“The love of the world is forbidden with reference to the objects sought…[or] the principles that reign in that community that lives for this world as distinguished from [those who live for] the world to come…We are not to make this world the object of our chief affection; we are not to be influenced by the [principles] and feelings which prevail among those who do.”
“We're not talking about the physical world. We're not talking about nature…It's the invisible spiritual system of evil. That is the world that we are not to love. It is that... order that is run by Satan, the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that works in the children of disobedience…It is that system…It is that evil order with all of its elements and all of its components that work against the things of God…This is the system that's run by the enemy.”
See, God loved the people that live in this world so much that He sent His Son, so that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life. BUT we Christians are not to embrace the values and wants and desires of those who remain opposed to God and what He desires for us.
And all of these comments fit rather well into the subject we will be studying this morning. Because the things that make up that evil system are always competing for our attention. We’ve got movies, and we've got TV, and we've got music and magazines and books and computers and the internet. And if we are Christians in this day and age, it’s very easy to see that no matter where we look, we are surrounded by evil. And not only does this evil surround us, it does everything it can to appeal to us. Take MTV for example. It started out as a network that simply showed music videos. How many music videos do they show on MTV these days? Eh, not so many. Now, I don’t watch MTV—have no desire to. I would be more than happy if they took it off the air altogether.
I don’t know a lot about MTV anymore, but I do know this—their programming focuses on things that have no business being shown—drinking and drugs and partying and all sorts of uncleanness. And what is the age of the audience it is marketed toward? What is their target audience? Young people. Teenagers. Telling them, basically, “Hey kids!! If you want to really have fun, this is the kind of lifestyle you want to have!! You gotta be like Spencer and Heidi and all these kids on ‘The Hills’!!” And it’s not just MTV either. Broadcast networks are pushing shows like “Gossip Girl” and “One Tree Hill” which glamorize promiscuity and homosexuality. In fact, the entire entertainment industry is geared toward one thing—telling kids that they need to be like Lindsey Lohan or Kim Kardashian—and be very glad if you don’t know who those people are.
And for some Christians, being constantly surrounded by this stuff, and growing up in this culture, it’s really easy to think, “Well, it’s just music” or “it’s just a movie” or a book or whatever—“God doesn’t really care what I watch or read.” But we’re gonna see today that that is not quite true. In fact, in our text today, we will kinda get an outline of what those things look like and sound like that we should put before our eyes and into our ears.
Philippians 4:8—Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
Does the fact that a person listens to, say, Snoop Dogg or Britney Spears or whoever—does that mean that they're not saved? I can't make that call, and I never will. But whenever somebody asks me that, my response is usually something like, “Well, you say you love God. Why would you want to listen to music that glorifies the things God hates?” Habakkuk 1:13—“You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness.” God does not take pleasure in wickedness. So why do people who claim to love God take pleasure in wickedness? Psalm 101:3—I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me. We know what kind of things to avoid. So what kinds of things should we put before us? Well, there are 8 characteristics to the things that we should meditate upon.
First, whatever things are true… Now, why do you think Paul puts this quality first? In fact, when Paul discusses the “armor of God” in Ephesians 6, the first thing he lists is to stand fast, having girded your waist with truth (Ephesians 6:14).Well, if we surround ourselves with the truth, we can see the lies coming from a mile away. Not only that, but if we are to worship the TRUE God, we must worship Him in truth. John 4:24—“God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 17:3—“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” If we do not worship the TRUE God, can we have eternal life? There are systems of worship that claim to be pointing toward the God that we worship. These systems claim to be worshipping the God that speaks through this word. But, you see, they actually worship a “God” that is the product of their own distorted view of Scripture.
Now, just how important is it that we who know God should continually meditate on whatever things are true? Well, consider this: suppose a person has just started going to church, just started learning the Scriptures. They're sitting at home one evening. KNOCK-KNOCK-KNOCK. They open the door, and a couple od sharply-dressed young men on bicycles tells them, “Hello, we’re from the Church of Jesus Christ of LDS, and we want to share the gospel that was restored by our prophet Joseph Smith.” And they are slick! They know exactly what they are going to say, when to say it. Many times, they even prepare for questions about certain parts of Scripture that contradict their claims. So what happens to that person that has just started getting exposed to truth? And it’s not just new “Christians.” People who have been in church for years can get sucked into it. And what do you think is the number one reason that long-time church members get sucked into something like Mormonism? Either (a) they stop going to church, (b) their church stops teaching truth, or (c) they just don’t take time to study the Word. They may know what the Bible says—but they don’t take the time to fully understand what it means.
