Stewardship of our Thinking

Rob Green October 29, 2017 Philippians 4:8-9
Outline

#1. God owns everything and I own nothing

#2. God entrusts me with everything I have

#3. I can either increase or decrease what God has given me. He wants me to increase it

#4. God can call me into account at any time

3 ways that we can be faithful stewards of our thinking

I.  We Must Believe That Thinking is an Important Part of Our Stewardship

Philippians 4:8 - 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.

Proverbs 23:7 - For as he thinks within himself, so he is.

1 Corinthians 14:20 - Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.

2 Corinthians 10:5 - We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ…

II. We Must Concentrate on Godly Thoughts

Philippians 4:8 - 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.

III. We Must Understand the Content of Godly Thinking

Philippians 4:8 - 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.

A. Thoughts that are true

B. Thoughts that are honorable

C. Thoughts that are righteous or just

D. Thoughts that are pure

James 4:3 - You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.

E. Thoughts that are lovely

F. Thoughts that are of good repute

 

TRUE

FALSE

Honorable or valuable

Worthless or trivial

Righteous or just

Unjust

Pure

Impure

Love inspiring

Repulsive

Good repute

Offensive

Takeaways

#1. Ask God for His grace

#2. Repent of wrong thinking

#3. Memorize Philippians 4:8 or a similar passage about thinking and take a thinking inventory at the end of each night

Welcome to the first week of Stewardship month. Our family first came to Faith Church in 2001. It was our first experience with stewardship month. Stephanie and I have greatly enjoyed that emphasis over the years and how the Lord has used it in our lives.  I hope that the Lord uses stewardship month in mighty ways in your life.

Stewardship month at Faith has four main characteristics:

  1. We preach 4 sermons on one or more aspects of stewardship.

Stewardship is a concept that includes all areas of life … it involves our health, it involves our proper time management, it involves the way we work and the way we do school, it involves our hobbies and our athletics, it involves our money, and it involves all our skills and abilities.

  1. We ask people from our congregation to share testimonies of how the Lord has worked in their lives. Our point is not to glorify these individuals, but to share how God is working and to give the Lord glory for all he has done.
    1. We want to demonstrate that stewardship is not a pie in the sky concept. Stewardship is an everyday issue that impacts each of us.
    2. Wasn’t it encouraging to hear this morning from Dan and Brooke. What a great testimony.
  2. We conclude stewardship month with a celebration of all that God has done among us in the previous year.
    1. I want to encourage you to put the celebration on your calendar and get tickets. One of the things I love about the celebration is that I get to hear what is happening in ministries I am not involved with (e.g., Hartford Hub, College Ministry).
    2. If you are new and still trying to understand how Faith works, the celebration will provide an overview of the whole ministry in 90 minutes.

The celebration is from 6-8 pm on November 19 and tickets are available in the foyer this morning.

  1. We ask you to prayerfully consider how God wants you to grow in your own stewardship in the coming year. In other words, we do not want to just talk about stewardship this month we want to allow the truth of God’s word to filter into specific commitments.

We have attempted to capture a biblical theology of stewardship into four basic principles. If you have not memorized them, I encourage you to do so. This could be a great use of your family time this thanksgiving/holiday season to memorize these four principles.

#1. God Owns Everything and I Own Nothing

#2. God Entrusts me with Everything I have

#3. I can either increase or decrease what God has given me. He wants me to increase it

#4. God can call me into account at any time

Today, my task is to help us with the stewardship of the mind. In other words, we are dedicating our time to the importance of how we think.

With that in mind, I invite you to turn to Philippians 4:8. That is on page ____ of the front section in the Bible in the chair in front of you.

As you are getting there Philippians 4:2-9 are practical expressions of the truth taught in 4:1. Paul began in v. 1 by saying, “Stand Firm,” or to say it another way “Never give up the Christian Walk.”

  • To the Corinthian church he wrote, “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord knowing that you labor is not in vain.”

