Pastor Randy’s Top 66 – Philippians
I just read through the entire Letter to the Philippians (it didn’t take that long!), and once again I found myself in the same dilemma that I’ve found myself in numerous other times as I’ve written about favorite verses from each Book of the Bible: there were about fifty verses I wanted to write about! Verses about being confident that the Lord will finish the work He started in us; verses about the divine nature of Christ our Creator; verses about the humility of Christ that we should emulate by esteeming others greater than ourselves; verses that reminded us that to live is Christ and to die is gain; verses about forgetting or resolving what is behind and pressing forward in Christ; verses about our citizenship being in Heaven; rejoicing always; not to be anxious, but bring our requests and concerns to the Lord in prayer; and on and on and on. There is amazing and comforting truth in this short Letter written by the apostle Paul to the saints in Philippi.
So, I did eventually boil it all down to just two verses – two wonderful verses that I have shared a million times with people – two rich verses that I have personally applied to my own life, and especially in the counseling office when I’ve sat with saints who were struggling. Again, those verses are Philippians 4:8-9 –
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. Whatever you have learned or
received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice.
And the God of peace will be with you.
Back in 1962, a psychologist named Albert Ellis wrote a book entitled “Reason and Emotion In Psychotherapy”, and in this book Ellis outlined and described his theory – his rationale to mental health – to be centered on a person’s personal beliefs for thought life. His approach to counseling was called Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) and it was a cognitive approach to counseling in which the therapist would help the patient identify and correct the irrational beliefs or thoughts that they were telling themselves.
It took the world until 1962 to understand what King Solomon said three thousand years ago in Proverbs 23:7 (depending on your translation): “As a man thinks in his heart, so he is.” We are what we think we are. Or we feel or behave based on what we are thinking about a situation or ourselves.
If I asked you, without any preparation or notice, to stand before the church and define for the congregation the doctrine of justification by faith alone, how do you think you feel? I’m going to guess that you would feel somewhat anxious. Your palms and forehead would begin to perspire; your heart would be racing; you might be a bit shaky and wobbly in your legs; you may stutter some, stumble over your words, or break out into tears.
Now, why would you react in this manner? Probably because you were ‘telling yourself’ a number of things that weren’t true, or if they were true, you were making them into much bigger problems than they were. You might say to yourself as you walked forward, “Why me? Why did he call on me? I’m not prepared. I don’t know what to say. What if I start to stumble with my words; or say the wrong thing; or make a fool out of myself? Then the church will laugh at me and I will lose all of their respect. This is the WORST thing that ever happened to me!” And guess what is going to happen? Many of those may come true because you talked yourself into them! But the truth is, if you stumbled in your words, no one would probably care. If you said something theologically incorrect, most of the congregation wouldn’t even catch it, and Pastor Randy would graciously help you understand it better.
It would all boil down to what you were telling yourself about yourself and your situation. It was all centered on your ‘thoughts’, which are often based on your deeper belief system about yourself and other issues of life.
So, Ellis with his cognitive therapy would help the patient identify those areas of negative or faulty thinking, and help reprogram (no, I’m not talking about cultist brainwashing) the way you think based on the truth. In the Christian realm this kind of therapy is often just called ‘cognitive therapy’ or as it is stated in one of the BEST BOOKS ever written on this subject by a Christian, ‘misbelief therapy’. The book I’m talking about is “Telling Yourself the Truth” by William Backus and Marie Chapman. Get it….it will change your life.
So, back to Philippians 4:8-9 – the Book or Letter to the Philippians was written by Paul when he was incarcerated in Rome, and is often called the Book of Joy, because of the deep inner joy or contentment that Paul speaks about throughout the Letter, which comes from trusting Christ in all things pertaining to life. In this fourth chapter Paul is covering a number of important issues with short pithy admonishments to the church, but as he is winding down his Letter he comes to these two verses, which Paul puts great emphasis on.
