- 2016Oct 25
Philippians 4:8 is a key verse for every Christian to meditate upon, since it describes what we should meditate upon.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
However, before we get to the what let's think about the why. Why does it matter how we think? As long as we do right, or do our best to "be good," does God really care how we think? Think for a moment about 5 reasons our thinking matters to God.
- Prior to the new birth, our thinking was futile and our understanding darkened (Eph. 4:17-18). While we were under the dominion of the world, the flesh, and the devil; our thinking was vain. It was without purpose--from a divine perspective. We were ignorant of godliness because our understanding was held captive in darkness.
- At the new birth, we receive the Holy Spirit who knows the mind of God (1 Cor. 2:11). You will need to listen to the sermon linked below for a fuller explanation of this Scripture. However, suffice it to say that this is truly amazing and spectacular. Just as you spirit is the only one (besides God, of course) who knows what you are thinking--until you choose to reveal it by your words or actions--the Holy Spirit knows the thoughts of God. That same Spirit dwells within each believer.
- Knowing the mind of God—because He is God—the Holy Spirit has revealed the mind of God in the Scriptures and, therefore, we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:12-16). those who truly know Christ have all they need to know how to think according to God's standards. Because the divine author of Scripture now lives within us, as believers in Christ, we have the ability to know the mind of Christ, which is revealed in the Scriptures. The Bible is the mind of God in written form.
- As new creatures, we are now called to put off our old self, including old ways of thinking, and be renewed in the spirit of our minds (Eph. 4:22-23). Sanctification is not merely--nor even primarily--interested in outward behavior, but on changing our thinking patterns to match up with God's Word.
- As we renew our minds with the Word of God, our life is transformed, which results in the fulfillment of the will of God (Rom 12:1-2). Transformation of life and change of heart cannot take place without renewal of mind. That is a foundational truth.
As new creatures in Christ, we have every divine resource at our disposable to be able to develop a truly Christian mind. This matters to God. Tomorrow, we will look at 6 positive qualities that the apostle calls us to think upon.
*This post is adapted from last Sunday's sermon, Think Right, Do Right.
- 2016Oct 21
In the previous two posts, we took heed to several of God’s commands and admonitions found in Philippians 4:4-7, which are related to the human struggle with anxiety. On Tuesday, we took note of every believer’s obligation to rejoice at all times (v. 4) and our calling to be people who are known for their gentleness (v. 5). Yesterday, we examined in detail the two-fold command to not be anxious about anything, but prayerful about everything. Today, let’s consider the promised result of this life of habitual prayer: inner peace.
As dependent children, we must make our specific requests known to God; we must verbalize our needs to Him while recognizing that confidence in prayer comes from Christ, not from ourselves (1 John 5:15). God knows our needs, but there are many times He will not meet them apart from prayer. He is absolutely sovereign, but in His sovereignty God has also ordained that some things not happen until we pray.
3 CHARACTERISTICS OF THE PROMISED INNER PEACE
What will be the result of this kind of prayer? The peace of God will take control of our heart and mind, forcing anxious thoughts to leave and keeping new ones from entering in. This peace comes through prayer and has three characteristics.
- This inner peace is an indescribable calm. First, it is a calm that defies description, “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension.” It cannot be fully understood. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27). Jesus offers an indescribable calm in place of our fears. Many times, as it is with me, this peace does not come until I seek out other believers to pray with. Brother or sister, if you battle anxiety you need to find a regular prayer partner or share your need with your small group. And brother or sister, if your spiritual friend struggles with anxiety then reach out to them for the purpose of coming alongside them to pray with them. One of the most devastating things I have ever encountered in my Christian life was when I asked several men to come pray with me on a regular basis, but not one of them thought it was important. This lack of biblical love led to deep disillusionment. The good that’s come out of my experience; however, is that I now regularly hear from others that my commitment to pray with them is a profound help to them. Friend, be a wise and good counselor. Pray, pray, pray with your spiritual friends who are struggling; make time for them.
- This inner peace protects emotional and mental stability. The second characteristic of this peace is that it protects emotional and mental stability. It “shall guard your hearts and your minds.” The word guard is a military word that paints a comforting picture. It refers to a garrison of soldiers on duty. When we pray, God dispatches a whole garrison of soldiers to surround our heart and protect it from anxious thoughts and worries, thus keeping them from disturbing our peace and; therefore, preserving our mental health. This reminds us of a wonderful promise in our older Testament: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3).
- This inner peace uniquely belongs to believers. The third characteristic of this peace is that it uniquely belongs to believers. It guards the hearts and minds of those who are “in Christ Jesus.” In other words, this indescribable calm cannot be experienced by the unsaved person because it is only found in Christ. Let me say it another way: If you are not at peace with God then will never experience the peace of God. Being at peace with God means that you know in your heart that your sins have justly been dealt with on the Cross of Calvary and you are trusting in Jesus Christ as your crucified and risen Lord and Savior. He is the One who has made peace with God for you. He is your one and only Mediator. “Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
Are you at peace with God? If not, you will never experience the peace of God to overcome anxiety. This peace is in Christ. Turn to Him today in repentance and faith.
If you are already saved by Christ then rest in the peace that He has already provided. Remember His promise: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
3 KEY LESSONS
So what has the Holy Spirit taught us these past few days?
- First, we are commanded to rejoice. This joy is a choice of the mind and will. It is an affection of the heart that comes to those who are in Christ. Therefore, when we are walking in the Spirit we can overcome any fears we may have, and not allow our circumstances to control our emotions.
- Second, as followers of Christ we should be known for our gentleness and meekness. Being angry and hateful makes the gospel look ugly. Let us be sure our demeanor makes the gospel attractive.
