(Greek words can be viewed using the Symbol font)
Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
October 24, 2004
Rejoicing in All Circumstances, Part 5
Thinking Rightly – Philippians 4:8,9
Paul gives us God’s command in Philippians 4:4 to “Rejoice in the Lord
always, and again I say rejoice!” Yet, so many professing Christians live
life with only minimal joy. Why? Why do so many people who say they know Jesus
Christ as their Savior and therefore bound for heaven live more in a manner like
they are on a journey headed to either purgatory or hell? When you go on a
journey to someplace you want to go, the goal of reaching that destination not
only drives you on to reach it, but it also affects your attitude while your
making the trip. Lets face it, a trip to the dentist is always more somber than
a trip to your favorite restaurant. Why then such somberness, melancholy, and
even depression among those that say they are going to Heaven?
At the same time, why is it that so many professing Christians live lives
that are pretty much the same as the average non-Christian except for perhaps
abstaining from some of the more flagrant social vices, and even in that, too
many professing Christians do not even avoid those. Why such lack of power in
living the Christian life in holiness and joy?
Paul gives us answers to those questions here in Philippians 4 as he directs
believers to what is necessary to experience the joyful life God called us to
when He saved us through Jesus Christ. Follow along again as we read through
Philippians 4:1-14 to set the context of today’s study of verse 8 & 9.
1 Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long [to see], my joy and
crown, so stand firm in the Lord, my beloved. 2 I urge Euodia and I urge
Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. 3 Indeed, true comrade, I ask you also
to help these women who have shared my struggle in [the cause of] the gospel,
together with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are
in the book of life. 4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say,
rejoice! 5 Let your forbearing [spirit] be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with
thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God,
which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in
Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is
honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is
of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let
your mind dwell on these things. 9 The things you have learned and received and
heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with
you. 10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have
revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned [before,] but you lacked
opportunity. 11 Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in
whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I
also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have
learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance
and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. 14
Nevertheless, you have done well to share [with me] in my affliction.
Our ability to live a joyful and holy Christian life is dependent upon us
following the commands Paul gives throughout this chapter. It is the strongest
call possible for Paul to make in getting us to abandon our own foolish ways and
join him in living life the way God meant for us to live it. Proverbs 14:12
warns us that there is a way that seems right unto a man, but the end thereof
are the ways of death. Proverbs 21:2 adds, Every man’s way is right in
his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the hearts. And Proverbs 12:15 adds,
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to
counsel. Paul is offering the counsel here to keep you from being a fool who
pursues what is right in your own eyes by telling you how God wants you to live.
The “therefore” that begins the chapter points back to all the truths Paul
has already proclaimed in the previous chapters. We are to “stand firm in the
Lord” by following all those truths already mentioned. Hold your ground and do
not yield in all of those areas including conducting ourselves in a manner
worthy of the gospel of Christ (1:27). We are to be of the same mind, maintain
the same love, be united in spirit and be intent on one purpose (2:2). This is
accomplished through being humble and considering others more important than
yourself instead of being selfish and looking out only for your own interests
(2:3,4). This is the example that Jesus left us when He left the glories of
heaven to become a man and die in our place for our sins (2:5f). In recognizing
that God is at work in us, we pursue the outworking of our salvation in how we
live our daily lives which includes doing all things without grumbling and
complaining which will prove your identity as blameless and innocent children of
God (2:12f). Our quest to know Jesus Christ and His power in our lives is to
result in our forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies
ahead by pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in
Christ Jesus (3:10-14).
Here in chapter 4 Paul states more specific ways in which to stand firm in
the Lord. Work through problems and live in harmony (2,3). Rejoice in the Lord
always, and gain God’s peace through proper prayer (4-7). Keep your minds
focused on what is godly (8,9), and to learn to be content in your circumstances
by trusting in the Lord (10-19). Paul had complete confidence that they would be
able to carry out these commands for God would complete the work He had begun in
them (1:6). He will do the same in us, for there is no lack in Christ’s power to
accomplish His will (3:21).
We have already gone over in some detail how to live in harmony (4:2,3),
rejoicing in the Lord (4:4), letting your forbearing spirit be made known to all
men (4:5), and the cure for anxiety through proper prayer. When we come to God
with the things on our hearts and minds in prayer and supplications with
thanksgiving and let our requests be made known to Him, we can trust Him to
fulfill His promises. We can cast our cares upon Him because we know that He
cares for us (1 Peter 5:7; Rom. 5:8). We can then find peace and rest that is
beyond understanding because we can trust Him (Isa. 26:3).
This morning we begin our study of these next two verses in which Paul makes
clear what kinds of things should occupy our minds and as a result, our actions.
