is consistent with 1Cor 13:4, 5, 6, 7, which proceeds from the heart of love and thaws the ice of selfishness, which has accumulated upon others.
(6) And on the Things of Good Report.
"Whatsoever things are of good report." Like the elders who obtained a good report; like Mary, of whom Jesus said, "She hath clone what she could"; like the man with his ten talents, to whom the Lord said, "Well done, good and faithful servant." Anything, the Apostle says, which is virtuous, and anything which wins praise of God or man, think on these things.
Let these six sisters stand at the gateway of your soul, and challenge every thought as it offers itself, admitting only those thoughts which approve themselves as true, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. O God, let these six angels come into our souls, and from now until we meet Thee, let us give the entire control of our nature up to their serene, strong, wholesome restraint, that all that is inconsistent with them may be abashed, and everything which is consistent with them admitted to infill and dwell within us.
A High Ideal. You say the ideal is high. Yes, but listen; we must believe that each of these attributes was won by Christ for us all--won by Him. They were native to Him but they were won because He pursued them through temptation. He kept them as His own, face to face with the most terrific temptations ever presented to a moral being. Having endured all, He died, rose, and bore to God's right hand a humanity in which these things were eternal and inherent. Thence he sent down the Holy Spirit to reproduce His risen humanity in every one who believes.
But Attainable by Faith. Faith is the power with which we receive through the Holy Ghost the nature of Jesus Christ into our hearts; so that instead of talking about justice, purity, and self-restraint as so many abstract qualities, we speak about Him in whom those attributes are incarnated. By faith we receive Him, and having received Him, we receive them. Let the Holy Spirit reproduce Him.
Just now we said, Let those six sisters stand at the gateway and test all our thoughts. But it is better to say, Let Jesus Christ stand at the gateway and test them, because He can not only test but roll back the tide of evil thought, as easily as He could make Niagara leap back, did He choose. It is mere stoicism and stoical philosophy to say: Watch your thought. It is Christian philosophy to say: Let Christ keep your thoughts, testing them, hurling back the evil, and filling the soul with His glorious presence.
This is the secret of the indwelling presence of the God of Peace. He abides where the heart is kept free from evil thoughts, and filled with the Spirit of the Son. "The God of Peace shall be with you." (F. B. Meyer. The Epistle to the Philippians - A Devotional Commentary)
THINK ON THESE THINGS
I AM half afraid that some of you may think, as I have at times thought, that I am too old to preach to the young. You would probably listen with more attention to one less remote from you in years, and may be disposed to discount my advices as quite natural for an old man to give, and quite unnatural for a young man to take. But, clear friends, the message which I have to bring to you is meant for all ages, and for all sorts of people. And, if I may venture a personal word, I proved it, when I stood where you stand, and it is fresher and mightier to me to-day than it ever was,
You are in the plastic period of your lives, with the world before you, and the mightier world within to mould as you will; and you can be almost anything you like, I do not mean in regard to externals, or intellectual capacities, for these are only partially in our control, but in regard to the far more important and real things — viz, elevation and purity of heart and mind. You are in the period of life to which fair dreams of the future are natural. It is, as the prophet tells us, for ‘the young man’ to ‘see visions,’ and to ennoble his life thereafter by turning them into realities. Generous and noble ideas ought to belong to youth. But you are also in the period when there is a keen joy in mere living, and when some desires, which get weaker as years go on, are very strong, and may mar youthful purity. So, taking all these into account, I have thought that I could not do better than press home upon you the counsels of this magnificent text, however inadequately my time may permit of my dealing with them; for there are dozens of sermons in it, if one could expand it worthily.
But my purpose is distinctly practical, and so I wish just to cast what I have to say to you into the answer to three questions, the three questions that may he asked about everything. What? Why? How?
