Rejoicing in All Circumstances, Part 6 – Thinking Rightly

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(Greek words can be viewed using the Symbol font)

Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

November 7, 2004

Rejoicing in All Circumstances, Part 6

Thinking Rightly, Part 2 – Philippians 4:8,9




Turn to Philippians 4 again this morning as we continue our study of verses 8
& 9. Staring in verse 4 we read as follows:

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.

Two weeks ago I began our study of Philippians 4:8,9 on “Thinking Rightly”
with an overview of the context of the passage and a brief explanation of the
virtues listed in verse 8 that Christians are to have their minds dwell on. I
want to continue our examination of that passage this morning by again looking
at each of these virtues and correlating them to specific things in Paul’s life
that demonstrate how he applied them in his own life so that we might be able to
follow his call to us in verse 9 to follow his example.

As we begin this study this morning I want to remind you briefly of the main
point that I made two weeks ago. Paul’s command here to “let your mind dwell” or
“think” on these things is not an intellectual exercise. We get our word “logic”
from the root of the Greek word here, logizomai /
logizomai, and Paul’s usage of it here is in keeping with the idea of using
“reason in its concrete form in the consciousness and worked out in life as
(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). That is our quest this

The world we live in does not think the way the Bible says we are think and
act. Instead of truth, they are deceived by the lies & half truths and freely
lie themselves. Instead of honor, they contemplate things that are shameful and
often practice them. Instead of righteousness, they ponder and practice
wickedness. Instead of purity, it is filthiness. Instead of what is lovely, they
reflect on the ugliness of their selfish lusts. Instead of things of good
reputation, they consider it just as well dwell on things of bad reputation.
Instead of excellence and virtue, it is pondering what is immoral. 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
(Rom. 1:32).

If you are of Christ, then your mindset needs to be different from the world.
If you of Christ, you need to set your mind to dwell on what is true, honorable,
right, pure, lovely, of good report, things that are virtuous and praise worthy,
and then you need act accordingly. What you think about must be reflected in
your actions. In verse 9, Paul calls on us to follow his example and then
rejoice in its fruit of having the God of peace be with you. We are going to
look at each of these virtues and see how they were lived out in Paul’s life.


Living the Virtues


Whatever is alhqhV / alths
– 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). Can you distinguish truth from error? Train your self to be diligent to
search out the truth. That will help you in every area.

What is true? Truth conforms to the facts of reality and remains the same
throughout eternity. The philosophy of men, the religions they have created, and
man’s pseudo-science which has denied the Creator and left man to have hope only
in himself, do not do this. They are not true. Jesus said He is the truth in
John 14:6, and He said, “Thy Word is True” in John 17:17. Jesus and the
Bible are our sources of truth. We need to have a thought life filled with God’s
word. Think on truth. Think on the Scriptures.

How is this virtue seen in Paul’s life? Truth was foundational in everything
Paul did. Even in his ignorance prior to conversion Paul was zealous for his
understanding of the Old Testament. When Jesus revealed Himself to Paul (Acts
9), Paul was quickly obedient to Christ. How zealous are you for the truth? How
quickly will you yield yourself to be obedient to truth as God reveals it to

Truth was also Paul’s first line of defense. In Ephesians 6:14 the belt of
truth is listed as the first component of the armor of God which allows you to
stand firm in the Lord against the schemes of the devil. Some years ago when I
preached through Ephesians, I gave 6 messages just on the belt of truth, so
there is a lot that could be said here (those messages are available on tape or
printed notes upon request). When Paul was arrested in Acts 22 and then taken
before the Sanhedrin in Acts 23 he made his defense on the truth of his hope in
Jesus Christ stating, “I am on trial for the hope and resurrection of the
(vs. 6). In 1 Corinthians 11 Paul defends his apostleship by laying
out the truth of his love for them, his qualifications as an apostle and his
actions that prove his claims. Is the truth your defense?

