Combat Training with God – Philippians 4:8-9

All Character Building Starts in the Mind

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.

Clarifying Contemplations

Paul lists several things upon which Christians should meditate (fill your mind with the Word of God, then prayerfully seek to understand the meaning of what you are dwelling upon as it relates to the rest of the Word of God and its application in your life as the Holy Spirit reveals its meaning to you):

  • True
    • Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”  He Himself is worthy of thinking upon and pondering.  Additionally, we should see what is true.  So much of the world we live in is built upon historical revisionism and incorrect understanding, that it is worthy to seek the truth and then to dwell upon it.
  • Noble
    • From the Greek, semna – to be grave, honorable, venerable
    • We are encouraged to seek out that which is deserving of honor and dwell upon that as well.  So much in the world is crass and dishonorable.  This helps us to remember what should be kept in a place of honor.
  • Right
    • From the Greek, dikaios – to be just, righteous
    • God is both Just and Righteous.  We should also think about events and actions that exemplify these Godly characteristics
  • Pure
    • From the Greek, hagna – properly, clean: i.e. (figuratively) innocent, modest, and perfect; and therefore chaste, clean, pure.
    • We are to discard the filth in our lives – anything that brings crassness to our speech, actions, or thoughts.  Instead, we are to focus on what is chaste, clean and pure.  This will realign our thinking from the base things of this world and remind us of the purity of things above.
  • Lovely
    • From the Greek, prosphilE – pros (to be for or inclined towards) and philE (to love with a brotherly love)
    • The fruit of the spirit starts with love.  We should think upon things that are lovely since God Himself is love.  It will help us to align our character with His.
  • Admirable
    • From the Greek, euphEma – well-spoken of, respectable, of good report
    • We should also dwell upon those things that are commendable.  They remind us of what we should be doing, that our actions would be commendable as well, that God would be glorified through them.
  • Excellent
    • From the Greek, aretE – valorous, excellent, to be praised, virtuous
    • We are to set our minds upon those things that are courageous, excellent, virtuous, rather than what is despised, selfish, and otherwise deserving of shame.  We are more than conquerors through Jesus Christ.
  • Praiseworthy
    • From the Greek, epainos – a commendable thing, praiseworthy
    • Since all glory, honor, praise, power, dominion, and strength belong to God, and we are the image-bearers of God, we should also focus our minds upon those things that are praiseworthy and commendable, as they will help us to train our minds to do the same when we are in difficult situations.

Experience Exercised

Paul encourages believers to look at his life and to do what he is doing that fits this criteria.  We should be looking towards leaders who exemplify these characteristics, and then emulate them as we are enabled to do so.  It is through practice that we are able to refine our skills and hone them to a sharpness that is able to cut through the garbage and be effective.  Watch what good leaders are doing.  Identify their commendable traits as proscribed by the Word of God, and implement them practically into your everyday life.

Peace Perceived

Paul leaves us with a promise.  When we put these characteristics into practice, God’s peace will be with us.  These do not make us any more commendable to God, for it is the righteousness of Christ that is upon us that does that.  The implementation of these characteristics by dwelling upon them in our minds will lead to actions of like kind.  God is pleased when we are living out our imputed righteousness, as we are image-bearers of God, after all…

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  Is what I am putting into my mind going to lead to the type of character development that God is seeking?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I praise You for You are worthy of all honor, glory, praise, power, strength and dominion.  You have seen fit to make me, and to give me the task of bearing Your holy image – Your character.  Father, install within me today a better sense of Your holiness, that as I put things into my mind, that they would be beneficial to the growth of the type of character that You desire to see in me.  Help me to put aside anything that does not glorify You, and fill my mind with all that does.  Strengthen me that I would be able to put into practice all that You teach me through this.  This I ask and pray in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Promise of God – Psalm 1:1-3

God Delights in Those Who Delight in Him

1 Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.

Powerful Prose

The author of this Psalm uses poetry to indicate that there a three-fold process to spiritual failure when we begin to engage in sin.  These steps will eventually derail any Christian from their walk with God.  But the Psalmist also gives us hope with a promise.

