This article offers an interpretation of Philippians 4:8, which calls us to have godly thoughts.

Source: Clarion, 2008. 2 pages.

Philippians 4:8 – What Are You Thinking About?

Finally, brothers, 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.

Philippians 4:8

Imagine someone were to keep a record of the thoughts that go through your mind. Let’s say that had happened for this past week. What patterns would emerge? What things did you think about?

These are important questions, because in order to experience God’s peace in our lives we need to exclude certain things from our thinking and we need to contemplate other things instead. So what are we supposed to think about? In our text, Paul says we’re to think about whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.

Let’s unpack this for a minute. When God tells us to think about what is true, that means firstly that He wants us to focus our attention on his Word. And we know from John 14:6 that Christ is the embodiment of the truth. He is the final and complete revelation from God, from whom and through whom we can know the truth. So our Father wants us to fill our minds with his Word and with a knowledge of his Son.

When we’re told to think about whatever is noble, this is a word that’s often used of a person who is of good character, honourable, and respectable. For example, it’s a word that’s used of elders and deacons. When we’re called to think about whatever is right, God is telling us to focus our attention on those things that are just, on those things that are in accordance with his laws and his character.

And then the apostle calls us to think about whatever is pure, lovely, and admirable. The word for purity speaks of what is holy, innocent, and chaste. The word for lovely refers to what is pleasing and the word for admirable describes what is worthy of praise. In a similar way, we’re called to think about those things that are excellent and praiseworthy. This refers to moral excellence and to the redemptive acts and power of God, for God’s works in creation and redemption are incredibly beautiful.

The point of this passage is that we focus our attention on those things that reflect God’s character and on those things that come from Him. God wants us to fill our minds with the truth and to contemplate those things that are right. He wants us to give time in our thinking to considering people who are honourable and things that are pure and pleasing. He wants us to reflect on what He teaches us is good and on his redemptive acts and power. He wants us to ponder whatever is lovely and pleasing.

Now if I’m not mistaken, we don’t naturally do this. We often give a lot of air time in our minds to sinful thoughts. Sometimes we mentally rehash how people have hurt us. We brood over how to get rich, or we pursue lustful thoughts, or we proudly turn over in our minds how good we are at something. This isn’t the way to live, because if we give these evil thoughts a place, we become corrupt – and eventually our minds will become sewers of evil thoughts.

So let’s say you are convicted to think about only what is good and right. Do you think you’ll be able to accomplish that? The Bible says you won’t be able to do that by your own strength. We’re evil by nature and our thoughts are depraved. But the good news is that Jesus Christ works this repentance and this change of thinking in his people (Acts 5:31). Christ renews our thinking so that we learn to fill our minds with the beautiful things that are from God.

Asking God to change your thinking is an important matter to pray about, because those who fill their minds with the Lord – who He is, what He has done, and the things that are true, just, pure, admirable, and beautiful – are blessed with a deep sense of his peace.

That’s the promise of this text. In the next verse, after calling the Philippians to put these things into practice, Paul says, “And the God of peace will be with you” (v 9). By turning our minds to the beautiful things of the Lord, Christ grants a real presence of peace within us. We receive freedom from guilt and shame, contentment in life, and an incredible joy in the Lord and his work. So let me ask you: What will you be thinking about in this coming week?

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