Christian Good Taste
Introduction: I'd like to start off with a brief survey about goals. Where would you like to be in, say, a year? Five years? Ten? Not in your job, your housing, or any other material area. Where would you like to be in your spiritual life?
I'm going to give some descriptions, and you raise your hand if you'd like this to describe you. (You may want more than one of these, so don't wait 'til you hear all of the choices).
I'll give the description, then I'll ask you to raise your hand if you'd like this to describe you:
• This Christian is a person of integrity. What you see is what you get. There is no hypocrisy, no secret sin or worldliness. They are the same when they're in the 7-Eleven as they are in Sunday morning church. They are really as spiritual inside as they look on the outside.
• This Christian is morally unassailable. No matter what the temptation that tries to trip them up, they will not stumble over it. And their life is an example to others, so that other people will not stumble because of their lifestyle. In a word, they are stable in their Christian walk.
• This Christian acts, talks, and seems to even think exactly like Jesus. When you look at their life, you see the life of Christ shining through. They are a loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, gentle, good, faithful, humble, temperate person. People are drawn to them because they have something others need.
Now, the final question. And don't raise your hand. Just really think about this one:
Am I prepared to do whatever the Bible asks in order to grow that kind of Christianity in my life?
* This is exactly what Paul wanted for the Philippians. In vs. 10-11 of our text we read these descriptions. He prayed that they would be:
1. Sincere (eilikrineis): "that which being viewed in the sunshine is found clear and pure; spotless, sincere, ingenuous".
- In the process of firing pottery, sometimes cracks would form. Unscrupulous merchants would fill the cracks with dark wax, totally undetectable after it was painted, unless you held it up to the sun. The light would reveal the flaws. The best merchants stamped their pottery sine cera ("without wax").
2. Without offense (aproskopoi): "not stumbling or causing others to stumble".
3. Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ.
* Now, Paul didn't just pray for a supernatural, sanctifying "zap" to transform them overnight. He prayed for the things that were necessary for them to reach that lifestyle.
• v. 9: "And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more . . ."
- Paul prayed that the love of the Philippians would grow.
- Now, we know that this love, this agaph, is not just a fuzzy notion. It is the defining characteristic of Christianity.
John 13:35, 1 John 4:7-8
Illus: When you see people in orange robes and topknots handing out roses in the airport, you know whose disciples they are.
When you see guys in short-sleeved white shirts, neckties, and black name tags, you know whose disciples they are.
When you see true, Biblical, love—love that gives of itself sacrificially to meet the need of the cherished object, expecting nothing in return—you know whose disciples they are.
- It is the defining characteristic because it is the outworking of God's activity in us. Gal. 5:22
• So, what Paul is praying for, basically, is for them to grow deeper in their relationship with Christ, their dependence on His activity in and through them. Phil. 1:6
- He is praying for them to become more Christlike, more developed in their Christian growth, more mature.
• How did he want them to grow?
- "that your love may abound" – the word is perisseuh, "to be over and above, to be superfluous, to exist in full quantity". Strong's translates it, "To superabound".
- It's in the present subjunctive, so it carries the idea of linear, durative action – "that ye may live in a state of superabounding"
- And not just that -- apparently they were already superabounding in their Christian life, because his prayer was that they would superabound, overflow, "still more and more" -- to a greater and greater degree!
- But, like a flood can bring terrible damage when it leaves its banks, love must not run "out of bounds". That can be dangerous. So Paul's prayer was that their love would grow inside the proper boundaries:
1. Knowledge Rom. 10:1-2
- This is a word that refers only to spiritual things in the Bible, not to facts & figures, math, history, science, etc.
- It refers to an awareness of spiritual reality that all men possess, but only Christians possess accurately. In other words, ALL men are aware of the reality of spiritual truths, that they exist. Rom. 1:28; 3:20
- But only through submission to the work of the Holy Spirit can we come to the truth about spiritual realities.
1 Tim. 2:3-4, 2 Tim. 2:24-25
- So he wants them to grow in their accurate understanding of the things of God. And the root deals with knowledge that is gained by experience.
- How important is this? It seems to be something Paul prayed for many, many churches. Eph. 1:15-18, Col. 1:9; 2:2
- So, if we have to grow in our knowledge, our accurate understanding of the things of God, how do we do this?
2 Tim. 3:14-17
2. All judgment
- The Greek word here is aisthesis, from which we get our word aesthetics. Aesthetics is the area of philosophy that deals with the perception of beauty or what we would call good taste.
- The Greek word referred to perception, discernment.
- It's the idea of perceiving with the senses, including what we might call our "moral sense". Heb. 5:13-14
- They have their "senses exercised to discern both good and evil".
- Contrary to what Oprah would have you believe, we ARE to make judgments.
- He can't mean not to make any judgments whatsoever, because not judging requires that we judge that judging is wrong!
- Besides, in v. 6 we have to judge!
- From the context, we are not to judge hypocritically – we are not to judge by one standard and expect to be judged by another. But we are to make judgments about right and wrong!
