Paul writes a charter for Christian thought. We are to center our minds on these exalted things - not pornography, not violence. Those are things of this world, and in this regard, our minds are such that we are like sheep. No other domesticated animal can eat such a wide variety of different vegetables and herbs, seemingly without very much damage. Things that will kill a cow will not kill a sheep. In a similar way, we are capable of taking things into our minds that, seemingly, are not doing any damage at all, but they are definitely not providing the right kind of sustenance for the right kind of thinking.
It becomes our responsibility, then, using the power of God's Spirit with which He anoints us, to choose to think on things that are true, pure, noble, just, lovely, of good report, praiseworthy, and honest. Not much in mass media fits this description. It is our choice, but that is the purpose for which God wants His Holy Spirit to be used.
If we instead think about evil, we will act evilly - we will be evil, because action follows thought. It is as simple as that. Thoughts come from what our minds have been fed, and thus what our minds have been fed will determine how we will act. What we think upon will determine our character and our attitudes.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Psalm 23 (Part 3)
What we think about will reveal itself in what we say. A mind fed by godly wisdom can follow this advice and control that most wild of all members, the tongue. As we grow in that great wisdom, our words will become fresh and reliable. We will lose the sharp edge from our tongues. Our speech will not be duplicitous, like grapes growing on a fig tree or bitter waters emerging from a freshwater spring.
Once we emerge out of the ruts of human habit in our communication, we will truly begin to express what is true, noble, pure, lovely, and good. Our words will convey virtue and offer praise to God, uplifting those who hear us. As James ends his third chapter, "Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace" (James 3:18), so will be the results of our efforts. Righteousness will come to fruition in an atmosphere of peace.
Are You Sharp-Tongued? (Part Two)
We need to pay careful attention to this sequence of instructions because it contains much that can help us attain both good spiritual and physical health. In the past fifty years, men have come to understand how deteriorating and destructive stress is to life. Paul's counsel, written nearly two thousand years ago, tells us not to be driven by anxiety or fearfulness about life. Even earlier, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus admonishes us to "take no anxious thought." The stress of anxiety is wearying, setting us up for multiple afflictions. If we really "see" God, we should know that He is with us. Should we not feel great assurance in His promise never to allow us to be tempted above what we can bear? Faith is a prime solution for anxiety.
Paul continues, urging us to let God know our needs in every matter of life. As Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, He already knows our needs, but He wants us to recognize, evaluate, and communicate them to Him, accompanied by thoughtful expressions of thanksgiving for what He has already given, as well as His promises of blessings in the future. Do we see what this process achieves? It disciplines us to think within certain well-defined parameters that have Him and His way at the center of our life.
Paul then asserts that one benefit of this is tranquility of mind, respite from the restlessness so common to the carnal mind, which is constantly searching for new stimulation to satisfy its insatiable longings. This peace of God will stand guard over our minds like a sentinel, allowing us to meet and cope with the problems of life.
Verse 8 begins with the word "finally." While not technically wrong, it does not adequately convey Paul's intent. We can understand it better as "in this connection" or "in this regard as I close this letter." In relation to anxiety, the peace of God, and coping with the problems of life, our minds should be occupied with things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy. Through this discipline, we program our minds with the right things; what goes into the mind determines what comes out in words, actions, and attitudes.
This is a biblical version of the "garbage in, garbage out; wholesome in, wholesome out" cliché. It specifically expands on Jesus' statement, "For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34). We could take this further and say that out of the abundance of the heart the mind thinks and feels, and the body acts.
In verse 9, Paul defines what is wholesome specifically as what they had learned, received, heard, and seen in him. He is indirectly telling them to eat Jesus Christ because he, Paul, as His apostle to the Gentiles, was His agent to them and their teacher of His way of life.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Five)
God gives His peace to those of a pure or righteous heart and mind. The transition from Old to New Testament usage of "peace" strikingly illustrates its personal, internal application: Out of about 90 New Testament instances, 90% refer to heartfelt peace.
Martin G. Collins
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Philippians 4:8: