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Trusting Jesus with our Thoughts

Trusting Jesus With Our Thoughts

This sermon is about learning to evaluate what we think about based on the practical list that Paul gives in Philippians 4:8.

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This summer my family and I were in Virginia, and one the favourite things that we did there was to hunt for fossils.

The tool that we used to do this was a pasta strainer.  We would wade in the water of one of the rivers, scoop up sand from the bottom, and then sift it through the strainer.

Then we would have some rocks and other things to sort through.  And that is how we found all sorts of fossilized shark teeth and stingray plates.

Without that filter, it would have been much more difficult to sift through the sand and rocks to isolate what was of value.

In Philippians 4:8, Paul is giving us a filter for how we can sift through most anything that we will encounter in our lives.

Philippians 4:8 HCSB

Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things.

Is there something that you need to sift through today.  Stop and and think for a moment?  Is there a relationship that is difficult?  Is there a tough decision at work?  Is there some new interest that you want to ensure is worth your time and attention.

Pick something, and keep it in mind.  Because as we work through this filter of Philippians 4:8, you can apply it to that issue.

Whatever is True

Truth is reality defined.

Truth is the opposite of a lie.  We want to think about what is objectively true.

Jesus claimed to be the truth.  He didn’t just say that he could help us discern what is truth, no he said

John 14:6 HCSB

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

What would Jesus say about the issue that you are facing.  If you were to read his teachings, what would he teach about what you are going through?

What quickly becomes clear here, is that if we are to focus our thoughts on what is true, we need to learn what God says is true.  This means that we need to learn what the Bible teaches. If you are looking for where to start in your Bible, then as it relates to this message I will recommend that you start with the book of Matthew.

Matthew shows Jesus as the Great Teacher.  This means that as you read Matthew, you can consider him to be your teacher and you to be his student.  But be more than a student.  Students can pick and choose what they want to apply to their lives.  Jesus is the Great Teacher, he understands this world, our lives and our hearts better than any other.  And that is because he is God.  Therefore, in order to truly learn what he teaches, you must be committed to living out those truths.

Whatever is Honourable

Noble.  Worthy of your respect.

If something isn’t true, then it hasn’t passed through the filter, and I am going to stop thinking about it right away. Here is the next question of the filter; is this information, (situation, relationship, fact,) honourable?

HONOURABLE – Things that are worthy, things that have inherent worth.  Consider, what is the sum total of this thing or action that I am considering.  Is it deserving of honour? Is their enough value here to command my attention, where if my thoughts lingered on this, and I took it to heart, I would be better for it?

I find the honour filter very helpful when it comes to evaluating relationships with people, and how I think about others.  They might have done something to me that hurt, and so that is true.  But is that how I should think of that person, through a lens of a legitimate hurt?

No, now I apply the second filter of honour.  I want to think about others in a way that captures the worth that God has put on their life.  I don’t want to spend time considering the impact of their hurt, and letting my thoughts dwell in that pain.

It is better to think about what is honourable in the other person than what is painful.

Jesus and the Woman Caught in the Act of Adultery

Remember how Jesus would respond to the outcasts of his day?  They brought a lady to Jesus after they caught her in the act of adultery.  That was the truth, she was caught.  But Jesus saw the value and the worth in this woman.  He didn’t stop at truth, he continued on to honour.

Her accusers wanted the death sentence for her.  But Jesus wanted life for her.  He told her to “Go and sin no more.”

How do you see others?  Do you stop at truth?  I want to encourage you to continue on to honour.  What is worthy about that person?  What quality has God made them with?

Whatever is Just

Some translations say whatever is right.  The sort of justice, or rightness, that is being referred to is a honourable truth that is fair for all involved.

Thinking just thoughts will steer you away from quarrels with others.  Because you are thinking of win-win scenarios.  You are using truth, and honour, but at the same time are attempting to consider what is best for everyone involved.

How will your decision on the matter affect family, church, fellow employees, neighbours.

Thinking about whatever is just means that you are considering more than the immediate ramifications of a decision. You think through long term effects as well.

