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Filter Your Thinking
Stand Firm, part 7–Philippians 4:8
If you’re into photography, you know filters. There are colored filters, polarized filters, even filters that make colors vibrant. Filters can distort, make humorous effects, screen out unwanted items and dramatically change a picture. There are also filters for cooking which screen out unwanted items from your food, making dishes taste better. There are filters for cars, keeping the oil smooth through miles of burning and use. There are filters for your house which keep your air cleaner.
Christians need filters as well–you need to filter what you say, you must filter what you see, but most important you must filter your thinking. And God describes this filter in Philippians 4:8. Turn there and take the outline found in your bulletin. This is a single verse every one of you, student to senior, must memorize. This is not an option, friends–memorize, own, practice, and obey this verse . . . both men and women, young and old, all must live by this single verse.
This verse will cause you to stand firm. This is a verse which will help you win battles with temptation, overcome depression, stop worrying, stop being fearful, and stop losing spiritual battles. And this is a truth which will help you develop a Christ-honoring mind, appreciate the blessings of this world and anticipate the glories of the next.
This verse will filter what comes into your mind, but this verse will also filter what you choose to think about, filter how you see creation, filter how you look at people and interpret events. This single verse, when applied, is a game changer. Go for this verse because verse 8 will dramatically affect your life.
What does Paul say in Philippians 4:8? “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Taking the first letter of each category of thought, you get what? THRPLGEP–thank you, Kurt Gebhards, for THRPLGEP. Say it, “THRPLGEP.” This is the filter for your mind. The Bible talks a lot about your thinking and your mind, making it clear you need a filter–why? By way of introduction . . .
1 Thinking is the key to winning over TEMPTATION
James 1 describes temptations as a process. A temptation starts in your desires, moving to your mind, finally resulting in a choice to sin–feelings, to mind, to the will/choice. You can’t totally control your feelings, you can’t stop temptations from happening, you can’t stop every desire. So the key to stopping temptation is in your thinking. You must stop the temptation in your mind before it becomes a choice of the will.
You can prevent internal sin and external actions of sin by filtering your thinking. You will have bad thoughts–you will be tempted. But like Martin Luther said so colorfully, “The birds will fly over, but you don’t have to let them build a nest in your hair.” Don’t take that second look. Don’t linger. Do not allow the fantasizing. You must stop temptation and bad thinking in your mind with filtered thinking. As a believer, you can choose not to dwell on wrong thoughts.
2 Thinking is WHO you actually are
Proverbs 23:7a says, “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.” No matter what you say, what ministry you’re involved in, or how spiritual you appear, who you really are is what you think. Jesus said it this way in Matthew 15:18 to 20, “’The things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. 20 These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.’” All those behaviors came from inside of you. Your thinking is in you–it is you!
3 Thinking is a silent DIALOGUE with God
Luke 6:8, “[Jesus] knew what they were thinking.” And Luke 11:17, “[Jesus] knew their thoughts.” If you’re unforgiving, hateful, or angry in your thinking, all those thoughts are completely expressed to God as if you said them to God verbally. If you allow yourself to think lustful, perverted, or think sensually in your imagination–all those are explicitly being expressed to God Himself.
He knows your thoughts, whether you speak them or not, whether you act on them or not. Matthew 9:4, “Jesus knowing their thoughts said, ‘Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?’” First Chronicles 28:9b, “For the Lord searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts.”
4 Thinking requires Christians to avoid GARGAGE
GIGO, garbage in and garbage out, is true for your mind. The word sensible in the New Testament has to do with thinking biblically with self-control. That means we need to avoid exposing ourselves to images and information which are impure and improper for a believer in order to live godly.
Just consider the opposite of what Paul says here in verse 8—look at it. Paul writes, “Finally, brethren, whatever is ERROR, whatever is DISHONORABLE, whatever is WRONG, whatever is IMPURE, whatever is UNLOVELY, whatever is of BAD repute, if there is anything IMMORAL and if anything NOT worthy of praise, DO NOT ALLOW YOUR MIND TO dwell on these things.” You and I must avoid anything which will contribute to bad, impure thinking.
5 Thinking requires the saturation of SCRIPTURE
The first filter of thinking Paul puts forth in verse 8 is, “whatever is true”. The Scripture is true, making Scripture the filter to all godly thinking. Scripture is your light, your food and your guide. Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Scripture is what saves you and Scripture is what sanctifies you.