I. What, then, is the counsel here?
‘Think on these things.’ To begin with, that advice implies that we can,and, therefore, that we should, exercise a very rigid control over that part of our lives which a great many of us never think of controlling at all. There are hosts of people whose thoughts are just hooked on to one another by the slightest links of accidental connection, and who scarcely ever have put a strong hand upon them, or coerced them into order, or decided what they are going to let come into their minds, and what to keep out. Circumstances, the necessities of our daily occupations, .the duties that we owe to one another, all these make certain streams of thought very necessary, end. to some of us very absorbing. And for the rest — -well!
‘He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls’; anybody can go in, and anybody can come out. I am sure that amongst young men and women there are multitudes who have never realised how responsible they are for the flow Of the waves of that great river that is always coming from the depths of their being, and have never asked whether the current is bringing down sand or gold. Exercise control, as becomes you, over the run and drift of your thoughts. I said that many of us-had minds like cities Broken down. Put a guard at the gate, as they do in some Continental countries, and let in no vagrant that cannot show his passport, and a clear bill of health. Now, that is a lesson that some of you very much want.
But, further, notice that company of fair guests that you may welcome into the hospitalities of your hart and mind. ‘Think on these things’ — and what gee they? It would be absurd of me to try to exhaust the great catalogue which the Apostle gives here, but let me say a word or two about it.
‘Whatsoever things are true.., think on these things; Let your minds be exorcised, breathed, braced, lifted, filled by bringing them into contact with truth, especially with the highest of all truths, the truths affecting God and your relations to Him. Why should you, like so many of us, be living amidst the small things of daily life, the trifles that are here, and nearer coming into vital contact with the greatest things of all, the truths about God and Christ; and what you have to do with them, and what they have to do with you? ‘Whatsoever things are true … think on these things.’
‘Whatsoever things are honest,’ or, as, the word more properly and nobly means, ‘Whatsoever things are reverent, or venerable’ — let grave, serious, solemn thought be familiar to your minds, not frivolities, not mean things. There is an old story in Roman history about the barbarians breaking into the Capitol, and their fury being awed into silence and struck into immobility, as they saw, round and round in the hall, the august Senators, each in his seat. Let your minds be like that, with reverent thoughts clustering on every side; and when wild passions, and animal desires, and low, mean contemplations dare to cross the, threshold, they will be awed into silence and stillness. ‘Whatsoever things are august… think on these things.’
‘Whatsoever things are just’ — let the great, solemn thought of duty, obligation, what I ought to be and do, be very familiar to your consideration and meditation. ‘Whatsoever things are just… think on these things.’
‘Whatsoever things are pure’ — let white-robed angels haunt the place. Let there be in you a shuddering recoil from all the opposite; and entertain angels not unawares. ‘Whatsoever things are pure … think on these things.’
Now, these characteristics of thoughts which I have already touched upon all belong to a lofty region, but the Apostle is not contented with speaking austere things. He goes now into a region tinged with emotion, and he says, ‘whatsover things are lovely’; for goodness is beautiful, and, in effect, is the only beautiful. ‘Whatsoever things are lovely… think on these things.’ And ‘whatsoever things are of good report’ — all the things that men speak well of, and speak good in the very naming of, let thoughts of them be in your minds.
And then he gathers all up into two words. ‘If there be any virtue’ — which covers the ground of the first four, that he has already spoken about — viz. true, venerable, just, pure; and ‘if there be any praise’ — which resumes and sums up the two last: ‘lovely and of good report,’ ‘think on these things.’
Now, if my purpose allowed it, one would like to point out here how the Apostle accepts the non-Christian notions of the people in whose tongue he was speaking; and here, for the only time in his letters, uses the great Pagan word ‘virtue,’ which was a spell amongst the Greeks, and says, ‘I accept the world’s notion of what is virtuous and praiseworthy, and I bid you take it to your hearts.’
Dear brethren, Christianity covers all the ground that the noblest morality has ever attempted to mark out and possess, and it covers a great deal more. ‘If there be any virtue, as you Greeks are fond of talking about, and if there be any praise, if there is anything in men which commends noble actions, think on these things.’
