A Right Mind
Read – Philippians 4:8-9
Key Verse – 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 (Philippians 4:8 NKJV).
Key Thought – Christians should think right thoughts, and those thoughts should lead to right action.
Proverbs 23:7 says, as he thinks in his heart, so is he.
Earlier we learned that when we worry about nothing and pray about everything (Philippians 4:6), we are promised the peace of God… will guard our hearts and our minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7). Now Paul says that if we do our part in that, working at thinking right thoughts (vs. 8), and ensuring we do more than THINK about the faith, but actually DO the faith (vs. 9), the God of peace will be with us. Here then we are promised both the peace of God that will keep us, and the God of peace that will be with us.
And central to the whole thing is our thought life… what we focus our minds on… and whether or not we go beyond thinking into doing.
We will just focus on 2 verses in this study, and we will let those two verses form our outline:
- Verse 8 forces us to ask: What are you thinking about?
2. And verse 9 goes further, making us ponder – What are you doing about it?
Verse 8 speaks of our thought life… and more specifically what our thoughts DWELL on. And verse 9 speaks of putting those things into action.
The order is important. Our thoughts need to be right first, for how we think will guide and direct our actions. We’ve all heard or read the old ditty:
“Sow a thought, reap an action.
Sow an action, reap a habit.
Sow a habit, reap a character.
Sow a character, reap a destiny!”
What are you thinking about?
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 (Philippians 4:8 NKJV).
Here we are instructed in the type of things we should think about. Actually… things that we should MEDITATE on. The word translated “meditate” in our Bible refers not to just casually thinking on a thing, but rather dwelling on it… focusing on it… meditating on it.
And what are we to so meditate on? We are given eight things in vs. 8 that we should focus our thoughts on – things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy.
Now I don’t think we would go far wrong by also noting the implication that the opposite things are things we should AVOID thinking on – the untrue, the dishonorable, the unrighteous, the impure, the unlovely, things of bad reputation, the non-virtuous, and the un-praiseworthy things. We should try our best to minimize the time we spend on those things. But that’s the subject of another day. Let’s concentrate on the positive instruction Paul gave the Philippians here, and let’s examine each of those words in turn:
Whatsoever things are true.
Now this is certainly not the only time Paul had given such instruction. He told the Ephesians, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head–Christ– … Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. (Ephesians 4:15, 25 NKJV).
Whatsoever things are TRUE. This is the most important of all the other things Paul mentioned here.
We live in an age where truth is almost non-existent. What news source are you going to listen to, or read, or watch today, that you can trust is telling you the truth? Anybody can post anything on social media, or create their own fascinating YouTube video, or post an official looking document on the web, and claim to be telling the truth. But are they?
“Fact checking” has become a thing, in 21st century America, precisely because anybody can say anything and make it sound true. There are even “fact checking” sites online which supposedly you can trust to sort truth from fiction, such as snopes.com, and others like it. But even those sites have been shown to have political leanings and to twist the truth from time to time.
We often feel like Pontius Pilate, don’t we, when he stood face to face with Jesus and asked Him, “What is truth?”
Because, if we can’t figure out what is TRUE, then nothing else in this list matters. The rock solid foundation of a healthy thought life must be TRUTH above all else.
And Jesus told us what is the source of truth – “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth (John 17:17 NKJV).
Of course, Satan, from the very beginning of his dealings with mankind, has sought to cast doubt on the truth of God’s Word. (cf. Genesis 3:1f) Jesus didn’t pull any punches when warning us about Satan and his hatred of the truth. “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it (John 8:44 NKJV).
The source of truth is God’s word, and the source of every lie is Satan, who seeks to distort and corrupt and dispute and deny God’s Word.
So what is the foundation of a right mind? What is the very first thing we need to think on… meditate on… dwell on? TRUTH. That means we need to be in the Word, regularly. I hammer that issue a lot here, and I can hear the collective sigh go up around me. “Not again, Preacher… don’t you have anything else to preach but that?” NO… I DO NOT!!!! I am a man of one book… a singer with one song… a one hit wonder! I can preach nothing else but Christ and Him crucified, the only hope you have for forgiveness of sins and life eternal. I can preach from nothing but this beautiful old Book – God’s holy, inspired, inerrant, infallible, perfect, God breathed Bible!
