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LESSON 11: THE NEED FOR THOUGHTFULNESS IN PURITY
by Dr. Fred Wittman
“8Furthermore, O brothers, as many~ things as are true~, as many~ things as |are| gravely dignified~, as many~ things as |are| righteous ~, as many~ things as |are| pure~, as many~ things as |are| lovely~[attracting fondness to the face of], as many~ things as |are| commending~[giving complimentary approval of], if (and it is true) any excellence[virtue], and if (and it is true) any expression[acclamation] of hearty approval, continually reckon with reference to these~ things! 9What~ things you& both learned[to be. trained intimately as a disciple] and [you]accepted[with the mind] alongside and [you]heard and [you]beheld in me, continually practice these~ things! And The God of the peace shall be [in company]with you&” (Phil. 4:8,9 APT).
Some of the problems that came to the church at Philippi were thought problems. The problem between Euodia and Syntyche was a thought problem in the two ladies’ lives, which created a disturbance of the unity in the church. It appears that some took sides, Paul needed to encourage them in the matter of unity. The problem of anxiety over Paul’s imprisonment also was a thought problem. The problem of self-esteem and vain glory was a thought problem. Murmuring and disputing was a thought problem. The need for humility was a thought problem. Developing essential and proper attitudes are thought problems. So it is fitting for the apostle Paul to climax his exhortation to the Philippians to consider their thought life in the concluding chapter of his epistle. He recognized the need for an attitude of thoughtfulness in purity.
Peacefulness through prayer is closely linked with thoughtfulness in purity. It is a natural progression and Paul’s flow of thought moves on to exhort his readers to continually maintain pure thoughts. Peacefulness can be attained through yieldedness and prayer so that the peace of The God shall garrison your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. But that peace can be disturbed by wrong thoughts especially impure thoughts. It is very interesting that Paul moved in thought from the peace of The God to The God of Peace. He separated the peace of The God from The God of Peace by a consideration of the thought life because the peace of The God in the believer’s heart is disturbed by wrong thoughts. How important it is to have thoughtfulness in purity! Without purity that perfect peace of heart is disturbed. Without purity The God of Peace is not in control. Therefore Paul exhorted his readers to give attention to thoughtfulness in purity.
I. CONTINUALLY RECKON IN PURITY (v. 8).
“Furthermore, O brothers, as many~ things as are true~, as many~ things as |are| gravely dignified~, as many~ things as |are| righteous~, as many~ things as |are| pure~, as many~ things as |are| lovely~[attracting fondness to the face of], as many~ things as |are| commending~[giving complimentary approval of], if (and it is true) any excellence[virtue], and if (and it is true) any expression[acclamation] of hearty approval, continually reckon with reference to these~ things!” (Phil. 4:8 APT).
In his exhortation to thoughtfulness in purity, Paul stressed the need for constant attention to the thought life in its various aspects.
A. Six General Categories of Quality of Thought.
That word ‘reckon’ we have seen before. It is the word meaning ‘take into account, reason, think, or consider.’ It is also used in the sense of ‘bring into agreement with an authoritative document.’ The mind is to focus upon and reflect on things that will control one’s conduct. We are what we think in our hearts (Prov. 23:7). Behavior is the result of developed thought patterns. Therefore Paul exhorted the Philippians to continually consider six general categories of quality of thought and bring them into agreement with The God’s Word.
1. Is it True?
Question whether or not a thing is true. Is it true? If it is not true, then it should not be retained in your thoughts. When you are ready to talk to someone, or someone is ready to say something about another person to you, the first thing you want to ask is, Is it true? If you can't substantiate that it is true, then it shouldn’t be considered any more. Keep reckoning (considering) the things that are true!
