Pastoral Reflections - Lars
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Is the frustration mounting? An honest assessment of my own heart and what I can discern from others in my communication circles yields a generally negative trend. Why is this? While there is legitimate suffering of those in our midst for whom we pray, the (mainly) “first world” problems the rest of us are dealing with as a result of the pandemic are… problems nonetheless. The default is to get pulled into the external cultural attitudes we live and breathe – looking for someone to blame and absorb our anger. Social media seems to generate the worst of this. When my attitude about these things is negative and critical, the source of my problem is in my mind. I am not seeking the things above, where Christ is – seated at the right hand of God. I’m not setting my mind on things that are above, but rather on things that are on earth:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
Reflecting on these verses, Doug Moo explains the need to orient ourselves totally to these heavenly realities, and to be constantly occupied in striving for this orientation. We seek things above by deliberately and daily committing ourselves to the values of the heavenly kingdom, and living out those values.
So, what are we thinking about? If you are fixated on finding someone to blame for the pandemic and its effects on our society and your life personally, mulling over which politicians or media outlets are the most truthful, then you are setting your mind on earthly things. If we are “evangelizing” our neighbors on our personal theories about what is going on behind the political or media curtain, we are not practicing what we have learned and received from the Apostle (Phil 4:9). As Jesus said, “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks”. We naturally speak of the things we are most fixated upon. So where is your mind?
Are you excessively thinking about earthly things? If so, to paraphrase Nate Ayres in his video last week, how is that working out for you? Is it bringing you peace? It is interesting that after the Apostle instructs us what to think about and practice in Philippians 4, he promises the God of PEACE will be with you. That’s what I need. That’s what we all need: the God of Peace and the Peace of God. There is no peace while fixated on earthly thoughts.
The Lord (through his Apostle) does not suggest we think a certain way. He commands us. The assumption in these commands is that we can control what we think about.
So consider what you are thinking about. Is what consumes your mind true? Does it reflect the truth of the gospel? Does it reflect the truth that none of what has happened has surprised God? Is it honorable? Does it bring honor to his name? Does it reflect your complete trust in his sovereignty? Is it pure? Does it reflect a clean heart? Or a heart of blame and bitterness? Is it lovely and commendable? Gordon Fee explains these words convey what the broader culture considers “loveable” and “admirable”, like a friendly disposition. Does that describe your thoughts? Excellent? Worthy of praise?
I’ll stop there – first, because that’s where Paul does, and second, because I’m too convicted about my own thinking to write any further…
The Apostle tells us elsewhere that renewing our mind is a process, something we need to constantly be working on that we may be transformed:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
By God’s grace and the strength of the Holy Spirit, let’s get to it!