Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
“Think on these things”! That is one of the deepest phrases in Scriptures. Only superficial or cursory viewers of this may be prone to interpret it only as giving ‘thought to these things’ that is, as if it concerns the level of thought only. Though the springboard from where that phrase reaches us, and so necessarily inclusive of that (that is, thought), Paul by the Spirit nevertheless is actually coming from a depth deeper than that and is concerned with a much wider range. Paul by the Spirit is actually saying: ‘think on these things, give serious thought to them and nothing contrary should get your attention; then may these things be the bases of what you hear, what you say (and may they be actually what you allow yourself to hear and say); and then may they be the bases of your behavior, actions, works or services (and may they be actually what informs your behavior and how you behave, what inform your actions and how you act, what inform your works and services or their essence and final outcome or result)’.
In other words, ‘Think on these things’ means: Let these things inform, dictate, constitute and or be your lifestyle and be the result they produce! Think on these things and live by these things: Both are inseparable. One leads to the other. Think on these things to be able to live by these things!
Finis Jennings Dake describes these things as: True things – all that is in harmony with eternal truth in creation and revelation; Honest things – all that is grave, decent, honorable, and Christian; Just things – all that is in harmony with justice and righteousness; Pure things – all that is chaste and holy for body and soul; Lovely things – all that is pleasing and tends to bless others; and Things of good report – all that is in harmony with the best public good, virtuous and
Of course, we think nothing except our sense organs supplies it to the mind; we say nothing except we first think about it; and we do nothing except we first think about it as well. Our minds’ thought is a product of what its gates give to them and whatever we say or do is a product of our thought or mind. The mind’s gates give to the mind, and after processing it, the mind employs the tongue and other members of our outer body. The tongue stands out here on its own as outer member of our body for its obvious role in making and unmaking us and others.
So, four things here: what we think (the realm of thought or mind), what we receive or accept into the mind (the realm of the mind’s gates or sense organs), what we say (the realm of the tongue or the mouth) and how we act or what we do (the realm of behavior, actions and works). These affect our inner lives of spirit or heart and make us what we really are before or in the eyes of God, and also sum up our outer lives that we and other men see. Of the former viz. how they affect our inner life of spirit or heart and make us what we really are before or in the eyes of God, we shall handle after in a subsequent series. And so we must concern ourselves here with how they sum up our outer lives that we and others see.
There is an Old Testament text we consider very critical vis-à-vis Philippians 4:8. It is Deuteronomy 12:8-9: “Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes. For ye are not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance, which the Lord your God giveth you.” That is a very pointed admonition for all New Testament believers, all pilgrims on their way to Heaven. There is too much un-seriousness, ease, nursing undesirable thoughts, acquiescence with unedifying communication, identification with frivolities, and other several manifestations of self in our midst that make this caution so relevant to us any day.
And Psalm 1:1: how instructive and needed today in Christendom: “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.” That the book of Psalms chose to open with that great verse must be a serious concern to all pilgrims, walkers of the heavenly path who must embrace it (this Psalm) wholly and stay true to it. Verse 2 of that Psalm 1, which is actually the other side of verse 1, having to do with meditation on God’s Word (and how our mind gets renewed there from with the wonderful subsequent effect of getting the whole man renewed to present it all a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God) is visited in the series sequel to this series on Philippians 4:8.
1. Do we really know that we do not have the right as Christians, if Christians or followers of Christ we really are, to think anything that is not of Christ? We cannot be on our own in this level of thought or mind or we miss it all and eternally so. The Christ-driven life is a life whose mind is controlled and led by the Spirit of Christ.
2. Do we really know that we do not have the right as Christians, if Christians or followers of Christ we really are, to hear, see anything that is not of Christ? These functions of our two most critical minds’ gates or gates to our minds called sense organs must be Christ directed or we get many pains now and after now. Yes, Satan may want to reach us anytime with what he wants us to hear or see, and we cannot totally avoid that since in the world we still live in. The much of Satan’s reach we can avoid (Psalm 1:1) and how we relate to that unavoidably first reach of Satan make the difference. The Christ-driven life is a life whose ears and eyes are subjected to the control and leadership of the Spirit of Christ.
3. Do we really know that we do not have the right as Christians, if Christians or followers of Christ we really are, to say anything that is not of Christ? The tongue could be very deadly or life-giving depending on how the mind feeds it and or how we employ it. Only two people employ our tongues: Christ and Satan. Man since the fall has never employed his tongue. Anything a man says is either God-given and edifying or Satan-given and damning. The Christ-driven life is a life whose tongue is tamed, fed, controlled and subjected to the leadership of the Spirit of Christ.
4. Do we really know that we do not have the right as Christians, if Christians or followers of Christ we really are, to behave anyway, work any work or do anything that is not of Christ? The Christ-driven life is a life whose behavior, actions and services are directed, controlled and led by the Spirit of Christ and a lifestyle after Christ.
The truth of Christianity or the pilgrims’ walk is that we are strongly obliged to think like Christ, hear only that which is of Christ, see only that which is of Him, say only that which is of Him, behave as Christ would have behaved, and do as Christ would have done it. This is Christianity. That is the meaning. It is to be Christ-like.
Philippians 4: 8 wraps up all that in one sentence, as we shall see in this series. We cannot afford anymore to be like our self, that is, our old self again. Christianity must be seen as race of growth into Christ-likeness, a race away from our old self, which must be crucified anyway (a subject matter elsewhere).
“Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes. For ye are not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance, which the Lord your God giveth you.” Our total consciousness should and must be how to be like Christ because that is what takes us to the rest and inheritance which the Lord our God gives us in His eternal presence forever.
Colossians 3: 1-4 says that “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” We dare not gloss over that as pilgrims. All our lives must depend on this and all our lifestyles must reflect this. ‘If we be risen with Christ’ implies death with Christ, and resurrection with Him, if indeed we have actually died and risen with Him. If we have, it tells of what to seek, where to set our affections on or where to live for. Christ-consciousness, Christ-likeness, Christ-way and Christ-heaven: How inevitable and indispensible! And to become more like Christ, to get to that eternal blessedness in Him there are things to think on and things not to think on. Philippians 4: 8 is indescribably vital in this regard.
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” We must guide and lead all four levels of thought, hearing, vision, tongue and behavior cum actions cum works with these 8-way examination, as it were. And it came with a strong note of finality. “Finally, brethren …” Paul by the Holy Spirit says. This is one of many Scriptures that should affect our four key levels of Christian living positively if well employed. There are things to think about, to hear, to say, and to live by. It is a final-note admonition to the Philippians’ brethren and us all.
After this introductory episode, we shall be considering these four levels. We shall dwell on the first level of the Christian life viz. the level of thought vis-à-vis the 8-way examination (and as already hinted, in another series we shall be dwelling on the mind and its transformation or renewal by God’s Word and the untold benefits for the whole man: spirit, soul and body; and how the question of our eternity with God hugely hinges on this). And we shall subsequently visit the other three levels vis-à-vis how the 8-way test relates to them.
Think on these things. Live by these things. Think on these things to be able to live by these things!