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(025) Philippians XVII: What Are You Thinking About?

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Philippians XVI:

What Are You Thinking About?

Philippians 4:8-9

March 30, 2008

Prep: Read leftovers, Phil XI (“Imitate”), and PureOnline, prayer requests

Opening: easter & alfy’s  


·         Aaron going to Iraq

·         Sharron’s surgery

·         Spirit guide and convict, and help us examine what we allow into our minds

Intro: The main point

Drawing to end of series, only two sermons left. Last exhortation passage, next is a “thank you letter.”

·         If paying attention, we’ve skipped around.

In Phil. 4:8-9, Paul tells us what sort of things we should fill our minds with. We are going to talk about what that does and does not mean and why it’s important.

Ä  This passage nicely bookends what Paul prayed for the Philippians at the beginning:

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,

so that you may be able to discern what is best

and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ,

filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ-- to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:9-11   

Ä  It’s clear there’s a direct connection between the conduct of our mind and our outward conduct.

Throughout this book, Paul has pleaded with us to grow in love, which must be grounded in wisdom, which in turn will drive our actions and attitudes.

And so, in today passage, Paul tells us what to fill our heads with so that our hearts and hands can be doing the right things. [Turn there now, bring your Bibles]

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me - put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9 NIV 

What do you wallow in?

Paul calls us to right thinking and right acting. We have already talked about following Paul’s example, so we will focus on “thinking.”

Think about (logi,zomai): Doesn’t just mean “think,” it means ponder, focus, meditate, dwell on, and reflecting on these characteristics so that your conduct will be shaped by them.

·         It is to wallow in them.

·         We tend to wallow in misery or self-pity, like in a pig sty.

Q   What is something good we could wallow in?

Rather than passively absorbing whatever comes our way, we intentionally seek and critically engage the good things and fill our mind with it.

Thoughts become actions

Q   Why is it so important we wallow on these things Paul lists?

·         Because thoughts become feelings and actions.

·         What we think about is what we will become.

Sow a thought, reap an action
Sow an action, reap a habit
Sow a habit, reap a character
Sow a character, reap a destiny

This works both ways, for good and for bad. If we wallow in virtuous things, we will likely grow in virtue. But if we wallow in sin, we will likely become more sinful

Sins begin as THOUGHTS

Many times, when, as believers, we commit those “knew better but did it anyways” sins, they began as a thought. Good, upright people don’t just fall suddenly without any internal warnings.

·         It frequently begins with “I wonder what it would be like...”

·         EG: Seeing how full my wallet would be with dad’s change.

Our personal battle between good and evil begin in the battlefield of the mind, and the outcome is often a result of what we have been feeding into our mind.

Porn’s trap

This is why pornography is so destructive– we’re filling our mind with sinful images and ideas that our destructive to our relationships by creating unreasonable expectations and false ideals.

And porn is not solely a guy problem. 1 out of 3 visitors to adult website are women. Granted, approach it very differently – not images as much as chat rooms, but they are more likely to act out their thoughts.

·         47% of Christians report that porn has caused major problem in their house, so I’d be fool not to think some of us struggle.

I am very willing to work with any guy wanting to deal with this, but I know that shame may keep anyone from talking to me, so I would encourage you to go to www.*pureonline*.com. is also a good resource. They have free accountability software that I use.

Ä  This was a departure, but it’s very applicable to watching controlling our thoughts, plus I wanted to hear a pin drop.


the good stuff

We live in a very sinful, self-focused world, greedy and more interested in pleasure than health. If we don’t actively and consciously choose to fill ourselves with good stuff, we will be filled with bad

Q   Do these typify what you fill your head with?

Q   Do they typify the way we interact with those around us?

True (avlhqh,j): Things that are genuine, real, not falsemorally dependable. The standard for what is true is the Bible, so we must be immersed in it so we can discern what is true.

·         Proverbs is a good source of moral truth.

Noble (semno,j): Honorable, majestic, respectful, that which inspires us to the best.

Right (di,kaioj): Just, righteous, in accordance to God’s standards.

Pure (a`gno,j): Untainted by sin, especially sexual sin. Innocent.

