Commentary on Philippians, 4:8-9 (Right Thinking)

Philippians 4:8-9


6 In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
9 The things which ye both learned and received and heard and saw in me, these things do: and the God of peace shall be with you.


In verses 6 and 7, Paul tells us that we’re not to worry or be anxious about anything, but to commit all things to God in prayer, and the “peace of God” will be the result.


However, in addition to prayer, our minds need to be filled with all the right thoughts. Our mind can be filled with so many things that trouble us, things that causes fear and anxiety, thoughts that cause depression and despair. Furthermore, our minds can be filled with impure thoughts, thoughts that “war against the soul” (1 Pet 2:11), and of ideas and philosophies that are of the world that lead us away from God.


Paul has a remedy for all the things that would drag us down and lead us away from a right and peaceful walk with God. Our minds need to be filled with right things, things that give us peace and joy  and comfort, things that keep our minds pure and our eyes on the holy One.


We become what we fill our minds with. If we fill our minds with  negative and harmful thoughts, we will be brought under its influence and power, which will be manifested in outward behavior.


How we behave is an outward reflection of what’s going on inside of us. As Christians our behavior is to be a reflection of Christ, and that only comes as our minds are being renewed in conformity to His mind, as Paul tells us in Romans 12:1-2:


“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. 2 And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (ASV)


We find contentment and peace as our minds are being brought into harmony with the mind of Christ. As that occurs, our behavior changes. Instead of reflecting a sinful and troubled mind, our behavior reflects a mind that is pure and peaceful, and at peace with God.


Paul not only instructs us to be renewed in our minds, but he also shows how. He gives us a list of things that we’re to think about:


“Whatever things are: true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, praiseworthy…..we’re to think on these things.

“True”


We are a people of the truth. We have the truth in Christ and in the Christian faith. Truth is found in the Word of God, the Bible. False doctrine is a problem not only in the world, but also in the Church. False understanding about God and about how we’re to live as Christians, can lead to inner turmoil.


Calvinism is one of those areas of false doctrine that we must guard against. Calvinism mischaracterizes God, and presents a picture of God that is not true. I’ve read about Christians who have experienced much inner turmoil because of the Calvinist view of God. I’ve also read about the peace those same Christians experienced once they abandoned the Calvinist view of God.


That’s just one example of how false doctrine can cause issues for us. Anything that is not of the truth, will cause problems for us. As Jesus said in John 8:32, the truth sets us free. Therefore, we must spend a great deal of time in God’s Word, reading it and studying it and meditating on it and praying for understanding.


Furthermore, we must guard ourselves from the philosophies of the world. We live in an anti-Christian world. We see it in television shows, movies, music, in colleges, in books, in magazines, on the internet. It’s everywhere. We must be extremely careful not to expose ourselves to too much of this. We must minimize the amount of time we spend watching tv and movies, and what we read on the internet, because it does influence us, even when we think it doesn’t.


Another area I want to address in regard to that which is true, is the form of Christianity that is presented in many of our churches today. So many churches have adopted the ways of the world, churches that have a philosophy of ministry that is blatantly contrary to the clear commands of Scripture, such as this one:


I charge [thee] in the sight of God, and of Christ Jesus, who shall judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:
2 preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts; 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables”   ASV (2 Tim 2:1-4)


“itching ears”


“but wanting to have their ears tickled,”  NASB


Here Paul tells us that pastors are to “preach the Word.” They’re to “reprove, rebuke, exhort….and to teach.” This is not what you typically see in seeker-sensitive churches, where the “felt-needs” of the people are addressed instead.


Instead of teaching the Word of God faithfully, verse by verse, they give people what they want, things that “tickle their ears.” These pastors are giving the people what they want to hear, and avoid teaching things they know will offend people and drive them away.


A wrong version of Christianity is not what people need. They need the truth that will set them free. The wrong version of Christianity does no one any good. On the contrary it leads people astray, and I believe it results in many false conversions.


These same churches present a very shallow and worldly form of Christianity, which does nothing to protect the mind, which does little to bring the mind into conformity to the mind of Christ.


If we’re to be set free from the damage that wrong thoughts produce, we must pursue the truth with a passion, and run from that which is false as fast and as far away as we can.
That which is true, also refers to the will of God. There is nothing that creates more inner turmoil than when we know we’re out of God’s will, as revealed in His Word. In order to experience peace of mind, we must bring our lives into harmony with the will of God.