- God makes value judgments. Gen. 1:25, Dan. 5:27
* Why did Paul want their love to grow inside these boundaries? What outcome did he have in mind?
• v. 10: "That ye may approve things that are excellent . . ."
- You may have a translation that reads something like, "try things that are different". That's pretty weak.
- There was a specific behavior that Paul wanted to see in their lives, and it would only come with maturity "in knowledge and in all judgment". He wanted them to "approve"
- This doesn't mean what we take it to mean today. It's not just, "Well, I like this. It appeals to me. I approve."
- It's the idea of putting something to the test, examining it and scrutinizing it.
- It was the word used of bankers who would test coins to see if they were counterfeit or genuine. If they proved genuine, they stood as "approved".
- It was used of political candidates who were tested and questioned to see if they could stand for public office.
Illus: We see examples of this today as Judge Samuel Alito is being examined and questioned. If the Senate agrees that he is qualified to sit on the Supreme Court, he will be approved.
1 Cor. 3:13; 11:27-28
2 Cor. 13:5-6 (NASB) "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you--unless indeed you fail the test? But I trust that you will realize that we ourselves do not fail the test."
- We do this in the church. 1 Tim. 3:10, 1 John 4:1
- We are to do this with everything! 1 Thess. 5:21
- This is NOT a self-righteous, pharisaical activity. It is simply testing something to see if it can be approved.
- But we aren't just testing and sorting out what is good from what is bad. That's not what Paul has in view. He is going one step further.
• v. 9: "That ye may approve things that are excellent . . ."
- the word diaferw means "to excel, be of better value, be superior"
Matt. 6:26, Gal. 2:6 ("maketh no matter to me"); 4:1 ("differeth nothing")
- Can you sense the meaning? Paul's prayer for the Philippians was that they would develop the maturity to distinguish not just the good from the bad, but the best from the good.
- The Amplified Bible renders the phrase this way:
"So that you may surely learn to sense what is vital, and approve and prize what is excellent and of real value [recognizing the highest and the best, and distinguishing the moral differences] . . ."
- As Christians, we are to be, in a word, discriminating.
- That's a loaded word today, because of 2 dangers in discriminating:
a. Drawing distinction where there is no real difference (e.g., "races" of men Acts 17:26. "of" = ek, denoting point of origin).
b. Refusing to draw distinction where there is a real difference (e.g., the definition of marriage).
- We still use this in its positive sense when we speak of people who have a "discriminating palate" -- people of good taste.
- That's what this is about: developing, cultivating Christian good taste.
- In our text, the verb "approve" is a present infinitive, which carries the idea of action continuing over time. The Philippians were to live their lives testing (and accepting) the things that were the best, the things that excelled.
- Now, if we are to make a practice of evaluating the things of life and choosing the best, we have to have some sort of measuring system, right?
Illus: Mom & dad selling the house I grew up in.
- the value is determined by an appraiser, not by sentiment.
- Our appraisals in life must be based on valid standards, not on sentimental feelings of what we like.
- This was the mistake the Jews made. Rom. 2:17-18, 23-24
- They made their appraisals based on their beloved traditions, on what they felt was best. But Jesus said, "Ye have made the commandment of God of none effect by your traditions" (Matt. 15:6)
- It's not about what we like; it's not about what we grew up with; it's not about what we've always believed. It's about what is OBJECTIVELY best.
- "Oh," some would say, "I get it. We're only supposed to listen to boring music, read boring biographies, and be bored all our life."
Illus: A man was touring an art gallery. At one point he looked at the guard and said, "I don't care much for your pictures." The guard replied, "Sir, I would remind you that these pictures are no longer on trial, but those who look at them are."
- When you find the best things unacceptable, that says more about you than it does about them.
- Of course, what is the only objective standard by which we evaluate anything?
- By abandoning this objective standard we have today an immature Christianity which will approve anything!
- We need to choose the truly best. The world says, "This car is best, because rich people drive them. It will make you look important and attractive." But mechanically, it's a dog.
- God's standard of best involves real, intrinsic value; not artificially inflated value.
- Well, wouldn't it be great if there were a simple checklist we could use, like appraisers do? If Paul had left us a bullet list of tests to see what is best? I believe he did!
* How do we know this is a test for this?
- The verse ends with "if there be any virtue . . ."
- Let's get technical for a moment so we can get practical: This is what is called a "first-class condition," that is, it is saying, "Assume this is true for the sake of argument."
- It's like when the used car salesman says to you, "If you love fast cars, this is the car for you!"
- "if there be any virtue . . ."
- The word virtue refers to "excellence" (Strong's).
- So, we might translate Paul as saying, "if there are excellent things (and there are, that's his whole point) . . . think . . ."
- The word think is logizomai, "to calculate, compute, reckon".
- So, if there are excellent things (and there are), base your calculations, your reckoning, your appraisals on these things. What things? The checklist of virtues he just finished:
1. "Whatsoever things are true"
- The word is alhqh -- "what is true in any matter under consideration (as opposed to what is feigned, fictitious, false)"
Prov. 23:23, “Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.”