Now, you will not obey this commandment unless you obey also the negative side of it. That is to say, you will not think on these fair forms, and bring them into your hearts, unless you turn away, by resolute effort, from their opposites. There are some, and I am afraid that in a congregation as large as this there must be some representatives of the class, who seem to turn this apostolic precept right round about, and whatsoever things are illusory and vain; whale-ever things are mean, and frivolous, and contemptible, whatsoever things are unjust, and whatsoever things are impure, and whatsoever things are ugly, and whatsoever things are branded with a stigma by all men, they think on these things. Like the flies that are attracted to a piece of putrid meat, there are young men who are drawn by all the lustful, the lewd, the impure thoughts; and there are young women who are too idle and uncultivated to have any pleasure in anything higher than gossip and trivial fiction. ‘Whatsoever things are noble and lovely, think on these things,’ and get rid of all the others.
There are plenty of occasions round about you to force the opposite upon your notice; and, unless you shut your door fast, and double-lock it, they will be sure to come in: — Popular literature, the scrappy trivialities that are put into some periodicals, what they call ‘realistic fiction’; modern Art, which has come to be largely the servant of sense; the Stage, which has come — and more is the pity! for there are enormous possibilities of good in it — to be largely a minister of corruption, or if not of corruption at least of frivolity — all these things are appealing to you. And some of you young men, away from the restraints of home, and in a city, where you think nobody could see you sowing your wild oats, have got entangled with them. I beseech you, cast out all this filth, and all this meanness and pettiness from your habitual thinkings, and let the august and the lovely and the pure and the true come in instead. You have the cup in your hand, you can either press into it clusters of ripe grapes, and make mellow wine, or you can squeeze into it wormwood and gall and hemlock and poison-berries; and, as you brew, you have to drink. You have the canvas, and you are to cover it with the figures that you like best. You can either do as Fra Angelico did, who painted the white walls of every cell in his quiet convent with Madonnas and angels and risen Christs, or you can do like some of those low-toned Dutch painters, who never can get above a brass pan and a carrot, and ugly boors and women, and fill the canvas with vulgarities and deformities. Choose which you will have to keep you company.
II. Now, let me ask you to think for a moment why this counsel is pressed upon you.
Let me put the reasons very briefly. They are, first, because thought moulds action. ‘As a man thinketh in his heart so is he.’ One looks round the world, and all these solid-seeming realities of institutions, buildings, governments, inventions and machines, steamships and electric telegrams, laws and governments, palaces and fortresses, they are all but embodied thoughts. There was a thought at the back of each of them which took shape. So, in another sense than the one in which the saying was originally meant, but yet an august and solemn sense, ‘the word is made flesh,’ and our thoughts became visible, and stand round us, a ghastly company.
Sooner or later what has been the drift and trend of a man’s life comes out, flashes out sometimes, and dribbles out at other times, into visibility in his actions; and, just as the thunder follows on the swift passage of the lightning, so my acts are neither more nor less than the reverberation and after-clap of my thoughts.
So if you are entertaining in your hearts and minds this august company of which my text speaks, your lives will be fair and beautiful. For what does the Apostle immediately go on to add to our text? ‘These things do’ — as you certainly will if you think about them, and as you certainly will not unless you do.
Again, thought and work make character. We come into the world with certain dispositions and bias. But that is not character, it is only the raw material of character. It is all plastic, like the lava when it comes out of the volcano. But it hardens, and whatever else my thought may do, and whatever effects may follow upon any of my actions, the recoil of them on myself is the most important effect to me. And there is not a thought that comes into, and is entertained by a man, or rolled as a sweet morsel under his tongue, but contributes its own little but appreciable something to the making of the man’s character. I wonder if there is anybody in this chapel now who has been so long accustomed to entertain these angels of whom my text speaks as that to entertain their opposites would be an impossibility. I hope there is. I wonder if there is anybody in this chapel to- night who has been so long accustomed to live amidst the thoughts that are small and trivial and frivolous, if not amongst those that are impure and abominable, as that to entertain their opposites seems almost an impossibility. I am afraid there are some. I remember hearing about a
Maori woman who had come to live in one of the cities in New Zealand, in a respectable station, and after a year or two of it she left husband and children, and civilisation, and hurried back to her tribe, flung off the European garb, and donned the blanket, and was happy crouching over the embers on the clay hearth. Some of you have become so accustomed to the low, the wicked, the lustful, the impure, the frivolous, the contemptible, that you cannot, or, at any rate, have lost all disposition to rise to the lofty, the pure, and the true.