An interesting cross reference is found in Romans 1:17

Romans 1:17 HCSB

For in it God’s righteousness is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.

The “it” at the start of the sentence refers to the gospel, God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes. (Ro 1:16)

For in that Gospel is God’s righteousness.  We are to evaluate based on the sort of justice or righteousness that is found to be revealed in the gospel.

The Gospel, or Good News, is that Jesus has the power to forgive your sins and give you a eternal life in relationship with God. You must leave those sins behind, and trust in Jesus goodness over your own.

Think about things that have a Righteousness and a Justice that is according to the gospel.

This shows me that the gospel of Jesus needs to always be in the front of my mind, shaping how I see the world and the people in God’s world.

The TV show that you are watching and enjoy. Is it giving you a true view of the world?  Is it honourable? How does it describe what is right?  How does that show talk about what is just?  Put together an intelligent answer and then evaluate if its worth your time.

Whatever is Pure

Clean things. Clean thoughts, Clean words, Clean actions.  Thinking about is this wholesome.

Scripture teaches us over and over that we are to be pure.  That means pure thinking and pure living.  God’s standard is perfection.

Matthew 5:48 HCSB

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Leviticus 11:45 HCSB

For I am Yahweh, who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God, so you must be holy because I am holy.

Ephesians 1:4 HCSB

For He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love

1 Peter 1:16 HCSB

for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy.

God is Holy and God has decreed that his people will be holy.  There is great clarity throughout the scripture on this.  We, the children of God are to be Holy.

Why the focus on holiness, when the command is to think on whatever is pure?

Because the person is is pure, free from all contamination of sin, is holy to God.

The purity that is being talked about by Paul in Philippians 4 is one of our thoughts.  Do you have pure desires?  Do you have pure thoughts about other people.  Do you want to see them thrive, and prosper, and grow into the image of Christ?

This is a list about how we are to think.  IF we will commit to thinking about what is pure, how will that affect our actions?  How will pure thinking affect our appetite?

Here is what I mean by that.  I unfortunately crave Coca Cola when I am thirsty.  I know that this isn’t good.  It is much healthier for my body to crave water, that is what will be best for me when I am thirsty. But over time, I have trained myself to want the wrong thing when I am thirsty. Now I have the wrong appetite.

Our thinking greatly affects our desires and our actions. If we are consistently allowing unwholesome ideas, thinking, images or conversations to have a place in our minds, then our minds are no longer pure.

And just like how I get thirsty for coke, we will get thirsty for the wrong desires when our thinking is impure.  Just as coke will never satisfy my thirst in a good way, impure actions can never satisfy us in a holy way.

We can crave the holiness of God.  The pure life that he offers to us?

King David & Bathsheba

King David knew that he had a problem.  He had fixed his mind on another man’s wife.  He saw her bathing, he allowed that to grow into a longing and a desire, and soon it gave way to the sin of adultery.

He was called out by a prophet of God.  And David longed for that purity that he couldn’t produce on his own. He prays, and we can join in his prayer,

Psalm 51:6–7 HCSB

Surely You desire integrity in the inner self,

and You teach me wisdom deep within.

Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean;

wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

God desires integrity in your thinking, pure thinking.  God can teach you his wisdom.  God can purify your heart, and you can be clean, you can be pure.

You can be washed, not with water and soap, but with the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed for your sins and for mine.

ANd in Christ, we are called pure and righteous and holy.  God sees us through the complete righteous work of Jesus, and he calls us perfect.

So now that God can make us clean and right by his faithful loving kindness, why should we go back to putting what is impure in our thoughts again?

We shouldn’t.  Instead, we should fix our minds on whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure and

Whatever is Lovely

The meaning for this is closer to the word loveable than lovely.  What is loveable?  Things that are attractive, endearing, good, and usually make you want to smile.

Some of us are married.  Some of us are widowed.  Some of us are happily single, and some of us are still too young to date.

But, romance is an easy illustration for what is loveable about a person.  It is the things that are loveable, that make you want to know them better, that make you take an interest.

It seems to me, that the longer we know a person, the easier it becomes to look over what is loveable, and focus our thoughts on what is not lovely.

