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STANDING FIRM (5): BY RIGHT THINKING AND RIGHT LIVING (Phil. 4:8-9) December 9, 2018 Read Phil 4:8-9 – You are what you think more than you think. That’s a Pastor Loren paraphrase of Prov 4:23 in NASB – “As [a man] thinks within himself, so he is.” What we think defines who we really are – not how we fake it with others, and not how we’d like to be, but who we really are. You are what you think more than you think! That’s a sobering thought, isn’t it? We are what we think. Critical spirits create sick souls and sick bodies. Resentment shrivels us inside and out. Greed distorts reality and distracts us higher things. Hatred diminishes us. Lustful thoughts create isolation and destroy relationships. Unworthy thoughts lead to unworthy actions. Worse yet, God knows my heart, not my façade! Heb 4:13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” Positive change begins with my thought life. So Rom 12:2 commands: “be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” II Cor 10:5 advises: “take every thought captive to obey Christ.” What seems a harmless, private indulgence of a rogue mind can lead to great pain and destruction. David knew that. First he looked, got hooked, then he took. He saw; indulged his fantasy and fell. He didn’t lose his salvation, but he paid a heavy price. He also learned. He writes in Psa 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me.” Problems start with our thoughts – but so does victory! So we need God’s help to “take every thought captive” – something this passage does – shows us how right thinking leads to right living. I. Right Thinking A. What? – Paul lists 8 positive things to occupy our mind. 1. Things that are True – Lies kill. They come from Satan. Jn 8:44, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.” What was the lie back in the very beginning? Two things. He convinced Eve that God was not good. Gen 3:1: “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” “He’s holding out on you, Eve. I know you like Him, but He is not good.” Lie # 1. Then lie #2. God’s Word is not true, trustworthy. Gen 3:4: “You will not surely die.” “I know what He said, but it’s not true!” So, the first two-part lie 1 – God is not good or He wouldn’t allow cancer, for example. And God’s Word is not true. He would never sentence you to death. Same lies today. So, how do we fight those? How do we think on “whatever is true”? We start with God’s Word. We must decide, do I believe God, or the Enemy? Jesus prays in Jn 17:17, “Sanctify (grow them) in the truth; your word is truth.” A growing Xn must be in the Word, so the Word can be in him. It’s the truth of the Word that will reshape our minds. I Pet 2:2: “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.” The more we know the Word, the more we see everything in light of truth. Is what I’m hearing true in God’s eyes? Is this person teaching me truth or error? Is this movie presenting truth or error? As God’s Word permeates our being, we begin to see and evaluate everything in light of true truth. That’s the standard. Talk show host Janet Parshall says, “I hear from Christians all the time who see no problem in practicing a kind of spiritual a la carte -- a little Oprah here, a little Twilight there, a dash of New Age, and a pinch of what makes you happy and comfortable. Our "Americanized" Christianity so often bears no resemblance to the lives we are called to live in Scripture.” The only solution is to be actively, intentionally pursuing truth. Get truth above all. 2. Things that are Honorable – Noble things. The word is used in I Tim 3 to describe elders and deacons. They are to be people of dignity – not the stiff rigidness of an English butler, but someone who sees the best in others – strives for the best in themselves and conducts themselves with honor. Not flip. Not coarse. Not given to outbursts, but joyfully living as tho God were present because. Would you think like that and live like that if you knew God was with you because – He is! Think like that. 3. Things that are Just – This means to see things in light of God’s character which is infinitely fair. Do we manipulate and take advantage, or are we fair? Are we truthful in business dealings, or do we disguise reality to make a sale? Kids, when your friends are mistreating a classmate who isn’t as cool or as privileged, where is your heart? Do you covet being part of the “in crowd”, or can you take the side of the abused? How do you think? 