2. Is it Honest?
The marginal reading is ‘venerable.’ A Precise Translation renders the Greek neuter adjective σεμνά (sehm-náh), ‘gravely dignified.’ The Greek noun with the same root is σεμνότης (sehm-nóhtays) which is translated ‘grave dignity’. It is the word for the things that are revered or worthy of honor. Ask, Is it honest? Or gravely dignified? Or venerable? If not, refuse to consider it! The things that are revered are things to be contemplated. Do not focus the mind upon the things that are disdained, lowly, or unworthy of consideration!
3. Is it Righteous?
Keep reckoning on the things that are righteous or just! The adjectives just and righteous are used interchangeably in translating the Greek adjective δίκαιος (déekai-ohs) in Scripture. One has a slightly different connotation than the other. δίκαιος translated ‘righteous’ emphasizes the character or quality of things and/or the one who acts justly and regards both The God and man, while when translated ‘just,’ it is more often used to describe the action of one who regards The God and man, and lives in obedience to The God’s laws. The word here in Philippians 4:8 refers to the quality or character of the things.
Focus upon things that are done righteously! Think upon righteous acts and righteous thoughts! If it is wrong or unjust or unrighteous, refuse to think upon it!
4. Is it Pure?
The Greek noun translated ‘pure’ is αγνός (hahg-nóhs). Things that are without stain or error, and not defiled by sin are pure. Paul places purity centrally in this list of categories of quality along with things that are righteous and thus puts the emphasis upon these. The opposite to things that are pure are things that are unclean or defiling. Refuse to entertain thoughts that are unclean or defiling! Consider only the things that are pure!
5. Is it Lovely?
The Greek adjective προσφîλής (pros-filáys) translated ‘lovely’ is a compound word composed of the preposition πρόσ, which in combination means ‘toward’ or ‘facing’ plus φîλής , which means ‘attracting fondness.’ Thus the compound word means “attracting fondness to the face of.’ The English word lovely means: “1: LOVEABLE 2: eliciting love by moral or ideal worth 3: delightful for beauty, harmony, or grace: ATTRACTIVE” (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary).
Those things of beauty which attract our attention, those things toward which affection is shown, those who are of worth in the sense that they receive our affection, and the things we desire to embrace are lovely things. Things that we would hate or despise or thrust away are excluded and should be shut out of our minds. But exercise our minds toward those beautiful things which are true, honest, righteous, and pure! Consider what is beautiful, loveable, and lovely (attracting our fondness), then love, embrace, and commend those things!
6. Is it Commending?
The phrase ‘of good report’ is a translation of the Greek adjective εúφημος (eú-faymohs) which is a compound word comprised of the noun φήμη (fáymay) which means ‘fame’ plus the prefixed adverb εû meaning ‘well or good,’ therefore the literal meaning is ‘good fame.’ Thus the compound adjective means ‘commending’ (giving complimentary approval of). Paul exhorts the Philippians to give consideration to that report which would commend and benefit another person! Do not give consideration to an evil report! Paul knew the devastating effects of an ill report. He experienced both an ill report and a good report, both defamation and acclamation (2 Cor. 6:8).
“4But on the contrary, in everything corroborating ourselves as God’s deacons[domestic servants]: in much patient endurance, in affliction[tribulation], in necessities, in distresses[constrictions], 5in stripes, in protective guardhouses, in tumults, in wearisome labors, in sleepless watchings, in voluntary fastings, . . . 8through glory and disgrace, through defamation and acclamation; as misleaders and yet true+ ones, . . .” (2 Cor. 6:4,5,8 APT).
But he eliminated an evil report from this exhortation for thoughtfulness. He exhorted to keep thinking on giving a commending report by spreading good fame. Do not even consider listening to an evil report! If an evil report about a brother or sister in Christ is heard, of course it should be squelched. Put it aside and stop it from going any further! But pass on that which is commending! Gossip does not usually contain that which commends or benefits another. Gossip is usually negative and harmful to the reputation. Refuse to consider things that are negative or harmful to a person, but think upon the positive, the good things that we can say about people! Reckon on these six categories of quality of thought about good things: true, honest (gravely dignified), righteous, pure, lovely (attracting fondness), and commending (giving complimentary approval)!
