Heavenly Father, thank You for Your word this morning. We ask that You would enable us to give attention to the exhortations, and that You tell us our responsibilities as well as listening with comfort and hope to the promise that you announce here. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

All of life is made up of infinite situations and how a person thinks about any given situation will determine how he or she acts or reacts to it. Our dominant thoughts tend to externalize themselves; that is, what we think of most on the inside shows up on the outside in behaviour. Someone has said, “We are not what others think we are, but what we think we are.” I admit that. The mind is a key to how we view the situation and what we react. We, as Christians can have only two viewpoints about any situation that may arise in our lives. We can have a human viewpoint that looks at life purely on a human level, in which we try to solve the problem by our effort. But the human viewpoint consistently leads to endless worry and it only offers us a limited sources, because of our imperfection and weakness. And we can have a divine viewpoint about a situation, viewing it from the standpoint of God’s sovereignty. We may fail to solve the problem or fix the situation, but we know that all things are under God’s control. So the result is a peace which comes from God, who knows the end from the beginning, who does all things right and well, and who will not permit in the life of His children anything that will not work out for eternal good. There are many situations in life which come to all of us where we must learn to trust God or lose our minds. This is same to everyone in any given situation, regardless of their age, gender, race and ethnicity.

Therefore, Paul offers a cross-cultural Christian exhortation in six Christian virtues and he requires us to develop a mind of Christ in our meditation and action that would enhance God’s peace.

Firstly, Paul tells us to have a Christ-controlled mind. Please look at verse 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.”

This verse gives much enlightenment on an important psychological principle. The principle is that if people wish to subdue and conquer evil thoughts or worry, they must not only fight against them, but they must substitute evil thoughts with godly thoughts. They must replace negative thinking with positive, biblical and Christ-like thoughts, which will push out the negative thoughts.

When Paul wrote this letter, the Philippians lived in the Greco-Roman culture and even this pagan culture understood and upheld these moral languages. The Christian virtues are consonant with the general goodness recognized by non-Christian culture. So Paul says that Christians should meditate on positive things and encourages them to “think about such things always.”

Now, let us consider briefly those six virtues and I want you to exam yourself how each one of them are working in your life.

First, we must contemplate “whatever is true,” which means valid, honest, and reliable. God is truth and He wants His people to operate on truth. Lying and deceit should never have a part in the Christian’s lifestyle. Today in our courts of law, they assume people are going to lie rather than tell the truth. This world is in a sad state, but we Christians should never be party to anything but what is true. Therefore, Christian mind seeks “whatever is true” in every avenue of life, from faith to science to relationships to public life to business.

 Second, we must focus on “whatever is noble.” This literally means “honourable” or “worthy of respect”. We are to think about things which are honourable, noble, and honest. The whole behaviour of a Christian should be characterized by genuine motives, manners and morals. The Christian should be morally attractive and excellence that is dignified and worthy of honour.

Third, we are to concentrate on “whatever is right”, which refers to “what is just and upright”. Having received God’s righteousness, we should think righteous thoughts. We are called to gratefully meditate on God’s righteous acts and we should plan the things that make for just living — doing the right thing.

The world is always self-centred but Christianity is others centred. We are to think on good things, right things and wholesome things.

Fourth, we are to focus on “whatever is pure.” This is not only limited to sexual purity, but extends to all areas of moral purity in thought, speech and actions. We must not pollute and contaminate the mind with impure garbage, because what goes into the mind comes out in behaviour. We can’t separate this bond relationship, between mind and deed. What our minds contemplate, our bodies carry out. An impure thought always precedes an impure deed. Therefore, we are to control what goes into our mind.

Fifth, we are to contemplate “whatever is lovely”, which means winsome, pleasing, attractive, and amiable. It’s one of those words that we only find here in the New Testament, an unusual word. It can a lot of sort of facets. Whatever is attractive and lovely is as good as any word to translate that term.

And the last one Paul says, we are to consider “whatever is admirable,” which refers to the kind of conduct that is spoken of highly by other people. Christians are not to listen to gossip about other people. Their minds are to receive and think good things about other people.

These words are beautiful, aren’t they? They are not complicated or hard to understand. But if we look at the world, where are we going to find the truth?

If we look around at the world, are we going to find what is honourable, what is right, what is pure, what is lovely, what is admirable? When we turn on the television, is that what we are going to see? When we go to the cinema, is that what we are going to see? When we read a book or a magazine, is that what we are going to see? When we have a conversation with friends, is that what we are going to experience? The point is, you and I have to protect our mind because that’s what determines what you want and that’s what determines how you react toward others in life.

Then Paul says “if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things” (v. 8b). Paul means that your mind is the greatest treasure you have in terms of those gifts of human life, and now as a believer, your mind works in concert with the Spirit of God. You must protect that mind, and the way you protect it is how you think, and you must protect its influences. You must avoid those things which negatively influence your thinking. There’s no quick fix to this. There’s not any easy formula to spiritual stability that you can get in four counselling sessions. There’s not any little book that you can write and say here it is. 