But what do you do when the truth would condemn you instead of defend you?
All of us have seen people lie to get out of trouble. I dare say that everyone
here has done that at some point in your life because even every Christian is a
saved sinner, not a perfect person. Hopefully, as you have grown as a Christian,
those days of lying to either get what you want or avoid unpleasantness are far
behind you. If not, then you need to turn from that sin and follow Paul’s

In Acts 23 as Paul began his defense to the Sanhedrin, the high priest,
Ananias, commanded those standing beside Paul to strike him on the mouth. Paul
responded, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! And do you sit
to try me according to the Law, and in violation of the Law order me to be
Paul was righteously indignant both at the breaking of the Law by
those who were supposed to be upholding it, and the personal injustice done to
himself. I would venture to say that all of us recognize not only the justness
of Paul’s response, but would have also done the same thing. There was only one
problem. A bystander informed Paul, “Do you revile God’s high priest?”
While we might think the guy was getting what he deserved, Paul went back to the
Scriptures for his foundation of truth and instead said, “I was not aware,
brethren, that he was high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil
of a ruler of your people,'”
quoting from Exodus 22:28. Even though Ananias
was committing an injustice and was not even properly identifiable, Paul not
only admitted his wrong but quoted the specific command of God he had
inadvertently violated. The pursuit of truth requires us to be humble enough to
admit when we are wrong.

Truth also marked the way Paul sought to respond to other people. In
Ephesians 4:25 Paul said, “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth,
each one [of you,] with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.”

The “therefore” refers to the Christian laying aside the old self and putting on
the new self which “has been created in righteousness and holiness of the
.” Paul said a few verses earlier (15) that Christians were to be “speaking
the truth in love,”
and “grow up in all [aspects] into [Christ].”
This was Paul’s response throughout Acts and his Epistles. He spoke the truth to
others, but he tempered it with love.

Truth was Paul’s foundation. He pursued the truth. He defended himself with
truth. He yielded to the truth. He spoke the truth. He lived out the truth. Are
you following that example in your own life? Are you marked by truth? If not,
you need to set aside the lies and falsehood that do mark your life and instead
follow Christ, who is the Truth, and learn and obey God’s word, which is Truth.

Whatever is semnoV / semnos – honorable,
honest, noble
meaning “to revere,” “to worship.” This is ultimately related
to God’s honor and glory, but it also includes that which is honored and
respected because of its good character. Those things of an honorable character
correspond to being true. What is honorable? In Psalm 15 we find that honor was
due to those who fear the LORD. That is why it is one of the qualities that is
to exist in Elders, Deacons and older men (1 Tim. 3:8,11 & Titus 2:2).

How is this virtue seen in Paul’s life? One way was his always being honest
in his business dealings. In 1 Thessalonians 4:12 he encourages believers to “behave
properly toward outsiders
,” and Paul lived that way himself. Earlier
(2:9,10) he had reminded them, “For you recall, brethren, our labor and
hardship, [how] working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we
proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and [so is] God, how
devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers.”

Would those you do business with say the same about you?

Another way Paul lived honorably was by taking precaution to “have regard
for what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight
of men”
(2 Cor. 8:21). This matched his commitment expressed in Acts 24:16
to“do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience [both] before God and
before men.
” Even with the moral slide in our nation, integrity and honor
are still important, but more important than bringing honor to yourself or your
group is bringing honor to God. Paul did both by how he lived.

Examine your own life. Does is it bring honor to yourself? your family? your
friends? your associates? Your God? Lets go deeper. If other people could read
you mind, would you be respected for the noble character of your thoughts? Does
your mind dwell on the things of God or on the things of this earth? Do you
think about 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 dikaioV /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 in some way a reflection of God’s own righteousness.

How is this virtue seen in Paul’s life? In living honorably, Paul also lived
justly or rightly. He strove to live with a clean conscience by being obedient
to God. Prior to being a Christian, Paul (then Saul) thought he could be
righteous through his own efforts. He should have understood Isaiah 64:6,
“For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds
are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities,
like the wind, take us away,”
but self-righteousness is very blinding to the
truth. When the depths of his own sin was revealed to Paul and that he could
only be made righteous through faith in Jesus Christ, Paul rejoiced. We saw this
earlier in our study of Philippians 3:8-9. But Paul also understood that
positional righteousness in Christ is to result in the practical righteousness
of becoming like Christ in holiness. That is why he pressed on in knowing Jesus
even more and toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ
Jesus (Phil. 3:13-16)

How are you doing at that? It is easy to get side tracked by the things of
this world that can be so alluring to our flesh, eyes and pride, but all those
things will pass away. Why spend your time and energy trying to gain what cannot
endure? Are you setting your sights and your goals for the things that will help
you be more like Jesus? Have you developed relationships with others for
accountability and mutual encouragement? Are you following Paul’s example in
becoming more like Jesus Christ so that you could say with him to others, “Be
imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ”
(1 Cor. 11:1).


