RIGHT THINKING – Philippians 4:8

Bible, Bible sermon, Joy, Peace of mind, Philippians, Uncategorized

INTRODUCTION:

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?

CONCLUSION:

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!”

PRESSING ON – Philippians 3:12-16

Bible sermon, Bible sermons, Circumstances, discipline, dissatisfied with life?, encouragement, God, happiness, heaven, Hopelessness of life?, Joy, Peace of mind, Philippians, religion, Stressed?, Uncategorized

INTRODUCTION;

Most of us have probably read biographies – books that tell the story of another person’s life. Maybe we were curious, and hoped to discover what made that person great. In Philippians, chapter 3, the apostle Paul is giving us his own spiritual biography. In verses 1-11 Paul tells us about his past. Here, in verses 12-16, Paul describes his present spiritual journey. He compares it to a race, and he gives us the essentials for winning that race and one day receiving the reward that the Lord Jesus Christ has promised.

I. DISSATISFACTION (verse 12)

The first essential for winning the race is dissatisfaction. In verse 12 the apostle Paul says, “not that I have already attained it, or have become perfect”. Paul is not saying here that he is dissatisfied with Jesus Christ. In verse 8 he talked about “the surpassing value of knowing Christ”. But Paul is dissatisfied with his Christian life. Self-satisfaction is the death of progress. Dissatisfaction with past accomplishments is the mother of invention. Because man was dissatisfied with carrying and lifting loads on his shoulders, he invented the wheel and the lever. Because he was dissatisfied with walking, he invented vehicles to ride in. Many Christians are self-satisfied with their Christian lives because they compare their spiritual progress with that of other Christians, usually with those Christians who are not making as much progress as themselves. But Paul did not compare himself with others. He compared himself with himself and with Jesus Christ! In verse 12 Paul says that he had not arrived at perfection. One mark of spiritual maturity is realizing that we aren’t perfect. The process of becoming like the Lord Jesus Christ is much like riding a bicycle: either you keep moving forward, or you fall down!

II. DEVOTION (verse 13a)

The second essential for winning the race and receiving the prize is devotion. Paul says in verse 13, “but one thing I do”. “One thing” is a phrase that is very important in our Christian lives. “One thing you lack”, said Jesus to the rich young ruler. “One thing is needful”, He said to Martha. “One thing I know”, said the man who received his sight by the power of Jesus Christ. “One thing I have desired of the Lord” said the psalmist. Many Christians are too involved in many things, when the secret of progress in our lives is to concentrate on “one thing”. For example, the cheetah is the fastest land animal in the world. He lives on the plains of Africa, and when he’s hungry he chooses one specific animal in a herd of deer or antelope and goes after it. Ignoring others, this swift cat has been clocked at nearly 70 miles per hour in hot pursuit of its prey until he catches it.

The same kind of determination and single-mindedness has been shown by some people. One of them was a man named Howard Marvin. First, a numbness crept into his fingers. Then weakness progressed quickly through his body. Within hours he was becoming paralyzed. Howard had Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare disease that causes paralysis and sometimes causes death. He lived, but he was left totally paralyzed. Recalling Howard’s attitude of mind in those months that followed, his son said, “Dad’s one goal was to survive”. When he was told that his best friend had died, he accepted it and put it out of his mind.” He cared very deeply about his friend, but he refused to use up any energy in grieving because he needed every ounce of strength just to get well. Howard Marvin is walking again. Did God do it? Howard would be quick to say “yes”. But without a single-minded, dogged determination, he might still be helpless.

The prize of becoming like the Lord Jesus Christ takes that same kind of devotion. Becoming like Christ is the one thing worth giving up everything else for.

III. FORGETTING THE PAST (verse 13b)

The third essential for running the race and receiving the prize is “forgetting the past”. In verse 13, the apostle Paul says, “forgetting what lies behind”. Sometimes Satan will remind us of our past sins, trying to convince us of our unworthiness to serve Christ. When you are under attack, it’s a good idea to thumb through your Bible and notice the many people who were failures, but who went on to do great things for God. Would the apostle Peter have preached that wonderful sermon on the day of Pentecost, when 3000 people responded to Christ, if Peter was continuing to dwell on his denial of Christ and refused to believe that all had been forgiven and forgotten? Would the apostle Paul have founded churches, written epistles, and traveled across the country if he had allowed the memories of his persecution of Christians to make him feel guilty and discouraged?

When we confess our sins, they are forgiven and God will never mention them again. The choice is ours. We can either brood over our past or “reach forward to what lies ahead”. We can’t change the past, but we can trust in God’s forgiveness and live for the future. The words “reaching forward” picture a runner leaning forward to touch the tape first and win the race. If you watched the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, you saw that happen many times.

IV. DETERMINATION (verse 13b)

The fourth essential for running the race and receiving the prize is “determination”. The apostle Paul says in verse 14, “I press on toward the goal”. The point that Paul is trying to make is that we are not to give up, in spite of obstacles that may cross our paths. The Christian life is like a steeple chase, which is a long foot race that has many hurdles to jump over and many large puddles of water to slosh through. You may have watched that race during the Summer Olympics. Many of the racers fall at least once, but they immediately get up and continue running in spite of the aches and pains because they are determined to run the race to its completion.

A man by the name of Johnson Oatman wrote a song about this verse of Scripture. The first stanza of his song goes like this: “I’m pressing on the upward way, New heights I’m gaining ev’ry day; Still praying as I onward bound, ‘Lord, plant my feet on higher ground’.”

The famous preacher Charles Simeon said that whenever he looked at the portrait of Henry Martyn, these words came to his mind: “Don’t trifle … don’t trifle!” In other words, “Don’t waste your time on unimportant or trivial things”. Martyn had graduated from Cambridge University with honors in both mathematics and the classics, and had the makings of a brilliant career. But he chose to serve the Lord in India. He was almost 25 when he arrived there, and at the age of 31 he died. Yet in those six years he translated the New Testament into three languages – Hindustani, Arabic, and Persian. Only eternity will reveal how much his work meant to other missionaries, and how many people were saved because of it. It is said that Martyn’s picture still hangs in a hall at Cambridge where students go to pray, and that his penetrating gaze still seems to say, “Don’t trifle … don’t trifle!”

V. DISCIPLINE (verses 15 and 16)

The fifth and last essential Paul gives for running the Christian race is “discipline”. This means remembering and obeying the spiritual rules given in the Word of God. It is not enough to run hard and win the race. The runner must also obey the rules. In the Greek Olympic games, the judges were strict about this. Breaking any of the rules disqualified the athlete. He did not lose his citizenship (though he disgraced it), but he did lose his privilege to participate and win a prize.

One of the greatest athletes ever to come out of the Unites States was Jim Thorpe. At the 1912 Olympic games in Stockholm, Sweden, he won the pentathlon and the decathlon, and undoubtedly was the hero of the games. But the next year officials found that Thorpe had played semiprofessional baseball, and therefore had forfeited his amateur standing. This meant that he had to return his gold medals and his trophy, and that his Olympic achievements were erased from the record books. It was a high price to pay for breaking the rules.

One day each Christian will stand before the judgment seat of Christ. The Greek word for “judgment seat” is “bema”, the very same word used to describe the place where the Olympic judges gave out the prizes! If we have disciplined ourselves to obey the rules and to follow the example of Christ, we will receive our rewards.

Let’s run our race with joy, just as our Lord Jesus ran His race during His life on earth. Hebrews 12:1-3 says, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart.”