Think On These Things

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. – Philippians 4:8-9 ESV

Paul has challenged the Philippian congregation to make their unity a high priority. He has pleaded with them to see that their behavior lines up with their belief so that the way they live their lives fully complements their calling in Christ. That will require them to work out their salvation, or to put it another way, to put in the necessary effort so that their faith in Christ bears tangible fruit. He has encouraged them to stand firm in the faith – as expressed in the gospel message and made possible through the death and resurrection of Christ. They were to have the same attitude that Christ had, choosing to follow His example of humility, selflessness, obedience, and sacrifice. And, like Paul, they were to find reason to rejoice, even in the face of opposition and oppression. And if they did these things, Paul knew they would shine like bright lights in the darkness surrounding them in Philippi.

But before Paul closes out his letter, he offers one more word of wisdom. As if returning to his earlier admonition that they have the mind of Christ, Paul tells them to “think about these things.” The Greek word he uses is logizomai, and it means “to consider” or “to meditate” on something. But Paul leaves no uncertainty as to what kinds of “things” they are to consider or concentrate their minds upon. He provides them with a very specific list of subjects with which to fill their minds and on which to focus their thoughts and attentions.

Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. – Philippians 4:8 NLT

The first item on his list is truth. They were to fill their minds with whatever is true and, therefore, trustworthy. Because Satan is the father of lies, we must constantly be on guard for the subtle falsehoods and deceptive half-truths he attempts to use against us. And since there is no greater truth than the gospel message, Christ-followers must constantly focus their minds on the reality that they were once condemned sinners in need of a Savior. At one time, they had been in debt to God and completely incapable of satisfying His just and holy demands, but He sent His Son to die in their place. And now they stood before Him as pure and holy, clothed in the righteousness of Christ. Paul was constantly reminding those under his care to consider the remarkable truth regarding their restored relationship with God.

Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. – Ephesians 2:1-2 NLT

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) – Ephesians 2:4-5 NLT

Paul adds “whatever is honorable” to the list. That word has to do with anything worthy of veneration because of its character. In a sense, this is truth lived out. It is Christlikeness that shows up in trustworthy conduct.

Next, Paul encourages them to fill their minds with whatever is “right” or just. This has to do with righteousness, but according to God’s terms, not man’s. It carries the idea of living your life so that your way of thinking, feeling, and acting is fully conformed to the will of God.

It makes sense that Paul would follow “right” thoughts with right behavior in the form of moral purity. Sexual sin is fully outside the revealed will of God. And it’s not just the actual act that can get us into trouble. Even our thoughts can leave us impure and guilty before God. It was Jesus who said, “anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28 NLT). Which is why Paul told the Corinthians:

Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. – 1 Corinthians 6:18 NLT

Purity is a high priority for God. He not only expects it, He demands it. He has called us to be holy, just as He is holy. And we must fill our minds with those kinds of things that are pure and undefiled, not contaminated and contrary to His will for us.

The next word on Paul’s list is “lovely.” It is purity lived out so that our conduct remains pleasing and acceptable to God. It was Peter who wrote, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12 ESV). When believers think about the things that bring pleasure to God, they tend to make those things a priority. And, when they do, the world takes notice.

Which brings us to the word, “admirable.” We are to fill our minds with those kinds of things that are worthy of praise. Not self-centered, ego-boosting praise, but praise that reflects on God and His power to transform our lives for the better. So much of what we spend our time thinking about is unworthy of praise. It has no redeeming value or worth. We can end up admiring the wrong people, showering praise on the wrong kind of conduct, and speaking highly of those kinds of things that God finds unworthy.

Throughout his letter, Paul has blended the ideas of belief and behavior. He was overjoyed with the thought of their newfound faith in Christ. But he knew that their spiritual journey was far from over. Which is why he had opened his letter with the words, “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6 ESV). They needed to be in it for the long haul. Their walk with Christ was going to require effort on their part and a commitment to live out their faith in practical, visible ways. They could not afford to stand pat, biding their time until the Lord returned. They had work to do. And they were going to have to work together in order to survive and thrive in the hostile environment in which they found themselves.

The Christian life was not going to be easy. But that didn’t mean it was going to be impossible. They had the gospel message, the resurrection power of the Spirit of God, and one another. They also had the teaching of Paul on which to rely. And he encouraged them to take what he had taught and put it into practice. He challenged them to look at his life and follow his example.

Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. – Philippians 4:9 NLT

Paul’s challenge to “think on these things” was more than a mind game. He wasn’t suggesting that they practice some form of positive motivational thinking. He was encouraging them to fill their minds, to concentrate their thoughts on the kinds of things that truly matter. Our thoughts cannot be separated from our actions. We must desire what God desires. We must fill our minds with those things that God finds true, pure, right, just, and worthy of praise. And one of the best ways to do that is by submitting ourselves to the indwelling power of the Spirit of God. In order to have the mind of Christ and to be able to think as He does, we must rely on the Spirit he has placed within us. Which is why Paul told the Galatian believers:

So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. – Galatians 5:16-17 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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Stand Firm, Seek Peace, Stop Worrying

. 1 Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:1-7 ESV

As Paul begins to draw his letter to a close, he repeats a phrase he used at the very beginning.

 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel – Philippians 1:27 ESV

Paul bookended his letter with the same thought, and he used the Greek word, stēkō to convey it. It is a word that conveys the idea of standing fast, even in the face of adversity. Paul was encouraging his flock to persevere and persist in their faith, no matter what happened around them. There would be opposition and obstacles, but they were to remain solidly committed to the cause of Christ – together. Remember, Paul is addressing the whole community of believers. He is speaking to them as if they are one because he knows that their unity will be the key to their growth and effectiveness. This idea of standing firm was a staple in Paul’s letter, and its repeated use reveals his firm belief in its importance.

With all these things in mind, dear brothers and sisters, stand firm and keep a strong grip on the teaching we passed on to you both in person and by letter. – 2 Thessalonians 2:15 NLT

So we have been greatly encouraged in the midst of our troubles and suffering, dear brothers and sisters, because you have remained strong in your faith. It gives us new life to know that you are standing firm in the Lord. – 1 Thessalonians 3:7-8 NLT

Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love. – 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 NLT

Notice that Paul linked this perseverance to a variety of things. He described its foundation as being the clear, unadulterated teaching of the gospel. And that gospel message was to be based on the Lord, Jesus Christ, and Him alone. Which belief in that gospel message requires faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ.

And here in chapter four, Paul reminds his readers to stand firm in the Lord. It was their faith in Jesus that would make possible their perseverance and persistence in the faith. Any deviation or distraction from the pure gospel message of faith in Christ alone would leave them unstable and capable of anything, including disunity, immorality, and a failure to shine as lights “in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation” (Philippians 2:15 ESV).

Having reiterated his call to perseverance, Paul turns his attention to a specific case where it was desperately needed within the local congregation at Philippi. Most likely, Paul had been made aware of the ongoing problem between Euodia and Syntyche by Epaphroditus when he arrived in Rome to minister to Paul. We are not given any clue as to the nature between these two individuals, but they were clearly members of the church family in Philippi, and they were experiencing some kind of conflict between themselves that was having an impact on the entire congregation. Perhaps there were others who were taking sides with one or the other of these women, and the dispute between them was beginning to divide the church.

Regardless of the cause of their conflict, Paul calls them to “agree in the Lord.” On closer inspection, we can see that Paul is actually revisiting a phrase he used earlier in his letter, when he told the church to “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5 ESV). Paul used the Greek words, touto phroneō. Here in chapter 4, when addressing these two women, Paul used the same basic words, autos phroneō. He wanted them to have the attitude or mindset of Christ. He was calling them to view their conflict as Christ would. With humility, selflessness and a willingness to put the needs of the other ahead of their own.

And Paul points out that these two women had been key participants in spreading the gospel in Philippi. They had labored side by side with him during his time in the city. So, their personal disagreement was having a negative influence on the flock. And Paul was concerned enough to mention these two women by name and to solicit the involvement of others in mediating a solution. He specifically mentions someone whom he describes as his “true companion” or “loyal yokefollow.” We are not told who this individual was, and there are some translators who believe that this designation should be translated as a proper name, Syzygus. But whoever this individual was, Paul wanted them to get involved. The unity of the body was at stake and the cause of Christ was too important to allow this disagreement to continue.

Paul’s reference to these women’s’ names being written in the book of life lets us know that he was convinced of their salvation. These were not two unbelievers bringing their conflict into the local body of Christ. It was a case of two mature Christ-followers allowing their personal and, most likely, petty disagreement to disrupt the unity of the church. They were not exhibiting the mindset of Christ. And they were not standing firm in the faith.

While the next verse seems to indicate that Paul is done addressing the conflict between Euodia and Syntyche, I would suggest that he is making a direct appeal to them. Rather than bickering and fighting with one another, Paul challenges them to “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4 ESV). It is difficult to remain fixated on what you believe to be a personal slight when your eyes are focused on Jesus. It is almost impossible to see yourself as suffering injustice if you keep in mind all that Christ suffered on your behalf. And rejoicing in the Lord and arguing with your neighbor is virtually impossible to do at the same time.