So Paul says in Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you.” Let the Bible saturate your internal life, your mind, your thinking. Let the Bible be your lens, your filter, your focus, and your decision maker. Let God’s Word direct what you think about by you choosing to think about the Scripture continually. Choose to have God’s word dwell within you, which means having the Bible be at home in your mind. Psalm 119:11, “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.”
6 Thinking must be filtered in order to STAND FIRM
Paul begins verse 8 with, “Finally, brethren.” The Greek word finally is Paul saying, with the remaining time, here is what’s lacking. Or, with finally, you might say, “Do not let me leave this out, brethren.” Brethren is brothers, which is probably Paul addressing the elders and deacons of Philippi. Or he might be addressing all the men of the church.
Regardless, Paul makes it clear, the spiritual leaders need to think this way. He is not addressing this thinking to the weak, so-called Christian, but to leaders–the mature. You who are godly, who desire to stand firm must filter your thinking, which means all Christians are to filter their thinking.
But the point of finally is, Paul is in the midst of communicating a line of thinking which started in verse 1, commanding us to stand firm, to be steady, to grow mature. The Philippians were being persecuted by Romans, pressured by unsaved Judaizers, pressed by unsaved, Gentile grace-abusers, partitioned by division–so Paul says, stand firm against these painful trials.
Then how do you stand firm when life is unforgiving and merciful? Verses 2 to 9 give the answer. There are a series of eight commands which tell you what it means to stand firm. Those who stand firm against painful trials are the ones, verses 2 to 3 addressing relational tension, verse 4 manifesting genuine joy, verse 5 embracing honest humility, verse 6 resting in dependent faith, verse 7 responding in personal prayer, and now verse 8 filtering their thinking.
Read again what Paul says in this powerful verse. “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” God is clearly, pointedly commanding you, to filter your thinking in three ways.
#1 FILTERED thinking involves SEARCHING out the good
Too often we imagine thinking only about certain topics. But filtered thinking also involves filtering out the bad from the good and focusing on the good. This world is a fallen planet, but you would agree there is beauty in God’s creation. People are prone to sin, but there are times when God’s goodness and kindness are seen in a sweet moment.
There is a lot of selfishness in this world, but there are also gifts of sacrifice which remind us of the greatest gift God ever gave us. There are people who only focus on themselves, but occasionally there’re expressions which are worthy of praise.
There was a man who supported the Mueller family monthly for a year during a season of financial crisis. To this day, I have never met this man, but his gift was a gracious, loving, kind message from God to our family. Early on, there was a man who was trying to take a second out on his house in order for me to be able to buy a house. I didn’t let him, but his graciousness to me was a message from God in the midst of financial hardship.
Friends who encouraged me in sorrow . . . mentors who believed in me when others did not . . . the wisdom of an amazing wife, etc.—all expressions of God’s goodness worthy of praise. But Paul takes proper thinking a step further. God is commanding you to be focusing on what God is doing in the midst of a trial, a difficulty, even in the middle of some evil asking, “How can our Savior use horrible things, but accomplish His will and our good for His glory and our growth?”
This is part of what Paul has in mind in verse 8–look carefully. The Greek words translated whatever—“whatever is true” actually means as much as. In the midst of a fallen world, or an evil boss, wicked teacher, unsaved spouse—as much as is true, let your mind dwell on that. Literally, every whatever is as much as is true, honorable, right–as much as is pure. Consider your current trial–as much as is lovely, as much as is true, as much as is excellent in that trial. Focus your thinking on those things in the midst of it.
I was re-reading Band of Brothers and Dick Winters’ Beyond Band of Brothers. The WW2 Special Forces were the Airborne Parachutists. They were originally led by an insecure, cruel, capricious, control freak of a commander to prepare them. He was the worst commander, an imbecile commander on the field–none of the men trusted him.
But in the midst of all his massive failings, insecurities and lack of leadership, he worked them so hard they were ready for battle. Physically and mentally they were the most prepared. So even in the midst of his injustice and insecure leadership, as the men looked back, they were thankful for him because they were prepared for battle like few others.
