Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart].
If our brains are the operating system, our thought patterns are the software our minds run on. To some degree, the software in all our minds is corrupted. We have trouble thinking correctly, so we get prideful in the good times and fearful in the bad. Paul reminds us that we have choices as to what we think about, and if necessary, we can do a clean install!
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul had given them encouragement and instructions. Now, at the end of the letter, he gives them his “final words,” an instruction that will help them put all the pieces together. The key is to rivet our minds on truth, beauty, nobility, and honor- whatever is good and right and true.
Right thinking is a skill all of us can learn, even though our software will always have glitches in it until the day we see Jesus face to face. Focusing our minds on noble things and giving thanks can become habits as we practice them more and more, but negative, destructive, selfish thoughts creep in from time to time. When we find ourselves heading down the wrong thought trail. We don’t need to beat ourselves up about it- we’re only human- however, we can take definitive action to focus our minds again on whatever is true, noble, and praiseworthy. We may not be able to completely eliminate unhealthy thoughts, but we can act quickly to replace them. As Martin Luther said, “We can’t keep birds from flying over our heads, but we can keep them from building nests in our hair!”
We all need a daily check-up from the neck up to avoid stinking thinking which ultimately leads to hardening of the attitudes.
Christian meditation is silent worship as you set the mind’s attention and the heart’s affection upon Godly aspirations.
Finding wholesome, healthy and uplifting things to think about requires effort these days. We are inundated with bad news, negative feelings, things that worry us, things that create fear and anxiety in us. Even from other Christians we can experience a lot of discouragement. To be sure there are valid reasons to give way to these thoughts. And the early church had just as many reasons. By the time Paul is writing Philippians many of the believers had suffered persecution and imprisonment. Their world was growing increasing troubled and it appeared that evil was increasing in every form. Even the church was struggling from within and without(see Paul’s letter to Corinth).
Paul himself, had experienced his share of troubles and he is writing this letter from prison. Of all people he had sufficient reason to think wrong thoughts. In his past, he had his share of those thoughts. As a matter of fact he had been one of the persecutors of the church. He could have allowed that guilt to move him to feeling hopeless. He was aware of all the sins and struggles the believers in the church were involved in. He was tasked quite often with sending corrections to the church, defending his own ministry and carrying the burden of the pastors and congregations.
In spite of the circumstances Paul writes to the Philippians instructions for their though life. I’m sure he was aware of Proverbs 23:
“For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.”
Paul is instructing us to place a filter around our minds. Most of us know the value of filters. Our furnace uses one to filter out dust that can be harmful to our lungs. Our homes have water filters that filter out impurities that can make us sick. Our vehicles have fuel filters that filter debris so that they can continue to run. We also need filters to keep us functioning. Like the air, water, and fuel, our minds are constantly being subjected to contamination. From TV shows to newscast to radio to billboards to social media of all sorts, we are constantly being subjected to contamination. Our friends, coworkers, neighbors, and family can pour buckets of negative, unwholesome words over us that can take our minds down a dark path. Besides all this, we all possess an overactive imagination that can conjure a myriad of frightening things.
Paul says that we need to set our filters with the following questions:
Is it true? We should investigate as much as possible. We should ask questions and a bit of skepticism is healthy.
Is it honorable and worthy of respect? We should strain foolish, unsubstantiated, critical, and tale-bearing conversation from our lives. Most of us have been told that if we can’t say something good, don’t say anything. I want to add if we can’t hear anything good stop listening.
Is it right and more importantly is it confirmed by God’s Word? There are a lot of opinions flying around at warp speed so we must hold them up to the light of God’s Word and let the Word filter truth from error.
Is it pure and wholesome? Could you watch it, listen to it, engage in it with Jesus in the room? If you were saying something or listening to someone, would you become silent or walk away if Jesus came into the room?
Is it lovely(uplifting) and does it bring peace or is it ugly in word or attitude and does it bring discord and division?
Is it admirable and of good repute? In other words would it make you feel proud or happy if you heard your child repeat it? Is it something that others would want to imitate?
Paul says that these are the things we should focus our thoughts on. In another place he tells us that there are many voices in the world clamoring for our attention. We as Christians should therefore give the Holy Spirit place to direct and control our thoughts. Like Peter the waves around us will always rob our faith but when we focus our hearts and minds on Christ, He enables us to walk over the waves through the storm.
Check your thoughts!