Once more; as thought makes deeds, and thought and deeds make character, so character makes destiny, here and hereafter. If you have these blessed thoughts in your hearts and minds, as your continual companions and your habitual guests, then, my friend, you will have a light within that will burn all independent of externals; and whether the world smiles or frowns on you, you will have the true wealth in yourselves; ‘a better and enduring substance.’ You will have peace, you will be lords of the world, and having nothing yet may have all. No harm can come to the man who has laid up in his youth, as the best treasure of old age, this possession of these thoughts enjoined in my text.
And character makes destiny hereafter. What is a man whose whole life has been one long thought about money-making, or about other objects of earthly ambition, or about the lusts of the flesh, and the lusts of the eye,
and the pride of life, to do in heaven? What would one of those fishes in the sunless caverns of America, which, by long living in the dark, have lost their eyes, do, if it were brought out into the sunshine? A man will go to his own place, the place for which he is fitted, the place for which he has fitted himself by his daily life, and especially by the trend and the direction of his thoughts.
So do not be led away by talk about ‘seeing both sides,’ about ‘seeing life,’ about’ knowing what is going on.’ ‘I would have you simple concerning evil, and wise concerning good.’ Do not be led away by talk about having your fling, and sowing your wild cats. You may make an indelible stain on your conscience, which even forgiveness will not wipe out, and you may sow your wild oats, but what will the harvest Be? ‘What, soever a man, soweth that’ — that — ‘shall he also reap,’ Would you like all your low thoughts, all your foul thoughts, to return and sit down beside you, and say, ‘We have come to keep you company for ever’? ‘If there be any virtue… think on these things.’
III. Now, lastly, how is this precept Best obeyed?
I have been speaking to some extent about that, and saying that there must be real, honest, continuous effort to keep out the opposite, as well as to bring in the ‘things that are lovely and of good report.’ But there is one more word that I must say in answer to the question how this precept can be observed, and it is just this. All these things, true, venerable, just, pure, lovely, and of good report, are not things only; they are embodied in a Person. For whatever things are fair meet in Jesus Christ, and He, in His living self, is the sum of all virtue and of all praise. So that if we link ourselves to Him by faith and love, and take Him into our hearts and minds, and abide in Him, we have them all gathered together into that One. Thinking on these things is not merely a meditating upon abstractions, but it is clutching and living in and with and by the living, loving Lord and Saviour of us all. If Christ is in my thoughts, all good things are there.
If you trust Him, and make him your Companion, He will help you, He will give you His own life, and in it will give you tastes and desires which will make all these fair thoughts congenial to you, and will deliver you from the else hopeless bondage of subjection to their very opposites.
Brethren, our souls cleave to the dust, and all our efforts will be foiled, partially or entirely, to obey this precept, unless we remember that it was spoken to people who had previously obeyed a previous commandment, and had taken Christ for their Saviour. We gravitate earthwards, alas! after all our efforts, but if we will put ourselves in His hands, then He will be as a Magnet drawing us upwards, or rather He will give us wings of love and contemplation by which we can soar above that dim spot that men call Earth, and walk in the heavenly places. The way by which this commandment can be obeyed is by obeying the other precept of the same Apostle, ‘Set your minds on things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.’
I beseech you, take Christ and enthrone Him in the very sanctuary of your minds. Then you will have all these venerable, pure, blessed thoughts as the very atmosphere in which you move. ‘Think on these things… these things do!… and the God of Peace shall be with you.’