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 describes the wisdom from above as compared to the
earthly wisdom of men (James 3:17). 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 (Titus 2:14).

How is this virtue seen in Paul’s life? As we have already seen, it certainly
demonstrates itself in Paul’s effort to”to maintain always a blameless
conscience [both] before God and before men”
(Acts 24:16). It is also seen
in his actions that corresponded to this effort.

In 1 Timothy 4:12 Paul told Timothy to show himself an example worthy of
being followed by his actions in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity.
Timothy knew Paul too well for him to get away with this command if it was not
true in his own life first. Purity was one of the qualities by which Paul
commended himself as a servant of God to the Corinthians. They also knew Paul
well and if this was true in his life.

In 1 Timothy 5:22 Paul commanded Timothy to not share in the sins of other
people, but to keep himself pure (KJV). That is what Paul did himself. Among the
ways in which Timothy was to avoid sin and keep pure was by keeping sound
doctrine (6:3), being content and free from the love of money (6:6-10), pursuing
righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness (6:11), and
keeping God’s commandments (6:14). In Paul’s second letter to Timothy he also
told him to flee youthful lusts and instead pursue righteousness, faith,
love, and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart while also
refusing foolish and ignorant speculations
(2 Tim. 2:22, 23). Paul’s own
example preceded his commands to Timothy to do likewise. Do these qualities of
purity mark your life?

It is not that purity is instantaneous in the Christian life, but we are to
be pursuing it. In Titus 2:3-5 Paul told the older women to teach and encourage
the younger women in developing godly characteristics including purity. This is
a godly characteristic that we develop in our lives as we are conformed to the
image of Christ. 1 John 3:3 states the reason for pursuing purity. In reference
to Jesus return that “everyone who has this hope [fixed] on Him purifies
himself, just as He is pure.”
Does that pursuit mark your life?

What are you allowing to influence your thought life? What you think about
will affect what you do. Are the things that you see, hear or read morally pure?
Would you be comfortable inviting Jesus to see, the movies, shows, television
programs and web sites you look at? Would Christ enjoy the radio programs and
music you listen to? What do you think He would say if He was participating in
the conversations you take part in? Would you loan Jesus the books, magazines
and other literature you read? If the answer to any of these questions is no,
then there is a problem, because Jesus said He would be with the Christian
always, even to the end of the age (Matt. 28:20). If you are a Christian, then
He is participating in all those things with you. Do not let your mind be
polluted with impure thoughts. Ask God to forgive you if you have been allowing
that to happen, and from now on, strive to keep your thoughts chaste. 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, and giving praise and
glory to God.

Whatever is prosfilhV / prosphils
– lovely
. This word is a compound word of the prefix,
, “with” or “alongside,” and filoV,
brotherly love,” resulting in “with brotherly love,” and
hence that which is lovely. The loveliness spoken of here is not some shallow
covering, but the outward display of something that is intrinsically true,
honorable, right and pure. Lovely thoughts seek what is best for others.
Thoughts of love, giving, generosity, charity, mercy and grace are all lovely.
Ugly thoughts are self-seeking and often at the expense of other people. Someone
once said that beauty is only skin deep, but ugly is to the bone. Thoughts of
hatred, revenge, greed, and envy are all ugly. Does your mind dwell on those
things that are lovely in God’s eyes?

