Unity Comes from a Disciplined Mind

Steve Viars August 9, 2008 Philippians 4:8-23

 

- One of our relatively new members here is Paul Refior along with his wife Pam…

- for those who have been around our church for a while, Paul is Nikki Lambeth’s father…

- the Refiors are from Warsaw, where Paul has served as an attorney for many years…

- they have also established a residence and law office here in Lafayette…so Paul and Pam work several days up in Warsaw during the week and then come here at the end of the week and weekends…

- Just like hundreds of others that the Lord has brought to our church the last several years, Paul and Pam have been delightful additions to our church family…

- his legal work has been a help to a number of our ministries already where he has provided advice and counsel at no cost to us…

- he has also gone through the counseling training here and has begun mentoring men and seeking to be a help to their spiritual life…

- some of you may recognize his name because he and Pam were scheduled to teach a course on marriage at their home starting a couple of Friday nights ago…quite a few people from our church were planning to be part of that class…

- on the Thursday before the day the class was to start, Rafe had delivered some legal work to Vision of Hope that we needed in preparation for our board meeting that evening…

- then he and Pam were home preparing a new room where the marriage class was going to be held…

- he was on a ladder, 12 feet off the ground, attempting to hang an object that weighed 150 pounds when the ladder slipped out from under him and he landed on the concrete floor below…

- not surprisingly, his injuries were significant…he shattered the lower tibia on one leg and shattered his heel on the other…

- it was clearly one of those “God has different plans” kinds of moments…

- there are a lot of lessons from this event, but one that has stood out to me is the way the Lord has strengthened Paul and Pam and allowed them to respond to this trial with grace and strength…

- on August 1st, Rafe and Pam sent out an e-mail update entitled – Greetings from the Happy Refior…[that title alone spoke volumes to me]

- he wrote about how they had just received word that one of the orthopedic surgeons who works with players from the Colts had agreed to take his case…then he said this:

- A great man of God, John Dunlop, made the following statement about 30 years ago in his last public sermon while he was in the mist of excruciating pain, shortly before his death, “It is a joyful and amazing thing.  I have spent my life sharing the all-sufficient Word of God with people, and knowing that because God had revealed them in His Word all of those promises are absolutely true.  But when one finally has an experience in his own life when he actually tries on God’s promises personally, he can rejoice in how perfectly they fit.”  [then Paul said]As I pray about this I take sweet comfort in the truth about God’s sovereignty, as He says in Psalm 115:3, “But our God is in Heaven; He does whatever He pleases.”  And in Psalm 135:5, “For I know that the Lord is great and our Lord is above all gods.  Whatever the Lord pleases He does, in Heaven and in Earth, in the sea and in all the places . . .”

- I say along with the Psalmist David, in Psalm 144:15, “HAPPY are the people whose God is the Lord!” – [cf. Greetings from the Happy Refior—then he went on to say]

- Earlier in Psalm 55 we read, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he shall sustain you . . . but I will trust in You.” 

- My hospital bed here at our place in Warsaw is next to a ten foot long picture window overlooking the lake.  I simply could not do better than that !...

- I have stated many times before that, “My dear wife Pam is the sweetest person I have ever met.”  That really is true, of course.  However, it is brilliantly proving itself day by day as she is my hero, dealing with all of these dramatic changes in her life and lifestyle.  Pam helps me with daily life and all that is entailed in caring 24/7 for a bed-ridden man.  I cannot imagine being more blessed than I am.  These have been intense times of basking the truths of Scripture and being engaged in significant prayer.

- Today will be another “first” since my accident.  I will shift from my hospital bed and onto a wheelchair, to travel two doors down the hallway to another conference room where I will meet with clients.  Tonight would have been the second session of our “Marriage Tune-Up” seminars.  Precious Pam and I will prayerfully and joyfully look forward to next summer when, Lord willing, we will be able to do the series.  God’s ways and God’s plans are perfect.  Psalm 119:50 says, “This is my comfort in my affliction, for YOUR WORD has given me life.” 

