Thursday, August 9, 2018
Philippians 4:8 8Finally, 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.
Romans 12:2 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Of all the helpful advice I have been given over the years by my parents, my wife, and others who love me and want to help me be the best I can be, the counsel I have not yet mastered is this – You should think before you speak.
I am a man of spontaneous action. I am not defending it; in fact, most of the time it gets me in trouble. There are certain situations which call for quick responses, but in general there needs to be more thought put into responses and decisions. I’m still learning to do that. I am trying to perfect the skill of thinking through things before I act.
But thinking alone is not enough: we must think correctly. The first step in learning to think correctly is to evaluate our motives. When we need to make a decision, plan a course of action, or respond to another person’s communication with us, we usually determine in our minds what we want the outcome to be. Our minds are very powerful and work incredibly quickly, but they always work within the parameters that have been set by previous experiences and decisions. Our brains have been trained to think according to the patterns that have been established through years of practice.
When a decision needs to be made, our brains process previous experiences quickly according to what we have chosen to do in the past. We are presented with choices that fall within those historical contexts. Such decisions are usually based on emotional needs, psychological needs, or self-serving objectives, because apart from Christ that’s how the flesh responds. We are thinking, but we are not thinking correctly because we are letting the flesh and its needs dictate our goals and objectives. Unless the predetermined outcome of our thought process is to honor God, then the entire thought process only honors self.
Paul teaches this in today’s two Scripture passages. We need to retrain our brain so that it thinks correctly: not according to the pattern of the world, but according to the pattern of Christ. He gives us a list of virtues that are to influence our thought process. When adopted in their entirety, they assure that the outcome of any decision, response, or communication will be honoring to God.
They are not to be applied individually, as if we are picking and choosing which ones to use in any given situation. Each virtue is to be included in each and every decision or response. When God decides to act according to His good will and pleasure, He doesn’t just consider His nature of love, nor does He just consider His nature of justice. Every decision and act of His will is a compilation of all His virtues, and expresses the totality of His nature. That is how we are to learn to think.
Here are the 8 things Paul says must be included in our thought process at all times:
- Is it true?
- Is it noble – which means done with honor?
- Is it right – meaning Righteous and Just?
- Is it pure – meaning holy?
- Is it lovely – meaning serving the best interests of another?
- Is it admirable – meaning highly regarded by others?
- Is it excellent – meaning morally excellent?
- Is it praiseworthy – meaning does it bring praise and honor to God?
For the next few days we are going to look at each of these virtues and learn to apply them to our thought process. For today, review the list and begin to evaluate your own thought process in light of these 8 virtues. Let the Holy Spirit convict you of where your mind needs to be renewed, and begin the process of retraining your brain to think correctly.
We are in a war for the control of our minds. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3 that though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. Let us renew our minds and bring every thought into conformity to Christ.