The same goes for you. You have a bad teacher, a poor coach, an unsaved spouse, a rebellious child–in the midst of all that hardship, God is working good out in your life, accomplishing His purposes . . . even using evil people to accomplish His will. Just like Joseph’s brothers who threw him in a pit and sold him as a slave, yet God had a purpose even in the midst of them treating Joseph so badly.
Genesis 50:20 says, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” You have a difficult marriage, God will teach you how to love sacrificially and make you more gracious to others because of it. It can make you better instead of bitter.
You have been crushed unfairly, which can make you compassionate toward others. Your friends betrayed you, which will help you understand your Lord’s betrayal and make you far more caring to others who’ve been hurt deeply. Filtered thinking means you find as much as you can in the midst of trial, injustice or evil. You find the true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, good reputation, excellent or praiseworthy in the midst of hard or sinful situations.
#2 FILTERED thinking involves continually HUNTING down categories of thought
Look for THRPLGEP–right? The first letter of each category spells THRPLGEP. Verse 8, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”
Look closely at the beginning of verse 8. Let me point out two unusual facts about the verb is–whatever is true. So far you’ve learned Paul is saying, with the remaining time, brothers, as much as is true. The verb “is” is actually and literally the verb to be–it means I AM, exists as, to be, as much as exists as true, as much as being true, as much as to be true, as much as in essence is true.
The categories which follow are all to be factually true all the time. Each category is to be something that is always true and biblically true. Always lovely, biblically lovely; always pure, biblically pure for each category. This verb is, which is to be or exists as, being as, is also the assumed verb in the rest of the categories. It is the way you write in Greek–you list the verb for the first category and the same verb then is assumed for every other category.
So literally, the next categories then are written this way. As much as exists honorable, as much as exists right, as much as exists pure, as much as exists lovely, as much as exists of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise. So what are we to think about? What filter do you use to think? Here are the categories? THRPLGEP
First Finally, brethren, as much as exists, continually TRUE
Our society asks whatever works. So-called Christian culture, and the majority of churches today ask, “How will that make me feel?” But God commands, “Think about what is true.” As much as exists as continually true! Jesus is the Truth and His Word is the Truth. We should be thinking about the character of Christ and the truths of His Word–thinking hard about who God is, His attributes, His actions, and His priorities, plus reading, listening to, studying, meditating on, and analyzing the Word of God.
False doctrine was attacking the Philippians, so Paul says, “Don’t think about error. Don’t spend time dwelling on evolution, egalitarianism, or some new, weird view. Do not think on falsehood or deception except to embrace truth.” To stand firm, you must not fill your mind with lies, speculation, feelings, or error, but instead truth.
Some say the next categories are just unique expressions of God’s character or different ways to view the truths of Scripture. Regardless, each is the filter to guide your thinking. Only think about these things.
Second Whatever is continually HONORABLE
Honorable is noble, dignified, honest, revere, worship and worthy of respect. In other New Testament passages, honorable is used to describe the dignified lifestyle required of deacons and older men. These are thoughts which don’t focus on the mundane or earthly, but rather focus on the heavenly and are worthy of respect.
There are frivolous and flippant thoughts, and there are honorable, dignified thoughts. Some of us think only of YouTube, commercials, sports, movies, entertainment, events, concerts–and God today wants you to elevate what you think about. God commands you to work on thinking honorable. There’s a thinking about things that don’t matter and a thinking about things that do. Christians filter their thinking by concentrating on those things that eternally matter.
Third Whatever is continually RIGHT
Right is an adjective and can be translated righteous or just. Whatever reflects God’s character, God’s standards, God’s plan, God’s Word, God’s law and God’s salvation is to be the focus of our thinking. To stand firm, believers should meditate on God’s righteous actions and appreciate righteousness in others. Proverbs 12:5, “The thoughts of the righteous are just.” You are to be thinking about those things which are just and fair. You are to filter your thinking by dwelling on all things righteous.
Fourth Whatever is continually PURE
Pure are those things God describes in Scripture as holy, morally clean and undefiled. Remaining a virgin till you’re married is a purity to think through. Keeping yourself unstained by impurity of thought or speech is a thinking goal.
The Roman environment, even in Philippi, was very impure. Yet in the midst of an impure world, they were to pursue pure thoughts. You are to purify yourself just as He is pure, as 1 John 3:3 says, “And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” You are to filter your thinking by dwelling on all things pure.
