Actually today’s verse might have fitted into yesterday’s posting, since by following its counsel we’d be a lot better off in experiencing a peaceful heart and mind. However, I thought this one verse merits a posting all by itself, since it has such important ramifications for us in our walk with Christ.
You’ve heard the old saying “You are what you eat,” right? It’s referring to the fact that what you consume affects your physical health. If you eat junk food all the time, that’ll be reflected later on in your health and lifespan. But your spirit/soul “feeds” all the time as well. What you take in through your senses and what you choose to focus your thoughts on affect you just like your physical diet. In my own field of IT we like to say GIGO: Garbage In, Garbage Out. The programming output can’t be any better than the programming input.
Paul tells us to think about certain things, to fill our brain with certain subjects:
· Whatever is true. Of course, when you hear “true,” your first thought should be God, and your second thought should be his word. Jesus (the Truth incarnate) didn’t just say that the divine word is true; he said it is truth. Everything is true as it relates to him and his word.
· Whatever is noble. MacArthur says “The Greek term means ‘worthy of respect.’ Believers are to meditate on whatever is worthy of awe and adoration, i.e., the sacred as opposed to the profane.” And of course the # 1 candidate for this is our Lord.
· Whatever is right. A better word might be “just.” This is referring to what’s conforming to God’s standards.
· Whatever is pure. The Lord Jesus pronounced blessing on the pure in heart, promising that they will see God. Purity refers to the state of being uncontaminated or undiluted or unalloyed. Of course, once again this applies to our Lord, who is light and who contains absolutely no darkness in him at all.
· Whatever is lovely. We need to think on that which is attractive to the best parts of us: Not the eye, but the Spirit within us.
· Whatever is admirable. Once again, MacArthur puts it much better than I can (duh!): “That which is highly regarded or thought well of. It refers to what is generally considered reputable in the world, such as kindness, courtesy, and respect for others.”
· Anything that’s excellent. Is what you’re contemplating the best of its kind, something that stands out from the rest? Are you settling for mediocrity in anything?
· Anything that’s praiseworthy. Pretty much doesn’t need much explanation. Again, our Savior certainly fits the bill here.
As we’ve seen, all of these qualities apply to our Lord and his word. To the degree I’m meditating on him and his word, I can’t go wrong. But let’s move out of the “Duh” categories into a bit more controversy. I’m not a fan of controversy per se, but I think it’s necessary to dig a little deeper into this topic. Let’s try to apply this in practical ways, shall we? We have to live in the real world. I have to think about my job, which while it’s not innately sinful, isn’t lovely all the time. And is it wrong for a Christian to indulge in entertainment? When I go to a hockey game, is that wrong? Am I disobeying this verse when I’m cheering on my team?
Or how’s about movies and TV? A couple of generations ago, you could easily find preachers and conservative Christians who’d say “Yes, watching anything on TV or movies is sinful. They talk about impure things, and a lot of what you see characters do isn’t admirable. Watching any type of TV/movies is incompatible with following Christ.” Nowadays, I guess you could find Christians like that if you looked hard enough, but I haven’t met any. I’ve had a couple of friends who’ve made a commitment to never see an “R” rated movie of any type. It makes no difference to them what the “R” is for, they’re never going to see it. I really really really respect them so much for their stance, but that’s as close you’ll likely see re: absolutism in viewing media in most Evangelical circles.
I don’t restrict myself to just reading my Bible and watching depictions of it in the movies and on TV. Paul was certainly familiar with the Greek culture, its poets and philosophers, and used some of their work in reaching out to Pagans.
I have my own standards in movies, and others have theirs. I think this falls under the disputable things Paul talked about in Romans. My standard is that I’m pretty lax when it comes to violence, but I take a hard line when it comes to nudity and sexuality. My reasoning is simple: I’ve never been really tempted to hurt anyone physically, but I have enough problems maintaining sexual purity in my thoughts, and I don’t need any more hassles in that. The Bible has tons of scenes of graphic violence, but Song of Solomon is the closest you get to graphic depictions of sexuality.
But I’d like to take this discussion a little deeper than “R” vs. “PG.” Most Christians have no problem seeing a “PG” movie as long as it’s not too graphic. But I thoroughly believe that a “PG” or even “G” movie could be just as dangerous to your spiritual life, and maybe even more so. Let me explain. Just about every movie or TV show has a worldview, an overall philosophy behind it. Most of the time this worldview will not be stated openly. And every worldview is either compatible with God’s word or it’s not. Let’s say, for example, that a movie has no nudity or sex or even bad language, but it presents its main protagonists as sympathetic even when they’re committing adultery. It’s easy for a book or a show to present the idea that sex outside of marriage is fine even if no nudity is shown. Or maybe it glorifies theft or lying.
That’s even more dangerous because it’s insidious. You watch it and absorb the message without even thinking about it. A story tends to slip past peoples’ guards, so they’ll accept a message from a story which they’d never accept if it was presented to them outright. For example, a popular “romantic” movie of a few years ago presented the following message through its plot and characterization: “Adultery is fine as long as both parties are in a bad marriage and they ‘love’ each other.”
That’s not true. It’s a beautiful lie, which tends to be the most dangerous kind. It’s attractive, but not to the best parts of me. It’s neither noble nor just. It’s not admirable or excellent or praiseworthy.
So let’s, you and me, commit ourselves to filling our minds with what’s going to really bring us closer to our Savior, with what’ll help us walk closer with him. Remember GIGO.
Lord Jesus, I really need to focus a lot more on you than I do. I want you to not only fill my spirit, but my brain. Fill my thoughts so that there’s no room for anything the Enemy might want to slip in. Please.