Lovely (prosfilh,j): “Those things which commend themselves by their intrinsic attractiveness and agreeableness. They give pleasure to all and cause distaste to none, like a welcome fragrance.”

·         That which inspires love, makes the observer desire to experience it more.

Admirable (eu;fhmoj): Winsome, “expressing what is kind and likely to win people, and avoiding what is likely to give offence.”

·         Whereas “lovely” inspires an emotional response, this inspires an intellectual response that draws non-Christian.

Excellent (avreth,): Paul’s catch-all: moral excellence, any and everything that is really good, uncommonly upright and commendable

praiseworthy (e;painoj): Deserves praise from both God and man, like it says of Jesus, “favor with God and man.”

Ä  These are the things that we should fill our mind with, wallow in: Things that are morally excellent and upstanding, that honor God, inspire us to the best, and draw others to God.

Ä  Before conclude with how to live this out, there is an important caveat to make...


I have shied away from this passage because it seems to advocate seclusion, a Ned Flanders’ Christianity.

But as I have spent a lot of time studying not just this passage, but also Paul’s practices (as he tell us to do), I’ve seen that is not his point.

·         In saying “immerse yourself in these things,” there are two things he is NOT saying:

1. not saying: Hear no, see no evil

Paul does not call us to isolate ourselves from the world. Elsewhere Paul assumes that we will interact with it.

I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people - not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 1 Corinthians 5:9-10 NIV 

Q   How can we reach this world if we don’t interact with it?

Ä  Paul does not want us to “leave this world.”

Paul’s example demonstrates that he not only interacted with the pagan world, he actively and carefully engaged it:

While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols....

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: "Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. Acts 17:16, 22-23 NIV

And throughout his writings, he quotes from pagan philosophers and poets to make his point and communicate his thoughts.

Ä  Which leads to the next point:

2. not saying: only christians are capable of DEMONSTRATING these things

·         These virtues Paul calls us to fill our minds with can be found in the worlds.

And this verse itself is clear proof of that: Lists like this are a very typical element of Greek philosophy, called virtue lists. In fact, Paul uses several words directly from their lists, that don’t occur anywhere else in the NT.

·         This list very plainly is borrowing from Stoic philosophy.

Q   Why would Paul do that if he thought there was no value to what these pagans had said?

“In all probability the apostle is here acknowledging that there was much good in pagan life and morality, and he urges his friends not to be blind to this fact, nor to repudiate it.

“He asks, rather, that they recognize and incorporate all that is good in natural morality into their own lives, to pay heed to quite simple but solid truths, even if they first learned them from pagan sources.

“For as Justin Martyr put it a century later, ‘The truth which men in all lands have rightly spoken belongs to us” (2 Apol. 2.13).’”

“All truth flows from the throne of God.” We are all made in his image, and are capable of reflecting it in some small manner.

·         Just because someone is not a Christian does not mean that they cannot say thing that are excellent and praiseworthy.

·         These may be found in the arts, in politics, and in education.

And sometimes non-Christians have to lead the way in morality (to the shame of the church). EG: Care of the environment.

Ä  The point is: we should encourage and embrace non-Christians whenever they demonstrate moral excellence, and use it was a point of contact.

Closing: What’s filling up your mind

What is filling up your mind? Is it things that are pure, right, noble, and excellent? Or they impure, selfish, and sinful?

I can’t tell you how to live this out in every detail. Unlike Judaism, or even Islam, Christianity doesn’t try to dictate behavior in every specific situation.

·         God would rather that your motives be shaped by love and wisdom and that you learn to be guided by the Spirit.

Q   What TV programs should you watch, watch movies?

Q   What music should you listen to?

I cannot answer those questions, beyond the obvious: If it is pulling you away from God and damaging your relationships, it must stop.

Q   What is bulk of your input?

Q   Does it make you more like Jesus, or less?

These are questions for you to ask in prayer, and seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance for. Keep in mind that your spouse’s voice can sound a lot like the Holy Spirit.


Help each of us to evaluate our thought patterns and the things we input into our brains, with the help of the Spirit.


May the Spirit of Truth guide you to fill your mind with what is excellent and praiseworthy.

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