Our Thoughts – Philippians 4:8-9 03/01/2020

Our Thoughts – Philippians 4:8-9 03/01/2020

My apologies for the sporadic blog postings, that stomach bug really messed me up for a while. This blog should rightfully have been posted last week, but I think the topic is important enough that I’ll proceed anyway. We’re still dealing with the topic of Christian living.

There’s a great deal of instruction in the Scriptures regarding our thought lives. The reason is because our thoughts impact our actions. When we looked at Christian conversion we noted that this fundamentally means “change.” That change takes place first in how we think about things. Our passage is Philippians 4:8, which I leave to you to look up, in fact I encourage you to familiarize yourself with it. This would be a good passage to memorize and meditate on.

Here, Paul provides six adjectives and two nouns that we should fill our minds with in contemplation.[1] The Gentile Philippians would have recognized much of this as being representative of the best of the Hellenistic world.[2] In effect, what Paul’s telling them is to take the best of the surrounding culture, measure it in light of the Gospel, and apply it where appropriate.[3] It’s interesting to me that some truth, some nobility, can be found in every culture. It’s almost as if right and wrong were hard-wired into human-kind…

But regardless of the cultural background, everything must all be evaluated in light of the cross and the risen Savior.[4] What does it take to be able to do a good job of evaluating what we’re exposed to? It takes a working knowledge of the Scriptures. That means reading them, studying them, memorizing them, and meditating on them; four of the Spiritual Disciplines. The Christian life requires something of us, our daily walk with the Lord is expected to be filled with that which is uplifting and holy. And… God has left it to us to do that as He provides the resources to do so through the Holy Spirit.

Now, each of the terms found in Philippians 4:8 makes a good word study, we’re not going to spend the time evaluating them today. This would be good practice for those trying to develop consistency in the Spiritual Discipline of study. The six adjectives are: “true” (ἀληθής), “noble” (σεμνός), “just” (δίκαιος), “pure” (ἁγνός), “lovely” (προσφιλής), “admirable” (εὔφημος); and then Paul shifts gears with two nouns, “virtuous” (ἀρετή), and “praiseworthy” (ἔπαινος). These are the things that we are to “meditate” (λογίζομαι) on.

However, God isn’t concerned with simple mental reflection for its own sake, this contemplation or meditation is undertaken to promote right behavior.[5] Christians are, here, instructed to carefully consider the world around them and evaluate what they see.[6] Then we’re called upon to act accordingly. The ultimate purpose isn’t right thinking, it is to allow these uplifting things to guide them into uplifting deeds.[7] What we fill our minds with will quickly be expressed through our actions.[8]

So we have here detailed instructions on how the Christian is supposed to think, what we are supposed to be filling our minds with, and from there how we should be acting. In the background of all this is the death of the Son of God on a Roman cross. That death served to redeem the Philippian church even as it revealed the love of God.[9] All this instruction on how to think, where to set our focus, this is only psychobabble without one key element, Jesus. That fact is important to remember, and without it, this passage becomes a kind of Buddhist mantra, “Just think your way out of it.” That’s not Christianity.

That which is good and uplifting is still alive. He, Jesus, stands as the standard for that which is true and pure and all the rest.[10] Think on these things.

We’re all called upon to face situations that feel overwhelming. Are we supposed to simply pretend the struggles and hurts aren’t real? No, that would be nothing more than self-delusion. Christianity is much more practical than that. When those things come into our lives here’s what we’re supposed to do; 1 Peter 5:6-7 says to cast our cares on Him.

All of our striving and scheming and worrying accomplishes nothing. We don’t pretend the problem isn’t there. We turn to our God with the problem and refuse to be ruled by anything other than the Spirit of God. As we enter into an abiding relationship with our God, He guides us. The problems are real, but worrying about them will not solve them. So we’re called upon to rely on our God.

Now, I freely acknowledge that this is tough to do. We’re called upon to center our thoughts, and therefore our actions, on what is morally and spiritually excellent.[11] If this is something that you struggle with, let me ask some pointed questions. How much time you do spend in the Scriptures?[12] How much Scripture have you committed to memory? How much time have you spent meditating on Scripture? How much time have you spent meditating on the Lord Jesus?[13] This is a part of the renewing of our minds that we’ve studied over the past couple of weeks.

As we contemplate our Lord, He grants both growth and deliverance.[14] But spiritual growth only comes with exercise, it comes with time spent with Jesus.[15] How’s that going for you?

  1. [1]Alex Deasley, Philippians, in Galatians, Philippians, Colossians: A Commentary for Bible Students, Wesleyan Bible Commentary Series, gen. publisher, Donald Cady, exec. ed., David Holdren, managing ed., Lawrence Wilson, theological ed., Stephen Lennox, snr. ed., Darlene Teague, (Wesleyan Publishing House, Indianapolis, IN.: 2007), 231. [2]Gordon Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, gen. eds., Ned Stonehouse, F.F. Bruce, and Gordon Fee, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1995), 413. [3]Gordon Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, gen. eds., Ned Stonehouse, F.F. Bruce, and Gordon Fee, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1995), 414. [4]Gordon Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, gen. eds., Ned Stonehouse, F.F. Bruce, and Gordon Fee, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1995), 415. [5]R.P. Martin, The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale Bible Commentaries, gen. ed., R.V.G. Tasker, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1969), 171. [6] Gerald F. Hawthorne, Philippians, vol. 43, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2004), 250. [7] Gerald F. Hawthorne, Philippians, vol. 43, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2004), 250. [8]Alex Deasley, Philippians, in Galatians, Philippians, Colossians: A Commentary for Bible Students, Wesleyan Bible Commentary Series, gen. publisher, Donald Cady, exec. ed., David Holdren, managing ed., Lawrence Wilson, theological ed., Stephen Lennox, snr. ed., Darlene Teague, (Wesleyan Publishing House, Indianapolis, IN.: 2007), 232. [9]Gordon Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, gen. eds., Ned Stonehouse, F.F. Bruce, and Gordon Fee, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1995), 421. [10]Gordon Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, gen. eds., Ned Stonehouse, F.F. Bruce, and Gordon Fee, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1995), 421. [11]Homer Kent Jr., Philippians, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 11, Ephesians – Philemon, gen ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice and Merrill Tenney, manuscript ed., Gerard Terpstra, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1978), 152. [12]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 325. [13]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 325. [14]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 325. [15]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume V, 1 Corinthians – Revelation, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 326.

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