Paul is showing us that we do best when we think about what is lovely.

Are there issues in relationships that need addressed from time to time.  Sure, we all have blindspots, we all have things that aren’t perfect.  And it is possible, and good, and right to address those issues with one another using compassion and love.

But I don’t want for those issues to define how I think about a person.  When I think about you, I want to think about what is loveable.  What is honourable, what is true and what is pure.

The other important way to see this is that we would intentionally stop giving attention to things that are not lovely.  If it is base, if it is sinful and if it is going to lead us into temptation.  Then we need to name it for what it is and move on to other things that are lovely.

Whatever is Commendable

Think about things that you would have no issues recommending to somebody else.

Can you recommend the movie?

Can you recommend the person?

Can you recommend the book?

Can you recommend, you can fill in the blank here?

What are you thinking about, when you put it through that entire filter of what is true, honourable, just, pure and lovely.  At the end of it all, as someone who carries the name of Christ on their life, who identifies as Christian because you have put your entire life into God’s hands, can you recommend it?  If so, then think hard about these things. Think about what God could do with these things.  Talk with others, share what you know, because if it can make it through this filter, is surely deserving our thoughts, time and attention.

If there is any moral excellence, and if there is any praise.

This is a good summary of the previous six points. If what it is that you are thinking about can survive that filter, than it must be of moral excellence, it must be praiseworthy.  And the command is beautiful…

›    don’t read this, its for the congregation

Philippians 4:8 HCSB

Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things.

Dwell on these things.  Think about these things.

Why, because our thoughts shape us.

But this isn’t a mere thinking exercise.  While God certainly requires us to have good, wholesome and right thinking, its so much more than just knowledge and information.

Christianity is living the abundant life of Christ.  Look what Paul writes next.

Philippians 4:9 HCSB

Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

Do you hear what he is saying her?.  Read between the lines with me.

Paul has history with them.  His audience knows him, they know how he thinks, lives and relates.  And he has lived out this pattern of thinking and living with them.  Now he can say, Do what you saw me do.  Do what I taught you.  Do you what you received from me.

Paul was the real deal.  If you asked Paul what a Christian was, he would be able to say, “Follow me for a week and I’ll show you.”

There is some serious integrity there.  He is talking the talk and walking the walk.

If someone says to you, “How should a Christian live”? can you say, I follow Christ, come with me and do what I do, I’ll be your living example.

Yes, this is possible, this is good, this is right.  This is for us.  We are to shine God’s light by living God’s truth.

And the God of Peace will be with you.

In Philippians 4:6-7 we learned how to pray and not let anxiety rule over us.  The promise was that the peace of God would guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  A beautiful promise.

But what comes next is how we need to evaluate our thinking.  That makes sense, because

How can we ask God to guard our minds with his peace, if we are not willing to trust him with the way that we think?

We can trust him with our thoughts.  We need to, because we need His peace to be people of peace.  We need his peace, to be peacemakers and to be peaceful.

Will you trust God with your thoughts today? Will you use this holy pattern of evaluation for your life?

Imagine with me what it would be like to be a part of a community of people where everyone was committed to thinking this way?

Can you imagine how good relationships could be if we approached each with this generosity of thought?

Can you imagine how differently we would see this world, if this was our holy framework for thought and evaluation?

This is a picture of the Church that Jesus has bought with his life.  He died so that we could be free from the grips of sin.  He lives to help us shine his light in his world.

When we think this way, we are displaying our trust in Jesus and his Gospel.  We are showing that though we may not understand every detail, and though there are things that catch us off guard and unprepared, that we trust him with our minds and we trust him with our lives.  We are the children of God, and he is for us.

It is so Good, to trust in Jesus.

As we sing our final song, use it as a prayer.  Commit to thinking the way that God has shown us to think in his word.  And if the Holy Spirit has been doing something in your mind and in your heart, come and share that.  We have a team of people who will pray with you.  Share what God is doing, what are you being challenged with?  What steps of obedience are next for you?  Come and be prayed for, come and be encouraged.