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Jul 07, 2019

Fortified Thinking

Passage: Philippians 4:8-10

Preacher: Eric Stapleton

Series: Philippians--Roots of Joy

Keywords: bible, thoughts, process, attitudes, actions, sin, promises

Summary:

This message deals with both the WHAT of renewing our thinking that leads to changed behavior and some of the HOW.

Detail:

Philippians 4:8-9 Fortified Thinking

Philippians 4:89 (NIV84)

8 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. 9 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.

When I first read this passage and agreed to teach on it the obvious choice seemed to teach or share a message about the importance of positive thinking or maybe a message about importance of making sure the things that we put into our minds the media conversation, etc. are pure.  And those are definitely applicable messages from this passage.  However on digging into this I saw something that was a bit deeper and I would like to share that with you today.  I’m still trying to wrap my mind around it and how to apply it so I hope that you’ll join me on this. So I’m going to go theoretical for a while and then we’ll try to look at it practically. So, bear with me.

Intro Fails

Expectation vs. Reality

As some of you know, recently I have started driving for Uber and Lyft, I’m a rideshare driver.  I’m a substitute teacher during the school year and this is what I’m doing to make money during the summer.  Will school got out and so I’ve been going full-time recently and after I drop somebody off at the airport I decided to get a drink.  I stopped by Taco Bell and I got a watermelon freeze.  It looked good, it looked refreshing.  I get up to the drive-through window the guy gives me the product and he says I don’t have to pay for it.  Bonus!  And it is refreshing, it tastes good.  But as I’m driving along, all the sudden something hard goes up through the straw and I’m wondering what the heck it is.  I pull it out of my mouth and it appears to be a watermelon seed.  And I look at my drink and at the bottom of the drink there is a pile of these things that look like deer pellets.  They want the drink to look like the inside of watermelon so they put watermelon seeds in the drink.  So I think the real watermelon seeds so I do what I normally do with watermelon seeds and that is I start to swallow them but then it occurs to me, “what if they are plastic?”  I bite one and it turns out, it’s not a real watermelon seed.  There little pieces of candy.  It was good it just wasn’t what I expected.  Frankly, it is not what Taco Bell expected either.  This is a picture of what they want the product look like and what often it does actually look like and what I actually got. 

I think a lot of times we have expectations but the reality is a little different.  Here are a few more images that you may or may not be able to relate to:

We have expectations about the things we try to create:

We have expectations about our self-image:

We have expectations about our circumstances

We have expectations about our relationships.

Desire for Perfection is a God Thing

And so often these expectations are disappointed.  Why is that?  Why do we want something to be so good?  So perfect?  Because God created everything to be good:

The Garden

Genesis 1:31 (NIV84)

31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

It is Gods will for things to be good, to be perfect.  Backing up a few verses we see that he made us in his image:

Genesis 1:27 (NIV84)

27    So God created man in his own image,

in the image of God he created him;

male and female he created them.

Being made in Gods image we are going to want things that are good therefore we are going to have expectations and desires for that to happen.

Fast-forward a bit in the Genesis narrative:

The Fall

Genesis 3:6 (NIV84)

6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

So Eve sees is something that as good and desirable, pleasing to the eye.  She believes the serpent who previously had told her that she will be like God knowing good from evil.  By itself this seems like a good decision.  She wanted something good that was genuinely good, good food, wisdom, being like God.  The problem is God told Adam and Eve not to eat from this particular tree.  Understanding this tension between what we perceive as good and what God thinks is Good can be helpful in understanding Philippians 4:8 9.

In Philippians 4:8-9 Paul, who writes most of the New Testament and which we recognize as God’s Word, writes that we should focus on those things which are good AND practice whatever Paul has taught them to do—by his words and/or deeds. 

Context

First we want to look at the context these verses were written.  First were going to look at the immediate context, Philippians 4

Philippians 4

Conflict

Philippians 4:2-3 (NIV84)

Exhortations

2 I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche (SIN tih kee) to agree with each other in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

There is a conflict here between Euodia and Syntyche. Do you think it’s over guy? Probably not. Could be though. My point is that it is over something they perceive as good, an expectation over the way things should be. Then in the next few verses, Paul points to the way to have peace.

Peace

Philippians 4:49 (NIV84)

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 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. 9 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.

