30 July 2010

Verse-by-verse through Philippians (4:8, Part 2)

Last time, we started talking about things we should meditate upon—those things that will help us to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2nd Peter 3:18). Those things that we should set aside time for every day. Being surrounded by the evil that competes for our attention, it’s hard sometimes for a Christian to know what kinds of things they should read or listen to. Our salvation does not necessarily depend on what we watch or read—but if we say we love God, and we listen to music or watch movies that glamorize those things He hates, then we are grieving His heart, and we should avoid those things. First we saw that the things we spend time reading or watching should be true. If we surround ourselves with truth, we will be less likely to believe the lies of the devil. We should meditate on things that are noble. Those things that have, as their main purpose, the glory and the worship of God. And today we’re going to continue down the list.

Philippians 4:8Finally, 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.

When we read this verse, we could be tempted to think, “Well, that’s easy for him to say—they didn’t have all the influences we have today.” But that is not necessarily true. These Philippians were in a situation not unlike the one we find ourselves in today. Philippi was a Roman colony. They were under Roman government, they were surrounded by Roman culture and it would be very easy for them to be influenced by Roman paganism. And, of course, there were all the Roman philosophers and writers. So we can see that they didn’t have it any easier than we do. They were actually at a disadvantage compared to us, because they couldn’t just run down to the local Wal-Mart and plunk down $5 to buy their own copy of the Bible. So, when Paul gives them this list of things to meditate upon, it wasn’t any less of a difficulty for these Philippians than it is for us today. And it is actually less difficult for us because we have nearly 2000 years of understanding and teaching to help us. So let’s take a look at what Paul is telling them—and us—to meditate on in our text today. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just Or, “righteous.”

One fellow said, “Giving to God what belongs to him, and to man what is his due; studying to exercise a conscience void of offence to both; [being] in opposition to all injustice, violence, and oppression.” Three times in the book of Acts, this word “just” (or “righteous”) is used as a title for Christ. Acts 3:14“But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you.” Acts 7:52“And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers.” Acts 22:14“Then he said, ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth.’” The most just and the most righteous thing we can ever think upon is our Lord Jesus Christ. In Romans 3:21-26, Paul uses words like “righteous” and “righteousness” and “justified” and “the justifier”—all from the same root word. Romans 3:21-26But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

To all who believe, God gives the righteousness—the “just-ness”—of Christ. Christ paid the price for all who believe—so that we don’t have to! And because Jesus has paid that price, God can be just in justifying us by our faith. He is the “Justifier” and He is “Just.” Paul is saying, “Think about that.” Think about the “just-ness” we have in Christ! And to go a step further, if we are all meditating upon Christ, then we will all be what Paul encouraged us to be back in chapter 2. Philippians 2:2-5Fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind…let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. It’s the whole “How do you tune 100 pianos” question. You tune 1, then you tune the rest by that one. If we set our minds on the Just One, then the thoughts we have are more likely to be in line with the thoughts of that Just One.

And if our thoughts are in line with that Just One, then the words we speak will be more like that Just One. Matthew 15:18-20“But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man…” Those are things that are in the heart. Also, the kind of man we are will depend—not entirely, maybe, but largely—on what we put before our eyes and take in through our ears. Matthew 6:22—“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.” What was Jesus’ main accusation about the Pharisees? They looked good—on the outside. And in Matthew 23, He compared them to whitewashed tombs. Matthew 23:27-28“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Next time someone tells you that you are wrong for speaking the truth,a nd that you "Need to be more like Jesus"--point them to Matthew 23.

It’s not enough to look good on the outside. Our hearts and our minds have to be right. We can come to church every Sunday, even sing in the choir—but if we’re still sinful and evil on the inside, we’re just whitewashed tombs. We are full of all uncleanness and wickedness and sin. Because we are not taking in those things that point us toward that Just One. We’re gonna forget the things of that Just One, and we’re gonna drift off, and drift off, and the next thing we know we’re gonna be in the middle of the ocean, all by ourselves, and we’re gonna wonder “How did I get here?” Because we didn’t meditate on things that are just. Righteous. Now, is the Law of God just and righteous? Romans 7:12Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. Every single human being who does not know Christ will be judged by that same Law. Romans 2:12For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law.

This leads us into our next topic. Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure... Psalm 12:6The words of the LORD are pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Has anybody heard the story of how a silversmith refines silver? The refiner sits over the smelting pot, and as the silver heats up, the impurities rise to the top. This is called “dross,” and it is scraped away. Then the refiner waits for more impurities to rise, and scrapes them off. And he keeps doing this until the silver is as pure as it can be. And how does he know it’s done? When he can see a reflection of himself in the silver. Sounds like our God, doesn’t it? Galatians 4:19 (NET)My children—I am again undergoing birth pains until Christ is formed in you! Malachi 3:2-3 (KJV)But who may abide the day of his coming? And who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap: and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.

