Do you ever wonder if some of the timeless commands of the Bible don’t apply to us, today? Most followers of Jesus who believe in the inspiration and integrity of the Bible would quickly say, “no”, but if we’re honest, there are some passages that seem really difficult in this day and age.
I’m not just talking about those related to raising sheep, either. (Although, if you are a sheepherder, thank you for your contribution to society!) Instead, there are things that just don’t seem to fit in a modern, crazy world, like this one:
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
Philippians 4:8 NLT
In a world of sin and lies, we are called to dwell on the good. In an environment where it seems that the only thing more polarized than yesterday’s headlines are today’s opinion articles, is it feasible to find things that are true and admirable? When evil is winning lots of battles (even though it will lose the war), are we really expected to focus on what is pure?
Despite how things may seem, I’m going to have to go with God on this one, and say, “yes”. We are still supposed to focus – “fix our thoughts” – on things that are worth our mental energy.
That doesn’t mean we ignore those in need (since Jesus did not), but we are called to focus on what reflects God’s nature, His word, and His truth. So, how on earth (literally) are we supposed to do that?
For one thing, I suppose that this may mean limiting what we read, watch, and listen to. To some of us (myself included), it may seem impossible or unthinkable to not read or watch our preferred source of information about what is going wrong in the world. Our feeds and our broadcasts may be interesting (and might even reinforce what we already want to believe), but do they meet the “Philippians criteria”, above? There are ways to balance what we take in, but sometimes the best way to fix a leaking pipe is to shut the water off!
In addition to managing what we personally dwell upon, there seems to be a second implication in this verse, as we ask ourselves: Do our words and actions help other people focus on good things, or do they pull those around us into the mire? As we chat with friends, or post our thoughts online, are we helping others live out the instructions from this verse, or are we pulling them away from following God’s commandments here? That is a bit of a sobering reminder, when we consider verses like Mark 9:42 and 1 Corinthians 8:11-13.
I think that if we start by filling up our own thoughts and hearts with the right content, then what comes out of our mouth (or keyboards – whether tactile or touchscreen) will naturally start to look more like Jesus’ words. Of course, I didn’t invent that principle: Jesus said it pretty clearly long ago, as illustrated in verses like Luke 6:45.
The process of getting our hearts completely right can take a lifetime (and beyond), though, so we may be challenged to regulate our “output” (the messages we put out for others to think about) even before we have fully sanitized the “source” (the focus of our hearts).
So, let’s think about what we are are thinking, today. May we consider what is entering into our minds and hearts (as much as we have control over it), as well as what we are pouring into others. Even in a dark world, I’m pretty sure that we can find some honorable things worthy of our focus.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.