Conflict…Peace…I don’t think it is accidental that these two themes are here. To have peace, the absence of conflict, you need to focus on being grateful, taking your concerns to God and in meditating on what is true, noble, right, pure, and lovely AND listen and do what Paul says.  This is the same Paul that wrote most of the New Testament.  So in essence, be grateful, focus on praiseworthy concepts and obey God’s word.  That is going to bring you peace, even the God of peace

So, some of you are probably concerned that I’m combining the peace that passes all understanding and the God of peace.  And you probably should be.  Let me give you a different perspective on this.   The underlying idea is peace.  It’s not an oversimplification it’s poetry.  It’s similar in concept something is found in the book of Proverbs.  There is a form of poetry in the book of Proverbs that goes something like: there are three number things that are pretty cool and four that totally blow my mind.  Not exactly that way but here’s an example.

Proverbs 30:18–20 (NASB95):           18        There are three things which are too wonderful for me,

Four which I do not understand:

            19        The way of an eagle in the sky,

The way of a serpent on a rock,

The way of a ship in the middle of the sea,

And the way of a man with a maid.

            20        This is the way of an adulterous woman:

She eats and wipes her mouth,

And says, “I have done no wrong.”

In this passage it’s not the three things that are really being talked about it’s that fourth thing, about the adulteress.

Back to our passage in Philippians.  This is a different type of poetic license but the concept is, if you’re willing

to accept it, if you do these things you’re gonna have an amazing peace if you add this to it you get peace and the God who gives it. Before anyone lynches me for this interpretation, keep in mind that this also consistent with what Paul teaches in his other letters about the relationship between the peace of the Lord and a focus on gratitude and what is praiseworthy. And we’ll visit that later.

Now, that’s the basics.  Understanding that I could walk away and say apply that to your lives [mic drop] but what I really want to break down is these small parts in verse seven and ask the question, “what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, and praiseworthy?” What is Paul really talking about here? Is he talking about reflecting on that time when you won first prize in a competition because that was excellent? Is he talking about the model on Glamour magazine when he says think about what’s lovely? Is he talking about Domingo Santana’s batting average as something that is admirable?

Joy of the Lord Handbook

To understand these concepts and how they relate to peace we also need to look at the greater context of the book of Philippians.  It seems that the book of Philippians has the theme of "the Joy of the Lord".  That is to say it could be viewed as a "Joy of the Lord" handbook.  I say all that because it's very important to understand that before we go into these specific verses.  The joy the Lord is not about temporal, favorable circumstances, it's not about things going your way, it's not merely about 'letting go and letting God', it's not about something that emanates from yourself,  it is not something to be experienced by yourself, nor is it merely about positive thinking.  But the positive thinking is important and those are the verses were covering today.

What it is not

Circumstances

God is faithful, good, and praiseworthy regardless of circumstances. You got a job when you were jobless for a long time. That is a good thing. What about when you didn't have the job? Was that a good thing? What about if you lose the job? Having the job is a good thing. Having provision is a good thing. Can not having the provision be a good thing?

Philippians 4:12 (NASB95):   12        I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.

Anybody, Christian or non-Christian can have joy about circumstances. I'm arguing that is not the Joy of the Lord. The joy of the Lord is when you recognize God's faithfulness and provision regardless of the circumstances. God is good when we have the job; God is good when we don't have the job. Can you still have the joy of the Lord when your neighbor who is not a believer gets the job and you don't?  He celebrates because he thinks it’s something that he did to get that job.  Maybe he’s right. 

My point is the joy the Lord is not the same as the joy of the world.  The joy the Lord is not based on things that go away, where they change… it’s based on God who doesn’t change.  And I’m gonna make the argument that the peace of the Lord  is the  same, it’s not based on temporal circumstances that can change.  The peace of God is acceptance.  The peace of God is Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane when, while sweating drops of blood he says not my will but yours be done.  It doesn’t mean that is not also frustrated with his disciples for sleeping and not praying.  It doesn’t mean that he’s not also dreading the painful ordeal he’s about to go through or separation from the Father.

I have trouble understanding that kind of peace. Maybe that’s why it’s called the peace that passes all understanding.  It’s a good thing.

So, if it’s not based on circumstances that we can perceive with our senses, what is it based on? Remember, we’re still in theoretical section…don’t panic, we’ll get to practical after a bit.

What it is

the joy of the Lord and consequently the peace of the Lord is

Based in Christ's Work

Circumstances are temporal; the Joy of the Lord is an eternal thing.

Philippians 1:36 (NIV84)

Thanksgiving and Prayer

3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Our salvation in Christ is a past, present and future reality.

Past

Romans 5:1–2 (NIV84)

Peace and Joy

5   Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

 Present

Presently we have a right relationship with God

2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.

Future

the resurrection, no more tears.