- last Saturday night Rafe sent out a follow up to the folks in his ABF…with a couple of pictures…the caption under the first picture said – Check out the lawyer’s help after the medics did their thing…

- then the caption under the second said – here, you can read the close up better…”

- “Do not drop.  The construction of this product is not intended to withstand impact on hard surfaces”

- I learned later that apparently Pam had given Paul a piece of equipment that had that sticker on it, so Paul thought he’d peel it off and put it on his injured leg as a joke…to poke a little fun at his beloved profession…

- now of course we’re not here to glorify people…our desire is to glorify God who changes people, and uses people, and strengthens them when times are hard…

- but this illustration proves that our responses to life are not dependent on external circumstances…they are dependent on the condition of the mind and the heart through which we view the circumstances around us…

- when we bring that into the church and the need to work together to accomplish God’s plan, we learn that Unity Comes from a Disciplined Mind

- to learn more about that, let me invite you to open your Bible to Philippians chapter 4…page 156 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you…

- This summer we’ve been doing a verse by verse study of the book of Philippians entitled Seeking God’s Plan through Joyful Unity

- we thought that would be especially helpful as we worked through our 5 year strategic planning process together…

- this morning we’re going to conclude this study and I think we’ve been reminded yet again of how practical and helpful the Word of God can be…

- by the way, if you’re wondering, next week, Lord willing, we plan to begin a 5 week study on the book of Habakkuk, one of the Old Testament prophets…a name you really need to know –

- we’re calling that -- Seeking God’s Plan During Times of Adversity…then we’re plan to move into an extended study on the topic of forgiveness…

- for our purposes this morning, we want to complete our study of a book you could entitle “Greetings from a Happy Apostle Paul”…even though he is in prison for his faith, he writes a letter that emphasizes the possibility and importance of cultivating a joyful heart…

- in fact, in the verses we read last week, he says it about as succinctly as it can be said -- Philippians 4:4 - Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!

- now let’s see how a person develops a mind like that…read Philippians 4:8-23

- in the time we have remaining, let’s look for 3 characteristics of a mind that pleases God.

I. A Mind that is Filtered.

- I struggled with the best way to say that because this is a very important emphasis on this book…

- God wants His people to be good stewards of the mind he’s entrusted to us…

- it should be screened, protected, guarded, evaluated…

- that should be the case in at least 3 ways…

- what we allow to enter our minds…what we allow to occur in our minds…and what we allow to come out…

- all three of those aspects of mental activity should be carefully filtered, carefully screened, protected, guarded, and evaluated…

- it’s just like these men and women working on SR 26…every yard of that concrete has been tested and evaluated in several different ways…

- the ingredients that go into the concrete truck are precision measured…

- and how long the concrete is allowed to stay in the truck and how much air and water can be added while its inside is carefully monitored…

- it can only be poured in a certain way…at a certain thickness, or slump…

- and then afterward every pour is tested…by taking a cone from each actual batch and putting it into a machine that bears down on it with increased pressure to see what it can withstand before crumbling…

- and you have noticed times where they poured a section one day and tore it up a week later…that’s because that particular batch didn’t pass the test…and you might say, that’s irritating – it would be better to fix it now than later…

- and if INDOT is that careful about the concrete they are using to build a road, what does that say about how careful you and I should be about the thoughts we are using to build a life?...

- someone has rightly said:

- Sow a thought, reap an action            - Sow an action, reap a habit

- Sow a habit, reap a character            - Sow a character, reap a destiny

- and the problem with some followers of Christ is that they are very careless when it comes to the condition of their minds, or their hearts…they apparently think that Christianity is all about behavior, or externals…

- that is not true --- that’s why Solomon said, Proverbs 4:23 - Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.

- be careful about what you allow into your mind, be careful about what you do with your mind, and be careful about what you allow to come out…

- now, let’s dig into the specifics of verse 8…Paul gives us a list of…

A. The right characteristics.

- what should this filter consist of?

