8 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. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Paul has said that the peace of God, that is cultivated by not being anxious and sharing our needs with God, which leads to rejoicing and therefore, standing firm in the Lord, will keep our hearts—source of our will and action—and our minds—the source of our thoughts, in Christ Jesus.
Paul now gets very concrete in his advice. Verse 8 talks about our thoughts and verse 9 talks about our action.
Verse 8 tells us that a healthy thought life is essential if we are to stand firm in the Lord. What goes on in your head will eventually become reality in your life. On a personal level, if we think badly we will end up feeling badly and doing badly. On a more theoretical level—bad doctrine leads to bad Christian life and work and mission practice and bad ideology leads to bad praxis.
We are told to ‘think’ or ‘consider’ – to ‘dwell upon’ whatever is True, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praise worthy. This is not ‘think happy thoughts’. The important element is whatever is ‘true’. If we didn’t have that we would be ‘away with the fairies’.
If we accept the ‘tapes’ in our head that tell us we’re useless and good for nothing, we will end up believing those lies. If we constantly repeat lies to ourselves about our past, we will end up believing them. Humility is about a correct self-image not self hatred or denunciation. If we want to be good servants of Jesus Christ, we must cultivate our thought life about whatever is true, etc.
This also leads me to talk about pornography. Our society is full of pornography; i.e. dirty images. The internet is crammed full of pornography. We need to be careful about how we ‘Google’ because of what is presented to us. Youtube is a minefield. Even if you never search for anything dodgy, you are still presented with images that we should avoid. These images pollute the thought life and lead to change in the way we look at the other person. Especially for men, women become objects of self-gratification, they are there in order to make me feel good or look good.
If we harbour impure thoughts we will end up carrying out those fantasies. Pornography leads to the use of prostitutes. Internet pornography has increased the demand for prostitution and also date rape. Get your thought in order.
How is this cultivated? Discipline of mind, confession of sins, forgiveness of sins, correct self-image, etc. are essential for this to be present.
In verse nine, Paul turns to action. And he sets himself up as the example. Whatever Paul had taught, whatever they had drawn from his life and teaching, whatever they had heard him say, whatever they had seen in his character and action, to follow that example.
Paul knew that talking theory was no good; they needed an example of how to live. He gave them that example. We need examples of Christians who have lead lives of service and love to God. That is to say, we need to be discipled.