Then he provides a series of challenges that we must handle properly in order to stand firm or never give up the Christian walk.

Read the text … This is the Word of the Lord.

  1. Problems - vv. 2-3 teach that we need to resolve our problems.  How many unresolved problems does it take to hinder the ministry of a church?  How many unresolved problems does it take before you ruin your ministry or you are tempted to stop being involved? All it takes is one unresolved problem.
  2. Discouragement – v. 4 Rejoice in the Lord.  There is stability, strength, and hope in the Lord and even when the circumstances of life are difficult – we still can rejoice in the LORD.  Discouraged Christians often given up the Christian walk … they stop reading their Bible, they convince themselves that attendance once a month is faithfulness, and they slowly but surely back out of service. Not those who rejoice in the LORD.
  3. Divisiveness – v. 5 Be known for gentleness.  Instead of being a divisive person, one who always needs to separate from others and highlight their differences, you should be known for gentleness. Divisiveness will slowly but surely compromise your testimony and encourage you to fade off rather than stand firm.
  4. Worry – vv. 6-7  Worry can be a major problem for Christians.  Our personal life, the lives of our family members, and the world give us plenty of things to be worried about.  Those who spend their time worrying will be tempted to give up the Christian walk.  But the solution is to pray instead. 

My interest this morning is primarily with v. 8. It highlights one more area that will either help you stand firm and never give up the faithful Christian walk or encourage you to slowly fade off and fail to be steward of what God has given.

I would like to discuss 3 ways that we can be faithful stewards of our thinking.

I.  We must believe that thinking in an important part of our stewardship

Philippians 4:8 - 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.

Our minds are amazing. God has designed the brain to do incredible things.

