Friday, March 15, 2013

Think on These Things

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)
Having shown how to displace worry with the peace of God, Paul now presents a list of virtues. Things for us to think about. Things that will focus us on the Lord Jesus, because all these things are found in Him and can well be said of Him.
  • Whatever is true. Facts can quickly change. What is true endures.
  • Whatever is noble. Worthy of honor, uplifting.
  • Whatever is just. Promotes what is right and worthy of community.
  • Whatever is pure. Thoroughly good, unmixed, undefiled, unsullied.
  • Whatever is lovely. Points us toward and promotes love.
  • Whatever is of good report. Well spoken, gracious and promotes the good.
Paul concludes this list with a sort of catchall: “If there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy.” This sums up the preceding list and leaves it open-ended for more besides. Excellent things that promote the good can show up in unexpected places. Look for them.

“Meditate on these things.” Literally, take account of them, reckon with them. Carefully consider and reflect on them. These are the kinds of things that should fill our thoughts.

What we fill our thoughts with is important because how we think affects how we act. So now Paul moves from theory to practice, from the kinds of things to think about to the kinds of things to do. He does not speak abstractly about what to do but offers them something very concrete: his own example. “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do.”

For years now, Paul has known them, ministered among them, partnered with them in the gospel. He was the one who brought them the good news about Jesus in the first place, and along with Silas, Timothy and Luke, discipled them in the faith. We saw earlier how he offered these, along with himself and others, as a pattern for living out their faith together in the Lord Jesus. “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern” (Philippians 3:17).

Now he reminds them again of what they have learned and received from him, how he taught them, discipled them, trained them. They took hold of all that and embraced it. There is also what they heard the reports about Paul and how he conducted himself as he ministered in other regions. And, of course, they witnessed for themselves how Paul lived when he was there with them.

He has shown them what kind of things they should pay attention to and how to translate those things into living. Now it comes down to two words: “These do.” Literally, put them into practice. Do them regularly, habitually, not as a one-off but as a way of life.

With this comes a promise: “And the God of peace will be with you.” Earlier Paul spoke of the peace of God guarding their hearts and minds. Now he speaks of the God of peace being with them. That completes the circle. But what does he mean that God will be with them? God is everywhere, of course, by the nature of His existence. And God is at work in them, not only enabling in them the desire to do the good things God wants them to, but also empowering them to do it (Philippians 2:13). But it is as they actually set about doing these good things, putting them in practice, that they will experience that desire and power of God at work in them. God will be there helping them every step of the way. And that is certainly something to rejoice about.

Focus Questions
  1. What does discipleship look like?
  2. How does what we do reflect what we think?
  3. How does this all lead to joy?

There is Always Joy!
There is Always Joy!
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Philippi
Bite-Sized Studies Through the Book of Philippians
by Jeff Doles

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