“honorable”


This refers to those things that are worthy of honor, things that are honest and venerable. As Christians our whole life is to be one of honor, the type of honor that is worthy of the name of Christ. This speaks of a life that is above reproach, both in the sight of God and in the sight of man (as much as possible).


We must avoid those things that bring dishonor to the name of Christ. In order to do that, we must know what those things are. We find that in the Word of God, not in the teachings and patterns of this world. When we fill our minds with things that are dishonorable, it creates conflict within in us. There’s a war going on inside of us. We’ve got the honorable things of Christ on the one side, and the dishonorable things of the world on the other. As long as we give attention to, and yield to those things that are dishonorable, we will experience inner conflict…instead of inner peace.


“just”


This refers to those things that are right and fair, that are according to truth. We can never be at peace as long as we entertain unjust thoughts towards others. Our minds must be filled only with thoughts of well-being toward others. To think otherwise is contrary to the love and grace and mercy of the Lord.


“pure”


We’re to fill our mind with things that are pure. We’re to have a pure thought life, especially as it pertains to sex. Everyday we must choose to walk the path of purity, as John indicates here:


2 Beloved, now are we children of God, and it is not yet made manifest what we shall be. We know that, if he shall be manifested, we shall be like him; for we shall see him even as he is. 3 And every one that hath this hope set on him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” ASV (1 John 3:2-3)


Purifying ourselves begins with the purifying of our minds. God is altogether pure and holy, and as His children, we’re to be like Him. I don’t know of anything that causes more inner conflict and grief than sexually, impure thoughts. There’s nothing that will rob us of our peace and joy like sexual sin, which always has its beginning in the mind.


You may be reading this and feeling helpless in regard to pornograpy or impure thoughts. I want to encourage you today, you CAN have total victory over this debilitating sin.


Although I’ve never had a problem with pornography – and I praise God for that – that doesn’t mean I’ve never failed, nor does it mean that I’ve never struggled with impure thoughts. To God’s glory, He gave me victory in this area several years ago. The mind is a battlefield, and this is an area where we men struggle – including pastors – but praise the Lord we can win the war through the power of the Holy Spirit.


The only way to experience victory in our thought-life, is to fill our minds with that which is pure and holy. That means we must saturate our minds with God’s Holy and purifying Word. We must spend much time every single day meditating on His pure and life-changing Word, and much time in the presence of God. The closer our walk with God, the more repulsive sin becomes to us.


We must also make major changes in what we view on tv and on the internet. If sexually impure thoughts is a major issue with you, then you may have to make major changes in your life, like getting rid of your television set. It’s difficult to watch anything on tv without being faced with serious temptation. If you have to, then do the right thing, and GET RID OF IT!  Extreme issues call for extreme measures.


In regard to the internet, it’s very difficult to function in our world today without the internet, so getting rid of it is probably not a good option. But thankfully, there are safeguards you can add to your computer that will prevent you from going on sex-oriented websites. Just google “Christian internet porn-protection,” and that will lead you to some filters that will help you win the war over this. You must be willing to do whatever you need to do.


Another wise thing to do to gain victory in this area, is to get yourself into a men’s accountability Bible study group where you hold yourself accountable to each other, where you can pray for one another and encourage each other. I can’t express how important and life-changing this can be. Don’t let pride prevent you from doing this.


Another way to gain victory is to get involved serving God, both in your church and outside of your church. We’re not simply to live holy lives, we’re also to serve. When we get busy for the Lord, it not only makes a difference in other people’s lives, but it makes a difference in our own lives. If we’re not serving in some way, we tend to dry up spiritually. We’re saved to serve.


As we saturate our minds with the Word of God, and commit ourselves to following God’s will, the Holy Spirit will empower us. Every moment of every day you must choose to follow the path of purity. That’s how I normally start my day as I talk with God. We must continuously seek the will and the power of the Holy Spirit that is always available to us.


“lovely”  (Gr. phosphiles – 4375)


Only here in the New Testament.


Amiable, pleasing, agreeable, acceptable.


Barnes:


“Whatsoever things are lovely – The word used here means properly what is dear to anyone; then what is pleasing. Here it means what is amiable – such a temper of mind that one can love it; or such as to be agreeable to others. A Christian should not be sour, crabby, or irritable in his temper – for nothing almost tends so much to injure the cause of religion as a temper always chafed; a brow morose and stern; an eye that is severe and unkind, and a disposition to find fault with everything. And yet it is to be regretted that there are many persons who make no pretensions to piety, who far surpass many professors of religion in the virtue here commended. A sour and crabby temper in a professor of religion will undo all the good that he attempts to do.”