Spiritual stability is a product of cultivating peace in the fellowship, maintaining a spirit of joy, learning to accept less than you’re due, resting on a confident trust or faith in the Lord, reacting to problems with thankful prayer, and all of that flows out of focusing on godly virtues that begin to dominate your thinking patterns. And that is what produces the peace, the joy, the humility, the faith, the gratitude that make your life stabilized.

No doubt Euodia and Syntyche, while immersed in their conflict, had not been thinking elevated thoughts. However, as they likely took Paul’s teaching to heart and began to think thoughts that were “true”, “honourable”, “just”, “pure”, “lovely” and “admirable,” they were infused with positive aspirations that facilitated their reconciliation. And twenty centuries later today, we make the decision to continually think only of such things will become more effective agents of grace.

Along with the discipline process, there is the ancient God-given remedy of spending much time reading and meditating on his words. Today more than ever before we need to listen the Moses’ advice wholeheartedly, “4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deut 6:4~9).

The greatest danger in our busy world is that we make little or no effort to think God’s thoughts after him. More than ever before we need to hide his word in our hearts, so that we might not sin against him. We must make time for quiet meditation. We must read and reread the Bible, turning the thoughts over in our minds, praying over a word or a phrase.

We must memorise God’s Word by reading and studying.

Paul doesn’t stop there only encouraging us to meditate God’s word everyday, but he calls us to have a Christ-controlled actions.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” (v. 9). Paul had given the Philippians his personal example, which they had “heard and seen” in him. Both when Paul was with them and when away, the Philippians heard about Paul’s character and conduct — his bravery, how he faced trials, his devotion, his prayer, his patient suffering and his resiliency.

His life was an example and testimony to others. Paul was a man who lived as a realistic-optimist with a divine viewpoint about life. His life was spiritually and morally attractive to others. Paul means that our Christian testimony before others is very important. But it’s very sad that many Christians give the appearance of being Christian-atheists; that is, they profess Christ, but live as though God doesn’t exist.  If the non-Christian sees them deep in worry or filling up their mind with garbage, they may conclude that the God of the Christian does not exist, or Christian has had some kind of psychological religious experience with no reality of God whatsoever. 

I once heard a true story about a minister who was trying to win a lawyer to Christ, but was totally unsuccessful. The lawyer’s ten year old son was killed in a bicycle wreck, and he was very bitter towards God. He complained, groaned and mocked God, for a living God would not permit his son to die. About six months after his son’s death, the minister lost his son in a car accident. The boy was only eight. In the boy’s funeral, the minister, with tears in his eyes, thanked God for taking his precious son, and told all that God had a right to do as He pleased in heaven and earth. So touched was this lawyer with this man’s attitude in the midst of crisis, that the lawyer realized that his God was real. It was only a few days later that the minister led the lawyer to the Lord. Why? Because the lawyer saw the reality of Christ in his life. 

So, Paul exhorts us, “Imitate me, and think about truth, rightness, honour, justice, purity, loveliness, and “practice these things”. The truth is that we have not learned “these things” until we have lived them out. If we learn about Christ’ love and understand it with a high quality of the biblical teaching, what spiritual benefit we would receive if we don’t practice his love. The six virtues could have been used as exalted ideas or concepts, but Paul says that we should clothe ourselves with these virtues in order to experience the God of peace.

 In verse 7, Paul promised them “the peace of God” — God’s own personal peace. Here in verse 9, the reward is “the God of peace” himself. This is what our Lord Jesus meant when He promised His peace to His disciples. This is the peace that wins over worry, fear and anxiety (John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives). Jesus promised of the experience of His peace.

And Paul passes it on to us that practice these things and the God of peace will draw near to us, and we will know His presence and we will know His peace because He has drawn near to us as we obey His word.

Brothers and sisters, we must learn to guard our minds. We cannot expect the fullness of spiritual joy and usefulness unless we desire the right things because that’s what moves our behaviour, and our desires are a direct reflection of our influences. We must be disciplined to add to these Christian virtues– pure conduct, patterns of life and practices of righteousness. And this makes us able to be content in any circumstance and find God’s peace. And when his peace, his shalom, firmly reigns in His church — whether in Philippi or Rome or Berry— it will radiate the light of Christ to the surrounding world.

As I finish the sermon, let me encourage you to read today’s passage together.

Let us pray.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your holy word that ministered to us this morning in many ways. You have given us the privilege of sitting at the feet of the Spirit of God, to be taught. Help us Lord, to understand the unbelievable privilege of having the mind of Christ, the wisdom of God dispensed to us by the Spirit, so that we can properly know what is right. Lord, please protect the mind, to learn to think, to set our minds on the things that matter. So every day, we meditate on things, which is true, which is honourable, which is right, which is pure, which is lovely, which is admirable, and put them into practice for your glory and our sake. We pray this In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Hymn – 587 What a wonderful change
May the grace of God, which is beyond all our understanding or deserving, comfort and sustain us, may the blessing of God Almighty, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit be amongst us and remain with us now and forever,