And Paul calls on these two women, and everyone else in the church, to practice “reasonableness.”

The Greek word contains connotations of gentleness, yielding, kindness, patience, forbearance, leniency, and magnanimity. (Dr. Thomas L. Constable, Notes on Philippians).

Those characteristics are antithetical to a spirit of disagreement and disunity. And Paul reminds these two women that their decision to seek unity will be a tangible demonstration of what it means to have the mind of Christ. Their choice to resolve their disagreement will be a witness to the resurrection power Paul talked about earlier in this letter.

Again, while the words contained in these verses most certainly applied to the entire congregation, it seems likely that Paul was still addressing the situation between Euodia and Syntyche. And his message to them was clearly aimed at each and every believer in Philippi. He reminds them that the Lord is at hand. In other words, He is coming back and they should live with their eyes focused on the promise of His return, not their petty disagreements and personal slights. They were to live as if the Lord could return at any moment. And Paul knew that if they lived as if eternity was right around the corner, the cares of this world would lose their power over them. And he also knew that their disagreement was most likely based on a fear of being taking advantage of. There was something personal driving the conflict between them. Which is why Paul states,  “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6 ESV).

If they felt they were being taken advantage of, they were to take the matter to God. Rather than disputing with one another, they should be taking their cares and concerns to God. Addressing the problem of lawsuits being filed between members of the church in Corinth, Paul asked, “Why not just accept the injustice and leave it at that? Why not let yourselves be cheated?” (1 Corinthians 6:7 NLT). If in the pursuit of peace and unity, you suffer loss, you can take your need to God. Demanding your rights before men will never substitute for the joy of sharing your needs with God.  You may win an argument, but you won’t enjoy peace. You may get the upper hand in a dispute, but you’ll never know what it is like to have God’s blessing.

And Paul reminds every single believer in Philippi that taking their problems, cares, conflicts and concerns to God will always bring the best outcome.

His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. –Philippians 4:7 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

The Mind of Christ.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. – 1 Corinthians 2:14-16 ESV

Those who have placed their faith in Christ, accepting Him as their Savior from sin, have been given the Holy Spirit. His presence within us gives the capacity to think and act as Jesus did. We can live holy lives. We can discern the will of God and live according to it. We can hear the inner promptings of the Spirit of God and respond to them. But the natural or lost individual cannot. He or she lacks the Holy Spirit in their lives, so they are incapable of discerning spiritual truth. In fact, they come across as little more than foolishness to them. The message of the gospel seems silly and absurd. The idea of the resurrection is far-fetched and borders of fantasy. The concept of eternal punishment for sin is something they have a hard time grasping and accepting. All because they are non-spiritual. They lack the Spirit.

Paul tells us that “the spiritual person judges all things.” The Greek word he uses for “judges” is anakrinō and it means “to discern, evaluate, examine.” Those who have the Holy Spirit within them are able to discern or understand what He is doing in and around them. They have a spiritual perspective. The lost or non-spiritual individual does not have that capacity. When they look at a Christ-follower who is living in the power of the Holy Spirit, they cannot discern or understand his actions. They can’t comprehend the life of faith. It makes no sense to them. The paraphrase of this verse found in The Message puts it well. “Spiritually alive, we have access to everything God’s Spirit is doing, and can’t be judged by unspiritual critics.” In fact, they can and do judge us, but they cannot understand us. They think our actions are illogical. They see faith as a weakness or a crutch. They label Christians as unintelligent and the idea of a Savior for mankind as wishful thinking. They place all their hopes in this life. The physical, tangible world becomes their sole reality.

But we have the mind of Christ. Paul, quoting from Isaiah 40:13, writes, “Who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to teach him?” It is a rhetorical question and the answer is “no one.” And yet, while we cannot teach God anything and we cannot fully know the mind of God, we have been given the ability to comprehend and know His will. The apostle John writes, “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known” (John 1:18 NIV). Jesus revealed God to man when He took on human flesh. But men refused to accept Him. They were incapable of recognizing who He was. Now the Holy Spirit reveals God to those in whom His dwells. His presence within us allows us to know God, to discern spiritual truths, and to think and act as Jesus did.

