06 August 2010

Verse-by-verse through Philippians (4:8, Part 3)

There are all kinds of things that compete for our attention. And if we’re not careful, we will find ourselves giving way too much of our time to those things. If you were here in Knoxville back in January, and you were to ask someone, “What was the biggest headline of this past week?” There would be no doubt that the answer would be something like “That no-good Lane Kiffin!” They might be able to tell you about something that happened somewhere down there in…oh, that island near Puerto Rico. I think they had some big earthquake or something. Priorities. Around here, more people were upset about being duped by Lane Kiffin than by the fact that thousand sof people died in Haiti.

See, the more time we dedicate to certain things, the more of our attention those things get, the more our lives are shaped and formed by those things. Don’t get me wrong—I love football. I love UT football. And I was just as upset as most people—just not enough to go burning my mattress down at Circle Park. But there was a time when I probably would have. Because, at the time, to me, college football was everything. If my Michigan Wolverines had been getting smoked by Ohio State the way they have been over the last 6 years, I probably would have been close to suicide. But you know, something funny happened a few years ago. Somebody got a hold of me. Somebody that’s a whole lot bigger than football. And it took a while, but I learned that there are some things that are a whole lot more important than football. I still like football. But it just doesn’t have the same hold on me as it used to. I've learned that there are books to read, and preaching to hear, and teaching to do—and those are a whole lot more important.

We’re working our way through this list of qualities that should act as a kind of framework to encourage us to take advantage of any good thing that may help us to come to a deeper knowledge of Christ. We saw that the first quality is truth. We should always fill ourselves with truth, since Jesus said He is “the Way, THE TRUTH, and the Life,” and that if we have the truth, the truth will set us free. So we focus on things that are true, things that are noble—things that glorify God, and are devoted to the worship of God. If something is true, and if it is noble, then it will be just. If something is true and noble and just then it will be pure. The next two qualities we will see this week are that we think on things that are lovely and things that are of good report. If something is true and noble and just and pure then it will be lovely. If it is true and noble and just and pure and lovely, then it will be of good report. I think you get the idea.

For example, the Law of God is true—it was spoken by God Himself. The Law of God is noble—it shows us how absolutely perfect God is, and how absolutely un-perfect we are. The Law of God is just—it is the ONE standard that every single person who ever lives must measure up to. The Law of God is pure—we read that from Psalm 12 last week that it is purer than gold that goes through a furnace 7 times. The Law of God is lovely. “Thou shalt love the LORD your God…and you shall love thy neighbor as thyself—on these hang all the Law and the prophets” (Mark 12:30-31 KJV). The Law of God is of good report—those who love God love His Law. Psalm 112:1Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who delights greatly in His commandments. The Law of God possesses all of these qualities listed in our verse here in Philippians. So, we are moving forward, pressing toward the mark.

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.

We are gonna look at the next two qualities. First …whatever things are lovely… When we think of the word “lovely,” what kind of context do we usually give it? We usually think of outward appearance. We say, “Oh, that’s a lovely dress you're wearing” or “Did you see that lovely sunset?” But that’s not Paul’s intention here. You’ve heard me say before that there are some places where Paul did not have a word in the Greek language that really expressed his ideas. So he had to take a word, add a suffix or prefix, and develop a new word. And some of those words only appear once in the whole NT. This is another one of them. In fact, it almost seems like Philippians and Romans have more of those words than any other of his epistles. The word that is translated “lovely” literally means “toward brotherly love.” Whatever encourages us to love the brethren; whatever stirs us up to think more highly of that other person than we think of ourselves—think on that. Galatians 5:22--The fruit of the Spirit is...what? Love...

Question: What did Jesus tell His disciples would be the #1 quality that would show the world that we belong to Him? John 13:34-35“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Now, He uses the word agape there—but the idea is the same. If we belong to Christ, we will have love for one another. So what would this mean for someone who does not love his brother? We may not be able to bang the gavel on that person, but chances are they have never really given themselves to Christ, because the one thing we should have is love for each other. 1st John 2:9-11He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness… Not a lot of wiggle room. And let me say this—and this leads into another passage of Scripture—anyone who claims to be a Christian, and is a racist, and who hates people who don’t happen to share the same skin color—take them to 1st John 2:9.

If you want a real good example of someone who needed to understand the commandment to “love all men” (1st Thessalonians 3:12) it was the apostle Peter. When he went out and preached the gospel, he was not about to have anything to do with the Gentiles. “They're unclean!” In fact, God had to appear to Peter in a vision to convince him to go to the Gentiles. And in Acts 10, he finally goes to the house of the Roman centurion named Cornelius, and leads him to Christ. But in the next probably 14 or so years, guess how many Gentiles he teaches about Christ? ZERO. But, in Galatians 2:11-14, Paul sees how Peter is being hypocritical in that he would sit and eat with Gentiles, but when the Jews came by, “See ya!!” And it wasn’t until Paul confronted him about it that Peter was convicted about it.

Which is why, I believe, Peter wrote what he did in the first few verses of his 2nd epistle. 2nd Peter 1:5-9giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Do you sense a bit of finger-pointing going on in these verses? And who is he pointing his finger at? Himself! Whatever encourages us to move toward having brotherly love for one another, think on those things. If we are lacking in brotherly kindness for one another, think on this verse. In that passage in 2nd Peter, the phrase “brotherly kindness” is the Greek word “philadelphia.” From the same root word as “lovely” in Philippians 4:8.

