Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinks within himself, so is he.” Our thoughts are the clearest test of our character. When compared with our actions and our speech, our thoughts are the hardest things to control. Evil thoughts, impure desires and temptations are constantly knocking at the door of our minds. We cannot always avoid them or shut them out, but we can keep from entertaining them and making them feel at home. The best way to keep evil thoughts out, is to bring good thoughts into our minds. What you and I read, look at, and listen to, will to a great extent determine our thoughts and our outlook.
The best way to keep evil ideas and worry out of our minds is to concentrate on things that are good and pure and beautiful. The mind is not a blank slate, and is never totally at rest. Also, our thoughts are real and powerful, even though our thoughts cannot be seen, weighed, or measured. In verse 8 the apostle Paul tells us in detail what things we ought to think about as Christians. He gives us eight things to dwell upon.
I. “WHATEVER IS TRUE”
Dr. Walter Cavert reported a survey on worry that indicated that only 8 percent of the things people worried about were true concerns. The other 92 percent were either imaginary, never happened, or involved things that the people had no control over. In John 8:44 Jesus said that Satan “is a liar and the father of lies”. Whenever we choose to believe an obvious lie, Satan takes over. The word “true” means “real” instead of phony. It can also mean “unconcealed” or “undeniably true”. Two opposite examples of this kind of thinking are found in the New Testament. Barnabas determined to sell his property and donate the money to the church in Jerusalem. He responded to the leading of the Holy Spirit and did it. Ananias, on the other hand, had thoughts of personal glory. He said publicly that he would give all the money from the sale of a piece of property to the church at Jerusalem; but then he only gave a portion of the money, kept the rest, and lied about it. This attitude, and the actions that resulted, cost him and his wife their lives. You can read about this in Acts chapter 5.
II. “WHATEVER IS HONORABLE”
The word means whatever is “worthy of respect” and “serious”, rather than trivial and unimportant things. For example, while Moses was on the mountain, alone with God, and receiving God’s Law for his people, his brother Aaron was down in the valley having a party with the people of Israel, and they worshiping a golden calf. Later Aaron was ashamed. God wants us to fill our minds with things that are serious and noble, rather than things that are of little or no value.
The apostle Paul also uses this word when speaking to the deacons and elders of the church in I Timothy 3. He tells them to be honest and straightforward, not being gossipers nor slanderers. Paul is saying, “If it’s not true, don’t let it enter your mind.”
III. “WHATEVER IS JUST”
The apostle Paul is talking about focusing our thoughts on what is right rather than on what’s comfortable or what’s convenient. For example, Joseph of Arimathea was a just man, concerned about doing the right thing. He risked his life when he went and asked for the dead body of Jesus. Taking the body of Jesus and burying Jesus in his own tomb was no easy task, and Joseph became an enemy of the Jews for doing it. But it was the right thing to do and he did it. Pontius Pilate, on the other hand, tried to avoid the decision he was faced with, and he tried every trick in the book. But Jesus was still standing before him on trial for His life. Pilate knew what was right, and he knew what would happen if he did it. He chose what was convenient, washed his hands of the matter, and let the Jews put Jesus to death. Pilate went to his grave responsible for his thoughts and his actions. The word “just” here means “just in the eyes of God”, not merely in the eyes of men.
IV. “WHATEVER IS PURE”
This probably refers to moral purity. There will always be temptations to sexual impurity. There is so much in our world today that gets our minds focused on things that are immoral. In the Old Testament scriptures David and Uriah are good examples of these two opposite thought patterns. King David sent his men to war and went to bed himself. He saw his neighbor’s wife and went to bed with her while her husband was fighting the enemy. He got the woman pregnant and called the husband home on a phony excuse hoping he would go to bed with his wife, but his plan failed. David then got him drunk but he still wouldn’t go home to his wife. So he sent Uriah back to the battlefield with instructions that he be killed. All of this was the result of David’s dirty mind. Uriah, on the other hand, was pure and blameless. He couldn’t go home to his wife for even one night when the soldiers under his leadership were risking their lives on the battlefield. Even when David got him drunk, Uriah had more moral stability than David did when he was sober.
What do you do when impure thoughts and desires start to enter your mind? Do you open the door and invite them in, or do you shut the door and move away from them? God wants our minds to be uncontaminated by sin and always prepared to worship Him.
V. “WHATEVER IS LOVELY”
It means to think about things that promote brotherly love rather than conflict and disharmony. Many things happen to bring misunderstanding and conflict, and often these things happen because they are made to happen by people who want them to happen. They are miserable people, and they want to make other people miserable too. For example, Demetrius, the silversmith in Acts 19, was trying to stir up trouble for the apostle Paul and cause a riot at Ephesus, but the town clerk, whose name we don’t know (so we’ll call him “anonymous”), calmed the crowd. What are you – a Demetrius or an “anonymous”? Do your thoughts focus on peace with others or conflict?
VI “WHATEVER IS OF GOOD REPUTE”
We get the word “euphemism” for this Greek work. It refers to what is praiseworthy, highly regarded, and of good reputation. The word is used to describe Cornelius in Acts 10:22. He was “well spoken of” by the entire nation of the Jews. Are we focusing on the good things we see in others, or do we dwell on their faults and shortcomings?
The following is a powerful lesson learned about negative thinking. In 1892, John Hyde boarded a ship in New York harbor and set out for India. His goal was to proclaim the gospel to people who had not heard about Jesus. During the next 20 years he earned the nickname “praying Hyde” because he often spend hours and even many days in prayer for the salvation of nonbelievers and the renewal of Christ’s followers. On one occasion, Hyde was upset about the spiritual coldness of a pastor, so he began to pray, “O Father, you know how cold -” But it was as if a finger stopped his lips from uttering the man’s name. Hyde was horrified when he realized that he had judged the man harshly. He confessed his critical spirit and then determined not to focus on the shortcomings of others but to see them as individuals whom God loves. Let’s not be faultfinders in our thoughts, words, and prayers.
VII. “IF THERE IS ANY EXCELLENCE“
The word means “helpful”, not critical. It also means “goodness” and “uprightness”. When Nehemiah and Ezra were trying to rebuild Jerusalem, Tobiah and Sanballat found fault with everything that was done. In contrast, in Mark 5, when Jesus healed the demon possessed person, this man went through ten cities giving a helpful message to all who would listen, and great blessing resulted. What a wonderful demonstration of his joy and appreciation!
VIII. “IF THERE IS ANYTHING “WORTHY OF PRAISE”
This means thinking about the positive side rather than the negative side of a situation. When the twelve spies were sent out to look over the promised land and give their report, Joshua and Caleb gave a positive report and believed that God would give them the victory. The other ten spies saw some large problems and wanted to forget the whole thing. They disobeyed God’s command to conquer the land which He had already given to them. The result was that God allowed only Joshua and Caleb, from their generation, to enter the promised land.
As a thought enters your mind, ask yourself the question: “Would God praise me for that thought?” Then ask yourself: ” Do I want my thoughts to be worthy of His praise?
These eight categories of thought can be found in their clearest form in the Bible , the Word of God, and also in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ as He is described in God’s Word. The apostle Paul says, “consider these things” – memorize them, meditate on them, let your mind be constantly occupied with them. Remember, we are in a battle against the ways of the world, the lusts of the flesh, and the temptations of Satan, and that battle is won or lost in our minds. We give in first in our minds. We sin first in our minds. As II Corinthians 10:5 says, “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Enjoy the victory as you fill your mind with the things God desires, and leave no room for the things He forbids. “Good thinking, my friends!”