Paul is encouraging the Christians, despite any persecution they may face; despite the conflicts they might run into from the pagan government or false teachers, Paul wants them to make sure that they know that they are not only secure in their relationship in Christ (Philippians 1:6), but that they need to be careful what it is that they are thinking about. The world, the devil, and our own carnal mind will tend to tell us what isn’t good, or lead us to be thinking negatively about ourselves and our situation. So, when you’re in a tough spot, or when you find that your thoughts are spiraling downward into negativity and lies about who you are; who you are in Christ; and whether or not the Lord has forgiven you of your past, then you need to do what this verse tells us to do, or better put, what to think about, since your thoughts are behind your feelings, attitudes, beliefs, and behavior:
- Whatever is true:we need to be telling ourselves the TRUTH about who we are in Christ. This is why we need to read, meditate on, study, and memorize scripture. We need to hide the truth of God’s Word in our hearts, so that we will not only not sin, but so we can tell ourselves, the world, and the devil the TRUTH. “I am fearfully and wonderfully made”, “I am the righteousness of Christ”, “I am holy and pure in His sight”, “I am chosen by God; a royal priesthood, God’s special possession”; “I am a son/daughter of the King of kings”, “No weapon formed against me will prosper”, “My name is not only written in the Book of Life, but it is eternally tattooed in the palm of the Lord’s hand”, and on and on and on. TELL. YOURSELF. THE. TRUTH.
- Whatever is noble (or honorable): this speaks of the Christians quest to not dwell on whatever is trivial, temporal, mundane, common, and earthly – and I emphasize DWELL ON – but rather on what is heavenly, and worthy of awe.
- Whatever is right: this one is sort of obvious. ‘Right’ refers to thinking about those things that are righteous – thinking God’s thoughts about His perfect standards, and what is correct, as opposed to what is wrong, deceptive, or against God’s law.
- Whatever is pure: think about what is morally pure and clean, as opposed to the ugly and profane that the world concentrates on all the time.
- Whatever is lovely: this speaks of thinking about whatever is sweet, gracious, kind, and generous. Quite the opposite of the world’s mindset.
- Whatever is admirable: this speaks of the Christian thinking the best of people, while still being careful of not being taken advantage of.
- Anything excellent or praiseworthy: excellent would point our thoughts to the lofty ideas that are inspired by God’s truth and Word; and praiseworthy would concern itself with thoughts that bring glory to the Lord.
And with this list of ‘good things’ we are to THINK ON, there’s your rational-emotive therapy for you! Tell yourself the TRUTH!
Whether Paul specifically used these words as a rule of practice or not, the point is obvious: we are NOT to be dwelling on things in our thought life that are negative, wrong, evil, insulting, degrading, man glorifying, dishonest, and hurtful. Think this way and you will feel that way. Think and feel that way, then you will more than likely act that way. But as 1 Corinthians 2:16 reminds the Christian, “We have the mind of Christ”, so let’s start thinking that way.
Paul goes on in verse nine to say that whatever the saints at this church have learned from him or from other anointed teachers; whatever they have received in apostolic Letters or encouraging words on the Word; and any other things they have learned from Paul or have seen him do, then they are to put them into practice. They are to ‘think’ on these things and be more than just ‘thinkers’ – they need to be doers also. And what will happen if they think correctly – in a godly manner, based on God’s Word and the Spirit of Christ within them? Paul ends this section by promising that the God of peace will be with them! Now that’s a great promise!!
So, if you’re feeling down in the dumps; or if you are feeling exceptionally anxious; or if you’ve been kicking yourself around harder than you should; or if you are feeling rather insecure about yourself and your abilities – STOP and THINK about what you are TELLING yourself. I’m pretty confident that you are telling yourself lies, and if that’s the case, then start telling yourself the truth about who you are in Christ; what Christ has done for you; what Christ has done in you; and rehearse continually in your mind the promises of God that He has made to you in His Word. “…..think on these things!”