Again, the command here in verse 8 is not some philosophical or academic
exercise, for in verse 9 Paul sets himself as the example of someone who lives
with the commanded mindset. The Philippians knew Paul well and so were to follow
that example. We in turn know Paul well from what the book of Acts tells of his
life and His writings recorded in the Scriptures.
It is important that we understand that what Paul says here in Philippians
4:8 is not some philosophical or intellectual exercise that will make you holy
and cause you to rejoice if you can just keep your mind focused on the qualities
listed. I need to emphasize this point because we live in a society that is very
“Greek” in its outlook. Our tendency, like the ancient Greek philosophers, is to
put a separation between what we think and say from what we actually do. Paul is
writing in Greek to Romans living in Greece, but Paul writes from a very Hebrew
outlook. He does not make a distinction between what you think and what you do.
What you do reveals what you think.
In our society we rate someone as an accomplished expert based on the amount
of knowledge they have amassed and can repeat, usually identified by having a
Doctorate degree. Whether their knowledge is actually valid or whether they can
actually do the things they talk about is nearly irrelevant. We used to poke fun
at this at my alma matter, Cal Poly, Pomona, that if you wanted to be lectured
on theories, you talked with a graduate of a certain university, but if you
actually wanted the job done, you got a Polytechnic graduate. The academics in
their “ivory towers” could speak for long periods of time about all sorts of
things, but often could not apply in the real world what they supposedly
learned. That is a Greek outlook. We were trained that until you could put into
practice in the real world what you learned, you had not yet learned it. That is
a Hebrew outlook.
Christians in America are negatively affected by this Greek mindset. What
Biblical information they learn tends to be left in the mind instead of applied
in life. Nearly all professing Christians will often agree with you that God is
holy, just, righteous, good, loving, kind, longsuffering, merciful, gracious,
omnipotent (all powerful), omniscience (all knowledgeable), omnipresent
(everywhere present) and sovereign Creator of all things, as I pointed out last
week, yet those truths about God’s character changes little in how many of them
actually live, for they will continue in sinful behavior as if Jesus was not
with them, and they could hide their wickedness from Him. Too many Christians
learn Bible stories and doctrine, but make little or no application of them in
their own lives. Scripture makes it clear that lying is a sin (Prov. 12:22), and
that those who do lie will be punished (Matt. 12:36; Rev. 21:27), yet they
continue to lie with little regard for its seriousness. The evidence of
continued sin despite having the Biblical knowledge actually speaks to the fact
that there is good reason to question whether they actually are Christians. If
what is in the mind does not reach the heart and come out in the actions of the
arms, legs and mouth, then there is good cause to question the claim to the
This does not mean that in order to be a Christian you have to reach some
standard of holiness set by man, but it does mean that you need to be walking
toward the standards of holiness set by God. Christians are saints because they
are set apart to God, but they not perfect and will not be perfect in this life.
We still struggle with sin, but we struggle with it instead of surrender to it.
That is why 1 John 1:9 is important to us. The true Christian is identified by
the fruit they bear, which includes confession, repentance and a renewed
striving to walk in holiness when admonished for sin. The one with a false
profession will not do that, which is one of the things church discipline will
bring out. We both encourage and admonish one another that we might mature in
our walk with Jesus Christ. Those that refuse to turn from sin only show that
they are not on the same path that we are, and there are only two paths: the
narrow path that leads to heaven that is entered into through the narrow gate of
faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ, and the broad path that leads to
destruction that is entered into by the broad gate of self-righteousness.
Now take notice that Paul does not leave verse 8 as an independent list of
intellectual or philosophical pursuits as those with a Greek mindset would do.
There are two reasons that point this out. First, the very command itself in vs.
8 is more than just a call to “think.” The Greek word here,
logizomai / logizomai, is translated as “think” in the KJV,& NIV; as
“meditate” in the NKJV; and as “let your mind dwell upon” in the NAS. The word
is also translated in other places as “reckon,” “calculate,” “consider,” and
“regard.” We get our word, “logic,” from its root. While the nuance (subtle
meaning) of the word varies in its usage, Paul’s usage here is in keeping with
the idea of using reason in its concrete form in the consciousness and worked
out in life as action (TDNT Vol. IV). Paul is telling them that they need to
figure out how to carry out the virtues he has listed for them – true, honest,
just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, praiseworthy (KJV).