Walking the Walk

The first step in spiritual decline in walking with God is to begin to walk in step with the wicked.  When sin begins to creep into our lives, we veer off the path of righteousness.  The enemy is crafty – they know that if it is a sudden move, people will recognize it and turn from it.  Most people don’t wake up in the morning in agreement with the thought, “You know, I think I’ll just go out and rob a bank and kill everyone there.  It’ll be a load of laughs!”  But when it is slow and gradual, most people won’t even realize it is happening.  We begin to walk in step with the wicked.  Rather than fighting the flow of the world, we begin to turn and walk with it.

This is not to say that we don’t engage with unrepentant sinners – Jesus came to seek and save the lost!  However, we must be sure that when we do so, we don’t start doing the things that they do that we know are contrary to the Word of God.  We engage in humble, compassionate righteousness.  We don’t do what they do to be accepted by them.  We show them God’s way – a better way.

Stop Standing

After we walk with the world, it invites us to stop for a moment to smell the roses.  This second, and even more dangerous step, gives us the opportunity to pause and reflect and enjoy the momentary pleasure (or false relief) that sin provides.  We are no longer walking but stationary in what we are doing.  We aren’t growing anymore, but rather have halted ourselves or have been halted by our circumstances.  And that’s when it becomes even more dangerous.

Sabotaged Sitting

After we have stood and participated, we are now in a sitting position.  We have fully embraced sin, and no longer even desire to move.  Sin has grabbed us and we have fallen for it hook, line, and sinker.  We don’t desire to stand up anymore; we are firmly rooted in our position, and may not even care.  The world, the flesh, and the devil have effectively ensnared us into despair or enslavement to desire, and we do not even think we can get up (or perhaps even want to get up).

Divine Delight

The Psalmist tells us that to avoid all of this, we need to delight in the Word of the Living God.  Delighting in the Word of God is:

  1. Reading the Word
  2. Praying over the Word
  3. Meditating over the Word (filling our mind with the Word of God, and thinking carefully about it with the deliberate intention of understanding its meaning and application in all aspects of our lives)
  4. Living the Word.

When we desire the Word of God more than life itself, the desire to walk, stand, or even sit with the ways of wickedness is overshadowed by the peace that transcends all understanding, and that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus as we strive towards God.

Rooted Righteousness

When we delight in the Word of God, we become rooted like a tree.  The roots grow deep into the Earth, and being so close to the source of Living Water, the tree flourishes regardless of the conditions around it.  And as we flourish, we will bear fruit for God in Gods timing (in season).  We are also called “oaks of righteousness.”  The connotation here is that it is a sturdy, substantial tree that will not be easily moved or swayed from its convictions.  And if God declares it to be so, it must be so; for God cannot lie.

Provident Prosperity

As we become firmly rooted in the Word of God, the Psalmist indicates that we will prosper.  The Word of God is not a prosperity gospel – God is not a cosmic vending machine where you put in a prayer and out pops a blessing.  Rather, the prosperity is spiritual prosperity – experientially knowing the character of God.  We participate in His holy, perfect character, and in doing so, God is able to use us and draw even closer to us.  He will provide for our every need.  We need not worry, for God is sovereign over everything that He has created.   And that is promise that you can take to the bank :).

A Qualifying Question

So let’s ask ourselves a question:  Are we walking, standing, sitting, or delighting?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I thank You for Your Word.  Thank You for revealing Yourself through it to me.  Father, guide my heart and my mind as I read Your Word that it would transform my mind to be more in alignment with Yours.  Help me to better understand and apply what You teach me in the Word so that I will be a doer of the Word and not just a hearer of it.  Forgive me of all my sin, Lord God.  Help me to turn from those things that so easily entangle me.  Father, I do not want to walk, stand, or sit in wickedness; help me to turn from any wickedness that I cherish in my heart and help me to walk in Your ways.  Guard my heart with Your peace as I suffer the consequences of sin so that I may continue to walk steadfast in righteousness, even and especially when it causes me great pain and loss.  Change is always painful, but discipline will produce a harvest of righteousness.  Help me to see the light at the end of the tunnel so that I will not faint along the way.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?