Think About Such Things

“Think About Such Things!” by Pastor Gregg Hensel

“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.” (Phil. 4:8)

Paul’s letter to the Philippians is full of joy. Though imprisoned because of his faithful service in the Gospel, he does not allow his difficult circumstances to keep him from proclaiming the goodness of the Savior. He says that to live is Christ, that he is filled with joy, and that he is ready to meet the Lord if death should come; but there are some things he wants the Philippians to know: be united in Christ, love one another, keep on in holiness, boast only in the Lord, and be generous with all that you have.

After telling them to be anxious for nothing, but to pray about everything, he offers a practical way to apply the Gospel in all areas of life: watch carefully over what occupies your mind. In Phil. 4:8, Paul gives several descriptive words to help the believer focus his mind on the things of God. In this first posting of 2023, let us take a brief look at these things. I urge you to commit to understanding the elements of Phil. 4:8 and ask the Lord for help to put them into practice throughout this year. I have felt led to have Phil. 4:8 serve as my “verse of the year,” one that will guide my thinking and ministry all throughout 2023. Let’s look at this wonderful verse.

1.Whatever is true.
The word means genuine. That which is genuine is not artificial or counterfeit. God’s character is true and whatever He says is the truth. Our Lord Jesus is the truth of God in the flesh. Our faith is built on the truth. Therefore, as we read God’s Word, and as we spend time with the Lord, we develop the ability to discern what is true from what is not true. Let the truth of the Gospel override all that we think and do.

2.Whatever is honorable.
This words means, “noble, serious, dignified, and above reproach.” It refers to that which is of good character. We are to think about that which promotes honorable thinking, behavior, and attitudes. As one commentary says: Honorable things are: “Things that lift the mind from the cheap and tawdry to that which is noble and good and of moral worth” (Martin & Hawthorne, 251).

3.Whatever is just.
The Greek word here is used elsewhere for righteousness. There is a relationship between righteousness and justice. In Christ we are righteous, with His righteousness imputed to us by faith (Phil. 3:9). Therefore, our own thinking should be marked and moved by the righteousness of God. Before you act or even think about doing something, the question should come to your minds: Is what I am doing in harmony with God’s will and ways?

4.Whatever is pure.
Along with purity comes words like holy or chaste. Our minds will be full of something, thus let them be filled with things that are holy, pure, and morally blameless. Purity is an important Christian virtue, for Jesus said that it is the pure in heart who will see God (Matt 5:8). The only way to overcome our sinful backgrounds and the sinful influences of culture is to cultivate purity of heart, by reflecting on what God sees as pure and holy and chaste.

5.Whatever is lovely.
Whatever is lovely is that which causes pleasure or delight; it is pleasing to behold or ponder. The word describes Esther (5:2) in the story of God using her to save the Jews from destruction. This word was commonly found in the ancient world on epitaphs, where kind and lovely things are said about the departed. The word “winsome” is a good ally of that which is lovely and pleasing.

6.Whatever is commendable.
The word means that which is worthy of praise. Something commendable is that which is admirable, well-sounding, and leaves a good impression on others. How wonderful it would be if that were our reputation: that we leave a good report and are seen as admirable in our behavior, thinking, conduct, and interactions.

7.If there is any excellence.
Paul speaks here of that which is morally excellent. This pertains to anything that is of ethical and spiritual excellence. As we fill our minds throughout the day, let’s do it with things that are fitting to what is truly excellent.

8.If there is anything worthy of praise.
This is recognition of that which is good in the highest and purest sense of the word. We are to look for things that are worthy of praise to God and reflect on those things. Moreover, Paul calls the Philippians to turn their attention “to those people who embody the virtues in their character and conduct” (Hansen, 299). The Christian is to have God as his focus, Christ as his model, and recognize that which is good in God and in others.

“Think about these things.” Phil. 4:8 ends with a command that is in the present tense, meaning that to obey it requires continuous action and intentionality. Thinking is hard work. Your mind will wander and focus on many things; therefore, you need to direct your thinking so as to love the Lord Your God with your mind (Matt. 22:37). With work and practice, good thinking is to become a way of life for the Christian. Consider the thoughts of Charles Reade, an English novelist and dramatist, who said:

“Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”

As we stand at the beginning of 2023, may God use Phil. 4:8 in our lives, for His glory, and for our good. Let us cry out with hymn writer Kate Wilkinson: “May the mind of Christ, my Savior, live in me from day to day. By His love and power controlling, all I do and say.”

Happy New Year greetings to you all!
Pastor Gregg Hensel

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