You know what God does? If there are impurities in His children, He will sit as a refiner of fire, and He will allow circumstances to happen in our lives to “turn up the heat” as it were. In the OT when you see a phrase that says something like “try me O LORD”—when you see the word “try” or “tried” it quite often has this meaning. That God is examining us like silver, and He will either use His word or He will allow circumstance into our life to show us some impurity within us, so that we can lift it up to Him in prayer, and ask Him to take it away. Psalm 26:2Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my mind and my heart. Psalm 66:10 (KJV)For thou, O God, hast proved us: thou hast tried us, as silver is tried.

Would it be better for us to suffer things in this life—or in the life to come? So would it be better to keep our minds on things that are pure and that keep us pure—or would we rather have God allow our circumstances to purify us? Hebrews 12:5-11 (NASB)“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.” God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? My daddy whooped me at 5 for calling my sister the “B” word. Guess how many times he heard me cuss after that?

Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. In other words, so that when He looks in that smelting pot, He sees a reflection of Himself.

All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Or, “just-ness.” I think we would all agree that it is better to suffer in the body than to suffer in Hell. And when does this chastisement usually happen? What kind of condition are we usually in when God chastises us? Now, does that happen all of a sudden? I mean, do we just wake up one morning and say, “You know, it’s such a beautiful day, I think I'll get hooked on pornography today?” What happens? What is that little song we teach children? “Be careful little eyes what you see/Be careful little hands what you do/Be careful little feet where you go/Be careful little heart what you love.” There is a reason we teach this song to children. And what is that reason? Because when we find ourselves on the road of sin, it's not usually because we jumped on it with both feet. It happened because we weren't careful about what we looked at, what we listened to, and little by little we started down the road.

So we sing that song to children. Now, do we ever stop being children, really? We call ourselves adults—should our eyes be careful what we see? Our hands what we do? Our feet where we go? Our hearts what we love? Casting Crowns came out with a song called “Slow Fade.” Listen to these lyrics:

Be careful little eyes what you see
It's the second glance that ties your hands as darkness pulls the strings
Be careful little feet where you go
For it's the little feet behind you that are sure to follow

It's a slow fade when you give yourself away
It's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid when you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
It’s a slow fade.

How many adulterous affairs start with sex? The journey of a thousand miles… How many times does a church simply jump head-first right smack-dab into heresy? They don’t, usually. Typically, it starts with compromising one seemingly “small” doctrine. Thing is, it’s usually a doctrine that has something to do with the nature of God or the means of salvation. And when they compromise on, say, the virgin birth of Christ, they have to give up teaching that Christ was sinless. If they give up teaching that Christ was sinless, they need to give up teaching that Jesus Christ was God the Son. Finally, they give up teaching the Trinity. By the time they're done, they're worshiping a God of their own design. All because they compromised on that one doctrine. All because they did not keep themselves pure. 1st John 3:2-3When He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

If we are children of God, if we have been saved by the blood of Christ, then we need to keep ourselves pure—NOT that we keep ourselves SAVED, God does that—but we keep ourselves pure. When Jesus was washing Peter’s feet, John 13:9-10Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean…” James 1:27Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. 2nd Corinthians 11:2I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. Hebrews 10:22Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Ephesians 5:25-27Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself as a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. Listen to that again. That He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word.

And how pure is the Word of the Lord again? Psalm 12:6The words of the LORD are pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. What’s the purest that gold can be? It can never be called “100% pure gold.” Are there any impurities in the Word of God? Should we meditate on those words? Whatever is pure…meditate on these things. Charles Spurgeon, from The Treasury of David:
“What a contrast between the vain words of man, and the pure words of Jehovah. Man's words are yea and nay, but the Lord's promises are yea and amen. For truth, certainty, holiness, faithfulness, the words of the Lord are pure as well-refined silver. In the original there is an allusion to the most severely-purifying process known to the ancients, through which silver was passed when the greatest possible purity was desired; the dross was all consumed, and only the bright and precious metal remained. So clear and free from all error or unfaithfulness is the book of the words of the Lord. The Bible has passed through the furnace of persecution, literary criticism, philosophic doubt, and scientific discovery, and has lost nothing but human interpretations which clung to it as alloy to precious ore. The experience of saints has tried it in every conceivable manner, but not a single doctrine or promise has been consumed in the most excessive hearing. What God's words are, the words of his children should be. If we would be Godlike in conversation, we must watch our language, and maintain the strictest purity of integrity and holiness in all our communications.”
Whatever things are true…noble…just…pure…meditate on these things.

Jesus Christ is Lord.

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