Thinking Heavenward

Philippians

Thinking Heavenward

June 23rd, 1957 @ 7:30 PM

Philippians 4:8

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
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THINKING HEAVENWARD

Dr.  W.  A.  Criswell

Philippians 4:8

6-23-57    7:30 p. m. 

 

 

Now, let us turn in our Bible to the Book of Philippians, and we’ll read our passage together.  Let’s start at the third chapter at the twentieth verse and read through the last, the fourth chapter, through the ninth verse: Philippians 3:20 – Philippians 3:20 through 4:9.  Now, do we have it, all of us?  The third chapter of Philippians, beginning at the twentieth verse, and read through the ninth verse of the following chapter.  Now, let’s say the word "citizenship" instead of "conversation:" "For our citizenship" – let’s read it like that.  All right, together:

 

For our citizenship is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,

Who shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself. 

Therefore, my brethren, dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved. 

I beseech Euodia and beseech Syntyche that they be of the same mind in the Lord. 

And I entreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellow laborers, whose names are in the Book of Life. 

Rejoice in the Lord alway.  And again I say, rejoice!

Let your moderation be known unto all men.  The Lord is at hand. 

Be careful for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your request be made known unto God;

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue and if there be any praise–think on these things. 

Those things which ye have both learned and received and heard and seen in me, do, and the God of peace shall be with you. 

 [Philippians 3:20-4:9]

That is our passage. 

Now, this morning, we spoke of the sixth and the seventh verses:

 

Be full of care –

bowed down with anxiety and foreboding

over nothing in this world.  But in these things, in everything, take it to God. 

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 

 [From Philippians 4:6-7]

 

That was our passage this morning.  Now, this evening we take the next two verses:

 

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, and honest, and just, and pure, and lovely, and of good report .  .  .  think on these things. 

And those things which ye have both learned and received and heard and seen in me, do, and the God of peace shall be with you. 

 [Philippians 4:8-9]

 

That is our text tonight. 

Now, somebody says, "Do you notice Paul?  Over here in the third chapter, he says, ‘Finally, my brethren,’ [Philippians 3:1] then he goes on and on because there is as much after he says ‘finally’ as there is before he said it.  And they say a lot of things about preachers who use that word "finally."  They say that an optimist is a man who thinks when the preacher says, "finally," he’s going to quit.  That’s an optimist.  I heard a fellow this last week at Glorieta [Glorieta Conference Center, Glorieta, New Mexico] say that and he caught himself.  He says, "And finally."  Then he added, "But not immediately."

Well, Paul says that in the third chapter, and I think there, he intended to stop.  "Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord" [Philippians 3:1].  Then, he started all over again because he said something in the verse that brought a whole flood of things that pertained to his work and the church. 

But this "finally" in the fourth chapter, to loipon, it does not mean "lastly," finally – lastly.  What he means is "for the rest of it."  That is, "I have an opportunity to say all that is in my heart.  So for all that I do not say, for all that is left unsaid, summarily, succinctly, finally, this" – and then he sums it up, the whole thing that he might have written on and on and on.  "Finally," to loipon – briefly, conclusively – "for what I have not been able to say.  Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, and honest, and just, and pure, and lovely, and good report, of virtue, and of praise, think on these things" [Philippians 4:8]. 

I’m going to speak tonight on Thinking Heavenward: all of these things, think on them.  The word that Paul uses here for "think," logizomai, "think," – ponder, turn over in your heart, give yourself to them in meditation, in vision and  ideal – think on these things: things that are "true, honest, pure, just, lovely, good report, of virtue and of praise; think on these things" [Philippians 4:8]. 

Oh, there is so much in the world and in life that is not "true and honest and just and pure and lovely and of good report" [Philippians 4:8], and you can give your mind to those things – foul things, dirty things, loathsome things, filthy things, slimy things.  You can fill your mind with them.  You can saturate your whole soul with them.  Life is filled with the seamy and the dirty.  If there’s a sunset, there’s also a sewer.  If there are things true and honest, there are things dark and dishonest.  If there are things bright and holy and blue and beautiful, there are things low and dark and ugly.  You can fill your mind and your soul with either one. 

