Training our Thoughts: Keeping our Minds On-Track

In this media-rich, information-overloaded society we’re now living in, I believe that keeping our thoughts disciplined is extremely critical.  I also think it’s the easiest thing to overlook and its importance most easily dismissed.

Why is it important to keep our minds filled with positive things?

  • I’m not talking about the power of positive thinking only – It’s a Biblical mandate!  “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2, NIV).  “…bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
  • Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21, KJV) = and words begin with thoughts.
  • Important people acknowledge our thoughts to be extremely important.  “The mind is its own place and in itself, can make Heaven of Hell, and a Hell of Heaven.” John Milton
  • It’s an old and proven formula that everything can be traced back to our thought life.
  •  Thoughts → beliefs → actions → habits → lifestyle (KJV “conversation” of our lives).  
  • The Greek word for “think” in Philippians 4:8 means “to reckon, consider, or ponder.”  It’s a deep reasoning, pondering over a period of time about these good things.  It’s not a quick soundbite that goes in one ear and out the other.  It’s taking time to meditate and mull them over.  This is something that has been lost in many modern Christians’ walk with the Lord.

Philippians 4:8 is one of my favorite verses.  It’s so practical!  A good theological debate is fun and informative, but all the correct theology isn’t enough.  Although we need to have our theology straight first, theology doesn’t do any good if it’s not put into practice in our daily lives.  I would even argue that if a theological belief hasn’t changed your actions, then you don’t really believe it (James 2:14-26). 

To understand the practicality, we need to understand what Paul wrote in the first place.  Here are several different ways this verse is translated:

Philippians 4:8

New International Version
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.

New Living Translation
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.

English Standard Version
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

King James Bible
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

(I’ve taken the words I think are best translated from the Greek and combined them into my “version.”  I don’t claim to be a Greek expert—this is just my preference.)

Lila’s version  😊  

Finally, brothers (and sisters) (in Christ), whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is worthy to be repeated, if there’s any virtue, if there’s anything praiseworthythink on these things.

I’m going to delve deeper into each of these adjectives in the following posts, but here is a quick overview:

True

true

Whatever is True...

 

Wikipedia defines truth this way: “Truth is most often used to mean being in accord with fact or reality, or fidelity to an original or standard.  Truth may also often be used in modern contexts to refer to an idea of ‘truth to self,’ or authenticity” (quoting Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary, truth, 2005).

The modern idea of being “true to myself” is in some ways helpful to realize the importance of avoiding hypocrisy and putting on a façade.  However, that’s not the full meaning of “truth.”  Truth implies a standard in order to determine what is not true.  If truth equals reality (and it does), then the only source of truth is the Lord God Almighty.   He determines not only what is real but also is the standard Himself.  Truth means the absence of its antithesis: deception, false information, inauthenticity (hypocrisy).  Satan is the Father of Lies and the world’s system is His distributor. 

That means that as Christians, as Jesus followers trying to think on Truth, we must be very careful what goes into our minds.  Once a thought or idea or scene from a TV show or movie is in your mind, it’s always in there (Jennifer Rothschild, Me, Myself, and Lies, p. 19).  If you remember it more than once, it becomes an easy groove that the trolley car of our minds can go to anytime. 

So when the Bible here tells us to think about things that are true, I think it means to think on things that are filled with biblical truths of morality and integrity; the ultimate would of course always be God.  It’s always good to think about God and His Word. 

Honorable

honorable

Whatever is Honorable...

 

Let me summarize Merriam-Webster’s definition of honorable: deserves respect or high regard; illustrious (famous); characterized by integrity, a reputation that is not tarnished or sullied.

This is a hard word to translate directly from the Greek into English.  “Honorable” is the closest single word we have—it has the idea of “venerable” or “majestic,” inspiring veneration, even worship.  Of course, the only one who is worthy of worship is the Lord.  It may have the idea of those who are worthy of admiration, also; but we must be aware that admiration can go too far. 

So when the Bible here tells us to think on honorable things, I think it means to think about things and people that have good reputations; the ultimate would of course always be God.  It’s always good to think about God and His Word. 

Just

 

just

Whatever is Just...

Merriam-Webster online defines “just” as:  reasonable, proper; “acting or being in conformity with what is morally upright or good”: righteous; deserved.  Zodhiates’ Complete Word Study New Testament makes a distinction between “just” (“justified” or “righteousness”) and “justification” (see p. 906, under word 1344).  “Just” means about the same as “righteous,” “pious” (see Acts 10:2), and “fearing God” (Acts 10:22), presupposing a norm of behavior. 

This is a little hard to grasp exactly what we’re supposed to think about that is “righteous” or “right.”  It seems to give the idea of fairness, things that are full of justice.  Merriam-Webster defines “justice” as “the quality of being just, impartial, or fair”; “conformity to truth, fact, or reason.”