- Finally, as we learn to cast all our cares upon God in prayer His peace will force anxiety out of our mind and heart, leaving no room to be consumed with worry. God-dependent prayer is a key element in the divine remedy for anxiety.
Go to Him in prayer and let Him send His peace to set up a guard around your heart that says to worry, “You are no longer allowed entrance. Do not disturb the peace.”
**This post is adapted from last Sunday's sermon, which you may listen to here.
- 2016Oct 19
In Philippians 4:6-7, we find additional help for our soul’s battle with anxiety, specifically the divine help that comes as a result of prayer. Yesterday, we took heed to God’s command to rejoice at all times (v. 4) and put on the character quality of gentleness (v. 5). Today, we need to take heed to God’s command to be anxious about nothing, but prayerful about everything.
The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
You may have noticed that the command to not be anxious is preceded by a direct promise of the nearness of the Lord and the surety of His return (which the apostle called our attention to, earlier, at the end of the third chapter). What a wonderful promise in our times of anxiety and an incentive to pray! God promises that His peace will take control of our hearts and protect us from anxiety as a direct result of prayer. The text reveals two steps for attacking anxiety when it attacks you.
Worry about nothing (6a).
Verse six commands, “Be anxious for nothing.” The noun form of anxious, or “care,” is probably connected with merizo, which means to draw in different directions or distract. The verb “to be anxious” means, therefore, to have a distracting care. Anxiety divides our mind and heart causing us to feel and sometimes even appear to be double-minded. At heart level, anxiety is fundamentally a form of fear which is often rooted in unbelief. Since the Lord is near and trustworthy, the apostle commands us to be anxious about nothing—nothing in our present, our future, or even our past.
Can a person really be consumed with worrying about their past? For sure. It is called regret. Martyn Llloyd-Jones, who was a medical physician before God called him to be a pastor, wrote about this in his helpful book entitled Spiritual Depression. “Let us then lay this down as a principle. We must never for a second worry about anything that cannot be affected or changed by us. It is a waste of energy…You can sit down and be miserable and you can go round and round in circles of regret for the rest of your life but it will make no difference to what you have done.”
Sometimes we waste time and energy worrying about our past failures. Or we may be anxious about our present circumstances or needs. Or we may fear what the future may hold—or not hold—for us.
Though the word anxious is used in a positive sense in Scripture, of legitimate life concerns, most often it is used in a negative sense. One key example is the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 6:25-34, where it is used five times to confront the worrier’s lack of faith, or fear of the lack of God’s provision. Take a moment to read this portion of the Sermon on the Mount, taking special note of three causes of anxiety which Jesus exposes: life’s cares, which God has promised to provide (vv. 25-34); lack of faith (v. 30); and worldly priorities (vv. 32-33). Much of our anxiety may be traced back to fretting over things that are beyond our control, but are rather under God’s control. Anxiety may also arise from immature faith and discontentment.
So, perhaps you are wondering, does this mean I should live an irresponsible life and just expect manna to fall from heaven every morning? Well, no. We are called to be faithful and responsible. But we can also take that too far. Psalm 127:2 warns us, It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for He gives to His beloved even in his sleep. In other words, we must not worry about what is not ours to worry about; that is, God’s promised care and the responsibilities of others. We must do what God has commanded us to do and rest in His promise to care for us.
Be anxious for nothing. That is step one in God’s answer for anxiety. Step two is to pray about everything.
Pray about everything (6b-7).
The second part of verse six commands, “But in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God and the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
We are instructed to worry about nothing and pray about everything. Paul uses four different words to explain what he means by praying about everything. This describes the four ways we should pray.
- Invoke God as the One whom you worship. The word prayer refers to calling upon the One whom you worship. In other words, prayer is part of worship. The more you pray, the more you worship God, which in turn leads to more prayer. The more you worry, the more you are really worshipping the idols of your heart. Instead, worship God. Trust Him (Psalm 27:7-8). Invoke God as the One whom you worship. Seek His face. Cry to Him in prayer.
- Cry out to Him in your time of need. The second way to pray about everything is to cry out to Him in your time of need because He is the One who cares. “But in everything by prayer and supplication.” The word supplication implies that a real need is present. In other words, this kind of prayer is provoked by the realization that you are lacking something essential. In prayer we say, “Father, this is my need. I bring it to You.” We do this not because He is unaware, but because we need to acknowledge our dependence upon Him. Prayer is an act of submission, dependence, and worship. When we pray we admit our helplessness (Psalm 28:2; 39:12).
- Always be thankful. Thirdly, Paul says we ought to pray with thanksgiving. Thanksgiving should be the heart’s posture of the believer. In other words, we pray to God while being thankful, while living with the attitude of gratitude. This is a key element in attacking anxiety before it attacks you. When you become anxious, do you immediately pray? When overtaken by fear, who is the first person you turn to? What can you thank God for—no matter what the need of your heart or your current trial?
- Verbalize your specific needs. Fourth, “let your [specific] requests be made known to God.” Again, we need to make our requests known to God not because He needs more information, but because we need Him. We need the humility that prayer effects in us. Therefore, make your specific requests known to God. Verbalize them to Him while recognizing that confidence in prayer comes from Christ, not from yourself. God knows our needs, but there are many times He will not meet them apart from prayer. He is absolutely sovereign, but in His sovereignty God has also ordained that some things not happen until we pray.
What will be the result of this kind of prayer? The peace of God will take control of your heart and mind, forcing anxious thoughts to leave and keeping new ones from entering in. The peace that comes through prayer has three characteristics: it is an indescribable calm, it protects our emotional and mental stability, and it uniquely belongs to believers. We’ll consider these three characteristics in detail tomorrow.
This post is adapted from last Sunday's sermon, which you may listen to here.