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The Command To Control Your Thoughts

“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.” (Philippians 4:8)

In recent days we have seen the spectacle of the United States Senate during the proceedings toward the confirmation of Supreme Court justice nominee, Brett  Kavanaugh. These proceedings, having been broadcast live, have, without interruption, demonstrated the truthfulness of that which is set forth in the apostle Paul's second letter to young Timothy, whom he described as his son in the faith. In the third chapter, we find the following:

“This know also that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, high-minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away." (2 Timothy 3:1 – 5)

Many people, after watching and listening to the shameful spectacle in the U.S. Senate of non-evidence, non-certainty and accusations of conduct which allegedly occurred more than 35 years ago, are disgusted, dismayed, and bewildered by the entire process. In the biblical book of Proverbs, we find written “for as [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7(a)) Therefore, the words and actions displayed in the Senate proceedings truly reflect that which is going on in the hearts of many senators.

Also in Proverbs, we are commanded to “keep the heart with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4 :23)  And as Philippians 4:8, sets forth above, we are also commanded to think on those things which are honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy.

The first thing the Apostle Paul sets forth in Philippians 4:8 is that we are to think on those things that are true. Why? Because Jesus is Truth itself. God's Word is True. Therefore, He calls His children to think on those things that are true which, of course, is the absolute total opposite of falsehood. You can compare that with Ephesians chapter 4 verse 25 where we find in part, "wherefore, putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor… "

One may think that we cannot control our thoughts, however, God's Word tells us that we can. We should focus on those things that are true and reject those things that are false. Today it is estimated that the average student in America who graduates from high school will have spent some 15,000 hours of watching television, while his schooling through 12 years will have consisted of only approximately 10,800 hours. Much of what is currently appearing on television is just sheer garbage, promoting all forms of ungodliness, unrighteousness, and lying. The most pervasive and insidious doctrine affecting students, as well as men and women of all ages, is Darwin’s theory of evolution and the consequent undermining and the erosion of biblical values and parental authority. This, of course, is found in scripture in the verse quoted above from 2nd Timothy 3. In the second verse, we see that “men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, and DISOBEDIENT TO PARENTS, unthankful, unholy.…"

In the 24th chapter of Matthew's gospel, Jesus warns His disciples (and us) to “take heed that no man deceive you". Jesus also said in Matthew 24 that “there shall be many who come in His name who shall deceive many,” and He goes on to say that “because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold." Clearly, expressly, and by implication, we must control our thoughts. What follows is a brief look at the necessity for Christians, particularly, to control our thought life.

 

I.    GUARD YOUR HEART

As we have seen above, scripture tells us that “as a man thinks in his heart so is he”. As someone said, we are not what we think we are, but what we think, we are! So, the Apostle Paul tells us to think on those things that are true and that are honest and that are just.

Additionally, we are told in the fourth chapter of Proverbs in the 23rd verse to “keep your heart with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life." Therefore, do not let your mind think wrong thoughts. Don't watch movies or television programs or news programs for that matter that are depicting the ungodly and unrighteous thoughts and actions, nor, those programs that are projecting untruthfulness. Don’t let your mind graze in those pastures.

In Romans chapter one, verse 16 through 32, the Apostle Paul, writing by the Holy Spirit, tells us that the wrath of God is already revealed against those who are ungodly, unrighteous, and suppress the truth in unrighteousness. The ungodly and unrighteous hate those who are Christians and who seek to live godly in Christ Jesus. Indeed, in the 37th Psalm, we find written the following: “the wicked plot against the just, and gnash upon him with his teeth." What a statement! This is truth. God's Word is always True, indeed it is Truth itself.

Note that the guarding of our heart is not to be done in a lazy or lackadaisical manner. Guard the heart, and with all diligence…. We are to be diligent, engaged in strenuous activity, to keep our hearts that we not fall into the trap of untruth, ungodliness, and unrighteousness. We see this truth repeated consistently in scripture that “as we think in our heart so are we”. That, of course, means that when we allow those wrong thoughts, sooner or later we’re going to do them.

 

II.    THE BENEFIT AND BLESSINGS RECEIVED.

In verse 9 of Philippians chapter four, the following is written: “those things, which you have both learned, and received and heard and seen in me do and the God of peace shall be with you” (v. 9) Paul calls attention to his own life; those things which he has told to the Church at Philippi which they have learned and received and heard and seen in him. Earlier, in his letter to the Church at Philippi, Paul had traced his record, telling the Church of Philippi not to place any confidence in their own flesh. He told them that if anybody thought that they had a record on which they could place their trust in their own flesh, that he had more of a record than they did. Paul stated:

" though I might also have confidence in the flesh, if any other man thinks that he has whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; as touching the righteousness  which is in the law, blameless (3:4 – 6)

Therefore, in telling the Church at Philippi to do those things which they had both learned and received and heard and seen in him, he is telling them, in effect, don't place any trust in your own record. Your record is what you need saving from! It is the “Gospel of Christ that is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes, both to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16) Paul goes on to tell them what he knows is true about his own record and what he did about it:

“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith." (Philippians 3:7 – 9)