Second, as I have already mentioned, after Paul lists out these virtues that
are to occupy our minds in verse 8, he immediately calls them to follow his
example of how to practice these things in life. The command of verse 8 is to
result in application in real life. They are not to be left for just
Importance of the Mind
The importance of what you think about cannot be overemphasized. Our ability
to reason is one of the human attributes by which we show that we are made in
the image of God. To be sure, this reflection is now tarnished by sin, but
nevertheless it is still there. For the natural man, the one without Christ, the
effect of sin upon the mind is severe. 2 Cor. 4:4 describes the minds of
unbelievers as being blinded by the god of this age. Ephesians 4:8 says,
“They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God
because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.”
1 Corinthians 2:14 bluntly states, The man without the Spirit does not
accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to
him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.
What is in your heart and mind will be demonstrated in and by your actions.
Jesus put it this way in Mark 7:20-23, And He was saying, “That which
proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. 21 “For from within, out
of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders,
adulteries, 22 deeds of coveting [and] wickedness, [as well as] deceit,
sensuality, envy, slander, pride [and] foolishness. 23 “All these evil things
proceed from within and defile the man.” What you do reflects what you think
and believe, so regardless of what a person says, you will know the truth by
what they do. That is why Jesus told us in Matthew 7:20 that we will be able to
discern the false prophets by their fruit. Are their actions in keeping with the
commands and principles of God’s Word?
Even for the Christian, who is given the new capacity to have the mind of
Christ (1 Cor. 2:16), the effects of a past sinful mindset are only overcome
with due diligence. We are transformed by the renewing of our mind (Rom. 12:2)
in which we flush out our old and sinful ways of thinking with the cleansing
water of the Word of God (Eph. 5:26). We take captive every thought to make
it obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). What Paul states here in Philippians
4:8 is part of that process. We are to filter our minds with certain virtues and
come to the logical conclusions about our actions based on those virtues.
If you want to be serious about developing the mind of Christ in yourself,
then Philippians 4:8 is a good verse to memorize and meditate on. Then you can
use it as the grid by which you will screen what you allow into your mind
through what you hear, read and watch. Does the music you listen to match it? Do
the TV programs or movies you watch match it? Do the radio programs you hear
match it? Do the books and magazines you read match it? Do the stories & jokes
you listen to and tell match it? Do the people you listen to for counsel match
it? Psalm 1 tells us that the blessed man is the one who does not walk in the
counsel of the ungodly, but instead meditates day and night in the law of the
Think on These Things
What then are these things we are to let our minds dwell on? For the
remainder of this morning I am going to give you a brief description of each
one. In a couple of weeks, we will look at each one in depth along with
corresponding examples on how they should affect your life.
Whatever is alhqV / al‘th‘s
– true. The Greek literally means, “not hidden,” “unconcealed,” hence
something free from deception and conforms to the facts of reality. Christians
are to love the truth, speak the truth and live in truth (Eph. 4:25; 1 John
3:18). What is true? Jesus Christ and God’s Word (John 14:6; 17:17). The Bible
is our source of truth. Can you distinguish truth from error? You need to have a
thought life filled with the truth of the Scriptures. Also, train yourself to be
diligent to search out the truth so that you are not deceived. These will help
you in every area.
Whatever is semnoV / semnos – honorable, honest,
noble – “to revere,” “to worship.” This is what is related to God’s honor
and glory. If other people could read you mind, would you be respected for the
noble character of your thoughts? Does your mind dwell on things above or what
is earthly? It is on what is worthy of adoration or on the common stuff of this
life? Think on those things that bring honor and glory to God and then do them.
Whatever is dikaiV /dikaios – righteous, just.
This refers to that which duty demands, or what is right, correct to do
especially in reference to keeping God’s laws. The only one who is truly right
is God himself, and any thing else that can be considered right is right because
it is a reflection in some way of God’s own righteousness. Set your mind on
those things which are in accordance with God’s character and commandments.
Whatever is agnoV / hagnos – pure. This word
is related to the word for “holy” and refers to that which has been separated
out and so is without impurities, hence – pure. It is free from every fault,
unpolluted by sin. It is often used to describe those who are free from
carnality and immorality and is translated as “chaste.” It is a quality that
every Christian is to develop for 1 John 3:3 states in reference to Jesus return
that “everyone who has this hope [fixed] on Him purifies himself, just as He
is pure.” It also describes the wisdom from above as compared to the earthly
wisdom of men (James 3:17). Are the thing that you see, hear or read morally
pure? If not, your mind is being polluted. Turn your mind to pure thoughts which
are those things that are conformed to the will of God. This includes how to use
your gifts to serve God; how to promote personal holiness; interceding to God on
the behalf of others; giving praise and glory to God.
Whatever is prosfilhV / prosphil‘s
– lovely. This word is a compound word of the prefix,
pros, “with” or “alongside,” and filoV,
“brotherly love,” resulting in “with brotherly love,” and hence that which is
lovely. Lovely thoughts seek what is best for others. Ugly thoughts are
self-seeking and often at the expense of other people. Thoughts of hatred,
revenge, greed, and envy are all ugly. Thoughts of love, giving, generosity,
charity, mercy and grace are all lovely. Does your mind dwell on those things
that are lovely in God’s eyes?
Whatever is eufhmoV / euph‘mos
– good repute, good report. This word combines the word for “good” or “well”
with the word for “fame” or “report,” and hence, “good report.” We are to let
our minds dwell on those things that bring a good report. While every Christian
will face hardships and trials, this virtue directs us to place more emphasis on
the positive God is doing rather than dwelling on the negative. In that sense it
is related to the sacrifice of praise I spoke about a couple of weeks ago. In
addition, if our minds were quick to dwell on what is of good report, we would
not grumble and complain to start with, and any negative gossip that was
expressed would quickly die for a lack of fuel and an audience.
Whatever is ajreth / aret‘
– excellence, virtue, worthy. This is a word of wide significance in Greek
and refers to any excellence of a person or thing. In this context it would
refer to moral goodness. It is included in 2 Peter 1:5 it is in the list of
things we are to add to our faith that will make us useful to the cause of
Christ. It is a sad fact that virtue has been largely lost in our society with
too many public figures displaying moral debauchery and still being considered
worthy of honor. A person of moral integrity is a person whose is not satisfied
with a standard of what society can tolerate, but strives for excellence of
character in all circumstances. Let your mind dwell on how you can demonstrate
faith in God, knowledge of right from wrong, self-control, perseverance,
brotherly kindness or courtesy and love.
Whatever is epainoV / epainos – worthy of praise.
These are things that are worthy of glory, honor, commendation, acclaim
because they fit the characteristics just described of being true, honorable,
just, pure, lovely, virtuous and of good report. These are thing things that
should bring the praise of men because they in some way are a reflection of God.
It can be hard work to keep our mind filled with these virtues because the
world we live in does not think this way. Instead of truth, they are deceived by
the lies & half truths of the evil one. Instead of honor, they contemplate
things that are shameful. Instead of righteousness, they ponder wickedness.
Instead of justice, it is manipulation of the law. Instead of purity, their
minds dwell on filthiness. Instead of what is lovely, their minds reflect on
what is lustful. Instead of things of good reputation, they consider it just as
well to muse on those things of bad reputation. Instead of excellence and
virtue, it is pondering what is immoral and claiming to be amoral. Instead of
things worthy of praise before God, they fulfill the complete slide of their
depraved minds and give hearty approval to practices opposite of God’s commands
Brethren, if you are of Christ your mindset needs to be different from that
of the world. Consider this as a simple means to evaluate if you are thinking
about the things that you should. Scripture tells us in Revelation 2:23 that God
searches the minds and the hearts. God knows what you are thinking. You can not
fool him. Ask yourself if God is pleased with your thought life. Would you be
comfortable telling God out loud the things you think about, or would you be
ashamed of them? If you are ashamed about what you think about, then put into
practice the commands of Scripture, set aside your old ways, renew your mind and
set it to think about what is proper. Psalm 119:9-11 still says it well.
We will dig into this subject again in the next couple of weeks so that we
will have a better understanding and ability to put it into practice. Next week
we will examine our culture’s practice of Halloween and see how it fits with
this standard God has given to us.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives.
Here is some help.
Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the
sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children –
Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the
sermon and look them up later. 2) Count how many times any words for “think,”
“mind,” are used. Talk with your parents about how you can train your mind to
think about good things instead of bad. Have them help you keep bad things out.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
Why do so many Christians live with little joy and in a manner little
different from non-Christians? What are the things taught in Philippians in
which we are to “stand firm in the Lord?” Explain the difference between the
Greek and Hebrew mindset? Which affect you more? Your Christian life? What is
the importance of the mind? How has sin affected the mind of the non-Christian?
The Christian? How are effects of sin on the mind countered? How are you doing
at countering them? What needs to change? Describe each of the virtues listed in
Philippians 4:8. Do you keep your mind focused on these virtues? If not, why?
How will you change what you think on? How do each of these virtues help you?
Which virtues are easier and which are harder for you to do? Who helps you keep
Sermon Notes – October 24, 2004
Rejoicing in All Circumstances, Part 5
Philippians 4:8,9 – Thinking Rightly
Greek Vs. Hebrew Mind Set
logizomai / logizomai =
Importance of the Mind
Image of God
Think on These Things
alhqV / al’th’s –
semnoV / semnos –
agnoV / hagnos –
prosphil’s – lovely
eufhmoV / euph’mos
– good repute
areth / aret’ –
epainoV / epainos –
worthy of praise