by Pastor James Lee
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. 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. (Philippians 4:4-8)
To think well is to think accurately. We’re commanded to dwell first on “whatever is true”, not on whatever might be true, or whatever we’ve convinced ourselves to be true. But, we’re to dwell on the facts of who God is and what He’s promised, on what the gospel says about our reality. We’re to think accurately about our sinfulness and to think accurately about His amazing grace! Instead of thinking about whatever is true, instead of pondering, mediating, giving our fullest attention to, intentionally and carefully evaluating, and joyfully celebrating whatever is true… when we’re struggling with depression, when we’re not doing well spiritually, when we’re engaged in bitter unforgiveness like Euodia and Syntyche in v.2, whatever is true is exactly NOT what we’re dwelling on. Instead, we tend to dwell on our pride, our unmet expectations, our unfulfilled desires, our vindication, our very real hurts, our immediate relief, our reputation. We’re fixated on falsehood, or selected facts, and not on loving God and loving others. Satan likes to prey on weak minds, seeking to devour us and undermine the unity and witness of the local church. So, the command to think accurately in light of God’s Word is to combat the serious error of thinking only about what’s wrong. Thinking the worst of people and the worst of situations and the worst of our future, is NOT living in a way that takes God at His Word! We’re not consistently resting our hearts and minds with thankful, humble, reliant, prayerfulness and submission, as we see in v.6-7. Unfortunately, instead we’re either believing lies or inventing lies, or we’re trapped in the fear promoted by them, unwilling to trust God and serve others.
Our minds are a battlefield, but the key to our lives is our hearts. That battle rages for the conquest of our hearts. And the command center of our minds is involved in a very real spiritual war, so it’s not that we merely let “Jesus take the wheel”, but that we acknowledge His Lordship over all of us… including over our minds, especially how we think. He’s called us to actively, not passively respond. It’s not the heresy of “let go and let God”, but it’s dependent responsibility. Thus, we’re fully responsible for how we think.
Yes, we’re influenced, and not all of that is within our control. Nevertheless, no one puts a gun to our head to make us give into whatever worldly or false influence we currently choose to believe. To dwell on whatever is true, is to think accurately from the authoritative standard of God’s Word, especially in the context of our relationship with Him. John 17:17 declares, “Your word is truth.” The Greek word for “true” is truth in its broadest, most comprehensive sense, namely divine truth. So it’s not just parts that we like or that serve our self-exalting agendas, but it must be ALL of the truth of God! Truth begins and ends with the Lord. Anything and everything not in line with His truth is by virtue false and anti-Christ, and let every man be proved a liar. Therefore, it ends up proving self-destructive, though it promises happiness, never ruin?!
Godly living comes from godly thinking. That’s axiomatic. And the converse is true as well, ungodly living always comes from ungodly thinking. That’s why Paul commands us in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” That’s why John also commands us in 1 John 2:15-16, “Do not love the world or the things in the world (world here meaning anti-God world system not people or creation). If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world- the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions- is not from the Father but is from the world.” It may include good things that we make into idols when we elevate them above the Lord. So if we’re going to be cultivating contentment and joy in our lives, it can’t be divorced from what’s in our hearts and what’s in our minds. But all of us, every one of us, has pockets of bad theology. In different areas, we’re blind to unbiblical thinking. We need to be in a process of continually renewing our minds in progressive sanctification. That doesn’t happen once for all, like our justification, it’s ongoing.
The Bible is very clear that our lives are the product of our thoughts. Proverbs 23:7 states, “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.” Turn to Mark 7:20-23 “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” In other words, garbage in, garbage out. What we think, what we say, how we act, reveals what’s in our hearts. And so does what we intake, what we eat, what we entertain, what we read, what we watch, what we think most about. In that sense, they expose us, not excuse us!
John MacArthur said,
“Paul’s call for biblical thinking is especially relevant in our culture. The focus today is on emotion and pragmatism, and the importance of serious thinking about biblical truth is downplayed. People no longer ask ‘Is it true? but rather ‘Does it work?’ and ‘How will it make me feel?’… Too many people go to church not to think or reason about the truths of Scripture, but to get their weekly spiritual high; to feel that God is still with them. Such people are spiritually unstable because they base their lives on feeling rather than on thinking.”
In his book, Your Mind Matters, the late John Stott adds,
“Indeed, sin has more dangerous effects on our faculty of feeling than on our faculty of thinking, because our opinions are more easily checked and regulated by revealed truth than our experiences.”
We can’t immediately control how we feel. For example, I can’t command you to, “Be sad, be happy, be angry”, as though we could flip a switch. Thus, in shepherding others, we exercise a certain patience and grace with people until their feelings catch up, so to be speak, to be in line with the truth. But the good news is that we can (and must) influence over time… how we think… and thus come to even impact how we feel, by biblical thinking.
Instead of thinking constantly about what we’re missing and who’s not giving it to us, we’re to think actively about how rich we are in Christ! His prophets, apostles, preachers, and the Lord Jesus Himself were always admonishing, “Do you not know, have you not heard, do you not understand?” No surprise, that Scripture describes the unsaved mind as depraved, fleshly, hostile to God, blinded by Satan, foolish, ignorant, defiled, but Romans 10:17 says faith comes from hearing the word of Christ! That’s really the beginning of the gift and opportunity of renewing our minds, our salvation! So if you’re a true Christian, you are able to do and enjoy something the rest of the world cannot. Yes, they can grow their intellect, but they can’t in of themselves, renew their mind. That’s the opportunity given to every single believer from day one! 1 Peter 1:13 exhorts us, “Prepare your minds for action!” We’re to love God with all our hearts, soul, strength, and MIND! Dr. Robert Somerville encourages us and invites us to rejoice, “The sphere, in which your joy as a believer exists, is totally unrelated to your circumstances of life or your feelings about them, but related to your unassailable, unchanging relationship to your sovereign Lord.” To think joyfully is the beginning of thinking accurately, and to think accurately is the joyful joy of thinking joyfully. Rejoice!