And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

This is an example of something that is right and true.

Based in the character of Jesus Christ

Philippians 2:5–8 (NIV84)

5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

6     Who, being in very nature God,

did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,

7     but made himself nothing,

taking the very nature of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

8     And being found in appearance as a man,

he humbled himself

and became obedient to death—

even death on a cross!

That is what is noble, praiseworthy, and admirable.
Based on the Riches of God

Philippians 4:18–19 (NIV84)

19 And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 6:25–27 (NIV84)

Do Not Worry

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

That is TRUE.

Psalm 139:14 (NIV84)

14    I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

your works are wonderful,

I know that full well.

Our appearance is lovely NOT because of what we see in the mirror, on TV or in a magazine…it’s lovely because God knit us together in the womb. That is LOVELY.

That’s the theoretical…how do we apply such a concept? Because peace is acceptance and  maybe many of you are like me. I don’t want to accept that I may not have job tomorrow. I don’t want to accept that cancer may take my spouse away from me. I don’t want to accept that despite raising my child in the way she should go, she is not currently walking in the truth. I don’t want to accept that my plans and dreams for my future will be thwarted by circumstances, the economy, or my own sin.

I know this woman who told me that when she was in grade school they had a human growth and development type of presentation and when she heard about all the changes her body was going to go through during puberty, she said, “nope, I’m not signing up for that.” As if it were something she had a choice in.

John 16:33 (NIV84)

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Bad things are going to happen, various trials and challenges will come upon us. So we need to fortify our thinking. Now everybody, believer in Christ and non-believer in Christ will have troubles AND there is a continuum over various things that bring us peace, comfort and joy in our lives that offset that. I would say it goes from a peace that is fleeting in nature all the way over to a peace that is peace of God, eternal in it’s scope.

So, at the bottom level, we have things that bring us peace that doesn’t last very long but they can be good things. I’m endorsing the use of all these necessarily. I’m describing what’s there.

Food, recreation, sleep, prescription drugs (some people need these to keep their equilibrium), spirits (God made wine to gladden the heart of man), sex, exercise, listening to music, etc

I’m sure there’s more…these are items that are quick fixes that can make us feel peaceful but they also can be easily abused. And they are fleeting.

Next level up we have casual friendships, romance, hobbies, playing music, having a job, various small achievements, healthy physical lifestyle (sleep/nutrition/exercise).

Next level up…long term friendships, marriage, career, achieving significant goals, financial security, good health, family

Top Level, things that are praiseworthy, noble, true, lovely, admirable and not changeable…Christ’s Work on the Cross/Assurance of Salvation, God as our provider, Christ as the author of our faith, God’s faithfulness, Guidance of the Holy Spirit, Promise of the Resurrection, Indomitability of the Church and Believer, Freedom in Christ            

Let’s Get Practical

That top level really only applies if you’ve recognized that you are sinner (morally wrong in God’s eyes) and have called on the Lord Jesus Christ, believed in Him, and His death on the cross as sufficient payment for your sins (your wrong doing) and that He raised from the dead bodily. If you have believed in that Jesus and trust Him as your savior, you have access to the peace of God. That is those things are real to you. If your sins aren’t forgiven, you can’t stand before God. He is Holy, perfectly loving. He has provided away for all to have peace and joy and eternal life.

So if you’ve believed in Christ as I just described you are a member of the Body of Christ. You have assurance of salvation,

Romans 8:38-39

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God as Your Provider

Matthew 6:25

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

A Perfect Path of Faith to Walk

Hebrews 12:2

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

John 13

However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come

God’s Faithfulness

  • 2 Timothy 2:13 If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.
  • Numbers 23:19God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?

Your Identity in Christ

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come

Romans 8:31

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

I could go down the list but my list of those noble, true, praiseworthy, admirable, faithful and eternal characteristics of God and show all the scriptures that support them but my list is incomplete. You do it. You make your own list.

Don’t those passages bring you comfort? Don’t they bring you peace when you have doubts about your salvation, your sin and your identity?

So, as a member of the Body of Christ, you get all that. Now how much would you pay? Don’t answer that! Look what else you get!

You get everything else but now it’s redeemed because you have the ability to recognize these gifts as being from God as they come and go. I can have peace in knowing God has spared me cancer. I can have peace that even though my body is wasting away I know I will be healed in this life or at the resurrection. I can have peace that God is my provider when I have a job or when I don’t and He is providing through state aid, family, the body of believers or ravens.  I can have peace from a family that I have or the memories of the one that I did have or will have again or in the family of believers. I can have all this by faith no matter what the circumstances because of the assurances I find in the Scriptures.

