Philippians 4:8 - Thinking Things That Are Excellent

Dr. Steve Viars March 23, 1996 Philippians 4:8

- this morning, we're moving into a study of the seventh word in Phil.
   4:8 -- this is somewhat momentous because this is where there's a
   shift in the verse.
- INPUT - what's the shift?
            (we've been in a list of whatsoever things are...
             - Now Paul changes it to; "If there be any..."

        - Homer Kent says of this change, "It is a rhetorical device that
          forces the reader to exercise his own discernment and choose
          whatever is excellent and praiseworthy."

- as we looked at these last two words and how we should structure our
   lesson, we decided that these last two words (phrases) will take us in
   two completely different directions ... so we're going to concentrate
   on the seventh one today, and the eighth one either next week or after

- we're talking about: "Thinking Thoughts That Are Excellent"

- let's start as we traditionally have by asking of this phrase:

I. What Is Excellent Thinking?

    - I'd like to do something a little different this morning in that
      I'm going to begin with:

    A. An illustration that is purposely out of balance.

       - Admiral Hyman Rickover's interview of Jimmy Carter
           - Vandegriff - PP. 156-157

       - now, that’s a good story, and it heads us toward what we're
         studying in this word, but I'm afraid it takes us "beyond" what
         the Scriptures would say about this matter...
           - and getting this straightened out is going to be a key to
             applying what Phil. 4:8 is saying.

       - (on white board) - on the left, let's put words and phrases
             1) Always doing your best
             2) 100%
             3) Perfectionism
             4) Charles Wesley - (cf. ISBE article)

       - the point is -- when we talk about thinking thoughts that are
         excellent, we're not talking about perfectionism.
       - However....
    - most of us are not anywhere near that ditch when it comes to the
      way we monitor our thinking.

    - most of us are in (or nearer) this other ditch.
    - INPUT - what words or phrases might we use to describe the other

            1) Satisfied with "mental mediocrity"
            2) Lackadaisical
            3) Half-hearted in our attempt to monitor this area of life
            4) Satisfied with far too little
            5) This isn't important to God
            6) There's no immediate consequences, judgement---so let it
            7) This spiritual wheel isn't squeaking.

    - INPUT - If those are the ditches (in our attempts to understand the
              phrase "if there is any excellence...", what words or
              phrases would describe the middle ground?

            1) Moving toward excellence.
            2) (Vandegriff) - Putting your best mind forward (as long as
                 we properly define "best."
            3) Already, but not yet.

                - cf. Martin Luther's quote about growing.

(We're seeking to do what the Scripture exhorts us to do in this passage
  without becoming morbidly introspective because of unrealistic or
  perfectionistic expectations.)

- with that in mind, let's talk now about:

    B. What is the meaning of the word?

       - the word that is translated "excellent" in this verse is:
            - all encompassing
            - purposely general
            - can be applied to a wide range of thoughts...

       - this is evident from the way the word is translated in other
           parts of the Bible:

       - United Bible Society Dictionary - "moral excellence, goodness,
           redemptive acts, God's power."

       - when you think about this and compare it to the list we made on
          the right side of the white-board, you can see what ties these
          different ideas together:
            - God's power, redemptive acts, His goodness are all anything
                but mediocre...

       - So when we apply that to thinking, we're talking about avoiding
         thinking that is undisciplined, questionable, or mediocre.
       - As long as we keep it in balance, this phrase John Vandergriff
            uses says it well, "putting your best mind forward."

- now, a few minutes ago I suggested that, using the illustration we've
   been sketching out on the board, most of us would place ourselves
   closer to the ditch on the right than the one on the left.

- that belief probably should be intensified when we:

II. Recognize That God's People Have Always Struggled with Mediocre
    Serving / Living.

    - let's think of a couple of examples:

    A. Cain - Gen. 4

       - work through the life of Cain

       - INPUT - In what ways do we see Cain satisfied with less than
                  "excellent living"?

       - INPUT - What corresponding
                 thoughts may have preceded these actions that are the
                 opposite of what we're studying from Phil. 4:8?


    B. People in Malachi's day

        - Malachi 1:6-8

        - INPUT - How do you see this same tendency in the people
                  mentioned here?

        - (on left side of white board) - Behaviors toward God today that
           might exemplify these characteristics?

        - (on right side) - What corresponding thoughts may have
             preceded these actions that are the opposite of what we're
             studying from Phil. 4:8?

- Vangegriff's astronaut illus - p. 155

- Vandegriff's piano illus - p. 158


- now, let's take this one step further:

    - here's what William Hendriksen said about these verses:

      "Nothing that is really worthwhile for believers to ponder and take
       into consideration is omitted from this summarizing phrase.
       Anything at all that is a matter of moral and spiritual
       excellence, so that it is a proper object of praise, is the right
       pasture for the Christian mind to graze in."

    - let's work on that using Hendriksen's metaphor of "grazing."

        - How do restaurants that are known for steak often advertise
           their beef?  (corn fed)

        - Why is that so important? (because what a cow grazes on affects
           the quality of the meat.)
              - and because the quality of meat is of supreme importance,
                they give careful attention to what goes in those

        - Let's say that I was going to open a restaurant with the
           intention of competing with Mountain Jack's.
             - How well do you think I'd do if I advertised it as:
                  - Sewer fed beef?
                  - My cows grazed at the landfill.
                  - Imported from Chernobyl.

       - you say, PV, that’s disgusting.
          - that’s true, because we hate even the thought of eating meat
              like that.

          - are we that committed to excellence when it comes to the
             matter of our thinking?

          - There are some things that you and I could allow in our minds
             that are a whole lot closer to the "landfill fed beef" of my
             new restaurant than the Corn fed beef of Mountain Jack's.
          - the question is, are we going to benefit from this seventh
              criteria in Phil. 4:8?

III. Ways Excellent Thinking Can/Must Be Put On

    - Examples of excellent thinking:
      (other teachers - I didn't get this far in the lesson last week)

    1) Marriage?

    2) Child-rearing?

    3) Extended family?

    4) Work?

    5) Church?

Dr. Steve Viars


Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation


B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and three grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video