(This is a continuation of yesterday’s post on Philippians 4.)
Dear PRCW members and readers: As believers, we are to use our minds and think about the claims of Jesus Christ. Our minds are important to God. We are told things like: “The Lord knows the thoughts of man” (Ps. 94:11); “For I know their works and their thoughts” (Is. 66:18); David says, “You perceive my thoughts from afar” (Ps. 139:2). God is very concerned about what fills our minds day by day, and the gospel of Jesus Christ works a great change in our thinking for our minds our important to the Lord.
The question is: what does it mean to mediate on these virtues listed in Philippians 4:8. What does it mean to meditate on these virtues: “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”? What is being said is that our thinking has to be controlled by the Gospel. That is what this verse says, in this context. There is a holistic Christian way of living for God. All we think about must be compatible with the Gospel. What you ponder, and what you give value to are things that are to be true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable. Peter says in 1 Peter 1:13, “Gird up the loins of your mind.” Loins were the robes that people use to wear. You could only run fast when you girded up your robe.
The point is you’ve got to take care of your mind.
If you look at the end of v. 8 it says, “meditate on these things.” The word “meditate” (NKJV) or “think” (ESV) means more than just “keep it in mind”. Rather: “take into account or reflect upon and then allow these things to shape your conduct.”
This is a very practical list, not exhaustive, but it includes virtues that affect our everyday lives. To live as a Christian man or woman we need these graces.
First he says, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true.” Where do you go for what is true? To the Word of God. “Your Word is truth” (John 17:17, cf. Psalm 19:9, Psalm 119:151, etc.). The truth is in Christ (Ephesians 4:21). The truth is in God (2 Timothy 2:25). The Spirit is truth (John 14:17). So, if you are going to think on whatever is true, you are going to dwell on the Word of God first of all, and on anything else that is true. And it is living by this truth, and speaking by this truth, not living a life of lies and half-truths and gossip.
People in Paul’s day were not interested in the truth. It is not very much different from our day. Lies are what entertain people. Every day life bores us. Gossip is the spice of life. Peoples’ lives are so small than they fill it with garbage and trashy talk. And that doesn’t just have to be the tittle-tattle of the entertainment world and the gossip papers. There is a way of speaking about others that can lead to damage.
Our calling is to promote the truth in our dealings with others – for example in keeping our neighbour’s good name, loving it and rejoicing in it. Covering their failures and freely acknowledging their good points. Receiving good reports about them. Discouraging those who like to tell tales. Speaking the truth – this is an example of how we are to think about what is true – in living it out. But also acting out the truth. It is not enough to read the Bible and pray unless we are acting on it. We’re not to be the hypocrite – the one who speaks a certain way but leads a double life. Think on what is true.
Secondly, he says, “Whatever things are noble,” that means worthy of respect. Whatever is dignified, whatever is reverent, whatever is lofty, not trashy, mundane, and common. The word really comes from a term meaning “to worship”. Whatever is worthy of awe, whatever is held in high regard, whatever is greatly respected, whatever is worthy of adoration, that’s what I think about.
This grace should characterize elders as they run their homes, and it must also be a feature of deacons and their wives. In the various lists describing those men and women in the Pastoral Epistles Paul regularly refers to this characteristic of nobility. It is also there in the writings of the Church Fathers where it denotes quiet patience. There is nothing at all loud or chrome-plated about living a godly life. We are to be known for our reverence to God, not for being trashy and frivolous.
Are you familiar with this inward battle against untruths? Are you turning to the Refuge in repentance and faith in Him? Are you meditating on what is true and honourable? May this prayer help:
“O Lord, Whose power is infinite and wisdom infallible,
Order things that they may neither hinder, nor discourage me,
Nor prove obstacles to the progress of thy cause;
Stand between me and all strife, that no evil befall,
No sin corrupt my gifts, zeal, attainments;
May I follow duty and not any foolish device of my own;
Permit me not to labour at work which thou wilt not bless,
That I may serve thee without disgrace or debt;
Let me dwell in thy most secret place under thy shadow,
Where is safe impenetrable protection from
the arrow that flieth by day,
the pestilence that walketh in darkness,
the strife of tongues,
the malice of ill-will,
the hurt of unkind talk,
the snares of company,
the perils of youth,
the temptations of middle life,
the mournings of old age,
the fear of death.
I am entirely dependent upon thee for support, counsel, consolation…” [The Valley of Vision, “Refuge”, p. 134] Amen
In Christ, Pastor Rich Anjema