- Where do we turn to determine what is true? The Bible! Because, as Christians, our definition of truth is that which is consistent with the nature of God. To learn what is true, we must therefore turn to the only revelation we have of God's innate character.
- So, the first item for your checklist is: Does this faithfully and accurately reflect the truth of the Bible?
- Apply that to your music. Does it accurately reflect the truth of the Bible, or does it present a God who is okay with our "little" sins? Whom we would approach like we would a friend or lover?
Illus: Listen to the lyrics of a CCM song called "Crystal Clear":
When I'm a sparrow in winter, You are a seed I find
When I'm a heart with a splinter, Your blood keeps me alive
If I could call you a color, You'd be the deepest of blues
If I had my pleasure of anything, You'd be the one that I'd choose
Now it's crystal clear I'm falling for You
Now that I can see the mystery's revealed
Now I'm coming clean
I can feel my fears released
Now it's crystal clear I'm falling for You
I'm soft like clay
Your hands they mold me
For You, I would run away
Just to hear You calling out my name
Or "Feel," by Michelle Tumes
Hark! The wind of passion
Swiftly weaving over your soul
Bless the surge of thunder
Rolling onto your shore
Greet the deep emotion
That sleeps beneath the ocean floor
Watch elation bound
Release its furious roar
Pound the sands of courage
Reach for clouds that cover the foam
Dance with bold expression
Leaping from silent abodes
Face the wild commotion
Free restraint and struggle no more
Let the moon raise all that
Dwells in the tides of your core
Feel! Feel! Feel! Feel what you long to
Feel! Feel! Feel! Feel what you long to feel
2. "Whatsoever things are honest"
- This is the word semnos, "honorable, august, venerable"
- These are the things that have a dignity and reverence to them.
- We live in a society that is entertained by the trivial, cheap, and childish. The popular sit-coms are slathered with potty humor that we should have outgrown in Junior High.
- Are our lives characterized by a dignity and nobility (not a humorlessness!), or are we silly, cheap and vacuous like the world around us?
3. "Whatsoever things are just"
- This word deals with that which is righteous, upright, pious, keeping the commands of God and men.
- As we make choices, are they based on the law of God or the likes of men?
- The world is entertained by that which violates God's law—stories of fornication, profanity, adultery, homosexuality, and so on, are considered entertaining!
4. "Whatsoever things are pure"
- This word is hagna – "pure, chaste, modest, innocent, blameless, pure from carnality"
- The world says, "Dress slutty." The Bible says to choose things that are pure.
- We have become jaded by the evil around us. We have lost our innocence. Rom. 16:19, Matt. 10:16
- In his Essay on Man, Alexander Pope gives this warning:
Vice is a monster of so frightful mien,
As to be hated needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.
5. "Whatsoever things are lovely"
- This word appears only here in the New Testament. It's a compound of the word toward and the word filew, which you may be familiar with.
- To call it "brotherly love" may weaken the idea of filew. It's that comradeship, that camaraderie, that espirit-de-corps, that results from going through the fire together.
- Whenever I think of this I think of Henry V addressing his troops before battle:
"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:"
- Common experience forms love-bonds. As Christians, we cannot form love-bonds with the world or with worldly things. We're not allowed! 1 John 2:15
- Yet, someone at the office talks about a t.v. show that glorifies sin and some Christians says, "Oh, I just love that show!"
- We are to choose things that are "amicable, friendly, acceptable, pleasing" to those who follow the Captain of our fate! Not things that are fashionable in the world!
6. "Whatsoever things are of good report"
- Are you choosing things that would add to a Christian's good reputation? Or are you choosing that which adds to your reputation as a worldling?
- It's a pretty comprehensive list, and it sets a lot of the world's stuff off limits to us if we are to choose the best, and thus mature as Christians:
- Am I choosing what is in accord with Bible truth?
- Am I choosing what is dignified and noble?
- Am I choosing what is observant of God's laws?
- Am I choosing what is pure, chaste, modest and blameless?
- Am I choosing what is a legitimate object for the bonds of brotherhood?
- Am I choosing what would build a good Christian reputation?
Conclusion: The Roman historian Seutonius has left us a vivid illustration in De Vita Caesarum of what we're talking about.
In the days of Nero, Rome was suffering a famine. The starving citizens waited desperately for the Roman fleet to return from Alexandria with badly needed food. One day the word spread like wildfire that the ships were pulling into port. The people rushed to the docks, carrying baskets for the provisions that were arriving. But as the ships were unloaded, the people were astonished . . . Nero had sent the ships on a personal mission instead, and the crews were unloading not grain, but sand for the coliseum, because the white sands of Africa would show the blood from the contests better.
How many Christians are stunted in their spiritual growth because they do not cultivate the habit of choosing the best; and settle for the sands of the world instead of the nourishing grain of that which is truly valuable.
Exult in great music. Rejoice in great literature. In every area of your life, especially spiritual things, cultivate a taste for the best.