Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8 (ESV)
My mother used to quote this to me when I was watching a music video or movie that had material that was not appropriate to remind me that I was poisoning, not nourishing, my mind. Do not let your mind wallow in filthiness. Let your thoughts soar above to heavenly things.
True: Manifest, fact, conforming to reality Opposite: False
Noble: Honest, grave, venerable, serious Foolish: Foolish
Just: Right conduct; state of being right judged by a divine standard Opposite: Unjust
Pure: Clean, free of impurities Opposite: Polluted
Lovely: Pleasing, agreeable Opposite: Unpleasant
Good Report: Well spoken of, reputable Opposite: Worthless
Do the songs you listen to, books you read, or things you watch pass this test?
Think on these things!
Action follows thought. If we want to act like Christ we must think like Christ. Consider these verses:
2 Corinthians 10:5 – We must bring every thought under control
Mark 7:20-23 – The heart of a man is the source of his actions
Romans 1:21-22 – Terrible abominations are rooted in evil and futile thoughts
Colossians 3:1-3 – Set your mind on things above
The worldly mind dwells on empty, meaningless, and demeaning thoughts. Abominations, evil inventions, and cruelty (even in the name of religion), or indifference to others is the common result. The worldly mind focuses on the present world and fulfilling lusts. This mind is trained by the philosophy of the world through television, movies, songs, books, and through popular opinion.
The mind of Christ is taught by the word of God. We consciously decide to think like Christ so that the natural state of the changed mind dwells on godly things and makes judgments in light of Christ’s doctrine. It is a mind that seeks to develop a relationship with the Father, live pure and holy, and esteem others better than self.
In contrast to the chaos of the mind, it is a mind at peace. Instead of being selfish it serves. It is not directed by the whims of passion but by purposeful direction and discipline. It takes a while to develop this mind but the effects on the attitude and behavior of the transformed Christian are worth it.
After we transform our minds, our actions must change. Jesus taught that a man’s heart dictates his actions. If our heart is right, right actions will follow. A godly life is the natural result of a mind cleansed by God and consecrated to Him.
When we set our minds on things above our actions will change. Colossians 3:5-17 describes this transformation:
Put to death/put off
Fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, conveteousness, anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language, lying
Holiness, tender mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering, bearing with one another, forgiving, love
This is the old man, made in the image of the world.
This is the new man, made in the image of the Creator.
As Paul illustrates, the new man acts differently towards his fellow man. He seeks to build other people up, not destroy them. He speaks good, not evil. He is longsuffering, not impatient. Our actions towards other people change because our attitude towards them has changed. God commands us to serve others as part of our service to Him. We must transform from a self-seeking, self-centered being into a selfless servant, like Jesus, seeking to serve rather than be served.
The New Testament does not give many specific “do” and “don’ts” as in the Old Testament. There are many specific commands, but we must make the majority of our decisions using principles established in the word of God. We do not have a specific command: “Thou shalt not cheat on your federal income tax form.” Nevertheless, we do have the principles of honesty, fairness, and “paying taxes to whom taxes are due” in the scriptures. The Bible does not outline specifics on our apparel (how long, how tight or loose, etc.) but does command us to be modest, able to blush, not to incite others to lust, and wear clothing that reflects godliness, not worldliness. Through an honest application of these principles, we can determine what is proper attire.
Some will say, “But the Bible doesn’t say not to” when trying to defend something that may have no specific restriction but is against the very principles of Christianity. Does the defendant believe in a loophole that will allow his behavior to pass on the Day of Judgment? There are things that might be good that are forbidden in certain circumstances such as eating meat in 1 Corinthians 8:13. Eating meat offered to an idol is not wrong unless it would cause my brother to stumble.
As Christians, we must grow to maturity so we can use the word of God to make decisions in our lives. We must pursue or avoid some things based on general principles of godliness and holiness. The Bible does not tell us what specific movies to watch, books to read, music to listen to, or TV programs to watch. We are given principles that must guide our thoughts: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things,” Philippians 4:8.
Some may be frustrated since there are not many “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not’s” in the New Testament (note: The Old Testament had guiding principles as well: Matthew 22:34-40). However, God is trying to make us better people, not just individuals who can read a checklist and do what is commanded. God did not create us to check off a list of commands but to transform us into Christ-like creatures that want to be godly, holy, and useful for every good work. We must guide our mind by principles in addition to following specific commands.
You will find no particular book of the New Testament that lists all of these principles. The principles are spread throughout the Bible, are seen in the life of Christ, and are the very fabric from which the Christian life is made. By daily study and practice, we can learn the principles and the thought processes that must guide our daily decisions.
One of our strongest influences is our friends. The friends we choose will help us draw closer to God or go farther away from Him. There are good examples like Cornelius in Acts 10 who invited his friends to hear the gospel. There are bad examples like the friends of Rehoboam, in 2 Chronicles 10, who gave Rehoboam bad advice which cost him most of the kingdom.
Proverbs 12:26 and 22:24-25 warns us to choose our friends carefully since the wicked can lead us astray. Most people are familiar with 1 Corinthians 15:33: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” When our closest friends are people who do not share our faith, priorities, and principles, we create the potential for many conflicts and unnecessary tests of our faith.
We should not abandon friendships with non-Christians, but should make our closest companions (who are in greater positions of influence) those who share our values and priorities. Some have lost their faith by associating with very worldly people thinking, “I will change them.” However, it is often the child of God who is changed, and usually for the worse. Paul prefaces his “evil companions” warning of 1 Corinthians 15:33 with “Do not be deceived.” It is easy for us to deceive ourselves and think that others cannot corrupt us.
Good friends can greatly strengthen us. Proverbs 27:17 teaches that good friends can improve one another as iron sharpening iron. We should choose our closest friends from the children of God. They understand the trials that we face, the importance of service to God, and the principles that guide our lives. By our mutual associations, we can encourage one another to do what is right, Hebrews 10:24-25.