Which is just one reason I thank God for men like Pastor Phil. Because I probably wouldn’t even know how to study the Bible if it wasn’t for him. Because he encourages us to study—not just read—the Bible. That a certain verse may read a certain way in a certain translation. But we need to get past translationism and understand that that might not be the best way to translate that word. That the Greek it was written in may actually mean something else. 2nd Timothy 2:15 (NASB)—Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. How can we “accurately handle the Word of truth” if we don’t know what it means? 1st Timothy 4:13-16—Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine…Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save yourself and those who hear you. We are to give attention to reading and to doctrine. We are to always put this word before us, meditate on it, study its truths, so that when someone asks us why we shouldn’t listen to those nice young men in the clean white shirts and dark neckties, we can tell them.
Let me give you one more illustration before we move on. Suppose I set before my eyes a football game. It's easy to tell which team people were rooting for, because one team’s colors are red and white, the other team blue and white. And it's almost like there is a line that separates the fans—the ones over here for one team, the ones over there for the other. BUT—you can see a few red shirts in with the blue, and some blue shirts in with the red. That is what is happening in the church today. There are many false teachers who are infiltrating the house of God. Problem is, they don't wear clothing that advertises their falseness. And if we don’t meditate on and study the things of God, we are in danger of following right along with them. Only we’re not going to know it. We’re gonna think are on the side of truth; we will be following a system that sounds good—hey, they read the Bible, they're very moral, very devoted. But they're also very deceived. So, whatever things are true…meditate on these things.
Next, whatever things are noble… (KJV—honest). Other translations say “honorable.” Any of those is correct. In 1st Timothy and in Titus the word is rendered “grave” or “reverent.” The best way to say it is “venerable.” Webster’s dictionary defines the word “venerable” as meaning “Worthy of veneration or reverence; deserving honor and respect…[dedicated] to God and to his worship; to be regarded with awe and treated with reverence.” We should always put things before our eyes that are deserving of honor and respect; things that have, as their main purpose, the knowledge and the worship of God. Now, does this mean we shouldn’t watch a football game? No. What Paul is saying here is this—that if something "deserves honor and respect and if that something is [dedicated] to God and to his worship", then we should count those things worthy of more of our time and attention. Those things that lead us into truth, and whose main focus is the glory of God should get more of our time than a football game. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
If we are going to live a life dedicated to God, shouldn’t we meditate on things that are dedicated to God? Matthew 6:33 (KJV)—“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Colossians 3:1-2—If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. As I said at the outset, there are many things competing for our attention. There are also many things that are competing for our worship. I think we would all agree that everybody worships something. BUT one problem we see all around us today is this sentiment that says “Well, as long as they worship something, and as long as they have a good set of morals, that’s all God really cares about!” Yeah, sure, God doesn’t care if you worship Him or if you worship a tree. Just so long as you worship…something.
Romans 1:21-25—…although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. Now, hearing that, does it sound like worshipping something or someone other than the true God is something that the apostle Paul would have considered to be “noble”? And this fits in rather well with what he just told us, because if something is teaching the truth of God—will that be “noble” and “honest”? Which is why we are to study the Bible constantly. So that we can impart the truths of God’s word to others and so that we can, as Paul told the Romans a little later, Romans 16:17—Note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.
Unfortunately, these days, when we note those who cause divisions and offenses, and we point them out as teaching something contrary to the truth of God—who is it that gets labeled as “causing division?” We are!! Because it’s all about “unity!!” We shouldn’t be worrying about what people are teaching because “Jesus just wants us to love one another!” And if you dare point out the wolves that are roaming about among the sheep, you know what that makes you? “You're a Pharisee!!” And if one more person quotes, “Judge not lest ye be judged!!” without knowing what that actually means I'm gonna barf! That is a sign that you are talking to someone who doesn’t want to hear the truth, and who does not want to think about things that are “true” and “noble.” They would rather worship and serve the creation rather than the Creator.
But Paul warned us about these people as well. 2nd Timothy 3:1-5—In the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—and here is the key phrase—having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! The warning is for us to avoid those who claim to be Christians, while they continue to live in open rebellion against God. Those who are unholy, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, etc—yet they will stand there and quote Scripture as if they have the truth on their side. Paul says that we are to be as separate from them as possible. And instead, we are to focus our minds, our thoughts and our time on those things that bring glory to God and show the world that we belong to Christ.
And there is nothing more noble than to know that if we belong to Christ, we have been set free from sin, and we are now free to follow Christ and obey His commands—and to show that to a lost and fallen world. James 1:25—He who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. Or, as it says in the song we like to sing sometimes
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
Then the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
If we meditate on those things that are true, and noble, and honorable, then we will be led to meditate on those things that we will talk about next time—those things that are pure and lovely.
Jesus Christ is Lord.