Fifth Whatever is continually LOVELY
The Greek word lovely only occurs here in the New Testament. Lovely can be translated sweet, gracious, generous, or pleasing. Believers must focus their thoughts on what the Bible says is pleasing, attractive, and amiable before God. Never vengeance, bitterness, criticism, but think on those things which are attractive and winsome, lovely, kind, sympathetic and forbearing. Filter your thinking by dwelling on all things lovely.
Sixth Whatever is continually of GOOD REPUTE
This word also only occurs here in the New Testament. It describes something which is highly regarded or well thought of. You are to think about topics which could be spoken in God’s presence. Since He hears your thinking, have in mind, these are said to Him. Good repute means good sayings, appealing truths, a good report, edifying–someone’s good character, sacrificial actions, service unto Christ and more. Filter your thinking by dwelling on all things biblically well thought of.
Seventh If there is any EXCELLENCE
Excellence is like having the right tool, or the right help, or the right friend at the right moment. Anytime God works providentially, it is excellent. Consider His sovereign control, His perfect wisdom, all-knowing timing–think on what God is doing and you are thinking about His excellence.
Eighth If there is anything WORTHY OF PRAISE
Anything you can praise God for is a filter for your thinking. THRPLGEP is a filter for your thinking through God’s character and God’s Word. But it takes more than knowing about THRPLGEP to make it happen.
#3 FILTERED thinking involves choosing to CONCENTRATE
Don’t miss the command of verse 8–this is not an option. Don’t just hear the truth today, do the truth. NASB says, “Dwell on these things.” ESV says, “Think about these things.” NKJV says, “Meditate on these things.” In order to grow up, mature and stand firm as a Christian, you’re commanded to focus your thinking on these categories.
That means you can, Christian. God never commands anything He does not enable. As a Christian, if you say, “I can’t,” it really means, “I won’t.” If you really are unable, it means you are not a believer. Ladies, you can choose not to fear, not to worry and not to fret–you can. Concentrate on truth. Focus on THRPLGEP–practice thinking these categories.
Standing firm, growing into a godly woman, requires filtered thinking, and choosing to concentrate on THRPLGEP and not on finances, fears, or failures. The command to dwell means to reason, think through, ponder, and reflect on. The word is logizomai, where we get the English word logic. In business, the word was used to describe deliberation or to calculate.
This kind of thinking is the difference between a child and an adult, which is what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 14:20, “Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.” Concentrate on THRPLGEP. It is not enough to know what to think–God commands you to concentrate, to work at it, to focus on these categories, to filter your thinking, even find these categories in the midst of a fallen world and evil circumstances.
1. God commands us to THINK in order to be SAVED
Isaiah 1:18, “’Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the Lord, ‘Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.’” There are some here who do not get it. Matthew 13:19, “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road.”
But those who hear His Word, mind, heart and soul, will respond like Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” You are headed to eternal judgment unless you turn from your sin in repentance and depend completely on Jesus Christ by faith. When that happens, God dramatically transforms your life, so you follow Him and obey His Word, the Bible.
Think properly–if you’re not following Christ, obeying His Word, loving Him most of all–it is a strong indicator you are not a genuine Christian. Ask the Lord, Psalm 139:23, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts.”
2. God commands us to THINK in order to be SANCTIFIED
John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” God gave his revelation in a book, the Bible, and expects his people to use their minds to understand its truths. If your faith is divorced from thinking, you’ll be weak.
The Bible shapes our thinking. Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” You will not grow mature, stand firm, unless you think deeply about God’s Word.
3. God commands us to THINK in order to be SATISFIED
Only as you think are you reminded of God’s thoughts toward us. Psalm 139:17 to 18, “How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with You.” God’s mind is infinite and His thoughts toward you are so vast they can’t be numbered.
And God’s thinking is connected to His omniscience, eternality, perfect wisdom and infinite greatness. Isaiah 55:8 and 9, “’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’”
God desires our thinking to be truth. God’s thinking is truth and perfect all the time. No matter how difficult your situation, how hard your trial, how deep your problem, God’s thoughts about it are perfect and you can trust Him to always be righteous and true. As you stand firm, your thinking will be the same. Since you will, more and more, filter your thinking. Let’s pray.