4. Things that are Pure – This is speaking of sexual purity in our thought life. It’s so easy to think, “Hey, my little fantasy here doesn’t hurt anyone. I got steamrolled today. I deserve a little innocent pleasure.” We’ve all been down that road. Didn’t God gift us with sexuality? Yes, and it’s a beautiful thing in the right context of marriage. But the danger of the private 2 life even Jesus recognized. Mt 5:27: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” No one ever got caught up in sexual sin who didn’t think about it first. So, we’re responsible to guard great treasure by not using it “out of bounds ” – even in our thoughts! We must guard our minds against provocative influence. 5. Things that are lovely – That is, things that stimulate love rather than revenge, criticism or resentment. Think higher than that. We’re not thinking “things are lovely” when plotting how to bring someone down., get even with them or get the better of them in personal or business dealings. But how we love to cuddle those harsh feelings. We take perverse pleasure from thinking how someone has hurt us, and how gratifying revenge will be. To think on lovely things is to determine how to help, not sink someone. 6. Things that are commendable – Literally, “fair-speaking.” Fair” sees the whole pix from all angles. When we hold a grudge – big or small -- we see only the one worst aspect of another person. Our vision is skewed! To think in loving terms is to see others as a whole -- as Christ sees them, with a desire to serve and love. That’s commendable thinking. 7. Things that are excellent – Summary word was used in classical Greek to describe any kind of excellence – the excellence of a tool, a flawless animal, the courage of a soldier, superior performance. So Paul is urging us to pursue excellence in our thought life leading to excellence in conduct. Pastor Ken used say, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” We’ve become a society of settlers – not the pioneer kind, the lazy kind. Good enough is good enough. Paul’s saying, “Don’t think like that. Pursue excellence in everything.” I Cor 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Let excellence crown intentions. A recent convert approached Martin Luther one time desperately wanting to know how he could serve the Lord now he was a Xn. Luther asked, “What is your work now?” “I’m a shoemaker.” Luther replied, “Then make the best shoe you can and sell it at a fair price.” Think that way. Pursue excellence. 8. Things that are praiseworthy – This is a summary word best described by inverting God’s command, “Whatever is untrue, dishonorable, unjust, impure, unlovely, not commendable and not excellent, do not think about these things.” Not those, but thoughts you’ll be glad to have revealed before God one day. Have a praiseworthy, positive, loving thought life. 3 B. How? Okay – so we get Paul’s 8-fold instruction. But how exactly do we do that? Given that the human mind will always set itself on something, how do we “take every thought captive”? Here are 2 practical ways to pursue a Godly thought life. God for all – and especially young people! Take note. 1. Filter what gets through – Guard what gets in. Thoughts can arise in the absence of outside influences. But most are prompted by external stimulation. We’re responsible to filter what we see. Prov 4:23: “Keep your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” Guard it. Keep toxins out! Avoid evil influences. Garbage in, garbage out applies to minds as well as computers! Taking “every thought captive” begins with controlling the supply of “thought starters” that enter the mind in the first place. A TV documentary featured 2 men, under 21, in prison for 1st degree murder. One killed a sales clerk he’d never met – the other murdered his mother and stepfather. Both expressed a direct link between their violent crimes and their involvement in Satanic, cultic rites and worship. Both professed faith in Christ after coming to prison, but when asked how they moved from middle-class, normality to cultic extremes, both pointed to the same trigger– the same catalyst – heavy metal music. I’m not here to condemn heavy metal music. The violence of the words and the dark culture they promoted took those boys places they never thought they would go. The rage they invited in stimulated monstrous acts of violence. You are what you think more than you think. So kids and parents, what are listening to? Is it uplifting or is it rebellious and immoral? What are we opening our minds to in the TV and movies we watch, the internet sites we visit, the music we listen to, the crowd we run with, the literature we read, the radio programs we frequent. It’s all under our control. Is the content excellent and praiseworthy or trivial, wasteful or sleazy? Kent Hughes says, “The best way to protect your body from adulterous actions is to protect your mind from lustful and adulterous thoughts. The reason is obvious. Adultery is always committed in the mind before it is committed physically. [Ask David, right?] When you feed your mind with pornographic magazines, suggestive