Injustices, while we should strive to eliminate them, are always going to be around in one form or another.  They should not occupy our thoughts like those that are right.  Pondering about and mulling over Injustices lead to anger or hopelessness.  Thinking about justice leads us to praise the One who alone is fully Just and Righteous. 

So when the Bible here tells us to think on just things, I think it means to think on things that are fair and righteous; the ultimate would of course always be God.  It’s always good to think about God and His Word.

Pure

pure

Whatever is Pure...

Purity has so many different connotations, it’s hard to know exactly what was meant in Phil. 4:8.  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. 

I really want to get on one of my soapboxes about the filthiness of most TV shows and movies these days, but I’ll refrain, for now. 😊  I will just make this one simple statement: “Is what I’m watching, reading, or listening to considered ‘clean’ by the Bible’s standards?”  I’ll leave it at that.

So when the Bible here tells us to think on pure things, I think it means to think about things that are clean, undefiled, that don’t sully our minds with any minutiae of sin; the ultimate would of course always be God.  It’s always good to think about God and His Word. (Do you notice a pattern here?)

Lovely

lovely

Whatever is Lovely...

When you think of things that are “lovely,” you may think of a beautiful model or a masterpiece of art.  But the Greek word for “lovely” has more of an idea of a gift, an offering, acceptable, a friendly attitude towards, having affection towards.  The Greek word in this form is only used here in the entire New Testament (NT)! 

To me, this means whatever we think about should be something we feel affection for but is still acceptable to offer as a gift of our thoughts to the Lord.  That means we shouldn’t be focusing on things that we hate or are angry about.  We shouldn’t be focused on negative things at all, really.  It poisons our attitudes eventually.  Oh, how I know this experientially!  I tend to focus on the bad things or the things that need improvement.  But we need to continually take our thoughts captive (2 Cor. 10:5), and chain them to the standard of what is acceptable to the Lord, what we know He has an affection towards.

So when the Bible here tells us to think on lovely things, I think it means to think on things that are positive, an offering to the Lord that He would find acceptable; the ultimate would of course always be worshipping God.  It’s always good to think about God and His Word. 

Worthy to be Repeated (“Of good report,” KJV)

worthy to be repeated

Worthy to be Repeated...

Again, this is the only occurrence of this Greek word is this particular form in the entire NT!  This compound word meshes “good” or “well” with “fame” or “rumor.”  The word therefore means “well-spoken of” and “reputable.”  It has to do with a person’s or a thing’s reputation.  It’s a rumor that is worth repeating—based on truth (first characteristic) but is positive and honorable (second characteristic). 

 So when the Bible here tells us to think on things that are “worthy to be repeated,” I think it means to think on things that are commendable and admirable.  It means to spend your time thinking about someone or something that has a good reputation, and then you continue to spread the good reputation, like a favorable review or recommendation; the ultimate would of course always be God.  It’s always good to think about (and then talk about) God and His Word.                                                                            

Virtuous

virtuous

Whatever is Virtuous...

This is another hard word to translate from Greek into English, because there’s no one-to-one equivalent.  Zodhiates explains this Greek word as “denot[ing] in a moral sense what gives man his worth, his efficiency.  In the NT: virtue, excellency, perfection (1 Pet. 2:9); the virtue as a force or energy of the Holy Spirit…human virtue in general (Phil. 4:8); courage, fortitude, resolution (2 Pet. 1:5), moral excellence.”

So when the Bible here tells us to think on virtuous things, I think it means to think on things that are good and right, morally the best there is; the ultimate would of course always be God.  It’s always good to think about God and His Word. 

Praiseworthy

praiseworthy

Whatever is

Praiseworthy...

Zodhiates defines this Greek word as “commendable, laudation, praise.”  Dictionary.com defines “praise” as 1. the act of expressing approval or admiration; commendation; laudation. 2. the offering of grateful homage in words or song, as an act of worship: a hymn of praise to God.”

So when the Bible here tells us to think on praiseworthy things, I think it means to think on things that are worthy to be applauded; the ultimate would of course always be God.  It’s always good to think about God and His Word.

What we put into our minds will eventually come out.  I have been trying to remember to filter everything that influences me through the filter of these eight characteristics: is it true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, worthy to be repeated, virtuous, and praiseworthy?  If not, out it goes.  If yes, it gets mulled over, pondered, meditated about.  This should eventually be the filter in every area of our lives—the words we speak, the shows and movies we watch, the music we listen to, the books we read, the social media sites we follow, etc., etc. 

What areas are you struggling with?  What decisions do you need to make about what should go into your mind?  Do you struggle more with TV and movies, visual images that go into your mind?  Or do you struggle with what you listen to, music, podcasts, or gossiping friends?  Or do you struggle with how you let your imagination run away with you, in reading books, magazine articles, or social media posts?  Let me know if there is something specifically you need help with—we’ll figure it out together! 😊