How is this virtue seen in Paul’s life? I think the greatest demonstration of
this virtue in Paul’s life was his great compassion for those still lost in sin.
Paul was self effacing and sacrificial when it came to striving to bring those
still condemned by their sin into the safe haven of forgiveness through faith in
Jesus Christ. Romans 9:1-5 reveals Paul’s heart in this manner in an almost
shocking way. Paul says there, “I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not
lying, my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great
sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were
accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsman
according to the flesh.”
Paul goes on to talk about the Israelites, but here
is the full expression of the self-sacrifice he would go to if it would somehow
bring these unsaved kinsman to faith in Christ. This compassion and willingness
to give of himself for others is the epitome of loveliness. Paul’s actual
self-sacrifice in bringing the gospel to the lost and the truth of God’s word to
the saved was the practical demonstration of this loveliness. 2 Corinthians
11:23-33 lists out some of the things he went through.

What compassion do you have on the lost? What are you willing to sacrifice in
order to present the gospel to others? How well do you demonstrate the humble
love spoken of back in Philippians 2 to others? Do you sacrifice of yourself for
the good of others? What are the practical demonstrations of your brotherly love
to other believers? If it is not what you would like it to be, don’t despair,
for it is just a matter of growing. Back in Philippians 1:9 Paul prayed for the
Philippians that their love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and
all discernment. We should be praying for each other the same way as well as
encouraging one another in the practical demonstration of that love. Would not
that be lovely?

Whatever is eufhmoV / euphmos
– 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 that God is doing rather than dwelling on the negative. In that
sense it is related to the sacrifice of praise I spoke about a several of weeks
ago. When you face a trial you can either dwell on the difficulties involved and
how hard life is which can easily lead you into blaming God for the bad things
that happen, or you can look for how God is using the situation in your life and
praise Him for it. In addition, if your mind is quick to dwell on what is of
good report, you will not grumble or complain to start with, and any negative
gossip that is expressed will quickly die for lack of both fuel and an audience.

How is this virtue seen in Paul’s life? We saw this in Philippians 1 in
Paul’s response to his own circumstances. He could have sunk into despair if he
had focused on being imprisoned and the nasty way that some other believers were
treating him. Instead, Paul focused on what God was doing and was able to give a
good report to the Philippians about the progress of the gospel among the
whole praetorian guard and to everyone else
(vs. 13). He was also able to
give thanks that other believers were emboldened to speak the word of God
without fear
(vs. 14), and that the Christ was being proclaimed regardless
of the motives (vs. 15-18).

How are you doing at keeping your focus on what God is doing instead of your
own circumstances? If your having trouble in this area, may I suggest you learn
the old hymn Count Your Blessings (#786). It helps to have a reminder such as
this at times in order to get our focus correct and to keep it there. When you
do start naming your blessings one by one, it does surprise you what the Lord
has done.

Whatever is areth / aret
– excellent, virtuous, worthy
. This is a word of wide significance in Greek
and refers to any excellence of a person or thing. In this context it refers to
excellence in moral character and judgement. It is included in the list in 2
Peter 1:5 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 taken such a beating in our
society with too many public figures displaying moral debauchery, yet still
being considered worthy of honor. A person of moral integrity and virtue is a
person whose is not satisfied with a standard of what society can tolerate, but
strives for excellence of character in all circumstances.

How is this virtue seen in Paul’s life? There are many illustrations of
Paul’s moral excellence, but two that come to my mind are in Paul’s response to
the council at Jerusalem and his rebuking of Peter in Galatians 2.

In Acts 15 we find that Paul and Barnabas are in the middle of a great
dissension and debate in Antioch concerning whether you had to obey the customs
of Moses in order to be saved. Paul was then sent as part of a group of
representatives from Antioch to the apostles and elders in Jerusalem to get
their advice on this crucial matter. Paul and Barnabas then related their
experiences in taking the gospel to the gentiles on their first missionary
journey. Paul’s virtue in all this is in seeking the godliest council possible
and then following it. You cannot be morally excellent if you cannot clearly
define what that is.

In Galatians 2 we find that Paul, an apostle, confronts Cephas (the apostle
Peter) to his face before all because Peter, out of fear of the party of the
circumcision, had become aloof from the gentile believers resulting in the rest
of the Jews joining in the hypocrisy. The virtue here is that you must stand
firmly on the clear truth of God’s word and proclaim it regardless of who you
might have to oppose. Excellence is defined by what reflects God and His will,
not human fear or desires.

