We have been growing with Christ in our dependence, knowledge, commitment, prayers, fellowship, sacrifice, involvement, character, walk, conversation, and sharing. In all these ways we must have the proper attitude. Unless we grow in attitude, our growth may produce lots of leaves but no fruit. "Finally, brethren," Paul said, "whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things" (Philippians 4:8). In this lesson we will experience the virtue and praise of thinking on these things.
As scarce as truth is, the supply always seems to exceed the demand. Winston Churchill complained, "Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened."
Mental floss prevents truth decay. Ben Franklin observed, "One of the tragedies of life is the murder of a beautiful theory by a gang of brutal facts."
The Hebrew word for truth is ameth, a word which is spelled with three letters: aleph the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet, min the middle letter, and tau the last letter. From A to Z, truth embraces all of reality. From beginning to end, whatever is true deserves our attention and respect. The first question we must ask of any proposition is not is it modern, or workable, but is it true? Let the philosophers and Pontius Pilate quibble over the definition of truth (John 18:38). Christians know him who is the Truth (John 14:6), and respect all truths as part of his creation (John 1:3).
All truth is worthy of our attention, but not all truth comes in the same size. Stretch your mind with big truths (e.g. creation, and redemption, life and death, heaven and hell) instead of shrinking it with small truths (e.g. daily frets and worries). One of the great values of Bible reading, prayer, and worship is that it puts you in touch with bigger truths which helps you to sort out and make sense of the smaller truths of everyday life. It connects you with the timeless traditions of the Christian faith. C. S. Lewis writes, "All that is not eternal is eternally out of date." When your mind grasps that which is true, it grasps that which is eternal.
Whatever is true think about it!
Secondly, give your mind to thinking about honest things, or as most other versions have it, noble things. Nobility is in even shorter supply in our modern world than truth. It sounds quaintly old-fashioned, even Victorian. The expression, "noble effort," has overtones of frustration and failure. Where are noble things to be found? P. T. Barnum said, "No man ever went broke underestimating the public taste." As one who made his fortune with "freak shows," he knew what he was talking about. Motivated by public demand, the entertainment industry continues to produce very little that ennobles its consumers. Cheap thrills are vastly more popular than precious thoughts.
An old poem of unknown authorship expresses our wistful longing for nobility.
True nobility is a divine gift. It is not conferred by the King of England, but by the King of kings. It is inherited by new birth from our Heavenly Father. Our pride is not in the "blue blood" of our human ancestry, but in the red blood of Christ our Redeemer.
You can't control the length of your life, but you can control its height, width and depth.
Whatever is noble think about it!
Thirdly, set your mind to thinking about just things, or as many other versions translate it, right things. The supply of truth may exceed the demand for it, but when it comes to rights and justice, the demands exceed the supply.
An old legend tells about a robber in Cairo who, climbing out of a window, fell and broke his leg. He complained to the Cadi, and demanded justice from the owner because the window casement was defective. The Cadi sent for the owner, who laid the blame on the carpenter. The Cadi sent for the carpenter, who laid the blame on the mason. The mason blamed a pretty girl, who in passing attracted his eye by the pretty gown she wore. The girl blamed the dyer who dyed the gown. The dyer had no excuse to offer, and the Cadi sentenced him to be hanged in his own doorway. Everyone was satisfied, but the executioner came back and said he could not hang the dyer because the door was too low. "Then," said the Cadi, "go, get a short dyer and hang him. We must have justice, though the heavens fall."
The demand for justice exceeds its supply. Our age cries out for rights: civil rights, women's rights, children's rights even animal rights. The trouble is many who stand up vigorously for their rights fall down miserably on their duties.
Jesus moved his disciples to do justice before he moved them to demand it. In the Sermon on the Mount he did not say, "Do your duty," but "Do what is not your duty" (Matthew. 5:38-42). It is not your duty to go the second mile and turn the other cheek, but Jesus told his disciples to go beyond the bare requirements of simple justice. You may do more than your duty, but you should never do less.
Let us cry, "Let justice roll down like waters" (Amos 5:24), but also realize we are the irrigation system. We do that best not by demanding justice for ourselves, but for those who are weak and helpless. To the question, "When will there be justice in Athens," Socrates answered, "When those who are not injured are as indignant as those who are."
Whatever is just think about it!
Fourthly, set your mind to thinking about things that are pure. Paul told Titus, "Everything is pure to those who are themselves pure; but nothing is pure to those who are defiled and unbelieving, for their minds have been defiled" (Titus 1:15). A Christian girl complained that her boyfriend knew lots of dirty songs. "Does he sing them to you?" her friend asked.
"No, but he whistles them!"
Air pollution, water pollution, and noise pollution are threats to your physical environment. Heart pollution is a threat to your spiritual environment (Matthew 5:8; Titus 1:15). Pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy and sloth the so-called seven deadly sins are toxic substances which contaminate your heart and blind you to the presence of God.
Whatever is pure think about it!
Fifthly, set your mind to thinking about things that are lovely. As Solomon's affection was focused on one who was "altogether lovely" (Song of Solomon 5:16), so the Christian's attention is fixed on Christ. Human love is blind, friendship tries not to notice, but agape finds its fulfillment in the loveliness of the Savior.
We become what we love. If we love what is truly lovely, we become lovely; if we love what is shabby, we become shabby.
Whatever is lovely think about it!
Sixthly, set your mind to thinking about things that are of good report, or as other versions translate it, honorable things. We are all familiar with the "honor system." In many schools it is an educational plan in which the teacher has the honor and the students have the system. It has been that way since the beginning. Adam and Eve were put on their honor in the Garden of Eden. God had the honor; they had the system.
But the Bible which opens with the stain of dishonor in Genesis closes with a concert of praise to the honor of God. In the last book of the Bible, the beautiful and mysterious, Revelation, the four living creatures sing "Glory, honor, and thanks be to him who sits on the throne" (Rev. 4:9-11). Then a hundred million angels lift up their voices singing, "The Lamb who was slain is worthy to receive power, wealth, wisdom, honor, glory and praise" (Rev. 5:11-13). Then, finally, and all the redeemed sing, "Praise, glory, wisdom, thanks, honor, power and might belong to our God forever and ever" (Rev. 7:9-12).
Despite inflation, a penny for most people's thoughts is still a fair price. A lot of stuff that passes for food for thought is nothing but the baloney of propaganda.
We are not always what we think we are, but what we think, we are! "The soul is dyed the color of its leisure thoughts," so states the slogan written in living color in a flower bed at the entrance of St. Paul's Cathedral in London.
Grow in your attitudes. "Whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
You can choose to dwell in the heights or the depths. Your altitude is in your attitude.
"And so we shall all come together to that oneness of our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ's full stature. Then we shall no longer be children, carried by the waves and blown about by every shifting wind of the teachings of deceitful men, who lead others into error by the tricks they invent. Instead, by speaking the truth in a spirit of love, we shall grow up in every way to Christ" (Ephesians 4:13-16).
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