************ Sermon on Philippians 4:8 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 24, 2013
Did you girls eat anything before coming to worship this evening? I brought three suppers with me because preaching makes me ravenous.
Here is the first supper. (SHOW BREAD SPRINKLED WITH SAND AND GLASS OF OIL AND EXPLAIN WHAT IT IS.) Who would like to have this for supper? Why or why not? (GET GIRLS TO SAY IT IS BAD FOR YOU AND WILL MAKE YOU SICK.)
Here is the second supper. (SHOW DOUGHNUT AND BOTTLE OF COKE.) Who would like to have this for supper? Do you think your mom or your doctor likes you to eat this stuff? (GET KIDS TO SAY THIS IS JUNK FOOD AND IS NOT HEALTHY.)
Here is the third supper. (SHOW SANDWICH AND GLASS OF MILK.) This is the kind of supper that makes moms and doctors happy because it is good and healthy for you.
None of you would fill your mouths and stomachs with sand bread, with things that are bad for you. In the same way, says God, do not fill your mind and spirit and imagination with things that are bad for you. Your theme text this year is from Philippians 4:8. In this text God tells you to fill your mind with good things, not bad things. Paul urges you to think right.
To think right we need to do two things: we need to get rid of what is impure and we need to focus on the pure.
I Get Rid of Impure Thinking
A There is a reason why Paul urges us to think right. You see, we are surrounded every day by so much that is impure. So we need a reminder to be pure.
Turn on the TV. Too often we see sex and violence. Too often we hear profanity and cursing. That is true even for prime-time TV, cartoons, and what passes for news today.
Publishers have found that sex and violence sells magazines and books and newspapers. So hardly a day or a week goes by without one of these subjects staring us in the face. It has reached the point where very few people say anything about the annual swim suit issue of Sports' Illustrated.
Many children today are surrounded by guns and violence and drugs either at school or in gangs. Think of all the mass shootings that have happened lately.
Every week we hear about another attempt to advance homosexual and abortion rights with the Christian viewpoint being mocked and scorned.
Go to the Internet and you can find all kinds of sites and discussion groups filled with hate-literature against people of other races or nationalities. You can find sites and discussion groups filled with the lies of sects and cults and false religions. You can find sites and discussion groups devoted to pornography. I looked at a news site this past week that contains only bad or rotten news.
All of these are outside of us and surrounding us. But I can also point to some of the impurities that are within us.
Maybe you become angry just thinking about another person. In fact, in your heart you may hate them.
Maybe you are a bigot and a racist and have no love for people of other races or nationalities.
Maybe you have a problem with lust. Your mind is filled with all sorts of images of naked men or women.
Maybe your problem is greed and covetousness.
I am sure you get the point: around us and within us there is so much that is impure.
B As I told the girls, many of us are careful about what we eat. We pay attention to the way different types of food affect our body. But do we pay the same attention to the way we feed or fill our mind, our imagination, our spirit? When it comes to feeding our mind, too often we pick junk food rather than something healthy (HOLD UP JUNK FOOD, GOOD SANDWICH).
Paul tells us this evening that we need to be as concerned about what fills our mind as we are concerned about what fills our body. Paul says,
(Phil 4:8) 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.Instead of filling our mind with impure thoughts, we need to fill it with pure thoughts. That's what our text tells us.
C But there is another reason too. What happens when we concentrate on the impure? What happens when we see only the bad in the world? What happens when we have eyes only for the evil that God permits in our lives? What happens when we do not think right?
Let me tell you what happens. We become so accustomed to certain impurities that they no longer bother us. For instance, we hear and see so much about abortion and homosexual behavior that we no longer think of it as being evil in God's sight. Or, we no longer realize we are looking at half naked men or women on the TV. Or, we become so accustomed to seeing adultery and pre-marital sex that we even begin to accept it. The very next step, of course, is that we even begin to participate in the stuff we know to be wrong. The best example of this kind of behavior is Lot. He started off by living on the plains, keeping away from the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah. But pretty soon he was pitching his tent right next to Sodom. And right after that we find him living in Sodom itself. The story ends with a pillar of salt and incest.
Let me tell you what else happens. A sense of despair sets in. Darkness begins to grow within us. We become discouraged and depressed. We give up on everything: ourselves, others, the church, the world, and even God. We can even become suicidal.