Although Paul described himself in his letter to Timothy as being “the chief of sinners", and not worthy to receive the salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ, he wants these Philippians to know that salvation depends not on our record but on the record of the Lord Jesus Christ. “He Himself bore our sin in His own body on the cross that we might be dead unto sin and alive unto righteousness”. (1 Peter 2:24) “He was made sin for us who knew no sin that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him”. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

As a Jew, Saul of Tarsus had an excellent record. Basically, he had the best record that a Jew could have, but yet it was worth nothing! His resume would not achieve for him the righteousness of God. What Saul of Tarsus needed was a new heart. The Lord Jesus Christ had revealed that to him. Every person who is born into the world needs a new heart. Everyone needs to be born-again. Paul, like every other person, could not rely on having his own righteousness which is of the law, but he needed that righteousness which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith; that righteousness which comes through the perfect obedience to that which the law requires. In writing to the Church at Rome, Paul says in the 6th chapter of Romans that “sin shall not have dominion over us that we are not under the law but under grace”. It is because of God's grace alone, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, – through God's great love wherewith He loved us, that we are made alive in Christ Jesus. Nevertheless, we are called to keep our heart with all diligence. Do not dwell on ungodliness and unrighteousness, nor untruthfulness, keep your heart on God's Holy Word

 

III. CONTENTMENT

    Someone may say that if I do all these things I am not going to have any fun. I am just not going to ever be content. I will just be miserable all my life. Not so! Our great and mighty Heavenly Father, who has showered us with His grace and given us saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, states in Romans Chapter 8, “how shall he not also with him freely give us all things!” He gives us contentment! A Puritan by the name of Jeremiah Burrows, wrote a book called The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment  commenting on what Paul says in verses 11 and 12 of Philippians chapter 4. In verse 11 of Philippians chapter 4, the Apostle Paul assures the Church at Philippi that this thought of never having any contentment is false, when he says to them:

“Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need”.( Philippians 4:11-12)

Jeremiah Burrows states that “a Christian comes to contentment not so much by addition as by way of subtraction; not so much by adding more to his condition but by subtracting from his desires so as to make his desires and his circumstances even and equal. A carnal heart knows no way to be contented but with this: I have such and such possessions and if I had this added to them, then I would be contented. A gracious heart is contented by the melting of his will and desires into God’s will and desires.”

This is exactly what we see the Apostle Paul doing. Paul had learned that his record was not worth anything, so he discards his record. In fact, his record was worth less than “nothing”. He counted it but dung, that he may win Christ! His goal becomes knowing Christ more. And that’s when he is growing in contentment. “Everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need, I have learned in whatsoever state I am in therewith to be content”. (Philippians 4:11) He made Christ his contentment. Jeremiah Burrows talks about how Christ teaches contentment:

Lesson One. Self-Denial.

This is the ABC of the matter. No one denied himself as Christ did.

Lesson Two. He teaches us that we deserve nothing….except hell….once that lesson is learned, we have taken a step toward being content.

Lesson Three. He teaches the vanity of the creature…. That the world cannot satisfy. It is like trying to eat the wind.

Lesson Four. He teaches us what our relation to the world is. We are pilgrims here, sojourners.

Lesson Five. The danger of prosperity. Jesus said, “How hardly shall  they that have riches enter into the Kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:23b) (Great prosperity is a great hindrance to godliness and contentment)

Lesson Six. The dreadful evilness involved in being given up to one's desires. See Psalm 81:11-12

    I give credit for much of this information to Dr. Frank M. Barker, Jr., pastor emeritus at Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama, in a sermon that he preached in 1973. In conclusion, he quoted from a book written by Andrew Murray called The Four Anchors. The admonition is when you find that you are discontent, write down the discontentment and ask yourself why are you discontent and then reject that discontentment. Kneel before God and abandon yourselves joyously to those things that you cannot change and say “God I accept your will for me gladly. I trust you in it.” In The Four Anchors, Andrew Murray said regarding the four anchors that help you stay content the following:

1.     Say, he brought me here. It is by His will that I am in this straight place and in that fact I will rest.

2.    He will keep me here in His love and give me grace to behave as His child.

3.    Then He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me the lessons He intends for me to learn.

4.    In His good time He can bring me out again - how and when who knows. So let me say, I am (1) here by God’s appointment; (2) in His keeping; (3) under His training; (4) for His time. Certainly, this optimizes Christian contentment.

 

CONCLUSION

    Of course, there is no contentment for the wicked. There is no rest for the wicked. The wicked gnash their teeth on the righteous. They hate the righteous. As you consider these things and meditate on God’s Word, remember also the spectacle we have witnessed in the last week in the United States Senate. Pray for all of those involved; indeed, for all of those in authority over us. And pray for Christians everywhere and those of your family you may think do not know the Lord Jesus Christ, and that of course is the starting point. Pray that God would reveal Himself to them, that they might know the Only True God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent. And pray that all of us would begin to think on those things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy; that we would keep our hearts with all due diligence, for out of it are the issues of life; and if we, and others for whom we pray, have received the Lord Jesus Christ by surrender of our will to the Lord God’s will, and have placed our trust in Christ alone for salvation, having received the sheer gift  of salvation through Christ alone, that we would learn that in whatsoever state we are in, therewith to be content! Now unto Him who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and evermore. Amen

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