And if you would have a right mind… think right thoughts, then that’s where you need to start too – with the book – the truth. To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them (Isaiah 8:20 NKJV).
Whatsoever things are noble. Is it noble? Paul says that is the second criteria for our thought life. Now some translations say “honorable”, but either translation makes the point. The mind that wins the battle takes the high road not the low. It’s thoughts are dignified and worthy of respect. It doesn’t get pulled into the gutter of culture, but thinks NOBLY.
Paul told the Corinthians to provide honorable things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men (2 Corinthians 8:21 NKJV).
Brothers and Sisters, let me speak freely for a minute. Christianity in our culture has lost so much of this. We dress down, dumb down, and water down everything about the faith these days. It seems like we are desperately trying to do the very least we can for Christ, and demonstrate the very least amount of differentiation between ourselves and the world.
But our lives ought to be demonstrations of the noble and honorable. We ought to be known far and wide as a people who take the high road, always. And that starts with our thought lives. We need to THINK about the noble… the honorable.
Whatsoever things are just.
This word is translated right or righteous, as well. It refers to thoughts that conform to God’s standard of righteousness.
Now this is somewhat redundant with the first word we mentioned – truth, for the place we find God’s standard of righteousness is the same place we find all truth – the Bible. But this word pertains more to how we view that truth as actual instructions for living. When we think on whatsoever things are right or righteous, we are thinking about how to live out the truth we find in Scripture… how to live our lives in conformity to God’s standards.
Should a Christian marry a non-Christian? Well, you could go to the lost pundits that abound in our culture for an answer to that, or you could go to the Bible and conform your thoughts to God’s standard of righteousness – Be ye not unequally yoked together, believer with unbeliever.
Should a man and woman live together if they are not married? Our culture not only allows it, but actually encourages it now and considers it normal and even wise. But is that God’s standard? God says that marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled, but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. God says, Thou shalt not commit adultery. God says, Flee fornication.
Those are just a couple examples, but you get the point, I’m sure. If we are going to think right thoughts, then we need to think about whatsoever things are JUST, RIGHT, RIGHTEOUS… we need to think about things according to God’s standard of right and wrong, not our culture’s standard.
Whatsoever things are pure.
This refers to what is wholesome… unmixed with moral impurity.
Here is one of the greatest battlefields waged in the minds of Christians today. And not only today, but in every age, believers have faced this struggle with moral purity. Consider Paul’s words to the Ephesian believers:
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, 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; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:17-24 NKJV).
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret (Ephesians 5:8-12 NKJV).
If you are a man then you struggle with this. If you are a woman then you struggle with this. Statistics tell us that pornography is a problem for almost every man and almost every woman in our society today. If you have a computer, you are at risk. If you have a phone, you are at risk. If you have a tablet, you are at risk. If you subscribe to cable TV or a streaming service, you are at risk. Parents, if your children have unsupervised access to any of these devices, they are in danger.
How is the purity of your thought life, men? Ladies, how about you? Kids, how about you? How many of you would want others to know about those thoughts?
Paul says here that we need to make a conscious effort to think PURELY. The obvious implication, then, is that we need to make a conscious effort to PUT AWAY IMPURE thinking. We won’t make much progress in trying to fill our mind with PURE thoughts, if we are continuing to shovel IMPURE thoughts into the same mind.
If you struggle in this area, let me assure you you are not alone. Nor are you even unusual. But if you struggle in this area you need to take some steps to get rid of impure thinking and replace it with pure thinking. Some suggestions:
- Find someone to hold you accountable concerning what you view or read. A couple of us elders have been testing some accountability software called “Covenant Eyes”, and are recommending it as a good tool to help us and you stay accountable to one another concerning these things. See me after the service, if you’d like to know more about it.
2. Pray like crazy for God’s help in avoiding impurity.
3. RUN LIKE CRAZY from any sign of it. Don’t think you can beat it or stand up to it. You can’t. I can’t. Nobody can. David, the man after God’s own heart, could not beat it. Fornication, as I’ve mentioned to you before, is one of only a couple things in the Bible that we are not told to fight, but rather to simply run from. Flee fornication (1 Corinthians 6:18).