B. Excellence and Expression of Hearty Approval.
“. . . if (and it is true) any excellence[virtue], and if (and it is true) any expression[acclamation] of hearty approval, continually reckon with reference to these~ things!” (Phil. 4:8i-k APT).
The word ‘virtue’ comes from the Greek word αρετή (ahrehtáy) which was an essential word to the ancient epics. It referred to some meaning in life. The hero demonstrated the power to transcend himself by acts of great excellence. They were not only moral acts but extended to any sphere of life including military preeminence. From this developed the concept of perfect fulfillment of designed purpose, thus excellence. If there be any of those things which will enable you to fulfill your designed purpose and excell, continually take those things of excellence into account and reckon with reference to them!
The word ‘praise’ is a translation of the Greek word έπαινος (éhpainohs), which means ‘expression of hearty approval.’ If there be anything to which you can give expression of hearty approval, praise, or say good about, consider and reckon on that.
There is a need to continually reckon on all these things positively because the mind is usually attracted to the negative. There are few people that consistently, naturally think upon the positive. Most have a tendency to think negatively in these categories. But the child of The God has a complete change of mind which will result in the consideration of these six categories of quality of thought: true, honest (gravely dignified), righteous, pure, lovely (attracting fondness), and commending (giving complimentary approval) and look for any excellence and expression of hearty approval or praise that may be possible to consider. Not only did Paul encourage his readers to continually reckon or consider these things, but he exhorted the Philippians to
II. CONTINUALLY PRACTICE THE EXEMPLARY (v. 9a,b).
“What~ things you& both learned[to be. trained intimately as a disciple] and [you]accepted[with the mind] alongside and [you]heard and [you]beheld in me, continually practice these~ things!” (Phil. 4:9a,b) APT).
Paul expressed his desire for the Philippians saints persistently to put into practice in their lives the things that they learned from his example. He broke these things into four categories: things learned from him’ things received (accepted with the mind) from him; things heard from alongside him; and things they beheld practiced in his life.
A. Things Learned From Paul.
Paul used the aorist tense of the Greek word μανθάνω (mahn-thah-nō), which is cognate to the noun μαθητής (mah-thay-táys), the word that is translated ‘disciple’ and to the verb μαθητεύω (mah-thay-teúō), which means ‘to make disciples, to train disciples by intimate long process.’ Μανθάνω means ‘to learn by practice from intimate training.’ Μανθάνω is the verb used to indicate what is learned by the one receiving the training, while μαθητεύω is used to indicate the long process of special training. To the Philippians, Paul could have used the word εδιδάχθητε (second person passive aorist indicative of deedáskō), which has been translated ‘you& have been taught as in a congregation’(AV) as he did in his Epistles to Ephesians (4:21), Colossians (2:7), and 2 Thessalonians (2:15), but he didn’t, The Holy Spirit directed him to use μανθάνω (mahn-thah-nō) because of the short process and the emphasis upon the small group learning from him intimately and not upon his teaching a congregation.
The things they learned by practice from Paul were to be continually practiced. That word which is translated ‘learned by practice’ is the same word which means ‘to disciple.’ This word was used by Matthew when he related what Jesus commanded His disciples before ascending to Heaven (Mt. 28:19). As they journey through life, they are to disciple (train by intimate process) people of all nations. The verb with the same root is used by Paul here. Paul discipled a few of the Philippians. He taught them by doing. While he was with them, those first believers learned many lessons by putting into practice, that is, doing what he taught while they were in his presence. Then they taught by practice those believers that were added later. Here Paul’s readers are exhorted to continually practice those things in which they were discipled.
B. Things Received from Paul.
There were things that they received which were new to them until Paul came. They could recall many practical spiritual Truths which were not theirs until Paul came to Philippi. They are to continually put into practice in their lives the things they received from Paul while he was with them.
