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Nobody Reads My Blog

September 12, 2011
Nobody Reads My Blog

The Text

8Finally, 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.  (Philippians 4:4-8 ESV)

A Closer Look at the Text

When we recite a list of important points, we sometimes use the word “finally” to indicate, “and most of all” or “and most importantly,” especially if the last point seems to be more dramatic or profound than the prior points. Sometimes readers of Philippians 4:8 bring that same expectation to this verse, but that’s not what loipos (the first word of verse eight) means. “Finally” as used here means “as for the rest” or “as to what remains to be said.” We should read the rest of the verse in context, but not assign a sense of drama or climax to it.

Think about it. What should we do with the list in this verse? “Think about these things.” Logizomai is a heavy word that calls upon us to deliberate on, meditate on, reflect on, take into account, weigh, and carefully consider these things. Not quickly, but dwelling on them continually over time in a manner similar to “always” (as in verse 4, where we are exhorted to continually find our joy in the Lord). Especially whenever we are being thoughtful. If there can ever be a Bible verse that serves to explain the contours of the most well-known rendering of Proverbs 23:7 (“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he”), this is it. And if there can be a positive terminal of the negative “heart monitor” described by Jesus at Matthew 15:18-20, this is it.

Some Observations about the Text

Truth. There’s nothing subtle or mysterious about the proper objects of our thoughts. For a follower of Jesus Christ “whatever is true” means whatever is conformed to and consistent with God’s truth and the mind of Christ (John 3:33; John 17:17; Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 10:5; Colossians 3:1). Not “whatever works” (pragmatism), whatever  or whatever appeals to our carnal nature (Romans 8:5; 2 Corinthians 11:3).

Honor. In the Greco-Roman culture, honor was the ultimate purpose of life. To be well thought of, to be respected, to be admired, was the highest goal. All virtues, all integrity, all character traits, were to be molded toward this ultimate goal. But when the Greek words for “honor” (semnos) and “good repute” (euphēmos) are used in the Bible, they are placed within the confines of that which honors God. Only men and women whose reputation lends credence and dignity to the Gospel, for example, are to be considered for the office of deacon or deaconess within the church (1 Timothy 3:8; 1 Timothy 3:11; Titus 2:2). That which is truly honorable and commendable is that which points to Jesus Christ.

Justice. Sin is sin, but some “lifestyle sins” indicate not only a sinful human nature, but an intentional refusal to seek to conform to God’s standards (see, for example, the list at Revelation 21:8). They are more than bad habits (which are serious enough); they signal a willful, unrepentant rebellion toward God’s law and His Word. It is important that a follower of Christ take the opposite tack, and zealously and prayerfully try to reflect His righteousness in every aspect of life. To set our minds of whatever is just (dikaios), is to humbly and dutifully and continually strive to harmonize every aspect of our lives to His righteousness as revealed in His word. We are to thoughtfully practice righteousness (1 John 3:7) and “do right” (Revelation 22:11).

Purity. Speaking of lifestyle sins, tendencies toward self-gratification generally, and sexual temptation in particular, are chronic human difficulties, even among Christians (See Ephesians 4:17-24). To be thinking about purity (hagnos), is to be constantly asking ourselves whether our thoughts, imaginations, decisions, words and behaviors are intrinsically pure and God-honoring, or, corrupting. For many if not most adults, this is an area of righteousness-practicing that requires extra prayer and extra meditation upon God’s Word (Ephesians 5:3-10).

Loveliness. Delight. Pleasantness. Winsomeness. If God’s words are a delight to us (Psalm 19); if His love is better than life, satisfying the soul “as with fat and rich food” (Psalm 63); if we delight greatly in His commandments (Psalm 112) … do we reflect that delight in all aspects of our lives? This runs deeper than grumbling: it calls upon us to take inventory of the extent to which we reflect the “love qualities” of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 in our thought as well as in our words and deed.

Excellence. What is the ultimate expression (aretē) of the foregoing virtues (truth, honor, justice, purity, and loveliness)? This was an important type of question for philosophers in ancient times: how is purpose ultimately fulfilled? The ultimate purpose of a farmer’s field, for example, is to provide an abundant crop. A tool is excellent if it allows the artisan or craftsman to perform a task flawlessly. An athlete is excellent if all of his or diet, exercise, practice and other training enables him or her to perform better than anyone else. Such notions of excellence were well known to the readers of Paul’s letters (as well as to the readers of Peter’s letters, as at 1 Peter 2:9; 2 Peter 1:3 and 1:5). Here we are invited to ask ourselves about whether and how our habits, our words, our way of living, and our thoughts, consistently express, reflect and demonstrate our faith in Jesus Christ.

Praiseworthiness. Not only should we consider the extent to which our thoughts, words and deeds reflect an excellence, but, do they generate applause? In other words, are we being “up front” and “out there” and on stage for the Lord? To quietly nurture excellence in such areas as truth, honor, justice, purity, and loveliness, but to not showcase those virtues, is to disobey the exhortation to be a living epistle. We might be an epistle (2 Corinthians 3:3), but we need be a living epistle. We need to show it (Romans 13:3). We need to make sure at lease someone reads it. We should not be a living epistle that no one notices, or, in more current terminology a blog nobody reads. When our properly drafted living epistle is read by others, we generate “praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:7)

Gospel Apologetics

It’s not difficult to be a living blog that people read.

Every one of the qualities mentioned at Philippians 4:8 are counter-cultural and, frankly, offensive to many if not most nonbelievers. Followers of Christ rely on objective truth, not relativism; they define honor in Biblical terms, not popular terms; they believe in a high and unbending Biblical standard of right and wrong, not in a mushy nihilism that pretends that everyone’s ethics are somehow morally equivalent and equally acceptable; they understand loveliness in terms of the grace and beauty of Jesus Christ, not in some famous-and-depraved A-lister on the front of a glossy magazine; they value rather than disparage purity; and they measure excellence with a Biblical yardstick, not with looks or money or fame or statistics.

All we have to do, to be a living blog that people read, is demonstrate, and from time to time, speak to, these qualities. People will, I repeat will, react and respond. That’s when the Gospel comes in handy.

In fact, we can expect the full variety of responses that Paul experienced on Mars Hill (Acts 17:32-34): lots of rejection, occasionally some acceptance, and — when we really do it right — some questions. That’s when apologetics comes in handy.

Audio MP3 Discussion of this post is available here.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Bill S. permalink
    September 12, 2011 9:49 pm

    Good meat Brother!

  2. Dennis permalink
    October 3, 2011 12:35 pm

    Recognizing a beguiling and clever way to get people to read your blog . . .

    Well done, old chap.

    Dennis

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