Summary: We all live in the world between our ears. Our quality of life depends on the way we manage our thoughts. Message expounds Philippians 4:8 and explores how we develop a disciplined mind.
We all live in the world between our ears! During this message today we will all have different experiences. Just because we’re all listening to the same message or sitting in the same sanctuary does not mean we’re having the same experience. There will be similarities.
But your experience is shaped by your thinking process. Your mind is working and selecting concepts and ideas for processing as I speak. I may say something that sparks a thought in you and sets your thinking in a direction. While I’m saying the next thing, you’re processing those additional ideas. God may put something in your heart that is associated with the subject but is particularly important for you to know.
Sometimes people thank me for something that really ministered to them during the sermon. They share how the idea so encouraged them and brought guidance. But when they tell me what it was, it was something that went beyond my teaching. God dropped a revelation in the person’s heart during the message. I count on the Holy Spirit to do that. God can speak to us in a very personal way. He uses what is being said from the pulpit, but it is not limited to that.
Your experience during this next hour will vary depending on how you process what is being said. Some will get revelation like I have just discussed. Others will allow their minds to wander off onto other subjects. One person is thinking about lunch. Another is processing a conversation that went on yesterday. For brief moments the mind may be totally unaware of what is being said. That’s one reason one student makes an A on a test and another makes a D. They may have the same IQ, but one student is able to concentrate on the subject because she has developed a more disciplined mind. Over time she has learned to tell her mind what to concentrate on.i
I am pointing this out only to say: we all live in the world between our ears. And the quality of our lives depends on that process. It’s interesting to watch people during the worship time in a service. The words to a particular song may be extremely meaningful to one person. The experience that person is having may be very different from the person sitting next to him. That person may have little awareness of the words being sung. Instead he is thinking about how uncomfortable the temperature is or how nice the worship leader’s shirt looks. Two very different internal experiences in the same setting!
The Bible has a lot to say about our thought life. In fact, what we set our minds on reflects and determines the nature of our spiritual experience. Romans 8:5 makes that clear: “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.”ii The person who sets his mind on fleshly things, will live accordingly. His life and behavior will follow the desires of the flesh. The person who sets his mind on the things of the Spirit will live in that dynamic. “This passage [in Romans 8] makes it abundantly clear that the way one thinks is intimately related to the way one lives.”iii We cannot set our minds on the desires of the flesh and then live in spiritual joy and peace.
That’s why Paul gives the instruction we have in our text today. In Philippians 4:8 he tells us what kind of things should occupy our thought life: “Finally, brethren, [he is clearly instructing Christians] 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.”
“Meditate on these things.” The word translated “meditate” is logizomai. In this context it means to “to give careful thought to a matter, think (about), consider, ponder, let one’s mind dwell on.”iv Paul is not talking about thoughts that hit our minds in a flash. He is talking about embracing a thought and dwelling on it: the things you ponder; the subjects you process and deliberate on. The devil can inject a thought into our minds. But when that happens, we have the power to either embrace it and think about it or to reject it and think about something else.
In Ephesians 6 Paul instructs us on spiritual warfare. There we are told to put on the whole armor of God. Verse 16 says, “above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation. . . .” The helmet was designed to protect the head. We are talking today about protecting our thought life. The way we put on the helmet of salvation is to obey our text in Philippians 4:8.v