  • I was speaking with Mackenzie a couple weeks ago about how amazing God made us in order to learn a language. All three of our children learned to understand and to speak English just by living in our home. We are not English teachers, we did not make them conjugate verbs nor did we tell them that there are past verbs, present verbs, etc. We just spoke to them and they learned.
  • Then I contrasted God’s amazing gift to us with our dog. Our dog has been in our family for over 5 years and not only has he never spoken to us in English but this is what we sound like to him,  “blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, sit blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, treat blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, ball.” Our dog knows about 5 words. Just to prove the point that our dog has no idea what we are talking about I said to him really excitedly … “Do you want us to eat you? Do you? Do you?”
    • Our dog is nice dog, but he cannot think like we can.
  • But when it comes to thinking ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance puts you in the position of weakness and vulnerability.
  • The TV shows that we watch. Some are mindless at best and damaging to your faith at worst.
  • The music that we listen to. Music is not neutral. Words matter. Message matters. Do we willingly listen to music that contradicts everything we know about Scripture? It sets itself up against Christ.
  • The convictions we have about family, work, church, and relationships.
  • Even what we think about in our suffering. The Parks’ testimony helped us here.
  • It speaks of thoughts that enter your mind and stay there a while.  It is close to meditation. 
  • The kind of thoughts described in this passage are the kind of thoughts that should be hanging out in your head.  Thoughts that you are coming back to over and over and over again.
  • We do not have to give them keys to come and go as they please.
  • We do not have to allow them to consume our time and mental energy.
  • I hand them out to family, to a person who will stay in our home if we are gone, to a conference guest during the BCTC, but not everyone gets a key to my house.
  • Not everyone is allowed to come live there.
  • God calls us to dwell, to think, to meditate, to concentrate on godly thoughts.
  • At other times, I think the lists are designed to help us see the nuances between the items in the list.
  • In one way each of these descriptions emphasizes the importance of thinking about godly thoughts, but there is also value in seeing the unique emphases of each term.
  • resolving problems … but sometimes we do not want to solve problems. Rather than solve them we would rather fuss about them, complain about them, and criticize them. That comes from false thinking. Or sometimes I might say I don’t feel like solving problems. I am choosing in those instances to say I am not going to dwell on what is true, I am going to dwell on what is false.
  • Or maybe I am worried, true thoughts are pray and with thanksgiving making your requests to the Lord. But someone says, I don’t feel like praying. I don’t believe that praying will make a difference. Some may be more prideful and say that they can do it themselves. These decisions are based on false thinking.
  • Hang a few verses on your bathroom mirror.
  • Put an index card or two in your car to review at stop lights
  • Put a passage of Scripture on your monitor at work so that your mind is continually returning to the truth of God’s word.
  • My wife asked me to do this because she wants to jam me?
  • My dad wanted me to cut the grass because he is too lazy to do it.
  • My boss asks me to do things I hate because he wants me to quit.
  • The Bible does not tell us to think about the things that are false or that are merely perceptions.
  • I can understand the concept of rooting for a sports team, but sometimes in our love for a hobby we allow far too much time to be given to things that have little value.
  • Things like our relationship with Him … thinking about the Lord’s goodness to us and the Lord’s promises for the future.
  • Thinking about our relationship with other believers … the ways they have cared for us or the concerns we have for them.
  • Thinking about those who are ill or those in our circle of knowledge who need Christ.
  • That might involve planning for the family gathering. It might be praying right now for thanksgiving dinner that God would give you the opportunity to speak with your mom, brother, or brother in law about Christ.
    • Volunteering for Christmas ministries (LN, CFE, Winter Break). If you have ever led a series of volunteers to do anything then you know that one of the most challenging and time consuming aspects is when people sign up late or cancel.
    • Thinking valuable or honorable thoughts is remembering that we can be a blessing to those organizing if we communicate with the leader as soon as possible and then keep our commitments.
    • This is what Pastor Viars alluded to last week as let's not be people who think that “late and last minute” is a very honorable way to live.
  • When I hear how our culture speaks about heaven and hell I am not persuaded nor do I fret over it either. When I hear our culture talk about marriage as if it is just a human institution organized and governed by the government I am not persuaded.
  • Is it possible that I can love, appreciate, value, and celebrate law enforcement and at the same time be concerned about racial profiling or maybe a certain person who refuses to see certain people as made in the image of God?
  • Is it possible that we can rightly stand against teenage pregnancy, failure of men to provide for and care for their families and still attempt to help? Or is our only response … you made this bed and now you have to lie in it?
  • He wants us to think about things that are true rather than false or simply our perceptions.
  • He wants us to think about things that have value rather than the trivial or the worthless.
  • He wants us to think just and righteous thoughts rather than those that are unjust.
  • He mentioned that Luther, as great as he was, struggled with prejudice against the Jews.
  • John Wesley, famous preacher and hymn writer along with Jonathan Edwards, one of the greatest minds ever in the US owned slaves.
  • Even MLK Jr struggled with faithfulness to his wife.
  • Remember when Solomon was granted anything he wanted from the Lord. Solomon requested for Wisdom.  Yet, as Solomon prayed, his focus was on others.  While he was the one who would ultimately receive wisdom the beneficiaries were the people of Israel. 
  • But we can, by God’s grace, not allow those thoughts to remain.
  • Our entire thought life should be centered on things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Our minds not only learn language, but they process complex thoughts and solve complex problems. With this incredible mind comes responsibility.  

God knows that our ability to think must be stewarded if we are going to stand firm. If we are going to keep the Christian faith we must have proper controls on our thoughts. Just because our minds can think something does not mean they should.

That is why Solomon said

Proverbs 23:7 For as he thinks within himself, so he is.

Proverbs are deep. In context, the warning is just because a person seems to be with you, his heart might be far from you. When you finally realize that, you will experience disappointment. What you thought was true about the person is not true at all because a person is not defined by what they say, but what they think.

And Paul wrote to the Corinthian church …

1 Corinthians 14:20 Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.

The point is clear … it is okay to be an infant with regards to evil. If you don’t know very much about evil … great!

