Our Lord is very concerned with what we think about. Sadly, He is likely more concerned than we are. God tells us that the thoughts of a man make him who he is: “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). The content of our daily thinking will identify us as righteous or wicked: “The thoughts of the righteous are right, but the counsels of the wicked are deceitful… The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord, but the works of the pure are pleasant”( Proverbs 12:5, 15:26).
Jesus warns us that “evil thoughts” proceed from the heart and will defile a man (Matt. 15:18-20). Even thoughts about evil acts, such as adultery, are as wrong as the acts themselves (Matt. 5:28). Peter told Simon the sorcerer that he should repent and pray to God “if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you” (Acts 8:22). Learning to control our thoughts is difficult, but required by God, that we think righteously.
How can we discern between righteous and evil thinking? God’s word is the key for it is a “discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). It teaches God’s people to set their minds on the high things of the wisdom that is from above (Col. 3:2 & James 3:17, 18). If we can control our thoughts, we can control our lives – our desires, our choices, our actions. Paul lists the characteristics of righteous thinking which produces the spiritual fruit that pleases God and influences others for good: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things” (Phil. 4:8).
I believe these eight characteristics are worthy of our close examination. They are not separate ideals; they are equal, overlapping qualities that characterize righteous, godly thinking. May these characteristics describe our thoughts on a day to day basis.
1) TRUE - Our God is true in all aspects (I John 5:20). If we are His children, we should strive to be true in our lives. Our thoughts need to be directed toward things that are true so that we will always tell the truth and live a true and honorable life. The opposite idea is falsehood. Things that are false deceive and mislead (example: false teachers, false doctrines, false apostles, false witness, etc.). Too many today want peace and unity without truth. Seek what is true and keep your thoughts centered on those true things.
2) NOBLE - Other versions use the terms “honest”, “honorable”. These are things that are dignified and venerable, and should be a joy to think about. Many in our world enjoy thinking about perversions, evil deeds, cheating others, and other such foolishness. It is hard to read a newspaper today without seeing stories about the undignified activities of men. They titillate the fleshly desires and appeal to a sordid nature. There are things on the television from which we should turn our face away because they are disgraceful. Keep nobility in your thinking.
3) JUST - Things that are just are fair, or equitable. One of the great principles of the Bible is to “do justly” (Micah 6:8). To think about how to be unfair, cheat, or undermine another is not right thinking. Our thoughts should always guide us to seek justice so that our dealings with others will be ethical and above reproach.
4) PURE - Pure thinking seeks out those things that are chaste, clean, and innocent. Once again, much of what is offered by the modern media in movies, television, and even radio is impure in information and entertainment. It conjures up impure thoughts about people and things, whether intentionally or unintentionally. No wonder they call some stories “dirty” stories and some jokes “dirty” jokes. Dirty thinking leads to dirty living, something we should all avid to “keep our thoughts pure”.
5) LOVELY - Lovely things are attractive and pleasing to the mind. They are agreeable to the true principles of God. To think of God, His wonderful love, and the beautiful earth that He has created is a lovely thing. To think of the gospel and the soul being saved is a lovely thing. On the other hand, evil things are not lovely. No one would describe death, tragedy, divorce, fear, theft, or abuse as lovely things. Yet, scenes and stories of such things bombard us daily. It can be a struggle to keep our minds thinking about the lovely things of God and His righteousness.
6) GOOD REPORT - These are things that are pleasing and attractive to a mind filled with God’s word. The NIV translates it “admirable”. God’s standard is high, and those things that reach to it are worthy of “good report”. It would seem the things of “bad report” get all the attention these days. No one seems to notice, or care, to report “good deeds”; but let that person do a bad thing and everyone will want to know all the details. Let us be content to think on the things that have a good report.
7) VIRTUE - Virtue is moral excellence, goodness, and strength. All the above characteristics are examples of moral excellence – true, noble, just, pure, lovely, and good report. Sadly, we are being desensitized to all the vice that is in the world. We must give diligent effort to protect our minds from the immoral gutter of the world, and seek out the virtuous thoughts and actions that God would desire of us. Being virtuous will make you stand out as different – which is good. God wants courageous souls to stand up for what is virtuous and excellent in this world; allowing His light to shine through us.
8) PRAISEWORTHY - Moral excellence is praiseworthy and worthy of meditation. Yet, sometimes these wonderful virtues are too often shamed or mocked as silly and old fashioned. We need to speak up and praise these things that are truly praiseworthy. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation...” Let us give Him the praise He is so worthy of. Let us give that praise by our manner of life as well as our speech.
We, as God’s children should take account of these things. Remember, we become what we think. We will be true, noble, just, pure, lovely, and of good report if we think on these things, having these characteristics. We must avoid becoming false, dishonorable, unjust, impure, dirty, and of bad report; like the rest of the world. How is your thinking? Let it be influenced by the gospel of righteousness rather than the filth of this world. “Come ye out from among them and be ye separate” (II Cor.6:17)