When we live under the influence of the Holy Spirit, we will be misunderstood. Our actions and attitudes will make no sense to those who are unsaved. Our joy in the midst of sorrow will seem strange to them. Our humility will come across as weakness. Our selflessness will appear as little more than lack of initiative. Jesus said that the world would hate us just as it hated Him. In spite of all the good that Jesus did, the world ended up despising Him because they could not understand Him. They were stuck with a natural, earthly perspective. They could not see Jesus for who He really was. In fact, a perfect illustration of this is found in the gospel of John. Jesus had fed thousands of people by miraculously multiplying five loaves of bread and two small fish. The people were blown away by what Jesus did. Because their physical needs were met in such an incredible way, they were ready to make Jesus their king. But John writes, “Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself” (John 6:15 ESV). The next day, these same people came to Jesus expecting to be fed again. But Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you” (John 6:26-27 ESV). Jesus began to teach them about the “bread of life.” He claimed to be the bread that came out of heaven to give life to the world, but they simply wanted physical bread. They wanted their physical appetites fed. But Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 14:35-37 ESV). As hard as it may be for some to accept, Jesus indicates that without the Father’s help, it is impossible for men to accept Jesus for who He is. They are blinded by their own sin. The Jews who heard Jesus speak that day only saw Him as the son of Mary and Joseph. They could not understand what He meant when He said He was the bread that came down from heaven. So Jesus explained to them, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44 ESV). It is the Spirit of God that makes possible our salvation. He must open our eyes and provide us with the capacity to see Jesus as Savior. But He is also the one who makes it possible for us to experience sanctification. He gives us the capacity to live in obedience to God’s will, providing us with the mind of Christ and a discernment to understand spiritual things. We have the mind of Christ in the form of the Spirit of Christ. So we can live like Christ.

1 Corinthians 2

The Mind of Christ.

1 Corinthians 2

For, “Who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to teach him?” But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ. – 1 Corinthians 2:16 NLT

In chapter 1, Paul makes it clear that the work of salvation is entirely up to God, not man. There was no reason for anyone to boast regarding their acceptance by God, because they had nothing to do with it. It was completely God’s doing. God called them. He chose them. And he united them with Christ. And it was Christ who made them right with God. It was He who made them pure, holy and freed them from sin. Now Paul hammers home the point that even the message of the Gospel he had shared with them on his first visit was not the product of man’s imagination or human wisdom. It was revealed by the Spirit of God. Paul reminds them that his words were not impressive or particularly eloquent from a human perspective. “And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:4 NLT). Paul didn’t win these people over with his powerfully persuasive words. Instead, it was the Spirit of God that made the foolishness of the cross suddenly make sense. Without the Spirit’s help, the message of the Gospel would fall on deaf ears. “So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended, and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense” (1 Corinthians 1:23 NLT). It was the Spirit of God who made the mystery of God’s plan of salvation knowable and accessible. “But it was to us that God revealed these things by His Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets” (1 Corinthians 2:10 NLT). It is impossible to know the things of God without the help of the Spirit of God. “No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:11 NLT).

Salvation is a purely spiritual endeavor. It has nothing to do with human effort or human wisdom. It is the work of God. It requires the Spirit of God to understand the truths of God. Without the Spirit’s help, the truth of God will be impossible to understand and sound like foolishness. But because God places His Spirit within the heart of every believer, they have the capacity to know and comprehend His thoughts. Paul describes it as having the mind of Christ. Not only can we understand and accept His plan of salvation, but we can know God’s thoughts and grow in our knowledge of His character. We can understand deeper spiritual truths that were once hidden from us. We can read the Word of God and comprehend its meanings and apply its messages to our lives. Like Christ, we can regularly talk to the Father and have Him respond, not only in answers to our prayers, but with words of comfort and direction. We can know God’s will for us. We can walk in obedience to His plan because His Spirit has made it clear to us. And His Spirit provides us with the power to do what God calls us to do.

We have the mind of Christ. What an incredible statement. What a powerful reminder that the walk of faith is not left up to us. It is not based on our ability to study harder, pray longer, memorize more, sin less or make ourselves more spiritual. It is the Spirit’s’ doing. It is the Spirit who provides us with the mind of Christ. He alone can provide us with the capacity to think as Christ did. He gives us the ability to hear God speak. He empowers us to do what God says. He makes God known to us. So when we read God’s Word, it becomes far more than an academic pursuit, increasing our human intelligence. It becomes a spiritual endeavor, providing us with a supernatural capacity to comprehend the truths of God on a level that was previously impossible for us. There is no reason for us not to grow. There is no excuse for us to not understand the things of God. We must simply remember that it is all based on the power of God made possible through the Spirit of God. We have the mind of Christ.

Father, Your Spirit made the plan of salvation understandable to me. Without His help, I never would have even heard Your call. And now He makes it possible for me to comprehend Your Word and to hear Your voice speaking to me through it. Give me an every-increasing sensitivity to Your Spirit. Help me hear clearer, obey quicker, and rely more readily on His power and not my own. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org