A year later when Paul wrote to the church again he said …

2 Corinthians 10:5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,

He is not going to waste his time on those things that present themselves as meaningful. He is going to take every thought to the obedience of Christ.

Our minds is one of the wonderful gifts of our creator. We need to steward it well. God, in his grace, told that that we have to steward our minds because it is how we stand firm, it is how we stay consistent in the Christian faith, and it is what directs our actions.

We can acknowledge that the world offers a lot of options for thinking. The news almost always has something about our president, something about a few members of congress, something about North Korea, and something about the entertainers in our country.

Then on top of those temptations to think in a certain way, sometimes we lack discipline when it comes to what we think. It seems that some of us struggle to put proper filters in our life.

These things determine whether we stand firm in the faith or whether we give up the faith. These things determine whether we will be good stewards of our lives or whether we will look back over our lives and have to admit that our lack of control led us to accomplish far less than what was possible.

If we are going to be stewards we have to see the importance of our thinking to the Lord. Philippians 4:8 also made it clear …

II. We must concentrate on Godly thoughts

Philippians 4:8 - 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.

Seeing the importance of thinking is not sufficient. The command in the text comes at the end of the verse … the command is to dwell … to evaluate or to ponder.

I will admit that it sure seems like one of the effects of the curse of sin is that sinful thoughts pop in our minds quickly. Thoughts of anger, bitterness, foolishness, lust are one split second away.

But thanks be to God that we do not have to let those thoughts occupy our minds.

The Lord says dwell, concentrate, meditate on Godly thoughts. By his grace we have the opportunity to dismiss garbage thinking and to take every thought captive which is consistent with the glory of Christ.

I do not hand out the keys to our house to just anyone.

If that is true of my house then it should also be true of my mind.

Okay Rob, I got it. Stewardship of the mind requires discipline in our thinking. But we have yet to explain the majority of the verse. What are the “these things” in v. 8?

Let’s turn our attention to the content of godly thinking.

III. We must understand the Content of Godly thinking

Philippians 4:8 - 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.

The kind of thoughts that should be buying space in your mind are described 6 different ways. Sometimes the Bible uses a series of words to create emphasis … think about good stuff!

The phrases, “excellence” and “worthy of praise” are the summary statements. Think about the things that are excellent … not just decent or okay or good, but the things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Those thoughts are ….

A.   ghts that are true

True thoughts represent things as they are as opposed to false thoughts or merely perceptions or feelings. In the context, Philippians 4:2-7 described godly ways of

God’s Word is truth. One of the ways that you and I are going to be good stewards of our thinking is meditating on the Word of God especially about issues we are struggling with.

Let’s take a different subject … in our personal relationships … have you ever judged, in your heart, the motives of another person? I am not talking about the action, I am talking about the motive.

Sometimes it is easy to think like that. Sometimes it is easy to let thoughts like that come in our mind and then we let them settle, build a home and establish residency in our minds.

The Lord says, you want to live the Christian life? You want to be a good steward of your mind. Think about the things that are true.

The next characteristic is …

B.   Thoughts that are Honorable

Honorable thoughts are thoughts that have value.  This word is used of people in 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. We are to be honorable or dignified, but when we think about the characteristic applied to thoughts the sense is valuable as opposed to trivial or worthless.

Some people are a bit crazy with sports. I saw that the Florida football coach has received death threats because the team is 3-3.

We should focus our time on thoughts much more valuable than that.  On the things that have value or the things that are important to God. 

Thinking about how we can make a difference for Christ during the holiday season.

The third characteristic is …

C.   Thoughts that are righteous or just

We should be thinking about things that are right as judged by the Bible.  This is not always easy.

But what about issues of justice and mercy? Do we think rightly about them?

Is it possible to believe in a ministry like CFE even if there might be a couple of people who cheat the system and take advantage of kind people who want to help?

Friends, God calls us to a high standard of thinking.