C. Things Heard from Paul.
The Truths Paul taught, which they heard with their ears from his own lips the Philippians were to persistently practice. It is so important that everyone put into practice The Word of The God that is heard.
The Philippians heard reports of what Paul taught. These too, were to be persistently practiced. Truth that is heard does not become ours until we actually act it out in our lives. It is genuinely ours when we keep on living it out in our lives and express it to others.
D. Things Beheld in Paul.
It is a natural thing to see the one who is discipling as an example to imitate. We receive those things from him. We hear what he says, see what he does, and imitate him. We practice his example. The things that Paul exemplified he exhorted his readers to practice persistently.
III. THE CERTAIN RESULT: THE PRESENCE OF THE GOD (v. 9c).
“And the The God of the peace shall be with you” (Phil. 4:9c).
When the Philippians considered carefully and reckoned on the six categories of quality of thought, excellence, and praise, and followed Paul’s example by practicing the things in which he discipled them, the certain result was that ‘The God of the peace’ was with them. And the same goes for regenerated disciples of our current times. Thoughtfulness in purity results in assurance of companionship with ‘The God of The Peace.’ Paul used the article of previous reference as a demonstrative—The God of The Perfect Peace referred to in verse 7. With His perfect peace He shall be with those who have an attitude of thoughtfulness in purity. What a glorious truth! What a tremendous blessing! To realize and enjoy the abiding presence of The God of Perfect Peace is a blessed experience indeed! What an incentive to develop this attitude of thoughtfulness in purity!
The problems which the Philippians faced were thought problems. The disunity at Philippi and local churches today stems from thought problems. Murmurings and disputings are results of thought problems. Anxiety, self-esteem, vain-glory, and lack of humility are thought problems. An attitude of thoughtfulness in purity will minimize and diminish if not eliminate these thought problems.
Paul exhorted to continually reckon in purity in six categories of quality of thought, which are; true, honest (gravely dignified), righteous, pure, lovely (attracting fondness), and commending (giving complimentary approval). In addition he exhorted to continually consider any thing of excellence and expression of hearty approval. We are to continually take into account those things which enable us to fulfil our designed purpose.
The God’s purpose for those He redeemed is to be conformed to the image of The Christ and to make The Lord Jesus Christ known to the lost. We are to continually reckon on these things. In addition Paul exhorted his readers to continually practice all the things which he exemplified when he lived and taught among them. He earnestly desired to see his readers continually live out daily those things in which they had been discipled, which they received and learned from him, and which things they saw him do.
The certain result of such thoughtfulness in purity is to experience the daily presence of The God of Perfect Peace with us wherever we go. Who would not go to great lengths to experience such perfect peace and the continually abiding presence of The God who gives His peace to keep on guard and preserve our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus? You need an attitude of thoughtfulness in purity! It is needed in every life redeemed by the blood of Christ in order to fulfill The God’s designed purpose in life. Who will give determined attention to the develop-ment of such an attitude of thoughtfulness in purity? Who will determine to enjoy the daily presence of The God of Perfect Peace? Will you?
Now consider the practical aspects of the lesson.
1. What attitude in regard to inner peace is needed to eliminate problems of disunity in the local church?
2. Why is there a need for an attitude of thoughtfulness in purity among the local church members at Philippi?
3. Why is there a need for an attitude of thoughtfulness in purity in the world today?
4. Why should every child of The God be concerned to develop an attitude of thoughtfulness by continually reckoning on excellence?
5. Why did Paul put such an emphasis on discipleship and practicing the truths that he taught and which the Philippians received and heard from him and saw practiced in his life?
6. Why should we give attention to our thought-life and reflect upon positive things that will control our conduct?
7. How can you develop an attitude of thoughtfulness in purity (give three steps)?
What will you do to meet the need for thoughtfulness in purity today?
What steps will you take to develop an attitude of thoughtfulness?
To what extent will you go to fulfill The God’s designed purpose for you?
To what extent will you go to demonstrate an attitude of thoughtfulness in purity each day?
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