It’s a simple question. It will often be spoken at a car lot as a decision is about to be made. And a young man will ask his friend this question about the girl he is interested in taking on a first date. And a child will ask this of her mother as she wonders about a hairstyle. A student will ask a teacher this question about the thesis of a paper. And a parishioner will ask it of a pastor as he wrestles with a theological query.
What do you think?
We ask this question in many kinds of contexts. And the question is more important than we might initially suppose, because what we are thinking as we make decisions and begin activities is of critical importance. What we are thinking reveals are motives and purposes. And what we are thinking will determine ultimately what we do, for we speak and live out of the overflow of our thoughts (Lk. 6:43-45).
Hence, Paul would say that the believer is to be careful how he is to think about life and that he is to think in particular ways about his circumstances (Phil. 4:8). It is tempting to think that our thoughts “just happen” as a stream of uncontrolled and uncontrollable ideas and meditations. But thoughts and our life of thinking is controllable and trainable. And in fact, our thoughts must be brought into conformity to Christ. And Paul identifies eight ways that our minds are to be guarded and shaped:
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (Phil 4:8 NASB)
Meditate with accurate thoughts. Truth matters. And truth matters also in our minds. Thinking truthfully is the mark of a righteous man (Ps. 15:2). Our thoughts should accurately reflect the reality of every situation; we should be aware of our propensity to shape reality to our sinful bents and desires. We need to think truly about what is.
Meditate on honorable ideas. Our thoughts should be on things that are respectful, noble, reverent, and honest. Are my thoughts respectful and decent? should be a regular question. We should avoid any thoughts that are cheap, vulgar, and irreverent.
Meditate with right standards. The word right is the word “righteous.” That is, does the thought I have in this moment conform to God’s standard? Are my thoughts as right as God is right? Did Christ die to sanctify me so that I might have this kind of thought, or is this kind of thought reflect the kinds of things for which Christ endured God’s wrath?
Meditate with pure motives. To be pure is to be morally upright, to have spiritual integrity. It is a synonym of holiness. To think a pure thought is to think a thought that is without mixed motives and is innocent in its supposition and desires. It reflects Christ’s own purity (1 Jn. 3:3).
Meditate to encourage love. To think on things that are lovely is to think on things that are pleasing, amiable, and that produce love. It is to think on things that are opposed to bitterness and hostility. Do my thoughts encourage me to be loving toward others?
Meditate on the good. Sometimes we think that we can think whatever we want, as long as we don’t act on our sinful thoughts. But Paul reminds us that our meditations should be only on things that have good reputations — they are attractive, appealing, and are unlikely to give offense.
Meditate on the excellent. The word excellence refers to the moral character of something or someone more than an outward quality or performance. So we might ask, “is the thing I am thinking about morally excellent? Does it have valor? Or is it a vice that will entangle and ensnare me?
Meditate on the praiseworthy. We sometimes engage in thoughts that are foolish and silly and excuse them on the basis of, “well it’s not sinful…” No, it may not be sinful, but that’s not the ultimate test of a worthwhile thought. The question is, “is it worthy of being praised and lauded? Is it commendable? Is it indicative of the nature and character of God Himself?” For an adult, that means that we should put aside childish thoughts and thinking. Because we are men chronologically, we should think like men spiritually.
So what do you think? What are your thoughts like?
- are your thoughts true (“do they ring true”)?
- are they honoring?
- do they conform to God’s holiness?
- are they purely motivated? (or will they corrupt?)
- will your thoughts encourage love?
- are your thoughts winsome, attractive and worthy of praise?
What do you think…about your thoughts?