Lately, I have been meditating on 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.” (ESV).
It seems to me that if we, as Christians, are to be “transformed by the renewal of our minds” (Rom. 12:2) then we need to know how renewed minds should be thinking. Paul’s answer to that was in his letter to the Philippians where he lists the attributes of a renewed mind:
You should think about whatever is:
On top of that, if you find that anything has excellence or is worthy of praise, then these are also things you should think about.
That gives us 8 types of things to think about. I thought that this seemed pretty straightforward, but straightforward doesn’t mean easy. What do each of these “ways of thinking” actually point to? To learn that, I once again defer to the question, “What was Paul originally saying to the Philippian church?” These are the translations/definitions of the key words from the original Greek that Paul used:
- True – true, an actual occurrenceFor the Christian, this should go without saying. Our thoughts should be dominated by the truth and we should not even entertain what is false. Even though the lies are often much more entertaining than the truth, they contain no value for us.
- Honorable – to be venerated (to regard with reverential respect) for characterThis one starts to get a little harder. We are to be respectful in our thoughts. Wow. How often have I violated this one? It can be so easy to be respectful for those who deserve respect. It can even be easy to talk respectfully when necessary, even to those you deem do not deserve respect. But, in the mind, all is fair, right? WRONG! If we, as a Christian community could learn to think only honorable, respectful thoughts of one another, then there would not be any negative, back-biting, slanderous talking about each other that is so prevalent even amongst many Christians that I know today.
- Just – in a wide sense, upright, righteous, virtuous, keeping the commands of GodWe can look back to the Sermon on the Mount to see Christ’s teaching on the beatitudes: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matt. 5:6 NASB).
We have to have such a craving for righteousness that we cannot get our fill. Every thought should be consumed with righteousness so that there is no room for the opposite – the unjust, unrighteous thinking. Christians should never engage their minds in trying to scam the system, or find ways around the rules.
- Pure – pure from every fault, immaculateIs it truly possible for anyone to have a totally immaculate mind? To keep out all thoughts that are not pure? I think that this can be an impossibility, if looked at from the wrong point of view.
Martin Luther once said: “We cannot help it if birds fly over our heads. It is another thing if we invite them to build nests in our hair.”
What does that mean? Things are going to happen directly in our field of vision. Thoughts are going to pop up in our minds. Things are going to be said where we can hear. Just because we have witnessed a sight, a sound, a voice or a thought does not mean we have sinned. What we do with the information that comes out of it, however, is what separates a Spiritually minded person from a carnal minded person.
- Lovely – acceptable, pleasingThis is not referring to daydreaming about beautiful people. No, to get the idea, think of the phrase, “What a lovely thought!” That is the idea of behind this characteristic of a renewed mind. Our thoughts should be able to be classified as “lovely” rather than unacceptable and disagreeable.
- Commendable – things spoken in a kindly spirit, with good-will to othersThis trait is very much like #2 on the list – honorable. This is going beyond simple respect. This is being able to find the good qualities in others. It is being complementary. This is promotional. Since this is going on in your mind, you are thinking of all the good in other people, and not being stuck on their “bad qualities”.
- Excellence –any particular moral excellence, as modesty, puritySo far each of these traits could have been the subject of their own blog entry, but especially the topic of moral excellence. The caution the goes with this topic is to not ever think that we have the ability to achieve moral excellence of our own volition. We are morally excellent because of the excellence of Christ. That is also why we are capable of thinking excellent thoughts, because we have taken on the holy nature of Jesus Christ.
- Praiseworthy – commendation, praiseWe find another trait that is similar in nature to being both honorable and commendable. I find quite interesting that within these 8 traits, 3 of them point directly to how we think about, talk about, and treat one another. I understand that this trait goes far beyond just the interpersonal qualities of how we treat each other, and if I were writing just on this point alone, I would dive into all the various avenues it covers. However, for the sake of this blog topic, and the direction we’ve taken, I want to deal just with the interpersonal issues.
So often, we find ways to think about others that are not honorable, commendable or praiseworthy. Instead, we tend to be disrespectful, judgmental and critical.
I think the reason that 3 of 8 of these traits point back to our interpersonal behavior is because it is so important. The way we relate to people is characteristic of our relationship with Christ.
After listing these traits, most translations say to “think on these things”. The New American Standard Bible says to “dwell on these things.” Dwell is probably the more accurate translation of the Greek. The word that Paul chose to use meant “to meditate on: a thing, with a view to obtaining it.” He was not just talking about a fleeting thought that goes whipping through our minds and then is lost. No, he was talking about:
- What we choose to actually put our minds to
- What we choose to devote our attention to
- How we choose to spend our time inside our brains
- What thoughts come to mind that we lock on to and give special consideration to
- Where our minds live
There are probably countless other ways to say it, but you get the idea. If this is the way in which we constantly think, then it will show in the way we act as well.
I would love see any and all comments about this topic whether you agree or disagree.