Better Thinking, Better Living
“Set your affection on things above” (Col. 3:2).
Whatever may be the vicissitudes of our worldly society, we Christians are advised to never be overly concerned about anything. Great peace of mind is promised to us in the Word of God in every circumstance of life. The Bible says, “Be anxious for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6,7). No Christian in the world has been able to live without invoking that wonderful promise of peace. This, because the problems of life come to us all. We all must invoke the promise of “the peace of God, which passes all understanding.”
Out of this, however, there arises a question. That is, “Is there any way of living above the fog, of having a life that is more transcendent than the one that I know?” “How can I keep from falling into the slough of despondency?”
There is an answer. This because, following the promise of peace, we have a program of personal thinking which God has given us. It might well be called “Better thinking for better living.” Paul says, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Phil. 4:8). Like an aircraft pilot operates from a checklist, so we have the checklist for higher capability. We can mount up with wings as eagles if we will follow the “better thinking for better living” formula that we are given. The qualities of such a life are connected with the checklist of capability which is before us. Think about them.
Whatever things are true. This is an understandable admonition because, of course, most of the things of our world are false. Almost all modern advertising is false. A high percentage of television is false. The content of most forms of modern education is built on false presumptions. The promises that people make to each other are generally false. Most panaceas touted to cure modern diseases are false. It seems almost that the world is filled with frauds, scams, con games and the like. One must force himself to keep his mind from dwelling on these things. So the Scripture says, “Buy the truth, and sell it not” (Prov. 23:23). The truth may be hard to find, but when we find it, we should never let it go.
The ultimate truth available to man, of course, is the Word of the living God. About this Jesus said, “Thy Word is truth.” The Bible, therefore, is a precious treasure of truth that brings understanding, which is a key to all of the things. All improvement in life is built on an understanding of truth.
Whatever things are honest. The poet said, “Hold ‘ere this truth before your eyes That all the world is lies and lies.”
Looking for a truly honest person in our time can be a frustrating task. About virtually everyone we meet, we should ask the question, “Would you buy a used car from this man?” The world is sure that politicians, TV promoters, and even religionists are dishonest people. Their intent is not to help, but to deceive and exploit. They should be held in contempt and avoided. Some should be prosecuted.
Whatever things are just. Injustice, of which we have warning in the Word of God, saturates our world. The idea of fairness is known to all but practiced by few. The world says to itself, “Take advantage of your advantages, no matter what the consequences for others.”
Whatever things are pure. A glass of water needs only to be 1% impure and it is undrinkable and perhaps poisoned. Purity is, therefore, a 100% thing or it is nothing. Young people are especially warned, “Keep thyself pure,” and this admonition must be the law for everyone.
Whatever things are lovely. It is often a good thing to grow roses in the back yard so that we can get at least a small glimpse of loveliness. Out in the world things are becoming more hideous, grim, monstrous and repugnant. The absence of loveliness in “the real world,” is what makes works of art so attractive and valuable. This because they often represent the world as it ought to be, whereas we live in the hideous world that is.
Whatever things are of good report. It is difficult today to garner the truth from anyone’s testimony. Reports that come to us from across the world are all subject to the bias, the spin that a liberal press puts upon them. An honest, good report today is a lucky acquisition rather than an expected piece of news. Listen to the reports from everywhere, but take them with a grain of salt. Many have been damaged by evil reports that should have been denounced at their source.
if there be any virtue. The Scripture says, “Add to your faith virtue” (2 Pet. 1:5). Virtue is goodness that is habitual. It is moral quality which we have a right to expect from others. The disappearance of virtue in our society is a sad development. Nevertheless, virtue is there, rare and precious.
if there be any praise. Few things are more artificial than the praise, the promotion, the prestige of those who are considered noteworthy by our world. The Hollywood star, the sportsman, the politician, all are usually praised with words that started with a hired publicity man. Things that are worthy of praise, true heroes or heroism, all of these are in a severe shortage today. The Bible says that we are to exercise “honor to whom honor” (Rom. 13:7). And therefore, praise is a worthy vehicle. There is, of course, no one worthy at all of the kind of praise that is deserved by our Lord Jesus Christ. To praise the Lord, therefore, is the beginning of a facility of mind which will be valuable in all things. It is called discernment. It is true discrimination (which is a very useful word which has fallen into bad usage).
The point of all of this is that the Scripture says concerning these virtues that we are to “think on these things.” More than once the Bible indicates that we should control our minds and be masters of our thoughts. Concerning heaven and eternal things, the Scripture says, “Set your affection on things above” (Col. 3:2). That means, of course, that we should be masters of our mental direction. We are to let the same mind be in us which was also in Christ Jesus. This cannot be done if we have but a series of inchoate, floating thoughts which keep us confused and take us nowhere. There can be little personal development in the life of anyone apart from a reining in of the diverse, uncontrolled thoughts of the mind. Setting our affection on the proper things is, therefore, the course which the Word of God advocates.
This is a very needed thing today. There is entirely too much small and wasted conversation, even amongst Christians. There are too many superficial conversations and too many small and even disreputable thoughts. Too often our talking together concerns subjects which are forbidden in Scripture, concerning which the Bible says, “Let it not be once named among you” (Eph. 5:3). Too many verbal interactions move between the stupid and the prurient whose final result is the corrupting rather than the enhancing of our mental powers. The Christian who wants to live better and become a more stately, respected person must start by cleaning up his mind and letting that cleansing move out into his language. He must rescue himself from mental deterioration and, for many, the time is short.
Better thinking leads to better living. To miss this is to live an inferior life. The one who would live better must first think better.
From the writings of Dave Breese
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