Thursday, July 14, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ Do as I Do: Phil 4.8-9 (Part II)

The Apostle Paul is back to his theme of helping Christians fight worldliness. Paul equips us to fight worldliness by dwelling on the Word of God, by thinking on excellent things, and by following godly examples. When we do those things, says Paul, we are attended by the God of peace.

I. The important of meditation in the Christian life.
Notice his words: “…think about these things” (end of verse 8). This is a call to Christian meditation. He’s saying you will not grow in the Christian life unless you are deliberately locked on to a pattern of mediating on and reflecting about and thinking deeply on the truths of God’s word, and things which are true and commendable.

The kind of meditation that Paul is calling you and me to is entirely different than the kind of meditation that you most frequently encounter. Almost all practitioners of meditation will tell you that it is vital to empty your mind. You will never find that instruction in Scripture!

Paul’s mediation is not about emptying the mind: it is about filling the mind up with God’s word and that which is true and commendable, and then working that around. The point of meditation, you understand, is so that we hear God’s word. Forms of mediation and even a prayer that tell us that we need to empty our minds, to wait, to listen for God to speak to us, are assuming that God has not already spoken to us.

The problem is not that God’s not spoken; the problem is that we’re not listening!

Meditation is the activity of calling to mind and thinking over and dwelling on and applying to yourself the various things that you know about the works and the ways and the purposes and promises of God, from God’s word. Meditation humbles, encourages, and reassures us. Meditation especially, connects the mind and the will – the head and the heart – so that the truth we know is worked deep down into our soul so that it begins to affect what we desire.

We are bombarded with stimuli 24/7 of various media, so if you do not deliberately plan to think on what is true and commendable, it’s not going to come knocking to your door. And without thinking on such things, you’re not going to grow.

II. The importance of cultivating godly affections and desires
He says: Think on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise.

When you are bombarded by a powerful desire that is enticing you to focus on and enjoy something that is either wrong or trivial, you can’t fight something with nothing. The answer to fighting that powerful enticement to desiring something that is wrong or trivial is not to say “Stop it!” Chances are, if you are a Christian, you already know you ought to stop it. There has to be a desire that is opposite and greater than the desire that is enticing you to do wrong if you’re going to fight that desire. Meditating is so that you will begin to desire something better than that which is being offered to you.

The Puritans made it a practice of meditating on six great things from God’s word: the majesty of God; the severity of sin; the beauty of Christ; the certainty of death; the finality of judgment; and, the misery of hell. And those six things they thought were absolutely essential for cultivating heavenly-mindedness.

Paul is saying the same thing here, although he’s directing us to consider what is true and honorable, and just and pure, and lovely and commendable everywhere—not only in God’s word, but everywhere!

As Paul is giving these exhortations, we must remember he’s not giving us the gospel. He’s telling Christians who already have received the gospel how to live the Christian life. If you’re not a Christian, these exhortations are not how you become a Christian. They’re how you live, having already become a Christian.

III. The pattern of Christian discipleship
Paul gives us a four-part pattern for Christian discipleship: Meditation; Instruction; Direction; and, Application.

First, “think on these things.” Meditating on the word of God, deliberately reflecting upon, the content of God’s word and on what is true and honorable and just, and so on. So it begins with reflection. This is part of really, really listening.

Second, instruction. Notice that Paul does not think that our desires, that our affections, are innately right. They’re not innately set on the right things. Therefore we need our desires to be instructed. Our desires need to be directed in the right direction, and so he says, ‘What you learned and received from me, practice that.’

Third, direction. Paul emphasizes that truth cannot simply be conveyed by a television, or a radio, or a CD. You have to hear and see the truth lived out. They heard and saw the truth from Paul, they got direction from him.

And then there’s application: Put all this into practice.

IV. A promise.
This promise is even better than the promise that Paul gave in verse 7, “The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” But the promise in verse 9 is even better. Follow these exhortations, and what does Paul say? “And the God of peace will be with you.”

In verse 7, he says follow these exhortations and the peace of God will be with you. In verse 9, he says follow these exhortations and the God of peace will be with you. The God of peace himself, the God who gives peace, the God who gives the peace of God will be with you. Practice these things and the God of peace will draw near to you, and you will know His presence and you will know His peace because He has drawn near to you as you obey His word.

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