Philippians 4:8: “Whatever is pure…think on these things.”
If we are to “take every thought captive” (2 Cor. 10:5, NASB), then we need to know what kinds of things deserve to be let in. Everything else gets entry refused. Philippians 4:8 gives us a checklist of descriptions about things we should be thinking: true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, worthy to be repeated, virtuous, and praiseworthy. Today we will be looking at the fourth in this list: pure.
What does the word pure really mean? How can we ingest thoughts and images that are pure? And is it really that important?
Purity has so many different connotations. Did Paul mean “clean,” “holy,” “unadulterated,” “sanctified” or “set apart,” or pure sexually, as in “chastity” or “virginity”? The Greek word hagnos comes from the root hagios, which means holy, set apart, & sanctified. But it also has the idea of chaste, unpolluted, undefiled. It can mean strictly sexually pure (the Septuagint’s Greek translation of Gen. 39:7-12 regarding Joseph), but it seems in this very general list of good traits in Philippians, a broader meaning of “clean” or “holy” is implied.
Titus 1:15-16: To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work (ESV).
What are we Ingesting?
I’m going to take this opportunity to rant about the filthiness of most TV shows and movies these days. If you don’t want to be convicted about what you nourish your mind with, skip this section. 😊
We all—including myself—need to take a moment of self-evaluation. Ask yourself, while I’m asking myself again, “Is what I’m watching, reading, or listening to considered ‘clean’ by the Bible’s standards? Would I be pleased or ashamed to have Jesus come watch TV with me or read my magazines or go out to the movies with me or browse the Internet with me?” Because He is with us all the time. We take Him along with us while we do all these things.
I know that I often need to remind myself of His constant presence, because my standards can so easily slip down again. I’ll give you a very specific example. I used to love the movie, “Kate and Leopold,” with Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman. I’m intrigued with anything to do with time travel, and I love a good romance. ❤ However, this particular movie has quite a bit of cussing in it. I decided at one point that it wasn’t helping me to keep my mind clear but instead was helping the temptation to swear to grow even stronger. So I gave away the movie.
Then just recently, I found “Kate and Leopold” again on Netflix. I didn’t have to spend any more money to buy the movie again, so I watched it a couple of times. Each time I watched it, I remembered the reason I gave it away in the first place. I tried to ignore it and not let the cursing even enter my mind. That works some, but only to a certain extent. The cussing does eventually dirty my mind.
It’s just not a wise use of two hours of my life. If I want to relax and watch a movie, there are plenty of other cleaner movies out there to spend my time on. It’s hard to give up such a great movie! There are so many good things about it! But that one impure quality was hindering my walk with the Lord, not helping it. So, off of my To-Watch-List it goes. I don’t know about you, but I personally need a constant reminder to Keep my Thoughts on Track.
Purity is Practical
1 Tim. 5:2: Treat older women as you would your mother, and treat younger women with all purity as you would your own sisters (NLT).
2 Cor. 6:3-10: We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.
The Bible tells wives specifically to be pure:
1 Pet. 3:1-2: Wives, in the same way, submit yourselves to your husbands, so that even if they refuse to believe the word, they will be won over without words by the behavior of their wives when they see your pure and reverent demeanor (Berean Study Bible).
And the church specifically to be pure (like a wife, the Bride of Christ):
2 Cor. 11: 2-4: For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ. But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent. You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed.
The Bible tells young people specifically to be pure:
1 Tim. 4:12: Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity (ESV).
Psalm 119:9: How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word (NLT).
Purity is a goal for all of us to work toward:
1 John 3:3: And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure (ESV).
James 1:27: Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you (NLT).
James 3:17: But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere (NIV).
1 Tim. 1:5: The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith NLT).
Prov. 15:26: The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the LORD, but gracious words are pure (ESV).
I still remember a visual demonstration that my youth pastor, Robert Cooke, showed us in high school. He took a bowl full of mud and asked us if this mud could ever be clean. Then he slowly added cup after cup of pure water. It made a little bit bigger mess than he anticipated, so we moved the demonstration into the kitchen. 😉 It took several minutes, but eventually, the pure water cleared away all the impurities and left a completely clear bowl.
The point was that it’s never too late to change our thinking habits. Even if our mind has been sullied to the point that we think it’s too far gone, it’s not. If we stop putting more mud in, and start putting pure things in, our minds will eventually be cleansed and purified. Of course, the opposite is true, too. If we continue to fill our minds with gunk, they will never be clean and pure. It’s our choice.
So when the Bible here in Philippians tells us to think on pure things, I think it means to think about things that are clean, undefiled, good and right, things that don’t sully our minds with any minutiae of sin; the ultimate would of course always be God. It’s always good to meditate about God and His Word.
Do you have a specific example of something the Lord has convicted you of but that you don’t want to let go of, like my movie example? Please share in the comments below or in our Facebook Group, Practical Living for Christian Women! We won’t judge. We all struggle with this. Let us pray for each other and hold each other accountable. (Feel free to ask me every once in a while if I’ve added “Kate and Leopold” back onto my list! Just the possibility of you asking will help me remember not to.) 😊
Stay tuned for the next in the series: "Whatever is Lovely."