How much better, Paul would say, to crowd your heart and to crowd your soul and to crowd your mind with things that are noble, praiseworthy, true, just, lovely, of good report.  Keep your boat out in the deep water.  Over there in Lagos, Nigeria, there is a bay – a vast bay, an enormous one, a magnificent harbor.  And when the tide is out – I happened to be there one time when the tide was out, and that harbor was filled with every dirty, slimy, creeping thing there in the mud and the filth and the dirt; and it stank, and it was the most unholy, unlovely sight.  But beyond was the beautiful, vast, glorious, sparkling expanse of the vast sea.  How much better to keep our boat on the bosom of the deep.  Why in the shallows and in the filth and in the mire and the muck and the dirt?  "Think on these things" [Philippians 4:8]. 

There is a little passage in the twenty-third chapter of the Book of Proverbs:"As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he" [Proverbs 23:7].  What you think, you are; and how you think, you do, for "as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he" [Proverbs 23:7].  A criminal and a vile person is not accidental.  He’s first a criminal and he’s first vile in his soul, then he’s vile and criminal in his life [2 Samuel 11:14-17; James 1:13-15].  First, we flounder and fail in our thoughts, in our hearts [Mark 7:15; Luke 6:45].  Then, the implementation we find in life is but an outward showing of the inward soul. 

Lot thought toward Sodom.  He lifted up his eyes and looked toward Sodom [Genesis 13:10].  In his heart, he coveted Sodom.  Then, he pitched his tent toward Sodom [Genesis 13:11].  The children of Israel turned their thoughts away from the Promised Land and they turned their thoughts toward – back again – and the Bible says to the onions and the garlic and the fleshpots of Egypt [Exodus 16:3; Numbers 11:5].  And when their thoughts turned back, they wanted to go back [Exodus 14:12; Numbers 14:1-4]. 

The prodigal son thought in the far country, long before his feet traveled the great broad, wide way [Luke 15:11-13].  Judas Iscariot sold the Lord for thirty pieces of silver in his soul before he actually sold Him into the hands of the Pharisees [Matthew 26:14-16].  "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he" [Proverbs 23:7].  Benedict Arnold [1741-1801] was a traitor in his soul, and he sold his country in his heart long before he actually consummated the treacherous deed with the British. 

There will doubtless be tonight some kind of a burglary.  There is every night.  There will doubtless be tonight in this city, and the thief that steals tonight and breaks into a store or a home, stole first today in his soul as he thought it and as he planned it and as he envisioned it.  "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he" [Proverbs 23:7]. 

That’s the reason that in the fourth chapter of the Book of Proverbs, the wisest of all men wrote: "Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life" [Proverbs 4:23].  As you think in your mind, in your soul, so are you in your life: thinking, pondering, closing the eyes, seeing, visioning. 

That’s why dirty and pornographic literature is a vile and terrible thing.  There is no difference in sowing seeds of disease, and germ, and bacteria, and bacilli, streptococci – all kinds of things that attack and destroy the body – there is no difference in that and sowing seeds that inflame the passions and turn the hearts and thoughts and the minds of young people away from great dedications and great commitments.  Filthy literature, sexual magazines, pornographic pictures: these things are as hurtful and as mean and as damaging and as destroying as are the disease[s] that attack the body itself. 

What you think, what you ponder, what you see: noble thoughts give birth to noble deeds and great thoughts give birth to great deeds, and tremendous commitments make for a tremendous and a great character.  How many times as I thought through this message, how many times will you find in the Bible where a man began to think about God, or think about virtue, or think about things true or honest or pure or lovely, and when he thought, and as he gave himself to it, there came out of his life a beautiful and a gracious deed?

For example, upon a day in the years that had passed, David the king began to think about Jonathan and how sweet a friendship in Jonathan [1 Samuel 18:1-4, 20:13-17].  And as he began to think about Jonathan, there came into his heart this thing: "I wonder," he said, "if there is somebody in Jonathan’s house who still lives, to whom I could be a friend and the king could be kind" [2 Samuel 9:1], and that brought the story of Mephibosheth [2 Samuel 9:1-13].  Thinking, thinking, this lame son of his old friend Jonathan [2 Samuel 9:3] and David sent for him, and for all the rest of his life did that lame son of Jonathan eat at the king’s table and share the king’s bounties [2 Samuel 9:5-13]. 

I don’t think in the Bible there is a more beautiful or precious verse than these: sixteen, seventeen in the third chapter of the Book of Malachi.  Listen to it:

 

Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another,and the Lord hearkened and heard itand caused a book of remembrance to be written before Him for them who feared the Lord and who thought upon His name –

thinking of the Lord

and who thought upon His name. 

