A few “expansions” on thoughts from last night’s post:
After yesterday’s post, I felt compelled to expand on it in its context. So here goes.
Beyond the “whatevers” posted last evening (See Philippians 4:8) – all the things we’re encouraged to think on or DWELL on – there is more. That was verse 8, and while there’s nothing wrong with keeping on the sunny side, this verse goes way beyond “positive thinking,” as it continues with verse 9, which says (as St. Paul goes on with the rest of his thought), “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” But who today, with the cherry picking mentality of much of the church, wants to even go there? We’d rather be told what feels good.
A lot of people figure that by “thinking positive,” they can ward off trouble, or even earn their salvation. It’s almost like a magical practice to them whereby they think life can be manipulated; but clearly witchcraft (the spirit of control) is not what the Apostle had in mind here. He certainly knew better. Self sits on the throne in lives where positive thinking becomes a magical practice of manipulating others or circumstances.
Certainly it’s not necessarily evil to stay on the bright side, as having a better mental outlook can not only make us feel better, but a good attitude can determine one’s “altitude”, as far as emotionally getting through difficult things. But this isn’t the point of what Scripture reveals to us. Without the Gospel, such attempts at manipulation amount to little more than rearranging the deck chairs aboard one’s personal Titanic. What if instead we were to simply lay it down at the feet of Jesus?
A higher view comes along with the opening verses of Colossians 3 – “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, (implying an actual rebirth by the Holy Spirit) keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them.” This is not about a cherry picking kind of Christianity where I simply want God to bless what I want, or believe I can “think” my way to it!
Paul is advocating for an uncompromising devotion to Jesus Christ in Philippians 4:9, in single minded discipleship and surrender to the Lord. That’s the practice! It’s not just about so called positive thinking, although we know that Paul and Silas sang hymns and prayed (Acts 16:25) after being beaten and jailed. So if we’re going to practice what Paul practiced, it’s important to be informed from Scripture what that looked like. What was the content of message? How did he and the other Apostles react to their difficulties and even persecution? What was their prayer life like, and for what did they pray? Were they full of self will, or a will surrendered to the Lord Jesus Christ and the Way of the cross?
Comprehending these things we can come to a balanced understanding of the relationship between verses 8 and 9. Scripture should be taken in context of not only the verses around it, which complete a thought communicated, but also the entire message of the Bible, which is to reveal Jesus Christ and His sublime love of us and His authority in our life – won by the shedding of His blood. We are not our own!
The fact that we’d rather look at verse 8 without its complete context in verse 9, shows how much New Age / New Thought positive thinking – in some cases more than the Gospel and its implications for our lives – has infiltrated the churches and the minds of Christians. That should make us stop and think, and question where it’s going to take the church, and who’s behind this subtle infiltration. We need always to pray for complete understanding as we read and study Scripture, and that we be cleared of any previous notions founded in worldly religions or philosophies.