D Let me tell you the most important reason to think right. Do you think Jesus dwells on the impure? Do you think He is all doom and gloom? Do you think He allows hatred in His heart? Do you think He fills His mind with smut and bigotry and racism? Of course not!
Jesus has bought us with His own blood. Therefore, we belong to Him. And we must be like Him. Paul says, "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus" (Phil 2:5). In fact, God's goal in saving us is to make us like Jesus. So, like Jesus, we need to keep impurities away from us. We need to have the mind of Christ.
E We need to think right. We need to get rid of what is impure.
Let me tell you what this means for today. This means we don't have to listen to or look at what is ignoble, wrong, impure, ugly, contemptible, inferior, or ridiculous. For instance, we can always reach over and turn off the radio or TV. We can write to producers and editors and request positive news. We can disconnect our modem and router rather than view cybersex. When we go to Netflix we don't have to rent movies with sex and violence. When we download music, we don't need music and lyrics that fill our minds with corruption.
To a large extent each one of us has to make a choice. We have to make a choice to ignore what is bad and wicked. To think right we need to consciously avoid and shun what is impure.
II Focus on the Pure
A To think right, though, we need to do still more. We also have to make a choice to pick out what is good and righteous.
(Phil 4:8) 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.
When it comes to what we feed our mind, we need to choose our diet of information carefully. We need to discern what is best and fill our mind with that. We need to think about good things. Above all, this means we need to focus our eyes on Jesus and God and grace.
We have so much information available to us today from the radio, TV, videos, newspapers, magazines, books, computers, the Internet. God tells us this evening to use these technologies to get in touch with what is true and beautiful. Use these technologies to find the kinds of things that shine with God's wisdom and goodness.
B Why is it so important to fill our mind with good things?
A couple of weeks ago I preached at Covenant URC in Fresno. I thought of GEMS Sunday when I saw the sign on the back of a door:Do you see what happen? You are what you think. You become your thoughts!
Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become your character.
Watch your character, for it becomes you.
What happens, for instance, if you fill your mind with thoughts of money? Chances are very good you become a grasping, greedy, materialist; we've all met people like that. What happens if you fill your mind with guns and violence. Chances are very good you will use violence on those around you. Now, what happens if you fill your mind with what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy? I think you know the answer: you, by grace, will become more like Jesus; you will be a better person.
Girls, fill your mind with great thoughts and desires and you will be more of the kind of person God wants you and created you to be and saved you to be. Fill your mind with great thoughts and desires and you will think right.
D GEMS, congregation, think right. Fill your mind with whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.
Where do we find such things to think about? The Bible is the first place to start. Where can we find anything more true and noble than words breathed by God Himself? Where can we find anything more lovely than the Lord's love letter to us as He tells us about Christ and grace and salvation? Where can we find anything more admirable and excellent and praiseworthy than the teachings of Jesus and His apostles?
This makes me think of what the poet, the Psalmist, writes in Psalm 19 to describe the Word or Law of God:
(Ps 19:7-10) The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. (8) The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. (9) The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. (10) They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.According to the psalmist, in the Word of God we find whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.
If we want to think right, if we want to feed our minds with things that make us more like Jesus, do you know what we have to do? We have to spend time with the sweet, precious Word of God. We need to read it daily. We need to think about it constantly. We need to so immerse ourselves in the Word that we can't go anywhere and can't do anything without being aware of God and thinking of His Word.
E GEMS, congregation, think right. Fill your mind with whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.
Where else do we find such things to think about? Look for good things. Take a walk, enjoy a park, go drive or bike through God's wonderful creation and drink in all the lovely sights. Ruth and I did that yesterday: we saw an orchard bright pink with blossoms by Yettim, we saw an eagle's nest, we saw cattle on a thousand hills, we saw wild flowers, we saw frisky calves playing and running, we saw green grass and running water on Dry Creek Road, we saw a big hawk at the top of a tree, we saw horses, we saw the beauty of the earth.
Those with computers and the internet can use them to discover amazing things about God's wonderful and mysterious world. I love the NASA site. I love clicking on suggested sites. I love looking at pictures from our national parks.
God calls us this evening to think right in what we feed our minds. God calls us to get rid of what is impure. God calls us to focus on what is pure.
When it comes to feeding our mind, we are to pick healthy food rather than junk food (HOLD UP JUNK FOOD, GOOD SANDWICH).
What it comes down to is this: we are to make every thought captive to Christ.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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