"And they shall be Mine," saith the Lord of hosts, "In the day when I make up My jewels, and I will spare them as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.  "

 [Malachi 3:16-17]

 

"The jewels of God": these who think upon His name [Malachi 3:17]. 

Now, I want to depart from the actual text for a minute, and I want to present a philosophical confirmation of what Paul has said and what the Bible says: that our thoughts are the real "we.  "  They are us, what we are – our thoughts.  "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, are honest, are just, are pure, are lovely, of good report, if any virtue, if any praise–think on these things" [Philippians 4:8].  "Out of the heart, the issues of life.  Keep thy heart with all diligence" [from Proverbs 4:23].  "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he" [Proverbs 23:7]. 

Now, I say, I want to take a little piece, a page, out of philosophy which so greatly corroborates this appeal of the Apostle Paul.  Now, this is it.  I suppose that the greatest thinker outside of the Book is Plato [c. 428-348 BCE].  Plato is the one who gave us Socrates [c. 470-399 BCE].  So much of the philosophy of Plato is placed in the mouth of Socrates in his dialectical little stories.  All of them were written by Plato – almost all of them.  And I say, I do not think there was a greater thinker than Plato.  I do not think there was a greater philosopher than Plato, and I’ll tell you one reason why I so greatly admired him and appreciated him. 

To Plato, the great truths and the great facts and the great realities were not tangible but intangible.  They were not material; they were spiritual.  They were not terrestrial or earthly; they were heavenly.  And Plato’s philosophy just to summarize it – if you could take a great man’s mind and put it in a few sentences – Plato’s philosophy was this: that all that you see here in this world is but copies.  They are but imitations.  They are but reproductions.  But the actual things – the real things, the living things, the meaningful things, the enduring things – are spiritual, and he used the term "ideas.  "  Plato would say that the real thing is the idea – the pattern, the thought – and that what you see here is but the copy, the imitation, of the real thing that is in heaven. 

Now, I want to take that and apply it – what Plato has said – and illustrate it.  Plato would say this if he were talking to you about our modern scientific world.  Plato would say the incandescent lamp was in the mind of Thomas A. Edison [1847-1931].  He would say that the lamp that Edison made is a copy of the idea – that the lamp is the idea.  The real thing, the actual thing, is the idea, and the lamp is just a copy of the idea.  Plato would say this: "If the lamp that Edison made was actually the lamp, then when it was destroyed, the lamp was destroyed."

I do not know where the lamp is that Edison first made.  I don’t guess anybody knows.  Maybe it disappeared.  Maybe it’s ground to pieces, lost in a junk heap somewhere, but that doesn’t matter for that is not the lamp.  That is not the light bulb.  The light bulb is the idea; and if you have the idea, well then you can just make copies of it, copies of it, copies of it again and again and again.  You can imitate it again and again and again – stick it up there, let it blow out; put another one up there, let that blow out – let them all blow out.  As long as you’ve got the idea, the idea is the real thing.  That’s what Plato would say to you. 

He would say that the telephone was in the mind of Alexander Graham Bell [1847-1922] – that the actual telephone is the idea.  The pattern of the thing is the thing.  Then he’d say all of these are just imitations.  You just – you make this telephone copying the idea, imitating the idea, and throw that thing away; make another one, throw that away and make another; throw them all away, make them again.  For the real thing is, Plato would say, the idea of it.  A locomotive was in the idea of Stephenson [George Stephenson,1781-1848], and he made it.  It was a copy of what he had in his head.  The Wright brothers [Wilbur Wright, 1867-1912; Orville Wright, 1871-1912] had an idea of the airplane, and what they made is just a copy of the pattern that he had in his mind.  The idea is the thing. 

The Scriptures would say that this whole universe is in the idea, in the mind, in the thought of God.  And the Lord commanded it, and it was done; and the Lord said it, and it stood fast [Genesis 1:3-26].  But this thing first was in the mind of God, and what we have is just a copy of that infinite and eternal pattern.  Now, that is the philosophy of Plato.  And I say, as I studied that illustrious, famous, immortal, Greek philosopher, though he was a pagan, he would have been a great preacher of the gospel of the Son of God for his interpretation of all of life was ever in terms of things spiritual, intangible, heavenly, and never in terms of things temporal and terrestrial and mundane!