And all the things that are “toward love” are true.
  • Zachariah 8:19“Therefore, love truth and peace.”
  • Ephesians 4:14-15We should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine…but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into…Christ.
  • 2nd John 1:3Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.
The things that are “toward love” are noble.
  • Titus 2:1-2Speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love.
Those things that are “toward love” are just.
  • Micah 6:8And what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy.
Those things that are “toward love” are pure.
  • 1st Peter 1:22Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart.
Whatever is “toward love,” think on those things.

Then …whatever is of good report… Guess how many times Paul uses the Greek word for “good report” in the entire NT? ONCE. Those things that are “of good report”—he doesn’t mean “Well, I've heard this fellow’s pretty smart, so we should listen to him.” Paul is not saying that the church should look to the world to set the standard for what we consider being “of good report.” It’s not a matter of “this book is well-spoken of and highly popular.” It’s a matter of “this communicates good things.” To put it another way—a person could go to the Knoxville Coliseum and see a concert by a band that the world just absolutely loves. The world will say, “These guys are really good! They’ve sold a bunch of records and won 15 Grammys! And man, everybody loves their songs!” That might all be true. They may have sold a ton of records. They may have won a truckload of awards. And yes, everybody may love their music. BUT…it may be that the reason they sell so many records is because they play songs that glorify sex and drinking and drugs and all sorts of uncleanness. Should we Christians think on those things? No.

So, that’s what Paul is NOT saying. What he IS saying is that we are to think on those things that give a good report—things that lead one into truth and honor and righteousness and purity and brotherly love. The Greek word Paul uses here literally means “reporting or declaring good things.” Thayer says it means “Uttering words of good omen… things spoken in a kindly spirit, with good-will to others.” Check this out—it comes from the word that Jesus uses in the Parable of the Talents, when He tells the one, Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:22-23; Luke 19:17). The same words, I believe, we will hear at the Judgment Seat of Christ if we have been faithful with what He has trusted us with. That phrase “Well done” is a root word of the word Paul uses here to encourage us to think on things that are of good report—things that make good things famous. Basically, it refers to anything that displays the qualities a Christian should display; anything that draws attention to the qualities of Christ and puts a big huge spotlight on Him. Does that sound like what we should be doing?

Whenever Lance Cunningham is having a big car sale, what does he do? He breaks out those huge spotlights that you can see from Sevierville. That's what we are to do with those things that point us to Christ. We think on those things, and we shine a spotlight on Christ by declaring the good things of God.

We’re gonna spend the balance of our time today and the first part of next week talking about the importance of thinking on things that are of “good report.” It may not seem like it right now, but next week we’ll see how it all fits together. You’ve seen those wooden sticks you put in the oil, supposed to fill the whole room with that fragrance? That’s us. Everywhere we go, everything we do, we should have Christ pouring out of us. We live in a world that smells like sin. Smells like death. We should be different. We should smell like life. 1st Thessalonians 4:3This is the will of God—your sanctification. It is God’s will that we look completely different from this sinful world. 2nd Corinthians 2:14-16 (NASB)Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life.

In this world, we are not always celebrated for being Christians. The world hates us. A person could worship Buddha, Allah, could worship the rocks and trees. And the world will say, “Oh, they're such a spiritual person.” So many people fall all over themselves for the Dali Lama. But tell people that we worship the Lord Jesus Christ—those same people start calling us all kinds of things, using words that I rather not repeat. Why? Why don’t they like us? Because we’re not like them. If we are preaching Christ to people who don’t want to know Christ, we are showing them that they are dead in their sins. John 3:19-20“And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” John 15:19“If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”

To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. Among those who are saved, we display the love of Christ, Who was merciful to us when we were still sinners. We see another illustration of this in Colossians 2:15When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him. Here and in that passage from 2nd Corinthians, the picture is of a triumphal procession through the streets of Rome, when the Roman army would come back after defeating some foreign country. I'll let Marvin Vincent explain it—
Some find here [a reference] to a revolting feature of the Roman triumph. Just as the procession was ascending the Capitoline Hill, some of the captive chiefs were taken into the adjoining prison and put to death. “Thus the sweet odors which to the victor…and to the spectators were a symbol of glory and success and happiness, were to the wretched victims…an odor of death” (Farrar).
Think about it. The triumphant Roman army comes marching into town. All the people are cheering. They're throwing flowers and laurels to the soldiers, and hailing the emperor and the generals. But you are a captive of that Roman army. They're marching you down the main street, showing you off to the people. Would you be feeling very good right about now? But here’s the thing: those captives of Rome, who were being displayed as the trophies of the might and power of the Roman Empire—they were being led to their death. But if we are captives of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are trophies of His power and His might and His triumph over death and Hell and the grave! And is we are His captives, He will lead us to eternal life!

I think we’ll stop right there and pick that up next week, because there is a bit more I want to say on this matter of whatever is of good report. And we’ll see how this whole triumphal march and being taken captive by Christ kinda all fits together. Because it does, believe it or not!

Jesus Christ is Lord.

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