Let your mind dwell on how you can demonstrate faith in God, knowledge of
right from wrong, self-control, perseverance, brotherly kindness, courtesy and

Whatever is epainoV / epainos – worthy of
This virtue refers to that which the godly would praise. It is a
summary category that includes the previous ones for what is true is worthy of
praise, what is honorable is worthy of praise, what is just, pure, lovely,
virtuous and of good report are all worthy of praise. Everything reflective of
God and His character is worthy of praise.

How is this virtue seen in Paul’s life? One way is in Paul’s quickness to
give praise to God for so many diverse things in the midst of so many different
circumstances. Acts 16 tells about Paul and Silas being unjustly beaten and
thrown in prison, but at midnight we find them praying and singing hymns of
praise to God.

In all of Paul’s letters we find errors that he is correcting or weak areas
he is encouraging them to do, but we also find a consistent heart of praise for
what God has already done even if there is still a lot more maturing to do. He
thanks God for the Romans because their faith was being proclaimed throughout
the whole world (1:8). He gives thanks for the Corinthians for the grace of God
which was given to them (1:4). The faith and love of the Ephesians caused him
give thanks for them (1:15,16), as did the same qualities in the Colossians
(1:3-4). He gave thanks to God for his every remembrance of the Philippians due
to their participation in the gospel with him (1:3-5). The “work of faith and
labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ”
was a
source of his thanksgiving for the Thessalonians (1:2,3).

Are you able to think through situations enough to find the things about
which you can give thanks to God? You will be able to do so as all these other
virtues become the things that control your mind and actions.

The Result

What is the result of having your mind dwell on these things and following
Paul’s example by putting into practice these virtues in your life? Back in
verses 6 & 7 we found that proper prayer resulted in the peace of God guarding
our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Here we find that the God of peace will be
with us. His presence and His peace are necessary if we are to be able to
rejoice in all circumstances even as He commands us to do.

If you have turmoil of any kind in your life, the solution is following the
commands God gives here in Philippians 4:4-9. Whether it is a minor irritation
or a devastating tragedy, this is God’s invitation to you to live above the
turmoil. You can still rejoice as you remember the wonderful truths about God,
His character and His promises, and then come to Him in proper prayer and have
your minds occupied on these virtues.

As the body of Christ, we are to help one another do these things. If you
need to pray with someone, get some advice or counsel, then please know that you
can approach any of our church leaders and we will be happy to help you
ourselves or connect you with someone who can. Together, all of us can follow
Paul’s example and have these virtues become characteristic of our lives even as
God conforms us into the image of His Son.

Study Sheets


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 the term “virtue”is used
in the sermon. Talk with your parents about the virtues you should think about
and how to live according to them.


Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.

What does Paul mean to “let your mind dwell” / “think” on the virtues he
lists in Philippians 4:8? What is the relationship between thought and action?
Explain the meaning of each of the virtues in Philippians
4:8 – true, honorable, righteous, pure, lovely, good repute, excellent, and
worthy of praise. Give examples of how each of these virtues were demonstrated
in Paul’s life. Why is truth so important for the Christian? How do you respond
to truth? How does truth affect your life? In what ways do you bring honor to
yourself, others and God? Are your thoughts noble in character? If not, how can
you change them? Describe your personal pursuit of righteousness in daily
living. How can you develop a pure mind? A pure lifestyle? What is the Biblical
motivation to pursue purity in life? Contrast personal loveliness and ugliness.
How do you demonstrate brotherly love to others? List out the blessings God has
bestowed upon you and praise Him for them. Can you clearly define what is
morally excellent? How strongly do you stand on it? Describe how you have
responded with praise to God in a difficult situation. What is the result of
praying & thinking properly? Do you have that personally?


Sermon Notes – November 7, 2004


Rejoicing in All Circumstances, Part 6

Thinking Rightly, Part 2 – Philippians 4:8,9



Whatever is alhqV / al’th’s –

Whatever is semnoV / semnos – honorable, honest,


Whatever is dikaiV  /dikaios – righteous,


Whatever is agnoV  /
hagnos – pure


Whatever is prosfilhV  / prosphils
– lovely


Whatever is eufhmoV / euphmos
– good repute, good report

Whatever is areth / aret
– excellent, virtuous, worthy

Whatever is epainoV  / epainos – worthy of

The Result