Here’s the application peace.

Read the Bible or Scriptural material daily. Expose yourself to the truth of God. Listen to some praise music or some other Christian music. I’m not a big fan of a lot of Christian music but there’s some I like. I like TobyMac.

Meditate on the scriptures, the truths you learn about God. Journal about it.

Express it—Express your gratitude. Talk about what you’re learning about God to others—your friends, your spouse, your kids, social media.

There is this thing called meta-cognition. It means thinking about thinking. When we talk about what we are learning about God we practicing meta-cognition.  When we say it out loud and believe what we’re saying it makes us learn it better.

Never mind just do what Paul says,

Colossians 3:15–16 (NIV84)

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

Ephesians 5:19 (NIV84)

19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The last thing that this passage in Philippians 4:8-9 says is:

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.

In essence, obey  God’s Word. Practically speaking, when you read God’s Word-Bible reading, sermons, podcasts, spiritual songs.

    1. If there is a sin to repent of, repent of it: confess it and turn from it.
      1. If you read that lying, gossiping, sex outside of marriage, hating your fellow man, dishonoring your parents is sin…Stop, confess it to God and another person and don’t do it again. Thank God for His forgiveness.
      2. Repeat as necessary.
    2. If there is a command to do, do it.
      1. If you read that you should be generous, be generous.
      2. If you read that you should love your neighbor as yourself, do it.
      3. If you read that you should participate in spreading the truth about Jesus Christ, find a way to do so.
    3. If there is something you learn about God that you didn’t know before, go to Steps 2&3
      1. Meditate on it, talk about it.

What does this look like in real life? This is kind of an ideal example:

Spafford

IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL

Horatio G. Spafford, 18281888

Spafford had known peaceful and happy days as a successful attorney in Chicago. He was the father of four daughters, an active member of the Presbyterian Church, and a loyal friend and supporter of D. L. Moody and other evangelical leaders of his day. Then, a series of calamities began, starting with the great Chicago fire of 1871 which wiped out the familys extensive real estate investments. When Mr. Moody and his music associate, Ira Sankey, left for Great Britain for an evangelistic campaign, Spafford decided to lift the spirits of his family by taking them on a vacation to Europe. He also planned to assist in the Moody-Sankey meetings there.

In November, 1873, Spafford was detained by urgent business, but he sent his wife and four daughters as scheduled on the S.S. Ville du Harve, planning to join them soon. Halfway across the Atlantic, the ship was struck by an English vessel and sank in 12 minutes. All four of the Spafford daughters—Tanetta, Maggie, Annie and Bessie—were among the 226 who drowned. Mrs. Spafford was among the few who were miraculously saved.

Horatio Spafford stood hour after hour on the deck of the ship carrying him to rejoin his sorrowing wife in Cardiff, Wales. When the ship passed the approximate place where his precious daughters had drowned, Spafford received sustaining comfort from God that enabled him to write, “When sorrows like sea billows roll … It is well with my soul.” What a picture of our hope!

  When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll—Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well with my soul.

  Tho Satan should buffet, tho trials should come, let this blest assurance control, that Christ hath regarded my helpless estate and shed His own blood for my soul.

  And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, the clouds be rolled back as a scroll: The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend, “Even so”—it is well with my soul.

  Chorus: It is well with my soul, it is well, it is well with my soul.

I could leave it there but that’s intimidating. I mean, I’m not up to that. I’m not there yet, I’m working towards it, fortifying my thinking.

I’m going to give you this also

Psalm 126:5-6

Psalm 126:56 (NKJV)

    5      Those who sow in tears

    Shall reap in joy.

    6      He who continually goes forth weeping,

    Bearing seed for sowing,

    Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,

    Bringing his sheaves with him.

The idea is that even though there is sorrow, the author knows that the person who keeps moving by faith will have joy.

I’m going to leave you with this video.

 

Fortified Thinking

1)Expose Yourself to God’s Truths…Daily

a)  Scripture Reading

b)  Worship Music/Spiritual Songs

c)   Devotional Materials

2)Meditate on God’s Truths

a)  Journal or Reflect how you are experiencing these truths

3)Express God’s Truths

a)  Talk with others how you are discovering or affirming these praiseworthy, noble, admirable, faithful, lovely and eternal truths about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit

4)Obey God’s Truths

a)  If there is a sin to repent of, repent of it: confess it and turn from it.

b)  If there is a command to do, do it.

c)   If there is something you learn about God that you didn’t know before, go to Steps 2&3