For several weeks now in our study in Philippians we have been talking about standing fast in the Lord. In the first verse of chapter four we are told to “stand fast in the Lord.” It is important for followers of Christ to be steadfast, mature and spiritually stable. If we are going to be effective and fruitful believers then we need to be standing fast—stable in the Lord.
Over the past few studies we’ve looked at several examples of how the believer stands fast in the Lord. We’ve been given a good picture of the stable believer.
We stand fast—we’re stable—by pursuing peace in our relationships.
We stand fast—we’re stable—by rejoicing in the Lord.
We stand fast—we’re stable—by being known for our gentleness and by understanding that the Lord is at hand—he’s always near—he’s in control.
We stand fast—we’re stable—by praying with thanksgiving instead of worrying.
Today we pick up at verse 8 where we see Paul bringing to a conclusion his thoughts on the stable Christian. I think what we find here is the key that opens the door to bringing all of these other things into our lives. I believe that practicing what Paul shares here in verse 8 makes all the other areas possible. Let’s look at verse 8 and then I’ll tell you why I think this is true.
Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy; meditate on these things.
Look at the word meditate again at the end of this verse. The word meditate is translated think in the NIV and KJV. The NASB says let your mind dwell. It means to reckon, to count, to compute or calculate. This word deals with reality. If I reckon that my bank account has $25 in it, it has $25 in it. I could just skip reconciling my bank account and pretend that I have $25 dollars in my account but unless I actually look at the figures I’m only deceiving myself. When Paul says meditate on these things he’s telling the Philippian believers to deal with the facts. Deal with the facts, not guesswork. We need to think right.
If we are going to stand fast spiritually—if we’re going to be spiritually stable Christians we need to make sure our thinking is right. We need to make sure that we’re dealing with the facts. The steadfast and stable believer will be disciplined in his or her thinking.
What we think is important. If our thinking is wrong our actions are going to be wrong. Oswald Chambers said…
To think is an effort; to think rightly is a great effort; and to think as a Christian ought to think is the greatest effort of a human soul.
He’s right. If we’re going to be stable Christians, we need to think right and that is going to require some effort on our part.
We live in a world full of wrong thinking. That’s what we see in Psalm 10:4 about the thoughts of the wicked.
Psalm 10:4 – The wicked, in the haughtiness of his countenance, does not seek Him. All his thoughts are, “There is no God.” (NASB)
Romans 1:28 also describes the wrong thinking of the unbeliever.
Romans 1:28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting;
Ephesians 4:17,18 – This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind,
18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart;
In contrast to the wrong thinking of unbelievers we who know Christ as Lord and Savior are to renew our minds.
Romans 12:2 – And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
What we think is vitally important to our spiritual health. As we think, so we act and if our thinking is messed up our actions are going to be messed up as well.
D. Martyn Lloyd–Jones commenting on Matthew 6:25-34 makes an important statement about our thinking;
Faith, according to our Lord’s teaching in this paragraph, is primarily thinking; and the whole trouble with a man of little faith is that he does not think. He allows circumstances to bludgeon him. That is the real difficulty in life. Life comes to us with a club in its hand and strikes us upon the head, and we become incapable of thought, helpless and defeated. The way to avoid that, according to our Lord, is to think. We must spend more time in studying our Lord’s lessons in observation and deduction. The Bible is full of logic, and we must never think of faith as something purely mystical. We do not just sit down in an armchair and expect marvelous things to happen to us. That is not Christian faith. Christian faith is essentially thinking. Look at the birds, think about them, and draw your deductions. Look at the grass, look at the lilies of the field, consider them.
The trouble with most people, however, is that they will not think. Instead of doing this, they sit down and ask, What is going to happen to me? What can I do? That is the absence of thought; it is surrender, it is defeat. Our Lord, here, is urging us to think, and to think in a Christian manner. That is the very essence of faith. Faith, if you like, can be defined like this: It is a man insisting upon thinking when everything seems determined to bludgeon and knock him down in an intellectual sense. The trouble with the person of little faith is that, instead of controlling his own thought, his thought is being controlled by something else, and, as we put it, he goes round and round in circles. That is the essence of worry… . That is not thought; that is the absence of thought, a failure to think. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971, 2:1, 29–30) 1
We need to think and we need to think right and that requires discipline and effort.
