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 (Philippians 4:8).
The Christian has a very difficult task. He must live in a world that is increasingly secular and vulgar while maintaining a moral distance from the world. Jesus said, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil” (John 17:15). A major part of staying separate from the world is keeping the mind under control, for as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he (Prov. 23:7). Paul told the Corinthian brethren that part of our job as a Christian is to cast down imaginations and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ (II Cor. 10:4,5). We must encourage that in others and cultivate this character in our own lives.
God’s word is the only true source of that which is appropriate for the mind to consistently contemplate. The Psalms begin with thought of thinking on the word of God. “His delight is in the law of the LORD; and in His law doth he meditate day and night” (Psalm 1:2). The meditation here referred to is not some kind of mystical, oriental, transcendental type, but the “meaning here is, he thinks of it; he endeavors to understand its meaning; he has pleasure in reflecting on it. It is not a subject which he puts away from him, or in respect to which he is indifferent, but he keeps it before his mind, and has satisfaction in doing it” (Barnes). By hiding His word in our hearts, we can strengthen our ability to avoid temptation and giving in to sin (Psalm 119:11; cf. Josh. 1:8).
Paul said we should think on things that are true. Jesus said of God’s word, “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17). Lies should not be a part of our practice because they come from the devil (John 8:44). Truth can sometimes be painful (Gal. 4:16), but lies will keep us from heaven (Rev. 21:27).
Honesty is also a requirement for Christian contemplation. Honesty is a very close relation to truth. To be honest is to speak the truth to others and to ourselves. Not only are we to contemplate that which is honest, we are to provide for honest things in the sight of God and man (II Cor. 8:21; Rom. 12:17). We bring forth fruit in our lives when an honest heart receives the word of God (Luke 8:15).
We should think about things that are just. To be just is to be equitable, innocent and holy. It is very easy to let ourselves slide into injustice, especially when it gives us an advantage or the truth would hurt us in some way.
Our minds should gravitate to things that are pure. The world has allure, its silver, its gold. The wicked and evil grow ever more bold. Filthiness is put on display daily and the putrid stench of sin fills the air in our culture these days. It vexes the soul of the righteous. But we are to display a pure conversation (manner of life, conduct) coupled with fear (I Pet. 3:2). As we hope to see the Lord, we should strive to purify ourselves even as He is pure (I John 3:2,3).
We should also think on those things that move us toward love or are lovely or instill love in others. Why think on the ugly when you can think on the lovely or the gracious? The Cambridge Bible Commentary remarks: “The Christian is here reminded that his Master would have him attend to manner as well as matter in his life. Grace should make gracious.”
If there is a good report, we should think on that. We have to deal with that which is bad and evil. We must oppose error and sin. But what happens is, all too often, we continue to dwell on the bad, on the wicked and the evil. We are willing to hear that which is bad about someone, but not the good.
If we can cultivate these thoughts in our minds, and focus on the virtuous and the praise-worthy, then we will have helped ourselves immensely in living the Christian life as the Lord requires us to live and the God of peace shall be with us (v. 9).
Eric L. Padgett