4. Fill your mind with the TRUTH of God’s word. Paul put that first in his list of right thinking because it is the foundation upon which all the others stand. Fill your mind with the Bible. Let it squeeze everything else out. Satan will fight you like crazy on this, but tell him to go to hell and keep pouring the Word into your brain.
Whatsoever things are lovely.
This word means “pleasing” or “agreeable.” This is the only place the word occurs in the New Testament. It is another word that indicates the thought life of the Christian should be good, beautiful, lovely. Our thought life should not be in the gutter but on the mountains.
Whatsoever things are of good report.
Think about commendable things, or admirable things. This is another word that appears only here in the new Testament, and it’s another word that reminds us our thoughts should take the high road, not the low.
Virtuous and praiseworthy things.
Is it virtuous or praiseworthy? Excellence is the thought it. He is reaching even higher now saying it’s not enough to fill our mind with good things, but we should seek to fill it with the HIGHEST and BEST of things… EXCELLENT things.
What is the key to a right thought life for a believer? We need to strive always to think about what is true, what is noble, what is right, what is pure, what is lovely, what is of good report, and what is virtuous and praiseworthy.
If you’re like me, you feel pretty terrible when you read that list, for your thoughts probably don’t often line up very well. I’m no different. We need God’s help to do this. We need the indwelling Holy Spirit to help us. We need to pray and seek God’s help with our thought lives. We are told in Romans 12:2, And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind….
It’s a God thing. And we need to pray for His help daily in renewing our mind… helping us to things thoughts that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, or good report, virtuous and praiseworthy.
What are you doing about it?
The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:9 NKJV)
Paul moves from instructions about how we think, to the importance of putting those things into practice. Very specifically, he points them to his example. They had learned from him… they had received the gospel from him… they had heard him and seen him live what he preached.
And now he told them to DO those things they had learned and received and heard and seen in him.
I find it interesting that these two verses are right together here. For they are such a picture of what is so problematic in so many Christians lives.
Far too many Christians are willing to THINK about these things, but not DO anything with them. So many thinkers… so few DOers.
James warned, Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does (James 1:21-25 NKJV).
If we work like crazy on our thought lives, but it doesn’t ever result in observable changes in how we live… in what we DO, then what good is it? James said the blessing comes from DOING… from being active in our faith.
I’m not going to hammer this, but I do want it to have you think about it for a bit this morning. How much of your Christianity is thinking, and how much is doing?
I know what I said earlier, that the thinking is important and needs to be there first. We can’t do what we don’t know. And so having a right thought life is foundational to living right as a Christian. But we must not STOP with thinking. It needs to become action.
In just a few minutes, we’re going to rejoice with some who are following the Lord in believer’s baptism. I am fascinated by the different testimonies that are represented here this morning.
We have one this morning who has been saved a long time, and was sprinkled years ago, but having now listened to what the Bible says about baptism – that it is immersion in water, as an identification with and public profession of faith in Christ, this one wants to get it right and be Scripturally baptized. Hearing, and learning, and thinking on the truth results in DOING.
We have another this morning who was recently baptized. But upon hearing what the Bible says about salvation in Dan’s FBC101 class, he doubted whether he had actually been saved. He came to my office and said, “In that class the question was asked, ‘If you were to die today do you know for sure you would go to heaven.'” He looked at me and said, “I’m not sure, and I want to be.” We went through the gospel, he prayed, trusted Christ, got assurance of his salvation, and now wants to be baptized… AFTER salvation. Praise the Lord. Hearing, learning, and thinking on the truth results in DOING.
We have one coming this morning who started attending a while back. After talking with her, she was convinced she had trusted Christ in the past, but had not been baptized and wanted to be. She has a newborn baby, and she said she wanted little Aaliyah baptized, too. Upon hearing that we do not practice infant baptism here, but we do dedicate babies to the Lord, promising to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and to pray for them to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ so that they, too, can then be baptized as believers, she said she wanted to dedicate her baby to the Lord. GLORY. Hearing, learning, and thinking on the truth results in DOING.
We have one coming this morning who is so excited about her faith that she told me last Sundayshe had just finished reading the Bible all the way through for the first time. She did it in just a matter of weeks. Hallelujah. Hearing, learning, and thinking on the truth results in DOING.
Or at least it should.
Where are you with respect to these things?
What are you thinking about? And what are you doing about it?