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Phil. 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, 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.”
Last week we started looking at Paul’s challenge to think about “whatever is true.” Paul tells us that we need to be intentional about focusing our minds. He says our thoughts need to be fixed on those things that reflect the character of God. So, we started to look at some general principles that are contained in this verse that will lead us closer to Christ.
In Principle # 1 we said, “We need to stand against any thought or idea that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.” In other words, we must stand against what’s not true.
We said, Paul’s use of the word true here in Phil. 4 can be applied in many different ways:
Something can be true instead of false.
Something can be true instead of erratic or fickle—like when we say, “She is a true friend.”
Something can be true instead of crooked. I used the example of my dad asking my brother Mark during a construction job, “Is the wall true?” He meant, is that wall straight, is it level?
Paul wants us to spend our time thinking about the things that are accurate, genuine, and reliable. The problem is we live in a culture that, as Ravi Zacharias puts it, “has its feet firmly planted in mid-air.” The question is, where are our feet planted? To get our minds focused on what is true, we need to do at least three things.
First, we need to be aware that we are being influenced by ideas and opinions that are in opposition to God’s truth. We must learn to critically evaluate what we see and hear.
Let’s say your favorite actor or band member, or teacher believes that abortion is right. You’re such a big fan. So, where do you stand?
Psalm 139:13-16 says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be”.
Jeremiah 1:5 reminds us, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.”
President Trump thinks ____________, and you’re a Republican. Former President Obama believes _____________, and you’re a Democrat. Do you follow their lead? Do you side with their opinion? The only question that matters is, what does Jesus say, what does His Word teach? We need to ask ourselves: do I filter every philosophy, every idea, every opinion, every perspective, and every news story through God’s word? If you don’t, congratulations; you’re on your way to having your feet firmly planted in midair.
As a follower of Christ ask yourself, “What are they trying to get me to believe?” When you watch the news or read, ask yourself, “Is there more to this story?” Always try to find the other side, or what’s missing, because it usually gives a very different perspective on the “truth.” The media news is no longer interested in the truth; they’re interested in getting you to watch, so they can make money, and/or get you to agree with their agenda.
Second, we need to be intentional about pursuing the truth. It doesn’t come naturally to our sinful nature to think godly thoughts. We have to discipline our minds.
Again, it all starts with God’s Word. God’s Word is an anchor and is not subject to the whims of public opinion or to social agendas. It’s not enough to read our Bible; we need to know our Bible. We need to meditate on God’s truth and apply His precepts and principles to our everyday lives. And we need to be diligent and intentional about pursuing God’s truth.
You all know I like to fish. So, what would happen if I was in a boat and I decided to travel upstream in the Ohio River. It would be hard, but I could make my way to Pennsylvania. Now say I stopped in Pennsylvania because I loved the view. So, I decided that I wouldn’t keep traveling upstream; I’d just lie back and float down the river and enjoy the scenery. After a while I would no longer be in Pennsylvania, or in Ohio, or in Indiana. I would have drifted into the Mississippi River! The reason is the current in the river. The current is relentless, so to avoid drifting I need to be relentless as well.
This is also true of the Christian life. There is no such thing as sitting still in your faith. If your thoughts are not moving toward Christ, they are drifting away from Him! In the same way we need to be intentional and persistent in our desire for truth. We can’t just sit back and soak in the view.
Third, we need to have the courage to stand up for the truth. We need to stand with those heroes of the past who would not be moved by political, personal, or cultural pressure.
Esther stood up for truth in a situation that could have cost her her life. She was asked by Mordecai to go to the king and plead the case of her people, which was punishable by death.
She said in Esther 4:16, “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”
John the Baptist refused to compromise God’s truth in the face of intense pressure and lost his life in the process.
In the book of Daniel some of the advisors of King Darius tricked him into signing a decree forbidding anyone from making petitions to “any god or man, except him for thirty days” (Daniel 6:6-9). The penalty for disobedience was to face a horrifying death in a den of hungry lions! Daniel refused to comply because the king’s decree went against God’s truth. So, he flagrantly violated the irrevocable law and was thrown into the lions’ den.
Joseph held on to his convictions and refused to respond to the sexual advances of Potiphar’s wife, though it could have cost his life, and it did cost his freedom.
Every one of these men and women knew that truth is not relative—it’s absolute, and we need to stand for truth regardless of the outcome; we need to stand on God’s word no matter what the cost.
Like them, we need to follow God’s challenge in Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Pastor Jeff Greer