One more element about justice. Justice is ultimately in the decisions rendered by the Lord. You and I have to discipline ourselves and to ask the Lord to help us see our blind spots.

Recently John Piper wrote about how to think about your heroes. It was well balanced.

If it was true for some of the men who made an incredible difference in our world, then it is true for us as well. We need to practice the discipline of determining justice by the Scripture and allowing the Scripture to help us see where we have blind spots.

D.   Thoughts that are pure

This word has a broad meaning and can refer to pure or right motivation and to the idea of sexually pure thoughts.  Let us think about both.

The thoughts that should be buying real estate in your brain are thoughts born out of a proper motivation. 

Yet, if we honestly evaluated many of the things we say to others, many of the things that we pray for, or things that we desired then we would find some selfish motivations and thus impure thoughts.

James 4:3 “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

Purity also has the sense of sexual purity.  We may not be able to prevent every sexually impure thought from entering our mind … especially in a culture that regularly celebrates what God says is wrong.

E.   Thoughts that are Lovely

Thoughts that are love-inspiring.  The opposite to this is repulsive thoughts. One of the reasons I am glad that our community ministry team organized trunk or treat is that there is a Christian attempt to redeem the ugliness of Halloween so that it is not about ghosts and goblins, but about fun and giving.

The stewardship celebration on the 19th is an event dedicated to lovely or love inspiring thoughts. The testimonies, the organization of the evening, and the theme of praise to the Lord encourages us to (1) love Christ for what he has done (2) love the fact that people have been reached with the gospel (3) develop a love for hurting and lost people in our community and (4) love the work occurring in the lives of people in our church. The 90 minute or so service is a love inspiring event.

Ironically, attending the stewardship celebration itself helps you steward your mind.

What our world likes to tell us about is stories of crime, hatred, violence, and evil. So we have to discipline ourselves against that.

Our time should be spent thinking about things that inspire and encourage love.

F.    Thoughts that are of Good Repute

This generally speaks about thoughts that win and encourage people rather than to needlessly offend.  It is those thoughts that God would judge as being good or encouraging.

There is now doubt that there is some overlap between the words, but when taken as a complete list they form an all-encompassing whole. 

I find it helpful to look at lists and think about the opposite.

 

True

False

Honorable or valuable

Worthless or Trivial

Righteous or Just

Unjust

Pure

Impure

Love Inspiring

Repulsive

Good Repute

Offensive

 

Philippians 4:8 does not say whatever is false, whatever is worthless, whatever is unjust, whatever is impure, whatever is repulsive, and whatever is offensive think on these things. Yet, sadly, this is where we live from time to time.

So what do we do with all this?

Takeaways

#1. Ask God for his grace.

I read this list and think, “O God, how am I ever going to get there?” It seems like I can be consistent to this list for a very short period of time and then wham … back out again. Ask God for his grace to think wisely.

Maybe you are here today and these concepts are completely new to you. Maybe you would struggle answering the question, “if you died today and stood before God and he said, Why should I let you into my heaven?” [give the gospel]

#2. Repent of wrong thinking

 Repent of wrong thinking and for allowing ungodly thoughts to own a home in your mind. In order to grow there has to be some repentance. We have to see the change needed.

Maybe the Lord convicted you today because you have not stewarded this wonderful gift of the mind as well as he would like.

#3. Memorize Philippians 4:8 or a similar passage about thinking and take a thinking inventory at the end of each night.

 

Rob Green

B.S. - Engineering Physics, Ohio State University
M.Div. - Baptist Bible Seminary
Ph.D. - New Testament, Baptist Bible Seminary

Pastor Rob Green and his wife, Stephanie, joined the Faith staff in August, 2005.  Rob’s responsibilities include oversight of the Faith Biblical Counseling Ministry and teaching New Testament at the Faith Bible Seminary. He serves on the council board of the Biblical Counseling Coalition and as a fellow at the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors.

Read Rob Green's Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Green to Faith Church.