The Key to Holy Living begins in the Mind
We’ve been looking closely at Philippians 4:8-9 and Paul’s counsel to us when it comes to what we embrace, believe, value, and practice. Let’s look again at the passage before I make several observations. Continue reading . . .
We’ve been looking closely at Philippians 4:8-9 and Paul’s counsel to us when it comes to what we embrace, believe, value, and practice. Let’s look again at the passage before I make several observations.
“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. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Phil. 4:8-9).
(1) By what process or by what standard do we come to attach value and worth to things or actions? In other words, how do we know if something is consistent with these 8 virtues? All too often our approach is totally pragmatic. We judge something’s value by its effectiveness. If it gets the job done, we immediately assume it’s good and right. If it produces numbers and money and fame, we judge it acceptable.
Or again, we evaluate things by how well or successfully they promote our personal goals or advance our cause or enhance our reputation or make us money or satisfy our sensual desires or elicit praise from others.
It seems Paul is telling us to pursue these things because of their intrinsic excellence, an excellence not derived from utility or personal benefit. We are to embrace things that embody and reflect these values because they are right. Period.
(2) The key to holy living begins in the mind. Think. Ponder. Meditate. Reckon. Reflect.
Let’s take the American addiction to TV as one example of the enemy of what Paul says in this passage. The average American spends a minimum of four hours a day watching TV. The average American child spends 900 hours a year in school and from 1,200 to 1,800 hours a year watching TV. By the age of 20, the average American has seen 800,000 TV commercials. Before a child finishes elementary school they will have seen 8,000 murders. By the time they are 18 they will have seen 200,000 acts of violence.
Here’s the really scary thought. By the time the average American reaches the age of 65, he/she will have spent nearly 8 years watching TV.
Question: If you had a filter or mechanism of some sort that you could automatically apply to your TV and your computer and your cell phone and your I-pod and the books you read and the websites you visit and the video games you play and the places you go and what you see and what you hear that only permitted things that reflect and are consistent with the 8 virtues just listed, how much would be left for your intake?
(3) There are no negative statements here. If we fervently seek the positive we will invariably weed out the negative. Instead of asking of some activity or event or book or TV show or internet site, “What’s wrong with it?” why not ask, “What’s right with it?”
(4) This is biblical guidance for how to make decisions regarding so-called “doubtful” issues or gray issues or matters on which the Bible is entirely silent.
The Bible doesn’t provide us with an explicit arrow every time we encounter a fork in the road. Some things are left unspoken. Philippians 4:8 is a great plumb line for decision-making: When I am confronted with a difficult choice, I must ask, “Is it true? Is it consistent with the moral and theological principles of God’s Word? Is it an honorable thing? Is it right and just? Does it awaken an aesthetic appreciation? Is it the sort of thing I could recommend to others? Does it encourage me to pursue excellence? Do I hear good and Christ-loving people praise it?”
(5) Do these virtues resonate with your heart or do you chafe at the thought of them? Do they feel liberating or oppressive? Do you find yourself thanking God for emphasizing them or resentful that he has required of you something you would rather ignore? Do you find your heart celebrating these ideas or resisting them? Do they awaken life and joy in you or do you feel rebellious and angry at the thought of how they might govern your life? Your answer to that question will tell you a lot about the state of your soul, indeed, a lot about whether or not you are even saved.
To be continued . . .