1. True – without error or falsehood, valid, reliable, rightly connected to reality

2. Honorable – worthy of respect, serious, of good character

3. Right – just, in harmony with God’s standard of holiness

4. Pure – morally clean and undefiled

5. Lovely – kind, gracious, pleasing, amiable

6. Of good report – admirable, highly regarded, thought well of

7. Excellent – virtuous, moral goodness

8. Worthy of praise – delighting in the goodness of God and others

- now, please tie this back to its context…if you were here last week, you know that this chapter began by Paul publicly naming two ladies in the church who apparently having a feud that was publicly known in the church…

- and Paul told them in verse 2 –4:2 - I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.

- and depending on the version of the Bible you have, it may say “same mind” or it may say “live in harmony with”…both are acceptable translations, but the original word phronein literally means “to think”…used nominatively, a great translation is – be of the same mind…we would say it this way today – you need to get on the same page…

- well, how do you do that?...by being careful about what you think…

- the reason some folks have such trouble solving problems with others in their life is because they don’t filter what they allow into their minds…

- so for example, the first word – whatever is true --- some folks allow all sorts of lies to come into their heads about that person, or that situation…

- perhaps it is their own evaluation, or some piece of juicy gossip they picked up from someone else…but they didn’t filter out falsehood…

- and then they allow those kinds of thoughts to continue to stew around…

- and the person may say – but I sincerely believe it…and we all need to face the hard fact that just because we believe something does not make it true…and just because we refuse to believe something does not make it false…

- and one of the key ingredients in solving problems between people is that both of them learn to be of the same mind – to think accurately, biblically, correctly about what has occurred…

- and you could say that about each one of the 8 characteristics mentioned in this text…

- now look at the controlling verb in verse 8…that tells us…

B. The right action.

- 4:8 – dwell on these things.

      - meditate on these things…

- don’t let anything into your mind, don’t let anything stay in your mind, and don’t let anything come out of your mind that does not meet the characteristics of this prescribed filter…

- so let me ask you this – when’s the last time you can remember consciously seeking to filter something out of your mind?...

- I’m not letting that in there, I’m not going to let that stay there, I’m not letting that out…

- see, are you filtering, and what are you filtering?....

- it’s just like this, many of us have some kind of water filtering system on our house…

- and it has some sort of cartridge type arrangement, but you have to decide what are you trying to filter…

- and they have one for iron and another for different minerals…

- and I would ask you this morning, what kind of filters have you installed on your mind?

- now, let’s bring verse 9 into this…

II. A Mind that is Practical.

- Philippians 4:9 - The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

- this is a very important principle in biblical Christianity…

A. We have not truly learned something until we have acted on it.

- for example, I hope that already you are evaluating whether you are being a good steward of your mind…

- whether you are truly guarding the mind God has given you with the principles outlined in this passage…

- and it would be very appropriate to begin planning steps already that would help you to be more pleasing to God in this area…

- for example, some of God’s people need to say, there is no way I should be watching some of the things I watch on TV, or watch at the theater if I am at all serious about this passage…

- think about your favorite shows…your favorite movies…and then honestly answer this – is that really helping you cultivate thoughts that are honorable, that are true, that are lovely in God’s eyes, that are pure, that are just?...

- some of God’s people are constantly feeding their minds on rebellion, and lust, and foolishness and then they wonder why God seems so distant…or sanctification seems so difficult…

- you could add music into the discussion as well…

- we have all these people connected to headphones everywhere they go…

- and I wonder, how much of that is just screaming wickedness into that person’s mind during every waking moment…and what kind of life and lifestyle is that going to produce?...

- some people have surrounded themselves with fools for friends…

- wait a minute, I have another text coming in – another dose of folly…

- we have people practicing that level of stupidity in church…

- and again, please think about the broader context of this problem in the church…life does often mimic art…

- and so people respond to others in their life the way the character in the show did…

- or the way the song advocates…

- our minds are like computers…you get out what you put in…

- that’s why one step that would significantly help many followers of Christ would be to turn off the TV, or turn off the IPod, shut down the computer…and get out your Bible, or read a good book… 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,

- the more we are filling our minds with Christ, and biblical truth, the better prepared we are to handle the challenges of life well…

- and here’s another lesson from the Rafe incident…wise is the person who does that before he/she falls off the ladder…

- it’s not like Paul had time between when he started to fall and when he hit the ground to ramp up his knowledge of Scripture…”now where is that book on handling trials God’s way—I’m think I’m going to need it momentarily…”

- let’s extrapolate that out to the church…

- I don’t believe it’s an overstatement to say that our success in the future is dependent to a great degree on as many of us as possible seeking to develop the mind of Christ…

- to fill our hearts with love for Him, and with a knowledge of His Word…

- what did Paul say earlier in this book…Philippians 2:5 - Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,

- and as challenges come up in the family, is it going to be about what pleases Christ, and what honors His Word…or is it going to be all about what I want?...