Let me give you an example.
In a couple of weeks we’re going to begin a new series of studies in our adult Sunday School hour on handling your money in a way that’s scriptural. I think the fact that so many people struggle financially is evidence that our thinking in the area of finances needs to be changed. So many believers face debt that’s out of control, have almost no savings, don’t seem to have adequate income, and don’t seem to have any plans for their financial future. I think it’s fairly clear that materialism has a strong hold on many of God’s children.
I hope you’ll plan to join us for the The Treasure Principle Workshop in the Adult Sunday School hour beginning May 1. God’s Word has the answers for financial difficulties. And God’s people desperately need to get God’s perspective on giving. For many believers their thinking needs to change in the area of finances.
We’re certainly immersed in wrong thinking. One of the major culprits of our wrong thinking is television. Advertisers using television are savvy. One car commercial I’ve seen lately shows a man getting ready to cross the street when a great looking new car passes in front of him and he’s surprised to see himself behind the wheel. Advertisers know that if they can get you to imagine yourself behind the wheel that it won’t be long and you’ll be thinking you need that car.
I was struck by what I think is the influence of television on my own children not too long ago when in town together as a family we drove by the golden arches and our 21/2 year old Josiah blurted out “McDonalds”. Obviously advertisers have our children’s attention.
Warren Wiersbe, in his book Preaching and Teaching with Imagination, makes it clear that our thinking and the thinking of our young people is being effected by television.
Both children and adults are being deeply effected by what they watch on television and they don’t realize the damage that’s being done. By the time the average child in the United States finishes elementary school, he or she has watched 8000 murders on television. From first grade to graduation she will spend 13,000 hours in school but will watch television more that 15,000 hours; and she will watch over 1000 commercials a week. By the time she is twenty, she will have seen over 1,000,000 commercials.
Television is just one way our thinking is influenced but for many it’s a very big influence.
It certainly matters a great deal how we think. Proverbs 23:7 makes it clear that the way we think affects the way we live.
Proverbs 23:7 – For as he thinks in his heart, so is he…
So how do we think right?
How do we think right?
Paul lists for us the types of things we are to think about. When we think about the right things our thinking will be right. Paul tells us we are to think about whatever is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, or of good report. If there is any virtue or anything that is praiseworthy those are the types of things we are to meditate on, to think about to dwell on in our minds.
Let’s look at these together.
We’re to think about whatever is true. It is so important that we understand that our standard for what is true is found in the Word of God. God’s Word is truth. If we are to be equipped to discern truth we must be in God’s Word. If we’re going to dwell on—think on those things that our true we must begin in God’s Word.
In our culture truth is relative. There are no absolutes. People are more concerned with feeling good than what is true. The world around us is filled with distortions and lies—like the guy that sees himself behind the wheel of that great new car. The advertiser wants to make you think you need what they have.
But we need to be careful that our thinking is correct and that it is grounded in the truth. There are so many ways we can be led astray in our thinking. To be guarded from them we must know the truth of God’s Word.
If we have difficulty in our marriage we may think like the world does—that I deserve better than this so I should just get out and move on. Maybe we buy into the victim mentality of our society and deny the truth that we are really responsible for our own actions—we will stand before God someday and answer for our own actions.
If we aren’t grounded in the truth of God’s Word our thinking can easily be wrong and then the behavior that stems from that thinking will be wrong also.
Warren Wiersbe says,
“Sow a thought, reap an action.
Sow an action, reap a habit.
Sow a habit, reap a character.
Sow a character, reap a destiny!” 2
It all begins with our thinking. Wrong thinking is dangerous. Wrong thinking can be deadly. We need to think right as believers and we need to think about things that are true.
We need to follow the example of the Bereans and make sure our thinking is true and in line with God’s Word. I hope that you take this scripture to heart.
Acts 17:11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.
We need to be the kind of believers who are eager to hear God’s Word, who are eager to study God’s Word for ourselves and are eager to practice the truths of God’s Word in our own lives. Because when we know God’s Word we’ll recognize wrong thinking and we’ll know what to do about it.
