Author: Ron Graham
We continue looking at Paul’s theme, "We worship God in the Spirit, and glory in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh" (Philippians 3:3). In this study, we consider what kind of thinking edifies the spiritually minded. The spiritually minded are...
"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honourable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report —if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think on these things." (Philippians 4:8).
Stimulation of a nerve in the eye or ear, in the skin, or elsewhere in the body, causes a “message” to be sent to the brain. This in turn causes us to have a thought. But is that the only way that thought originates? Christians believe that thought can originate in the spiritual self.
Our spirits can both cause and control thought. We, as spiritual beings, can either think ill, or think well. It's our choice.
If that were not so, then how could we follow Paul’s instruction here? We can choose to "think on these things" that he lists (Philippians 4:8), or we can think on their opposites. We can have pure and righteous thoughts, or filthy and wicked thoughts. We are masters of our own minds: if some stimulus to the body sparks a thought that is impure or unpraiseworthy, we can reject that thought and discard it. We don't have to own it.
Furthermore, our inner self can control much of what is allowed to stimulate our body. Some bodily sensations are accidental, or unavoidable. The dangerous stimuli, however, are usually within our power to either embrace or eschew. For example, we don't have to look at pornography; or listen to people talking dirty; or go to parties or movies that are unsavoury; or get drunk or stoned. We can shun these things and direct our bodies toward good and healthy stimuli. And what's more, we can enjoy ourselves doing this.
You may say, “But it's so hard to do this in today’s wicked world!” Well it's not so hard, really, when you set yourself this goal: "to be blameless and innocent, children of God beyond reproach amid a crooked generation, among whom you shine as lights in this world, upholding the word of life" (Philippians 2:15-16).
That may be a challenging goal, but it is also inspiring, isn't it? And remember, when we set our hearts on that goal, we are empowered by Jesus "filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God" (Philippians 1:11).
Paul says, "Do all things without grumbling or disputing" (Philippians 2:14). Some people’s minds seem to dwell on the bad things. They do a lot of complaining and lecturing about what's wrong with the world. They also dwell on arguments that divide people. Well, bad things do happen, and people do have disagreements like Euodia and Syntyche (Philippians 4:1). On the other hand, good things do happen, and people can and do agree on many things. The question is, on which are we going to let our minds dwell? The bad, or the good?
We can sow discord, or we can sow harmony. This is our decision. We can think on good and agreeable things such as Paul lists when he says, "Think on these things" (Philippians 4:8).
The bad things that happen are not good news in themselves; however there is good news about them: they can, in a special and wonderful way, be turned to our purpose and goal. Paul puts it this way: "It has been granted to you to suffer for Christ’s sake" (Philippians 1:28-30). So when we undergo suffering, we should understand that we are privileged to share in Christ’s suffering (1Peter 4:13,19).
This is, of course, about suffering persecution. However don't be quick to put persecution in a small box. For example, why not understand that illness, loss of possessions, bereavement, and suchlike, are forms of persecution? Job was persecuted by Satan with those seemingly natural misfortunes (Job 1-2). Our chief persecutor is Satan, and he still works in the same way (James 5:10-11). In fact all undeserved suffering can be rightly attributed by Christians to an attack by Satan meant to discourage our faith in Christ. But we respond by recognising that we are honoured to share in the sufferings of Christ and to endure faithfully for his sake and in his strength: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13).