His idea is the real thing, and that’s exactly what Paul is saying here: the real thing, the actual thing, is what a man thinks.  Then what is found in his countenance and what is seen in his life is nothing but a reproduction, an imitation, a copy of what the man is in his soul and in his heart.  So Paul says, "These things fill your heart and soul with" [Philippians 4:8], not things vulgar, and vile, and dirty, and filthy, and salacious, and pornographic, and slimy, and mean, and dark – no.  "Fill your mind," he says, "with things true and honest and just and pure and lovely and good report.  If the thing is a virtue, and if it’s of praise, think on these things" [from Philippians 4:8]. 

Now just in a minute remaining, may I speak of that first Christian community as they exhibited that to the world?  I do not think that in all history could you find a group of people who so laid hold upon the ideas and the shameless vice and customs of the day in which they lived as did those first Christian communities.  They lived in a veritable cesspool.  The standards of life debauched the minds of the people.  Their very gods were indescribably terrible, hurtful, vile, low, much less the people themselves. 

Now, as there grew up these little communities, how different they were in their thinking, in their ideas, in those great commitments to which they had given their lives.  There was as much difference, for example, between the social life of Corinth and of Pompeii and the little home of Aquila and Priscilla in which the church of the Lord Jesus met – there was as great a difference between those two as there is between a miasmic, dismal, dirty, foul swamp and a beautiful, formal English garden – just as much.  It was a different world.  It was a different atmosphere.  It was the breathing of a different ideal, thinking different thoughts. 

How many who had contemptuously, sneeringly said, like Pilate, "What is truth?" [John 18:38].  Now converted, new people in that little church felt in their souls that they had found the great verities of life in Christ Jesus.  What a difference! 

I was going along with Dr.  Goldie [Robert Goldie] on the inside of Nigeria, and there – one after another – these filthiest, dirtiest villages, made out of mud.  And the way the people were living seemed to me no difference between them and the animals.  Then one time, just beyond, on the outskirts of one of those interior mud villages, there by the side of the dirt road, was the most beautiful little cottage.  I’ll never forget that flowering vine that covered the entrance at the gate.  And we went through the little path and up to the house and knocked at the door, and a precious young English couple, missionaries, met us at the door, invited us in. 

And as I sat there in that little cottage and looked at those two young missionaries and beyond the door to the beautiful vine flowing over the entrance to the gate and then beyond to the squalor and squalidness and dirt and filth of the village – O Lord, what a difference!  What a difference the idea, the commitment, the vision of Christ can make in a life, in a heart.  For there’s not a native in Africa that couldn’t grow the vine.  There’s not a native there who couldn’t build the cottage.  There’s not a native there but could have the beautiful home, but the difference lies in the idea.  It lies in the heart; it lies in the commitment. 

And may I hastily say, that thing is true in the world today.  It isn’t just back there that Corinth and Pompeii and Rome were in the very lowest cesspools of dirt and filth and iniquity.  When you go to Paris, you’ll have to walk away from the dirt and the filth of the city.  You will be accosted on every corner and met on every street.  When you go to Washington [Washington, D.  C.  ], I suppose there are not any meetings that are not baptized and crowned in liquor.  That is the most astounding development to me that I have seen in our modern life.  The most drunken of all of the capitals of the world is Washington [Washington, D. C.]. 

Sometimes, I think maybe God will use the abstemious Moslems and the rigorously disciplined Communists as a rod for the chastening of America!  It’s against the Moslem religion to smoke and to drink.  The only way Americans get liquor into those Moslem countries is by smuggling, and they look upon Christians and drunkards as synonymous: one of the most hurtful things in the mission world – the idea.  But in the church of the Lord, what a different atmosphere, what a different feeling, what a different commitment – just as much difference now as it was back there in the days of Paul in the days of Rome and Corinth and Antioch and Pompeii. 

I close.  "These things which you’ve learned and received and heard and seen in me, do, and the God of peace shall be with you" [Philippians 4:9].  Dear people, I’ll close.  I’m just half through my sermon.  I don’t know what’s happening to me.  I don’t.  As I read and ponder this Book more and more and more and more, it’s a flood tide in my soul. 

Let me read you a little poem that you’ll hardly know its context because I’m not preaching the last half of the sermon.  But, I brought it here, and before I take it home, I want to read it.  The last part of my sermon was the second verse, "The things which ye have learned, and received and heard, and seen in me, do, and the God of peace shall be with you" [Philippians 4:9].  Paul said that in the eleventh chapter and the first verse of the first Corinthian letter:"Be imitators of me," followers of me, "as I am of Christ" [1 Corinthians 11:1].  Now, this man, Paul: what a wonderful servant of Jesus – never complaining, giving himself in suffering to the propagation of the gospel. 

