The longer I live as a Christ-follower, the more I come to realize that the great majority of my struggle to live a life worthy of the calling with which I have been called lies not with what I do with my hands and my feet, but rather with what goes on inside my head.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
– Philippians 4:8, ESV
The world wars against our thoughts, against our minds. It is nearly impossible to engage any electronic medium, to go to a store, to dine out, to watch the news, to read a magazine … to do any of these things and escape the barrage of influence being drilled into us by the world.
If we do not resist, our thoughts are infiltrated, if not dominated, by ideas and beliefs that are entirely inappropriate for a disciple of Jesus.
In the text above, the apostle Paul has given us guidelines for guarding our thought-life.
Satan is a liar, the father of lies, and there is no truth in him.1 Therefore, to engage in untruth, to align with falsehood and deception, is to align with the father of lies. This is exactly his ploy. He works to corrupt our minds and lead us astray.2
Has God really said … ?
Jesus prayed that we would be sanctified (set apart) in the truth, and further stated that God’s word is truth. So, of course, Satan will press the question, “Did God really say that?”
When we engage in lies, or we believe and align with lies, we’re batting for the wrong team.
Do not mistake this for subjective belief or supposition. Bill Clinton may have wrestled with what the meaning of “is” is, but in this verse “is” (ἐστίν) denotes actual existence – “whatever IS true.” Objective truth exists.
Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true.
– John 3:33, ESV
Current-generation society revels in the disgusting. Like playing volleyball in the yard with friends and agreeing, “Oh, we’ll just mark the boundaries with these shoes” but, as the game progresses, the shoes keep moving. Society continuously presses against the boundaries of what is honorable, what is worthy of respect and esteem.
As followers after Christ, we do not pretend such revulsions do not exist, but they are not what we dwell on. We focus our attention on what is honorable rather than what is dishonorable. We do not allow the filth of society to control our thought life.
The apostle Paul called on Titus to instruct the older men to be σεμνούς – same word3 – dignified. The same word is used in writing to Timothy when Paul taught that we are to pray for those in authority so we can live lives of σεμνότητι – dignity or honor.4
Things that are just are things that are correct and righteous, particularly in the eyes of God, and conforming to his standard. It is an indicator of those things that are in accord with law, and in this case, the law of God.
δίκαια is also translated “righteous” as in Ephesians 4 where we are called to put off the old corrupt self . . .
and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
– Ephesians 4:24, ESV
And it is a term of equity.
Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.
– Colossians 4:1, ESV
Purity has taken a beating of late in the modern church, as though purity, in and of itself, is a bad thing. Abuse of purity, just as abuse of anything, is always a bad thing, but purity is called for in scripture.
Purity is not to be equated with chastity. Oh, it includes chaste behavior, to be sure, but the terms are not synonymous. The purity called for in scripture is a purity that pierces to the very core of one’s being.
ἁγνός describes a state of being undefiled, untainted, uncontaminated. It is something that has not been mixed with anything that will alter it’s clean state.
If you have a unopened container of medication, the moment it is opened, it is considered “contaminated.” This is why injectable medications are always accessed via a needle through rubber. The container is never opened thus the contents are considered pure.
Lovely is such a beautiful word. It’s so much more than pretty or “that’s really cool.” Lovely denotes an almost intrinsic beauty and attractiveness. If translated literally, the term would read “toward love” as a derivative of philos. What is lovely has a tendency to transcen aesthetic beauty and move us emotionally. “That was such a lovely story.”
Commendable is something that brings us a good report. It is worth talking about. These are discussions of noble acts rather than the base thinking and trash served up by the corrupted world. This is something that, when known, elicits the praise of others.
Mediocrity is esteemed by no one yet it is pursued by so many. I have been known to berate a “that’s good enough” attitude at my place of employment. I’m not interested in what’s good enough. I want excellence in what my team produces.
No follower of Christ should ever accept the pursuit if “just okay.” We pursue excellence in all that we do, and we should call out that same excellence in our brothers and sisters in Christ.
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,
– 2 Peter 1:3, ESV
God has called us to both glory and excellence.
That which is virtuous or excellent elicits our praise. Consider our praise to God. We praise him not for his mediocrity, for he has none. God is excellent in all things. This is the same term used to speak of governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.5
Think on These Things
Focus and meditate on them. Note the verb tense in this command is one of lifelong, durative action. Continuously think of these things. Not only that, but reading just a bit further we see Paul charge the Philippians to “practice these things.” Exercise them into your walk with Christ.6
Finally, I want you to consider this entire list in light of what we find in the 19th Psalm.
The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the LORD is clean,
the rules of the LORD are true,
and righteous altogether.
– Psalm 19:7-9, ESV
Great peace have those who love your law;
nothing can make them stumble.
– Psalm 119:165, ESV
1. John 8:44
2. 2 Corinthians 11:3
3. Titus 2:2
4. 1 Timothy 2:2
5. 1 Peter 2:14
6. Philippians 4:9