REDISCOVERING THE ANCIENT PATH—Week of August 22, 2021
Train Your Thoughts in Godliness: Ps. 139; Phil. 4:8
We are in Week 29 of our examination of Benedict Nursia’s rules for Christian formation. This week we are examining Rule 4.50: Train Your Thoughts in Godliness. As I was researching this topic, I decided to do a search on how much information we take in on a daily basis. I came across an article from 2017 which stated that the average American was taking in 74 gigabytes of data daily, or roughly the equivalent of watching 16 movies. Four years later, I am sure the amount of information we consume is even greater. We consume information at a rate unfathomable to previous generations, and the speed at which we are expected to (or even required to) process that information and render decisions has correspondingly increased as well. More than at any other time in human history, it is imperative that we train our thoughts in godliness.
In Phil. 4:8, Paul is writing from prison expressing his love and concern for the Church in Philippi. At this time Nero is emperor, and persecution of Christians is increasing. These believers whom he holds so dear are struggling with decisions that impact their work, their families, and even their very lives. The pressure of this persecution has even caused some to abandon their faith. Paul implores these men and women to stand fast and makes clear the key to doing so is training or guarding their hearts and minds. And Paul also makes clear that the key to that training or guarding of our minds is through properly filtering what we allow to dominate our thought life.
This passage caused me to reminisce about my college days and my freshman chemistry lab. One of my favorite parts of that course was qualitative analysis. If you’re not familiar with qualitative analysis, it is a process of tests and experiments by which you determine the chemical constituents of an unknown substance. I may be a nerd, but I always found it fun and exciting when the professor gave me a vial full of liquid and asked me to determine its chemical makeup. I would carefully and systematically run the liquid through a battery of tests of various kinds to determine what was in the vial and whether it was good, harmful, or neutral/inert. I think that Phil. 4:8 is God’s system of qualitative analysis for what we should allow to influence our minds. As we filter information, we should consider:
- Is it true? Verify the veracity of something before repeating it or making decisions based upon it. Weigh it against what we know to be true—God’s Word.
- Is it noble? The idea here is something that is beyond reproach and of good character.
- Is it right? The Greek word here carries the connotation of something that is innocent, faultless, or guiltless and approved of by God.
- Is it pure? The word used by Paul here is very specific, and it is a purity that speaks to modesty and chastity. It is immaculate and free from all carnality.
- Is it lovely? Does the information promote beauty and friendliness, or is it dark and alienating?
- Is it excellent? Does the information promote virtue and moral goodness?
- Is it praiseworthy? The information should promote an attitude of praise, first to God but also to others, as opposed to a critical and unthankful spirit.
I believe that if we are to truly be fully devoted followers of Jesus, it is time that we do a little qualitative analysis of what we allow into our minds and hearts. Our decisions should reflect the influence of the gospel, not the influence of this world.
Rather than providing further discussion questions, this week I just want you to focus on the 7 questions above. Walk through each one and consider why each is important, how each assists us in processing information in a godly way, and how often you filter your information through these tests.