Thinking with a God-centered focus

by Mike Ratliff

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, dwell on these things. Philippians 4:8 (NASB) 

Philippians 4:8 is one of the most profound statements in the New Testament. This is part of the Apostle Paul’s closing statements to the church at Philippi. His epistle to the Philippians is a wonderful letter, full of encouragement and deep spiritual truth about how to live this Christian life no matter what fiery trials we are going through. In chapter 4 v8 (above) we come upon this profound statement and we stop. We ask if this is even possible for us. How can we do this since we must live in this life in which we are pulled in every direction and so must find the time for such things. Perhaps a deeper look at the underlying Greek would help.

Here is v8 from the Greek New Testament.

8 Τὸ λοιπόν, ἀδελφοί, ὅσα ἐστὶν ἀληθῆ, ὅσα σεμνά, ὅσα δίκαια, ὅσα ἁγνά, ὅσα προσφιλῆ, ὅσα εὔφημα, εἴ τις ἀρετὴ καὶ εἴ τις ἔπαινος , ταῦτα λογίζεσθε· Philippians 4:8 (NA28)

The way Paul structured this sentence, we need to look a the end for our verb, λογίζεσθε· or logizesthe, which is the plural, present tense, imperative mood, middle voice form of λογίζομαι or logizomai, which means to put together with one’s mind, to count, to occupy oneself with reckonings or calculations. In the New Testament, it is used to instruct believers to become oriented to the facts established by God, with the result that it now becomes the term for the judgment of faith. In other words, all our thinking, pondering, and questioning are put into the context of God’s standards. The present indicative middle verb structure is talking about continuous or repeated action so this is a command to live a certain way. In other words, Paul is telling us, all Christians, to live our lives as Christians to think a certain way “continually” or as a way of life. What way?

First, we should think about the things that are true “ἀδελφοι”. This means that we think about things as they really are, not as they are concealed, falsified, or misrepresented. I saw a commercial several years ago while eating in a restaurant that had several large flat screen televisions showing various channels at the same time. The sound was muted. The commercial displayed statistics about how many people starve to death everyday in the world, how many die in the world because of the illegal drug trade and how many people volunteer in their communities. Then it showed how all the religions of the world were coming together as one to coexist and solve these problems by countries giving up their sovereignty even though they never really came out and said that, you could tell that that was the necessary ingredient in what they were selling. I was the only one at our table who was watching. I think I was the only one in the restaurant who was watching. I applied God’s truth to this and saw immediately that my peace and joy are not bound up in the efforts of men and the false peace that could come from this “globalization” of everything they are talking about. I also saw that most people are not even paying attention as this stuff is going on all around them.

Second, we are to think about things that are honorable “σεμνα”. This could also be translated as “honest” or “grave.” This is focusing on things that are solemn, dignified, sublime, and majestic instead of the foolish and the fleshly.

Third, we are to think about the things that are just “δίκαια”. This is describing what is upright and righteous. Believers should think righteous thoughts. They should, in their mind, gratefully meditate on God’s righteous acts, appreciate righteousness in others, and should plan righteous words and deeds.

Combine the first three and then compare that with the “stuff” coming from both sides in the 2016 Presidential election.  Sorry, no matter which side you are for, I don’t see much truth, honor or righteousness coming from either side. It is deplorable.

Fourth , we are to think about the things that are pure “ἁγνα”. These are things that are morally, and even doctrinally, holy and chaste. Think of the books, movies, video games and tv shows that you use as “entertainment.”

Fifth, we are to think about things that are lovely “προσφιλη”. The Christian’s mind is to be set on things that elicit from others admiration and affection. We are to think and do things that will endear us to others, things that not only will express love to others but also inspire love from others. William Tyndale captured the thought in his 1534 translation of this passage with, “whatsoever things pertain to love.” So, how do we do this? We know we cannot do this if we are liars or thieves or gossips or are continually attacking others maliciously, et cetera. No, we will do this if we exhibit Christ’s character and the only way we can do that is to think about such things first.

The sixth and final thing we are instructed to think about is whatever is commendable “εὔφημα”. Many of us struggle here. I grew up with some who believed in the dogma of the “Power of Positive Thinking.” While I still reject much of that, we cannot go the opposite way either. We should think and talk about things that are worth thinking and talking about, things that are appealing. We should think and talk about things that are likely to win others over instead of offending them. I am not talking about avoiding polemics here, because I do believe in apologetics and we must stand firm at times, but there are times when we must exhibit the Love of Christ as well. We don’t avoid the truth nor do we cave into the the political correctness nonsense. We should think and talk about things that are positive and constructive rather than negative and destructive. Dwelling on past sin falls into this category. As Christians whose sins are under the blood, we should get past this. Yes, sin should grieve us, and our desire for victory over it, but it should not depress us and rob us of joy.

Is it even possible for us to do this? Paul thought so.

9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:9 (NASB) 

9 ἃ καὶ ἐμάθετε καὶ παρελάβετε καὶ ἠκούσατε καὶ εἴδετε ἐν ἐμοί, ταῦτα πράσσετε· καὶ ὁ θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης ἔσται μεθʼ ὑμῶν. Philippians 4:9 (NA28)

The verb here, “ πράσσετε·,“ simply means “DO” or “PRACTICE.” It is in present tense, imperative mood, and active voice and that means we are being commanded to think on these things and do them as a way of life. What is the promise if we do? The peace of God will be with us. Think on this with me my brethren. If we do not do this then will the peace of God be with us? Will we be bitter and complaining Christians if we do this?

Soli Deo Gloria!

5 thoughts on “Thinking with a God-centered focus

  1. I learned, and have relearned, the truth and value in focusing my attention and affection on Christ, rather than trying to defeat the sin that so easily entangles me. He won the victory and I am only drawn to more sin the more I fight it. So ’tis TO Christ I turn and in so doing, turn my back on sin.


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