Barclay:


“Winsome is the best translation of all. The Greek is prosphile, and it might be paraphrased as that which calls forth love. There are those whose minds are so set on vengeance and punishment that they call forth bitterness and fear in others. There are those whose minds are so set on criticism and rebuke that they call forth resentment in others. The mind of the Christian is set on the lovely things—kindness, sympathy, forbearance—so he is a winsome person, whom to see is to love. (ibid)


We’re to fill our minds with “lovely” thoughts, thoughts that are characterized by kindness and love, thoughts that would be evident by those who behold our lives. When our minds are filled with lovely thoughts, it affects the way feel toward others, which manifests itself in the way we treat them. When we’re filled with lovely thoughts, it makes us feel good all over, which makes us amiable in the sight of those around us.


On the other hand, if we’re not filled with lovely thoughts toward others, then it will not only rob us of our peace and joy, but will be readily apparent in our dealings with others. We are what we think.


“of good report”  (Gr. euphemos – 2163)


Only here in the New Testament.


Commendable, that which is well spoken of, approved by the heart, praise-worthy.


We’re to fill our minds with thoughts of those things that are commendable and well spoken of. These are positive thoughts Paul is  talking about here. We’re not to give attention to those things that are not commendable or well spoken of. Our focus should never be on the faults and shortcomings of others, but on the good things that we see in them. For if all we see are the negatives in others, then it will affect the way we deal with them. Negative thoughts toward others does not produce peace and harmony in our minds. On the contrary, it stresses the mind.


If we can’t find anything of of good report or praise-worthy in someone, then pray for them and see them for what we believe they will become as we continue to lift them up to the Lord. Try to see them through the eyes of God.


Furthermore, when we’re focused on those things that are commendable, we will tend toward those things in our own lives.


“virtue”  


Moral excellence.


We’re to think on those things that are virtuous, those things that are morally excellent, of the highest degree. Hard to do when we’re constantly subjecting our eyes to the immoral junk that’s on tv. As I mentioned above, we are what we think. We tend toward those things that we set our mind upon. If our minds are set on living a life of moral excellence, then we will be drawn to that.


Conversely, if we’re focused on things that are immoral, it will create conflict within us as those who have the Holy Spirit indwelling us. There is no harmony between rights thoughts and wrong thoughts. If we’re to experience peace, our thoughts must be in harmony with the mind of God.


“any praise”


Praise-worthy


This refers to things that are praise-worthy in behavior. Ultimately, if something is praise-worthy, then it’s something that we can also praise God for, as something that is commendable in His eyes.


It’s through the eyes of God that we must see. We must think on those things that God Himself approves of. There is no peace of mind when it’s filled with thoughts of things that God does not approve of. There can only be peace of mind when our mind is in harmony with His.


“think on these things”


If we follow Paul’s instructions in this verse, by thinking on all the things he’s listed for us, we will experience peace instead of anxiety. Again, the mind is a battlefield. Life is throwing everything it’s got at us, so we must counter that with the kind of thoughts that create a healthy mind-set, one that creates peace in the midst of it all.  


The only way to grow spiritually in a world full of evil and negative thoughts, is to counter it with that which produces a renewed mind. Again, we see that in Romans 12:1-2. We must constantly place our minds under the influence of all that is good and right and pure and holy. That comes from much time in God’s Word and prayer. We also do that by listening to good Bible teaching from men and women of God who teach it faithfully.


9 The things which ye both learned and received and heard and saw in me, these things do: and the God of peace shall be with you.


After Jesus Himself, Paul is as good an example to follow as we’ll ever have. In this same book, Paul exhorts his readers to “imitate” him (Phil 3;17). That means we’re to follow everything we “learn” and “receive” and “hear” and “see” in him. We’re to devote much time learning the doctrine and life of Paul. He tells us that if we do that, then “the peace of God shall be with us.”


While Paul is our ultimate example (after Jesus), it’s important that we find a man or woman of God that we can learn from, someone we know to be genuine in their relationship with Christ. Their teaching and the influence of their lives can prove to be of immeasurable spiritual value to us. In like manner, when we too have grown to spiritual maturity, we can have that same Godly influence on others that we have experienced ourselves.