Now, you look at him as he writes here:"Rejoice in the Lord alway.  And again I say, rejoice!" [Philippians 4:4]  When he wrote that, the chain clanked on his hand bound to a Roman soldier in prison; later, his life taken away from him.  And yet, "Rejoice in the Lord alway.  "In that same city of Philippi, there he is beaten, put in a dungeon in stocks and chains but at midnight singing praises unto God [Acts 16:22-30]. 

Now, this is the poem.  I love to read Robert Louis Stevenson [1850-1894].  He’s a Scotsman.  He died young; he was tubercular all of his life.  One time he said, "There is never a breath I draw without pain."  Yet his life was filled with the love of the Lord, and this is a prayer.  This is from Robert Louis Stevenson.  Finally went to the South Pacific and died in Samoa, one of those South Pacific islands, seeking help, seeking a refuge from the hurt of his body.  Now, listen to him:

 

If I have faltered more or less

In my great task of happiness; 

If I have moved among my race

And shown no glorious morning face;

If beings from happy human eyes

Have moved me not; if morning skies,

Books, and my food, and summer rain

Knocked on my sullen heart in vain:–

Lord, Thy most pointed pleasure take

And stab my spirit broad awake. 

 ["The Celestial Surgeon," by Robert Louis Stevenson, date unknown]

 

Lord, Lord.  "Rejoice in the Lord alway.  And again I say, rejoice" [Philippians 4:4] with the chain on his hand.  "The thing you see in me, do," copy him, "and the God of peace shall be with you" [Philippians 4:9].  O bless the testimony of this glorious apostle. 

Now, while we sing our song, somebody you, to give his heart in faith to the Lord:  into that aisle and down here to the front, would you come?  In the balcony around, coming down these stairwells, would you stand by me?  A family of you coming into the church – as God shall open the door and lead the way, while our people prayerfully sing this song of appeal, will you come down here by me?  "Pastor, I give you my hand.  I give my heart to God.  "As God shall say the word and lead the way and the Spirit move in your soul, will you come trusting Jesus or putting your life in the church while we stand and while we sing? 

THINKING HEAVENWARD

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Philippians 4:8

6-23-57

 

I.          Introduction

A.  To loipon, translated "finally" – does not mean "lastly"; but what he means is "for the rest of it"

1.  Take this as a summary and substance for all that was left unsaid

 

II.         Think on these things(Philippians 4:8)

A.  Logizomai – "think, ponder, turn over in your heart"

B.  There is much in the world that is foul, dirty, loathsome

1.  How much better to crowd your heart and soul with things noble, praiseworthy, true, just, love, of good report

2.  Keep your boat in deep water

a. Bay in Lagos, Nigeria when the tide is out

C.  As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he(Proverbs 23:7)

1.  Lot thought toward Sodom

2.  Israel turned their thoughts away from the Promised Land and back again to Egypt

3.  The prodigal son thought in the far country

4.  Judas Iscariot sold the Lord for thirty pieces of silver in his soul before he actually sold Him into hands of Pharisees

5.  Benedict Arnold was a traitor in his soul

6.  The thief in the still, silent soul of the burglar stole first in his thoughts

D.  Out of the heart flow the issues of life(Proverbs 4:23)

1.  Why salacious literature, pornography, so evil

E.  Good deeds, noble lives, the fruit of noble thought

1.  David, thinking of Jonathan, then the lame Mephibosheth(2 Samuel 9)

2.  The jewels of God(Malachi 3:16-17)

F.  Plato’s philosophy of "ideas"

1.  The pattern, the idea is the real thing

2.  The thing made is a copy of the pattern in the mind

 

III.        The first Christian communities

A.  Lived in a veritable cesspool; standards of life debauched the minds of the people; their gods indescribably terrible, vile

B.  Such a difference in those first Christians, their ideals, thoughts

1.  Dr. Goldie in Nigeria

C.  Same thing true today in our modern life

 

IV.       The things seen in me, do (Philippians 4:9)

A.  His commitment to Christ, courage in peril, willingness to suffer(1 Corinthians 11:1)

B.  His rejoicing in trouble, trial (Acts 16:25, Philippians 4:4)

C.  Poem, "The Celestial Surgeon"