- now, you might say, but how do I learn practical truths from God’s Word…

- one of the best steps – get into an ABF

- then, FCI – develop

- parents – let SS and WNKof Faith help you…

- now, did you notice what Paul says will happen at the end of verse 9?

B. God promises to bless this effort with peace.

- Philippians 4:9 - …and the God of peace will be with you.

- isn’t it interesting – that’s what the last paragraph ended with…

- Philippians 4:7 - And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

- and here’s the point – disciplining your mind is hard, but it is absolutely worth the effort…

- your life will have much more peace if you do…

- let’s bring that into the home for a minute…

- some children make their home places of turmoil --- it is anything but peaceful…

- and a significant part of the problem is that that young person has not been a good steward of his mind…

- much that goes on between those ears does not please God…and then when it is time to speak to ones parents, or one’s siblings…it invariably turns into a fight…

- and that teenager may have wrongly concluded – these fights would go away if I had different parents, or different siblings, or different surroundings…

- no, the problem is the heart… Matthew 12:34 - …for the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.

- Proverbs 15:2 - The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable, But the mouth of fools spouts folly.

- wouldn’t it be great to experience some peace for once?...you can’t have a peaceful life until you cultivate a disciplined mind…

- in fact, you might want to ask yourself, does my presence in my family contribute to peace?...

- the same is true for spouses – some husbands and wives spend their time away from one another violating this very passage…there are no filters on their minds on what they choose to think about their spouse…no wonder it’d not five minutes after their spouse comes walking in the door before they’re grumping about something, or criticizing something, or complaining about something…why?...why the lack of turmoil, why the lack of peace?...

- it is because of an undisciplined mind….

- God wants us to develop a mind that is filtered, and a mind that is practical…

III. A Mind that is Generous.

- thankfully, the Philippians had mastered these principles in many ways…

- and that freed them up as a church to have an impact in the life and ministry of apostle Paul like few other congregations…

- and that is why Paul comes back around to the real occasion for this letter – to thank them for their generous gift…that resulted from having disciplined minds…

- let’s break it down a bit…

A. It looks for opportunities to show concern.

Philippians 4:10 - But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity.

- in other words, when the opportunity came, you jumped on it…

- see, when our minds are disciplined to focus on the purposes of Christ, and filled from principles from His Word, when an opportunity comes, we’re ready…

- [that’s why I have been encouraging our congregation to read the book – Who Stole My Church? – one of the central points of the book is, it’s not your church…Jesus isn’t stuck in 1968 – it was a great year, I guess…but some churches are trying to do 1968 for the 40th year in a row and they are becoming less effective every day]…and as a result missing great opportunities because they have their eye on the wrong ball…

- cf. International Student Picnic, International Student Friendship Program…could mention the new opportunity with serving meals at MHA…

B. It has learned the secret of contentment.

- Paul changes the focus to himself for a moment and tries to illustrate how he too has to work on a disciplined mind…

- verses 11-13 are a tremendous testimony of the product of a disciplined mind…

- and please put these two points together…people who have learned contentment are in a better position to seize opportunities for ministry…

C. It does well by sharing in other’s affliction.

Philippians 4:14 - Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.

- aren’t those the words we long to hear from our Savior?...

- remember Paul’s words at the end of verse 5 – the Lord is near…

- cf. many of the big rock initiatives over the next five years --- looking for ways to share in other’s afflictions

D. It is well pleasing to God.

- Philippians 4:18 - But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.

E. It positions you to receive the blessings of God.

Philippians 4:19 - And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
 

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

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