videos and TV programs, soap operas, and R-rated movies, you are feeding your imagination powerful suggestions that eventually will weaken your moral resolve when you are confronted with sexual temptation. The same is true of all temptation. One wise man 4 observed, "When will meets imagination, put your money on imagination." Thus Job 31:1: “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?” Job knew – Garbage in, garbage out! Gal 6:7: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” That’s true in every realm, not just our sexuality. So make covenant with the gateway to your mind – your eyes and ears – nothing in but the best. 2. Flush the garbage quickly – Guard what you can, but no filter is perfect. Society is geared to appeal to the worst in human tendencies – so sales pitches regularly target our greed, lasciviousness, selfishness, and worse. The hair product add assures you that “you’re worth it,” Burger King entices, “have it your way.” Harley advertises, American by birth; rebel by choice as if that’s a good thing. DeBeer promises “a diamond is forever.” Clairol suggestively asks, “Does she, or doesn’t she?” Tantalizing sexual images are used to sell everything from hamburgers to luxury cars. It’s on the TV; on the internet, on the magazines at the checkout, and on the billboards. All you’ve guarded against is thru in a flash. Now what? Now we must be rigorous in flushing it out. Temptation is no sin but coddling it is. The first look is not on you, but the second and third – that is on you. It wasn’t the first look that got David – it was every one after that. At the fork in the road, he took the wrong direction. Rather than send his lustful thoughts packing, he took them in, entertained them, and turned them into reality. Charley Waters a safety for Dallas in Tom Landry’s early years, got burned for 3 touchdown passes one day and Landry “ate me up in the film session.” But when the lights came on, Landry said, “Charlie had a tough game yesterday, so he’s pretty much to blame for us losing. But you know what? If I had 45 buys that tried as hard as he did, we wouldn’t lose another game.” Waters said, “He had my heart from that point forward.” So, Beloved, it’s not our will power that will flush out evil. It’s knowing how much we are loved that will flush it out. We need a new dose every day to renew our mind and expel evil. Right thinking about Jesus is what gets the garbage out. II. Right Living Now, right thinking is not an end in itself. Remember Rom 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” The point of a renewed mind is a transformed life. Same point Paul makes in Phil 4. Having told us how to think, “9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be 5 with you.” In other words – what you learned and accepted from me as God’s revelation – and the way you’ve seen it work out in my life – go live like that! He’s like a basketball coach saying, “Okay, I’ve told you how to shoot straight. I’ve shown you the technique. Now, go do it. You won’t be very good at the start, but the more you practice, the better you’ll get. Got for it!” It’s true that we can’t live the Xn life on our own. It must be Christ living in us. But there is also an element of personal commitment. Like Heb 5:14: “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” You learn to sew by doing. You learn to play ball by doing. And you learn holiness – by doing. A pastor named Smith had an office in the same complex as a doctor named Smith. They also shared a receptionist. So when people called in to ask for Dr. Smith she would ask, “Do you want to talk to the one who preaches or the one who practices?” That dichotomy may be all right in an office, but not among us. We must practice what we preach. Renewed minds lead to transformed lives – little by little by little. Conc – So we stand firm and win over anxiety by right prayer, right thinking and right living. How are you doing? You are what you think more than you think. Think little of a small God and worry and spiritual failure will dominate your life. Think great thoughts about a great God and you are on your way. Giacomo Meyerbeer and Gioachino Rossini were rival composers in 19th century Germany who had a cordial dislike for each other. One day Rossini was complaining that he was in very low spirits, bored and melancholy. Meyerbeer commiserated: “You listen to too much of your own music.” Same with us. Anxiety, conflict, spiritual failure – why? Too much of our own music and that of a fallen world. Our challenge is to think of things that are true, honorable, pure, lovely and excellent. “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he!” You are what you think more than you think. So mind your mind. Let’s pray. 6
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