Look at what’s next. Paul says that we are to think on things that are noble. Noble refers to thinking on things that are sacred as opposed to those things that are profane or wicked—thinking on things that are dignified and wholesome.
We’re to think on things that are just—things that are worthy of respect and right—right in God’s eyes—according to God’s standard.
We’re to think on things that are pure—things that are wholesome—things not morally impure.
We’re to think on things that are lovely—the idea behind this word is that these things promote peace rather than conflict. We’re to keep our thinking on things that are kind and gracious.
We’re to think on things that are of good report—things that are highly thought of—even things that the world in general would think well of.
And Paul says that these are the things that are virtues and praiseworthy.
If it has virtue, it will motivate us to do better; and if it has praise, it is worth commending to others. 3
There may be things that are true that aren’t fitting to dwell on or meditate on. Watch the news on any given night and you’ll hear things that are true but many of them aren’t lovely or pure or the kinds of things we should be thinking about.
I’m sure you’ve noticed as I have how great a number of television programs there are that deal with serious crime and things that are not true and noble and just and pure and lovely and of good report. Unfortunately it seems like human beings are drawn to the kinds of things that are found on the darker side of life. And we like to entertain ourselves with them.
But those aren’t the kinds of things we’re to dwell on if we wish to be stable in our walk with Christ.
Wiersbe notes that;
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.4
What kind of things are we allowing to control our thinking?
You might need to ask yourself if your music directs your thinking in ways that honor Christ. What about your television and movie viewing habits? What kinds of books and magazines do you read? What kinds of things do you use the internet for?
Are you feeding your mind with things that are healthy and appropriate to meditate on? Are you filling your mind with things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report—are those things virtuous and praiseworthy?
Or are you feeding your mind with untrue, wicked, unholy, shameful, vile, corrupt and ugly things? You and I don’t like to use those kinds of words to describe the things that we think about that may not be so pleasing to God. But we need to examine those things we think about that way. As we think so we are—so we live. What kind of nourishment are you giving your mind?
How do we fill our minds with the right kind of thinking? How do we meditate on things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report—those things that are virtuous and praiseworthy?
We do it by practicing Colossians 3:16.
Colossians 3:16 – Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
I’m convinced that when the follower of Christ is faithful to get into God’s Word, God’s Word will get into them. We must allow God’s Word to become a deep part of how we live.
We need to do as Psalm 119:15 suggests and meditate, think on, study, God’s precepts, his commands.
Psalm 119:15 – I will meditate on Your precepts, And contemplate Your ways.
If we are to be stable as believers—standing fast in the Lord then we need to love God’s Word and spend time in it, reading it and studying it and memorizing it. We need to make God’s Word so thoroughly a part of our lives that we think about it and meditate on it throughout the day.
Our focus needs to be on things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, and of good report—those things that are virtuous and praiseworthy. We need to be cautious about the types of things that influence our thinking. We need to make sure our thinking is straight. We need to make sure our thinking is Biblical and in agreement with what God has revealed.
How is your thought life? What types of things do you think about, dwell on and meditate on? Do you spend a lot of time thinking critically of others? Start thinking about the things that virtuous and praiseworthy about others. Don’t dwell on their weaknesses.
Do you spend a lot of time thinking thoughts that stir your heart to greed or lust? Replace your thinking with things that are virtuous and praiseworthy.
Do you spend a lot of time thinking about things that discourage you, worry, you or make you fearful? Start meditating on things that are virtuous and praiseworthy.
Are you guarding your mind? Are you protecting your mind from influences that would cause you to dwell on the wrong types of things?
Are you renewing your mind and filling it with God’s Word? Are you taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ? Is 2 Corinthians 10:5 true of your life?
2 Corinthians 10:5 – We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,
Let’s ask the Lord to help us to meditate on 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 or if there is anything praiseworthy let’s meditate on those things. And let’s be stable and steadfast in the Lord—for His glory.
Kevin A. Pierpont
Higgins Lake Baptist Church
1 MacArthur, J. F. (.). The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Philippians (electronic ed.) (Php 4:10). :: ,.
2 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1989). The Bible exposition commentary. “An exposition of the New Testament comprising the entire ‘BE’ series”–Jkt. (Php 4:8). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.