Continuing from yesterday, we need to take heed to the command given to us in Philippians 4:8, “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.” Here the apostle commands us to set our mind on that which fits 6 positive qualities. He uses words that were popular in moral philosophy. By doing so, he is demonstrating that—in Christ—the believer’s thinking is now to be different.
Think This Way
These six qualities form a comprehensive and Christ-like pattern to set our minds upon, which in turn will shape the pattern of our lives. According to Psalm 19, there is no more reliable guide for judging our thoughts than Scripture. At the conclusion of his exaltation of Scripture as being the true revelation of God, David prayed:
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
Therefore, as we work through Paul’s list of qualities of godly thinking, I will first demonstrate to you how the Bible meets all criteria. Then I will strive to apply it to other areas of our life.
Think about what is true in thought, character, and deed. The word true means trustworthy. The Scripture is inspired by God and is; therefore, fully true (2 Tim. 3:16). Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them with the Word, Thy Word is truth” (John 17:17). The psalmist testified, “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever” (Ps. 119:160).
When our mind is filled with God’s truth then our lips will speak truth, we will be men and women of proven character, and we will honor those who consistently demonstrate they are trustworthy. Let us pray like the psalmist: “Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth” (Ps 86:11).
Think about what is serious, or worthy of reverence. The word honorable was used in the Greek world to describe what was serious, sublime, dignified, majestic, or august. The adjective was frequently used for divinities and related holy things, for example, the temple, the law, and the Sabbath (P.T. O’Brien).
How do we think reverently about holy things? By thinking according to the Word of God. According to Psalm 119:38, the Scriptures produce reverence in our heart: “Establish Your word to Your servant, as that which produces reverence for You.” The more time we spend in God’s Word the more it will lead to reverence.
In other words, you cannot consistently read the Scriptures and be a half-hearted, nominal Christian. God’s Word is alive. When you meditate on Scripture then you encounter the living God. And when you encounter the living God you cannot help but have your thinking changed.
We live in a day in which reverence for God has been virtually lost—both in the world and the church. Too often, lofty reverence of the holy God has been sacrificed on the altar of man-centered entertainment. Some Christians believe reverence is an outdated, Old Testament concept. However, in Hebrews 12:28 we read:
Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.
Though this verse is often used in evangelism that was not its original purpose. This warning is written to believers to call them to acceptable worship. God deserves our reverence and awe. The apostle is commanding us to think about things that are reverent, not cheap and frivolous. God forbid that we would become casual with the almighty God!
Think about what is just, or according to God’s standard. The word just refers to that which is according to divine standard, and thus leads to fulfilling our obligations to God and others. God himself is righteous, as Psalm 145:17 testifies: “The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.” God loves justice (Isaiah 61:8).
To think about what is just means to think according to God’s standard. There is only one reliable way to do that, by thinking according to the Word. “Righteous are You, O LORD, and upright are Your judgments” (Ps 119:137).
Think about what is pure, reflecting the holiness of God. Originally, the word pure was used of deity, coming from a verb which meant to stand in awe. Later, this meaning was transferred to purity of character as a moral quality. We live in a world that is immoral; impurity reigns as a dominant quality in our age. But, as believers, we are called to be pure. We are called to be holy as God is holy (1 Pet. 1:15). In Philippians 2:14-15, we are called to live purely in this corrupt world.
Proverbs 30:5 says of Scripture: “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him” (HCSB). James says, “The wisdom that comes from Christ is first pure.” Therefore, we must guard our minds by thinking on that which is pure. “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Guarding our hearts includes the responsibility to guard our thinking.
Think about what is attractive and agreeable. The word lovely refers to what is pleasing, agreeable, or amiable. Surely the Word of God fits this definition!
More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. – Psalm 19:10
First Timothy 2:10 says Christian women are to be known for the godliness of their adornment. Their primary focus is not to be on their exterior appearance, but on the godliness of their heart, their inner person. They are to be adorned with modesty and self-control and with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. Titus 2:10 exhorts employees to be submissive; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior. Philippians 4:8 commands us to think about things that are lovely, pleasing in God’s sight.
Think about what is well-sounding, worthy of commendation. Commendable refers to that which sounds good. O’Brien says “the word is used to express ‘what is kind and likely to win people, and avoiding what is likely to give offence.’”
This is an important lesson for us. The message of the cross will be offensive to some unbelievers—God’s Word promises that (1 Cor. 1:18). However, even though our message may at times be offensive, our manner should not be. If the manner in which we converse with others about spiritual matters is offensive then we are more of a hindrance to the Spirit’s work than an aid.
God’s Word and the works it has recorded are most definitely commendable: “One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts” (Ps 145:4). The more we mature in Christ the more we are able to discern what is commendable; that which is well-sounding. We are called to think on these things. We ought to strive to live in a way in which our lives commend our message; our testimony speaks for itself. In 2 Corinthians 10:6-18, the apostle draws a contrast between people who commend themselves and those who are commended by God; those who let their godliness speak. The more we think about things that are well-sounding the more we will—in the end—be commended by God. According to the apostle, these qualities will ensure that what we think about will be excellent and worthy of praise.
Walk This Way
The more we meditate on the Word of God the more we think on things that are pleasing in His sight. And the more we think on these things the more our lives will begin to follow the pattern of godliness that Scripture lays out for us. This is the natural progression described by the apostle. Too often, Philippians 4:8 is treated in isolation of the verse that follows it. But verse 9 reaffirms that right thinking leads to right living: “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
*This post is adapted from last Sunday’s sermon, Think Right, Do Right.