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Series: Masterpiece in Progress
Title: “Right Thoughts Lead to Real Transformation”
Three weeks ago, we kicked off our series Masterpiece in Progress. For the last two weeks we’ve focused on “Whatever is noble.” In Phil. 4:8 Paul lays out a list of godly characteristics that he wants us to follow. This morning we are moving on to Paul’s first challenge. He tells us to think about “Whatever is true.”
Paul says in Phil. 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Anxiety comes from thoughts that are in direct opposition to the trust we should have in Christ. In verse 7 we are told that the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds when we pray rather than fear. Notice how we achieve that peace and how we overcome our anxiety—don’t miss this. How is this peace accomplished?
Verse 8 tells us: “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.”
Right thoughts lead to real transformation. For us to overcome the challenges we face in life, for us to understand life, our every thought needs to start with God’s truth; His Word needs to be our foundation.
In 2 Cor. 10:5 Paul writes, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
For Paul this was a spiritual war for the mind. What he’s saying is: wrong teaching leads to wrong thinking, which leads to disobedience to Christ, which in turn leads to a fearful, stressful, anxious life. Having a true knowledge of God leads to right thinking, which leads to obedience to Christ, which in turn leads to positive choices and a blessed life. The Bible is clear that we need to discipline our minds, or our thoughts will lead us to ruin. Our country is in chaos right now because people’s opinions, perspectives, ideas, desires, feelings and agendas dominate our public debates. People’s loyalties, convictions, and truth are only as strong as the next news cycle.
We live in a double-minded culture whose opinions and perspectives change like a rowboat in a windstorm. But when your truth is your truth because you believe it, and my truth is my truth because I believe it, that’s what you’re left with. Ravi Zacharias put it this way, “We have a culture whose feet are firmly planted in midair.” He used this analogy, “It’s like being in a stopped car when all of a sudden you feel like you’re moving. You’re not sure if it’s you that’s moving or the truck next to you. So, your brain quickly finds a fixed point of reference, a tree or building. For the believer the Bible is our reference point. It is fixed, unchanging truth by which everything else in life can be measured.”
Psalm 119:160 says, “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.”
Using Ravi’s analogy, in the world today people look out the window of the car for a reference point, but everything is moving—the tree, the building, the ground. Paul tells us that we need to be intentional about focusing our minds. Our thoughts need to be fixed on those things that reflect the nature of God. He tells us, “Think about such things.” Over the next few weeks I want to look at some general principles that are contained in this verse that will lead us closer to Christ.
Principle # 1 – We need to stand against any thought or idea that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.
In other words, stand against what’s not true.
Paul’s use of the word true here in Phil. 4 can be applied in many different ways. Let me share a few.
Something can be true instead of false.
The idea that your truth is your truth because you believe it is utter nonsense and completely irrational and illogical in the real word. A truth’s opposite cannot also be true. A truth’s opposite is false, or the word truth has no meaning. If truth is relative, stop telling students in school that their answer to the question on the test is wrong. Or better yet, stop giving tests with true-or-false questions. Listen, I can believe that if I jump off the Sears Tower in Chicago I’ll fly, but if I try it, I’ll soon discover that actual truth needs to reflect reality, not my opinion or belief.
Something can be true instead of crooked.
I remember my dad asking my brother during a construction job, “Is the wall true?” Meaning, is that wall straight, is it level?
Something can be true instead of erratic or fickle. Like when we say, “They are a true friend.”
Paul wants us to spend our time thinking about the things that are accurate, genuine, and reliable. Instead, many professing believers feel comfortable living in a crooked house, looking out a widow at a landscape that is constantly moving. I find it fascinating how Christians are confused by the most basic truths about God’s view of life, about sexuality, about identity, about justice, about love. I hear Christians quoting the latest cultural slogan, or politically correct phrase, but seldom quoting scripture to back up their view on a given social issue. Paul wants us to think about those things that best reflect the nature of God. But to get our minds focused on what is true, we need to do at least three things. And I’ll tell you what they are…next week.
Pastor Jeff Greer